January 9, 2013

Would You Read It Wednesday #71 - Civil (MG Fantasy/Adventure) AND A Huge Announcement!

Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

Months have I slaved in secrecy, awaiting the moment to unveil my latest hair-brained scheme, and what should happen?  It accidentally gets unveiled elsewhere before I got to tell you!

I'm kind of hoping most of you didn't see it... but I know some of you did because you told me!  And on the off chance you did... or might... I thought you really ought to hear about it here first - straight from the horse's mouth, as it were :)  (I know - first with the cat, now the horse, all this ridiculous cliche...!  Sorry, it's nerves :))

So, slightly before I am truly ready, I will share my long-kept secret!

Ready?  (Steady now!  Deep breath...)

2013 is the first year since 1987 to have four different numbers!

Hee hee.  That is actually true but it's not my long-kept secret.  I'm just foolin' with you :)

Seriously, are you ready?

What's that?  You need Something Chocolate?  Well of course you do!  It's Wednesday!  Go get something.  I'll wait.  In fact, here, let me offer you some Monkey Cake!
Photo copyright Stacy S. Jensen 2012 used by permission
Mm mm good and chocolaty!!!

Now then, ready for the secret?

Frankly, I'm a little afraid to tell you in case you don't think it's as fun as I do.  Maybe that's why I've been hemming and hawing, tweaking and perfecting and generally mucking about and finding reasons not to tell you.  But the time has come.  Stiff upper lip and all that.  (See?  There's the cliche again!  It's like a disease... a disease of nerves! :))

Last May I thought to myself, you know, self? I think I'd like to write a writing course.  I know a little about writing and a little about teaching, and I would like to share with people who would like to learn.

So I got to work and, in between other writing and blogging and taking our son to visit every college on the eastern seaboard and westward into Ohio this summer and on into fall... and then winter..., I wrote a course on how to write picture books.  I polished and tweaked and roped in some beta testers (who shall not be named to protect the innocent but you all know them :))  I added lessons and took lessons away, turned some lessons into supplements and some supplements into lessons.  I reached out to 10 talented artists who very kindly contributed their fabulous work at a fraction of its worth to decorate the lessons and inspire my hopefully someday students.

And the result is my little writing course:  Making Picture Book Magic!  (I wish I could make that sparkle or something!  How about we all pretend it's sparkling? :))  Look!  Here's the awesome  header graphic designed by our own fantastic Loni Edwards!
illustration copyright Loni Edwards 2012
Making Picture Book Magic is designed to fit into a busy life-style and be fun, friendly, and affordable.  Each lesson will be delivered in a manageable-sized piece by email.  I did not reinvent the wheel, but I hope I do have something to offer that isn't quite like anything else out there.  It is my opinion, for what it's worth :), that it's helpful to take multiple courses if you can because different people say things and explain things in different ways, and sometimes one way will make more sense to you than another.  Different courses stress different things and offer different exercises, resources and experiences.  There are lots of great writing courses available - Emma Walton Hamilton's, Anastasia Suen's, the Institute Of Children's Literature's (which I took many years ago) just to name a few.  But I'd like to be able to add mine to the mix in case it's helpful.  And by working hard to make it affordable, I'm hoping it will be an option for lots of people.  You will note that there is now a tab in the header above.  You may click on it, or HERE, and learn all about the course if you are interested.

But in case you aren't, I won't go on about it any longer now.  It's time for Would You Read It!!!

Today's pitch comes to us from Wendy.  In what seems like a former life, Wendy was a middle school science teacher and principal. Now a writer and mom, she has published several personal essays and articles on parenting and education. When she is not pulling her sons around the backyard on a sled (100 laps on a recent afternoon), she works on her middle grade novel and her blog, The Family That Reads Together.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Civil
Age/Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy Adventure
The Pitch:  Five seventh graders--a sensitive ballplayer, a new student from Africa, a feared social outcast, a popular cheerleader, and a 9-year-old technical genius--are invited to join a secret time-traveling society. Soon, they must work together to chase an enemy through the bloody battlefields of Gettysburg, an increasingly dystopian Washington, DC, and their own dangerous school hallways. Charlie, Thabo, LV, Adriana, and Caitlin fight against time to restore history, rebuild a country, and survive middle school.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Wendy improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in February, so you have time to polish :) for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Wendy is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  And I am looking forward to getting the finishing touches done on my course just in case anyone ever wants to take it!

