Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

I'm going to recommend a classic today.  Usually, as picture book writers, we are told to go see what is current and selling now.  Get a feel for today's market.  This is excellent advice, but it is important to educate yourself on the "classics" as well.  I am woefully uneducated when it comes to picture book classics.  I don't know why.  I've been an avid picture book reader my whole life.  But for some reason, I've just never picked up many "classics."

So, this week I went to the Caldecott section of our children's room at the library.  The very first one I picked up was such a beautiful story, I have to recommend it.  It is The Little House, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, copyright 1942.  This book is one of those timeless classics.  I have been a long time fan of her book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but I had never even seen this one.  Pick it up!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Rejection Reflection

There are a lot of blog posts and writer-ly sites that address rejection.  It is a prevalent part of the life of a writer-wishing-to-be-published.  And since we all face the rejection demon together, we bolster one another.  We pat backs, we reassure, we encourage, we explain.  Some of us are devastated by rejection.  Others take it in stride.  Most of us fall some where in the middle of that.

So here's my current take on rejection:
In high school I got bitten by the theater bug.  I wanted to act!  I'm a naturally shy and introverted person, so this was a strange thing for me to want, but that didn't stop me.  I bravely auditioned.  The director told me I should take theater class if I really wanted to act.  So I signed up to work props and signed up for class.  Then I auditioned.  I got a three line role!  Yippee!  Then I auditioned.  I ended up working props again.  I took another class.  I auditioned.  I got a slightly bigger role.  I kept taking classes.  I kept auditioning.  I kept getting three line roles or slightly bigger.  For the last show my senior year I auditioned.  I got a three line role that the director was going to write in.  I quit.

I walked away from that show and that director (same guy the whole time) and I got myself a nice big ball of bitter to carry around for years.  I spent my whole high school career getting rejected on some level at something I loved and wanted so badly to do.

In college, theater life got way better.  I was asked to be a theater major (they asked everyone who showed an interest, mind you).  I got great supporting roles.  I got some lead roles.  I had a blast.  But still I carried my bitter ball with me.  A bunch of "I knew I could do this!  Why didn't he see it in high school!" floated around in my head.

As I've started writing and getting rejected, I've had a catharsis.  I was not my high school director's cup of tea.  I simply wasn't.  Who knows why.  If I had other options (directors) available to me, I could have moved on and probably found one who liked my style.  In college I found that director.  She loved me.  Who knows why.

Theater is subjective.  Writing is subjective.  And in writing, we have a million places to present our work and a million stories to tell in order to showcase it.  It is a matter of finding the right match.  The right agent or publisher with the right story at the right time written in the right way.  I'm not in high school anymore with only one person to judge my talent and only one place to try to improve it.  I've got the whole world of publishing available to me and countless classes, conferences, workshops, books and mentors to help me improve.  Rejection is simply a statement of "this isn't the right match."  It is not "you stink," "your ideas are useless," or "just who do you think you are trying to be a writer."  Keep trying, keep growing, keep improving.  You'll find the right match if you do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Month of Poetry Update

Happy Tuesday!

When I started the "Month of Poetry" I had the best intentions.  Well, I've totally failed at actually doing a poem a day.  I think I did the first 10 days and I'll be doing the last 10, but I flaked in the middle there.  Life at work and with family issues just got to be too much and my poetry motivation left me.  I'm happy to have it back though and I thought I'd share a few of my poems, if you promise not to laugh.  Remember this is for practice and (for me) overcoming the fear of poetry.  There are no points for brilliant structure!

Some people wanted to see some of my poems, so I'm posting some of my parent related ones here on parent-motivation day.  Enjoy (I hope)!


Waking up
The morning dawns
As rain’s rhythm sings to me
Rolling over
Finding comfort
In the sweetness of delay
Voices float
To my cocoon
Insistent on attention
Cold floor
Heavy eyes
“Good morning, Mom”
Mom
Mom


Games
Please don’t make me play that game
I’m sick of all this fun

I’m going to hide that gosh darn thing
Does it have to be this one?

We have a closet full of games
Just pick something new

I guess I’ll bite my tongue because
I’m spending time with you


Feed Me
What's for breakfast?
What's for lunch?
We are a hungry, rowdy bunch!

