• 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!

  • 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