Oh, and if you haven't signed up yet but you'd still like to, the Free Virtual Conference runs until Saturday the 12th (one more expert was added) so hop over and check it out!

Have a supercalafragilisticexpialidocious kind of day, everyone :)



Reactions:

84 comments:

  1. A big chocolatey hug. i think this is wonderful news, and you are so right that covering similar material in different ways is helpful for us. The price is also very reasonable. Congratulations on your course! What a super group of illustrators, too.

    Mine is a yes today for the pitch, but it feels a little long to me. I don't think the names need be mentioned, especially as the characters have already been described.

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  2. Thank you for your support, my lovely first commenter of the day, and for not saying this is the worst idea you've ever heard and what was I thinking! :) And thank you for your helpful comment for Wendy - you make a good point.

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  3. POSTED FOR LAURA at http://lauramarcella.blogspot.com

    Oh my goodness yes! That book sounds awesome! I love time travel. :)

    Congrats on your writing course!! That's really exciting!

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  4. Congrats, Susanna, on Making Picture Book Magic! I am very glad you'll be offering it monthly, as I am too booked right now so relieved I can give it a whirl in the near future. AS for "Civil" a great title! And intriguing topic. It's a definite YES from me.

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  5. Thanks Laura! Time travel has been fun to write about, although I'm not sure I knew how much historical research I was getting into when I started. ;) But that's been fun, too!

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  6. Being in the writing cave, I haven't had a chance to keep up with much of anything so I'm pleased to read your announcement of your writing course. I think you are the perfectly-pitched person to put such a course together. Three cheers!!

    As for the adventure story. Why yes, yes I would. I'm an adventure kind of gal. Some of the details seemed a bit much but they helped in formulating the motley crew in my head.

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  7. Thank you! If you only knew how long it took me to get it that short! ;) I do agree with you, just not sure what to take out--other than the names; that's a good suggestion. I was worried it would sound too impersonal without them. But maybe it's redundant.

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  8. Thank you! Trying to balance enough detail with too much was tricky for me.

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  9. I love the course! I have a few picture books that are in the proverbial desk drawers and that I keep getting out to dust every once in awhile. Maybe if I took your course I could do more than "dust" them! Will definitely be looking into it. Great idea!

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  10. delores @ thefeatherednestJanuary 9, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    I think I would read it. I love the idea of time travel. The title would not appeal to me though and the pitch does seem a bit cumbersome. Is there a way to tighten up the pitch and make the title more reflective of the books adventurous theme?

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  11. Just what I was going to say, Joanna. Eliminating the names would help as the pitch seems a little long. Sounds like a great story, though!

    Susanna- congrats on your new venture! Great idea!!!

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  12. Susanna your course sounds awesome.

    As for the pitch, I'm definitely intrigued and would read it! I do have a couple of suggestions. What if you tried recruited instead of invited (something to make it sound like their special). I don't really understand why they have to chase this enemy. I don't know enough to care at this point. Instead tell us what is at stake (I gather from the last sentence that something terrible is going to happen if they don't stop this enemy) Give us a hint of what the terrible thing is then I'll understand why they have to chase this person(s). I think you could cut the names as we don't really need to know that as well get to know them in the book and you already introduced them in the beginning. I hope that helps.

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  13. I really like the story idea. I like that you've quickly described the students, but I wonder if the names are necessary. I'd like to know more about the enemy.
    As for the course, I'm signed up. How you do all that you do (seriously shaking my head). You are wonderful. I wish you much success! Thanks!

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  14. I am intrigued by the pitch, but not totally drawn in. I think what is missing for me is the stakes. Why does it matter if they are part of this group or not? Would the story be different if they turned down the "invitation" and left it to someone else? Why does this matter to THEM? Love time travel books though and wish you luck with it!

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  15. I like the idea, but the pitch doesn't do it justice. How about:


    What happens when a disparate band of seventh graders are catapulted back in time to the bloody battlefields of Gettysburg? How will they survive the dangerous hallways of their own school? Join Charlie, Thabo, LV, Adriana, and Caitlin as they fight against time to restore history, rebuild a country, and survive middle school.


    Best of luck!


    Linda A. Benson

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  16. Meow! I like the cat that you let out of the bag! What an awesome idea! I know you will be a great teacher and everything I've seen you do is such quality.

    The pitch? I would be a yes. I love dystopian, so that is appealing. I agree that you could remove the names from the pitch to help tighten it. (I am curious about the 9 year old being in seventh grade...is that because he is a genius??? because he should be in fourth grade. And...this is just a suggestion that hit me as I was reading...it might be interesting to have the kid from Africa be an exchange student instead of a new student. I just thought it would add a different element...being away from his family and all..but you may already have the whole book written. Oh well, I thought I would throw that out there. And they may not even have exchange students that young.)

