Showing posts with label Articles on Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Articles on Writing. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to publish your own children's picture book

We're pleased to have a guest post today from Kirby Timmons, indie author, speaker, and television writer who published his first children's book in 2009:

The Unopened Stocking: A New Holiday "Yarn" For Dads & Families Who Love Them

One of the great things about being a writer today is that you don't have to wait for a publisher to decide to accept and publish your work.  You can publish it and market it yourself with the help of the internet, the great equalizer.   It's easier than you might think to get your children's picture book out into the world.  What's the worst that can happen?  No one buys it?  What the best that can happen? You create a grass-roots movement and sell copies of your book, or perhaps you get the opportunity to decide whether or not you want a publisher involved when they come knockin'...

by Kirby Timmons

One of the pleasant things I remember about 2009 was that it was the year I published my first children's book, "THE UNOPENED STOCKING".  Thinking back, it seemed like a pretty daunting challenge. But once I broke it down into some manageable steps, it actually came about rather easily. And it could happen for you just that way also.


I chose a holiday story I'd written years ago, one in which my twin boys teach me a touching lesson about Christmas spirit. Whether you're adapting a story or essay you've already written, or writing something original for kids, focus upon something simple and personal that could appeal to young minds. If it's universal, it will appeal to adults, as well.


A children's book is really just a small artbook which mixes text, pictures and white space in an engaging way. So, take your original story and break down the text into self-standing, manageable bites. A good way to think about this is to look at individual sentences to see what is "illustratable". That will help you to define which text and pictures will live together comfortably on a page.


Each set of facing pages of a children's book really needs to be designed almost as a single page, so that, together, you can lead your viewer's eye down and across the left page and onto the right page. For those of you who have up-to-now been primarily formatting text only, this will take a little trial and error to achieve a pleasing flow.


For formatting, you can utilize writing programs you may already be familiar with -- Microsoft Word and PowerPoint both allow you to mix text and pictures. There are several online book publishers that will allow you to input your book online. When completed, you'll be able to print one-at-a-time copies for a very reasonable price.So, whether it's a children's book, a small art book for adults, or some other project you decide on, there are lots of advantages to starting small.

Not the least of which is that you'll be able to mark the passing of a very special year -- the year you became a published author.

Kirby Timmons is a professional writer, trainer and speaker who has written scripts for some of TV's most enduring series, including THE WALTONS, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Kirby has also written, produced and directed hundreds of training programs, including THE ABILENE PARADOX, named one of the 5 best business videos of all time by Fortune Magazine; GROUPTHINK, winner of the American Psychological Associations Award for Best Training Program; and TEAMWORK IN CRISIS: The Miracle of Flight 232, now used in disaster programs worldwide, including Columbine High School in Colorado.   While he has concentrated in scriptwriting, Kirby is also a published author, and has contributed articles to THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS, THE HERALD-EXAMINER, MARRIAGE & FAMILY LIVING Magazine, among others. Kirby taught Scriptwriting For Informational Media at California State University at Northridge, and has lectured at Los Angeles Valley College. He has also taught high school screenwriting workshops with the Writer's Guild Foundation.

Also Kirby Timmons is the Moderator of our upcoming Santa Clarita Writers Group Group and Creative Writing Workshop

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Five L.A. Ways to Plant the Seeds of Inspiration

Inspiration strikes randomly. Can you plan to to be inspired? Probably not, but you can certainly plant the seeds for it by getting out and experiencing life. Going to lectures, museums, nature walks, whatever gets your mind into that state of pensive equilibrium that you can later draw on. The key is to expose yourself to new ideas, places, things, and gain new perspectives. Bring your camera and take images that you can later pull up and use as inspiration, or bring your writer's notebook (you know, one of those 20 notebooks you have lying around words, phrases, story ideas, and even to-do lists in them). Here are five ways to plant the seeds of inspiration for your future creative productivity:

1. Buy a spoken word series at UCLA Live:

Buy a spoken word series for the upcoming UCLA Live Series and see:

2. Plan to go on an art walk.

3. Sign up for a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles with the L.A. Conservancy.

The LA Conservancy conducts some really fascinating tours of the historic buildings and sites in downtown Los Angeles. You'll come away from these informative walks just a little more in love with your city and full of Los Angeles-based setting descriptions. Don't forget to bring your camera.

4. Plan to visit a neighborhood you haven't been to for a while (or ever):

  • South Redondo Beach, Riviera Village - From the moment you pass the Redondo Beach Pier, air passes through you that makes you feel like you're suddenly on vacation. By the looks of this little town, you'd never know you were still in Los Angeles. This charming little beach side community is rife with comfy-couchy coffee shops, as well as bars, restaurants, and shopping, and is an easy two-block walk from the shore.
  • Agua Dulce - Home to Vasquez Rocks, the place where The Flintstones Movies were filmed, this teeny-tiny western-themed town is one of the best kept secrets within driving distance of Los Angeles, and even has it's own winery. You'll find more nature than art here, but it's worth checking out, visiting the local parks, and dining with the local cowboys.
  • Ojai - A totally doable day trip from anywhere in Los Angeles. Cute arty little town and if you take the back roads there (via the 150) it's a gorgeous drive, too. If you're a motorcyclist, then you'll love the drive even more and there are some biker enthusiast stops along the way where you'll see 50 - 100 bikes all lined up while the weary come in for a bite to eat.

