<![CDATA[Book Smarts - Book Smarts]]>Fri, 27 Sep 2013 09:58:21 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[A Children's Author Blog Hop!]]>Thu, 26 Sep 2013 23:38:21 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/09/its-another-blog-hop.html
Fantastic author and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) creator, TARA LAZAR  tagged me in a BLOG HOP. In case you haven't heard of it, you are asked a few questions about your writing process. You then have to tag three other writers and ask them the same questions. Tara has a wonderful website dedicated to picture books and writing for children and a really great picture book out, THE MONSTORE.  The book is fantastic, and with Halloween coming you're not going to want to miss it! Check out and bookmark Tara's website (link below) it if you haven't seen it yet, you'll be glad you did: 


Now…on to the questions!

1. What are you working on right now? 
I am currently working on several manuscripts in various stages of development. I have a computer full of WIP manuscripts and a notebook (thanks to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo) full of ideas. I have plenty of WIP's too, thanks to Julie Hedlund and her 12x12 group. I am heavily revising two of those at the moment, and I have just begun another brand new Nonfiction manuscript. 

2. How does your writing process work? 
Ooh, this is a good question. Usually, I have an idea that I have to sit on for quite some time. Although I have a Masters in Education, I also have a Bachelors Degree in Marketing. I tend to look at an idea from all angles before I commit to it and it finally becomes a draft. I like ideas that will appeal to many groups of people, boys and girls, parents and teachers. 

3. Who are the authors you most admire? 
I really do admire all authors from every genre. Writing is hard work, and most of the time it's done without the promise of a reward. In my opinion, that's true love and dedication. If I had to pick one group though, I especially admire those who write funny manuscripts, regardless of genre. I love funny!

TAG- YOU'RE IT! Want to see more? Check out these websites!!!

Ashley Bohmer
Ashley Bohmer, a children’s writer, is a 2010 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature with a certification in Writing for Children and Teenagers and a member of SCBWI. She has been involved with many writing challenges including: PiBoIdMo, ReviMo, and WowNonFicPic. As a Christian, her purpose for writing children’s literature is to delight, educate, influence, and glorify God through the stories He places within her heart. When she’s not writing you can find her: spending quality time with family and friends, reading, drawing, singing, at church, and at the movies.

Meg Miller-  http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/revimo_16.html 
Picture book writer, artist, mother, wife, dog owner, chicken farmer, snowboarder, mountain biker, reader, crafter, snorkeler, boater, and so much more! 
I'm a stay-at-home mom, children's book writer and an artist. My love of picture books began at an early age; I even wrote and illustrated a series of books about mice families when I was in elementary school! I have 22 picture books in the works.
I majored in Journalism/Public Relations at Kansas State University, taking several writing courses including a creative writing class. I've taken Mira Reisberg's class The Art and Business ofWriting Children's Picture Booksand I'm a member of SCBWI. I'm currently taking Mira Reisberg and Marsha Diane Arnold's Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books e-Course.
I love writing, it has always been a passion. I enjoy creating art; acrylic paint is my favorite medium. I'm also an outdoor enthusiast. I love mountain biking, snowboarding and hiking.

Donna Sadd-  http://donnalsadd.wordpress.com 
I’m Donna Louise Sadd. Originally from New York, I spent 16 years in S. Florida and now have five years under my belt living out in the woods in beautiful Central Texas Hill Country.Words have been my life. That’s why I shake my head now…I believe I’ve finally embarked on a road that I was meant to follow, writing children’s books.I was a copywriter and moved up to assistant to the president of a New York advertising agency and marketed my small businesses and those of others using well-crafted words. Just ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m a self-proclaimed wordsmith.The gang that really could tell you are my dogs, cat, birds, goats…all the critters of my life to which I’ve rhymed and sang ever-changing, little ditties to each and every day for a thousand years! You know what they say, if you can’t have kids you have tons of animals. ;0)

<![CDATA[This Thing Called Writing]]>Wed, 04 Sep 2013 01:19:38 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/09/this-thing-called-writing.htmlPicture
You've got to wonder about writers. Of course, once they are successful, people understand and appreciate the lengths that they go to stay successful. But explaining this obsession to someone on the "outside" can make us seem a few fries short of a happy meal. Seriously.

