• 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!

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Picture Book Inspiration Julie Hedlund — Plus a Prize!

    Julie Hedlund is just fantastic. She not only creates picture books but she has some wonderful programs to help writers to create their picture books. I have met most of my current critique group members (for both writing and illustration) though her 12×12 event. The 12×12 is a year long challenge that helps picture book creators to write 12 manuscripts in 12 months. On top of this she has helped create the Picture Book Submission System (which I have and it’s wonderful) and the Picture Book Summit!

    Julie Hedlund’s 12×12: http://12x12challenge.com/

    Dani Duck: What’s one thing that all writers should do?


    Julie Hedlund: Write. And write and write and write and write and write. Yes, there are plenty of other things that will help you become a better writer (reading, taking classes, etc.), but the only way to truly improve and hone your voice is to write. A lot. 


    Dani: How does the 12×12 help picture book creators?

    Julie: Speaking of the advice above to write,12 x 12 is a place that provides accountability to get the writing done by setting the goal of completing one picture book draft per month. It’s also where accountability meets massive amounts of support. There’s a Facebook group to get questions answered immediately, a Forum to get feedback on manuscripts, and monthly webinars to both inspire and inform.

    Dani: What’s your favorite thing about the 12×12?

    Julie: The members! It’s amazing to be surrounded by such lovely, generous, talented people who are on the same journey. Their energy keeps me going through my own writing slumps.

    Dani: How is the Picture Book Submission system different than other courses out there?

    Julie: The Complete Picture Book Submission System is the only step-by-step, soup-to-nuts guide to crafting standout picture book submissions. Picture books are a unique format that require different things in submissions than do longer, un-illustrated works. Everything in the System is specific to picture books – how to format different types, how to use art notes, finding agents who represent PBs, finding picture book specific comp titles, etc.

    Dani: Why should people take part in the Picture Book Summit?

    Julie: It’s a blast! Seriously, though, it’s the only full-day conference of its caliber I know of that is entirely online (saving travel costs and time away from home), It includes submission opportunities AND gives you access to the replays from the entire conference for a full four months afterward. You don’t even have to attend live and you still get everything. Plus we have dance parties. How do we do that online? Join us and find out! 😉


    Follow Julie: 

    12×12 Challenge website & blog: http://12x12challenge.com

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieFHedlund

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieFHedlund

    Website:  http://www.juliehedlund.com/

    The Complete Picture Book Submission System: https://picturebooksubmissions.com/

    Picture Book Summit: http://picturebooksummit.com/

    My Love For You is the Sun: https://www.amazon.com/Love-You-Sun-Julie-Hedlund/dp/0989668835/r


    Prize @%@%@%@%@%


    One lucky winner will win a copy of  “The Coloring Book for Writers” by
    Linda Faulkerson! This prize is generously donated by Becky Aren’t! 

    To win this prize: 

    Tell Julie how you liked her post in a comment.

    Also be sure to thank Becky for this prize in your comment!

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Another Look at “Where it All Happens”

    I wanted to give you a quick look at what your rooms can look like. This comes from pages 12-19 in the Spring into Writing workbook. Don’t have the workbook you can download it here: https://www.daniduck.com/spring-into-writing/

    Below is a new room I created! The room my son and I created for the video is still up on the Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1117605075090170/ 

    While I was doing this I learned that it’s probably better to add in your notes with sticky notes/note cards. What I want in this picture can change at any time, so I don’t want any of it to be permanent. After I put in the pot lights I regretted it. I may not want them to be a part of my final room!


    If you find you don’t like a part of your room then just start over with a fresh background. If you have just taped or used pushpins in your image things should be easy to change. Since I had to remove the big image that David and I did from the cardboard backing I ended up taping everything to the background with masking tape. That way I can still move things around if we want.

    Upper Right Corner
    Lower Left Corner
    Upper Right Corner
    Lower Right Corner
  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Jennifer Ward: Avian Writer

    Jennifer Ward is the author of over 20 kids books including “Mama Built a Little Nest” and “Mama Dug a Little Den”. I was lucky enough to meet Jennifer at the Children’s Book Academy’s “The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books”. Jennifer Ward was encouraged by her Illustrator Steve Jenkins to take the class and I’m so glad she did. She is an amazing illustrator and I can’t wait to see her illustrate some of her future books!

