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 We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path.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!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Playing Favorites

by Sarah McGuire

VALIANT is currently out of my hands, so I'm concentrating on what comes next and starting my next story.

That, of course, has me thinking of siblings. 

Of course. 

I haven't been teaching too long, but I've already taught siblings. Every time, someone inevitably warns me not to expect one sibling to be like the one I've already taught. 

No kidding. 

I'm the oldest of four. I get that no two kids are alike. 

Why, then, have I been comparing this infant of a story to its older sister? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Thing That Can't Be Named

by Marilyn Hilton
During the last session of a writer’s conference a few years ago, one of the leaders asked the attendees what topics we’d like addressed the following year. One brave person piped up. “Jealously,” she said. There was an uncomfortable silence, and then a shifting of seats, a shuffling of feet, muffled coughs. And then nodding of heads.

She had spoken it—the thing we all feel but no one wants to name. Because naming it means admitting we feel it. And admitting we feel it makes us feel ugly and ashamed.

- She signed with my dream agent.

- He signed a three-book contract.

- She won the award I wanted to/deserved to win.

- They <fill in the blank>.

We may be smiling on the outside, but inside the green-eyed monster roars. “I should have gotten that agent/contract/award/five-star review/<fill in the blank>.” “S/he’s not that awesome a writer—I saw a typo on page 11.” So begins the spiral downward. And if we give in to our jealousy, it will destroy our relationships, our spirits, and our careers.

 (Deep breath.) 

Monday, July 15, 2013


by Kristen Crowley Held

I did it! I finished a rough draft of my story! Okay, I didn’t write the last line until last week, but I wouldn’t have gotten there without my two weeks of fast drafting. 

As you may recall, in the blog post I wrote on Day One of my fast drafting class I said my goal was: 

“to commit to a story and vomit it on the page fast enough that I don’t have time to talk myself out of writing it. It will not be perfect. It may be total crap. I may put it directly in the bottom of a trunk once I reach 280 pages. BUT I WILL WRITE 280 PAGES!!”

Here are my stats:
I had a little bit of trouble with committing to one story (I switched stories on Day 5), but I did manage to write 20 pages every day and had a couple of glorious days where I wrote even more. 

Total number of pages written = 293 (Courier 12pt, for those of you who are curious)

Word count = 61,402

What I’ll do differently next time:
Be a Plotser. It seems I’m neither a Plotter* nor a Pantser**, but somewhere in between. I initially tried to pants a brand new story but on Day 4 I realized I had too many questions and instead of writing scenes I was brainstorming plot. The story wasn’t solid enough in my head to get it down on paper yet. My muse totally balks at plotting out an entire story ahead of time, but I need it to be at least partially defined before I try to capture it on the page. 

Why Fast Drafting worked for me:
As I said, I like challenges! And this class gave me a specific goal with a finite timeframe. 

When I hit the wall with my pantser story, instead of flailing around in despair and deciding that there were fifty million other things I should be doing instead of writing, I had a challenge to focus on. Plus I was getting daily email updates from my classmates and I did NOT want to be the person who either didn’t post their page count or had to admit they’d only written 216 words for the day. Did I mention that Candy is hardcore? When she says you get your words done no matter what, she means it. 

I couldn’t figure out how to make forward progress on my pantser story but I had two or three other ideas that I’d been mulling over before the class started so I decided to write a one paragraph synopsis for each idea and see what happened. When I got to the third story idea, one that’s been in my back pocket for over a year, I wrote the synopsis and just kept writing. And writing. And 213 pages later it was the last day of class.

Admittedly, I was still nowhere near finished with my story. So I kept writing. Not at the same 20 pages a day pace, which I’ve found is nearly impossible to maintain for more than two weeks without a great deal of advance preparation (and possibly a nanny). But without that two week promise I certainly wouldn’t have a big fat stack of manuscript pages sitting on my desk ready for me to revise. 
Revisionland, here I come!

