Week 1 Pop Quiz!

badge final 4x4-brighter heartNow that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz. We know you’re all going to make scores that will make your teachers proud! So go ahead, take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School! 

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  1. In Monday’s post, Julie Falatko  advises:

a) Trust your gut. If your story feels flat, even just a little, do what you can to make it more exciting.

b) Smash disparate elements together to make your story stand out.

c) Sometimes the best way to add humor is with an exploding sandwich of surprising and unexpected story elements.

d) All of the above

 

  1. In Tuesday’s post, Kami Kinard, suggests you:

a) Use the Rule of Three to set up your humor

b) Add a twist on the third beat

c) Try re-writing Goldilocks and the Three Bears

d) All of the above

 

  1. On Wednesday, Tom Angleberger explains that:

a) We should start with a funny idea and keep piling it on.

b)Writing funny books takes a lot of writing, drawing, revising, editing.

c) You have to be willing to let some ideas sail off into the sunset.

d) All of the above

 

  1. In her post on Thursday, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen suggested:

a) Be unexpected, logical, and reserved, and focus on the things that make you smile.

b) Laughter makes everything better.

c) Emotion can stand on its own, and it’s much better by itself than propped up by a faulty foundation. Be real.

d) All of the above

 

  1. On Friday, Megan Shepherd shared that: 

a) Readers may initially be drawn to a book because of the premise, but it’s relatable characters that will ultimately capture their hearts

b) There are several strategies for crafting characters that readers instantly care about, such as putting them in danger, making them likeable, or giving them a special talent.

c) While character building worksheets that list a character’s physical, social, and family traits can be helpful, they should be supplemented by putting characters in situations that can demonstrate these traits

d) All of the above

 

So how’d you do? 100% right? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week One! This is an open blog test! (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

Now that you’ve completed your test, you can kick back and enjoy your weekend… or use the time to catch up on the KLSS posts! One of the suggestions we’ve had in the past is that folks have a hard time keeping up, so we’re trying to keep Saturday’s virtually free for you all to take a breather and do just that!

Tomorrow is the last day to register for Kidlit Summer School 2016! Click HERE to register.

A Spoonful of Sugar by @SudiptaBQ and GIVEAWAY

I’ve often described heart as the thing that gives the reader a reason to care about the character and the story. But caring – or, at least, admitting that we care – can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially for children. (Think about the protestations of a teenage girl when someone asks if she has a crush on a particular boy – no matter how obviously smitten she is, there is a great deal of denial!)

When we write the heart of our story, we are giving the reader something to care about. By convincing him or her to care, we are, in some way, trying to teach that reader something about life. That friends always stand by you, no matter what you might (tyrannosaurus-) wreck.

T wrecks int 2

That your family loves you, no matter how much you moose up.

Ddm interior 3

That people who snore make terrible roommates.

SB int 2

As I’ve already mentioned, caring about something – and admitting to it – can be a heavy load for a child to process. In my own life, any time I’ve been faced with a serious, emotional, heavy times, I’ve found it awkward and have responded in one consistent way: by making a joke.

For me, those heartfelt moments are too much to bear without laughter to lighten the load. When I began writing, I had the same impulse – to wrap deeply emotional occasions in the warm burrito of humor. And as it turns out, that impulse was a shrewd one. Because science has shown us a number of benefits to laughing. Laughter reduces the amount of a stress hormone called cortisol in the body, which makes something overwhelming feel more manageable. It stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which enhances feelings of pleasure. It causes the body to release endorphins, which literally makes pain hurt less.

Laughter makes everything better.

So, how do you accomplish this in your writing? Let’s look at some quick tips:

Be unexpected. The punchline of a joke is more powerful when it is surprising. Here’s an example:

Q: What’s better than Adele?

The expectation here would be to give a straight answer. Like, what’s better than Adele? Kelly Clarkson. Or Weezer. Or a rabid chimpanzee having a seizure.