    And give that monkey cake a banana! Yum!

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  17. I'm a maybe, partly because this isn't usually the sort of thing I'd read, and partly because the pitch didn't quite pull me in. I like some of the suggestions below for both tightening the pitch and raising the stakes in the pitch. I find pitches such a hard thing to get a handle on, myself, that I have no suggestions of my own.


    Your course sounds great, Susanna! I'm up to my ears in Middle Grade at the moment, but I may do it at some point. All the best to you!

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  18. Thanks for your thoughtful comments for Wendy, Beth! And if you figure out MG, you can teach me how to do that!

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  19. Thanks for the comment! I agree it needs to be tightened and I appreciate the question about the 9yo--yes, she has skipped grades. :) And thanks for the exchange student idea, too--I think that would add an interesting dimension. I do have the book written, but there's always editing! Or that could be for another book!

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  20. Thank you Linda! I love the action that comes across in your rewrite. I was so focused on taking out words that I don't think I saw the pitch as a whole yet. But you have given me some excellent feedback and I will definitely take that to heart. I think I can use your ideas to make the pitch a lot stronger. Thank you so much!

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  21. Very good point. I think the stakes are something that got taken out in an attempt to shorten it. Or at least, the stakes got shortened into "restore history, rebuild a country" which is not necessarily self-explanatory. :) Thank you! And I particularly like your questions about why it matters to them and why they specifically are invited...Ah, so many things to think about!

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  22. "Recruited" is a great idea--you get right to the point about how I could make it clear that they are special, which they are. And I also agree that I need to make it more clear why they have to chase the enemy and what the stakes are. Thank you!

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  23. Yes! I've been told recently that my title is awful. Which might be true. :) I have a list of about 100 ideas. I guess I need to pick another one!

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  24. Thanks! I think knowing more about the enemy, or the stakes, as some others mentioned, is a good idea. I really appreciate your feedback!

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  25. Thanks so much Beth! I will definitely work on tightening the pitch and raising the stakes!

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  26. Ha! Someone that likes my title! :) Thanks and I appreciate your comment.

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  27. Congrats on your course! I"m in of course. Pun intended. :)


    Love your chocolate monkey but ate chocolate cream pie and I'm slightly sick with my mocha, too. :)


    As far as the pitch, I would read it. I think to do away with the names is a good idea bc Caitlin is the hero of the Hunger Games and not a good choice for anything right now. Also I like the idea of one of them being an exchange student. The more tight version I saw below is a much better pitch and after that I don't have anything to add. :)

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  28. Thanks so much. I didn't even think about Caitlin's name that way. That's why it's so helpful to get everyone's opinion. I really appreciate your time!

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  29. Oh, yay! I'm glad you like the sound of the course, Linda :) And thanks so much for your comments for Wendy! :)

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  30. Thank you for your vote of confidence, Angela! :) and I hope things in the writing cave are going swimmingly! And thanks also for your encouraging comments for Wendy :)

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  31. Woo-hoo Susanna! I can't believe you managed all you have this year, without skipping a beat here (I can't remember who phrased it "Susanna's House", but it IS!). Hair-brained, in secrecy, in depth (and in chocolate) - you ARE Wonder Woman!

    I would read it because I LOVE history! But I would also suggest leaving out the names (last part of that sentence packs a punch though!) I like Linda's suggestion too, because the only other thing I was left hanging with was WHY they were invited (just seems unlikely) so the way Linda used 'catapulted' solves that need to know for me!

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  32. Oh, yay, Wendy! I hope you join us! We are going to have tons of fun :)

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  33. Thanks so much for chiming in, Delores! :)

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  34. Thanks for your thoughts for Wendy, Iza! And thanks for your kind words about the course! Want to join me? You can teach illustration and rhyme :)





























    Iza Trapani (unregistered) wrote, in response to Joanna Marple:

    Just what I was going to say, Joanna. Eliminating the names would help as the pitch seems a little long. Sounds like a great story, though!
    Susanna- congrats on your new venture! Great idea!!!