Can I have cookies?
Or candy?  Or junk?
Any plans for healthy food are sunk.

I found a jellybean
and a Cheerio, I think
Into my mouth before you can blink

We are scavengers,
the three Bickel boys
We are like vultures...with much more noise!


Cleaning
Happily I clean the family room
and move on to the next
I cheerfully attack the kitchen
and move on to the next
Contentedly tackle the playroom
and move on to the next
Go back to rest in the family room
all my work has fallen victim to my children
grumpily move on to the next



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Hey there everyone!  I hope you are all having a good weekend.  It's nothing but sick kids and frigid wind chills around these parts, but it is still a nice weekend of family time.  In fact, it was so nice, I nearly forgot to write my weekend recommendation!  This weekend I'm in a mellow slice-of-life kind of mood, so I'm going to recommend Our Corner Grocery Store by Laura Beingessner and illustrated by Joanne Schwartz.  This is a perfectly told day-in-the-life story which is something I just can't do yet.  I love the feel of the book and taking a peek at a world I wouldn't otherwise get to see.  This one was published in 2009, so it isn't a new one, but it is new to me.  Worth a glance!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trilogy Contest

Good contest alert!!  I wanted to direct you to a contest that I think is wonderful for all you writer-types.  Click here to see how Tessa, Rach & Marieke have teamed up to bring you the Trilogy Contest.  I've followed them all for a while (although for some reason I had to re-follow Marieke today?!) and they are awesome ladies with a lot of talent and passion for writing.  I'd say it's worth a gander!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winners!

Well, Alex the cat was much more agreeable to stepping on papers (I threw his mouse toy across the room so he'd run after it and hit papers along the way)!

The grand prize winner is Erica from Erica & Christy! 

The two runner up winners of a pin are Corey Schwartz & Joanna St. James!

Congratulations ladies!  And thank you all for playing!  Winners e-mail me your mailing addresses (mkbickel [at] hotmail [dot] com)!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just When You Start To Feel Down

I love the way life works.  I love that there are "downs" that make you appreciate the "ups" and people that remind you of the "ups" when it just doesn't seem like they are coming anytime soon.

That has been the very definition of my life the past week or so.  I've been stressed and down about work and my husband has worked tirelessly to remind me of the good things my job affords us.  I've been worried about a family member and then had the good fortune to be with and laugh with my sisters this weekend.  I've been feeling blue about rejections and lack of response on a manuscript and then I had all you lovely people (and a bunch of strangers) propel me to a win on Storybird.com.  I've been wrestling with a severe bad listening epidemic in my children (worse than the normal level of not listening) and had some great moments of laughter and fun with those same monkey children.  One of my cats did something wildly disgusting (I'll spare you) but he also curls up on my lap in the evenings and calms me with his peacefulness.  My car has been in the shop for 7 days, but it means I get more time with my husband as we carpool.

Such is life.  Up and down.  Good and bad.  Frustration and fun.  I hope you all have a week that has more up than down.  And if it doesn't, allow me to be the one to remind you today that good may be just around the next corner.  So, keep your eyes and ears open.  Don't ever let the bad stuff blind you to the good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vote!

I'm a semi-finalist in the Storybird.com challenge this weekend!  Please head over there to read the books and vote!  You just need to go to http://www.storybird.com and create an account (if you haven't before - it's free) or sign in.  Then click "Read" in the upper left hand corner of the page.  Scroll about half way down the page and you'll see a row of books labeled "January Challenge: Imagination" and click on the "Vote for this week's finalists" blue button.  Then you can read the stories and maybe decide that mine is the best ("The Most Super Scary Ghost Story Ever").  Then you need to vote!  "Hearting" a story is not the same as voting for it.  You'll know you've actually voted because it will show you the current standings once you submit your vote.

Happy reading and voting!  : )

Friday, January 14, 2011

Inspiration Comes From Young Authors!

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with inspirational ideas for this blog.  Sometimes a big heap of inspiration falls right in my lap.  That is what happened when I found out that MrsP.com was going to be announcing the winners of their second "Be A Famous Writer" contest and they were asking for blogs and websites to announce and celebrate the winners along with them.

I jumped at the chance!