But here’s the joke we tell in my house:

Q: What’s better than Adele?

Adele_-_25_(Official_Album_Cover)

A: TWO Dels!

That’s hilarious.

Be logical. In scientific circles, joke comprehension requires the registration of surprise and the reestablishment of coherence. In simpler terms, to “get” a joke, you have to be surprised but be able to see how it makes sense.

To go back to the earlier example, if the question is “what’s better than a SOMETHING” it is logical that the answer is “two SOMETHINGS” – the humor comes from “Adele” sounding like “a del.” That’s a great punchline, but in no way is it the only funny punchline. Consider this:

Q: What’s better than Adele?

A: Any Apple product.

Here, the logic is that “Adele” sounds like the computer brand, Dell. I don’t find this punchline as funny as the first, but it really depends on your audience. When you’re talking to 8-year olds, “two dels” is comedy gold. But if your audience is middle school boys, the tech reference might hit the spot.

Focus on the part of the heart that makes YOU smile. A few months ago, I got married. It was a very emotional day for me, for my husband, and for my children. It brought up a host of feelings, some good, and some difficult. To honor this momentous day, I filled it with meaningful details like these:

S&J_1501

When you marry your ex-husband, you have to have the banner custom made. Photo credit http://www.alfonsolongobardi.com/

Because what else would you do with the extra bow tie?

Because what else would you do with the extra bow tie? Photo credit http://www.alfonsolongobardi.com/

S&J_0760

What would you let YOUR children do in an 8th century Franciscan monastery? Photo credit http://www.alfonsolongobardi.com/

Now, these are not the photos you would find in most people’s wedding albums. But then again, most people don’t have their own children at their wedding, so clearly I’m ok with being different! What makes the humor of these photos enhance the emotion of the day is the sincerity of my family’s enjoyment – because we loved these moments, other people can appreciate them as well. This is true in your writing. Just like you wouldn’t try to write an emotion you don’t understand, don’t try to tell a joke you don’t find funny.

Be reserved. Remember, it’s just a spoonful of sugar. A little laugh opens hearts and minds. Too much laughter and your reader will miss the point. Here’s an example:

My son loves Star Wars. It makes me smile how much he loves it. So adding this detail to my wedding was the spoonful of sugar that took that emotional moment and both lightened it with laughter and made it more memorable.

"Luke, I am your father...and you are my best man...get it?"

“Luke, I am your father…and you are my best man…get it?” Photo credit http://www.alfonsolongobardi.com/

However, if we’d added too much sugar…well, this outfit as a wedding dress would be less funny HA-HA and more uncomfortable laughter around the clearly crazy people:

No, I did not stage this photo just for this post -- why are you asking?

No, I did not stage this photo just for this post — why are you asking?

As a general rule of thumb, push the humor of a situation as far as you can take it – and then go two steps back. That will keep it funny without going off the deep end.

Well, those are just ducky general suggestions, you’re thinking to yourself. But how does that help me write heart with humor?

Yeah, that’s the hard part. I wish I could give you a formula guaranteed to succeed in every situation, every genre, every age level, all of the time. Unfortunately, I can’t. But let me take you through a few processes I use to brainstorm these situations.

Strategy #1: When the moment is significant, go for big laughs.

When you’re writing the culmination of a chapter or of an entire picture book, you want to pack a real emotional punch – and then get to the punchline. So think about humor in words and dialogue, but also think of the visual and physical humor of the scene as you’re going through the steps below:

1. Visualize the meaningful moment.

Write a description of or sketch the emotional highlight of your story/scene.

Moose step 12. Add some heartwarming details.

Build on the emotion and add written details or sketched details that make the reader go AWWWWWW.

moose step 23. Now, add something funny.

The “banana peel” moment, so to speak, that will lead to #hilarious!

moose step 3

Strategy #2: The little laugh that tides you over.