I ran into a teacher friend of mine the other day and in our chat about kids, curriculum and playdates, she asked me how my writing was going. "Oh, it's going pretty well," I told her. She made a little face and said, "So, let me get this straight, you spend all of your time writing books and you're still not getting paid?"

Look, I get it. To the outside world, it's crazy. I spend as much time as I can every single day writing, revising or thinking about writing and revising. I teach second graders all day long and then take care of my own two kiddos and hubby at night. I get up early and stay up late. I don't get paid, and there is absolutely no guarantee that I ever will. But I swear, I CANNOT STOP, and it's nice to know that I am not alone.

If you're a writer, I know you get this.

And if you're not, well, yeah, we're nuts. 

Happy writing,
E :)

<![CDATA[One of Our New Favorite Picture Books]]>Sun, 25 Aug 2013 23:03:10 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/08/one-of-my-favorite-picture-books.htmlPicture
As a picture book author, we read lots and lots of picture books in our house. One of our new favorites is CRANKENSTEIN, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santat. I interviewed my daughters about what they loved most about the book and it was for the same reasons that I did! Go figure.

CRANKENSTEIN by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santat

Why did you like this book? 
This book was really funny! It's about a boy who is VERY, VERY cranky at different times and he turns into a CRANKENSTEIN. A kid can understand because most kids get cranky about things like getting up and going to school and being too hot or too cold or when you have to take yucky medicine.

What did you think about the illustrations?
The pictures are really, really funny! The book is short, (because it's not a chapter book) so it's fun to read before bed a couple of times by yourself and then with your Mom or Dad or whomever isn't too tired to read it to you again.

The illustrator, Dan Santat wrote that he deprived himself of morning coffee so he would be good and cranky while illustrating the book. Is that true, Dan? We want to know! 
Not true, according to Dan, "No, I drank coffee. Lots of it in fact. No coffee would make me psychotic like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I can't be TOO cranky." 

So true, Dan. So true.

Oh, and there are lots of Onomatopoeia in CRANKENSTEIN. In case any of you need some inspiration with your writing, some writing colleagues and I have put together a little reference book to help you out-  http://www.ekielykearns.com/uploads/2/0/6/1/20616606/onomatopoeia_book-1.pdf 

There you have it, folks! A two "thumbs up" from the Kearns kids in New York and a handy writing reference tool.

Now go and get YOUR KIDS a copy of CRANKENSTEIN! 

Happy writing,


<![CDATA[Chicks vs. Dudes]]>Sat, 10 Aug 2013 17:14:22 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/08/chicks-vs-dudes.htmlPicture
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about gender in my writing.  Growing up, I was the only girl in a house full of boys. The street we lived on was also full of boys.  I played Nerf football and I went to baseball games at Yankee Stadium. I played with matchbox cars and baseball cards AND barbie dolls. I read ferociously. I did it wearing sundresses or Snoopy T-shirts. I loved it! Today, I can jump start your car or fix a broken toilet but I will never, ever leave the house without mascara. Anyway, you get the idea. Kids don't fit a mold, grown- ups don't fit a mold, and so your writing should be that way too.

What started all of this "gender thinking" was that someone asked me recently if I wrote girl stories or boy stories. I don't write either. I write my stories for both genders. At least I try to. I think it's important to try to write picture books that way. Just like life, I think you shouldn't make your characters cry all the time if they are girls or let the boys always be the hero. I think it's important to let your teachers or parents not know everything. Shake up the stereotypes. Flip it around. Make the really young girl be the hero or the boy like to dance ballet. Make the teacher/parents/adults learn something instead of the kids. Help break those gender (and non-gender) stereotypes all around. 

I think as writers, it's very important that we do.

<![CDATA[The 37 (or so) Steps of the Writing Process.]]>Thu, 01 Aug 2013 00:38:46 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/07/the-37-or-so-steps-of-the-writing-process.htmlPicture
Ahhh, the joy of writing. 
Ahhh, the pain of writing. 

I think if you asked any writer what they dislike most about writing, they would tell you that it's the waiting. Publishing is a very, very s-l-o-w business. Remember when you were a child and summer seemed to last forever? Yep, that's what I'm talking about- minus all of the fun.

I've made a list of the process. Kinda.

