• Course,  Writing

    The Children’s Book Academy’s Writing Course!

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I LOVE The Children’s Book Academy! I am currently taking The Craft & Business of Illustrating Children’s Books. I loved it so much that I made a video about what I liked about the class: https://youtu.be/TBcMlOHDsDk 

    If you want to jump over to read about the Writing course go here: https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/p/2020-the-craft-and-business-of-writing-childrens-picture-books

    Registration for the CBA’s WRITING class is now open. The Craft & Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books is a fantastic class that will put you in a position to write your best stories. You could be just starting out or have several years under your belt and this class will be for you!

    I personally have taken many illustration and writing courses when I was getting my BFA The classes that Mira Reisberg has everything that a college degree has and more. There is a clear path to take from generating an idea to a finished product. With The Craft & Business of Writing Picture Books every single thing learned can be applied to future work.

    Personally I knew a lot before taking the illustration course. I had a BFA, taken an illustration grad class, was reading picture books for years and had been developing my style for years but things just weren’t clicking. I wasn’t able to shift into the right gear. Now with taking the illustration course twice I feel confident sending my work out into the world. I’m getting way more complements on my illustration work and able to follow through with creating submission ready work!

    The Children’s Book Academy is worth it. I still owe thousands on my student loans and if I could have taken the children’s book academy classes alone I would have! I did not learn more in a classroom setting. And while you may like going to a classroom (nothing wrong with that) you wont get the comprehensive experience you will here!

    At the end of the class there are editors, agents and publishers who will be looking at your work! You could literally end this class with a bang – er well you could end it with an agent or publishing contract. How cool is that? Not only are you trained for a job, but you have a chance of getting a position too

    If you are thinking about this course I’d really encourage you to enroll now. Mira’s one on one critiques are unfortunately sold out which means the classes are filling up fast! Allison Remcheck still has a couple spots less so grab that while you can. Believe me, you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting a critique after you see the first week’s webinar. Join now, and you’ll be glad you did. Let Mira know I sent you! https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/p/2020-the-craft-and-business-of-writing-childrens-picture-books

  • Art,  Writing

    Join Our Free Discord Server!

     I’d like to formally invite you to join my discord server! This server is for both writers and illustrators! This app can be downloaded to your mobile device (both tablet and phone), used in the browser or in the discord app!

    If you are old enough you’ll remember chat rooms. Discord is like that, but better! It’s like a whole chat house of different chat rooms that only select people can access! You never officially leave the room so you can get messages that occur when you aren’t online. You can also share files, images and gifs. 

    I think this server will be a great tool along with our Facebook group to keep our community active and better connected all year round!

    This is a Private server, so please do not post on Social Media.  I would like to keep it to just Smart Dummies followers so please don’t hand this out to everyone. Here is the link to the server: https://discord.gg/JQHZefz

    This link expires after 100 uses. If you find that it’s not working please go to our Smart Dummies Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/

    Or Spring into Writing here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1117605075090170/


  • Art,  Writing

    You’re Invited!

    I would love it if you could come join me on Patreon! I am posting lots of videos and images and posts. Some of the videos are instructional, some are for fun and others videos of me creating art!

    It’s just $1 a month for access to all these posts! It’s not much and you’ll be getting a lot of content every month. Please take a minute to check it out! I have more plans for both Patreon and this blog so stay tuned!


    Below is one of the images I posted recently along with one other patterned image. I’m going to keep making more great posts here, and don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about this blog either. To see more go here: https://www.patreon.com/DaniDuck

  • Art,  Writing

    Give Yourself a Break

    The last couple of days I’ve been feeling really off. I’ve been tired, irritable, so and did I mention tired? I’m sick again for the 3rd time in 2 months (The first two sicks maybe should be considered 1 because I didn’t fully recover on the first antibiotics). In any case I’m not here to complain about my sickness but more to talk about what happens when I get sick.

    When I’m sick I generally try to work through it. I have 2 kids and I have to take care of them if I’m sick and often I do the same thing when working on my art. This leads to me being sicker in the end and I actually get worse because I don’t take that break.

    A bit ago I was worried about doing a book review. Part of the problem was that I don’t understand the full logistics of doing book reviews, and the other part is being sick is making everything harder. It may be that book reviews aren’t my thing and I will look at that again with a clear head. I also don’t HAVE to do a book review right now. It’s not in anyway necessary. I wanted that to be a regular part of my blog, but no one is depending so much on my book reviewing skills that it’s a necessity for me to finish this one review.