Often, your story needs a little laugh to relieve the tension as your character moves through the plot. This is an excellent opportunity to think about wordplay, puns, or, my favorite: new punchlines to old jokes:

1. Read some classic jokes. (If you can’t think of any, do a google search and browse through the results). Choose one and create a new punchline.

For example, What’s black and white and red all over?

Possible answers:

  • An embarrassed skunk
  • A zebra painted red
  • A sunburnt penguin

2.Take a regular, not-funny line from your manuscript. Brainstorm a response to that line that is unexpected and hilarious.

For example, this is from a manuscript I’m working on about characters under the sea:

Coral swam closer to get a better look. She saw a beautiful orange and white fish zipping between the fronds of the sea whip. “It’s a clownfish!” she whispered.

“Where’s the rest of the circus?” Shelly laughed.

Another example (from the internet):

There are two muffins in an oven.

One muffin turns to the other muffin and says, “Boy, it’s hot in here.”

The other muffin says, “OH MY GOODNESS, A TALKING MUFFIN.”

Strategy #3: Don’t be Dane Cook (or for people my husband’s age, he says, Don’t be Carrot Top. Whoever that is.)

Humor helps get to the heart of things. I have no doubt of that. But if humor isn’t your thing, then don’t do it.

Have you ever seen a comedian who is trying way too hard? It’s never funny. Even the funny parts become un-funny because of the effort being made. So if a joke isn’t working, JUST STOP. Emotion can stand on its own, and it’s much better by itself than propped up by a faulty foundation. In conclusion, be real.

And be funny if you can.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is an award-winning children’s book author whose books include Duck Duck Moose (a CBC Children’s Choice Award Finalist), Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (a Junior Library Guild Selection), Orangutangled, and Chicks Run Wild. She in the founder of Kidlit Writing School and frequently speaks about the craft of writing at schools and conferences all around the world. You can learn more about her and her books on her website www.sudipta.com or at her blog www.NerdyChicksRule.com where she blogs with Kami.

Also, she’s only worn that Leia costume twice. Really.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Sudipta’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.

GIVEAWAY! Sudipta is giving away a 20 minute telephone or Skype manuscript critique. If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win this prize, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

Week 1 Pop Quiz

KLSS 2015 BadgeNow that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz. We know you’re all going to make scores that will make your teachers proud! So go ahead, take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School! 

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  1. In Monday’s post, Janice Hardy reminded us that every scene needs:

a) Conflict

b) Goals

c) Stakes

d) All of the above

  1. In Tuesday’s post, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen gave us a recipe for Chicken Plot Pie. Her directions include:

a) Use the six main ingredients

b) Find balance

c) Turn up the heat

d) All of the above

  1. On Wednesday, Jen Malone gave us three ideas to help us start at the end. Those are…

a) Brainstorm words

b) Write a one sentence pitch

c) Expand to a writing a full query

d) All of the bove

  1. In her post on Thursday, Kami Kinard shared tips for using calendars as plotting tools. These include

a) Using post-it notes on desk calendars

b) Using colored markers to help visualize plot threads

c) Using symbols or initials to show secondary characters

d) All of the above

  1. On Friday, Tammi Sauer encouraged writers to 

a) Push yourself to try something new.

b) Ask yourself the big two-word question: “What If…?”

c) When you find yourself at a dead end, give yourself a detour.

d) All of the above

  1. On Saturday, Amy Fellner Dominy reminded us that

a) Plot comes from the character.

b) How we act/react creates story.

c) To put our characters in predicaments

d) All of the above

So how’d you do? 100% right? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week One! This is an open blog test! (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

Week 1 Pop Quiz

badge50Now that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz!

While you’re reviewing, reward yourself with some Summer School Swag. In case you didn’t know, you can now get Kidlit Summer School swag from the PiBoIDMo Cafe Press shop! Neither we nor Tara profits from any of these sales, and in fact, $3.00 of every purchase goes to Reading is Fundamental. These funds will be used to purchase books for kids who need them. Thanks to Tara Lazar for making the PiBoIdMo shop available to us and thanks again to Zach OHora for creating the fabulous Kidlit Summer School logo!

