The April #Fouron400 Kidlit Writing Contest Window is now Open!

Q: What is Four on 400? 

A monthly contest that provides ONE LUCKY MG or YA WRITER with feedback on their opening 400 WORDS! As part of our ongoing mission to support writers, we’ll give a MG or YA writer feedback on their work from four of The Winged Pen’s contributors.

Q: Sounds exciting! How do I enter?

To enter, simply comment at the bottom of this post! At 4pm (EST) on the 5th of April, one winner will be randomly drawn from the Triwizard Cup. The winner will be notified and given 24 hours to submit his or her opening 400 WORDS. On the fourteenth of the month, the winner’s words, along with the title and genre of the work, will be posted to our blog with feedback from four of our members. Still have questions? See our Four on 400 page for additional details.

If you’re not sure how to leave a comment, check our FAQ page!

*Please check your email SPAM filter to make sure it will allow an email from info@thewingedpen.com

Want a chance to win an extra entry? Go to our Facebook page and find our post about the April Four on 400 contest. Then like and/or share our post. While you’re there, like our Facebook page if you haven’t already!

Remember, the contest window is only open until 4pm EST on April 5th, so don’t wait––enter now! Good Luck!

Forget Me Not: Book Review

Forget Me Not is the debut middle grade novel by author Ellie Terry. Of course this novel has a special place in Ellie’s heart, but it also has one in mine. This is the kind of book I longed for growing up. The main character has Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations.

Book Design by Anna Booth

Astronomy-loving Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school realize she’s different. Only Calliope’s neighbor, who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is–an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public? As Calliope navigates school, she must also face her mother’s new relationship and the fact that they might be moving–again–just as she starts to make friends and finally accept her differences.(Amazon)

Forget Me Not is beautifully written story of fitting in and finding courage. It is a dual point of view story told in both verse (Calliope) and prose (Jinsong). This was my first time reading a story told in both formats and I loved it! The character’s voices were distinct and their personalities well developed.

In addition to Tourette’s isolating Calli from other kids, she’s moved ten times in her young life because her mom is searching for love. Calli longs to fit in, but instead of making friends, the kids laugh at her tics and tease her. My favorite example of her emotions is shown through her dream of being a red poppy in a field of white roses. She admires their beauty and sameness, but sees their viciousness. As she struggles to find her place in the new school, Jinsong, the student body president and her neighbor, struggles with keeping his place. As he gets to know Calli, he’s confused about the right path for him. As Jinsong describes: his chair is growing hotter, but his body is frozen stiff. He’s burning and freezing.

Callie and Jinsong grow, both as individuals and friends. They discover what is important in life and how they must stand up for themselves to get it.

Readers of any age will love this book of growth and acceptance. They will also have the ability to learn about a misunderstood disorder and realize how a little knowledge can result in a new friend.

Forget Me Not was released on March 14, 2017. It is now in stores.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

Creating Your Social Media Platform

Welcome to the third post in the Basic Marketing for Authors series. Diving into social media, or even dipping your toes in, can be terrifying! Especially if you’re like me and grew up when face and book were two separate words.

We know social media is a great resource for connecting with writers, industry professionals, and learning tips about our craft, but it’s also a great way to reach kidlit readers, or more specifically, their parents.

FACEBOOK:  This is an extremely popular site with adults. Having an author page gives you a shareable site that links to your other social media accounts. On this page you can push your tweets and blogs giving you Facebook content without having to create anything new.

GOODREADS:  What a great site – one specifically designed for readers! A Goodreads author profile allows users of this site to learn about you, the books you’ve written, and connect with you based on books you’ve read and are passionate about. Additionally, you can sync your blog with your profile, which Goodreads will email to members who like your profile. This site is also a good place for discussions in a few of the thousands of groups available. And don’t forget about the reviews. Positive comments about your book go a long way in drumming up interest in your work.

INSTAGRAM:  This is a site for pictures and short videos and is used by middle-grade and young-adult aged kids as well as adults. This media tool is another way to showcase your personality. Post pictures of your workspace (even if it’s messy), inspirations for your books, and sketches of characters and maps. And don’t forget the fun pictures of your animals, favorite hobbies, and yummy food!

PINTEREST:  As an author, this site can be used to display your interests and grab the attention of parents with similar ones to yours, or have kids who are like-minded readers. For example, you can show your favorite spooky middle grade reads or edge-of-your-seat young adult thrillers. Along with your interests, you can post vision boards and fan art for your books, both great extras for readers.

TWITTER:  Twitter is mainly used by adults and they tweet about everything! (Good and bad) This is probably the best social media tool for making connections, not just with parents of kidlit readers, but also people in the industry. (For more information on using Twitter to connect with the writing industry, read Twitter-101-For-Writers.)

