Friday, April 21, 2017

What Do You Have To Do To Become A Writer?

During many of my school visits, the question usually comes up, "Do you have to go to college to be a writer?" The answer is, not necessarily.

I have always felt at a bit of a disadvantage to many of my SCBWI colleagues who have degrees in Literature, are (or were) teachers, librarians, journalists, etc. Should I feel this way? Once again, not necessarily.

Many famous authors did NOT have degrees in literature or any formal training in creative writing. This is encouraging for me and probably many other writers.

Below is a list of just a few well known writers and their backgrounds:

1. John Grisham: studied accounting at Mississippi State University
2. J.K. Rowling: majored in French
3. Michael Crichton: degree in Biological Anthropology from Harvard
4. Ray Bradbury: no college (he didn't even believe in institutions of higher learning)
5. Robert Ludlum: degree in drama (famous for "Bourne Identity")
6. Harper Lee: Law school drop out (Pulitzer Prize Winner for 'To Kill a Mockingbird')
7. Danielle Steel: studied Literature Design and Fashion Design (I have to admit, I'm not exactly sure what Literature Design is)
8. Sue Monk Kidd: BS in Nursing and then decided to
become a writer at age 30 (famous for 'The Secret Life of Bees')

And then there's little 'ol me. I have a degree in Dental Hygiene. I loved my years in practice (25!), but I always dreamt of writing for children. At age 52, I'm not getting any younger. I've been chasing the dream for about six years now and it's finally coming to fruition. Will I ever be famous like some of those on the above list? Who knows?

Dolly Parton has said, "You have to dream BIG, think BIG, and pray BIG!" I think you have to work "BIG" too! Nothing is free in life and the publishing world is extremely hard to break into.

My first children's chapter book in the Mila Denton series has been out for about six months. I'm giving away a signed copy to one person. Just leave a comment on my blog and one person will be randomly chosen on May 1.

Thanks for reading and happy writing!


Monday, December 19, 2016

The Master of Metaphors, Similes, and All Things Descriptive, Oh my!

A quick refresher about descriptive use in writing...

Metaphors are a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action where it is not literally applicable. Examples: 'you are my sunshine' or 'all the world's a stage'. If you think about these phrases, they are only purely figurative in nature.

Similes are used to compare things. A phrase using a simile will use a connective word such as 'like, as, so, and than'.  Example: 'you're as tall as a giraffe'.  We know that's not really true, but it makes a great descriptive way to express that you are really tall.

Adjectives are simply descriptive words and choosing them wisely will elevate your writing to another level.

One of the greatest children's writers was the absolute master of using metaphors, similes, and adjectives to make things fun, interesting, and timeless! So, especially for the holiday season, I give you Theodore Geisel or better known as, Dr. Seuss and his holiday classic. From all the way back in 1966, it's as great today as the first time I heard the song and saw the cartoon on our old black and white television.

Can you pick out all the metaphors, similes, and adjectives?



You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You're a a bad banana with a greasy, black peel

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch
Your heart's an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders,
You have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch
I wouldn't touch you with a 39 1/2 foot pole!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.
Given the choice between the two of you, I'd take the seasick crocodile!

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You're the king of sinful sots
Your heart's a dead tomato
Splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch.
You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce!

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super "naus"!
You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch
Your soul is an appalling dump heap 
Overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable
Mangled up in tangled up knots!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You're a nasty, wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch. 
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote, 
Stink, Stank, STUNK!

As I was copying these lyrics, I ran across some interesting tidbits. If Wikipedia is correct, Dr. Seuss wrote the story and lyrics. Boris Karloff narrated the story, but did NOT sing the song. WHAT?? It seems Boris Karloff could not sing and so the song was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft who was not  credited at the end of the show. And all these years later, we all can say, "Who was Thurl Ravenscroft?"

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2017. Happy Writing!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What is great writing?

All writers strive to be the best they can. We spend countless hours thinking and dreaming, outlining and storyboarding. We clack away at the keyboard. We revise, submit, and do it all over again. But what makes some writing better than others? In my opinion, its the connection readers feel to the characters.

As a reader, you want to feel the deep connection with the characters in the book. That's what keeps you turning the pages. You may feel like they're your best friend, someone you could pick up the phone or meet on the street and have an ordinary conversation. Sometimes, the characters or story evokes a feeling of days gone by or of long ago friendships and memories. At any rate, you feel a connection. Connection is key.

As a little girls, my earliest experience with this was the book, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I jumped into it with both feet. As the story progressed, I was to the point I read awhile and sobbed awhile. It really touched me partially because I'm a huge dog lover, but also I felt a connection to the characters and events. I still have the book on my shelf and as crazy as it sounds, I won't let it go from my collection, but I may never read it again. It's engrained in my memory and I can't put myself through it at this point in my life. How powerful writing can be!