As writers, we are so often faced with a wall of doubt and obstacles to following our dreams.  But these kids can be our inspiration and example.  The came, they wrote, they won!  So, allow me to diverge from my regularly schedule posting and celebrate these awesome authors and tell you a little bit about them and the contest.

The amazing winners of this national contest are:

Briana Beebe, 8, of Centennial, Colorado, won top honors in the 4- to 8-year-old category for “Mountain Dog,” the story of a beloved pet that disappears during a family’s move to a new home.   

and

Bill Wang, 12, from West Linn, Oregon, won in the 9-13 age group for “Lucky the Bamboo Chopper,” the fable of a young panda bear who learns an important life lesson.

Congratulations Briana and Bill!  And in case being a famous writer wasn't enough, these creative and talented kids will also have their stories produced as videos on the website and will feature Mrs. P (TV star Kathy Kinney, who portrays Mrs. P and is one of the creators of the website) and original artwork by award-winning illustrator Robin E. Kaplan.  The videos will be posted on the website (www.MrsP.com) beginning in March.  Each winner will also receive an actual bound copy of the story and illustrations.  

Powell’s Books (www.Powells.com) will provide the Grand Prize winners and eight other finalists with gift certificates to its store. The stories will also be available as a free download bundle from iTunes on March 2nd in celebration of Read Across America Day. 
MrsP.com also announced that it will produce two other stories from the contest as videos for the website: “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Hotdog,” a clever and compassionate look at grade-school bullies; and “Ramona and the Fire,” a twist on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable. 
The judges for this year’s contest included: #1 best-selling author Meg Cabot (“The Princess Diaries”); Jim Davis, creator of Garfield; and Danny Kallis, creator of the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and “The Suite Life on Deck."
Now, dear readers, kids from 26 states entered this contest.  That's a lot of aspiring writers!  So, I suggest we get our pens in high gear and churn out some AMAZING stories if we expect to be able to compete with this upcoming generation.  And it wouldn't hurt to get a few things out there to maybe inspire them right back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

100th Post Giveaway!

Believe it or not (I certainly can not), this is my 100th post!

So, in honor of this special occasion, I thought I should do a giveaway.  I have some fabulous items!  First, we have two pocket journals, suitable for notes of brilliance or grocery lists of the mundane.  Next, a metal bookmark with a Thoreau quote, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!".  A hardcover copy of It's a Book by Lane Smith, which was one of my favorite books of the year (a fabulous picture book for grown ups more than for kids).  And finally, one gold-tone pin.  Gold-tone pin?  Yes.  I have recently been given about 5 gazillion gold colored pins by my grandmother.  I don't wear pins.  I don't wear yellow not-really-gold.  So, I'm giving one away.  In fact, I'll give a gold-tone pin to two runners up as well.  If I had endless money for postage, you'd all be getting a gold-tone pin!  Lapels of my readers, beware!

So, to enter, you just have to leave a comment here and be a follower.  If you aren't a follower yet, just click that little "Follow" button over on the right sidebar.  If you want to enter but can't be a follower or leave a comment for some reason, e-mail me and let me know (my e-mail address can be found by clicking the "contact me" button at the top of the page).

Contest ends in one week, at noon on the 19th.  All comments will be printed out, folded up, tossed on my floor and whichever one my cat steps on first...wins!  Same method as my last contest, but I'll be using my other cat (just to keep things fair to the cats).  : )
 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do you mean school is canceled?

A new-found part of my life is "Megan time."  This is a magical time that occurs when all of my children are in school at the same time and I don't have to be participating in the classroom or going to an appointment or getting into the office or running errands for someone.  It is a precious delicate thing that can be shattered by so many things.  One of the kids is sick.  Two of the kids are sick.  A mom at the preschool is sick and needs a sub.  The teacher at the preschool is sick and needs a sub.  You get the picture.

New problem today though.  Snow.  Preschool canceled.  Boo.

I love my children.  I love spending time with my children.  I really, really do.  But when you have your heart set on two blissful hours of quiet and solitude with the gleaming hope of uninterrupted writing time...well.

Oh well.  I'm sure I'll get some time to myself next week.

Did someone just cough?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Now that all those pesky falls-on-a-weekend holidays are over, I can get back to my weekend recommendations!

