Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let the Games Begin...

Coming in March of 2012, Katniss Everdeen and her rebellious, strong-willed personality will grace movie screens all over the nation.
My excitement.  Since the day I began The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I knew immediately it was going to be one of those reads where I couldn't put it down.  I'd find myself aching to continue reading the minute I woke, flipping through chapters in between spoonfuls at breakfast, and sometimes catching a paragraph or two at a red light.  How often does a story enthrall you so much you find yourself fighting to jump back into the story at every free chance you get?  This was one of those moments for me.  To see the Reaping and Katniss throw herself at her sister's mercy, the moment she rises up into the arena for the first time, the elaborate costumes Cinna creates, and the ultimate ending to a fictitious story that somehow felt so real.  How can it not be absolutely amazing to see unfold on the big screen?

My concern.  All three books are told in the viewpoint of Katniss; however, what makes these books quite different than your Harry Potter or Bella Swan tales, is the amount of internal thought shared with the readers.  We find ourselves learning about Katniss' past and the moments that led to her becoming the young woman she is today.  We find out her fears, her strengths, her weaknesses, all through her internal thought process, even if her actions contradict her own mind and heart.  While I remember thinking how great a movie would be for this series, I also wondered how they would successfully portray Katniss' character.  In my opinion, a good way to do so would be to have consistent voice over throughout the movie, similar to the way Twilight opens with Bella's introduction.  It should be necessary in parts that call for it, and not included when the scene takes control. 

You can check out the official movie trailer below:


Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did They Just Say That in a Picture Book?

Most people probably have heard or seen by now the very unique titles splashing children's books over the past six months.  What am I referring to?


The first distinct profanity picture book (yes, geared toward children) hit bookstores nationwide with the title "Go the F**k to Sleep."  Surprising (and yet should we be?) many, it hit the NYT Bestseller list, peaking at #6.

And now, the use of this type of vulgar language seems to be a trend.  Other titles hitting bookshelves include:

1) "If You Give A Kid A Cookie, Will He Shut the F**k Up?"
2) S***t My Dad Says

First and foremost, let me clarify.  I'm not an idiot, I understand the humor in what started off as a joke on Twitter or Facebook, ended up being a bestseller, especially with the irony involved.  However, from a writer's standpoint, I have to state that by publishing these types of books, it goes against many rules we've learned at conferences. I can't begin to elaborate on the feedback I've received from many in the industry on how to strengthen my picture book stories.  I can tell you, not one comment was to add profanity into it.  More or less, everything came down to does it relate to children?  Will they find it funny? Entertaining? And most of all, will it be a book that kids will want to pick up and read over, and over, and over, and over again....

I feel these types of books hit only two distinct aspects:

1) Uniqueness.  Can't argue with that.
2) Targets parents.  No they aren't the kids, but who is ultimately buying the books for their children? Some may even purchase it just because of the hilarity behind it all.

Maybe it's geared more toward parents, and less for children after all.  The beautiful illustrations and humorous prose certainly elicits a giggle or two from even the most exhausted parents. And who can't use a laugh or two?  Who's to say parents can't enjoy a picture book geared toward them after a long hard day's work?

I can't help but think about how the FCC has eased its restrictions on profanity on TV and what constitutes a "bleep" today.  Back in the day, you wouldn't hear any swearing, where as now, some are blurted right out.  Is this a sign that swearing is becoming part of our daily language and now is seen as common?  If that's the case, I can't help but wonder, first TV, now children's books...what's next?

Overall, whether this trend continues or is a flash in the pan, writers (and readers) simply need to keep in mind one thing:  we write because we love it.  We do it to see our stories told and hopefully can live on for generation after generation.

H*ll yeah.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MeeGenius Picture Book Author Contest!

It's official!  I've officially entered not one, but TWO of my picture books in this year's MeeGenius Author Challenge 2011!

Courtesy of MeeGenius.com

Submission deadline was November 1st, and voting begins on November 28th.  I will be posting the link to the website on the 28th where you'll be able to read my two stories (and hundreds of others!) and vote on your favorite.  Winners of the first voting round move on to get their story illustrated.  The Grand Prize includes a publishing contract, $1,500 in cash, and a MeeGenius library donated to any school of the winner's choice.

Wish me luck!

A Little About Me...and My Spark

Courtesy of deviantart.com
As I mentioned in my profile, I love writing.  There are times when I get the writing itch so badly, I just need to grab a pen or my computer and jot down my ideas.  Before you know it, if you're anything like me, you have written several picture books and finished a Middle Grade novel.

And then there are books. When it comes to reading, there's  something about escaping to new worlds, meeting unique characters, all the while traveling along those unexpected twists and turns that lead you to the end.  Or is it the end?  Sometimes it's not and you're forced to wait for the sequel...and then third third....and the fourth....before you know it, a movie is in production. 

So where did I get my *spark*?

When did I find my passion to write children's books?  (Wrote my first one called "Baby Carrie" when I was only six! I still have it, however, it's very difficult to read since I wrote it pencil...hmmm).  After I graduated college with a Journalism degree, I was dead-set on moving to New York City and pursuing a job in magazines.  I had already visited the exquisite Conde Nast building in 2006 and was pretty sure my first job would be there.

However, that didn't go as planned.  Landing a job in the publishing industry while not actually living in NYC, proved to be more difficult than I had previously expected.  So difficult, that I considered myself lucky if I even got the formal "another candidate has been chosen" email.  But if you're anything like me, you didn't give up. I knew I'd find my calling, I just had to be patient.

I didn't expect it to be when I was cleaning out my old room in my Mom's house.  As we were going through a myriad of high school creative writing stories, stacks of newspaper clippings I wrote at my college newspaper, and a plethora of other school-related items, my Mom pulled out a children's story I wrote when I was a senior in high school.  I hardly even remembered writing it but there it was.  The concept was fresh, unique and had a nice storyline.  My Mom's exact words were "This is adorable!"

Looking back with the knowledge I have now, the story definitely needed work, but it was at that precise moment that I realized my calling wasn't in magazines, it was in writing children's stories.  It all made sense.  At that point, even in my early 20s, I still enjoyed reading children's books no matter what age it was geared toward or genre it fell into.  Heck, I was the only one in my family who still had a library card and actually used it!   (And for those that are wondering, yes, I moved to a new apartment last month, and already got myself my new library card). 

That moment will forever stand out for me, and it should.  It's these types of moments that people tend to treasure, because to some people our memory is all we have.  Others tend to scrapbook about it, take pictures or create song lyrics.  And others...we realize we have stories to tell.  So we grab the closest pen or computer...and write the night away.

What was your *spark* moment?