Melanie Ellsworth was the recipient of a free picture book writing mentorship with the amazing Beth Ferry in our Writing with the Stars contest. Here is what Melanie had to say about the experience.
Sometimes writers need a little kick in the pants. Sometimes we need clarity. Sometimes we just need someone to believe in our work. With Beth Ferry, I got all three – and more. With help from her sharp editorial eyes, I now have three picture books I am happy to send out in the big, wide world. And I have a renewed desire to dig out all those old, shelved manuscripts. Maybe I can prod them into shape using Beth’s amazing editorial tips.
Here are some of my favorite Beth tips (paraphrased):
- Make them care! Add heart! Ask yourself, “Why do we care about this friendship? Why do we want to read this book again?”
- Imagine that you’re reading your story to a group of kids. How would they react?
- Try reading already published books to groups of kids. Choose some picture books you love, and some you don’t. What do kids like about them?
- Keep your sentences short. Try the no-wrap rule. If your sentence wraps onto the next line when you’re typing, break it into 2 or more sentences.
- Remember that agents and editors may not read past your 2nd Make them want to! What are you writing that will knock their socks off? Agents will say NO unless they can’t say NO.
- Write every idea you have. The writing will be good practice.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone for one of your books. Give yourself some parameters. Try to write that 200-word book with a universal theme even if your happy spot is 700 words.
- There are still lots of challenges after you are published! (See – there’s a plus side to being pre-published.) You might get harsh reviews; Barnes and Noble might not carry your book; an illustrator might not want to illustrate your work; etc. There are 100 ways to feel bad about yourself as a writer. So – enjoy this time of writing freedom. Rejections are a chance to develop that thick skin that you are going to need when you’re published. Sorry, folks. The self-doubt never ends!
- When you’re reading a picture book, ask yourself, why does this satisfy me? This will give you insight into what works and what doesn’t. Which line in a story makes you happy?
- Consider what librarians want. Write a story with them in mind.
- Attack a different layer each time you revise. It could take 10 drafts just to get the story arc and plot right. Then make sure the heart is there. Finally, make sure each word is the just-right word.
- Again – it’s all about heart! A reader has to care about at least one thing in your story – maybe a character, maybe something else.
- You know you’re a writer when you see ideas and stories everywhere!
Working with Beth was like taking a university writing course. I still can’t believe it was free. As Beth says, it all comes down to heart. And Beth gave so much of hers! I can’t thank her enough for the enthusiastic coaching. And many thanks to Tara for offering this contest. “Writing with the Stars” is aptly named! Be sure to pick up Beth’s wonderful picture books. PIRATE’S PERFECT PET is a favorite in my house.
My heartfelt thanks,
Thank you again to Beth for your amazing generosity. As always I ask that we support these authors! Give them reviews, buy their books, tell your librarians! I am very excited to see her next book, A Small Blue Whale illustrated by Lisa Mundorff, due out October 24.