Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stay on the Dance Floor

I have been teaching Creative Writing at my high school this year. It's the first time the class has been offered in nearly a decade. I have awesome, dedicated, creative kids. It's been an amazing experience. 

And I've been scared out of my mind. 

What if I screw this up? What if I look like an idiot? What sort of math teacher teaches Creative Writing? What if a critique crushes someone's soul and they never write again? What if I have the writer of the next great American novel in my class and she sees how pitiful my writing is? 

It all boils down to: What if I'm not good enough?

Of course, I deal with that often enough in writing itself. Maybe these harpies sound familiar to you: 

What if I write the best I can, put everything I have on the page and it isn't good enough? 

Or, worse yet…

Monday, September 24, 2012

Revising Our Stories—or How to Knit a Sweater

Hi, Monkeys—Marilyn here. A while ago I saw the most gorgeous teal-colored mohair yarn and decided to knit a sweater with it. Until then I’d only knitted scarves and potholders, I’d never worked from a pattern, and I didn’t have the patience to make a practice piece to test the gauge. You can imagine the result; it was teal mohair and it looked something like a sweater—from very far away and in the dark—but it wasn’t a usable, wearable sweater. The only way to make that sort-of sweater into the beautiful creation I’d envisioned, I had to rip out most of the knitting and do it again—this time, the right way.

I’m now in the middle of revising a novel after having received my editor’s feedback. Although the draft I submitted to her wasn’t nearly as bad as that sweater, it has required some major rethinking, reorganizing, and rewriting. Thankfully, I learned about redo's from the sweater experience and made a solid plan for this revision draft. Here’s what I’ve done:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Inspiration©: A Software Tool for Writers

Posted by Kristen Crowley Held

As you've probably guessed from my collage post, I'm definitely a visual thinker. Today I thought I’d introduce you to another visual brainstorming method: webs! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

So Many Fish in the Sea

by Julie

So Many Fish in the Sea—

A little experiment with hooks and lines

In my last blog entry, I wrote about being married to writing. Today I’m all about dating. It seems I am past-due for a round of speed-dating. I just have to line up some “potentials” and spend a few minutes with each in hopes that love connections can be made without the hassle of hours wasted with some guy who stares at his reflection in the window behind me through dinner or who plants a surprise! kiss on me at the end of a long night with a mouth full of Oreo shake. I mean, I can just imagine the horror of such things.

So I lined up some potential suitors and spent a little time with each, wanting to see what makes me long for more…pages.
  Design © Kazmierz Szmauz: Bookman
My little speed-dating experiment (seeing as how I’m gratefully out of the people dating pool) is a book affair. I have an obscene number of books, some unread, and I decided I’d check out the first chapter of each of those, hoping I’d learn something about craft I could apply to my current projects.  I devised a rating scale of one to ten (one being “I think I need a restraining order,” five being “Let’s be friends; I’ll call you,” and ten being, “Come home with me NOW”). I even made a point of not reading the covers and flaps to avoid the “pretty face” trap.

What did I learn from my dates?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No one knows anything - from Hazel Mitchell

Last time we met here on Turbo Monkey Tales I talked about style and how to get it. I was going to do something similar and talk about the elements of the picture book, or story arc, or layout or some such. But when I opened the clean, white page of the 'new post' I found I didn't want to talk about that stuff at all.

A phrase has been tootling around the small space between my ears and that phrase is 'no one knows anything'. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am it is so.

This philosophizing was brought on by a Q&A with 'Roaring Brook Press' editor Neal Porter at a Highlight's Foundation workshop a couple of weeks back. Pretty much at the start of the discussion Neal quoted Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman - 'no one knows anything'. (Goldman was talking about the movie industry, but applying it to the industry of children's books makes a lot of sense).

I sat attentively, pen poised, ready to take notes like billy-o, absorbing pearls of wisdom. (I hasten to add there were MANY such pearls). But then I stopped writing and just listened. (see below).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

HISTORY and STORY . . . Forever Together!

Hello! Ellen, here. So glad you stopped by to share my blog post with me. I hope you enjoy it!  

I’ve not always been a Monkey author. In fact, I never intended to become a writer. I’m an Anthropologist/Archaeologist who became a Middle Grade History/English teacher, who discovered writing by way of wanting to tell a story. While teaching Ancient Rome, I became so fascinated with their history that I decided to write an upper- middle grade adventure novel, The General’s Son.    

To me, story and history go together.  Story is part of the word History, and within the time frame of history, there are bazillions of ideas to write about. Warfare, witchcraft, jealous love affairs, sad love affairs, weird customs and beliefs, notorious and bloody deeds, deceit, camaraderie . . . you name it and somewhere in history, you’ll find that story.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Keeping the Balls in the Air

Hello.  My name is Amy and I’m a YES-aholic. 

If you’re looking for someone to care for your llamas while you’re away, build cardboard pagodas for the school food carnival, or teach thirty first-graders to sing and dance like monkeys…then YES, I’m your girl!  I’ve served on boards, coordinated critique groups, established organizations and launched everything from books to water balloons. 

I also run my own architecture firm, captain a couple sports teams, part-time single-mom my kid, president the PTO and turn nouns into verbs.  I have seven siblings, a host of lovely friends, and stacks of unread books for which I never have enough time.  And in the cracks between all those things to which I say YES, I write. 

I’m guessing this sounds familiar.