Pop Quiz! Take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School!

 

  1. In her post Walking Around in Your Character’s Shoes, Kathryn Erskine advises writers to think about:

a) the kind of shoes your character wears

b) how your character walks

c) where your character has walked before

d) how your character acts

e)All of the above

 

  1. In her post Do Looks Matter? Aimee Friedman asks authors to consider:

a) using physical descriptions to illuminate something deeper about character

b) not going overboard when adding physical descriptions

c) thinking about specific colors when painting a picture of your character with words

d) using the comparison technique to introduce physical traits

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post Hug the Mean and Nasty, Kami Kinard indicates an author should think about these things when creating Villains (and antagonists):

a) giving them admirable qualities

b) showing their humanity through the eyes of a pet

c) helping the reader understand what motivates them

d) evoking sympathy for them

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post, Let the Main Character Drive the Bus, Rebecca Petruck suggests that:

a) plot is what lays bare your MC

b) plot is the cattle prod that forces the MC to make decisions that reveal strengths and weaknesses

c) authors should look for actions their MC will resist

d) writers check out Save the Cat

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, You are Your Characters After All, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen suggests we:

a) look to ourselves to find qualities for our characters

b) look to our families to find inspiration for great characters

c) the best stories feature a main character who is a reflection of the reader

d) look past the surface appearance to see who your character is deep down inside

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post, Dear Writer: A Letter Writing Exercise, W. H. Beck points out that:

a) It can be helpful to write letters from the point of view of our characters

b) letters give our characters voice

c) letters help us understand our characters’ motivations

d) Cecil Castellucci’s interview is helpful to characterization

e) All of the above

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, You are Your Characters After All

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

I’ve never been a big fan of the Snow White story. Abusive parents, runaway girls finding refuge with seven single men all living together…let’s just say it hit all the wrong buttons for me, you know?

Except, there was one thing about that story that totally resonated with me – the idea of a magic mirror. Imagine, looking into a mirror and having not your image reflected as you are, but as you want to be. One look and you get declared the fairest of them all. (That’s my idea of a fairy tale!)

Using a magic mirror is essentially what I do when I create my characters.

So often, my main character is:

  • Me, but funnier
  • Me, but cooler
  • Me, but more interesting
  • Me, but less disorganized
  • Me, but more capable

You get the idea, don’t you?

My characters talk like me. They think like me. They have the same concerns that I do. They stress about the same things and get excited about the same things.

When I look in the mirror, I see my characters. But because it’s a magic mirror, they’re magnified to be funnier, cooler, more interesting – whatever filter the mirror is adding that day.

Let me share some examples from my work.

Caltech Graduation

Caltech Graduation

Through most of my life, I’ve been pretty successful (I’m not bragging, as you’ll see in a moment…). I did well in school without trying. I got into all the colleges, and later all the graduate programs, that I wanted to without too much effort. Even when I had my first child, it took about 3 minutes and 6 pushes and the next morning I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes. I was the type of person who expected that she would be successful, and therefore I was the type of person who actually was successful.

But then, I decided that I wanted to write books for children, even though I’d never written fiction in my life. I’ll be very honest, initially, I was absolutely certain that I would succeed, that this venture would go as swimmingly as everything else always had.

Of course, publishing is not that easy.

For the first time, my hard work was not met with success, but with rejection. For the first time, people ddn’t look at me and expect me to succeed – they thought I was crazy for trying to do what I wanted to do.

PIRATE PRINCESS

PIRATE PRINCESS

Princess Bea from PIRATE PRINCESS is the kind of girl that has big dreams that involve the high seas, swashbuckling, and treasure hunts. She’s going to be pirate – even though she’s a princess who has never been on a ship in her life. She’s absolutely sure she will succeed, until her dreams – and her lunch – come crashing down in front of everyone.

In your mind’s eye, can you see the reflection that faced me when I looked into my magic mirror?

