Friday, December 30, 2011

Focus Friday: New Year, New Goals

One Life Dream: To bring 1 Million Books to Gambia (I'm lucky to have such a supportive husband!)
I was all set to *finally* post my goals for 2012, when Kristi Holl posted her latest thoughts.  

Dream bigger, she pushed.

And I realized, looking at my totally "do-able" list of words to write or submissions per month, etc., that these weren't really my dreams for my writing career.  They were things I planned to do to get closer to achieving them.  Things entirely in my control (which I'll still do, but they're not all that I want).

So, today on my blog you get to see me spill all, even though I risk ridicule (or you thinking I'm full of myself in dreaming so big).  But if I only told you the practical things I planned to do for 2012, I wouldn't be telling the whole truth.  There's a lot more to me than word count or blog followers.  And there's a lot in publishing that isn't solely dependent on me - that's why goals are great and dreams are necessary.

So, here's to you, Kristi.  Happy New Year!

(things I can't always control, but will passionately work towards!)

1) To be able to say I like LOVE my current WIP, a YA novel.  And that it's DONE.

2) To snag the elusive picture book agent.  There are three of you I'm stalking.

3) To land my first traditional picture book contract.  Then many more. (Don't get me wrong, I love educational publishers and the work-for-hire projects I do.  But there's a big difference).

4) To hold my very first hardcover, traditionally-published picture book in my hand.  To smell it.  To run my fingers over the amazing illustrations crafted by the perfect artist.  Like Kadir Nelson.

5) To win an SCBWI or ALA award. A Newbery would be nice someday.

6) To see 1 Million Books for Gambia complete its mission in my lifetime.

7) To finally consider myself fluent in Mandinka, Wolof, and Creole.  At least one of the three anyway.

8) To win THE AMAZING RACE. (Ok, so that's not a writing dream but it's always on my mind!)

(things I can do - in the hopes of achieving my dreams!)

1) To finish my WIP (YA novel) - at least the first complete draft - by March 30, 2012.

2) To continue my agent research and attend my first national convention in 2012 as well as attend state and local SCBWI ones.  Since I already have a (small) list of agents I'd love to be repped by, I will simply stalk them until I know how they take their coffee and which toothpaste they prefer.   I will make notes on every agent on my list by August 2012 to see if we're compatible.  And submit to the ones I like before the end of 2012.  And I will not cry when someone tells me that the Agent Fairy isn't real again.

3) Since I write, write, write, and revise, revise, revise - I guess it's finally time to submit.  The feedback at conferences and current contest winnings, etc. have given my the confidence in my work.  I will submit at least two picture books each month to the 'right' publishers (assuming there's an open house accepting unsolicited mss).

3a) I've also decided to join 12 x 12 in 2012.  Those of you who know me are probably rolling your eyes (how many MORE picture book manuscripts could she possibly write...doesn't she have, like, a hundred already?).   The point is, participating will get me to move on to new picture books and actively seek homes for the ones that are complete and have gotten great feedback from authors, editors, critique groups - and most importantly - MYSELF.

4) I'm going to read every book by Kadir Nelson.  In the hopes that one day he'll illustrate something I've written.  No, I don't know him.  Not yet, anyway :)  Just a huge fan.  And all books by my mentor, Lisa Moser.  Once I finish reading their books, however, I'm going to try and read the same number of books I did this year (at least 100).  Reading = better writing.  No ifs about that.

5) I will take the first two weeks of February to review the list of all awards for children's books in my 2012 Children's Market and online at the ALA and SCBWI sites.  If there are any that my WIPs are eligible for, I will apply.

6)  To hold at least 2 book collection events in 2012.  And to recruit at least one other person to travel with me to Gambia (not for this year's trip, but in 2013 or 2014).

7) To speak as much Wolof as I can during Feb-Mar while back in Africa.  To print out and keep with me, my language guides.  To stop reverting to English because I hate sounding like a child.

8) To convince my husband to finally make that video application for THE AMAZING RACE before I leave for Africa in February.

Longwinded, yes.  Sorry.  What are your goals and dreams for 2012?  Comments are open below!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Is 2012 Really the End?

If you haven't already heard that the world *might* end on December 21, 2012 - you're too far inside your writer's cave.  But this post isn't about whether or not the Mayan legend is myth or fact.

It's about the crossroads between global trends and writing.  Editors and agents often call for submissions that blend "commercial and literary."  And for some authors, that means capitalizing on a hot topic by planning YEARS in ADVANCE, of course (so don't go subbing your vampire novel right now) and crafting an original spin on something that will be buzzworthy.

