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CWA SCHEDULES 2006 CONFERENCE
The international Cat Writers' Association (CWA) will hold its 13th annual writers' conference in Foster City, CA near San Francisco on November 17-19, 2006. The conference is open to anyone interested in pet writing and will feature two days of professional seminars with nationally known speakers on topics including contracts and copyright, book promotion, online writing, the human-animal bond and feral cat issues, and a magazine editor panel.
In addition, the CWA conference includes social gatherings where attendees can network with authors, editors and agents. The annual Purina CWA Awards Banquet features more than 40 MUSE Medallion and 20 corporate-funded writing awards. CWA events are in conjunction with the Cat Fanciers' Association International Cat Show, the largest cat show held in the Western Hemisphere, scheduled at the nearby San Mateo Expo Center.
Full registration for the writing conference is $100 for non-members prior to August 31, and $125 prior to October 31. Information and registration options will be posted on the CWA web site at www.catwriters.org after May 10.
CWA, founded in 1992, is dedicated to providing news, information, and education on all aspects of cat care and welfare, as well as improving the quality of writing about cats and other companion animals. Its 200 members include published writers, photographers, illustrators, novelists, editors and broadcasters.
Jumpstart Your Career by Asking "Why?"
When developing a story or article, writers learn to incorporate the "who," "when," "where," and "how." But what often gets overlooked is the "why." Without examining why a story takes place, or why an article would be of interest to the reader, the entire writing experience can be a fruitless exercise.
Why this character?
At a writing conference I once critiqued a manuscript featuring a character in a situation where you wouldn't normally expect to find him. When I wondered why he was there, the author answered, "He just is." "But how did he get there?" I asked. "One of the other characters put him there," the author stated. "Why?" I pushed. The author didn't have an answer.
If you arbitrarily think it would be cute to have a monkey, a doll, or a policeman as your story's protagonist, the reader's not going to care unless it makes sense to have that character inhabit your particular plot. And if a monkey shows up where he shouldn't be--at school, for instance--why he's there has to be an integral part of the story. But more than that, the reader has to know why this monkey is suddenly sitting in a first grade classroom. What's unique about the character that makes him the only monkey who could possibly appear in this book?
Why this story?
Just as important as knowing why your character inhabits your book is understanding why this character experiences the conflict or problem that fuels the plot. Your readers have to believe this protagonist would encounter these obstacles, and not be able to resolve the problem in a few lines of text. Not every child is afraid of the dark, so if your character hides under the covers when the lights are out, plant something in her personality that causes this behavior.
How the plot conflict is resolved also harks back to "why." Why does your character take these particular steps, instead of an easier or more obvious route, to reach his goal? What fears, hang-ups or quirks does the character have to overcome to get what he wants? Would a child understand and care about these traits? Have you laid the groundwork in the beginning of the story so the reader believes the character could not possibly act any other way, thus never forcing the reader to question you in the first place?
Why this article?
Virtually any nonfiction topic can hold a child's interest if it's presented in the right way. But first ask yourself why you're writing this article or book. Does it have a direct application to the experiences of your readers? Can it tie in with what they're learning in school? Will it enrich their lives in some way? If your motivations are clear, then take a hard look at your audience. Why would kids this age be interested in this topic? How can you present the material in a way that's entertaining as well as informative? If you find you're working hard to shape the information to fit a specific audience or format, perhaps you need to rethink your approach. Maybe you're trying to write too young, and the subject really requires an older reader. Or perhaps you assume middle graders will be fascinated with an animal alphabet book, but after researching other ABC books on the market, you learn they're really targeted to much younger children.
Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at http://write4kids.com
Copyright 2004, Children's Book Insider, LLC
WRITING GREAT BEGINNINGS by Laura Backes
When an editor opens up the envelope containing your manuscript and begins to read, you have 10 seconds to get her attention. If she’s not captivated by the end of the first page (or maybe the second page if she’s having a good day), it’s not likely she’ll continue.
If that sounds harsh, think about this: editors have more patience than your juvenile audience. So how do you guarantee that your readers will keep reading? The first sentence must be active, must pull the reader into the book. The first paragraph needs to set the stage by introducing elements of the main character, the setting and the upcoming conflict. By the end of the first page, your reader should be so involved in the story that there’s no turning back.
