Writers read a lot.  How do writers avoid stealing great ideas?  Or, I guess that translates to the ever-so-cheesy “how do you come up with those original and unique ideas?”

When writers say they write for X hours a day (let’s say 5), does that translate to a number of pages?  Or, say you write 5 pages a day – does that mean you have 5 pages of draft that might be cut some day?

Writers have different ways of visualizing or creating their stories.  I always imagine starting with an outline, and just filling in the outline more and more each day.  How do you compose your fiction, Kristin?

Do writers still use a thesaurus?

Do writers ever not want to write what they’re writing?  Sometimes I have to read something for my job that I really do not want to read…


To be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to whether illustrations were out of date (technology-wise) before Kristin pointed me to the slide show.  (So, thanks!).  And, with all the trying to keep up with the latest in technology I do, being in the information biz and all, I had to wonder why I wasn’t concerned with how technology was represented in picture books.  She makes some good points about why modern technology is not often featured (it dates the book, technology is not a major concern in the lives of our very youngest, etc.), but I do agree that if an illustrator today makes a decision to include, say a phone, that it wouldn’t hurt if it resembled the kinds of phones that the children would see in their homes or parents’ hands today.  But it doesn’t hurt to show a phone that has a cord, either.  And, to be honest, I was more thrown by the fact that Mama Llama was wearing a faux pearl necklace than that she was taking a phone with a cord.

First, I’ll probably keep an eye open for technology in picture books now, but I think it will fall into the category of “if it’s done well, I’ll notice and try to remember it, but won’t necessarily lament the lack of it.”  I’m impressed when illustrators include things that aren’t written in the text – multiracial characters, wheelchairs, children wearing glasses – but am more concerned that the illustrations reflect the text well.

Second, I don’t think that the lack of modern technology in picture books is the determining factor on whether the kids will relate to the book or not.  I could be wrong, but I think the more important issue is whether the readers can relate to what the character is going through.  In the case of Baby Llama, the fact that he wants attention is what the kids will identify with.  I cannot keep enough copies of Scooby Doo books on the shelves (if you want to talk about a different era, those pictures have not been updated. at. all.) and I suspect that the appeal lies with the characters and the mysteries.  And the monsters.  Even if a picture book featured some example of modern technology, like a child caring for their Webkinz pet – the more important thing for me would be whether the emotion is authentic, or whether the illustrations matched the tone of the text.

Third, if a 4-year old was obsessed with, say, playing a Star Wars video game, I would help him or her find books about Star Wars before a book about a person who likes video games.  If a second grader was obsessed with, say, geocaching, I would help him or her find a book about treasure hunting or exploration before looking for a picture book featuring someone holding a GPS in their hands.

Fourth, and this is slightly off-topic, what’s the rush for preschoolers to get into technology anyways?  The technology is not what helps our preliterate children develop their vocabulary, letter knowledge, love of reading, storytelling skills, or understanding of how their language is made up.  The technology is not what helps children get ready to learn to read. If the characters in a book are reading a newspaper or watching a non-plasma television rather than catching up on their blogging or watching YouTube, it’s okay with me.  And it will probably be okay with the kids, too.  (The author of the slide show did not suggest that picture books go that far, just that they show a computer in the home once in awhile.)

Fifth, one of my favorite picture books is Punk Farm.  The animals on Old MacDonald’s farm have formed a punk rock band and go on tour with their hit single “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” which features different instruments during the “here a..” and “there a…” parts.  The concert is a rousing success, ending with the band giving a big thank you / shout out to their fans in Wisconsin.  I have no idea whether their electric guitars and keyboards are modern or not, but I’m Friends with Punk Farm on MySpace, and am a Fan on Facebook.

I thought that the slide show article, linked from here, about technology (or lack thereof) in children’s books was interesting, and I’d love to know the opinion/further thoughts of my friend the children’s librarian.

Writers seem to like to write in Times New Roman, at least in their word processing programs.