But before we get to the list, you know of course that all writing begins with an idea. This idea will occur at the most inopportune time. Sitting on the toilet? Idea time! Grocery shopping with a screaming toddler? Idea time! Having a baby? Well, you get the idea. It will be the only FAST thing that will happen to you during the whole process. If you are an experienced writer, you will grab anything you can use to write that idea down. Crayons, markers, ketchup, a tube of mustard- anything. You will shout, "shhshhshhshhshhshh" at your bewildered children because the mere thought of another word entering your brain will squash the idea. You know better than to tell yourself that you will remember it later. It just ain't happening, sunshine.  Write that sucker down as fast as you can on scrap paper, a napkin, the back of your baby's head. Just get it down because that idea will be gone in exactly 10 seconds and you will NEVER be able to remember it again. EVER.

Once you have your idea, you will then begin the process...


1.) You will write your first draft.
2.) You will revise your first draft.
3.) You will revise draft #3
4.) You will revise draft #4
5.) You will revise drafts # 5 through # 844
6.) You will get stuck on that draft and put it away for a while. 
7.) You will remember that draft after getting stuck on another draft.
8.) You will decide you really like it and revise that draft again.
9.) Each of your critique partners will look at that draft.
10.) You will post on a social networking forum that you are willing to swap anything, including your children, for a "fresh pair of eyes" to look at that manuscript.
11.) You will hire a professional to edit that manuscript.
12.) Based on the feedback, you will revise that manuscript.
13.) You will repeat numbers 3-9
14) Your critique group members will tell you that it's ready to send "out on submission."
15.) You will secretly wonder if they really feel it's ready or if they are just sick of looking at that manuscript.
16.) You will hate that manuscript.
17.) You will love that manuscript.
18.) You will learn more about some agents than some of your family members. You will feel like a stalker.
19.) You will worry about your mental health.
20.) You will submit your manuscript and then immediately research the typical response times for that agent or editor.
21.) You will discuss on a social forum said response time.
22.) You will do math calculations that you never dreamed possible to get an accurate time frame.
23.) You will be wrong. It will take twice as long.
24.) You will convince yourself that your submission was lost. You will debate whether to resend. You will ask everyone you know for their opinion, including the lady who works at Starbucks.
25.) You will get rejections.
26) You will get more rejections.
27.) You will google, "How many rejections did __________ get before they were signed"
28.) You will check your spam folder and refresh your email 10,000 times a day.
29.) You will buy every book that lists agents and editors and every "how to write a book", book. You will read them a million times.
30.) You will count the days until the SCBWI conference.
31.) If you don't go to the NY or LA conference you will cry and whine and follow on Twitter, drunk.
32.) You will go to bookstores and drool at the shelves.
33.) You will join 12x12, PiBoIdMo, WOWnonficpic and every possible online group that will "challenge you" to write a manuscript in a day, in an hour, or a minute.
34.) You will quickly learn what "Pitchmad" is. You will participate and sweat like it's the friggin' Olympics. You will, of course, be sitting on your couch.
35.) You will lose hope.
36)  Your writer friends will give you back hope.
37.) And then someday, someone will say, "YES" to you. You will dance like Snoopy.
And you will start it all over again, because you love nothing more than writing.

If you saw yourself in at least one of these, you're not alone. 

You're a writer.

<![CDATA[It's a Blog Hop!]]>Wed, 17 Jul 2013 17:01:37 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/07/its-a-blog-hop.htmlMy friend and writing colleague, Carrie Charley Brown tagged me in a BLOG HOP. In case you haven't heard of it, a fellow author asks you a few questions about your writing process. You then have to tag three other authors and ask them questions. Carrie has a wonderful website dedicated to picture books and writing for children. Check it out and bookmark it if you haven't seen it yet, you'll be glad you did: 


Now…on to the questions!

1. What are you working on right now? 
I am currently working on several manuscripts in various stages of development. I have a computer full of WIP manuscripts and a notebook (thanks to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo) full of ideas. I am heavily revising two of those at the moment, and I have just begun a brand new NONFICTION manuscript. 

2. How does your writing process work? 

Ooh, this is a good question. Usually, I have an idea that I have to sit on for quite some time. Although I have a Masters in Education, I also have a Bachelors Degree in Marketing. I tend to look at an idea from all angles before I commit to it and it finally becomes a draft. I like ideas that will appeal to many groups of people, boys and girls, parents and teachers. 

3. Who are the authors you most admire? 

I really do admire all authors from every genre. Writing is hard work, and most of the time it's done without the promise of a reward. In my opinion, that's true love and dedication. If I had to pick one group though, I especially admire those who write FUNNY regardless of genre. I love funny!

