Thursday, December 27, 2012

White Time

As many writers experience, story ideas come with little or no advance notice. The same is true of unexpected writing time. As this backyard picture illustrates, I was geographically blessed by winter storm Euclid hitting my area on Christmas day. 

With little advance warning, 12-15 inches of snow incapacitated the roads and put 190,000 people in the city out of power. Luckily, I didn't lose power even though many friends are still without electricity. [I've asked them to stay, but the roads are too icy to make it to my house which sits on a very steep hill.] 

So, instead of worrying about missing after Christmas sales, I've settled in and accepted this gift of writing time with open arms. I'm getting caught up on marketing deadlines, working on my website, checking in on Facebook and Pinterest and may even Tweet if the inspiration hits. 

Mostly, I'm recording sensory details for future projects. I love winter, but now I'll depend less on memory for winter details (crystal crackling of ice falling from the trees) and more on my notes.

A sudden winter storm strengthened my writing and spirit. Post holiday chaos has been replaced with white time to recharge and create. Happy winter!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Books as Gifts vs. Gift Books

I love books! For gift giving occasions, I love giving and receiving books. When giving, I try to match the person's interest with the gift. For science fiction writers, it might be How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. For photographers, it might be Magnum Contact Sheets. In other words, I look for informational or how to books.

Other times, I gift fun books. I buy what someone will like vs. what he/she can use. For children's book writers, it might be The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. For family members, it might be A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Spike Van Cleve, one of my father's favorites. 

It is also a great chance to do pay it forward marketing for author friends. I love to share great books written by author friends with family and non-writing friends. Whatever your gift giving needs. Think books!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Elves and Fairies Unite

I just love this time of year for sparking the imagination. Everything from twinkling lights to greenery and rich colors are a treat for the senses!

Since I like stories on fables, fantasy, and myths, it is a particularly good time as many holiday decorations include these characters. How about your stories? Getting the itch to write the further adventures of St. Nick, a "right jolly old elf?" Was he a big giver? Or was his a rags to riches story? Did he decide against becoming an inventor in favor of philanthropy? Lots of stories ideas. I have one to work on now... 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Picture Book Idea Month 2012 winner!

Picture Book Idea Month is over. Time to turn those ideas into stories. I came up with 34 solid ideas. I would not have believed so many could be possible in a month. I'm so glad I took the challenge!

Now the work of choosing my favorites begins. They won't necessarily be the easiest to flesh out, but many sparked my curiosity and will pique the interest of an agent/editor.

Congratulations to everyone who found 30 new story ideas in 30 days! To those who fell short, you've still got new ideas. Wahoo!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Picture Books

Everyone in my book club is reading Christmas-based books for December, any genre. I picked up - A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber. Sweet, home town story.

What children's holiday books do you love? Some of my favorites include: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky to name a few.

Although some agents and publishers shy away from holiday specific books with a limited shelf life, I love them and think they add richness to children's literature. The best have a perennial shelf life. Keep them coming!

Friday, November 23, 2012

In the Black

For years, I thought Black Friday was named for the rudeness and misbehavior of day after Thanksgiving shoppers. I didn't realize it was for shop owners who were now solvent and "in the black" after 11 months of being in the red. 

It's a lot like writing. The majority of the time you use a red pen to hone a story to a fine edge. Then, after many revisions there is only black ink, no more rude red; the piece is polished to perfection. It becomes Black Friday or Black Tuesday or whatever.

Like finding a great sale, satisfaction reigns. Send it to an editor and hope for green.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why Now?

Its Day 20 of PiBoIdMo and I'm still on schedule. Ideas are flowing with little or no effort. It's fantastic. The only thing that puzzles me is why now? In the past few years, I've  polished and re-polished a few stories and really didn't look much beyond those. Now during my first PiBoIdMo, they arrive right on cue singly or in twos and threes. Again, why now? Was giving myself permission to open the tap? Perhaps, but I'm thinking that it goes back to being prepared, being receptive, and doing the groundwork. Working on my craft for weeks and years brought me closer to the point where ideas are recognized and accepted as valid. It's exciting! How about you? On track? Ahead? Lagging? It's all good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Creativity...Opening the Tap

It's Day 12 of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and surprisingly I'm on schedule. Some ideas came in a flood and others dribbled in on the day they were needed. The key seems to be me. 

Let me repeat that. I am the key to my creativity. Who knew?! 

Making the decision to tackle the 2012 PiBoIdMo challenge allowed a creative cog to slide into place and OPEN THE TAP. 

My part was easy. I just had to commit time every day to soak up the ideas and write them down. Simple.

