Monday, April 21, 2014

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS: Creative Nonfiction. Informational Fiction. Faction. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

I wrote a couple of nonfiction articles for magazines, but now I am interested in writing nonfiction for picture books. Nonfiction picture books must have three components:

  1. Visually appealing with attractive design and layout in a 32-page book
  2. Accurate information
  3. Engaging writing

Nonfiction picture books are written to attract the interest of young readers and get them excited about nonfiction. Sharon Ruth Gill of Reading Rockets explores this genre that is making waves in the publishing industry in her article, What Teachers Need to Know About the "New" Nonfiction.

Like picture books, nonfiction books for the younger reader must stand out in today's market. How do you do that?


But how much creativeness can you add to a nonfiction? This is where it gets sticky.

Myth: For my nonfiction to stand out, I should embellish it with interesting and fun details by weaving in a creative, made-up story.

*Truth: Once you add fiction, your story is fiction. Lee Gutkind of says it best. Creative nonfiction is “accurate prose about real people and events written in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner- true stories well told.”

Myth: If I write a story with a good plot, realistic characters and interesting facts, then I would have a great creative nonfiction.

*Truth: This all depends on what your realistic characters are saying and doing. Jan Fields of the Institute of Children’s literature writes, “Creative nonfiction happens when an author uses totally well researched facts to create a story-like narrative with no made up parts.” What you may have written is faction- blending of fact and fiction.

Myth: If I write a story about a father on an adventure through the woods with his daughter and informing her of facts about redwood trees along the way, that would make a great Creative nonfiction.

*Truth: When you have a made-up story with characters spewing out facts, or a blending of fiction with facts, then you have informational fiction- Facts in a fictional framework.


What about historical fiction? 
Many historical fiction are realistic. Characters may be fictitious, but the events and scenes are based on facts. Historical fiction is also described as a fictional account of real events or real people. Sherry Garland, children's author, talks about this and was surprised when some of her historical picture books won nonfiction awards.  

Historical fiction: Informational fiction, creative nonfiction, or faction? You will find the answer to this question on Sherry's blog, Into the Woods We Go.

What is faction? 
According to Gotham teacher, Brandi Reissenweber, faction is a blending of fact and fiction.  Author Sandra Markle defines it as "a fictional story in which all of the characters and the details are based on real facts."

Is faction creative nonfiction or informational fiction? Based on the definition above, faction sounds like information fiction to me. 

Sandra Markle, author of What if I Had Animal Teeth, classifies her books as faction. When I looked them up (What If I Had Animal Teeth, Animal Scavengers: Wolverines, and Hip-Pocket Papa) at my library, they were shelved in the nonfiction section. So faction, in this example, is creative nonfiction.

There were a few books on the 2012 Cybills nominee list for NONFICTION picture books that were categorized as FICTION at libraries: A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas and Just Ducks by Nicola Davies, just to name a few.

This just proves how difficult it can be to distinguish creative nonfiction from informational fiction or faction. Are you as confused as I am? This topic is enough to make my head spin!

Here are some examples of creative nonfiction books given by:
I.N.K. Creative Nonfiction for Kids
Sandra Markle's Nonfiction Books

NOTE: Some of the picture books listed on the blog, I.N.K. are listed as creative nonfiction, but when I looked them up at my library, there were a few that were categorized as fiction such as Move! By Steve Jenkins, Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman, and Over and Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart.

 TIP: If you can't decide whether a picture book is creative nonfiction or fiction, check out the library and search for the title. If it is listed as a PB** then it is fiction. If it is listed as J###### then it is nonfiction. Study them and see if you can figure out for yourself why it is classified the way it is.

CREATIVE NONFICTION- accurate prose about real people and events written in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner

INFORMATIONAL FICTION- facts in a fictional framework

FACTION- blending of fact and fiction

Below are some great resources that go into detail:

Do you have a great resource to share that will demystify what faction is, please share!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Smallest Library and the Story Behind it

You've heard the saying,

Books are the passport to the world!
Allow me to introduce to you a miniature world! 

My friend, Barbara Madrid, is a miniature enthusiasts and is a member of NAME, the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts. When she learned that I was interested in children's books, she gave me one of hers!
See how tiny that is? I couldn't believe there were pages with words on it. I haven't read the story yet because that will require a microscope of some sort. As a children's book lover, I thought it was the most unique and best gift I've ever received. I took a picture of the book with a quarter to give you an idea of its size.