TAG- YOU'RE IT! Want to see more author answers? Check out these websites!!!



<![CDATA[The 5 Traits of a Successful Author]]>Tue, 09 Jul 2013 15:31:05 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/07/the-5-traits-of-a-successful-author.html**Re-blogged with permission from Kristen Lamb. To view original content and to enter her monthly contest:

5 Traits of the Successful Author

I am off to THRILLERFEST in NYC, and I’m sure it will be thrilling….bada bump *snare*. Today, I want to talk about some fundamentals. We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.


This should be a, “Yeah, no duh,” but, sadly, it isn’t. I meet a lot of people who say they want to be a professional author, but the second they face any opposition or criticism they give up. Here’s the thing:

If we truly LOVE it, we won’t give up.

One of my favorite stories is about a music master who traveled village to village in search of proteges to train. A young boy who played the violin practiced extra hard in anticipation of being chosen. On the given day, he played for the master and, at the end, the master said, “No, you don’t love music enough.” Heartbroken, the boy ran home.

A year later, the same master came to the village and spotted the boy. The master asked if he was going to audition. The boy crossed his arms and replied, “No. Your comment hurt me to the core. I put the violin away and haven’t touched it since.” To which the master replied, “I told you you didn’t love music enough.”

If we love writing, NOTHING can stop us. My motto in regards to writing comes from Hannibal:

Aut viam inveniam aut facial. 

I will either find a way or I will make one.


Again, writers write. One of the main reasons I am such a proponent of blogging is that it trains writers for a professional pace. It trains us to meet deadlines. Disciplined people work no matter what, and they finish what they start. Amateurs and the immature flit from thing to thing. Professionals and genuine artists dig in and complete the task.

Will all of us have this self-discipline in the beginning? No. Most of us don’t. Self-discipline is a muscle of character, and it needs to be trained and built just like biceps. Every time we stick to something when the siren’s song of a new shiny tempts us to start something new, we get stronger.


Great writers know they always have more to learn. Read, find mentors, and learn to admit shortcomings. None of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Those who readily admit flaws and seek help and training? We stand far better chances of succeeding long-term.

I used to have a problem with deadlines and self-discipline. I had the attention span of a crack-addicted fruit bat. That was why I began blogging. I knew that those character flaws would always limit me. Even though it was embarrassing to admit I had some deep flaws, it would have been impossible to ever combat that weakness if I hadn’t mustered the courage and humility to recognize where I fell fatally short.

It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to be new. It is okay to not know everything. When we are humble enough to admit we need help, that is the first step toward authentic growth and change.

Healthy Relationship with Failure

I have said this many times, If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Expect failure. Better yet, embrace failure.

We will learn far more from failure than success. The trick is to learn. What went wrong? How can we do it better? What ingredient is missing?


One of my favorite quotes is, “Persistence prevails when all else fails.” We must have bulldog tenacity to do anything remarkable. Anyone can start something. We have feelings and other people cheering us on. It’s when the new wears off and the dream looks more like work that most of us fall short. Hey, I’ve been there. This last leg of trying to get out my new book before Thrillerfest (my own self-imposed deadline)? I thought it would kill me. It’s so easy to be just in reach of the finish line and tap out.

Keep pressing.

What are some character traits that you might add? What do you struggle with? What area gives you the most trouble? What have you done to make it better? What is some advice you would like to share?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
<![CDATA[WOW NonFicPic Week]]>Mon, 08 Jul 2013 13:18:28 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/07/wow-nonficpic-week.htmlPicture
I have just finished a very fun WEEK OF WRITING (WOW) NONFICPIC. This week was created and hosted by one of my critique partners- Kristin Fulton. Not only is she amazing at writing non fiction picture books, but she has been the very first one in our group of six to get an agent! We are all super excited for her!

Kristen's week of writing non fiction challenges you to write a non fiction picture book draft each day for seven days. There are daily prizes and discounts on classes. The challenge came at the perfect time for me. I had just gotten back from a weekend in Washington, DC and I was ready with plenty of ideas. Still, it was not easy. As I ticked off the days, my brain found it harder and harder to focus and my drafts were not very strong. But you know what? Now, I have three really good, solid drafts that I like and I am happy to say that I finished the challenge. Although these challenges are hard, they are worth it to stretch yourself as a writer and to force yourself to have accountability as you do so.

