Peg366's Blog

Archive for October 2009

2006_0627Image0065A recent blog entry and comments by Natalie Murphy made this article catch my eye.
4 Tips for Choosing the Right Word

February 11, 2008 The date it originally was written.

How do you choose the right word for the right situation? The most powerful words tend to be the shortest and, not coincidentally, the ones most basic to the English language. A long-time editor gives more advice about choosing the right word.

Here are a few thoughts on choosing the right word from “English Through the Ages,” a reference book by William Brohaugh:

  1. Keep word and phrase choice appropriate to the context. For example, streetwise characters in a novel wouldn’t likely use technical jargon or acronyms. Nor would the writer of a novel about streetwise characters. One lesson here is to let word choice in the narrative conform at a certain level to the word choice of the people populating the narrative. For instance, formal narration lacking contractions wouldn’t serve a story about rural folk, nor would colloquial narration serve a story about high society — even if the characters themselves spoke completely in context.
  2. Listen for what sounds right. I’m thinking of the TV mini-series Merlin, in which a medieval character states, “My mind is made up.” I don’t have reference to when the idiom “make up your mind” was first used, but I suspect it wasn’t in use in Arthurian times, and even if it was, it sounds modern. Better the character have said something that sounded a bit archaic, like “My mind is firm.”
  3. The precise word isn’t necessarily the right word. Susurration might be more precise than murmur in a given passage, but if the word is confusing or (see above) at odds with the context or the atmosphere of the story, a less-precise word might actually be the better choice. This is true only if “less-precise” isn’t synonymous with “wrong.” A less-precise word can still be the right word.
  4. The most powerful words tend to be the shortest and, not coincidentally, the ones most basic to the English language. Said Sir Winston Churchill, “Broadly speaking, the short words are best, and the old words best of all.” Words like kin, thanks and small, for instance, are deeply rooted in Old English before A.D. 1000, while words like relatives (from the 1600s), gratitude (in use by 1450) and tiny (from the 1500s) are from succeeding generations. But again, it’s best to choose the word that communicates your point while evoking or echoing the tone of your manuscript, and if it’s the longer word, so be it.


Children’s Writers eNews
October 29, 2009
“The Write Words to Read”
The Institute of Children’s Literature
Editor: Jan Fields

As a former student of the Institute I subscribe to their newsletter and this article appeared in the  email one that I received yesterday. I would give credit where credit is due but the actual writer of this piece is not listed. It’s probably Jan Fields but am not sure.

 Point of View

The designations for Point of View are dependent upon how the main character is presented.
* In first person, the book is told directly by the main character: “My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice, except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.” – Barbara Park
* In second person, the book is presented as if the reader is the main character: “You get up in the morning and wonder if this is going to be the day you die. Sometimes you think that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Depression is like that.”
* In third person, the book is presented with a bit of distance from the main character who is referred to by name: “Marvin Redpost looked down at his desk and smiled. Nick Tuffle was Marvin’s best friend. Marvin had two best friends. His other best friend was Stuart Allbright.” – Louis Sacher_

 First person point of view offers an up-close connection with your main character but can result in too much “telling” instead of “showing.”

First person point of view can create difficulties in introducing physical description of the main character. Try to avoid the “look into a mirror” method of description since most editors consider that method clichéd.

Many character driven stories: the Amber Brown series and the Junie B. Jones series, for example, rely upon first person to clearly present the nuances of the main character. Many first person novels also include humor based on the main character’s unusual perceptions of people and event

Second Person point of view is rare because it is difficult to maintain and can produce awkward prose. However, there are some books that have used this effectively but it requires an author of incredible control.

Third Person point of view is most common overall. In restricted third person you have nearly as much closeness with the main character as first person but it is easier to avoid too much telling. The challenge to third person restricted is fighting the urge to dip into the thoughts of other characters.

Another challenge with third person restricted is limiting the story to scenes where the main character is present. This often requires creative plotting but it is nearly always better than switching viewpoint characters. Switching viewpoint characters without losing some reader identification is very difficult.

Third Person omniscient is rare because it tends to obscure your main character, creating little reader identification. Some authors try to avoid this problem by switching viewpoint character with chapter changes. A rule of thumb to keep in mind – the more often and quicker you switch viewpoints, the less your reader will care about the characters

Jessica 010Sometimes, a writer’s life can be challenging. Trying to sandwich writing time in between  all the things that life brings, takes time and effort. A writer has to deal with all the normal “mom” or “dad ” things. They may work part or full time. They may go to school. They are obligated to do other things, like their children’s school activities. Not to mention things like an older parent who needed their assistance.

It might mean that they have to take what small sections of time come up to do their writing. Whether it is late at night or early in the morning or while waiting for a sporting event to start, the writer does what they can.

Somehow . . . a writer find the way to write.

I am a pb writer, actually an aspiring one, which is why I am not as apt to say things about the YA  genre.  It wasn’t my intention to be “mean” spirited to any kind of chat.

