3 Ways to Know that Your Manuscript Sings and is Ready to Submit

Going to the New York SCBWI conference (Picture taken by Debbie Ridpath Ohi) made me want to sing. The atmosphere crackled with creativity, and I came home overflowing with inspiration and blissful melodies. Connecting with my tribe motivated me to get my manuscripts ready to submit. The conference reminded me of these 3 ways to make my story sing!

1.  Read (or sing!) your manuscript out loud.

If you write picture books, this will be easy. Emma Walton Hamilton says you should read your picture book

aloud 10 times!  Even if you write middle grade or YA,  Jordan Brown insists that your manuscript is not ready unless you have read your entire manuscript out loud.   Reading our stories aloud helps us notice problems with plot, pacing, tension, and grammar. If we read our stories aloud to our target audience, we can also learn when the manuscript works (or doesn't) by paying attention to our audience.  

2. Confirm that your story shows the most important event (or melody!) in your main character's life.
Read more at Children's Book Academy.

Talented Author, Corey Rosen Schwartz

Corey Rosen Schwartz writes action-packed picture books that appeal to girls and boys and parents!  Her rhyming meter is fun to read and reread and believe me, at our house we love Corey’s books! I’m grateful that Corey is sharing her wisdom with Writers’ Rumpus!
Kirsti Call: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Corey Rosen Schwartz: The best thing, without a doubt, is hearing from readers. When I get an email from a parent telling me that her preschooler carries my book around with him everywhere or I see a photo on Twitter of a kid who decided to dress up as a Ninja Pig for Halloween, it totally melts my heart!
what about moose?
KC: What is your least favorite thing about being an author?
CRS: I would say it’s when people who have NEVER taken a class or read a single article about writing come up to me and say, “I’ve written a book. Can you tell me how to get it published?” This drives me crazy!
KC: How long did it take you to publish your first book?
CRS: I got my first contract in under two years. But it took me six and a half years before I got my second! In addition to skill, there is a lot of luck involved. You have to get the right manuscript to the right person at the right time!hop+plop
KC: What is your favorite book that you’ve written, and why?
CRS: The Three Ninja Pigs is my favorite. But I have a Home Alone parody that I wrote with Becky Gomezthat’s a close second. “A little chick gets accidentally left behind when his family goes on vacation and has to fend off two hungry foxes.” I can’t figure out why this one hasn’t sold. Ha. Who doesn’t love booby traps and chicken puns?the three ninja pigs
KC: How many of your stories are published and does that help you when you are submitting?
CRS: I have four picture books out and three more under contract. But to be honest, it really doesn’t seem to help! I once heard a panelist at a conference say, “Don’t take rejection personally. I’ve sold over 45 books and I still occasionally get a form letter. That should make you feel better.” It actually made me feel worse. Ha! One would think it would get easier, but every manuscript is judged on its own merits. So, it is sort of like rolling a dice. The odds don’t change regardless of what happened on previous rolls.
KC: We love your books at our house.  In fact, my daughter started dressing up as a ninja after we first read The Three Ninja Pigs.  What’s the best child’s response you’ve gotten to your books?sophianinja
CRS: Well, my college roommate told me that her two-year-old pretty much has The Three Ninja Pigs memorized and he constantly goes up to strangers at the supermarket and yells, “I’m a certified weapon, so watch where you’re steppin’!” That image cracks me up.
KC: Two of your books are co-written.  How did you end up partnering other writers?
To read more of this interview, go to Writer's Rumpus.

3 book Reviews by Kirsti Call and her 3 Kids

Reading is like eating.  No one in my house can survive without a book tucked neatly beneath their arm.  I find kids reading at all hours of the night and although it makes for a grumpy child the next day, I'm secretly pleased.  What feeds the soul better than a good book? So today, I'm sharing book reviews written by my 3 oldest children.

9 year old Sydney just finished reading Out of my Mind, by Sharon Draper.  She wrote the following review:
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Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper is my favorite book.  The book is about a brilliant eleven year old girl whose name is Melody. Because she has Cerebral Palsy, Melody can't walk or talk.  Most grownups treat her like a baby and think she is dumb even though she has the most brains in her school.