Why I encourage you to try Fast Drafting:
It’s a huge commitment of time and energy but it’s only two weeks! Two weeks to focus in on your story and figure out very quickly what’s working and what isn’t, instead of flailing around for months, maybe even years. 

I will definitely plan on fast drafting again, but for now I've got a novel to revise!

*Plotter: one who carefully plots her book ahead of time 
**Pantser: one who writes by the seat of her pants

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summertime and the Reading's Fine

Ah, summer. The long, lazy days stretch out before me like a pristine, sun-kissed beach…nothing to do but read, nap, read some more…

The Dream
I wish.

Somehow, summer missed the memo that it ought to be utterly carefree and chore-free.

Still, I would like to live vicariously through the kids, who can log some serious reading hours.

Okay, the kids DO read--just not as much as I think they should, given the freedom of these weeks.  Books the kids are reading this month include:

And the Reality
Insurgent by Veronica Roth,
Allen Zadoff's Boy Nobody, 
The Wings of Fire series from Tui Sutherland, 
The Gregor the Overlander series from Suzanne Collins, and, of course, Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants

All worthy titles, but what books and series have got my writer pals’ underpants aflame and souls aflight during these balmy months?

 I put out the call and was rewarded with terrific ideas for summer reading.

Maybe you’ll find a new favorite among the suggestions!

Have some travelling to do with (or without) kids? My friend Vickie Smith Barrios recommends The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart This one is great for mystery-loving puzzle aficionados (not to mention fans of clever kid characters and save-the-world adventure)! We listened to this one in the car on the way to Oregon last year, and my husband and I enjoyed it (at least) as much as the kids. Vickie’s suggestion reminded me to pick up the second in the series for the next trip!
Harold Underdown recommends Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone—one I hadn’t run across yet, but with his “thumbs up” and a read of the synopsis revealing there are flesh-eating monsters in a rich, shadowy world and all depends on the heroine's confrontation with secrets of the kingdom and her own heart, I’m in.

Harold also brought up what looks to be a terrific new memoir, Rapture Practice, by Aaron Hartzler. Heartfelt and quirky? Into the stack it goes.
Donna Jeane Koepp sings the praises of Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and several friends chimed in to sing along!  The more I know, the higher this one goes on my list! A great mystery with an appealing girl sleuth? And a writer who debuted at 70? I'll take it.
Author Sonya Sones recently posted on Facebook about how she was loving Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell so much that she felt relief to be just half way through. This book is getting a lot of love--including from John Green who said in a NYT book review that “Eleanor & Park reminded [him] not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”  Swoon.
And speaking of John Green, Josh Galarza finds his The Fault in Our Stars an extraordinary, beautiful read. Be sure to make room for it if you haven't yet!

Another writer friend, Heather Petty, passionately recommends Unspoken from Sarah Rees Brennan. I just finished her Demon's Lexicon Trilogy, so am all over this.
A few Turbo Monkey suggestions for good measure:
Ellen Jellison, our resident lover of historical adventure, suggests The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.
Sarah McGuire reminded me to dedicate some time to Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass from Meg Medina. 
Amy Allgeyer Cook votes for Three Times Lucky from Sheila Turnage.  
Honestly, there were so many great suggestions from an array of genres that it's "forgot to put on sunscreen" painful stopping the list.  I'm grateful for everyone's ideas! If I keep going though, I'll cut into your book hunting and reading time!
Oh, Captain Underpants
If only there were as many days of summer as there are books on my to-read list! But please, add more!  What is not-to-be-missed?

Monday, July 1, 2013

A look at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

by Hazel Mitchell

This year I visited the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy and I wanted to share my experience and the benefits of visiting this prestigious event.

The Fair was celebrating it's 50th year. It was my first visit to Bologna and I combined my visit with a trip home to England (where I was born) and also the Paris Europolitan SCBWI conference.

