Sunday, September 27, 2009

Non-Fiction -- I ain't lying (Part 3)

Hello, folks. I'm happy to be here. The world is a wonderful, weird place, full of surprises. I'm going to close up my series on non-fiction by sharing just a bit about how to generate great non-fiction books.

First, I'm trying to convey something that is fascinating. A great non-fiction title has a "whoa, I didn't know that" slant. Keep the text simple and let the story speak for itself. Next, every non-fiction book really needs a beginning, middle, and end. The story also needs to touch it's audience on an emotional level, it needs to be relevant to the whole world, and also should fulfill the reader's need to finish "once upon a time."

Last, I'm looking for a new angle. I think that great non-fiction just turns the way you see the world upside down, a new slant, shedding light on what was hidden in the darkness. A great non-fiction book will shake your conventional belief system, and it will make you want to go find another book about the subject.

Last of all. Remember, you must be fearless. Be willing to chase after what may seem impossible. I hope something here helps you move forward with the great non-fiction idea in the back of your head.

This week's doodle is from one of J2, and, yes, I love it. It's called "Two Pears". :)

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Aloha, folks. I'm in Hawaii, soaking in the sunshine. I will be back with the last of my non-ficition series when I return. I'm planning to write a KILLER picture book. I hope that really happens. Spending time with the male Js this week. We went snorkeling today, and saw SOO many fish. I've got a great idea for a non-fiction picture book series about the sea! I love the inspiration of life. I've found building in time for play to be one the most important pieces of the creative life. I don't know how many times I've said this today, the world is a BEAUTIFUL place. Refuel and write. Be kind to yourself. Quit the negative talk and embrace some inner optimist.

My quote for the day: Samantalahin mo ang momento! Guess what that means.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Non-fiction -- Janet Fox -- Part 2

Hi folks, this week, I'm serving up some non-fiction wisdom from the talented Janet Fox. Janet is from my old stomping ground in College Station, Texas, where I lived for 13 years. Janet is a writer, former teacher, and ARA of the Brazos Valley, Texas, affiliate of SCBWI. She found her way into children's writing in the mid-90s. Her son’s learning differences led her to develop ideas described in her award-winning book for Free Spirit Publishing, Get Organized Without Losing It (2006).

Janet's a super-star on the rise for sure. Her other published work for children includes fiction (Spider Magazine) and science non-fiction (Highlights for Children). Her young adult novel, Faithful (Puffin/Penguin), debuts in spring 2010, followed by a sequel in 2011. She is currently a student in the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. You will probably want check out her blog for more fun info: Kidswriterjfox.

So like any good writer, I'm always looking for the best advice. Janet was able to offer insight into my burning questions. First she gave her take on a "best research" tip.

Janet's take: Biggest research tip - that's a tough one, because I have two! First, research your market thoroughly. I wrote a non-fiction self-help for kids, and once I created my outline and sample chapters, I researched the market to find the right house. I must have done well in that respect because I only queried one house and they bought the project. Second, some up front research is necessary in order to sell a project, but most non-fiction is sold before the book is written (unlike fiction!) I did my preliminary research but waited until the book was sold before going deep. This saved me from being out of date, and from researching in areas that the publisher might not have wanted in the book.

I'm also always on the look-out for the pitfalls, so I can avoid climbing out of the ditch. Janet had some great advice - My biggest pitfall? The process was pretty straightforward for me. I did have two editors - not something I did, but the house changed my editor in mid-project - and that caused some miscommunication. I think I would be more forthright today, and discuss the project with the publisher or senior editor, if that happened now. But I feel much more confident than I did in those days.

Wow, good stuff. Thanks, Janet! Check back next week for the last in my non-fiction series.

Here is the doodle for the week:

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
Zora Neale Hurston

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I Ain't Lying (Part 1)

Hi folks, sorry about last week, I was little down and didn't mean to spill over.
Thanks for putting up with me through the doldrums.

I'm going to shift gears this week with a three-week series on non-fiction. I'm mostly a fiction writer, but a piece of me likes to tell it like it is. Note readers, don't go running into the hills because I'm focusing on non-fiction because let's face it, a novel requires as much research as any popular non-fiction book.

I come from a world were kids don't get exposed to as many ideas a middle class kids do. I'm blue collar all the way, but my parents made it a habit to get me to museums, zoos, and galleries all the time as a child. Most of my friends weren't so lucky. This experience and knowledge of deprivation put a fire under me to provide kids with books that make them think, make them learn, that introduce them to the world of wonder that books bring to us.

I think half the battle of writing non-fiction is finding a topic that is big enough to take on a book and then finding a way to convey that topic to the reader with vim, vigor, and vibe. The topic has to be more expansive than what you would find in a magazine article. A great non-fiction story just screams, "Everybody has got to know this."

The foundation of non-fiction is meticulous research. I love libraries and I love the Internet. We have more information at our finger tips than any other generation. The job of the researcher has gone from being one of just finding the sources to being the one discovering what sources are authoritative and which are so much bunk. Research is all about exploring my favorite technology -- Writng.

Non-fiction must have a compelling story to be successful. I cringe a little every time someone writes another "Why does poop stink?" book. I know. Inquiring minds want to know. Like every genre, "shock value" titles have their place, but personally I gravitate more toward thinker books. I do think non-fiction needs a compelling hook, a big surprise, or a new-fangled twist, so much the same as fiction in that regard.

I've got tons more to say and will get through it slowly. Seize the day, folks.

Instead of doodles this week, we have(YAY!) books in the mail! I got my little brown box of author copies of IF YOU WERE A QUADRILATERAL and IF YOU WERE A CIRCLE from Picture Window Books. I wanted to share the beautiful covers with you. The brilliant illustrator is Francesca Carabelli. Kudos!

Lovc, love, Guys and Dolls. Here's a fav number: Nicely, Nicely singing "Rocking the Boat."

My quote of the week is:

I've written six novels and four pieces of nonfiction, so I don't really have a genre these days. Anne Lamont