5. Sign up for some upcoming lectures:

Monday, May 02, 2011

Excellent Articles about Writing from the Blogosphere

Here are some excellent articles we've come across while stalking the blogosphere. And one video:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Submit Your Writing to Literary Magazines

"Those who think the editor is rejecting with some pleasure in hurting are entirely wrong."

Makes sense to me. Unless the editor is a sadist, of course, but I'm guessing most sadists wouldn't choose to edit a literary magazine just to torture writers. There are easier ways. :)

That quote is from the article What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines. It is a very informative article on how to handle submitting to literary magazines. Like most things in marketing - and getting your stories published IS marketing, whether you want to admit it or not - in order to succeed, you need to understand the person you're trying to reach. You need to understand what motivates them (the editors, the development execs, the agents, the fresh-out-of-college script reader) to take action. I've been telling writers for years to pick the magazines they submit to wisely. If you know what they are looking for, then you can pull something from your story catalog that fits that publication. Don't write one story and blanket it all over the literary universe. Write many stories and send them to the appropriate places. If your stories are ready, your acceptance rate will increase dramatically. This doesn't mean you should write for a specific audience. Write whatever story YOU want to tell. THEN find the right interested party.

Also read the LA Times Jacket Copy Article about it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You are not alone and it is never too late

You are not alone and it is never too late. All you have to do is keep writing.

Just ask Longfellow:

It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,
When each had numbered more than fourscore years,
And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten,
Had but begun his Characters of Men.
Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales,
At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales;
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Completed Faust when eighty years were past.

Or Publetariat:

Or the New Yorker:

Just keep writing. Write free, write often, write without inhibition or self-censorship. You will get there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bloggers file Class Action Lawsuit against Huffington Post

Gavel (PSF)

Mediabistro reports that Jonathan Tasini has filed a class action lawsuit against The Huffington Post on behalf of their bloggers.  GOOD.  I was hoping this would happen.  We're rooting for you Jonathan and all you bloggers who were used and paid nothing while Huffpo sold the site and made what?  300 Million?  And Huffpo couldn't bother to pay the people who created the content for the site, without which a sale would have never existed?

Bloggers Against Blogger Lawsuit Against HuffPo

Additional reading:

Image by Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should you read in the genre you write?

Someone recently asked me why it's important to read in the genre they write, i.e., if you write science fiction, should you read science fiction, if you are a memoirist, should you read other memoirs?

In response, I asked him if he had a day job.
He did.
I asked him what he did.
He was an engineer.
I then asked, "If you'd never opened a physics book, how would that affect your job?"
He replied, "Well, I'd loose a great deal of feel for what it is I do and why things work."


Reading in your genre is not setting yourself up as a plagiarist. It is not distracting you from your writing. It is your homework, your business. If you are writing Fantasy fiction, you need to read as much Fantasy as possible. That is your job. You need to understand the conceits and structure of your genre. You need to know what's already out there. You need a background sense of what you should be aiming for in your finished product. You need to understand how to incorporate theme and foreshadowing into your prose. You need to understand how to organically set up a fantastical world. You can't work in a field you know nothing about. Well, perhaps you can, but you will likely be inefficient and ineffective.

I've heard people give writers advice to avoid reading about a subject they are writing, or in a genre they are writing because it will 'unduly influence their writing, and that they need to remain original.' I can't disagree more with this statement. This is like telling a painter never to look at other paintings. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Studying other painters is part of what makes someone a great painter.

It's okay to be influenced. All artists have influences who have inspired their work. This is not a bad thing. This is an imagination booster, not a route to being a copycat. This is true even for screenwriters.

Read in your genre.

Photo by Lienhard Schulz (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Reading Books About Writing is Important

Reading books on the writing craft (and in your genre) is almost as important as writing. This is why has sponsored a free Book Club on specifically to read books about writing.

By way of evidence as to how beneficial this can be, here is a blog post by Author, Jody Hedlund: My Writing Success:The ONE Thing That Helped Me Most where she talks about how reading books on the writing craft helped her the most.

Join our Writing Craft Book Club! Our first meeting is Saturday, April 2nd at 11:00am at the 18th Street Coffee House in Santa Monica, CA. Our monthly meetings will alternate between West LA and the Los Angeles South Bay.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time to Write

We are delighted to post a guest post blog from Andrew McFayden-Ketchum, our Mid-City writers' group moderator!