As an author, you should connect with bloggers, parents, teachers,
librarians, and others who are interested in kidlit books and have the resources to help you get yours to readers. The best way to connect is to become part of big conversations. Seek out hashtags on subjects you enjoy – or hate! – comment on them, and engage with the people tweeting. Find hashtags parents and teachers use and get yourself known in those circles. This will also give you opportunities to talk about your book’s topic and begin discussion questions, possibly creating your own hashtag.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS:

  1. Schedule content. Social media can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use tools like Buffer, TweetDeck, and Hootsuite to schedule daily and weekly social media content.
  1. Contests and giveaways. Have fans share a post or comment for a chance to win a signed copy of your book. Use giveaways to generate pre-release interest and reviews for your upcoming book.
  1. Promote events. Social media sites can be used to announce upcoming events like book signings, author appearances, and online discussions.
  1. Highlight important dates. Facebook and Twitter allow you to pin posts to the top of your profile pages, which will allow greater visibility. Use these for book releases, events, or contests.
  1. Use images. Tweets and posts with images are believed to generate more interest and more sharing. Show your book cover, a teaser quote, or even a stock photo or GIF video.
  1. Engage your audience. The more interaction you have with your fans, the more exposure you will have, as the conversations will be posted on your fans’ pages and seen by their friends.

I would love to hear how you use social media and about other sites not mentioned here. And if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can check them out Creating Your Brand and Creating Your Website.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

 

 

Four on 400: March Feedback

Thank you to all the brave souls who entered this month’s Four on 400 contest! Sharing your writing takes courage, and we appreciate your enthusiasm for our contest.

Below, we’ve posted the first 400 words from this month’s winner, along with feedback from at least four of our members. We also encourage our readers to share their (constructive) suggestions and encouragement in the comments section below.

 

HEART OF THE HUDSON

MG Historical Fiction

“When I see the likes o’ ‘im,” Mrs. Macgregor bellowed, lumbering into the kitchen and across the freshly scrubbed floor, “I’ll give ‘im a slap on the ear!”

Cara ducked her head and curled into a ball as she knelt by the wash bucket on the floor.

“When ‘e fancies showin’ up, send ‘im in ‘ere,” Mrs. Macgregor said and huffed out of the kitchen through the drawing room door.

Cara pushed herself to her feet and surveyed the trail of footprints. “Ugh,” she groaned, knowing she’d have to start over. If the floors weren’t spotless, she’d pay for it later.

The back door opened a crack and Will peeked through the opening.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Cara said, glaring at him.

Will lifted a finger to his lips, shushing her. “Where’s Igor?” he whispered, using the nickname they called Mrs. Macgregor.

“Follow the footprints,” Cara said, angrily gesturing with a sweep of her hand.

Will eased the door open, but stood awkwardly in the entrance.

“You were supposed to be here hours ago.” Cara dropped the brush into the bucket and droplets of water littered the floor.

“I lost track of time.” Will raised his arm, hoisting a line of fish in front of him. “This should make her happy!”

“Your fish don’t fool me. What have you been up to?”

Cara planted her hands on her hips and rose to her full height. She still only reached the top of his shoulder, so she narrowed her eyes disapprovingly.

“You sound more like Igor every day.” Will frowned as he stepped through the doorway.

Cara ignored his biting remark. “I can tell you’re up to no good. There’s something different about you.” She wrinkled her nose. “I could smell you before I could see you, so it’s not a girl you’re trying to impress.”

She took in her older brother’s ruffled appearance – his knee-worn pants and ill-fitting shirt that exposed two inches of forearm. Will squirmed as Cara looked him over from head to toe, like he was a prized hog at the market. Will’s curly, black hair was matted and he sported the ever present dirt smudges on his face.

Honestly,” she said. “How can a person who practically lives on the water get so dirty?”

Fear prickled along her skin. Will’s blue eyes sparkled – almost feverishly. “You’ve been out to the ship!” she gasped.

Gita: Thank you for sharing the beginning of THE HEART OF THE HUDSON with us. I love (and write) historical fiction and by the time I got to the disparity between Cara’s fear and Will’s feverish excitement over the mysterious ship, I was eager to read on. Because beginnings are so important, I’d love to see you get the reader to that point more directly. I’m curious about your choice to start with Mrs Macgregor—in particular, with her dialogue. Not only is it in dialect, but your story’s first lines are uttered by a character who soon exits the scene. My preference—both in writing and reading—is to use word choice and word order to convey dialect. For me, changing the spelling would be a last resort if I felt the character’s voice wasn’t clear enough. I’m also wondering: do you need to start the scene with Mrs Macgregor? Another option would be to see how it feels starting with your protagonist Cara, bent over the wash bucket, just before Will comes in, at which point Cara’s angry statement, “You were supposed to be here hours ago,” introduces the real action and gets us closer to the conflict. Good luck with this! Happy writing!

Laurel: I really enjoyed the strong moment at the end. I felt Cara putting the pieces together to come to a conclusion. The excitement about the ship jumps right off the page. As a reader, I’m in the moment. I want to know what’s going to happen with that ship. This line really gives us Will’s personality: “‘Where’s Igor?’ he whispered, using the nickname they called Mrs. Macgregor.” Personally, I find it challenging to begin a story with a line of dialogue. It took me years to realize that SHOW DON’T TELL doesn’t always apply to the first line of a story. A quick sketch of setting or situation is a much more efficient start. So, I say, be brave, go ahead and TELL at the beginning. And then don’t TELL anywhere else. For example: “Will lifted a finger to his lips, shushing her.” is a SHOW AND TELL. For example, “lifted a finger to his lips” SHOWS what “shushing her” TELLS. I always cut the TELL when I find these in my own writing. Two little details: who is Will trying to impress? What kind of living on the water keeps you clean? A tiny bit more of Cara’s thought process could set the reader up nicely for the realization at the end. Looks like a lively story!

