Monday, August 28, 2017

Preparation is Key -- in Painting and Picture Books


Photo © Pixabay
This morning, I optimistically set out to finish painting our small half-bathroom, which measures around 12
square feet. However, due to a complete lack of preparation, after an hour of fruitless labor, my bathroom still needs to be painted.

While I was bashing the paint roller encrusted with paint on the picnic table outside to try and dislodge the handle, it occurred to me that I displayed a similar lack of preparation while diving into writing my first picture book.

I had read plenty of picture books, so I thought I was prepared. I have also looked at plenty of painted walls, but that doesn't mean I have any clue how to get to the finished product. Like many authors, I considered a 500-word project to be an easy challenge.

As I've learned, a smaller project doesn't always mean it's easy. My tiny bathroom needs the same amount of work to prepare for painting as my larger kitchen. I still have to prime the walls, tape the edges and have the proper tools to finish the job.

Unfortunately, I can't just throw paint at he walls and hope it sticks into a pleasing pattern. With my first picture book, I wrote a rhyming story about a mischievous toddler. I didn't know anything about meter, but that didn't stop me.

When I attended my first SCBWI conference, I naively thought publishers and agents would promptly sign my book. No one was interested, but I did learn about the 12x12 Challenge, an online writing program for aspiring picture book writers.

Through 12x12, I learned about the basics of rhyme and meter. I'm still learning about the craft of writing for children, and trying to create the perfect story arc. The program helps keep me accountable, although I have not quite met the goal of writing 12 manuscripts in 12 months.

I don't mean to discourage anyone from jumping in and writing their first draft, or attempting to paint their walls. However, it may be worth your time to learn the basics of the craft first. Thankfully, a slapdash wall can be painted over -- and a sloppy manuscript can be revised.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.
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Friday, July 7, 2017

Wonder Woman is Awesome -- But So is Wonder Mom


After I finally saw the Wonder Woman movie, I got to thinking about how her magical powers would benefit moms everywhere. I propose the following upgrades to her super powers for Wonder Mom, the everyday heroine.
  • Wonder Mom's bracelets
    The bracelets deflect bullets -- as well as sarcasm, judgment from other moms and evil glares at the grocery store when your children have a meltdown because they can't eat the entire candy aisle.
  • Wonder Mom's costume
    Obviously, the costume needs a few tweaks for practicality's sake. Let's face it, a strapless leather bustier and miniskirt is not going to work. Instead, I propose a romper that is machine washable and includes a nursing bra. Perhaps a two-piece option with a skort could also work.
  • Wonder Mom's Lasso of Truth
    The lasso could be downsized to fit in a purse or diaper bag, but comes in handy for tricky situations when both children blame broken objects or the dog. However, the lasso should be used on husbands or partners sparingly.
  • Wonder Mom's invisible plane
    The plane didn't make it into the movie, but comic book readers should be familiar with Wonder Woman's favorite form of transportation. The invisible plane makes any commute a breeze, but car seats will have to be installed for safety.
In exchange for my brilliant ideas, I would like to be Gal Gadot for 24 hours. That is all.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How to Watch a Children's Movie 100 Times -- Without Losing Your Mind

The first time I saw "Lilo and Stitch," I enjoyed the quirky animated film. The 2002 Disney film follows a headstrong girl, Lilo, as she adopts a mischievous alien, Stitch, from a pet shelter. Lilo's sister appears to be an adult woman with hips, a welcome departure from Disney's waifish princesses. I also got a kick out of the Elvis soundtrack and scenic backdrop of Hawaii.

However, by the 100th time I watched it with my children, I had to develop the following coping strategies to help me from not losing my mind. Netflix has graciously put the original film, as well as three sequels of questionable merit, on their streaming service.

1. Try to guess who's voicing the characters
Lilo's sister is voiced by Tia Carrere, which I already knew. However, the cross-dressing alien sounded vaguely familiar as well. Possibly one of the Canadian comics from "The Kids in the Hall" -- but which one? The curly-haired one or the one who went on to star in "News Radio?" If you really can't tell, listen to the movie with your eyes closed. (Spoiler: The cross-dressing alien is voiced by Kevin McDonald, the curly-haired actor and "The Kids in the Hall" alum.)
2. Look for errors in the sequels
Film geeks have been searching for continuity errors in films for decades, but errors can also be found in animated films. For example, Myrtle, the annoying redhead in Lilo's hula class, does a hula dance promoting her father's souvenir store in the second film. However, by the fourth film, Myrtle's classmates taunt her that she doesn't have a father. No one else would notice this -- except a parent forced to watch the movies over and over again.
3. When all else fails, take a nap
Before I had children, I never had a television in my bedroom. Now my favorite spot to watch TV is in my bedroom, so I can secretly take a nap while they are transfixed for an hour or so by a movie. So I'm not winning any mother-of-the-year awards with this strategy, but I am catching up on some much-needed sleep.

What are your strategies for watching children's movies over and over again? Share in the comments below.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

3 Apps to Help Moms Save Money

Courtesy of GoodRx

I admit it, I'm a suburban mom who clips coupons. I find it soothing to leaf through the Sunday newspaper searching for bargains.

Before I had children, I wouldn't have been caught dead using coupons. I went out to eat at the newest restaurants with impunity, but now I am always on the hunt for a good BOGO offer.