Have you seen the number of authors who have taken advantage of the 2012 predicition buzz, writing everything from non-fiction picture books to YA novels and even publishing kids' blogs centered around the theme of the end-of-the-world prediction?  They, like the authors who had the foresight to write stories years before an anticipated trend, such as the 10th anniversary of September 11th, or the 2012 prediction, for example, seem to be attempting to take what we're interested in globally and merge it with the literary. 

Here are a few I found regarding the 2012 topic:

NOTE: I haven't read these, nor am I offering recommendations (although Carolyn Marsden is a favorite author of mine). Just pointing out that these books exist.

Now, you tell me:

What upcoming global or worldly events can you write about in an effort to merge the literary with the commercial?

I think it's a bit too late to write and submit about 2012 events now (such as the Olympics), but how about this year's formation of a new country?  Is anyone following that story and trying to be one of the first to set a story set in South Sudan?  Or what about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? That in 2015 many places and organizations will celebrate a 100th birthday or anniversary, like the international Kiwanis Club or Balboa Park in San Diego?

I guess this post is just as much about thinking globally as it is about thinking AHEAD.  Forget all that end-of-the-world nonsense.  Jump ahead into the future.  That's a trend that will never "get old."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Terrific tuesday: Vote for My Story!!

Wow! After exciting news yesterday (being chosen for the 2012 SCBWI mentorship program), I've got GREAT news again today! My Christmas poem/story, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Rudolph Goes Green, was chosen as a finalist in Susanna Hill's Holiday Writing Contest! Voting is OPEN! Please take one minute to vote for me at her blog! My poem is listed as the #4 poem in the top 5. THANK YOU FOR VOTING!! Please vote by midnight tonight!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mommy Monday: SCBWI Mentorship Program

If the title of my blog post didn't give away my big Christmas news–here goes!

Last week I received an AWESOME email from Julie Schaull which read "Miranda, I hope you're ready to do the happy dance, because you have been chosen to be a 2012 mentee in the SCBWI-WI Mentor Program!"

After doing the happy dance for a day, I got an email from my wonderful new picture book mentor, award-winning author Lisa Moser.  Lisa has published five picture books and has three forthcoming.  You can read all about her amazing books here at her website.

Lisa Moser is an awesome children's author - and my mentor for 2012!

So, this AuthorMom is getting a "mommy" of her own (in the form of a mentor, of course).  I still can't believe my two picture book manuscripts were chosen for this program - as far as I know, only one aspiring picture book author among all the applicants in the state is chosen!

So this mommy (I mean mentor) has promised to guide me in any way that she can, except maybe tucking me in at night...I'll have to ask about that.

Wow, I love moms.  I mean mentors.

Merry Christmas to me!! (Happy dance continues).

Do you have an SCBWI mentor?  A support group?  Or, did you receive an extra special Christmas gift this year?  Please share the awesome news!  Comments are open below.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Twas the Night Before Christmas - Rudolph Goes Green

This Worldly Wednesday happens to be the last one before Christmas.  So, in honor of celebrating Christmas around the world I've written a new version of C. Clement Moore's famous poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (better known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas).

Now, to be honest, I wrote this on-the-fly in less than two hours.  Forgive the imperfect meter and rhyme, but I had to get the poem up on the blog ASAP for it to be entered in Children's Author Susana Leonard Hill's holiday poem contest.  Wish me luck!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas:  Rudolph Goes Green

by Miranda Paul

‘Twas the night before Christmas when there on the screen
Played an eco-documentary with ways to be green.
On the sofa sat Rudolph who suddenly froze
And pulled his front hooves right in front of his nose.

“I’ve got to replace this old iridescent
With an LED light–or at least a fluorescent!”
At once Rudolph dashed to the D.I.Y. store,
And the reindeer pack gasped as he clopped out the door.

“Don’t leave us,” yelled Comet. “You’ll make us all late!
It’s a good thing you’re doing but...Christmas WON’T WAIT!”
“C’mon” scoffed ol’ Blitzen, “Let’s get up and soar,
We can fly without Greenie–we’ve done it before!”

Then up flew eight reindeer with no glowing light,
Leading Santa’s big sleigh on a cold, wintry night.
But the wind and the storms blew a blinding, wet mess
So Donder unwrapped Yumi’s new G-P-S!

Their troubles were past them until Tokyo,
When Santa reminded, “That gift’s gotta go!”
Then Dasher discovered an oversized candle
In shimmery paper with a tag that read: Randall.