Today's is a book from a few years ago, but I just picked it up in the library this past week.  It is Duck, which was written and illustrated by Randy Cecil.  I thought this book was totally charming and I loved the illustrations.  It is a book that captures a lot of different emotions that a child could be facing and even has good emotional meaning for a parent too.  Check it out!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

When you can't write...read!

I've written before about how you can find inspiration in other books, but I want to expand on that idea today.

When I decided to pursue this whole "I'm gonna write a picture book" business, I very quickly realized that I had no idea how to write a picture book.  I mean, I could write a story.  I could write something kind of funny.  I had some nifty ideas.  I could rhyme non-sensical words in a tongue twisting manner.  But, I couldn't write a picture book.

And here's the kicker...I also didn't have the time, money or resources to get an official education in how to write.  I already made the totally impractical decision to get a degree in religious studies and theater at the tender and ignorant age of 17 and I now I've got kids and a full time job.  So, I was stuck with the reality that if I wanted to learn this stuff, I was going to have to get my butt in gear and create a personalized writing program for myself.

I'll go into the various parts of my self-teaching program as the weeks go on, but the biggest part of the Megan School For Picture Book Education and Chocolate is reading picture books.  And Chocolate (which should be obvious from the name really).

I started reading picture books galore.  I started keeping track of my picture book consumption.  In the last five months of last year, I read 146 picture books.  And that does not count the books I read to my children every night.  That is just the books that I checked out of the library or sat in a bookstore reading for my own "education."  And I think some stuff is starting to sink in!

On my sidebar you can see that I'm going to be keeping track of my book reading for the 100 books in 2011 challenge (click on the "join me" link for more info over there <---).  I'm sure I'll get way over 100, but I thought it would be fun to track on here too.  So, if you would like to join me at the MSFPBEAC (what an awesome acronym!) take Reading Picture Books 101.  You won't regret it!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Need Encouragement?

In light of my new focus on encouragement, inspiration and motivation I want to post links to posts that I find particularly encouraging, inspiring or motivating.  So, for my first recommendation, I'm going to steer you to The Teaching Author's website in general and this entry from Esther Hershenhorn.  Esther is like my author-hero because she is super awesome, super nice and super delightful.  So, go, read and be inspired to write on!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Holiday Hangover

The decorations are down...or in various states of destruction around your house.  The presents have been opened...and are in various states of destruction around your house.  The relatives have been visited, the Christmas lights appreciated, the carols sung (off-key), the traditions dutifully observed.

And now it is back to "regular" life.  Life as we live it most of the time.  BORING!

Do you have a holiday hangover, like me?  It is so hard to be enthusiastic about getting back to school and work routines with the long cold months of winter still creeping into my bones.  I don't wanna!  I don't wanna! *drops into an ape-like slump and lower lip extends in a fierce pout*

But this is supposed to be a post of inspiration!  Where's the inspiration?

For me, I'm going try to find the beauty and fun in the everyday.  Sure, holidays are super-fantastically-fun.  But the everyday of my life can be just as awe-inspiring, emotion-evoking and good-times-creating.  It is certainly not always easy to remember this, but it is true.  I dreamed my whole life of having exactly what I am blessed enough to have at this moment in my life.  So, I resolve to celebrate that reality in some small way everyday.  Whether it is taking 5 seconds at dinner time to smile at my little family gathered around or marveling at my husband or laughing with my kids over (yet another) fart joke or enjoying the softness of my cats fur or absorbing the silence of my house at 3 a.m. or patting myself on the back for the 17th revision of a picture book manuscript.  I'm going to celebrate the small things to get you through the holiday let-down.  Join me, won't you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year and Month of Poetry

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope everybody enjoyed the holiday break.  I sure did!  It was heavenly to just ignore technology for a while.  I may have to do that more often!  : )

I wanted to tell you all about this great exercise I'm participating in this month.  It is Kat Apel's Month of Poetry (MoP).  The goal is to write a poem a day for the month of January.  So, we are already on day three, but if you wanted to join, you still could!  I am doing it to get my creative juices flowing again after the break and to try to curb my fear of poetry a little.  You can choose to share your poems or not on the blog Kat has set up for it.  My oldest son is participating now too!

If you are interested in finding out more, just click here.

I'll be back with my regular posting schedule tomorrow!

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