    You can see more of Jennifer’s work on her website at: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com


    _MG_2025 (1)
    nest cover

    Dani Duck: How did your time as a teacher influence how you write now?

    Jennifer Ward: I am a naturalist and have a degree in education with a minor in science. As a teacher, I used picture books to enhance all subject areas of curriculum, including science. Reading picture books daily helped me to “know” picture books. I found myself creating my own picture books to use with my students to share scientific concepts  – expository nonfiction books that were simply made for classroom use when I couldn’t find books on the market with science concepts I wanted to convey. It’s exciting to see how the market of expository nonfiction has grown since my teaching days!

    Dani: Which bird most represents who you are? Which bird would you like to be? 

    Jennifer Ward: Hmmm. Perhaps a Carolina Wren represents my personality – they are SO curious about everything around them, and so am I. If I had to be a bird, I think I’d choose to be an American Crow. They’re family oriented, with multiple generations living together year after year, intelligent, and have a more varied diet than most bug-eating songbirds!


    Dani: What is the most fun you’ve ever had writing?

    Jennifer Ward:The most fun I have writing is when I experience that “aha!” moment. You know, that epiphany moment when the right words surface to make something work – such as the perfect ending to a story. Writing isn’t always like that, so it’s always a “rush”, or fun, when it all comes together as I envisioned.

    Dani: Why is STEM so important?

    Jennifer Ward: It’s important that we provide students authentic opportunities to explore, wonder, question, create, problem solve and practice STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), that they may pursue careers related to STEM. As our world becomes more populated and natural resources decrease, I believe the health and vitality of our planet and its populations will depend on creative and innovative STEM focused minds.


    Dani:  What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about writing?


    Jennifer Ward: Writing involves A LOT of thinking, and sometimes thinking is hard – especially when you’re trying to make a picture book story. Sometimes a story works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Some picture books may happen quickly; some may take years. Writing is truly a process, and a creative one. 


    Follow Jennifer:

    Website: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenwardbooks

    Momma Built a Little Nest: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com/nest.html

    Momma Dug a Little Den: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com/den.html

    More of Jennifer Ward’s Books: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com/books.html



  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Jennifer Cole Judd’s Train to Creativity

    I love Jennifer Cole Judd’s work so much! I’m so glad that I get to have her on my blog once again. Years ago I received a copy of Circus Train from her. You might be looking at the cover and think “Is this book actually as beautiful as it looks?” Yes, yes it is, both words and pictures are absolutely wonderful.  

    Jennifer talks a lot about creativity, writing tips and all kinds of fun things! I hope this interview keeps you smiling as you go into the weekend.

    Jennifer Cole Judd’s Website: http://jennifercolejudd.com/


    Dani: What do you do when you aren’t feeling so creative?


    Jennifer: Creativity sometimes feels like a magical fairy or leprechaun. As soon as I decide that I *need* to be creative, that little muse backflips into a pile of laundry, or emails, or errands, (or Facebook posts and Acorn TV shows) and *poof*! She’s gone. For a looooong time. 

    However, there are a few things that help me find my creativity again.
    First, I cannot recommend Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY enough for a serious study in cultivating creativity. It’s a must-read for anyone pursuing a creative field. Cameron advocates writing “morning pages” each day (where you fill up three pages of brain noise–complete rush-write nonsense–to clear your brain clutter and unblock your creativity).I recommend grabbing a copy of this book, and a blank notebook, and see what happens when you dump all of the worries and distractions from your mind onto the page.  It sounds easier than it is! But getting all of that out gives you room to breathe creatively.

     The other thing that helps me is to take my creativity OFF the page (or the screen). These are what I like to call “creativity breaks,” and they really help get the juices flowin’ again, so to speak. A creativity break  could look a little like this: 

    1) Taking a walk, and counting how many different animals I find 

    2) Going to a grocery store and buying 3-4 foods I have never tried (or a bunch of random ingredients to make into a recipe) 

    3) Using a different medium, like clay, finger paints, etc., to get messy with and start exploring, 

    4) Holding a “Sensory Spa Session” with lots of scents, textures, tastes, pictures with multiple visual elements, music clips, etc.

