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The Hardest Part About Writing by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown embroidered cloth, with the words "Leave your ego at the door."I have discovered the hardest part of writing.  It’s not putting those first words on the blank page. Any drivel will do for that.  It’s not even the rewriting, as painful as that tends to be.  (Did I really think that nonsense I wrote was good? Unbelievable.) It’s not even when you give your writing to another person to read.  Yes, there’s a bit of trepidation about putting yourself out there, but pride is also involved.  After all, this is YOUR baby and worthy of being read, right? Nope, that’s still not it.

The hardest part is listening to other people’s opinions and edits.

I was fortunate enough to have good training in listening to critiquing. I was writing audio/readers’ theater scripts. The scripts are dialog and sound effects. While writing, the authors can hear the dialog in their mind and later when they read it to themselves.  However, the authors are not going to be performing the dialog–other actors will be doing that.  So to help the authors, the radio theater held sessions where actors would read the script-draft aloud. Believe me, words sound very different when spoken by someone else.  Problems in the writing become very apparent.

However, in these sessions, the authors are not allowed to express their opinions; they must sit there quietly and take notes.  The directive “Leave your ego at the door” is enforced. Listening to others and not being defensive is very important in the development of a finished product.  I hate to admit it, but the critiquers are usually right–not always, but quite often.

Now that I write books, I try to continue to embrace the philosophy of “Leaving my ego at the door.” Listening to the opinions and suggestions of others has served me well. I value that people took the time to read my work and give me their honest opinions.  I tell them to “be brutal” in saying what doesn’t work, and I mean it.  I cannot work in a vacuum, and together a much better result is achieved.  As they sa,y “No author is an island.”

My advice to fellow authors is to listen with gratitude when someone criticizes your work.  To those who have given me their time and input, I say, “THANK YOU!”

My website is at: http://elaineapowers.com/.

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Rhyming is Required for Picture Books, In My Humble Opinion by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle
“Rattlers have tongues that we flick out and back. We’re not smelling your scent so we can attack. We’re “tasting” the molecules that float in the air, Our Jacobson’s organs determine what is there.”

 

I write children’s books, both adventure tales and picture books. My personal opinion is that picture books should rhyme.  It doesn’t need to be overt rhyming, it can be subtle rhyming, but the text does need to rhyme. However, rhyming alone isn’t enough for a book.  The rhyming text must have a point, purpose, or reason, meaning some lesson must be taught.

The lines and rhyming can be any way you want them to be: a few beats per line, or complete sentences. However, they must be consistent.  You can also arrange the words in a visual pattern for more fun (but no changing patterns within the book).

Even though the text rhymes, the story-line must still have an arc, which builds to a climax.

Please use correct punctuation.  Some poems today are free-form with their punctuation, but when teaching children to read, correct usage is important.

Write a book that children and adults will enjoy reading over and over – that is the ultimate goal. Repetition allows children to learn the language, ideas, and the story-line of the book.

Many people have told me they wanted to write a children’s book. I encourage them all. However, if you’re thinking of writing a “mere” children’s book, know that writing a rhyming picture book is as tedious and as difficult as writing a novel!

“With vibrant illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe, this picture book is jam-packed with scientific facts about roadrunners, delivered in verse form to keep the narrative lively. Roadrunners “…grab their victim/behind its head/And bash it on/the ground until it is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star
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Why Poetry is Important to Children by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A green and blue book cover, with a castle, title: A Child's Garden of VersesI was asked once, What was the first book I remembered reading as a child? It was Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. All through the years, I have enjoyed revisiting my favorite poems. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it is not age dependent. Sharing rhymes creates a special bond between children and adults. Both can learn and enjoy together.

Poetry has been shown to support cognitive development in children. Poetry improves language skills. Interestingly, children learn new words even if they don’t fully understand their meaning at that time. This helps prepare them for academic success, not only through language development, but also by increasing information and confidence. Poetry also improves imagination and creativity, and encourages an interest in reading and, in some people, writing poetry.

The rhythms in poetry are exciting to small children who love to dance and move to the beats and sing rhymes. This continues into adulthood. After all, song lyrics do usually rhyme.