The hard part will be to work the best inspiration into stories I love, stories true to my writing voice.
How are you coming in this or other writing/illustrating challenges? Has the cog clicked? Share your successes and dry spells. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

VOTE! (for picture books)

As the daughter of a librarian, I grew up reading and loving books. When vacationing in the beautiful Pacific NW, my father would say, "enjoy the scenery and get your nose out of that book." I would look up, exclaim about the trees and view, then quickly get back to the story. Books were friends and fellow adventurers.

Picture books offer insights into new friends, places, cultures, and times for many children. Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, give a picture book to a school or library today. You'll be there voting anyway. Share the adventure!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Release the Muse

I recently sent off a couple of picture book stories to an agent who requested them (i.e., excitement/terror personified) and was thinking I didn't have anything new to work on, but then came PiBoIdMo and the ideas started flooding in.

It is only Day 2 and I already have 4 new picture book ideas outlined. AMAZING!!!  Letting the muse come out and play was all it took! 

Still looking for a holiday motivator? There is still time to sign up for PiBoIdMo 2012.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Picture Book Idea Month - 2012

 Picture book idea month starts today. It's my first time to participate and I'm ready! I have motivation. I have  chai tea and snacks. I have a new spreadsheet to catch ideas as they spring from the ether.

Check back on November 30. With any luck, I will have captured at least 30 story ideas to polish in 2013. Good luck to all those participating! If you haven't joined yet, there is still time (through Nov. 4). Children's author,
Tara Lazar is the contact.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Have you ever watched any of the Survivor series TV programs where contestants must perform endurance and physical challenges to get points for themselves and their teams while eating bugs and being bitten by millions of gnats? It's pretty intense entertainment to enjoy while sitting with the feet up and contemplating dessert options. Anyway, Picture Book Month 2012 is a bit like that without the gnats. Each day in November you must come up with a picture book idea. This is my first year to participate. Honestly  I'd rather eat bugs, but I know it will be a great exercise. I work best under deadlines! Plus, I hear there are lots of ideas exchanged, author commiseration and no one gets voted off the writing island! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Movie Immersion

I am a very visual person and picture every scene in my head as I write. Sometimes when the story is dragging, it seems like an endless loop! But when that happens, I take a visual vacation. I go to the movies for a creative break and immerse myself in another world. Recently, I watched Hugo again. The setting and cinematographic richness not only saturated my senses, but infused new creative energy. I savored the scenes and after a few hours, was ready to get back to work. Give it a try and let me know if it helped.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bronte Power

Familiar with the super powers of the Bronte sisters? I got this pretend commercial from illustrator Mary Reaves Uhles. Check it out. You might want your own Emily, Anne, or Charlotte Bronte action figure. Or collect all three! -Q

Monday, September 17, 2012

Go Mid-South SCBWI

Author/Illustrator Dan Yaccarino

Just back from the 2012 Mid-South SCBWI conference, I'm still riding the crest of euphoria and excitement from meeting other like-minded picture book, middle grade, and YA authors in the trenches. As in past years, the wisdom and applicable offerings by invited long-time editors, agents, and illustrators, such as Liz Szalba, Sarah Davies, Victoria Rock, Stephen Fraser, Dan Yaccarino and others was excellent and helpful. Some industry news made me cheer and some not so much, but it gave me a chance to ask questions and get honest feedback on current projects as well as ideas for new ones. If you are looking for a conference for next year, I highly recommend the Mid-South in September 2013.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Random Acts of Publicity

What's even more fun than talking about your books? Talking about friend's books! It's WAY more fun!!! 

Now you can easily do just that, Sept. 4-7, 2012. Join hundreds of other writers talking about their favorite authors and books: past, present, & future. Darcy Pattison's 4th annual Random Acts of Publicity is the place to do that! I'll see you there. -Q 

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

Being a strong visual learner, I love discovering a children's illustrator who possesses a bright spark of childhood. Sometimes like an writer changes a story's voice, I imagine a picture book recreated in a different style.

Think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid as illustrated by Maurice Sendak. 


Or how about: Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type as illustrated by Dr. Seuss?

Just like changing illustrators, when I'm at a creative impasse I imagine what the story would be like told from a different viewpoint. It often gets me moving again. Whatever works!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Random Acts of Publicity 2012

If you're like me, it's a lot easier to shout the praises of friends' books than talking about and marketing your own published works. Well, here is a fun and promotional event for everyone. The 4th Annual Random Acts of Publicity event held Sept. 4-7, 2012 and facilitated by friend and colleague, Darcy Pattison, is all about promoting another person's book. THAT I can do!  -Q

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Modern Libraries - Not Just for Books Anymore

I just read about the Westport, Connecticut library remodeling to include a Maker Space where one of the first projects to be built by patrons are 2 fifteen foot wooden airplanes that will hang from the library's ceiling when completed. What a great idea! Who says libraries are only about books? 