The question that begs to be asked?

 "Where do you keep a book this small?"

On a miniature bookshelf at a miniature library, of course!

Barbara is in the process of completing her miniature library. This miniature book is one of 50 books that she assembled herself. 

I thought it would be interesting to share with you Barbara's library, which is displayed in her home in San Francisco along with her other doll houses. 

Below Barbara gives you a tour of her library and shares her story behind her craft. Enjoy the tour!

Introducing, THE LINCOLN LIBRARY, by Barbara Madrid
The view from outside the library.

The namesake displayed prominently on the wall.

The rear bookshelf are stocked with handmade books. In the bookshelves to the right are hand-painted blocks of books.

Notice the decorative wallpaper and an actual wood floor.

A librarian assisting a young boy. On the wall are reduced copies of 1910 photographs of the Grand Central Station, City Hall, and the American Museum of Natural History, which are noted New York buildings.

The Lincoln Library is located next to The Allegiance Academy where all of their students have library cards!

Thank you so much for the tour! Now let's meet the talented woman behind the extraordinary hobby...

Barbara Madrid!

Barbara Madrid is a member of NAME, National Association of Miniature Enthusiast

What got you interested in this hobby?
My interest in miniatures began when I was a small child and my grandfather handcrafted some miniature furnitures for me. I didn't have a dollhouse then but in 1997, my husband decided I should have a hobby and bought my first dollhouse as a Christmas gift. When I saw all of the pieces needed to make the 9-room house, I thought the build would be an impossible task.

Over the next 12-years, we worked on the house together and in 2009, we had added electrical lights and the house was ready for its occupants (see photo below).


When did you start crafting doll houses and what have you completed so far?
I have been doing miniatures since about 1997. I've completed 2 houses- one a residence and the other, a 3-story multi-shop building with a floral shop, dress shop, and an accountant's office. I've also completed 7 display boxes, which include a music conservatory, a bakery, and antique store, a sewing shop, a grocery store, a middle school, and the library. 

How do you decide what to build next?
I usually find a single piece of furniture I like and then build the room around it. When I found the corner bookshelf for the library, I knew I wanted more than the usual block books to fill it. A web search brought me to where I purchased paper book kits with wonderfully detailed covers.

What is the most difficult part of your hobby?
I have found the most difficult part of building a dollhouse is understanding the blueprints. That is when my husband, a skilled machinist, comes in handy. He's great at the construction and electrical parts. I do the fun part, which is the interior decorating. Installing the wallpaper can be tricky, but careful measurements makes the job a lot easier. I usually do a combination of wallpaper and paint to add a variety of textures.

What do you enjoy most about your hobby?
Selecting the furnishings is the most fun of dollhouse miniatures and I shop the internet, local dollhouse stores, and attend miniature shows for items I need. I also add homemade touches by including crochet or knitted blankets, and clay plants.

Dollhouse miniatures is a wonderful activity for any age and I'm forever thankful my husband reintroduced me to this wonderful hobby.

 It is truly fascinating to learn this enchanting world of miniatures. I've been to quite a few libraries, but never have I seen a library like this. Thank you so much, Barbara, for sharing your story!

Books bring people together!

Interesting facts:
  • In miniatures the scale is 1/12 inch = 1 foot. For example, a 6-inch miniature doll is equivalent to a person who is 6-feet tall.
  • The difference between a doll house and a display box is the size- dollhouses are generally 34" H x 12-1/2" D x 33-3/4" W; a display box is about 11-1/4" H x 10-1/4" D x 12-3/4" W.  A dollhouse has multiple rooms and a display box depicts a single room.

What is the most interesting library you've ever visited? Please share.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Perfect Pitch & Other Great Resources

What is the perfect pitch?

That's the question both my son and I ask ourselves. His perfect pitch would probably be one that strikes out the batter. My perfect pitch would strike up a deal with an agent or publisher.
My son pitching for the Stanford Junior Cardinals

Writing the perfect pitch is much like baseball. Good pitching takes practice. The perfect pitch, whether it be baseball or writing, can be broken down to five component skills:

A pitcher must grip the ball properly before throwing to get good velocity and control. As a writer, our pitch must be gripping! You want to lead with a compelling first line to entice the agent or editor to want to read more.

