The Best, by Anthony D. Fredericks

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A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

The Best

emailRecently, a former high school classmate contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review a story she was submitting for publication. I readily agreed and, soon thereafter, her story arrived. In her prefatory remarks, she included the following statement: “I made three false starts and wasn’t thrilled with what I submitted, but did anyway in hopes that an editor’s critique might help me.”

I cringed!

I spent the rest of the morning composing an emphatic response about the importance of ALWAYS submitting your best work . . . not your “okay work” . . . not your “maybe work” . . . and not your “perhaps work.” I explained (with some occasional, but necessary, ranting) that anything less than her best work is a disservice to the craft of writing as well as the integrity of writers. It’s cheating whoever reads it and cheating herself (as a budding professional). I told her that the best reputation you can have as a writer is to always submit your best. Never second best, never half-done, never “in hopes that an editor’s critique might help me.” In submitting anything less than your best, you sell yourself short.

Every. Single. Time.

tsunami wavesIn early 2005, my wife and I took a two-week trip to Hawaii. While there, I heard stories about a devastating tsunami that hit the Islands on April 1, 1946. I visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo and talked to a leading tsunami expert at the University of Hawaii. I eventually came away with a story about the tsunami’s effect on a single family. When I returned home, I began drafting a fictionalized account of that family for a potential children’s book entitled The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather’s Story. The story took me eleven months and twenty-six drafts to write. I wanted each word to be the perfect word, each sentence to be meticulously crafted, and each paragraph to be thorough and precise. I wanted this story to be at its best!

Eventually my agent submitted the story to Sleeping Bear Press. A few weeks later an editor wrote and said she “absolutely loved this story.” A contract was signed and she plunged into her editorial responsibilities. A month later she wrote me and said that, “I only needed to modify three sentences. Everything else was perfect!” She implored me to send additional book manuscripts. My reward: two more contracts with Sleeping Bear Press (A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet and P is for Prairie Dog: A Prairie Alphabet). The final rewards: The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather’s Story (https://amzn.to/2WKtkOe) won the Storytelling World Awards Honor (2008) and was included on the Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year List (2007). It’s also accumulated some pretty nice five-star reviews on Amazon.

Your best work. Always!

paper and penIt has been said that writing is all about revising and rewriting. The early words you put into the computer will not be your best, nor will they necessarily be the final words in your book. They are, quite simply, early stuff. I always consider those initial drafts as visual representations of what’s inside my head: they are beginning ideas, thoughts, and concepts recorded on a computer screen. They may be nothing more than a random and haphazard collection of words, sentences, and (rarely) paragraphs. They are without form, messy, and frequently chaotic. It is from this jumble of disorganized and messy thoughts that a book will arise.

However, what makes a book a book is the level of revision we put into it (see last month’s column). Throwing words on a computer screen is just a first step. It’s what we do with those words, over time, that will spawn a book that parents, teachers, and the kids themselves will want to read—hopefully over and over again.

college professorFor several years, I taught an undergraduate course on “Writing Children’s Literature.” As expected, there were several required writing assignments. I always gave students the option of submitting as many drafts of an assignment as they wished. On each draft of a paper, I often penned some open-ended questions (e.g., “How do you think this character’s major flaw could be highlighted with dialogue?”) along with various suggestions for improvement (e.g., “Consider strengthening your verbs and eliminating some adjectives.”). When a student felt she was ready to submit a final draft (for a grade), she had to place it directly in my hands (rather than leave it on the classroom desk or slide it under my office door). I always looked her in the eye and asked, “Is this your best work?” Often, the answer was, “Yes.” Other times, she would look at me sheepishly and say, “You know what? I think it might need another revision or two.”

Your best work. Always!

_________________

Fizzle cover

 

A retired professor of education and resident of York, PA, Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books. His latest adult trade book, Fizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity (https://amzn.to/3cjY6Ez), has had its release date pushed back to October 1, 2020. In the meantime, readers interested in free materials to assess and enhance their own creativity can access them on Tony’s web site (www.anthonydfredericks.com).