I was lucky enough to hook up with the SCBWI Illustration Co-ordinator for Europe (Kirsten Carlson who is a wonderful artist! and we shared a cute little apartment that was VERY reasonable compared with hotel rooms, right in the heart of the old city. We could walk everywhere or easily get the bus/taxi. Restaurants were on every corner and it was easy to buy groceries etc.

Bologna is the most fabulous city. The architecture is beautiful, the food amazing and the people so friendly and accommodating. This was my first trip to Italy and I am longing to go back!

I felt very safe there walking around on my own, even at night. There are so many museums, shops, art galleries, so if you go, try and give yourself a little time to get around the city as well as the fair.

Every 2nd year the SCBWI have a booth at the fair and it's a good idea to go in that year, (if you're an SCBWI member), because there will be lots of people to connect with, hangout with and go to dinner with! Find out more at http://www.scbwibologna.org/ - they will have a booth there in 2014 and lots of SCBWI happenings.

The fair is HUGE. In reality it is very much about selling rights and watching the business happening on the floor is fascinating. The halls are many and filled from wall to wall with publishers from every region of the world. It's an education to look at books from other cultures, too. You'd do well to study the guide before you get there and find out where the publishers are that you'd like to visit.

Make sure you have comfortable SHOES, stay HYDRATED and take RESTS. It's fun just to stop, find a resting place and watch the book world go by.

 Be sure to have coffee and arrive before the crowds.

So why go? For me, I was curious to visit this legendary book fair and to network with publisher's from around the world. There is also a very big contingency of illustrators attending and events for illustrators. So if you are an illustrator it makes complete sense to go.

I have to say if you're a writer, it's a big investment for what will be a great experience, but much harder to network. Having said that I know plenty of writers who've been and there are many, many editors and agents around to chat with if you network hard.

In this pic you can see the famous 'illustrator's wall' behind me where everyone leaves their postcards.

Each year there is an exhibition of illustrators which you can enter via the Bologna Fair website. It's very interesting and usually includes many avant garde illustrations from across the globe. This year there was also an exhibition of Peter Sis' work and Peter gave many talks throughout the Fair.

Peter Sis talking about his life and career in the Illustrator's Cafe. You do have to listen to the Italian translation though, which can make the sessions a wee bit ... long. Take a sketch pad!

There's lots of other great things going on, like the digital cafe which ran great panels and discussions. You will find a plethora of panels and talks to attend.

The fair runs for 4 days. It's not terribly expensive and illustrators can apply for a discount voucher to reduce the price.

Nearly all day the big publishers are in meetings and it's hard to get on their stands unless you have an appointment ...

Some of the publishers will see portfolios and they announce this on their stands for particular times during the day. I do have to say, though, standing in line with a bunch of what mostly seemed to be art students for hours didn't seem to me to be a good use of my time, but I'm sure some people are discovered that way! For me, I was happier browsing the stands and chatting to marketing/editors/art directors if available and giving them a card and taking one to follow up later.

There is a LOT to see and much of it is great fun and a visual feast. I did two days at the fair and didn't see all of it!   Here's a tip .. after the exhibition officially closes, many of the booths have drinks parties (and food!) so seek these out,  
eat cheap and meet contacts and new friends! But for goodness sake, remember those comfortable shoes!

Here are some MAD MEN ....

While you are walking around, look above when you're standing in the Illustrator's Cafe and you will see a big glass room. Go up the escalator and gaze at the rows and rows of tables and chairs, (like something from 1984), seating agents talking to buyers and look in wonder. THIS is where the real business happens!

If your publisher is there, maybe you'll find your book on display too! There are very few signings at Bologna, it's not that kind of fair. It is all about the selling.

One thing there is a lot of at Bologna is wonderful food, even in the cafes at the convention centre. This was a lovely light lunch I had on one of the days.

 And, of course, after all the walking and talking was done, there was dinner and wine and FRIENDS!

 I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Bologna, even if it is only once in a lifetime. Plan carefully, and have a great time!


"One Word Pearl" coming Fall 2013
Click here for my events diary