Journals used to want stories submitted in Courier, but now Times New Roman is common in guidelines (always read and follow the guidelines), and with the growing use of electronic submissions, stories appear in whatever default font the submission program is set for.

Anyone can make his or her own font now—and share it with the world.

Maybe the sequel to Helvetica will be your customized font! (There’s nothing like seeing this film with a bunch of design students. But I recommend it to everyone, even if you view it from the couch by yourself.)

And then there are thoughts on fonts while overseas (scroll down to my article “Language Redux”).

It’s true—reading an advance reader copy of a book is totally safe. There may be spelling mistakes, or other such errors, in an ARC that will be corrected before the final version is printed, but a reader doesn’t need to worry about developmental edits—edits that change the book’s content—happening between the ARC and the final.

I recently reviewed a novel in which footnotes were used as a comedic device, and a couple of those were missing or out of order in the ARC, but that was still not enough to detract from the book as a whole. I rarely review nonfiction books, and I’ve never reviewed one that leans on footnotes, but those who do both know the subject, so they can spot not-yet-corrected errors in ARCs, and confirm all quotes with the publisher. A publisher of any type of review, fiction or nonfiction, should confirm a reviewer’s quotes from the book with the publisher. (Individual reviewers should not directly contact the publisher or book’s author.)

Besides, it’s terribly fun to read a book before it hits store shelves.

One of my favorite things is when people ask me for my opinion!  Kristin, I loved your post with questions about librarians and libraries, and I am working up a similar post for you!

A fourth-grade library friend is doing a project for her architecture class in which she will design her ideal library.  She sent me a 9-question questionnaire (with really good questions) that I happily responded to, but I realized that I had never designed my ideal library.  I responded to her questions, but I still don’t have my ideal library in mind.

I do have favorite features from different libraries I’ve been to. (And, yes, I’m the type of traveler that will pop into the local public library wherever I am). I love libraries that have

  • clear signage (the term used for signs indicating what stuff is and where to go);
  • one floor, making it easy for the entire family to visit (although I love the Seattle Public Library that takes up multiple floors);
  • a number of different spaces for different uses and different groups (teens, seniors, writers, students, large audiences, people with toddlers, etc.,);
  • a landing pad – a place where you can come into the library and get the lay of the land before venturing in;
  • lots of wide-open space for creating displays of books; and
  • a coffee shop.

I love libraries that are clean and colorful.

I also love libraries that are staffed by people who

  • embrace/understand the need for technology (including cell phones), but use it wisely;
  • aren’t chained to their desks (meaning they can roam the building and help people on the spot without the need for a reference desk);
  • plan and implement services with the users’ needs and perspective in mind;
  • put people at ease;
  • are willing to try new things, make mistakes, and don’t have to be perfect; and who
  • like each other.

And, I’m really intrigued and impressed by the Borders Concept Stores — I love the technology kiosks – there are places to plug in, print out, create CDs or books, and more.  I love it.

It is published. And I think it was a good decision — especially given that it has been 30 years.

I started thinking about advanced reader copies of books (ARCs) and how, as a general rule, I don’t like to read them.  It’s a different thing that Nabokov’s book — there is no chance that it will be corrected or revised — but ARCs always come with some sort of disclaimer that the book is an uncorrected galley proof, and that typos and grammar errors should not be considered.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan has been on my to-read list for 3 years, and I have had an ARC of that title on my bookshelf for…3 years. The emotional side of me thinks that I might be missing out on the “real” book if I read the galley copy instead. I know that ARCs are used by publishers to get some buzz about the book in advance of the hardcover sale, and more and more publishing houses, bookstores and social bookshelf networking sites (like GoodReads or LibraryThing) are creating ARC giveaway programs and distributing copies to readers with the expectation that they will review the books on their blogs or profiles. And, looking at the response and the success of these programs…I’m the weird one.

And, I don’t need to be.  I read an advanced copy of Paper Towns (John Greene’s new book) and loved it.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and it definitely did not disappoint.