That is why I have written three science-based children’s books in rhyme. It makes learning all about the creatures fun and interesting. Plus, I love vivid, colorful illustrations, which is a trait of my books. I get a lot of oohs and aahs from others, too. You’ll find the rhyming “Don’t” series here.

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle

 

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Terror on the Beach – It got Gnatsy! By Elaine A. Powers, Scriptwriter

A black book cover, with an illustration of a skeleton in a canoe, in a swamp

One morning, when I got out of the car to walk on the beach, I was assaulted. Instantly, I had the feeling of being stabbed by thousands of tiny knives. From my head to my ankles, and everything else exposed, I was being stabbed. I slapped, rubbed and wiggled, but nothing alleviated my torment. I looked at my arm and saw a multitude of tiny black specks – gnats! Due to their small size, they are also called no-see-ums. (Give me a big bulky mosquito any day.) The scientific name of the tiny, black, stabbing specks is Culicoides furens, though I shudder to type it.

I ran for the ocean, hoping to elude these vicious pests and found respite in the onshore ocean breezes as I waded out into the water. But this nasty gnat encounter did bring back memories of similar encounters that had inspired one of my favorite audio/reader’s theater scripts, In the Swamp. The full title is actually In the Swamp No One Can Hear You Scream. At the time I wrote it, the movie Alien was very popular and had the tagline “In space, no one can hear you scream.” I couldn’t resist.

My script tells the story of the investigation of what happened to people whose skeletalized remains are found after they don’t return from a canoe trip in a mangrove swamp in South Florida. Gnats are involved. I wrote the script as a horror-spoof, but half the audience usually feels it is a straight up, full on, frightening horror tale. Either way, it is also a fun romp through the swamp–inspired by true life events. It is one of two audio scripts compiled in my book, Mayhem in Swamp and Snow.

For more information on my scripts, visit www.elaineapowers.com. My scripts are available both as a printed book or as a Kindle e-book.  And performance rights are included with the purchase.

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Writing in Exotic Locales by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Many people go to exotic locations, like the Bahamas, to enjoy the beach and various water-related activities.  I go for inspiration and time to write.  Of course, not all locations are conducive for intensive writing.  Some don’t have a desk.  Or the sun glare is too bright to read the screen.  Then there’s the issue of having electricity accessible to keep your laptop charged.  However, sometimes, the situation comes together to make for a really special place to write.

Bahamian hotel balcony, with wooden fence, table and chairs. Laptop on table.This is the balcony of my room in the Pineapple Fields Resort on Eleuthera. It’s convenient to the beach and the Leon Levy Preserve.

Now if I could just keep my mind on the task at hand and ignore all the stories that are inspired by the location from taking over my writing time! Don’t worry, I made notes. (Ahhh, retirement. So many books to write, so little time.)

View of pool from Bahamian hotel wooden balcony. Blue pool, lush green palms and vegetation, ocean beyondYes, that’s the ocean beyond the pool.

I’ve been told that some writers go into a room with minimum distractions or an office with limited windows to do their work.

I just can’t imagine . . .

Elaine A. Powers is inspired by life and nature. It was a little fellow, well, bigger than her big toe, who climbed onto Elaine’s shoe on a Bahamian beach and hung out for a couple of hours, curling and uncurling his tail. After he left, Elaine went back to her room and the entire story, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, came to her in one sitting. Talk about your destiny calling! She weaves science into fun adventure stories or rhyming stanzas that kids and adults alike simply love. As we say here at Lyric Power Publishing, “Science is Fun!”

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where the tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers.

 

Sneakers on a beach, with a Cury-tail lizard on one of the shoes

Here’s the REAL Curtis who inspired the Curtis Cuirly-tail series of books. Heck, he even has his own YouTube channel now!

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Do You Believe in Omens? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A sunrise in the Bahamas, beach, trees, yellow, pink and purple skyDo you believe in omens, especially of good things about to happen? Or, is it that life is just better and we are more happy and positive when we are experiencing the things we enjoy?

