CELEBRATE POETRY WITH YOUR YOUNG READERS

It’s National Poetry Month! As adults, we might recognize that by checking out a few readings, maybe buying a new anthology or a few collections by new-to-us poets. Kids should absolutely get in on the fun, too.

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My picture book NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is a villanelle–not exactly the poetic form that many kids study in elementary school. Actually, most people don’t study vilanelles at all until they read Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

I love the form, though–basically, it’s based around two lines that repeat throughout. To me, these lines are like the “hook” or chorus of a pop song. So of course the main character of my villanelle is a rock star!

To me, poetry is alive and vibrant and emotional. It’s a whole world crammed into just a handful of lines on a page. In NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID, I celebrate those who forge their own paths, those who don’t take “no” for an answer, who refuse to be discouraged by critics…and those who also like a little punk with their poetry.

You can snag a copy of NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID here, and check out a sneak peek below:

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GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTER – WITH A SECRET

We’ve been discussing how to find teen voices this month over at my YA authors blog, YA Outside the Lines. As we discussed the various techniques we all used to tap back into our younger selves (and younger voices), it became apparent to me that a character’s voice can be elusive, regardless of genre or age category. It can be elusive even if you’ve written several books before.

For the most part, when the voice is hard to find, I believe it’s because you don’t quite know who your character is yet.

And often, the best way to find out who they are is to get them to tell you a secret.

What is your character hiding? It could be anything–something they’ve done in the past, something they’re afraid might happen. They might have a secret plan or agenda. Do they have a relationship they’re trying to keep secret? That relationship might be romantic, but it might also be a familial one.  For example, in my first YA, A BLUE SO DARK, Aura is trying desperately to keep her mother’s deterioration (she’s schizophrenic) from the outside world.

The secret doesn’t have to be dark. Do they have a secret dream? A wish? A crush?

Do they have a secret passion? Or hobby? Do they have a secret friend?

The reason secrets work is that they’re the most private, personal parts of ourselves. When a character shares a secret, you know them in a new way. You’re instantly closer. And often, understanding them better means you’re well on your way to finding their voice.

TANGLES: A FIRST!

ANNOUNCING MY FIRST POETRY COLLECTION

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Lyrical writing, metaphors, and wordplay have all been part of my work from the beginning.

To a great extent, that’s because I’ve been writing poetry for years. In high school, I kept journals that were nothing but poetry–and a few of those poems were included in my first YA (which was also my first-ever published book), A BLUE SO DARK.

Tangles is an adult collection of love poetry, but it would certainly appeal to teenagers or fans of YA, as well. And it most certainly will appeal to readers of sweet romance–these are emotional rather than erotic poems

This is NOT a stuffy, boring, or hard-to-read collection of poetry.

Just the opposite. I’ve also been writing songs for years–ever since a member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils taught me basic guitar-playing and songwriting skills. The love poems in Tangles certainly run the gamut–from more formal rhyme schemes to complete free verse–but they are also heavily influenced by songwriting. My goal wasn’t to write head-scratching, obtuse poetry, but poetry that readers could understand and feel and connect with instantly…just as we all connect with the lyrics of songs.

Available now at Amazon

Tangles is available in both ebook and print formats. I strove to make the ebook clean and simple (and therefore readable on whatever device you have–tablet, e-reader, phone, etc.), but I designed the print version to be as visually enjoyable as possible. (And let’s face it–there’s just something about poetry that lends itself to print…)

Ebook: bit.ly/TanglesEbook

Print: bit.ly/TanglesPrint

Other Poetry Goodies

I started a Tumblr blog a few years ago, but didn’t really do as much with it as I would have liked. Now, I’m revamping the site in order to use it to talk specifically about all things poetry. You can follow along here: hollyschindler.tumblr.com

I’ve also started a newsletter dedicated specifically to poetry releases–both adult and juvenile. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/dmExEH 

As always, happy reading!
–Holly Schindler

NOW AVAILABLE! THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER SUSAN

Last year, I bumped into a real gem hidden away in the personal archives–a superhero I created (I think I was about 8 years old). The heroine, Super Susan, had a superhuman…kindness.

Susan served as the inspiration behind my writing journal, Invent Your Own Superhero. I even blogged about Susan as I announced the release. Response and interest in Susan was so strong, I decided to give Susan a book of her own! I even incorporated my original drawing of Susan into the cover.

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Kindness is a superpower!

Award-winning author Holly Schindler turns her attention to superheroes in this short adventure story. Using a character Schindler created when she was eight (a hero whose superpower is kindness), The Adventures of Super Susan offers a humorous, fast-paced read in which Susan is forced to face-off with a new arch-enemy, Blaze, a boy with super-jealousy who threatens to keep anyone at South Westport Elementary from outshining him…for good.

Can Super Susan melt Blaze’s heart? Or will he simply be too much for even the most powerful kindness on planet Earth?

A great read-aloud for grades 3-6, and a perfect companion piece for Schindler’s Invent Your Own Superhero.

Grab a print copy of The Adventures of Super Susan

Available at Amazon or B&N.

Also available as an ebook

Available at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

As always, happy reading!
–Holly

REVISION TECHNIQUE: TELLING YOUR STORY OUT LOUD

No, I don’t mean reading your work out loud. I mean telling the story. To another person.