    There are times in life where you will have to work through being sick. If you don’t have a strictly enforced deadline then give yourself a break! Only you know when you are sick enough to take that break. Many publishers and workplaces will give you a break if you let them know what’s happening.

    If you are pre-published or working on your next book project then know you can and maybe should take a break if you are really sick. If you have a family emergency you are allowed to take time off. In many cases you will get more done and be under so much less stress if you give yourself a break!

    Be nice to yourself my friends!

  • Art,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    What Are Your Goals for 2020?

    I am making some goals for the coming year. If you know me, you know that I don’t like making resolutions. They are pass and fail. I want to make goals that will help me in my career!

    Are you making goals for the year? You should! Start by making a list of SMART Goals.

    Specific- If your goal is to create some illustrations or some stories, that’s not specific enough. Your goal could be I’m going to write 4 stories. I’m going to finish 3 illustrations. If you need some ideas for stories check out Storystorm: https://taralazar.com/ it’s a great event for coming up with ideas!

    Measurable- You can measure the amount of things you do physically and mentally. If you are doing something with no measurements involved you wont know when you have achieved your goal. 

    Achievable- You can send your work out to 50 agents. You can send your work out to 50 editors. You have no control over how those agents and editors will react to your work. At least you can do your best to make your work strong, but art is subjective and maybe someone else will like it and maybe they wont. Make sure your goals are focused on things you can completely control. 

    Relevant- Make sure your goals are relevant to your ultimate goals! It might seem like a good idea to write a short story for an anthology or help a friend out with an illustration, but neither of those things are likely to bring you closer to finishing your work!

    Time- Try to have time limits for your goals! Make sure that you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get things done, but do limit yourself. It will put some pressure on you to finish in a reasonable time. 

    Work on your goals for the coming year this week and let me know what you come up with!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies,  Writing

    Editing Your Story

    There was something wrong with the “Make Your Marks and Splashes” link I sent out this morning. It’s changed now on the post, but here is the new link if you want: https://illustratechildrensbooks.com/childrens-book-illustration-school-fall-2019/?affiliate=daniduck

    I have a few tips that helps me with editing. I’m going to post these below. These are general rules and there may be exceptions. I also asked my friends to give me their favorite sites for Writing and Editing. I will be posting those links below!

    Editing Tips

    Picture Books are 500 Words or Less – Less is more and I’ve heard of trends of 250 words or less. Here are some more kidlit wordcounts: https://kidlit.com/2009/11/13/manuscript-length/  I am uncertain about exact numbers Graphic Novels for kids, they can be Picture Book in page length to a couple hundred pages (for Adults)

    Humans Repeat Themselves –  Look for repetitive words in your manuscripts. This can help reduce your word count and help keep your story fresh page after page.

    Don’t use Illustration Notes: Only use them if you need that note as an important descriptor to the text. If it’s important that your main character is wearing a long sleeve shirt, because they are doing a magic trick later, then keep the note. Not every manuscript needs art notes! If you are an illustrator it is okay to use art notes for your own personal use!

    Describe Only What Needs Describing: Picture books should have little or no description. Outside of this there is still the habit of describing too much. The balance of this can be tricky. Your character is travelling from their house to the library. Maybe mention the leaving home and entering the library. The audience doesn’t need to hear how the MC got into the car, buckled their seat belt, spent 15 minutes picking a song, and how the drive was to the library. Anything mentioned about the vehicle should be a literary vehicle to move the story from one place to the next as quickly as possible.  

    Get a Critique Group: Or individuals who can help you with your story. You might have several people in your group or you might just do a swap with a friend. Critique groups are one of the best ways to get a second opinion on your work. Critique groups for Smart Dummies are opening soon!

    Extra Resources

    Mary Kole’s Blog https://kidlit.com/
    See writing and illustrating resources page on writersrumpus.com. 
    Also kidlit 411 has a lot of links to resources http://www.kidlit411.com/.


    The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Words-Writing-Children-Adults/dp/039329224X/

  • Smart Dummies,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    Marla Lesage — Picture Book Layout

    To start out the community blog posting, Marla Lesage has found a great post on her site. This is all about picture book layout! You can find out more about this on her blog post here: https://marlalesage.com/2019/08/12/picture-books-length-layout/

    Have an art process you want to share with the rest of the Smart Dummies community? Let me know below or go to my contact me page!