The Fayetteville, NY library is also building a 3-D printing lab with a MakerBot, Thing-o-matic 3-D printer. Lots of fun planned. Creativity is breaking out all over! Image creating books/characters in 3-D for school visits. Let's get on board!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shards or Puzzle Pieces?

The summer's heat is receding and waves of fresh-faced school children are rolling toward the start of school. If you're like me, you have been dutifully working on your latest writing project(s) all summer only to realize that your writing, family, and social workload will explode exponentially as the school schedule kicks in. 

The question is: Will the pieces of your writing life look like fractured shards of a dropped vase or scattered puzzle pieces coming together into a satisfying whole? Both begin in disarray, but one has a greater chance of forming the intended pattern.

Now you're probably thinking I've fallen into a zen ditch and can't get up, but here's a late summer tip that thousands have followed successfully. Keep Calm and Carry On. Attend the writer's conference, keep participating in your critique group, research that agency or editor's needs and submit. Even if you have to do your editing and researching in the after school pickup line, the bank line, or waiting for the casserole to cook. 
Keep Calm and Carry On. Let me know how you are doing and I'll do the same. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Olympics for Writers

If you are like me and millions of other people, you have spent more time than usual watching TV, specifically the Olympics, this past week. 

Like most writers, I people watch and note accents, language, etc. The 2012 London Olympics offers a snapshot into the lives of super athletes. Check out the extreme effort and hopes that are either rewarded or dashed depending on an event's outcome. Some Olympians are at the pinnacle of their career and others may have to try another time. Their faces, expressions, and postures tell it all. All valuable info for a writer to stash away and use when describing winners and losers. Happy watching!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writing Contests

Whether you think you have a competitive streak or not, you are actually competing all the time as a writer. Just step into a bookstore and look at the sheer number of books available if you doubt it. So why not compete in a more determined way? Enter a contest. There are annual contests, genre contests, online contests and timed writing contests. 

Writer's Digest is a good place to find lists of regional or national contests tailored to your interests and time availability. Pick a close range contest and perhaps one in 6 months. Then, read all the submission rules and get busy. I've found that I need a deadline to help me push past my ambivalence. A contest helps with that. 

Just think! A contest win puts you into that upper stratosphere classification  of "award winning author."  Good luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Conferences - Just Do It!

I have been writing for at least 20 years and publishing for 10. People often ask how I got started. I usually just say I got lucky and caught an editor's eye.

However, I've come to realize that it was more that that. It was about being in the right "frame of mind" at the right time. After years of being told I was a good writer by teachers, friends, relatives, and church administrators, it took a college children's writing course and a couple of SCBWI conferences to make me realize that I didn't want to be good. I wanted to be outstanding! 

So...I took a hard look at what I didn't know or hadn't bothered to try. I discovered I had a lot to learn. I'm still learning and attending SCBWI conferences. Don't be afraid of not knowing people at a conference. They are afraid of not knowing you! Check out 
for upcoming conferences. Who knows? You might get lucky!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Princesses & Even More Princesses

I bought The Secret Lives of Princesses recently. The art is fantastic and all the non-standard princess descriptions are just plain fun. It got me thinking of how many different fictional princesses there are in picture books. Here are some of the titles I found during a quick princess search at Barnes & Noble:

The Real Princess by Hans Christian Andersen

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch 

Princess Baby by Karen Katz

Olivia the Princess by Natalie Shaw

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

Princess Palooza by Joy Allen

Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

Princesses, Princesses, Princesses by Julie Olson

Monster Princess by D. J. MacHale

Princess Penelope by Todd Mack

Princess Posey and the Monster Stew by Stephanie Greene

Princess Me
 by Karma Wilson

Paiute Princess by Deborah Kogan Ray 

Princess Peepers by Pam Calvert 

You get the idea. (And I didn't even try to list all the Disney princesses.) Why is this interesting? Well, it means they are still stories to be told about princesses, but perhaps more importantly, it illustrates that each writer brings something to children's fiction that wasn't there before; a different slant, touch of humor, adventure, or whatever. I find that exciting and encouraging. How about you? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ray Bradbury - Lover of Life

National Endowment for the Arts video

Science fiction/fantasy legend, Ray Bradbury, died June 5, 2012. Like many, many other writers/readers
, Mr. Bradbury influenced how I saw life and fiction as a young adult. This endearing video should be required viewing for all fiction writers. 
Check out Ray Bradbury on his childhood love of reading, how he rented a library basement typewriter for 10 cents/half hour and wrote Farenheit 451, and how he has written every day for the past 75 years.