There were so many moments in my early publishing career that I wanted to give up. But like Princess Bea, I learned that even when faced with a bleak future, believing in yourself can make your dreams come true. When I wrote Bea’s character, I gave her the resolve and perseverance I strove to have myself. She is me, but pluckier, gutsier, braver. But she definitely is me.

Exceptions

Obviously, not every single character is based on me. Every once in a while, I base a character on someone I know. Often, I’ll prop my children in front of that magic mirror and see what gets reflected. Sometimes, it’s my friends. These people I love become better, stronger, more when I turn them into my characters.

Here’s another example from my own work.

IMG_5526I have two tween/teen daughters, and they have a lot of tween/teen grand plans. Unfortunately, they have a younger brother who is far less tween/teen and far more chaos and destruction. I’ve watched two daughters trying to be patient with their younger brother – before ultimately growing so frustrated that they demand that we return him and get a toaster instead. When I plopped this trio in front of the magic mirror, the girls became more orderly, more responsible, more type A. My son, on the other hand, became clumsier, flakier, and more, well, Moose-like.

DUCK DUCK MOOSE

DUCK DUCK MOOSE

Taken together, my kids became the characters in DUCK DUCK MOOSE, a book about two ducks who have a hard time dealing with a moose who somehow seems to ruin everything. And yet, just like my children have done, the ducks and the moose form and untraditional yet unbreakable unit. (The magic mirror magnified those qualities as well – I’m not sure the real ducks are as forgiving as the fictional ducks, nor that the real moose is as innocent as the moose in the book!)

By the way, sometimes the person I place in front of the mirror is someone I don’t like. In one of those cases, the reflection is of that person – but she’s dumber, or weaker, or more disgusting. Because the mirror magnifies personal qualities in both directions.

More Magic

Remember how I said that what I loved about Snow White was the magic mirror that showed you as the person wanted to be? Your readers want that, too. Your readers want your book to be a magic mirror.

The best stories feature a main character who is a reflection of the reader. When the reader looks in the magic mirror that is the book, he sees himself.

That may sound like a contradiction – after all, how can your main character be you AND all of your readers? But I promise you it is not. Because when we construct our characters, even though they are reflections of real people, the magnification process gives them a universal quality.

SNORING BEAUTY

SNORING BEAUTY

Here’s what I mean by that. Not all of you have lain awake at night wanting a midnight snack while at the same time fearing that a Hampire might eat you. But we all know the feeling of being afraid of the unknown and making rash decisions before gathering all the facts. Not all of you are talking chickens in pajamas wanting to stay up past your bedtimes. But we all have wanted to break the rules at some point – and have felt true solidarity with anyone who would break the rules along with us. And not all of you have had to kiss a lot of rodents or pigs to get to what you truly wanted out of life. But…well, maybe that example can stand as is.

So when you are looking at your character in the magic mirror, make sure you look past the surface appearance and try to see who he or she is deep, down inside. Don’t focus on the little details and instead probe into his or her very soul. Turn the mirror into an X-ray machine, into an electron microscope. Look at the all the parts – and then look again at the whole picture.

Can you see your character now?

SAMSUNG CSCSudipta Bardhan-Quallen is the co-founder of Kidlit Summer School and an award-winning author whose books include DUCK DUCK MOOSE, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, ORANGUTANGLED, and over thirty more books. Her books have been named to the Junior Library Guild, the California Reader’s Collection, the Alabama Children’s Choice Book Award Program, the Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year lists and the Amelia Bloomer list. Find out more about her by visiting her WEBSITE or her blogs Nerdy Chicks Rule and Nerdy Chicks Write.  Visit her Author page on Facebook HERE. Remember to follow her on Twitter  @SudiptaBQ.

Sudipta is giving away a picture book manuscript critique! To be eligible to win, just comment on this post before the end of #KidlitSummerSchool.

And check out the Exercise Book for Sudipta’s tips on Gazing into your Own Character Magic Mirror!