Fast forward many years, and a recent example is a PSB TV Series my husband and I are watching. We are so caught up in the story and characters, we talk about them later. What if he did....or do you think she's going to...or I sure hope it works out for so and so. I actually wake up thinking about these people with concern or happiness. Once again, the written word is powerful. Those words were just acted out in front of a movie camera. From what I've heard, it's a similar experience. It all starts with a writer and a connection felt to the characters.

There are many, many great writers today in all genres, but a some writers are just a notch higher. They write things you just can't shake. You dwell on them for weeks, months, and in the case of Where the Red Fern Grows, decades. My goal is not to be a good writer or a great writer, but an exceptional writer. Is it an attainable goal? Time will tell. In the meantime, I just keep plugging along, learning all I can, clacking away on the keyboard, and following Dolly Parton's advice, "Think big, dream big, pray big!" Seems my bases are covered.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kansas Literary Festival

Here's the five Oklahoma authors that made the trek to Kansas for the Literary Festival on Saturday. What a great day of fun in the sun, fellowshipping with other writers, and books, books, BOOKS! 
(Susan York Meyers, Timothy Lange, Marla Jones, David Roper and me, Sandra Byrd Lawson, aka Sandi).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just What Is A Chapter Book?

At the SCBWI Fall Workshop last week, Author Darlene Bailey Beard spoke about what exactly is a chapter book. It seems many people, even some in the writing community, are confused. To steal Darlene's words, a chapter book is a "transitional" book or a bridge from a very early reading books (like the old Dick and Jane) to more complex books. Chapter books are not terribly long, usually around 7000 words, have short chapters, have illustrations to help clue in the reader to what the words are saying, have a larger print, have a lot of white space and the key is...they are non-threatening. Children should not look at a chapter book and feel anxious or think they could never finish one. I think chapter books are where children can learn to love reading, and to actually enjoy a story on their own. 

At one class I had taken for writing chapter books, the instructor said writing chapter books is very liberating. After working with picture books that have such an attention to word count, I had to agree.  When I started writing my chapter book (and the middle grade novel that I'm currently working on), it felt awesome. I could let the thoughts and words flow freely. 

If you have an interest in Chapter Books or Middle Grade Novels, visit the children's section at your local library. Those books are fun to read, even if you are an old timer like me. You can also check out local author's work, like Darlene Bailey Beard's The Flimflam Man or of course, my new book, Mila Denton's Worst Week Ever! Happy Reading and Writing!

  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's Here! (...well, almost)

Here are a few of the illustrations for my early chapter book coming out this fall. (Miller Denton's Worst Week Ever!) Written by me, Sandra Byrd Lawson, Illustrated by Holly Abston, Published by Doodle and Peck Publishing.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pioneer School

Last week, I was invited to read to the second grade classes at Pioneer School. What a great time we had!

I was asked to read my book, The Best Baker in the World! and to also choose another of my favorites to read. It was an easy choice. I read Brian, the Smelly Bear, written by Mark Chambers. It's written in verse and is about a bear that refuses to take a bath. Everyone thinks he smells atrocious, but he thinks he smells just fine. When his friends can't stand to be around him any longer, they trick him into taking a bath by telling him they have a tub full of mud. He sails into it discovering, all too late, that it's filled with warm, soapy water. Afterwards, Brian decides he likes smelling clean. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's That Time of the Year Again!

There are great things that happen in the month of November. The weather starts to cool down, the leaves change, Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season, my birthday, and the list goes on. Also, it's PiBoIdMo! Picture Book Idea Month, the month where you commit to one idea per day. It can be frustrating and rewarding, but I trudge on. I've actually come up with some pretty good ideas over the past two PiBoIdMos. Come December 1st, it'll be fun to look back over my notebook and see what crazy and fun possibilities I've imagined for stories! 


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Christmas in....September??

Is it me or does it come earlier every year? The stores pushing Christmas, I mean. When I was a little girl, I couldn't wait until the day after Thanksgiving when the Christmas season officially began. Now, I don't know when it starts! Let me say, I love, love, love Christmas! It's my favorite, but at Wal Mart yesterday, I was a little bit disheartened to see them putting up the Christmas trees. For heaven's sake, people! Halloween decorations are in the opposite isle. I'm putting my foot down right now. I will not start Christmas until Thanksgiving afternoon. Then I'll jump on the bandwagon and plow ahead full force until Christmas Eve. I might shop on Thanksgiving evening (it's easy for my family because we have no extended family in the area and shopping gives us something to do). I will likely do the black Friday thing, as well. Until then, I'm closing my mind to Christmas...unless some cute ornament reaches out and snags me in passing.