    Link to comment
    IP address: 24.161.87.145

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  35. I'm so glad you like the sound of the course, Rena, and thanks so much for your thoughtful, articulate comments for Wendy! :)

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  36. First, that monkey cake is THE cutest thing, ever! What a talent Stacy is. Next, Hooray for Making Picture Book Magic! I'd like to think the little brown girl is me! :) Oh how I wish I could have been better/more help for you. This is going to be quite successful and resourceful for all who participate.



    Now for the pitch. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN! Yes, I'd read this book. I'm conflicted about the title. I mean, it piqued my interest, somewhat. However, I"m not sure I would have picked it up in the bookstore. Still, that word Civil leads the mind to wonder. Nevertheless, Wendy this book of yours sounds like a fun, intriguing read. Having read what the story is about, I'd buy it today for our afterschoolers!

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  37. Thank you for sharing your thoughts for Wendy, Stacy, and thanks so much for your kind words and good wishes for the course - I really appreciate them! - and I'm so excited you signed up! I think (hope!) it will be fun!

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  38. Thank you so much, Penny - you are so kind! I'm glad you like the idea :) Thanks for your helpful comments for Wendy too :) Going to get a banana.... :)

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  39. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and helpful re-wording, Linda!

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  40. POSTED FOR SHAR at http://sharannmohr.wordpress.com

    Congrats and best wishes on Making Picture Book Magic! I added the link to my website as a resource for picture book writers. http://wp.me/P2XJvM-9

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  41. Thank you so much, Shar! I really appreciate that!

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  42. The pitch had me at dystopian. :)
    And CONGRATS on Making Picture Book Magic. By default you are already the Queen of All Things Picture Book in my mind, so it's only natural. :)

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  43. Thank you for your encouragement for Wendy! And you know, I have really always aspired to be the queen of something, so picture books it is! I'll take it! :) Thank you so much for your vote of confidence Coleen :)

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  44. So is a crown of chocolate donuts too impractical?

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  45. I know it, Pam! Isn't Stacy amazing?! An awesome cook and photographer as well as writer! The little brown girl is you if you want it to be :) and you were a HUGE help - you know I couldn't have done it without you! Thank you so much for your helpful and encouraging comments for Wendy! :)

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  46. Well, you-who-have-been-in-on-the-secret at least for a little while, thank you for the woo-hoo! Are you happy with your photo/bio on the course page? And wow! Wonder Woman from you, Queen from Coleen - I'm feeling quite the superhero and may have to go on a quest for world domination :) Thank you for your very thoughtful comments for Wendy!

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  47. Glad to hear that. Someone told me recently that dystopian had run its course. :)

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  48. Thank you so much for your awesome words! I do need to think more on the title...

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  49. Thanks! These comments are so helpful, knowing both what to take out and what to leave in.

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  50. Gosh I hope not! I love dystopian! :)






























    Wendy Lawrence wrote, in response to coleen patrick:

    Glad to hear that. Someone told me recently that dystopian had run its course. :)

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  51. I believe that depends on whether the Queen of Picture Books is sitting in a sunny spot or beside the fire, or if she is out in the frigid winter air where chocolate donuts do not melt and turn her golden tresses brown! :)





























    coleen patrick wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    So is a crown of chocolate donuts too impractical?


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  52. POSTED FOR KIM MURRAY

    I'm so glad you are offering a PB writing course, Susanna! I think you are the perfect instructor for the job:) I can't wait to check it out. However, I've totally over-committed myself this new year but am glad to know it's a monthly offering. I will be back at some point later in the year to enroll. As for the Pitch - YES - I would read it. I love MG and time travel!

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  53. Thanks so much, Kim! I'll look forward to having you join us later in the year when you have more time! And thanks so much for your comments for Wendy!

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  54. Thanks, Clar! I'm so glad you like the idea of the course and you're signing up! Maybe save the chocolate monkey cake for lunch :) And thanks for your comments for Wendy! (Although Wendy, the heroine of The Hunger Games is actually Katniss, which is similar to Caitlin but not exactly the same.)

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  55. Very helpful about the stakes, Wendy, thanks for chiming in for Wendy! :)

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  56. POSTED FOR JULIE HEDLUND at http://www.juliehedlund.com

    Susanna, this is incredible! I'm so impressed! Make sure you post this information on the 12 x 12 Forum under Member Events. That's what it's there for!

    Sounds amazing!

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  57. Thank you so much, Julie! I so appreciate your support! :)

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  58. Thank you! It's great to hear that so many people like time travel!

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  59. Ok. I will keep in mind that you draw the line at chocolate tresses. :)
    All of a sudden I feel like we are brainstorming a picture book. You ARE good Susanna.