    5) Playing games, especially with my kids (try the classics, like charades, “Would You Rather,” “I Spy,” and 20 Questions for inspiration).

    Dani: What is your favorite animal? 
    Jennifer: I love way too many animals. Aside from my pets, I love puffins, horses, chinchillas, any chubby bird, and sloths (though I may not love sloths quite as much as Kristen Bell, but puffins would definitely send me into paroxysms of joy 😀 )

    Dani: Do you use illustration notes? Why or why not? 
    Jennifer: I do use them, but I try to use them very sparingly. (I didn’t have any for Circus Train, for example.) I think a well-placed art note helps convey to an editor and illustrator your vision without going overboard on description or direction. An illustrator can do a much more amazing job bringing my words to life with her vision without me getting in the way, but there are some instances when an art note can add a little bit of insight.) 
    Dani: Where do you go for inspiration?
    The library, for sure. I’m a little bit of an addict, admittedly. I’ve been known to stagger out of the library dragging sacks of books behind me.
    Dani:  What’s the most fun you’ve ever had writing?
    Jennifer: This is hard! I love writing when you hit the zone and it just feels like words and ideas are flying out of your fingers like magical sparks. I do think one of the most meaningful and inspiring (and fun!) experiences I’ve had was when I collaborated with my critique group to write An Eyeball in My Garden. I made lifelong friends on that project and really got an appreciation for the good mojo that comes from a positive collaborative effort. It was pure joy to work on that project.
  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Robin Martin Inspires Magic

     Robin Martin is a fantastic writer with so much heart! I’ve known Robin through Facebook for a while now and she’s incredibly supportive and caring. Though she may say that she hasn’t gotten that “brass ring” yet I’m impressed with all Robin’s accomplishments. She has achieved that brass ring, though it might not look like the ring she expected! I love Robin’s posts and was so glad that I could interview her and learn more about her process!

    You can find more information about Robin and her books here: http://sbpra.com/robinmartin-duttmann/


    Dani: How did you start with picture book writing?
    Robin: As a child I always kept a journal. As an adult I was a voracious reader, but the art of writing had eluded me. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I started reading to them, and in my mind rewriting the endings. Sometimes I would make up stories for my children. My mother encouraged me to put to paper all of my crazy thoughts. One day I read to her a story about a Zoo on the Moon. She laughed and said I had actually written down her reoccurring childhood dream about animals from earth on the moon. In 2013 I published Zoo on the Moon with SPBRA, a hybrid press. It’s not one of the traditional press houses, and not self publication. I like to think of it as a great alternative while I wait for the brass ring, and establish myself within the KidLit Community.  In 2015 Zoo on the Moon was selected for primary science in 147 countries at BEA. 
    Dani: What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever written?
    Robin: The most fun thing I have written  that has been published is called June Bug Jamboree. It has a singsong feel to it. “Potatoe bug drank a mug of the best moonshine there be. He asked to dance with the fancy ants, there was one but he saw three!” It was a little risky, but I thought Disney does it all the time –  scattering a little adult humor into the story, and let’s face it, it’s typically adults who are doing the reading at this age. I decided to have a little fun with it.
    Dani: Who inspires you?
    Robin: There are many within the industry who are my Facebook friends that I look up to and who I turn to when I have questions about my writing, or when I just need a second opinion. I believe you’ve been gracious enough to direct my path a time or five. Lol. But truly one of my biggest supporters other than family is a woman named Pam Goldstein. We co-chair www.WindsorInternationalWriters.com. She has invested in me by making me the director of the children’s programs, and buying me a classroom at SHO, a local Arts community. She even nominated me for volunteer of the year award for Children’s literacy last year from the Canadian Government, an award I gladly accepted.
    Robin's Headshot
    Dani: Do you have any advice for struggling writers?
    Robin: Write because you love it. Submit it because you want to share it. And grow a thick skin as you hear many more nos than yeses….. Hmmm how do you spell nos and yeses?
    Dani: What’s the most important book you’ve written?
    Robin: Three years ago I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a rare sub-type with low prognosis of survival and a very high rate of re-occurrence. I decided that parents and teachers needed a way to talk to children about cancer in a gentle but factual way, so I wrote Someone You Love Has Cancer- A Child’s Guide to Understanding. It won an award at the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards of Arizona in 2018. As of the time of this post it’s been on Amazon’s Best Sellers -top 100 list for two weeks now. This is the book of which I am most proud. The illustrations are amazing as well, done by Kalpa Joshi of Kalpart. She is an award winning illustrator from India. 
    My next project was written in conjunction with 1000 authors from all over the world called 1000 Ripple Effects. It’s a mental health book aimed at children ages 12-24. Look for it on Amazon soon!
    Thank you so much for inviting me to interview. Many wishes for writing success to all, Robin Martin Duttmann

