Writing

New Class: Getting Into Graphic Nonfiction

Graphic for Getting Into Graphic Nonfiction Webinar

Calling all writers!

Graphic nonfiction is a growing market with new publishing imprints and book series springing up all the time. This webinar will introduce both seasoned nonfiction writers and nonfiction novices to the exciting world of graphic nonfiction for all ages.

I hope you can join me for this 90-minute webinar through The Writing Barn. It’s only $25, and recordings are available. Learn more and sign up here.

Writing

Writing Ratios: How many stories become books?

I just moved two picture book projects into my “Dead Projects” file. These are books I’m no longer revising. (Note: Any book with a shred of hope, stays in my “active” file. There are several I’m not working on currently, but think have some promise.)

For fun, I counted my “Dead Projects”: 24 over 10 years. For reference, these are only picture books and don’t include two abandoned novels, a shelved graphic novel, a chapter book, and a handful of early readers.

Most of these “dead” picture books are from my pre-agented days. They include one I submitted to publishers on my own before I had an agent. But another five my agent has seen, or we discussed the concept, but for various reasons, we chose not to send them out on submission.

In the meantime, we’ve sold four picture books, and I have six in the active file that may turn into something.

So, let’s do the math. 34 picture books written. Four are (or will be) books. That’s a 12% success rate. I’m hopeful for another six (17%). All told, if I’m SUPER lucky, about 25-30% of my total drafts will become books.

Even when I narrow the field to drafts I’ve worked on ONLY since getting an agent in 2016, I’m still batting only 25% .

What’s the lesson? We have to write A LOT. Not everything we write will result in a sale. We can get better with time and improve our ratios. But I still write projects I abandon all the time. It’s all part of the process.

I remind myself daily that no writing is a waste of time. These “dead projects” inform my stories in many different ways. I may explore a theme or structure in an abandoned book that makes its way into a successful book. It’s all productive.

Happy writing!

research, Writing

Taming the rabbit hole of research: Keeping a research journal

A spread from my research journal for WOOD, WIRE WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

As nonfiction authors, we often talk about “falling down the rabbit hole of research” to describe how engrossing and time consuming the research process can be.

For me research is less a rabbit hole and more a labyrinth. It’s easy to lose the road I’m on as I chase tangents that splinter off from the main trail.

One thing that makes the research process easier for me is keeping a research journal. Here’s how I use mine to tame the research tangents.

First, when I’m trying to locate specific articles, I keep track of databases I’ve searched. Is that article I needed in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database? On Newspapers.com? At Fultonhistory.com? Where have I already checked? Where do I still need to look? Sometimes I make a simple “to do list” and check things off.

I use this same technique when it comes to contacting experts. Have I contacted that expert yet? When I do, I check off their name, note the date I reached out to them and how (via email, for example).

Sometimes I keep records of what search terms I’ve used in databases. When I studied Lilian Todd for WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I quickly realized Lilian Todd’s name was often misspelled, and she was frequently referred to as “Miss Todd” or even “E. L. Todd” in the news. Knowing this, I ran searches multiple times using different search combinations, and keeping track of what terms I’d tried.

As I read secondary and primary sources, I also jot down new items I need to look into, whether it’s Lilian Todd’s patents (requiring a separate search in the U.S. Patent Office database) or the Junior Aero Club Show at Madison Square Garden (necessitating another dive into the newspaper archives). Making note of a new research topic allows me to put a pin in it, so I can finish reading the chapter or article without getting distracted. Then I can get started on my new tangent.

What hints do you have for wrangling your research? What tips have you found helpful?

Writing

5 Writer Strategies for Welcoming 2022

We’re three weeks into 2022, and in many ways, it feels like 2020 all over again. Boo! Still, I’m not despairing. I’m using this time of “hunkering down” to recharge for the year ahead using these five strategies.