 

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Together at Heart, by Andree Santini

Together at Heart

What have you been creating since staying home due to the pandemic? I’ve been busy the last two months conceiving, writing, illustrating, editing, formatting, and indie-publishing my first picture book.

Indirectly about COVID-19, Together at Heart While We’re Apart is a simple picture book to help lift children’s spirits and cope with changes resulting from the worldwide pandemic. Friends living apart learn in new ways, stay connected and hopeful, grow in strength and resiliency, and look forward to being together again with friends, cousins, and grandparents. The story and illustrations normalize new practices like staying home, connecting with friends and family remotely, hand-washing, wearing masks and gloves, and sharing and caring. It encourages deep heart connection and positivity and is a message of hope for today and the future.

unnamed

I’ve learned so much in the process of making this book, and drew on notes from past SCBWI events and from my many unfinished books that went to the wayside for one reason or another. (Hmm, did this book take forty years or two months to make?) I would have preferred finding an editor/agent and publisher, but because of the time-sensitive theme of my story, I decided it was more important to get this out there quickly in the hopes that it may help families during this difficult time of social distancing.

You can find more at andreesantini.com. The Kindle version of Together at Heart While We’re Apart is now available at Amazon, and the e-book can also be purchased through Apple, Kobo, and other stores. Currently, the paperback version is stuck in Amazon review because KDP is backlogged, so I’m still learning and looking for a second way to get a print-on-demand version published quickly, possibly with IngramSpark or LuLu. I’m abysmal at social media and self-promotion, so any suggestions, reviews, shares, or likes are appreciated. I made this for children everywhere, and next may make a YouTube video of the whole book to get it out there to children far and wide. So many steps! Once finished (Will it ever finish?), I’ll compile my indie learnings in another post.

 


andree headAndree Santini teaches, writes, and illustrates to promote positive imagination and balanced movement toward creative, joyful well-being. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2011. Also a chemist, she has over twenty-five years of experience inventing art products for children and holds seven US patents with additional patents pending. You can find her creative blog at www.inspirationforcreativity.com, and you can visit her website at www.andreesantini.com.

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Member News — April 2020

Member News is a new monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s-book-related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please e-mail Laura Parnum at epa-ara@scbwi.org before May 20.

Here’s some exciting news from members in our region this month:

 

EVERYONELOVESAPARADE!*

In March, author Andrea Denish launched her picture book Everyone Loves a Parade! (Boyds Mills Press) illustrated by Guilherme Franco. Everyone loves a parade, right? Well, almost everyone! Music, costumes, food, and fun. The sights and sounds of a parade are exciting! From Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year to St. Patrick’s Day and LGBTQ+ Pride, each celebration is a joy for kids, and most adults. With rhyming text and bold illustrations, children will love this festive and humorous look at some of the country’s most well-known parades that features a surprise ending.


 

trophy-153395__480

Eastern PA SCBWIs co-RA Lindsay Bandy has won SCBWIs WOOP award for her YA historical fiction work in progress, Doublethink. The WOOP award is a grant for SCBWI regional team members for a Work of Outstanding Progress. Doublethink, is set in Hamburg, Germany, 1957, and chronicles the teen years of two Polish children stolen by Nazis—one of whom developed dissociative identity disorder (DID) as a result of trauma and must now grapple with the multiple personalities vying for control of her life. Lindsay hopes to use the grant to offer compensation to personal connections she has made with individuals with DID who have provided valuable feedback to ensure she is sensitively and accurately representing life with the condition. She also hopes to attend Toi Magazines conference in San Francisco in November, where many advocates, psychologists, and DID systems are convening for the “Entitle(DID) to Life” event.


 

10,000 Writing Ideas book cover

Author and EasternPennPoints columnist (“Write Angles”) Tony Fredericks recently published his latest e-book: 10,000 Writing Ideas: Essential Strategies for Every Writer. This book offers writers (of all stripes) a plethora of story possibilities that “will keep their minds running at ‘warp speed’ and their fingers dancing across the keyboard.” Fiction or nonfiction, picture books or YA novels, 32 pages to 300-plus pages, writers can use this book to generate a whirlwind of creative story ideas for characters, plots, themes, settings, and dialogue. The e-book is available here.