The pitching motion begins with the windup. It's the preparation for a good pitch. Writing a pitch requires you to know your main character, his/her wants, the enticing incident, its hook, and the stakes. Kathleen Temean goes into detail on how to write a pitch for your book.

A baseball pitcher knows that a long stride makes the ball go high; too short a stride makes the ball go low. When writing a pitch you don't want to tell the whole story, just enough to peak the interest. Too long of a pitch and you lose the reader or listener; too short and you can just forget it. A pitch should be about 50 words or a about a 30-second read. If you are participating in a Twitter pitch, you are limited to 140 characters. Know your stride.

Whether its baseball or writing, a perfect pitch is in the delivery. You want to deliver an efficient and effective pitch that will hold the attention of the agent or editor. Show your enthusiasm and confidence without being boastful. Be yourself and let your voice shine verbally and on paper.

Following Through
It is important to keep the momentum. When an agent responds with "tell me more," you owe it to yourself to be competent in your own story. You should be able to identify comparable books and explain why yours is different. Show the agent or editor that you are qualified to write your story.

Below is a list of my favorite resources to help you write the perfect pitch:
My son  pitching for the Little League, Yankees

How to Write a Pitch by Kathleen Temean
Kathleen shows you how to write a pitch for you book and shares a few types of techniques you could use to spice up your pitch. 

Writing the Perfect Pitch Author Kristen Lamb invited Marcy Kennedy, writer and WANA instructor, to guest post on her blog on writing the perfect pitch. Here she breaks it down into four meaty parts and gives explanations and examples.

How to Write a One Sentence Pitch
Author Nathan Bransford shows you how to share the heart of your book in just one sentence using three basic elements. This is great practice and comes in handy for giving verbal pitches. 

Difference Between a Pitch and a Hook by Susanna Leonard Hill
Susanna Leonard Hill, childrens author, explains the difference between a pitch and a hook and gives examples. Her blog is worth exploring. Susanna has a weekly feature, Would You Read It, posted on Wednesdays. It is a chance for writers to try out pitches for their books. 


[Thank you to Rena Traxel Boudreau for sharing the wonderful world of Carissa Taylor on FB Sub-It-Club]

Twitter Pitch Loglines: Recipe Ideas by Carissa Taylor
Carissa gives us the recipe for a good logline. Here she lays out some samples or logline formats that you could customize to your story by filling in the blanks. 

March #PitMad Requested Pitches 
#PitMad on Twitter
Carissa Taylor gives us a list of Twitter pitches from the #PitMad held earlier this month that received requests from agents. These are successful pitches, categorized by genre, that you can study as you prepare for you own pitch. Because I write things related to picture books, I thought you'd like to know that of the 236 manuscripts that got requests, 5 of them were picture books.

Pitch Generator by Carissa Taylor
For fun, you can try this pitch generator. It asks basic information about your story and characters and with a click of the mouse, it will generate several pitches for you. I tried it out and I wasn't able to find one that was worthy to use. Nevertheless, it was interesting and fun. I could still tweak the pitches a bit to make it work for me. Try it out. 

And in case you are in a position to pitch your book verbally, read this:

Pitching at Conferences Dos and Don'ts
Literary agent, Jean V. Naggar, attended many writers conferences. In doing so, she had compiled a list of dos and don'ts for conference attendees looking to pitch their book. It is a guideline for writers so they don't mess up on an opportunity.


Hope this helps. If you have other resources regarding writing a pitch that you find fabulous, please share in the comment section.
My son's hang-out

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Should I Seek an Agent or Publisher?

The question that runs through every writer's mind: 

Should I submit to an agent or publisher?

I've listed a few sites at the bottom of this post that will help you decide. To make it easier on you, I've summed up the main points below:

The advantages of submitting to an agent:

  • Many publishers are closed to unagented submissions. Agents can be your key to opening those doors.
  • Agents know what publishers are looking for so they streamline the search for you.
  • Agents have a relationship with editors so they have better access and knowledge to the industry.
  • Your manuscript gets priority over the slush pile. Publishers trust agents to help them find good writing and weed out those writers who haven't studies the business or craft of writing. It saves publishers time from weeding through he slush pile. 
  • You get more negotiation leverage with an agent. The agent also can help you understand the contract and the publishing process.
  • Agents help build your career as an author.
  • Agents manage your submissions for you so you don't have to.
  • Agents can help you make your project more saleable before submitting to publishers.