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  60. Oh Susanna, where do I start? I know, I'll start with Stacey's mouth-watering, chocolate masterpiece. Stacey, you've out done yourself. Simply marvelous!
    I'm sorry to hear someone let the cat out of the bag. It wasn't me, honest. But now that it is, congratulations on offering a Children's Writing course :-) I'm in.
    I want to thank you so much for asking me to be part of your venture.
    Loni, your cover art is wonderful!
    Wendy, I can't offer much help as I don't read fantasy.
    Susanna, I'll be sure to promote your new course on my blog. :-)

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  61. I would definitely read this! Had me at "secret time travel" - so.... and five diverse kids.... and Gettysburg.

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  62. Thanks! The kids are my favorite part of the book. :) And glad to hear someone that likes Gettysburg, too; I'm always worried about history turning people off...

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  63. Susanna, many congratulations & thanks for putting together what looks like a wonderful course. Look forward to taking it in the spring!

    YES, I definitely would read Wendy's MG book. Love time travel! Also love how you group restoring history, rebuilding the country & surviving middle school together. I am intrigued, though, about the identity of the person(s) or group(s) that put the group together & wonder whether anyone else would like to see that person/group identified in the pitch.

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  64. Thank you! Yes, it is a balance trying to figure out what to leave in and what to leave out. Maybe calling the group by name would help. At any rate, I will think on your suggestions and I really appreciate your comment!

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  65. Thank you so much, Patricia! I'll look forward to having you join the fun in the spring :) And thank you so much for your comment for Wendy - interesting idea about the group!
    Susanna Leonard HillChildren's AuthorWebsiteBlogFace Book PageTwitter

    Subject: [susannaleonardhillblog] Re: Susanna Leonard Hill: Would You Read It Wednesday #71 - Civil (MG Fantasy/Adventure) AND A Huge Announcement!

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  66. I'll lure you into my kingdom yet, Coleen :)






























    coleen patrick wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Ok. I will keep in mind that you draw the line at chocolate tresses. :) All of a sudden I feel like we are brainstorming a picture book. You ARE good Susanna.

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  67. WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WANT TO JOIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh, by the way, I would love to read the book! I love dystopian and time-travel!

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  68. I love time travel! Bring it on! I would definitely read her book! :)

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  69. Wow, Erik! Thanks for your enthusiasm! I heard you all the way from Pennsylvania! :) And thanks for your comments for Ms. Lawrence :)

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  70. Congratulations Susanna! I think you are a born teacher and am delighted to see you take this step. Right now I am doing all I can do to keep a balance between writing, 12x12m blogging and my meditative work. I may try it a little later.


    I love time travel, and would read it. It's so hard to write a pitch and I think it needs tightening. Others have given some great suggestions.

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  71. Thanks for your kind words and vote of confidence, Pat! :) You've got a full plate for sure - good luck with everything! - and of course you are welcome at any time it fits your schedule :) And thanks for your thoughts for Wendy! :)

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  72. It all really sounds great, doesn't it Sue? THanks so much for your comment for Wendy!

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  73. Thanks for your glowing enthusiasm, Tracy! I so appreciate it! :) (And I know Stacy does too :)) And I appreciate you being a good secret-keeper, since you've known about this for ages since your art is included! I hope it's all going to be really fun! :)

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  74. Wonderful title for your course! Best of luck with it.


    And, if it's not premature to do so, talk it up in your interview on Friday. Try not to sound like a guinea pig when you do. ;)

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  75. Thank you for your kind words, Nancy! And I will really try not to sound like a guinea pig but it may be out of my control... eek eek! :)

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  76. Thanks for your thoughts! I will definitely keep working on it!

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  77. I would totally read it, and I like the fact that the characters are so different. I would be interested to see how they interact and work together.


    As for the course, I have always wanted to know more about the whole "children's books should be in multiples of 8 pages" kind of stuff. I know how to write the poems, but I need to know what the parameters are as far as appealing to publishers. Does your course give those tips about format and such?

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  78. Thank you so much for your comments for Wendy, Susan! And as for the course, yes, it covers format. I hope it covers everything important you need to know to write a picture book :)

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  79. Hi there! I would read it. I had one thought...the descriptors of the characters interrupt the flow of the first sentence. I know you are trying to show various "types" pulling together. Could use those in the last sentence instead of the names? And Susanna, you know how I feel about your course. :)

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  80. Thanks for your helpful comments for Wendy, Kirsten, and for your very kind feelings about the course :)

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