Social Media Sea Legs

This weekend, our local SCBWI region organized a Social Media Day. We talked about websites, personal branding, and different marketing strategies. My presentation covered social media, and how to connect with the #kidlit community on different platforms.

Whether you’re published or pre-published, having a social media presence can connect you to a larger community. It can help you get noticed and discover new opportunities. But many of us have different comfort levels when it comes to setting sail on social media. Some take to it right away, enjoying the ride and the passengers they meet along the way. giphy

Others have boarded, they participate in a few deck-side activities, but when the waters get rough, they get queasy and head to their cabins. Then there’s the group that isn’t boarding at all. Sure, they know where the boat is docked, they know it’s about to depart without them, but they’ve seen Titanic—no thanks!


If you’re trying to find (or strengthen) your social medial sea legs, I hope this post can help. While preparing for my presentation, I found a great article about what an agent is looking for when they google potential clients. It boiled down to these three P’s: positivity, professionalism, and personality.  Whatever platform you choose to board, keeping the three P’s in mind will help you gain confidence as you set sail. Your posts will get more likes, you’ll find new followers, and industry professionals will discover a positive professional with a personality they want to work with.

Some things to consider:

  1. Post a profile photo that is a clear picture of YOU.
  2. Include words in your profile bio that will encourage others to connect with you. For example, are you a member of SCBWI? Many SCBWI members are looking to connect on social media.
  3. Lurk to get comfortable, then join the conversation. Imagine you’re at a party. If someone struck up a conversation with you, how would you respond? Genuine kindness builds strong sea legs. Trolls sink ships.
  4. If there’s something in your feed that makes you feel queasy, don’t abandon ship. You can hide that person’s posts or choose to unfollow them. You’re the captain here.

For more information about all things Social Media visit this page on the KidLit411 site.

silhouette photography of boat on water during sunset

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Happy sailing!

Magazine Writing & Work-for-Hire

For our upcoming SCBWI conference in Spokane, I’m leading a small group session about Magazine Writing & Work-fir-Hire.  Here are a few great resources I found during my research.

The ‘bug‘ magazine submission guidelines & wish lists.

This interview with Patricia Stockland on Harold Underdown’s site.

This article by Christine M. Hepperman on The Horn Book website.

This thread on the SCBWI Blueboard.

Submission Guidelines for: Capstone and ABDO

Happy writing!


7 Questions for a Picture Book Idea

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of a picture book idea.

7 questions to figure it out.

1. Who is your main character?

2. What does your main character want?

3.  Why does your main character want this?  << This one’s important so go deep. The answer will likely be the theme of your story and will ensure your character gets what he/she NEEDS in the end.  Need and want aren’t always the same thing.  Think emotional growth, evolution, change.

4.  What is standing in your character’s way?  Something or someone should work against your character.  Think in 3’s here.  Oftentimes, a PB character will attempt to solve their problem 3 times without success.  (Keep the illustrations in mind too–you’ll need a variety of unique illustration opportunities.)

5.  How will your character solve their problem?  There are two outcomes; your character gets what they want, or they don’t.  But they MUST get what they NEED.  As they attempt to reach their goal/solve their problem, they should realize something important.  Think about Max–he got what he wanted, he became the King of all Wild Things!  But was he happy?  No, because he didn’t get what he needed.  What he needed was waiting for him at home, disguised as a hot dinner–the love and acceptance of his mother.

6. When does your story begin and end?  Picture books are often about a brief moment in time.  Even if your story is about a tree’s seasonal changes over a year, think of ways to make the “when” simple.

7. Where does your story take place?  Think outside the box.  A unique setting can add a marketable element.  Tiana’s Tea Party might stand out in the slush pile if it’s held in a a tree house, or on a train, or on a rocket heading to the moon.

Picture Book Structure

Writers interested in picture book publication sometimes hear this disheartening comment during a critique:  This story doesn’t read like a picture book story. Why not? This comment can be confusing. It could be the subject matter, the age of the main character, or the structure of the story.

A picture book story most often fits into 32 pages. There are a few familiar structures that work well. It’s helpful to study common picture book structures and keep them in mind before revising or beginning a new story.

Great information can be found here, here, and here. There are helpful craft books like, How to Write a Children’s Picture Book, Vol. 1:  Structure by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock, The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books by Linda Ashman.

Then, put your knowledge to the test. Read the stack of books you checked out from the library with a notepad by your side. Jot down a few notes about the story structure.  Did the author use a common structure? How does the structure play out over the 32 pages?  Note the pacing, page turns, word count, sentence length, and how the illustrations work together with the text.

Studying picture book structure is one way to transform a story into a perfect picture book!