In a flash went their stress ‘til they flew o’er Khartoum,
When that “oversized candle” exploded...KA-BOOM!
It kicked up a sandstorm so Prancer thought quick,
Unwrapping a flashlight for young Dominic–

But the batteries died just past the Sahara,
So Vixen dug up Amy’s light-up tiara!
“You hold it,” he bickered, “Too girly for me!”
And they pawed it and clawed ‘til it fell in the sea!

“Now stop it, you guys!” bellowed Santa in back.
“We’ve got presents to give, so no talking smack!”
They straightened right up and squinting their best
Took strange routes from Cape Town to old Budapest.

Eventually they made it, but sore and pooped out,
And when they got home they gave Rudolph a shout:
“You lazy, green-washing...WAIT...that’s the SAME nose!”
Rudolph casually shrugged, “Yeah...the merchant was closed.”

“Well I guess we don’t need you!” the reindeer yelled, peeved.
And to their surprise, Rudolph felt...quite RELIEVED!
“That’s perfect!” he sang, then rushed out the door.
“See you guys in two years, I've joined the Peace Corps!”

(Now...Should I happen to be chosen as one of the 3 finalists, voting will occur online on Monday, December 26th.  Stay tuned here for updates and feel free to comment below.  Happy Holidays to all!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mommy Monday: Princesses Learn Spanish

My "princess" learns Spanish weekly at school - and I'm thrilled to have her enrolled in a school that values language education during the preschool and elementary years.  But in between her weekly lessons, it's nice to practice.  This app, Princesses Learn Spanish, is an interactive way for her to keep up the enthusiasm and performance in Spanish.  

It's especially fun to have it now in my household as I was a contributor to the fairy tale adaptations, and my daughter LOVES the fact that her mommy is writing princess stories (I don't do it too often!).  It's a lot like their other releases, Princesses Learn Chinese and Princesses Learn French which were big hits with my daughter.

I suppose I'd better go practice or she's going to be more fluent than I am!

Do you write for app companies?  Do your kids play app games or read books that are Android or iPad apps?  How about their schools - do your elementary-aged children have the opportunity to learn a second language?  Comments are open below!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Focus Friday: Going With Your Gut

This week I've been obsessed with polishing a finally-finished manuscript that has been in the works for eight years. 

Before Monday, no one but me had seen any draft of this story... ever (which is unusual because I belong to two critique groups and run a fantastic free critique site called Rate Your Story). 

But with this story, to be honest, I didn't care that no one had seen it while it remained a WIP.  This book is one rooted so deeply inside me and my experience.  I am the only person I trusted to guide me as I wrote and polished the first drafts.  I didn't ask for input, advice, or what I should write next from anyone but myself.  And my muse came through.

I finished it over the weekend and was ecstatic with what I'd written.  It was nearly perfect.  I'd gone with my gut and written the narration and voice exactly the way I'D wanted it. 

So then came the test...would my "gut feelings" hold up when others saw it?  I sent it to the three harshest critics I know–two editor-friends and my husband.   Great reviews.  (My gut was relieved).

Today I'm still polishing a word here, a phrase there, and tightening it up overall, but I'm really glad I went with my gut.  The book breaks a few standard picture book "rules" but the manuscript is better for it.  I will be proud when this book gets published--it has become my favorite story.

With confidence, I go forth preparing my submission.  And I've got a gut feeling, it will bring back an acceptance.  Even if I have to wait another eight years.

Have you ever gone with your gut?  Trusted yourself as your own best critic?  And it paid off?  Comment below!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mommy Monday: Meet My Hubby

Isn't that one cute family on the cover
of Children & Libraries' current issue?

Behind (or next to) every good AuthorMom there's usually a supportive spouse, right?  Well, in my case it's very true.

Today, I invite you to meet my husband, Baptiste Paul.  He has just put up his very own one-page website at

I'm sure you'll love him as much as I do!

Now, do you have great family support?  If so, give your spouse, kids, or whomever a shout-out for helping you accomplish your writing goals and dreams!  Comments are open below.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Focus Friday: Cutting the Fat

It's only the ninth day of December and already I feel weighed down by celebratory feasting.  I'm still dragging after a great Thanksgiving meal and my birthday, when I gorged myself on cake and cocktails.

Also, since December 1st we've been opening advent calendars at home, so every morning I pop a chocolate into my mouth.  Add in the leftover St. Nick candy from the family stockings and a 12-0 Packers season with more tailgating to come and it's clear...

It's time to cut the fat.

