Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Query Formatting Tips


Dave Amaditz
I've been busy submitting to agents as of late and have noticed most do not accept queries sent through snail mail. There are a lot of benefits to this, mainly the speed with which you can submit as well as the postage you save.

But I've often wondered if there is a different or better way to format an e-query and have read on different sites some suggestions. None of them, however, made complete sense to me as to the why and how of formatting until I was forwarded a link from Marcy, a fellow blogger here at Route 19 writers. After reading, it became clear, for example, where to place your contact information and your website address, if you have one, and also why it would benefit you by doing it that way. To find out the details, and perhaps clear some of your confusion, click on the link below, from Jill Corcoran, literary agent at the Herman Agency.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Creating a Durable Story by Kitty Griffin

I had the privilege of reading my ten year old story, Cowboy Sam and those Confounded Secrets to a huge group of Washington County Title One students and their families last night. It was a celebration of the children's hard work at developing their reading and writing skills. They came and had dinner, each child got a copy of Sam, and for dessert they had chocolate cake and me reading aloud to them. There were balloons and "YEEHAWS" all around. And I got lots of hugs. 
All because of Sam.

How wonderful it is to have created a durable story, one that holds up. One that doesn't rely on anything but an interesting character with an unusual problem. 

But that's it, that's all we have to do as writers.

An interesting character.
An unusual problem.

What does your character want and what are they willing to do to get it. Whether your story is set in 1313 or 2313, that will be the beam that supports your writing.

Our group has been in serious discussion about the future of books. If you haven't seen the children's book app called "Nighty Night" check it out. It's remarkable in simplicity, yet it has hooked both of my bitty grandkids, as well as their dear Mitzi (me). 

What do you think the future holds for books? 

My own feeling is this, that no matter what, a good story is a good story. Whether we are gathered around a campfire making up scary stories to share, or sitting in an airport terminal reading on a pad, we want a good story. 

We want a durable story. One that we remember.

I don't think we need to be frightened or discouraged by these changes, rather we need to just be willing to tell a good story.

Then of course, we need to revise. And revise. And, well, you know, one more revision.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

To Be I, or Not To Be

     Though I thought I had noticed a lot of juvenile fiction being written in first person over the last couple of years, I was still rather flabbergasted when Emma Dryden mentioned, during our master class with her, that editors often get excited these days when they open a submission written in anything other than first person.
     What's that? You mean the punchy voice, the one that's difficult to sustain, the one that absolutely must be appropriate to the age of the character and is so often difficult to nail? That's the voice that is most prevalent?
     It doesn't really surprise me when I think about it. After all, first person is a totally interior perspective which fits perfectly well with the ego-centric communication that has taken over. Isn't it what tweeting and twittering rely upon? The immediate personal experience, the interior thought, the reaction. Young people demand it: Tell me what you're doing. I'll tell you how I see it. It makes sense that they don't have the patience to filter things through a narrator.
     Even so, she suggested I try my existing novel in third person. Hey, it's been everywhere. If it would possibly help my novel to stand out, cause an editor to take notice, it sure wouldn't hurt to try, as long as I don't feel something is lost.
     See what you think.

There are two reasons I’m slouched as low as I can get in the back seat of the school bus: #1- Creepy Chloe Lang always sits up front. I want to be as far away from her as possible, even though I wonder what she has in the box she’s holding. It’s wrapped with a scraggly candy-cane striped ribbon. #2-So I can pretend I’m not awake yet. And that it’s just a crazy dream that the man driving the bus is my Dad.                                                                                                                                                                         
It seems weird that Mrs. H., our old bus driver, would give up her bus route a few days before Christmas vacation. After all, she’s been my driver since I started kindergarten. Her quitting right before Christmas feels suspicious, a little bit like charity, like she knew Dad needed a job, and quick. And in our little town, if you need charity, everybody knows about it. It’s one thing to give it. But it makes my stomach feel sick to think we might be getting it.

There were two reasons Emily slouched as low as she could get in the back seat of the school bus. One: because creepy Chloe Lang always sat up front. Emily wanted to be as far away from her as possible, though she did wonder what was in the box Chloe held, all wrapped with scraggly candy-cane ribbon. And, Two, so she could pretend she wasn't awake yet, that it was only a dream that the man in the driver's seat of the school bus was her own dad.
It seemed weird that Mrs. H., Emily's old bus driver, would give up the bus route a few days before Christmas vacation. After all, she had been the driver since Emily started kindergarten. Her quitting right before Christmas felt suspicious, a little bit like charity, like Mrs. H knew Emily's dad needed a job, and quick. And in their little town, if a person needed charity, everybody knew about it. It was one thing to give it. But it made Emily's stomach feel sick when she thought she might be getting it.
I think I kind of like the second version. It seems, somehow . . . I don't know . . . vintage. 