 

Tenth Avenue Cowboy cover

Linda Oatman High’s 2008 book, Tenth Avenue Cowboy, which was illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, will be released in paperback in March 2021 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. We are thrilled to see it coming back!


 

Highlights

Amy Beth Sisson’s article “Nature Pattern” appeared in the March issue of Highlights magazine. The article introduces the idea of fractals to very young children through examples from nature.


 

shaking-hands-2499612__480

This month, author Nicole Wolverton signed with agent Anne Tibbets of D4EO Literary Agency, for representation for her YA fiction. Here’s to a long and productive literary partnership!


 

lasmusasnew

Hilda Eunice Burgos recently presented in a webinar with Aida Salazar entitled “Writing Difficult and Taboo Topics for Middle Grade.” They discussed how literature can help middle grade readers navigate the complexities and sometimes harsh realities of life. The webinar was launched by Las Musas as part of a free webinar series to connect Las Musas authors with readers, writers, and educators around the globe. For more information about the webinar series, click here.


 

If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ara@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: Happy Earth Day, by Rebecca Jane Hoenig

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day Final

Happy Earth Day

by Rebecca Jane Hoenig

 


Rebecca Jane Hoenig is a recently retired teacher, currently following her dream to write and illustrate children’s books. You can visit her website at www.rebeccajanehoenig.com.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: Let Nature Offer Her Gentle Healing, by Andree Santini

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Flowering tree

Let Nature Offer Her Gentle Healing

by Andree Santini

All of nature is about change, growth, and transformation. We’re part of nature, and so we too change, grow, and transform. We come, we live, and we go.

Spring is a great time to step outside and watch the changes unfolding around us. It’s a time for hope; for wonder; for soaking in the beauty; for feeling grateful for the gifts nature offers us; for planting and patience; and for feeling connected to Earth, to all its life forms, and to all people around the planet. It’s a reminder to take care of our home, Earth, because she takes care of us. Connecting deeply to nature helps us feel our beauty and strength as well as our vulnerability. It helps us to contemplate and embrace life’s mysteries.

We can let nature offer her gentle healing to help us stay well, strong, and hopeful. Maybe try sitting with a tree or examining some flowers today, or turn over a rock and watch some insects. Or just sit and breathe in some fresh air. Immerse yourself in nature’s creativity, and let her inspire yours.

 


Andree Santini teaches, writes, and illustrates to promote positive imagination and balanced movement towards creative, joyful well-being. She’s been a member of SCBWI since 2011. Also a chemist, she has over 25 years of experience inventing art products for children, and holds seven US patents with additional patents pending. Andree learned to paint and draw while testing thousands of exploratory formulas in the lab. Mostly a self-taught artist, she has also studied drawing with Sean Delonas, watercolors with Ann Lindsay and Dana Van Horn, and illustration with Chuck Vlasics and Sean Delonas. You can find her creative blog at www.inspirationforcreativity, and you can visit her website at www.andreesantini.com.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: Sunrise Roses, by Kathy Spall

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

sunrise roses test

Sunrise Roses

by Kathy Spall

 


Kathy Spall is a prepublished author-illustrator. She loves to garden and has always been fascinated by dew drops sparkling in the early morning sunlight. This picture is meant to capture the simple wonder of a child discovering what many of us now just pass by. You can view more of her artwork at https://kjspall2.wixsite.com/mysite.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: “Spring,” by Jane Resides

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

bumblebee in spring

Spring

by Jane Resides

 

How nice of God to give us flowers,

   And quench their thirst with April showers.

 

To give their gardeners hoe and rake,

   And sturdy wood for them to stake.

 

To set the sun above them so

   Warm rays can help the flowers grow.

 

Oh, spring—it makes the young birds sing.

   It causes bees to take to wing.

 

Can heaven be that far away?