"The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do." - Ray Bradbury

I may watch this every day for a while, just to sync Bradbury's counsel with my creative wiring.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rainy Days and Writing

I have to admit, as much as I enjoy the outdoors, I almost look forward to rainy days. I don't have to keep moving the sprinkler every hour and I get a lot more writing done! My creative thoughts seem more likely to slip from their burrows when the light is dim and the light patter of rain on the deck offers a soothing natural soundtrack. Where or when are you most productive?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Asparagus & Editing

I love asparagus! Growing up in Nevada, I roamed our property and nearby riverbanks hunting asparagus all during March and April. At the height of the growing season, I could fill a paper grocery sack in about 20 minutes. Cutting an inch above ground level, I always left a few stalks to go to seed for the next year.

Recently, when editing a picture book manuscript, I realized my asparagus hunting had trained me from an early age to accept change. I've learned to cut excess without overdoing and return to cull
 more when a story gets overgrown.

As with asparagus, a story and all its edited parts stay with you long past the pruning, but those are the things that make it stronger for years to come.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mind Time

I read something a while back that mentioned the writer's life and how hard it is to get motivated. With so many fun, family, and work parts of the pie that is a writer's life pulling us away from writing, slow forward motion can be a downer.

I don't have the answer, but I have tried a variety of methods to keep my writing moving. They usually depend on how close a deadline looms. But I've started giving myself credit for the writing I do in my head (some non-writers call this daydreaming). 

I've found that if I don't allow a story enough time to percolate a bit and be mulled over, my time at the computer is not particularly productive. So give yourself a star! Count the standing in line at the bank, waiting for your engine oil to be changed, or being stuck in traffic as part of your writing process. You'll feel much more productive. It works for me!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quinn on Facebook

I have been diligently updating my Facebook page. I realized how many friends and colleagues I was missing!  Here is a link.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Children's Book Insider

Just in case you are not familiar with the Children's Book Insider, I wanted to pass on this fantastic resource for children's writers. I have been a member for several years and gleaned a ton writing info, tips, publishing news, etc. Jon and Laura know the business and strive to offer timely content. Check it out.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Blog Look

I painted two rooms in my house this month, so the new background seemed perfect. Besides, the jellybeans were making me hungry every time I logged on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Edible Flowers

I saw an article in Vegetarian Times today entitled "Flowers for Foodies."  I knew pansies, marigolds, and lavendar were edible, but check out all the wild flowers that can be used in many different recipes.

Peter Rabbit may want to visit Mr. McGregor's flowers after he wanders through the vegetable garden. (So far, my visiting wild backyard bunny hasn't discovered my pansies.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Quirky is Best

I recently got a chance to catch up with busy children's author, Katie Speck on her Maybelle the Cockroach series. Katie is from an area along the Gulf Coast I have recently become familiar with. Plus, after living in hot, humid Houston for a long time, I've encountered Maybelle's relations on several occasions. Check out these fun, original picture books like Maybelle in the Soup and Maybelle Goes to Tea at I think you'll soon be a Maybelle fan too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's Day

Are you a trickster? A joker? Is today your day of all days? Enjoy! I celebrate your creativity and look forward to hearing about your pranks. Imagination is queen!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

100 Picture Books

The New York Public Library has put together a list of 100 great picture books. Check it out at
You can find some of my favorite picture books at the books page of my website, Since I grew up on a farm, I especially laugh at Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Write to Smell

I'm sure you've heard about using your senses to bring your writing alive. Yesterday while hiking, the point came home to roost. While returning along an upwardly angling trail, I was passed by several teens. Apparently, trying to catch up, a boy of about 11 years came toward me  leaping from rock to rock. I veered left to give him more space, but he just flew bye in a single bound. The interesting thing (besides the fact that I hadn't been flattened) was the sweet smell of pink bubble gum as he raced by. In a heartbeat I was a child again. What smell(s) awaken your memories? What books give those details? 
Check out the books page of my website for some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through Your Eyes

Have you ever heard someone say they are not creative or have no special talents? Some people believe it when they compare themselves to siblings, friends, co-workers, and various other creative folks. I believe every single person has a creative spark and has only to stretch themselves a bit to find it. Comparisons are not useful, because no one has EVER looked at the world through your eyes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

How Do You Wait?

Waiting has never been easy for me. My birthday is in January and as a child I waited FOREVER for the holidays and my birthday to roll around each year. Then, almost without taking a breath they were over and again the never ending WAITING!
My iphone changed all that. Now waiting is a chance to catch up, to check the weather, and play games. It's a happy break from work, life, laundry and the occasional kitty hair balls.
How do you wait?