The advantages of submitting to a publisher:

  • Having an agent doesn't guarantee a book sale. It is a subjective business but you may be able to increase your chances of publication by looking into smaller publishing houses that agents may not consider.
  • If you have a niche book, you may fare better by looking at smaller publishers on your own. Be familiar with the publishers and know what they are looking for.
  • You keep your royalties. You don't have to give a percentage to an agent.
  • You have control as to who you want to submit to.

What happens if I can't get an agent?

If you have exhausted your agent search (although I don't recommend this- see why you shouldn't submit to no more than 6-8 agents at a time), take a moment to re-evaluate your writing. Get several more critiques. I suggest getting a professional critique by someone who is an expertise in your genre. Revise. Revise. Revise. Resubmit. If that fails, you can try your chances with submitting to publishers.

So you don't get discouraged, here are a few first-time authors who have submitted directly to a publisher and have been successful. Read about their stories to getting published:
Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

Sherry Duskey Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
Donna Earnhardt, author of Being Frank
Laura Murray, author of Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
Rob Sanders, author of Cowboy Christmas

Below are some wonderful sites to help you decide whether or not to submit to an agent or publisher:

Creating a Submission Strategy (Pros/Cons)
When should you seek and agent and when is it best to submit straight to the publisher?Heather Aryis Burnell, founder of Sub It Club, sums it up for you and shares the advantages of each.
Agent Rachelle Gardner goes into detail about the pros and cons of having an agent.

Why You Should Never Submit Unagented- (Why You Should Have an Agent)
This is a great post on the advantages of having an agent from an editor's point of view. There is also a FAQ section that covers different scenarios such as conference deals, earnings, agent search and what approach to take.

Submitting to Publishers Without an Agent- (When It's Okay to Submit Unagented)
Author Nathan Bransford gives instances when submitting directly to publishers makes sense.

This is a great post about first-time author Michelle Houts' experience with publishing directly with a publisher then with an agent. Here she shares her publishing journey and gives us insights about the process. 

It's important to know that you should avoid submitting simultaneously to agents and publishers. If you are hoping to find an agent, this could kill your chances. If your manuscript has already been "shopped" around, that gives agents little to work with and if they find out that several publishers have seen your work and passed, they may not want to represent you.

If there are other sites you've found helpful in the decision of whether to submit to an agent or publisher, please share them with me in the comments. 

Hope you find this post helpful! If you like what you've read, please share. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So You Want to Get an Agent

A growing number of publishers are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts and are seeking agent submissions only. To dip into the larger pool of publishing houses, I decided to seek an agent who will represent me. 

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/
Here are the steps I've used in my agent search:

  1. Have at least 3 polished manuscripts ready for submission before querying an agent.
  2. Make a list of agents who are accepting clients and represent the genre I am writing. In my case, picture books.
  3. Research these agents and take note on what they are specifically looking for in a picture book.
  4. Make a short list of agents who are a good match for the type of picture books I write.
  5. Do more research on the agents on the short list and take more notes. Take note on why I want the agent to represent me and why I think we are a good match. Also study the authors that they represent. I like to Google [agent name] interviews. You can gather a lot of good information from the Q & A.
  6. Take notes on the agent's submission guidelines and make a checklist.
  7. Write your query or cover letter, making sure you personalize your letter to the agent. I wrote a post that lists helpful links that will help you write the perfect query letter
  8. Submit to no more than 6-8 agents at a time. Read the article by Chuck Sambuchino to find out why.
  9. Practice patience.

Want to know more about the process of searching for an agent/editor? Read Alayne Kay Christian's All About Submissions Q & A- Researching agents and editors: How Do You Determine Who To Submit To? Part I and Part II. In this post writers share their personal experience so you get to learn about each ones process and select which is best for you.

Below is a list of a few websites I've compiled that will help you with your agent search:

What an Agent will Do for You- In this post, Lara Dotlich Anderson, former Senior Assistant to the V.P. of Curtis Brown, Ltd. answers the familiar question to help you decide if querying an agent is the next step for you.

Homework List When Researching an Agent- Kathy Temean goes into detail about how to search for the right agent. I listed my steps above, but Kathy explains why it is important.