   I wish that spring would come and stay.

 


Growing up, Jane Resides’s vacations were spent in the woods she loved. So it’s not surprising that she and her husband built a log cabin the pioneer way—no power, no nails. Since graduating college in her fifties, she has been writing poems, short stories, picture books, and articles, and participating in the same critique group for over 15 years.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: Oliver Quacks Like a Duck, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

oliver duck color

Oliver Quacks Like a Duck

by Berrie Torgan-Randall

Oliver quacks like a duck from Hurry Up, Oliver!, written and illustrated by Berrie Torgan-Randall.

 


Berrie Torgan-Randall is the Illustrator Coordinator for the Eastern PA SCBWI. She is looking forward to making connections with professionals while organizing events for illustrators who are on a similar journey of creating beautiful and meaningful picture books. You can visit her website at www.berrietr.com.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: “Rope Swing,” by Jessica Whipple

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

child on rope swing

Rope Swing

by Jessica Whipple

When he first saw it, it was a snake
looping up over rocks
down into the muck again.

But no, a rope from the junkyard
nothing but trash
freed in the flood
to settle in the crook of the Big Sewickley Creek.

Not a conservationist—
an opportunist—
Dad grabbed one frayed end
pulled twenty-five feet of soggy jute onto the shore
shifting shale in the creekbed
scraping and scuffing flat rock against flat rock.

We walked the field
where neighborhood kids ran obstacle courses
seventy pounds coiled around his shoulders
the tail left dangling for me.
He slung it up into the maple
litter becoming treasure
at the foot of my backyard.

With pipefitter hands he knotted it
with a scrap of cable he secured it
around the strongest, longest limb.
Not recycling—
repurposing—
re-
imagining.
Seeing ahead to late August
when cicadas crescendo
and street lights flicker on
his daughter swinging from that tree
until the grass underneath
is nothing but dirt.


Jessica Whipple spent 4.5 years as a copywriter; later, her writing informed, recruited, and incited the support of donors and volunteers at a Pittsburgh nonprofit. Now she is submitting picture book manuscripts to agents and editors and is excited to consider this next chapter of her writing career (cheesy puns and all). Jessica is writing in Lancaster, PA, but you can also catch her on Twitter @Jessicawhippl17.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day: “Planting a Perspective,” by Charlotte Greene

This April we are filling the EasternPennPoints blog with art and poetry in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

apple hanging from tree

Planting a Perspective

by Charlotte Greene

What in the world are you doing, curious Shadow said,
as I took a spade, hoe and trowel from inside the shed.
It’s way too early to plant anything directly in the ground
he growled loudly from the deck with a darkly disapproving frown.
The earth is so cold the poor sprouts would wither and go dead
he continued to bark with a shake of his mighty doggy head.
Smartie Pants opened her beak to readily concur
with a derisive squawk and a pretty naughty word.

I calmly proceeded in the face of their mockery and scorn
to dig up a sunny spot in the flower bed now so forlorn.
For I had a little secret that had not yet been shared
of six seeds found inside an heirloom apple I had pared.
I could almost taste their sweetness as I plucked the ripened fruit
from the lovely apple trees these seeds would someday skyward shoot.

But when the job was finished and I turned and told them why,
they fell over laughing so hard it made them hoot and cry.
When I asked why so funny they gasped for breath to reply.
We are now the pets of a seventy-seven-year-old optimistic fool,
apple pie in the sky is the only fruit that will make you drool!

I calmly turned to them and said with nary a trace of fear or dread,
I can’t wait to see you eat your words while I eat apple pie instead!

 


Charlotte Greene is a recent and way overdue retiree—an escapee from academia, from the lecture hall, and her laboratory. Finally, free, never again to toil over a multiple-choice question, administer an oral exam, or write a scientific paper (although she has published more than enough to surmount the publish or perish decree). Instead, she is off on a new quest to flex her hand at fiction with an occasional poem thrown in as a breather from the adventure of writing a novel. Her whole world and now the whole earth itself has changed course as she sits in her home, sheltered in place.

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