That being said, a request from Georgia McBride to mention #YAlitchat to my fellow SCBWI members made perfect sense to me.  Georgia, I hope this helps.

Taken directly from Georgia McBride’s blog, here is a brief description of the chat. To read more details, go to

#YAlitchat is a weekly twitter chat for anyone involved in the writing, editing , marketing or publishing of Young Adult literature. #YAlitchat takes place at 9PM EST and goes until 10:15PM. There is a guided discussion three weeks out of the month and one week each month, there is open discussion.

Jessica 010People often ask me why I chose to be on Facebook, Jacketflap and Twitter. They ask, Doesn’t it take away from your writing time?

I thought about it and realized . . .  not really. I have feeds or are working on having feed from several different places connecting all my social media sites, so that one post fills several spots.

Twitter because of its 140 character limit forces me to tweak all my tweets (which makes me a tighter writer.) I use my Twitter tweets on my blog. My Facebook info shows up on my Tweetdeck. I use the urls that I enjoy from Twitter on my blog and send them to my critique groups as well. On Facebook, I share info that appears in my blog.

My biggest reason that I use various social media sites is the chance to get to know others that I would never in a million years be able to meet.

I have found writers and illustrators to be the most generous and supportive people anywhere.

From little things like a sweet comment made while in a social media presentation about my doodles, to being told I am doing what I should be doing to build my platform as a writer, to a pat on the back for helping another writer work out a dilemma (we met on Facebook) it makes me feel connected.

Jenn Bailey put it best when she offered five things that Twitter/Social Media site can do for a writer:

1.     Social media sites amplify your message.  Someone sees what you post and retweets it, or posts it on their blog, etc.

2.     Social medias offer a writer unlimited connectivity. They are available 24/7.

3.     Social media sites can be used to move a community  into actions. For example, Cynthea Liu’s action this past year benefited a Oklahoma school district.  She pulled on her contacts to make a real difference for some school kids. Congrats Cynthea and all others who give so generously. You rock!  

4.   Sites like Twitter (I mention Twitter because I am on Twitter) give a writer a platform for rapid visual messaging.

5.   Having a presence on a social media site makes contacting you simple and brief. Quite simply,  people know where to find you.   

Before you decide not to consider one of the many media sites, consider what you might be missing.

If you get a chance to listen to a presentation by Jenn Bailey take it. She is full of . . . great info. Almost got you, didn’t I?

Attending Iowa’s SCBWI conference( October 23, 24, 25) was I discovered . . . exactly my cup of tea. A special thanks to Peggy Grafton (Illustrator), Nina Johnson (Writer) Med Bickel (Writer) Linda Skeers (Writer) Patricia Miller (Writer) and Dorothia Rohner (Illustrator) who made this first time conference goer feel welcome. I’m still on the high that comes from meeting so many wonderful writers and illustrators, not to mention hearing all the knowledge offered by the fabulous speakers. If nothing else ever happened from the conference the feeling  of being around so many talented individuals motivated me to get back to spending  quality time writing.

Ice breakers and a chocolate fountain with strawberries and other treats gave everyone a chance to mix and mingle. It was nice to put a face to the names of the people I’ve emailed or chatted with in the last few months. It was like being with a bunch of friends who were all learning a new skill. We were making friends using the internet. Friends that someday we just might meet in person.

First all, let me say that Jenn Bailey is a fabulous presenter.  She’s warm, witty and willing to be flexible to meet the needs of her audience.  I think everyone was comfortable with asking questions. I know I felt right at home asking questions, and I’m a little shy at times.

Jenn focused on teaching people of all different levels of experience how to use the various social media avenues, covering Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter to name a few.  From the basics of how to get a Twitter account to showing someone how to set up Tweetchat, Jenn was patient.

For the more skeptic members, those who aren’t sure that they should open an account, Jenn outlined all the reasons why they should be on Twitter. She talked about the use the medias as a way of promoting writers and their product. Check out Jenn’s website at :

With the holiday season getting closer, parents pull out the Christmas books. Here is one that just might work in your home. Jessica 010

10 things you might not know about Snowy’s Christmas (and win your own copy!)

5 hours ago by soupblog.

Snowy's Christmas (cover)Today I am talking to Sally Murphy and David Murphy, author and illustrator of Snowy’s Christmas (reviewed in an earlier post). We asked Sally and David to share 5 things each – things you might not already have heard about their book!

You’ll find their answers if you read on. But before you do – we have one copy of Snowy’s Christmas to give away!

If you’d like a chance to win, email and tell me the date that David finished the final illustration of the final draft. (Hint: he tells you below!) I’ll put all the entries in a santa hat and draw out the winning name on 25 October 2009.

Now – over to you Sally and David!


1. Snowy’s Christmas was inspired by the story of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have always bought lots of Christmas books for my own children, and when I bought a new version of Rudolf, it set me thinking about how people adapt and retell stories. I started thinking about how I could retell the story in an Australian setting – and wrote the earliest draft of this story.