Today, as I vow to eat lean and mean through the weekend, I'm also going through a few manuscripts and cutting the fat.  This morning, I turned a 1,400-word story (one of my longest - I'm really into the 500 word PBs as of late) into an under 1,000 word picture book manuscript.  Then, I combined two chapters in my work-in-progress novel into one, realizing the redundancies.

My number one strategy?  Edit line by line.  If I can cut one word out of every sentence, or rephrase wordy clauses, I can generally cut 10%-20% of a picture book manuscript that's still in draft mode.

Why am I doing it?

Yesterday I took a stroll into my local, independent bookstore, and picked up a few hardcover titles.  It was obvious to me right away which ones lacked editorial "cutting" - because the huge blocks of text and the images that suffered because of the words were totally off-putting.  I did happen to notice that several of the "wordy" titles were self-published and one, though traditionally published, was a celebrity-suddenly-turned-author.  Regardless, they were books that 1) I wouldn't be buying for my children, and 2) the author probably had regrets about because they could have been better.

Anyway, it reminded me that as children's writers we have to be on top of our game.  If we choose to traditionally publish, we have to cut out what can be inferred or represented in the images.  We have to consider every phrase and every word.  We have to polish.

If you write picture books, open one up and look at the word count.  Challenge yourself to cut 10% in one edit of the story.  You'll be surprised how easy it is if you do it!  And, the more you do it, the easier it gets to write more concisely in first drafts.

What's your strategy for cutting the fat?  Are you ready to trim down this holiday season in preparation for the New Year?  Comment below!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: My Clearest Me by Claudine Gueh

My Clearest Me by Gueh Yanting (Claudine) was just released by Carry Us Off Books (Singapore) as an e-Picture Book.

Now hush...

...and let me tell you about it:

Quiet Wynn overhears his teacher saying he's too shy, and might not make friends, or worse–might let his Dreams pass.  Ought he be a different boy? he wonders.

In search of self, Wynn ventures out into a dream world searching for his clearest voice.  But can a quiet boy play in a loud dream?

My thoughts?  
Gueh's story, crafted like a silk blanket of poetry, sends young listeners and readers drifting along with Wynn through beautifully-illustrated pages of self-discovery.  I'm not giving it five stars–I'm giving it an entire sky of stars.  It stands apart from so many other picture books of its kind.  And the price shines, too (.99 cents for the iBook).

My Clearest Me by Gueh Yanting (Claudine) is available on iTunes, Kindle, and Nook and through the publisher's website at Carry Us Off Books.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mommy Monday: Hip Mama

Today, I learned that a colleague of mine–Caroline Wood–was published in Hip Mama: The Parenting Zine.  Her article, "Love and Life in the Himalayas," chronicles the relocation of her family–including her 16-month-old daughter, Poppy–to the rice-paddies of Nepal. 

A story of itself, Caroline's experience is made all the more diverse and unique in that her family also includes her wife–Poppy's other mother. 

The story begins...

Download the Article / Current Issue
You can download (or request a print copy) with Caroline's article in "Issue #50: The Home Issue" at the Hip Mama website.

About Hip Mama
Hip Mama has been in print since 1993 and is a worker-owned collective publishing a thematic quarterly of the personal stories of radically diverse experiences of parenting to promote solidarity and compassion across all boundaries, resisting the powers of silence.The mission of Hip Mama is to give a voice and platform for mothers to express their parenting choices styles that are otherwise not covered by mothering magazines. 

Submit to Hip Mama
Are you a "hip mama" that would like to submit to the magazine?  Upcoming themes include space and time, support for pregnant women/mothers, and race and gender issues.  The submissions information for Hip Mama can be found online at:

Comment Below
Have you ever had a "hip mama" moment?  Done something radically outside the norm of parenting?  In the name of raising your child(ren) to be honest, free-thinking individuals?  Comments welcome!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Focus Friday: Presenting and Speaking to Kids

This Focus Friday, I'm Presenting!

As part of the gig being a children's author, we get the joy of playing around with kids sometimes.  Today is one of those days for me.  If you live in the area, come check out the program!

December 2, 2011 - "Apps Around the World"- 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Join children's author Miranda Paul for a kid-friendly eTrip around the world!

As Part of the Cormier School Toddler Diversity Playgroup, Mrs. Paul will be showcasing top storybook, game, and language apps that are fun with an international focus.  Snacks will be provided, and a couple of digital iPads and/or devices will be on hand - but please feel free to bring your smartphones, tablets, and more so our toddlers can explore the world in a digital way!

The group meets in the APPL room of Cormier School (lower level) in Ashwaubenon, WI from 9:30-11:00 a.m.  For more information, visit the TDG - Toddler for Diversity Playgroup page on Facebook.

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