 Gabrielle: Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think You’ve got some great character development right at the start, and I’m especially fond of the way Cara draws herself up to look at Will. We get a sense of both her character, and her appearance in relation to him, which is great. I agree with Laurel that it would be better not to start with a line of dialog. You can give us some more setting and sensory experience that will draw us closer to Cara before you dive into the stakes. Even a sentence or two will do a lot to pull us further into the scene. I think Igor’s (their nickname is too funny) dialect is a little too much. You can achieve the same effect, and tone it back. It’s a little distracting. I really like the twist of the last sentence, where she figures out what he’s been up to, but you defuse it by naming the emotion. You can give us a little more of her experience in the moment here, to go with her physical reaction, and then trust your reader. If an idea of where he’s been comes to her, wafting on a thick scent of mudflats and seawater–and if then her skin prickles and her stomach drops, we’re going to know she’s figured out something that scares her. I’d love to learn more about that intriguing ship!

Halli: Thank you so much for sharing your work! I love when people go for it. It’s a scary, but necessary part of our industry. First let me say I really like Cara and Will! I can see myself following them on many adventures and I don’t even know what they’re up to yet 🙂  I do like the way you really put Cara’s personality out there – by having her rise to her full height even though she’s shorter than Will – as just one example. She is definitely the more level-headed one of the two. As some of the others mentioned, I was thrown a bit by the first sentence. I read it a few times before I really got it. Is introducing this character necessary at the very beginning? The way you described Cara with the bucket and her dismay at the footprints clearly shows her position and situation. I enjoyed the last half of the submission even more and found myself trying to figure out where Will had been right along with Cara.

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Creating Your Website

Welcome back to my series Basic Marketing for Authors. In the last blog post of this series, Creating Your Brand, I mentioned there are many uses for your brand including social media, promotion material, and websites.

Today we are focusing on websites. A scary, but necessary part of your platform and career-long marketing. (Who am I kidding? It’s all scary!) Okay, you have your brand. How do you use that to create a website?

Step one: take a deep breath. 

Step two: Buy a domain.

What is a domain? It is an easy to remember name that hides the technical IP address for web pages, and the easiest way for people to find you is by using your name. For example: halligomez.com. I am fortunate to have a unique name that was available (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that!) If your name is unavailable, try a similar variation such as gkbyrnebooks.com.

Step three: Decide on which company will host your site.

What is hosting? It is the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for websites. You rent space on a host computer which assigns an address for files to your domain so anyone can find your website on the Internet.

There are many choices and most have similar features, so it may require a little research to find which products and services best suit you. Keep in mind some products are free and some cost money.

Step four: Choose a template and theme.

What are templates and themes? A template is the layout of your website, or where you put pictures and words (think of it as walls and furniture in a house). A theme is the design of your template/website, the specific colors, pictures, fonts, and words you choose (or paint and decorations).

Before choosing the template and theme, you must decide what your website will be used for. Marketing your books with cover reveals? A calendar of events? Blogging? All three?

All templates and themes have customization options, some offer basic changes while others allow you to be more creative. There are many companies, each offering a dizzying number of templates, so take your time and find the one right for you.

Step five: You have your template and theme, you’ve incorporated your brand, now you have to decide what to put on your website. This is a list for published and unpublished authors, although not everything will apply to both.

  1. Your bio including a professional headshot (Ugh! Painful.)
  2. Links to your social media profiles
  3. A contact form for readers to subscribe to your website and for you to collect emails to send notifications of those very important announcements like your publication date(s).
  4. Book cover images and brief descriptions of your book(s)
  5. Reviews of your book(s)
  6. Links to major online retailers selling your book(s)
  7. Contact information for agent or publicist

Obviously you want your website to be a place for readers to find your books, but until you have some to offer, or before your next one is published, what can you do to engage readers? A few suggestions are promotions, giveaways, writing tips, daily/weekly/monthly inspirational quotes, games, and blog posts.

Which brings us to the question I hear the most when writers are creating a website: to blog or not to blog?

The answer has been consistent throughout the industry. If you are going to blog, you need a new post at least once a month. Once a week is even better, but a lot of writers have other jobs, families, and necessary activities such as breathing and showering (not necessarily in that order). Keeping up with a weekly blog is difficult.

No matter what format you chose for your website, it is important to remember who your audience is and will be. Before you have published books, your audience may be other writers and agents (I’ve heard some agents look for your online presence, including a website, and others do not.) When you have book(s) published, your audience will include readers, parents, teachers, and librarians.

I love to check out writer websites! Please comment and provide a link to yours.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.