Now that we are in the digital age in 2017, I have turned to these three apps to help save money. I have personally used all of these apps, and I am not receiving reimbursement for recommending them.
  1. GoodRx - GoodRx takes the hassle out of finding prescription prices. I recently had to take Amoxicillin for a root canal -- don't worry, I will spare you the gory details of the procedure. However, GoodRx helped me find the least expensive pharmacy for Amoxicillin, and I picked up the generic prescription at Wal-Mart for $4. I do have dental insurance, but I figured $4 was worth it to avoid the hassle of calling and figuring out if they covered prescriptions.
  2. Ibotta - Ibotta gives you rebates based on products you buy at major grocery stores, as well as a handful of retail stores. Instead of clipping coupons, you scan in product barcodes and upload receipts via your smart phone. Money is transferred to your PayPal or Venmo account once your balance reaches $20, or you can receive gift cards in lieu of cash. My only quibble with Ibotta is that it seems rather difficult to reach customer service.
  3. Mint - Mint is a free budgeting app from Intuit that links to your bank accounts, mortgage and other loans. The app allows you to see where you are spending your money every month, and also allows you to set monthly budgets in different categories. The only caveat is that Mint works better with larger banks. For example, it synced fine with our Wells Fargo mortgage but not once we refinanced with a smaller company.
What apps do you use to save money? Let me know in the comments.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

7 Tips for Authors: How to Ace Your Interview on Local News

Like many authors, I am a classic introvert and would happily avoid all publicity that involved talking to strangers. On the other hand, selling books does require effort -- even putting in some elbow grease in the dreaded form of marketing.

My first (and only) appearance on local news generated equal parts excitement and fear when I got the call from the booking agent. I scoured the internet for tips and asked one friend who had been on the "Dr. Phil" show for expert advice.

  1. Wear solid colors - Leave the patterns at home and wear solid colors that are flattering.
  2. Be aware of your tics - I personally laugh when I get nervous, which is not ideal for television. I didn't manage to completely get rid of this tic, but at least I was aware of it and tried to keep it under control.
  3. Watch the show - I never have time in the mornings to watch morning shows. I'm too busy guzzling coffee and attempting to get my children dressed. However, I did watch clips on the Internet to get a feel for the show.
  4. Go with the flow - All of the clips I happened to watch showed a set where guests sit on stools. I wore slacks in anticipation of the stools, but then it turned out that I was sitting on an armchair in the faux living room corner of the set.
  5. Be aware of the camera's location - I totally forgot about this piece of advice. I'm holding up my book, but you can't see the pages because it's not toward the camera.
  6. Bring a signed copy of the book for the host - My interviewer was a lovely young lady without children, so I have no idea what she did with the book, but it's polite to give a copy.
  7. Do your own hair and makeup - Most local shows do not have the budget for a hair and makeup staff. I don't usually wear make-up, but I slathered on the foundation and broke out the eye makeup. Even men can benefit from foundation under the bright lights.
My one disappointment from the show was that I didn't sell hundreds of copies of my children's book. I also expected the television station to put the clip on their website, but they mailed me a copy of the interview on a DVD instead.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Are You a Frazzled New Mom? Try HALTS

Photo © Pixabay
When I had my first child, I was completely overwhelmed by the constant demands of my bundle of joy. All of a sudden, I had no time to myself and constantly felt like I was coming up short as a mom. When you get that frazzled feeling like nothing is going right, sometimes it's helpful to take a break. New moms should remember to HALTS.

  • H - Are you hungry? Eat a snack.
  • A - Are you angry? Ask for help.
  • L - Are you lonely? Call a friend.
  • T - Are you tired? Take a nap.
  • S - Have you showered? Wash your hair.
When I was breastfeeding, I was constantly hungry so "H" helped me to remember to have a snack in between nursing. I was often angry at my husband, so "A" helped me calm down and ask him for more help.

The experience of being a stay-at-home mom for the fist time also felt pretty lonely, so "L" helped me remember to call a friend or try to meet another mom for coffee. I was also pretty tired for the fist six months, but "T" helped me to try to sneak in a nap if I could.

Showering with a newborn seems like an impossible task at times, but "S" helped me remember I always felt better if I could manage 10 minutes to wash my hair. Sometimes I would just park my son in his playpen and turn on the water so I couldn't hear him crying.

Full disclosure: I didn't make up the acronym HALT, I just added an "S" for new moms. HALTS won't cover everything, but it certainly takes care of the basics.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Read it Again!

Photo © Pixabay
Sometimes, I get discouraged by the endless stream of rejections from agents and publishers. Why I am trying to write children's picture books again? Not for fame or fortune, certainly.

Trying to get published feels like the worst parts of dating rolled into one. No sparks, just variations of the "It's not you, it's me" standard rejection. Or worse, radio silence after you pour out your heart and soul in a query.

Last week, I remembered the reason that I started writing picture books in the first place: my adorable children. Or to be more precise, my *occasionally* adorable children.

At bedtime, I snuggled with my four-year-old for the evening ritual of the bedtime story. Instead of pulling a book off the shelf, I read him my latest draft, warning him that it didn't have pictures yet.

After I finished, he said the most heart-warming words in the English language to a writer: "Read it again!"

So perhaps an audience of one is all I need.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.