There was the morning I wanted walk the beach at sunrise. I woke up early on my own–no need for the alarm to jar me awake. But as I gathered my keys to head out, I heard the pop-pop-pop of raindrops on my roof. I went out and stood. It was just a few sprinkles, nothing too wetting. Perhaps the sun would burn the clouds off.

When I arrived at the beach–no rain. I marveled at the colors of the sky as the sun rose. The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

Then I turned around. A rainbow stretched across the sky.  I kept backing up but couldn’t get the entire rainbow in one photo, so I’ve pieced it together here.

Composite photo of beautiful Florida rainbow

I had enjoyed a few minutes of walking in the waves when I heard thunder and the raindrops commencing in earnest.  I returned to the car and drove home, the rain getting steadily harder. As I pulled into the driveway, a male Northern cardinal landed on the tree beside me.  As I reached for my phone, the female joined him. Unfortunately, I only have a memory of them. As I entered the house, the heavens opened, releasing a good steady soaking rain.

I knew this is going to be a good writing day.

Elaine A. Powers is both a biologist and musician, two aspects of her nature that culminated in a writing career during her retirement. She creates science-based stories that are fun to read. Her first story was inspired by a Bahamian Curly-tailed lizard who climbed onto her shoe and stayed for a couple of hours–apparently transmitting his story to her! As her animal characters go on adventures, we learn about their habitats and the dangers they face, or she cleverly weaves science facts into rhyme. Her books are beautifully illustrated and loved by children and adults alike. You can see them all here.

A bright green children's book cover, showing a Five-Fingered Fairy riding a Bahamian Boa

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.

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Why the Colorful Illustrations? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Vivid, colorful illustration of a Greater Roadrunner along with rhyming text
From Don’t Make Me Fly by Elaine A. Powers

When writing a story that will be illustrated, the author should ask herself, Who are the illustrations for? Do they convey the book’s message? For example, do they impart important information not fully covered by the text? Will they help sell the book? What style goes with the story?  How will they be created? Colored pencil, pen and ink, water color or pastels? A combination? Illustrations can be cartoonized photographs or actual photographs.  Whatever best helps tell your story.

Hand a child a variety of books, and note which illustrations attract them.  They are usually brightly colored with lots of interesting action. Yet, many children’s books for sale today have simple images, somewhat “artsy” in nature.  That’s because children’s books are often marketed to grandparents, since these are the people who will most likely be purchasing books. I have chosen to use colorful, dramatic, and vivid illustrations because I want children to be attracted to my books so they will learn the science.

Are My Books Fiction or Non-fiction?

My books, although scientifically accurate, are not considered non-fiction.  To be considered non-fiction, publishers prefer photographs to be used and for the book to follow one specific animal. I have found that an illustration (even if it’s only of a photograph) is much more eye-catching and will hold the reader’s attention better. I also have concerns that by not using colorful images, my books would resemble textbooks and be less interesting to the child, i.e., too much like schoolbooks. My goal is to educate while entertaining, because when learning is fun, it is better retained.

A colorful illustration of a pair of roadrunners in a Southwestern Desert
From Don’t Make Me Fly by Elaine A. Powers

My “Don’t” series of books are written in rhyme for the same reason: Scientific information presented in rhyme causes the children to think of the material as song-like, and they enjoy remembering and repeating the rhymes. The science is memorized in this case because it is fun.

The colorful illustrations shown here are from my book, Don’t Make Me Fly, all about the Greater Roadrunner, common to the Southwest.  It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it is equally fun to read.

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Participaintion by Elaine A. Powers, Author

To a writer, there is nothing more terrifying than that blank page waiting to be filled with words. I suspect the same may be true for many artists as they face a blank canvas. 

I was at an art festival in the Bahamas recently.  One of the activities was Participaintion. A blank canvas was set up and acrylic paints were provided. Adults were welcomed to help create a painting. There I was, surrounded by a couple dozen artists, but no one would start the painting.

So, I did.

A white canvas on an easel, with a small three-leafed plant painted at the bottom
The Sprout and Invitation by Elaine A. Powers

The event was at the Leon Levy Plant Preserve. I put  green paint on a brush and created a sprout, three green leaves at the base of the painting. I hoped the painting would grow from there. By the way, I was at the event to help launch my seed adventure, Grow Home, Little Seeds. I thought a sprout was appropriate.