The following is an awesome list of agents generated by Casey McCormick/Natalie Aguirre, Heather Ayris Burnell, and Krista Van Dolzer. They've taken the time to gather valuable information, links and interviews of agents all on their site! 

Literary Rambles by Casey McCormick & Natalie Aguirre- On the left of the page you can do an agent search by genre or agent name. On the right sidebar you will find a list of agent blogs. This is an excellent source for initiating your agent search. Here you will find agents' web presence, what they are looking for, their philosophy, their client list, submission information, interviews and guest posts. 

Monster List of Picture Book Agents by Heather Ayris Burnell- Agents are listed alphabetically by agency.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) by Krista Van Dolzer- Here you will find a list of agents that Krista had interviewed over the years. 

Of course, check out Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and the agency website for current information.

Here is my favorite post on why you shouldn't be afraid to query new agents:
New Agents Don't Have Cooties- by Maria Vicente, literary agent intern.

I hope you find these links helpful to you in your agent search. If you have a link that you feel I should include in this post, please share with me in the comment below.

~Happy Agent Search!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Writing is...

Created by Romelle via

Valentine's Day is a time when I reflect on the things that make me happy and give me comfort:

Chocolate covered strawberries  
Hot Chai tea latte
Gourmet macaroni and cheese
My family & friends
Being outdoors in the sunshine
Fluffy slippers
    A warm hug from my boys
A playful puppy
Fresh flowers and


Writing delves deep into my right brain, releasing the ideas that is waiting to pour out onto paper.

Writing is like exhaling.  It releases clutter in my mind and quiets my inside world.

Writing is an escape that transports me to a place of wonder and delight.

Writing is meditation.  It brings me to my happy place, childlike in nature.

Writing is creative energy that is connected to my soul.  So as the ideas flow, my heart dances.  Like dance, my writing is an expression of my self.

My inner most thoughts are waiting to be exposed and only through writing can it be expressed.      

                                    Writing is my life. 

What does writing mean to you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Query Quandary- A Resource Guide

Are you in a quandary about writing queries?

Well look no further. 

I've spent a lot of time learning the craft of writing picture books. Equally important is learning how to write a query. 

Brian Klems of Writer's Digest writes, "You should put just as much care and attention into crafting and polishing your query as you did into your manuscript."

The purpose of a query is to tempt an agent into wanting to read your manuscript. 

Finding an agent is like fishing. You want to use the right bait to get the agent to nibble and request to see more of your work. If they bite and like what they've read, you'll hook an agent into signing you up as their client.

My wonderful friends in my various Facebook writing groups have been generous in sharing online resources that have been valuable to them. I've collected the links and compiled a list to share with all of you. 

Query Resources:

How to Write a Query Letter- This is an introduction to writing a query letter found on It covers query letter basics and gives you a list of basic query letter tips. This is a good place to start if you haven't written a query before.

The 10 Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Query Letter- This article by Brian Klems basically sums it up. It makes a nice checklist for you so you can be sure you didn't leave any important points out or that you didn't write any unnecessary verbiage. 

The perfect query letter- Brian Klems analyzes a sample query and breaks it down by parts. He comments on what's important to include in the letter and what's not necessary.

Common Query Questions Answered- In this article, Chuck Sambuchino answers the ten most commonly asked questions about writing a query and covers topics such as writing series, self-published books, genre, rejections, manuscript length, follow-ups, writer's platforms and more. 

What to Write in the "Bio" Section of Your Query Letter- In general, a query should include 3 parts: 1- Introduction, 2- pitch, 3- biography. The biography part of a query generates the most questions by writers. Chuck Sambuchino answers the most commonly asked questions about writing a biography and discusses what should or shouldn't be included in the section.

Why you Should Only Query 6-8 Agents at a Time- Here Chuck Sambuchino explains why querying all agents on your list at one time is a bad idea. He discusses the benefits of submitting to a short list of agents to protect yourself. 

The Most Common Submission Errors- Seven agents come together to discuss the common errors they've seen writers make when querying them. They discuss their pet peeves and share with us what they want to see in a query. 

Query Letters That Worked- In Harold Underdown's website, The Purple Crayon, Margot Finke shares with us 3 query examples. 

Here's a great video by Emma Watson on How to Write a Query:

Feel free to share with me which of these links you found most helpful to you. Until then, happy querying! 


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