2. It took several years from writing Snowy’s Christmas to sending it to a publisher. After I had written the story, I was at a conference where I heard a publisher say that Australian publishers were not interested in seeing manuscripts for Christmas and other seasonal stories, because it was cheaper to import them. I believed her, and so didn’t persevere with the story (though I did once submit it to a website, which then closed down – hopefully not because I’d submitted to them).  Then, a few years ago publishers did start producing Australian Christmas stories, very successfully.  But it took for Linsay Knight, the publisher at Random House, asking if I could adapt a manuscript of mine she was interested in  for the Christmas market before I finally submitted Snowy. And boy am I glad I did.

3. I really have seen a white kangaroo – in fact several, at a wildlife park in Western Australia. You can see a  photo here: I don’t know a lot about them, but believe they are not albino, but fairly rare.

4. The book was illustrated by my brother-in-law David. Okay, you might have already known that, but did you know that it is very rare for the  author and illustrator to get to choose each other? Usually this is a decision made by the publisher. In this case, though, Linsay from Random House  actually asked me to have David do some sample illustrations when I submitted the manuscript. I had known Linsay for quite some time and she met David when she sat with us at a conference breakfast. I think maybe she liked us, or at least the novelty of a family team.  It was fun, and also special, to get to work with David.

5. The first draft of Snowy’s Christmas was about 1600 words – too long for a picture book. I did manage to cut it down to about 1000 words before I submitted it to Random House, but during the editing process we reduced it even further – it’s only about 600 words now.  Picture book texts need to be short  for young readers and often there is a lot  that can be shown in the illustrations without needing to be told in the text.


1. The illustrations for Snowy were sketched entirely with my left hand using pencils. I then used my right hand to ink the line work. After that, the line art was scanned and I completed the colouring using my computer. For each illustration there were multiple sketches before the right one was found. I would have drawn each page 6–10 times.

2. Snowy’s red roo friends were based on a mob of kangaroos who live in the bushland near my house. I was particularly interested in the joeys who spent hours chasing each other around and boxing.

3. All the white boomers have names and their own stories. Sally, Kimberley (the editor) and I discussed who they were and what their personalities were. These completed their characters in my mind and allowed me to create more meaningful illustrations.

4. The very first sketch I did for the book was of Snowy and his mum. He was quite small, which made me worry if he would be strong enough to pull the sleigh, so I made him a bit bigger.

5. The final illustration for the final draft was completed on Christmas Eve!

If you want to find out more about the book, Snowy’s Christmas has its own website: (You can even hear David in a radio interview!)


I am an aspiring picturebook writer with some magazine credits just no picture book contract yet. I know it is coming and I am more than willing to work for it.

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July 2009

October 2009
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My Favorites:

I love the children's movies Wizard of Oz and the Neverending Story. Both movies make me feel the lesson that hope is alive and well. After seeing UP this past week, it just might have a chance at being added to this list.

I love the cool colors of blues and purples.Those colors are peaceful for me.

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Even as an adult, I still feel the urge to cry when he becomes real. I know, silly, but a good book can make me laugh and cry as it takes me on a magical journey.

Authors and Illustrators:

Authors, Author/Illustrator, Illustrators that I know and/or Like.


C= Children

MG= Mid Grade

T= Teen

YA= Young Adult

A= Adult


Bonnie Adamson *

Kathi Appelt *

Tedd Arnold


Natalie Babbit

Molly Bang

Bonnie Becker

Jan and Stan Berenstain

Judy Blume

Tracey M. Cox

Linda Crotta Brennan *

Jan Brett

Janie Bynum *

Eric Carle

Pam Calvert

Nancy Carlson

Beverly Cleary

Kevin Scott Collier

Sharon Creech

Doreen Cronnin

Tomie dePaulo

Kate DiCamillo

Kathleen Duey *

Dotti Enderle

Jan Fields *

Denise Fleming

Mem Fox

Kelley Milner Hall

Amy Heist

Kevin Henkes

Ellen Jackson *

Jeff Kinney

Jackie French Koller

Ursula K. LeGuin

Leo Lionni

Lois Lowry

Mercer Mayer

Robert Munsch

Laura Numeroff

Linda Sue Parks

Dav Pilkey

Patricia Polacco

Peggy Rathmann

Bethany Roberts

David Shannon

Aaron Shepard

Donna J. Shepherd *

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Jerry Spinelli

Diane Stanley

Chris Van Allsburg

Rick Walton *

Lisa Wheeler

Mo Willems

Karma Wilson *

Audrey Woods

Jane Yolen *

Favorite Websites:

Favorite Blogs:

• ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog
• Alice’s CWIM Blog
• A Fuse #8 Production
• Cynsations
• Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent
• Editorial Anonymous
• Miss Snark’s First Victim
• Writing for children and teens

Favorite Quotes.

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