  • Celebrate successes – Every December/January, I do Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Authors. Part of the process involves celebrating every small success over the last year, from finishing a draft to sending it to a critique partner. I have made a habit of keeping a list in the back of my journal of all my little milestones. This makes celebrating them much easier. And guess what? Brain science tells us that celebrating our success is good for us!
  • Plan for the year ahead – I don’t do traditional New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to plan for the coming year. This year, my goals are to research and draft a new picture book, draft a middle grade graphic novel, and work on a middle grade fantasy as my “just for fun” project. And I’ll track each milestone along the way and celebrate it. (Of course!)
  • Binge on Brainstorming – For picture book writers, January is Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm, a month-long challenge where we brainstorm a new picture book idea each day. This year, I was a guest blogger and got to share about my brainstorming process. You can read the post here. I find generating ideas to be like a muscle: the more you do it, the easier it is.
  • Commit to lifelong learning – Each year I recommit to learning my craft through webinars, classes, reading craft and creativity books, and, of course, writing. A book I reread frequently, especially when I’m casting about for my next project and experiencing self doubt, is Liz Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC. It’s always so inspiring.
  • Read – For me, the best way to study the craft of writing (and to get ideas for new books) is to read, read, read, and not just in the genre I’m writing. I find everything I read has something to teach me if I just pay attention. Plus, all this study costs is the price of a library card — FREE!

What are you doing in 2022 to improve your craft and creativity? I’d love to hear from you!

Kirsten

Writing

New Writing Barn class: Rethinking Your Nonfiction Picture Book: A Revision Workshop

Rethinking Your Nonfiction Picture Book: A Revision Workshop at the Writing Barn

I had such a blast teaching nonfiction picture book structures at The Writing Barn. Now I’ve created an entire six-week course focused on rethinking your nonfiction picture book from voice and hook to structure, illustration potential, and page turns. Learn more and register here. I hope you’ll join me.

#MentorTextMoment, Books, Writing

YouTube/IG TV Book Reviews

IMG_2762
Me, wearing my fancy t-shirt and ready to record a book review!

I read as many new nonfiction/STEM books as I possibly can, thanks to the library. And I miss reviewing them. But I don’t have the time to craft lengthy blog posts or create lots of pretty Instagram graphics. So, I’m trying something new.

Whenever I get a new library stack, I will:

  1. Read the books.
  2. Change out of my gym clothes, fix my hair, and MAYBE put on a little lip gloss.
  3. Record some 2-minute video book reviews in a single take.
  4. I’ll post the videos to YouTube as well as my IGTV channel. I’ll also share the links on my Facebook page.

Want to make sure you don’t miss a post? Subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow me on Instagram. I can’t guarantee I’ll always update the blog with new videos.

So, here’s an initial batch of reviews:

Enjoy! And if you have 2020 NF/STEM book recommendations, let me know.

Books, News, Writing

A WONDER-ful New Book Deal

Wonder Girls Mar 1981Despite my serious look in the above photo, I adored playing Wonder Woman as a little girl with my sister Stephanie (left). I mean, just look at our ultra-hip Underoos plus homemade tiaras, bracelets, and lassos. We meant business.

When I read historian Jill Lepore’s SECRET HISTORY WONDER WOMAN a couple of years ago, I was intrigued to learn the origin story of my favorite childhood superhero. First, Wonder Woman was developed as an antidote to parental and teacher complaints about comic books (something we still hear today). For a time, Joye Hummel, a woman!, co-wrote scripts with Wonder Woman’s creator (and I got to speak with her on the phone).  Plus the character was a powerful influence on Gloria Steinem and appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine. And there’s so much more!

Though I typically write biographies of people, I knew I could write a biography of a superhero and the evolution of what she’s meant to people over eight decades.

I am so delighted my editor, Jennifer Greene (a true fan!), has paired me with illustrator Katy Wu, who will be illustrating in comic book style. Stay tuned for more early next year.

(And shout out to my mom for this awesome photo circa 1981, which will appear in my author’s note.)

Here’s the book announcement:

Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 3.02.30 PM

Writing

Sub It Club Blog: Competitive Analysis

Today on the Sub It Club blog, I talk about how to analyze your competition as part of your Nonfiction Book Proposal. However, even if you write fiction, this post provides helpful tips about how to find titles that compete with your book and ways to analyze them.

I hope you’ll check it out!