Sound difficult? It is. Beginnings are so important that entire chapters have been devoted to them in writing how-to books. Crafting a compelling opening to your story takes practice, time and several revisions. But anyone can teach himself to write a better first sentence, first paragraph and first page by keeping one thing in mind: Begin at the beginning. Start your story at the beginning of the story, not the beginning of your character’s life. Don’t force your readers to wade through boring details of the character’s past, lengthy descriptions of the character’s family or home, or painful recitations of everything the character did since she got out of bed that morning. Ideally, your story opens with an event or a moment in your character’s life that signals impending change. There are a few notable exceptions, which I’ll talk about below, but in general you can’t go wrong when you begin a book with action.
The younger audiences of picture books (up to age 8), easy readers (ages 5-9 reading on their own) and chapter books (ages 7-10) can’t easily digest a lot of information in a short space, so you have to choose what story aspects you present in the first few paragraphs. Think about what’s important to young readers of fiction— they want to know what the story’s going to be about. So open your book by presenting the main character and the looming problem or conflict.
Emma’s Magic Winter by Jean Little (Harper I Can Read) starts like this:
"Emma liked reading to herself. But she did not like reading out loud."
By the third page of this easy reader (six sentences) we learn that Emma is shy and when she’s called upon to read out loud in class, she can only whisper. This is a conflict young readers can certainly empathize with, and they’ll want to know how Emma handles her problem.
In Little Wolf’s Book of Badness by Ian Whybrow (chapter book, Carolrhoda), we also learn the story problem in the first paragraph:
"Dear Mom and Dad,
Please please PLEEEEEZ let me come home. I have been walking and walking all day, and guess how far? Not even 10 miles, I bet. I have not even reached Lonesome Lake yet. You know I hate going on adventures. So why do I have to go hundreds of miles to Uncle Bagbad’s school in the middle of a dark, damp forest?"
The reader knows immediately that this is no ordinary wolf. He prefers home to damp forests, but his parents feel otherwise. We also immediately get to hear the character’s voice. Middle grade readers who are drawn to fast-paced, action-packed stories also appreciate knowing the conflict early on.
Here's the first sentence of The Boy Who Only Hit Homers by Matt Christopher (Little Brown):
"The Hooper Redbirds were having their third practice session of the spring season and Sylvester Coddmyer III, a right-hander, was batting."
No conflict yet, but we're given the setting, the main character, and the current action. Now look at the next three sentences:
"Rick Wilson hurled in the first pitch. It looked good and Sylvester swung. Swish! He missed it by six inches."
To any reader who's ever played Little League baseball, this signals conflict.
Sometimes setting and time period are important elements of the story, and the author needs to set the stage for the reader before the action can begin. This can work with upper middle grade and young adult novels, but don't use it as an excuse to throw in a lot of description and unnecessary character details. In Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (Dial), the small Midwestern town of the 1930's in which the book is set becomes almost a character in itself. In order to show the contrast between this town, which the narrator visits one week a year, and Chicago, where he lives the rest of the time, the book opens with the narrator describing Chicago's "bad old days" of Al Capone and Bugs Moran. However, Peck wanted to guarantee that the reader would stick around for the action to begin, so he created a grabber of a first sentence: You wouldn't think we'd have to leave Chicago to see a dead body.
That's using your 10 seconds for all it's worth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers, and co-founder of the Children's Authors Bootcamp seminars (www.WeMakeWriters.com). For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at http://write4kids.com
Copyright 2004, Children's Book Insider, LLC
When Not to Publish Content in an eBook
By Scott F. Geld
Some types of content are not good candidates for ebook distribution. To market an eBook successfully there must be a benefit to the user. Putting a novel for example, into an eBook does not necessarily guarantee its success. Just because a reader needs an electronic device to read a book doesn't mean that there's any benefit to be derived from it. If the ebook does not in some way offer an enhancement to the reader, then the value of the ebook could be less than in its printed format. Generally, most people do not like to read large amounts of text on a computer screen. In fact, some computer users prefer to print out lengthy online articles and then read them. Many people spend much of their work day in front of a computer screen; they don't turn to a computer screen for reading pleasure.
Portability is an issue. Even small notebooks and handheld computers are not as portable as a paperback. Reading while lounging on a sandy beach can prove to be hazardous to an electronic device. You can't snuggle up in bed with a computer all that comfortably. And then there's that 'touch-feely' thing. Many readers really like the tactile sensation of turning a page with their fingers. You can't do this with a computer.
Before you decide to just turn your printed documentation into an eBook make sure that the reader will see the benefit in choosing this format.
Scott F. Geld is the Marketing Director of MarketingBlaster.com, a company providing targeted traffic and leads: http://www.MarketingBlaster.com