Friday, April 19, 2013

Poetry Month Lemonade

I came across this delightful little book only this week but would love to share it with all my fellow poetry lovers during National Poetry Month.  Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word was written by Bob Raczka.  However, Raczka credits Andrew Russ with being the first person he read who likes to make poems out of a single word, and he apparently loved the idea. So when life gives you word poems, make word lemonade!  Here's an example (minus the illustration):


ac tion
     i n 
va          n

When I first opened the book, it took me a while to get the hang of the poems, as the spacing threw me.  I didn't immediately realize that the sequencing of the letters of the words is drawn from the title. Aha! Then I discovered that the poem is rewritten on the back side of each page in case you don't  'get it.'



Kind of a form of shape poetry, if you will.  But oh so clever!


fr  e  d
f i   nds
  e d


h      at
    co at
 h     o   t
c    oco a

And as you can see, the creativity is not limited to longer words, like 'constellation.' Even 'spring' and 'rain' are able to bloom into poems.  As a matter of fact, 'spring' described exactly how I felt after I read this little book of gems:


s    ing

sp   in



If you were as tickled with these poems as I was, I bet right now you are running for paper and pencil to invent a few of your own.  In my mind, that's the highest compliment we can pay to Bob Raczka.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


My sister and brother-in-law live outside of Boston in the town of Sudbury,  Mass. They and their two daughters are die-hard Red Sox fans, make frequent trips to the Cape and every year either walk or run in the Boston Marathon. My husband and I were in the Ft. Lauderdale airport headed back to Pittsburgh this past Monday when I first heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It was with great relief that after a quick phone call we learned their family was okay, but naturally our hearts and prayers went out to all the victims of this horrendous crime. I wanted this blog to be about writing techniques and other insights into the business of kids books but that's difficult knowing that none of us are safe from the evil doings of certain individuals. So today all I can offer is a Springtime craft to do with your children in the hope that it will bring some joy into this sad time for our country and the people of Boston.

A Floating Butterfly

Here's what you need:
Coffee filter (white)
Markers (not permanent)
Pipe cleaner (one long and a shorter piece)
Spray bottle filled with water

Here's what you do:
Cut out the coffee filter in the shape of a butterfly. Color the butterfly with markers, than lightly spray with water and allow to dry. Pinch the butterfly in the center and wrap the short pipe cleaner around the center for antenna. Attach the longer pipe cleaner to the antenna. Wave the pipe cleaner to see the butterfly "fly."

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Rutgers One-On-One Plus Application Is Up

by Marcy Collier

The 44th annual Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference will be held on October 19, 2013. I had the privilege of being accepted the last two years. It is by far the best writing conference I’ve ever attended. Unfortunately, I can’t apply this year because of a conflict, but I wanted to get the information out to our readers.

To find all of the information about the conference, go to: http://www.ruccl.org/One-on-One_Plus_Conference.html

Many of the Route 19 writers have attended Rutgers both as mentees and mentors. Check out these articles to learn about our experiences.

Here are eight tips when applying for the Rutgers conference:

1.  DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE DEADLINE TO APPLY. The council matches the number of mentees with the number of mentors.  Usually it’s between 70-80. A LOT of writers apply to this conference. The sooner you get your application in, the better.

2.  Be professional. Type your application. Check for typos. Read all of the information on the Rutgers website a few times.

3.  Submit you best polished work. Acceptance is based on the strength and quality of your work. The manuscript pages or the artwork that you send must be your best. Have your critique group read your submission and application before you submit it.

4.  Be honest about the track record of your manuscript. The Rutgers council works extremely hard to match mentees with mentors. If the agent or editor has already seen your work and has rejected it, he or she wouldn’t be a good fit.

5.  Send a resume along with your application. List places where you’ve published (i.e. magazines, etc.).  List conferences , workshops or classes you’ve attended to improve your craft.

6.  Once your submission has been sent, do not send it out to the agents or editors listed as mentors.

7.  Don’t forget to include your check, a S.A.S.E. for notification and a postcard to ensure that your application was received.

8.  Now the waiting game begins. Block off  October 19th on your calendar in case you get accepted. You will be notified by the end of August. I remember last year, I had been on vacation when notifications were sent. When I picked up my mail, I was thrilled to see the acceptance letter!