One of the most common problems I hear about from writers is "finding enough time" to, yah know, WRITE. There are dinners to make, kids to clothe, vehicles to repair, fat to lose… the list goes on and on.

Though I've been writing stories and poems since I was seven years old, I've most certainly had this problem.

Throughout my formative years I loved to write and was pretty good at it. But after graduating from college, I was tending bar at a high-end club in downtown Nashville while clerking at a law firm and working on local political campaigns. I was meeting girls, making good money, and, every night when I came home to the stars spread above my studio apartment on the outskirts of town, it seemed my muse was waiting for me.

There was only one problem: I wasn't actually writing.

At first it seemed natural. I'd just graduated. I was making a living. I needed a break.

But as summer moved into fall and fall into winter, I discovered that even when I'd carved out some random time to write, I either had writer's block or simply didn't have the energy to write in the first place. That was when I knew something had to change.

So I went to my mother and explained the problem. And pretty quickly we came to a solution: Establish a schedule and never deviate from it.

"All great artists have a work routine," she said. "You're not going to write if you don't force yourself to. It's too hard."

So we spent the afternoon looking at my finances and at my day-to-day schedule. With a little tweaking we discovered I could cut back my work schedule a bit and write 2-3 hours a day if I got up at 6 am.

I tried it for a week and the results were obvious. I was reading poetry that had been gathering dust over a year on the bookshelf, and I was writing and revising poems left and right.

Of course, back then I was just a kid. No wife, no kids, no mortgage. Well, that's all changed now (minus the kids), and I still get up at 6 am every weekday and read and write for at least four hours. That's 20 hours a week of writing folks— not bad considering I have six part-time jobs, have been married for five years to a career woman, edit an online poetry journal, and live in the second most expensive city in the country.

I'm not saying everyone has to get up at 6 am or that writing several hours a day is required to create the works you have in you to create.

What I'm saying is simpler than that.

Establish a routine and don't let anything change the plan.

Try it for a week and let the results speak for themselves!

Guest Blog Post by:
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum
Adjunct Professor of English
Pepperdine University

------------------------ is a great way to keep yourself on a schedule by having a deadline to bring work in for constructive critique feedback every week. During the group, you have seven opportunities to bring work in and learn how you can elevate your story and your writing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Writing a Screenplay?

John August explains how to write better scene descriptions in an easy-to-follow video: - Writing better scene descriptions

Go to for tons of useful information about screenwriting. In the above link, John works through writing a scene on video, so that you can observe how he works to improve his scene description.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A response to "Should Creative Writing Be Taught?'"

An article by Louis Menand in The New Yorker:

Menand just published a well-written, and intriguing article in the The New Yorker entitled "Show or Tell, Should Creative Writing be Taught?"

He recounts the history of informal writing workshops to the creation of university level degree programs in creative writing, which he posits are a fairly recent development in the history of the creation of creative writers. Using many references such as John Barth's 1985 article in the Times Book Review entitled Writing: Can It Be Taught?, as well as Mark McGurl's book, The Program Era, he examines whether or not writing workshops, either informal or institutionalized, are worthwhile endeavors for both authors and readers. He poses the question: "Is the rise of the creative-writing workshop, as McGurl claims, “the most important event in postwar American literary history”?" He later writes the profound statement that "Writers are products of educational systems, but stories are products of magazine editorial practices and novels are products of publishing houses."

The article is a worthwhile read, and at the end, he injects his own experience of participating in writing workshops and how they've affected him in the long-term:
"I don’t think the workshops taught me too much about craft, but they did teach me about the importance of making things, not just reading things. You care about things that you make, and that makes it easier to care about things that other people make."
As someone who is somewhat adverse to institutional learning environments, but who has participated in, and run, many writing workshops that concentrate on the creation of new work, I have witnessed the joy that writers get from creating something they never expected they would invent, and how the act of creation itself keeps them coming back week after week. If a writing workshop makes you feel productively creative, then it has served it's purpose.

Brenda Ueland wrote in If You Want to Write,
" least I understood that writing was this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not - fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too."
What she is saying here, and what I agree with, is the motivating factor to write should not be to gain, but rather because you love. If you gain from it, so much the better. If a writing workshop or a university degree feeds your love, feeds your passion, then participate. If writing alone feeds your love and your passion, then don't participate. Either way, write because you love.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tips on Pitching

Excellent article on how to pitch your work to development execs. Key: Have an arsenal of stories at your disposal, not just a single script.

Bartlett's Screenwriting Tips: THE WRITER'S COUCH

Read. Then start outlining. A lot.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Interview with Rob Tobin

Read an online interview with Rob Tobin, our screenwriting group moderator on ScriptLinks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembering Parallelism

The Writer's Digest site contains a plethora of great blogs and articles on writing. Here is an refresher article on Minding your P's and Q's when it comes to good sentence structure with an eye toward parallelism. Never a bad thing to remember.

Writer’s Digest - Using Parallelism in Your Writing