Thanks, Kristen. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.

Interested? Go to http://www.kristenfulton.net to learn more!

<![CDATA[Summer time!]]>Mon, 01 Jul 2013 12:57:28 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/07/summer-time.htmlPicture
Summer is finally here! As an elementary school teacher, I look forward to these glorious lazy, hazy days of summer. I can finally dedicate myself to writing full time. For me, that is the epitome of summer happiness. 

So the first thing that I did was book a quick weekend trip to Washington, DC to do some research and to get some PB inspiration. I know it may sound a little strange that as a picture book author, I'd be doing research, but it's true. Currently, I am working on a few picture books with a historical/presidential theme.  What better place to gather information and inspiration than our Nation's Capitol? Heck, I live in New York so it's a short trip, and honestly, I love to drive.  

I always find that when I remove myself from my everyday surroundings, I am suddenly flooded with new ideas. I went down with the intention of researching three books, and came back with NINE ideas. Yes, nine brand new ideas to add to my picture book arsenal. Most of them will be tossed I'm sure, but it sure feels good having those in my back pocket. And who knows? Maybe there is a diamond in one of them!

So this summer, when you go off on your vacation, look around for some inspiration. Are you at a beach? Perhaps the ocean will give you some ideas. Going to the mountains? Maybe somebody famous owned a cabin in those woods and has a compelling life story that needs to be told. Look around you, the universe is probably screaming ideas at you. You just need to listen.

Oh, and make sure you bring a notebook. :)

Happy Writing!

<![CDATA[Picture Books, Common Core and Your Target Audience]]>Sat, 15 Jun 2013 22:24:39 GMThttp://www.ekielykearns.com/1/post/2013/06/picture-books-common-core-and-your-target-audience.htmlThere has been a lot of buzz lately about the "Common Core Standards" in education. When I attended the SCBWI Conference in NYC this past February, several of the keynote speakers, and quite a few of the agents in the breakout sessions commented on Common Core. What, exactly are Common Core Standards? Simply put, The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world. They are the same across the United States and allow parents and teachers to know what is expected to be taught on each grade level. 

So, how does one integrate these standards using picture books? I'll give you an example. If I am doing a unit on caterpillars in science, I will reach this standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of scientific ideas or concepts in a text. I will often begin and end the unit with picture books. I call it a Picture Book Sandwich (PB Sandwich). This is how it works: I will use Eric Carle's, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR (NF) and BUTTERFLIES IN THE GARDEN (F) by Carol Lerner. These picture books are wonderful tools to both open and end a unit because, quite simply, they are fun. 

In the case of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, it teaches my students WHAT a caterpillar does in order to become a butterfly. So I'll open with it. For second graders, it's much easier to understand that a caterpillar eats and eats and eats before it makes its chrysalis. In BUTTERFLIES IN THE GARDEN, Carol Lerner explains all the different kinds of butterflies that there are from a beautifully poetic, scientific perspective. I will end with that pb because it is scientific. 

I like to "sandwich" the picture books and fill in the middle with lots of meaty facts. I also order Painted Lady caterpillars online and we watch them actually make a chrysalis and emerge as butterflies. When they emerge, we continue to talk about their life-cycle and at the end of the unit, we set them free. By beginning with a pb, adding the textbook lessons, watching the caterpillars change, and finally reading another pb, I have  provided my student's with many different learning opportunities for the same scientific information set forth by the state. After you're doing it a while, it's really easy to know where a picture book can help you teach information.

So, what does all of this have to do with WRITING picture books? Well, first I hope you realize how important every single picture book is! While some picture books are fun and others educate, almost every picture book can be used in conjunction with the Common Core State Standards. Secondly, these are your people, people! This IS your audience. The parents, teachers and librarians who buy your books and the children who read them. These people hear about CCSS every day so you must know what the standards are and how your manuscript fits into the mix. Think about the last manuscript that you wrote. Was it funny? Fact based (NF)? Language based? Math/Numbers based? Did you use a lot of similes or metaphors? 

Below is the link to the New York Common Core State Standards. Look at these Standards (or the ones from your own state) and try to see which standard your book reaches. You'll have a better feel for today's classroom and the people that you're trying to reach- because if you're an author, knowing your target audience is essential.

Happy writing!
-E :)