Now that the school year is winding down, I wanted to offer a heartfelt, personal thanks to all the teachers and librarians who have introduced my book THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY to their young readers:
I’m delighted to announce that my first picture book for young readers is forthcoming; this book has been with me for years, and I’m delighted to finally be sending it out into the world:
Gavin doesn’t want a little brother.
His mother will have to toss Gavin out of her heart to make room for a new baby.
Yes, Gavin’s become a regular piece of junk you get rid of at a garage sale—out with the old to make way for the new.
Or is he?
How big is his mother’s heart, exactly?
Only Memaw really knows…
How Big Is a Heart? will make a great gift book for any child in a growing family, and will be available in both e-book and print forms.
Sign up for my Picture Book Newsletter to receive the announcement of the official release date, discounts, and giveaways.
I’ve been seeing this topic show up repeatedly–in conversations on Facebook as well as on Reddit during my recent Ask Me Anything session: How do you deal with frustration and the feeling that what you’re writing is garbage?
I’m a big advocate of (for lack of a more sophisticated term) “fun days.” These aren’t days off from writing; instead, they’re days in which you push aside your current WIP to write something only for you. Could be anything–a poem, short story, anecdote, picture book text. But it’s short, and it’s never intended to see the light of day, and its sole purpose is entertaining you.
This technique is basically a spin on Dr. Seuss’s “Midnight Paintings”–works he created with the intention of never showing them in his lifetime. Because they wouldn’t be critiqued, he was never guilty of self-censoring, and he could let his imagination run wild.
I find “fun days” can do wonders for your outlook. It literally does bring the fun back to writing. It reminds you of why you ever thought you could make it as a professional writer.
These “fun days” can also accidentally help inform your own WIP (the one that’s currently giving you fits). This is also true of Seuss’s Midnight Paintings; now that Seuss’s late-night works are available to the public, it’s easy to recognize how they inspired or contributed to the Seuss books we’re all familiar with.
If you’d like a little more inspiration for your own “fun days” or “midnight works,” try to snag a copy of THE CAT BEHIND THE HAT (the title appears to be out of print, but I did manage to grab an affordable copy on eBay).
Or, at least, Youtube…
I think all writers have been there: you’ve got this fantastic idea for a novel, when suddenly, you glance up from your laptop in time to watch a trailer from a movie that’s describing your current WIP to a T. Or, you take a break from your project to hit the library, only to pull an already-published work from the shelf that tackles the same subject you were hoping to explore (proving, perhaps, there are no original ideas).
I recently saw one of my own ideas on TV…only this time, it was a little different…
My MG ALEXANDER AND THE AMAZING WIDE-AWAKE features, in part, a made-up sport: Sockball. It’s a bit of a twist on dodgeball, and the most important rule indicates that no one’s allowed to wear shoes of any kind. Alexander, the MC, is in charge of getting his school’s team together. Prevent them from falling, as they always seem to, into an unorganized heap on the gym floor. (Try as they might, they just can’t seem to figure out how to stay upright in their socks!)
Enter Lexie Vaught, a local basketball player who lost her shoe during a game last month. The clip of what happened post-shoe went viral, as even the clip below says, for it’s “bloopery” qualities, but I could hardly believe it…What I’d envisioned when my fictional team played a fictional sport was actually happening in real-life!
Maybe that’s stranger than fiction…
I’ve published books with both real settings (New York / Queens; Peculiar, Missouri; Fair Grove, Missouri; my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota) and fictional cities (“Willow Springs” Missouri). Even in my real settings, though, I take plenty of liberties—especially in my YA, FERAL, in which I completely fictionalized the town of Peculiar, Missouri. (I just had to use that name!)
While many authors gravitate toward setting their books in regions or cities that they’re familiar with, I’ve discovered some definite advantages to placing my work in fictional cities:
- You don’t get mired in research. As I said, many authors prefer to write about locations they’re already familiar with. But if it’s a new-to-you location, or if you’re writing about a different time period, you can get lost in learning the details—which streets intersected, which businesses were present, names of schools, etc. It can take some serious time away from actually getting your writing on the page.
- Your town becomes a character. If you aren’t relying on what already is, you have to craft your town or location just as you would a main character. This can help add a new, often metaphorical dimension to your novel as well.
- Your reader isn’t pulled out of the story. If you pick a real location, you’re bound to have readers who live in (or are well-versed with) the area where your book takes place. Bloggers and reviewers always mention the spots in which my own fictional world deviates from the real world when I pick actual cities for my novels. But if your location is fictional, your readers will be immersed in the story only, and won’t be comparing your own setting to the city they know.
I’m delighted to announce the release of my latest MG, a lightly illustrated new book that stars Alexander (one of the secondary characters in WORDQUAKE).
As some of you may know, I was once a music teacher, offering piano and guitar lessons from my home. ALEXANDER AND THE AMAZING WIDE-AWAKE was inspired by some interactions I once had with my students. Specifically, I had many students who came to lessons believing that whether or not they became musicians was entirely dependent on talent–not hard work. Their theory seemed to be that if playing music didn’t come naturally from the start, they would never learn to play well enough to join a garage band–or even enjoy the simple pleasure of playing for themselves.
We all know that while talent helps, it’s not everything. Students who show initial talent but no willingness to really work will soon be outpaced by those who are willing to put in extra effort.
With that in mind, I wrote ALEXANDER AND THE AMAZING WIDE-AWAKE. In this tale, Alexander has a magic hat–the greatest thinking cap of all time. With the hat on his head, everything is easy…until that awful day when–out of nowhere–the wide-awake breaks. Here, Alexander’s hat is a metaphor for talent. The point at which the hat breaks is the point at which mere talent stops being enough and Alexander has to dig deep and put his nose to the grindstone.
I hope this book (written with plenty of humor and featuring a fun “sockball” tournament) will help those of you who have students or children who are themselves faced with the monumental tasks of learning to study, learning an instrument, learning a sport. I hope this will help inspire them to discover the joys that accompany mastering a task that seems at first to be incredibly challenging or just plain scary.
ALEXANDER AND THE AMAZING WIDE-AWAKE can be purchased in paperback or read as an e-book exclusively on Amazon:
Also, I want to remind you all that I’m looking to make my newsletters more interactive this year. I want to know what’s going on with your own classrooms and libraries–what issues your kids are facing, what they’re interested in. As a hybrid author, I can release books quickly and help fill any holes you see on your shelves. Sign up to get in on the conversation. You can contact me at any point at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thanks as always–and happy reading!