  • Smart Dummies,  Writing

    A New Cinderella Story

    I want to give some more information about taking a Public Domain story and making it into your own story. You don’t need to edit the story. If the story is written by a specific person you would put them as a writer on your book. The Cinderella I’m using in this example was published by George Routledge and Sons. The author of the story is anonymous. You can find a copy of the story here in many formats:  https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/23303 

    This story is very close to that of Disney’s Cinderella. I’m going to be transcribing my notes under each picture in case you have trouble seeing the pictures or reading my writing. If you can’t read the picture please click the link above and download a version you can read! If you’ve read/seen Cinderella you will not need to download the story to understand these notes.

     Want to join Smart Dummies? Here is the link so you can sign up: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/


    Before the story think about what can be changed. Can the setting be different? How about the style? Could this be a steampunk Cinderella or Cinderella in space? (Like Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Illustrated by Meg Hunt.)

    Which details are important for your story? I highlighted a lot of things I felt were “important”. Using the quotation marks because some of them were less important and more iconic in the way we think of Cinderella. Also to see what could be changed in the story. 

    History Highlights: Did her mom really need to die? Did her step sisters need to be terrible?

    Text says “She bore all her troubles with patience”. How boring is this? Should she have been patient and internalize all her struggles? I don’t know if that’s a good lesson.

    The Ball:  How could my ball be different?

    The Godmother: Is there something else she could be?

    Description of Cinderella’s Carriage: Does she need all this stuff?

    Description of Cinderella’s Clothing: Could her shoes be something else? What else could she leave behind? Maybe she doesn’t need to leave anything behind.

    Clock Striking 12: Could a different limit (time or otherwise) work just as well? Maybe she’s not limited but has another reason to leave. What would have happened if she had stayed.

    The Entrance: I used orange for the part of the Prince welcoming Cinderella and how everyone was amazed by her. We get it, she’s pretty. Does that even matter? What if she was ordinary?

    The Prince: The prince seems to be more of a background character in this story. Which is weird because Cinderella falls for him. What did the prince say to Cinderella at the ball. How is he so important and yet completely unimportant. What if his role was bigger? What if he was vital to the story?


    Lost Slipper: I didn’t write notes on this, but the prince says he’s going to marry whoever can wear the slipper. He talked to Cinderella two nights in a row. That’s a bit much!

    Pocket Slipper: Cinderella has the other slipper in her pocket. I’m wondering if some other move could be just as impactful.

    Final Thoughts: How much can ge changed in this story and it still be seen as Cinderella? Does the story need to be seen as Cinderella. You might get your inspiration from a fairy tale like Cinderella but it could end up your story is not like the original. That’s okay too!

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Winners!

    Is anyone else sad that Spring into Writing is over? I’m sad! Also happy because I can move on to other things!


    Have 3 minutes to fill out a survey about Spring into Writing? https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/P2R5B9Q

    Want to help out with Spring into Writing? Donate: https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies 

    Or on Kofi: ko-fi.com/daniduck



    Donated by Becky Aren’t “The Coloring Book for Writers” by
    Linda Faulkerson. 

    The winner is: DEBRA M DAUGHERTY!


    Melissa Stoller donated 3 books and the winners are:

    The Enchanted Snow Globe — BECKY AREN’T 

    The Magic Paintbrush — LAURI MEYERS

    Ready, Set, Gorilla! — LAURA HARTMAN


    Congratulations everyone!


    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going, and 

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Finish Line

    Spring into Writing is unfortunately done for this year. Well the actual event is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun with our writing. There are some things I didn’t find time to talk about for the event and I fully plan on talking about them throughout the year. I will be announcing winners soon so you still have a little time to go back and comment on the posts you’ve missed. I hope you’ve enjoyed Spring into Writing! Let me know below what you’ve achieved this month. 

    I will be taking down the booklet at the end of this month, so download it now here: https://www.daniduck.com/spring-into-writing/

    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going. It also takes a lot of time to make the booklets for these events. I want to keep the downloads free for everyone. If you are able please consider donating:

    https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies (There are levels where you can get booklets sent to you every year).

    One time donations: https://ko-fi.com/A484NS9


    Thank you all for being a part of

    Spring into Writing 2019!