Growth came slowly to the painting. Someone added a swoosh of pinkish-red. Then someone added a plant (much better than mine). A visitor added what was supposed to be a hibiscus bud, but it evolved into a conch shell. 

We see the back of a person in a blue shirt and shorts, standing in front of a white canvas on an easel, painting red lines on the painting.
The bud morphs into a conch shell.

Then the painting burst forth. A face was added and embellished. Bees became birds. The colors were enhanced into an incredible creation.

A painting of plants, a conch shell and blue sky takes form.
More people have stopped and added to the painting.
The painting on the easel now has a side-profile of a colorful human face, and a nearly complete conch shell on the right
A face takes form on the left. The conch shell is looking good.
The colorful group painting is complete, the face on the left looking a part of nature with the completed conch shell and other plants on the right. Two birds fly off the painting in the upper left corner.
The group painting is spectacular!

But if you look closely, you can still see my sprout.

Elaine A. Powers writes science-based children’s adventure stories. One of them is Grow Home, Little Seeds, about a graduating bundle of mixed seeds from the Leon Levy Preserve. They vow to stay together and form their own forest, but their natures lead them in different directions. Will they find what they need to germinate, to put down roots? Join these Bahamian natives on their exploits as these friends each find a place to call home.

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Using Big Words In Kids’ Books by Elaine A. Powers, Author

My books are termed science-based and my intent is to educate while entertaining. Why? I want all readers to learn scientific facts, even the ones who say they don’t like science. The colorful illustrations in my books draw the reader in, as do the stories I tell in rhyme. Who doesn’t love rhymes? And sending curly-tail lizards on their own adventures teaches the reader about the foods the lizards eat, their natural environment and the dangers they face. Curly-tail lizards are very special—in fact, it was Curtis the curly-tail lizard who launched my writing career. 🙂

I also strongly believe that we shouldn’t talk down to children. I think they absorb words, even if they don’t fully understand the meanings when they first hear them, and that the word is planted in their memories. Later on, the terminology won’t be scary. It will be an old friend, encouraging them to learn more science. I include glossaries in some of my books with further information for curious readers.

The Word THERMOREGULATION, with each letter of the word in a different color

One term I use in my book called Don’t Make Me Rattle is THERMOREGULATION. My books are often about reptiles, who need to thermoregulate to function. They obtain their body heat from the environment, often by basking in the sun. This need results in many being killed on roads where they lay at night to obtain a bit more warmth. I was told no way could I use the word thermoregulation in a children’s book. It was too big, too advanced.

But it was the correct word—the only one. Having known toddlers who could tell me the difference between his/her toy dinosaurs, using their proper names, even correcting me when I incorrectly identified them, I concluded children can handle a “big’ word every now and then. It’s never too early to use the correct word—even if it is a big one.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of fun science-based children’s books, including those in the “Don’t” series, which are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to draw the reader into the wonderful world of biology.

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Imaging with Poetry by Elaine A. Powers, Author

An image of a typed poem, with the letters in the shape of the subject of the poem: the X of the roadrunner's footprint and how it confuses any evil spirits that are following.

I enjoy writing the rhymes for my picture books. I believe the flow of the language enhances the reading experience. Besides, rhyming makes science more fun. My illustrators create incredible images to complete the package.  Recently, I was selecting poems for an anthology.  I couldn’t use the text from  an entire picture book, so I was selecting stanzas that could stand alone.

In one of the craft workshops, I learned about positioning the words to enhance the poem’s content.

For my poem about the X-shape of roadrunners’ feet, I decided to try to paint an image with the words. 

What do you think? Does this make the rhyming more fun?

A colorful image of the orange setting sun, clouds and rainbows, along with roadrunner "spirits" chasing the roadrunner of the American Southwest, who gets away because his footprint is directionless.
The rhyming verses and vibrant images of Don’t Make Me Fly capture the reader’s interest and make learning about science interesting and fun.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of science-based children’s books. The “Don’t” Series includes Don’t Make Me Fly, about the Roadrunner, a favorite siting of those residing in the American Southwest.