    Follow Robin:

    Website and Books: http://sbpra.com/robinmartin-duttmann/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobinZimmerman7

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Wondrous Witch Ksenia Anske

    Ksenia Anske is like a wonderful wild witch that probably wouldn’t eat your face. She brings a dark beauty to the world of fantasy. Ksenia is an author who truly cares about her audience. She takes the time and effort to talk to and know the people who read her books. On top of that she wants other writers to succeed. It’s no wonder why she’s so beloved.

    Ksenia’s books: https://www.kseniaanske.com/


    Photo & hair by Deanna Teasley
    Dani: What led you to becoming an author?
    Ksenia: Writing pulled me out of depression. At my therapist’s urging, I began journaling. At first I did it privately, on paper, then I started a blog and wrote publicly about my process of recovery. Then I started tweeting little writing tips that kept me going, and soon my followers and readers asked me to make a book of those little tweets, which became my first self-published book, Blue Sparrow. A trilogy followed, Siren Suicides, a story about a teenager committing suicide. Then my bestseller Rosehead. I didn’t think about becoming an author while I wrote those books. I was happy to stay afloat and not slide back into darkness. By the time I figured out I was an author, I think I was on my fourth book, and it hit me that it was true. “I’m writing books,” I thought. “I guess I’m an author.”
    Dani: If you weren’t a writer, then what would you be?
    Ksenia: A dancer. My latest book TUBE (coming out end of 2019) is about a Russian ballerina confronting the ghosts of her dead family while on the train. At one point, when writing it, I thought, “Why am I writing about a ballerina? Is my mind trying to tell me something?” And yes, it was. I’d dreamed of being a dancer when I was little, yet somehow that dream got lost as I grew up and got busy with life. So last year in October I started taking ballet classes, and I’ve been going six times a week now since January (only missed a class once). So yes, a dancer for sure. 
    Dani: How do you refill your creative well?
    I read. I loved reading as a child, and I still love reading above everything else. It’s what brought me to writing, I think. My love of reading. Books were my teachers. I remember thinking, “I can learn anything from books!” That was such freedom, such certainty. My books were always there for me. They never told me they didn’t have time for me. They could be next to me when I felt lonely. And they held so much wisdom, and so much beauty…even now still, when I read, I quite often cry simply because the writing is so good, it moves me. 
    Dani: What do you do for fun?
    Ksenia: Dance! And read. And write. I guess all these things I do every day are so much fun, sometimes I pinch myself, not believing I’m living it, scared of waking up and finding all this fun gone (haven’t woken up yet).
    Dani: Do you have a quick writing tip you can share with us?

    Ksenia: You alone know how to write your book. Yes, there are smart books on writing and plotting and character development and style, and everything else you think you need to read and study before you begin. You don’t need any of it. What you need is trust. Trust that you already know your story and how to write it. Trust that while you do it, you’ll find your way. Trust that you’ll come out the other end knowing just a little more about yourself and ready to begin again. The journey is yours and yours only. People who have been there can point you the way, yet you’re the one who will have to walk it. So walk it. Don’t be afraid. In your gut you already know where you’re going, don’t you?


    Follow Ksenia:

    Website/Books: https://www.kseniaanske.com/

    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/kseniaanske

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/kseniaanske

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kseniaanske/

    You can get a free copy of Ksenia’s short stories on her website!