I like this book because it is very engaging and I like books that are in first person. I connect to Melody because I like listening to books on tape like she does. I wanted to say I connect with Melody because I'm brilliant, but my mom said not to. Ha ha!

Read this book!
11 year Naomi wrote a review of one of our family favorites, Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea.
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Because of Mr Terupt, by Rob Buyea is an amazing book. It takes places at the beginning of fifth grade in Snow Hill School. The book switches between the points of view Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna, and Jeffrey. Jessica is a smart new girl who is having a hard time fitting in. Alexia is a bully who can't decide between being mean or nice. Peter is the class clown and troublemaker. Luke is an academic sort of person. Danielle  is teased and doesn't stand up for herself. Anna is an outcast because of her family situation, and Jeffrey despises school.

They get a brand new teacher named Mr. Terupt who makes school fun. He helps the students get along and become friends. After a horrible tragedy happens, the students learn that even when Mr. Terupt is unconscious, he still brings them together.

I heard Rob Buyea  speak about his book at a library. A lot of the things that happen in the book happened in Rob Buyea's classroom, when he taught fourth or fifth grade. I was surprised at how energetic and dramatic Rob Buyea was while he was speaking. It was really interesting to learn how Because of Mr. Terupt was written.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the dollar word project that the students in Mr. Terupt's class. A is one cent, B is two cents, C is three cents, and so on. The students had to write words whose letters added up to 100 cents, or $1.00. Mr. Terupt was only called Mr. Terupt because Terupt is a dollar word.   Examples of dollar words are...
  • flurry
  • grumpy
  • savory
  • awfully
  • Wednesday
I thought this was a great read. It was moving and showed how people's attitudes towards life can change for the better. I highly suggest it.

We just finished reading Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes aloud.  Here is 13 year old James's review:

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Johnny Tremain is an amazing book based in 1770`s, just before and during the revolutionary war. It tells the story of a young silversmith apprentice, and his adventures in Boston.

I liked this book because it makes history interesting by telling a story about working through hard times, and letting go of your pride. I connected with Johnny because he is my age and he goes through many of the struggles that a modern day teen would have to go through. It was very engaging and had plenty of action. It was also interesting to me because I live very close to Boston and I've seen may of the places that are mentioned in this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes books. In conclusion, this book teaches many lessons and is fun to read.

If you haven't already read Out of My Mind, Because of Mr. Terupt or Johnny Tremain, go to the library right now!  You might even feel so full of wonderful words that you forget to eat!

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The moment I saw The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavenderby Leslye Walton, I wanted to read it.  The lyrical title of this book is the perfect companion to its starkly beautiful cover. The book is haunting, thought provoking and well written. The lyrical and whimsical writing had me thinking about the book for days after I finished.  From the prologue:
To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.
These words speak for themselves.  When I read the book, I felt immersed in a the magical world of Ava Lavender (who is born with wings), and her family.  Their quirks and sorrows and loves resonated with me. Many of their relationships result in pain and loss, but in the end we feel a very real metaphorical and physical hope for love and a better future.  Walton’s descriptions give us empathy, understanding and a strange longing for food. I especially loved this passage about cake:
Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered – the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn’t any cake left.
This story artfully addresses how much we cause our own sorrows, and the isolation of being different.  I highly recommend reading this story if only for the pleasure of reading words that are perfectly placed.  Here’s one last quote to whet your literary appetite.
“It’s… dangerous for someone like me to be out in the open.”
As if in response, my wings started to flutter underneath their shroud. I gave the cloak a good yank.
“Someone like you? Someone different, you mean?”
I shrugged. “Yes,” I answered quietly, suddenly shy.
“So, is it dangerous for us or for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, are you the threat, or are we?”
“You are! Well, They are.” I motioned to the cluster of teenagers. Of course it was them.
Rowe peered at me thoughtfully. “Funny. I suspect they might say otherwise.” He stood.
“And that might just be the root of the problem: we’re all afraid of each other, wings or no wings.”
strange and beatuiful sorrows of ava lavenderTHE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER
By Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press. Young Adult, ages 14 – 17
320 pages
Finalist for the William C. Morris Award. The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.