“Sounds weird,” you’re saying. Maybe even, “What’s the point?” Or, “Nope. What I really need is an editor.”

Here’s the thing:

There are two main components of a story – 1. The story itself. 2. How the story is told.

No matter how beautifully your story is written, no matter how many literary bells and whistles you use, if the story itself isn’t sound, the rest of it just plain doesn’t matter.

Before you worry about rewriting–reworking scenes, rearranging the order of events–you need to make sure your plot, your storyline provides a solid foundation.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to tell your story out loud, to another person, allowing them to interrupt you as you go.

Feel free to keep your manuscript in front of you to remind you of the turn of events. Tell the story simply, the same way you might tell an anecdote about something amusing that happened to you that day. But don’t feel as though you have to stick to simply the events. Tell your listener about your characters, too–who they are, what their desires or fears are, what their backstory is, etc. Whatever it takes for them to understand the story.

Let them ask you questions along the way. Things like, “Why would that character want to do that?” Or, “Why wouldn’t they just do __ at that point?” Or even make observations: “Come on! No way would that happen!”

Don’t take it personally. Bounce other ideas off of them: “Okay, so if you don’t buy that, what about…?”

It’s a much smaller job for your bouncee (you’re not asking them to read a manuscript), and it can be really fun. And of course, the best part is that you wind up with a sturdy framework where you can then begin hang all your beautiful turns of phrase!

SIGNED EDITIONS AT ETSY

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Just a note to let readers of the blog know I’ve been listing my independent releases at Etsy. They’re all signed–just let me know in the note to seller who you’d like the book to be made out to.

 

So far, I’ve got six books listed, including HOW BIG IS A HEART?, which makes a lovely shower gift for a soon-to-be older sibling. (What is it about spring that just always feels like baby shower season?)

 

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You can find the Etsy store here. Are you interested in obtaining a signed edition that isn’t yet available? Feel free to send suggestions to hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

INDIE / SELF PUBLISHING TIP: COVER ART FOR BEGINNERS

I still bump into indie or self publishers who are hesitant to create their own cover art. The task of creating a cover often seems far more daunting than actually writing a book. Each author has to weigh the pros and cons of farming out certain jobs when taking on self-publishing, and every author knows his or her own abilities. But I do think cover art creation can be not only a rewarding activity for indie publishers, but an informative one, too.

For those who have decided they’d like to take the cover art plunge, a few tips or ideas:

At its simplest, an e-book cover is an image with a few words on it. That’s it. To start out, a professional-looking cover can be had for a pretty small amount of money (under $50—most of my covers range around $30). All you need is an image and a font.

BUY A STOCK PHOTO

This is how most traditionally published covers are created, actually. (It’s also why you sometimes see the same image on multiple covers by different authors or publishers.) I usually frequent Shutterstock or iStock, where you can get a quality image for around $15.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A STOCK PHOTO

If you’re new to image editing, try to grab a photo that needs the least amount of work done to it. Refine your search for photos composed vertically (the natural shape of a book), and look for large open areas in the photo where your title and your name can be placed.

My own covers for MILES LEFT YET and ALL ROADS are stock images I found using this method—neither required any editing on my part beyond adding text:

GET A FONT

Don’t use the fonts already installed on your computer. Times New Roman does not convey any feelings regarding what’s in your book. I mean it—GET A FONT. You can actually find fonts that are free for commercial use (just Google it), but I’ve also found some really great, paid professional fonts on both Etsy and Creative Market. I’ve paid as little as $2 for a font, but I’d say $10 is pretty average. And it feels good to support another creative person who is independently selling their products online.

ACTUALLY, GET TWO FONTS

Rarely do I use a single font for a cover. (MILES LEFT YET may be the one instance I did). Think in terms of opposites for your fonts—try a script or cursive looking font combined with a sans serif. Again, fonts have personality—every bit as much as the image you choose! Be sure to reflect the content of your novel with your font. A good way to get a handle on appropriate fonts used for different genres is to either hit the shelves of your library or do a quick Amazon search. Examples: Romance novels have more calligraphy-style fonts, horror novels have drippy blood fonts, thrillers often use bold sans serif fonts, kids’ books frequently use childlike handwriting, etc.

USE A PHOTO EDITING PROGRAM

It doesn’t have to be Photoshop, especially if all you want to do is plug in text. GIMP is a perfectly good photo editor—and it’s completely free. It’s also fairly widely used, so if you ever get stuck, you can simply search for a how-to vid on YouTube.

That’s literally all it takes. A stock photo, a couple of fonts, and a program like GIMP. Of course, as you go along, you’ll have additional needs and ideas. You’ll begin to look for different stock photos that you can then edit / splice together, etc. You might even begin to take your own photos for covers. You’ll begin using Photoshop. But this is a great, low-cost way to get started. And the good news is that because you have used a professional photo and a professional font, your cover winds up intrinsically looking, well, professional—even if you’re not a professional designer.

THE NUMBER ONE ADVANTAGE OF SELF-DESIGN

You learn. I’ve actually learned far more through indie publishing than I have through traditional publishing. Not just about covers, either, although that’s been part of it. Some covers will hit and others won’t—since you’re in control, and since you spent little money to begin with, switching a cover isn’t going to break the bank. Doing it yourself means you’re adding design skills and promotional skills to your résumé (and yes, covers are promotional objects).

Now, get out there and design a cover!