Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I will be doing my first public appearances this coming Thanksgiving week. Both of them will take place in my home town of Ware, Massachusetts; the quaint little New England ‘burb of my childhood.

My first appearance is a reading/signing scheduled for Monday, November 24th at 6:30 p.m. at the Young Men’s Library Association on Main Street. I have frightening visions of myself standing among tall shelves of dog-eared volumes reading to an insignificant audience of a few million dust mites and one emaciated mouse. None of which are paying customers. In fact, the only interested party among them is the mouse who is rubbing his forepaws together and eyeing my book thinking it might prove to be a cozy addition to his nest once he shreds it in thousands of pieces for a bed.

The other event is a speaking engagement at my old Alma Mater, St. Mary’s Catholic School, the next day. Here I will read and discuss the writing and publishing process. Again, I have visions. This time they’re of spitballs shot by oversized children who bear striking resemblance to every bully I’ve ever come across. These creatures relish the opportunity to gang up on me until I run for my life to the safety of the principal’s office I once cowered from. Here, not even the likes of a thin mouse shows interest. In my experience, bullies are not usually book people, therefore, less likely to buy one. However, they may enjoy nabbing a bunch off the desk for the shear enjoyment of flushing them down the toilet.

Much of the advice I’ve heard from other published authors is to keep my expectations low. These are not grand media events and I am obviously not J.K. Rowling. But I can’t help but wonder, if my mouse friend or the collective bully-monster are simply figments of my overactive imagination or my sixth sense giving me premonitions of what lies ahead. I’ll keep you posted.

-Niki Schoenfeldt

Friday, November 14, 2008


Thank you all for entering. I was hoping for a bigger turnout, but hey, it wasn't bad for my first blog give-away. And of course, I can always count on those fabulous Mudskippers for their support.

Okay, now for the moment you've all been waiting for. The winner of The Fractured Keyboard's 1st contest giveaway is. . .

Drumroll please!


Here is her winning submission:

You know you're a children's writer when you think J.K. Rowling might have used too many -ly adverbs!

Beth has won herself a complimentary, autographed copy of the wonderful new picture book, NATURE'S LULLABY. (I'm a little bias. I know the author.) Which can be purchased by clicking on the link to the right, or on Amazon.com.

And speaking of -ly adverbs, keep checking back for an upcoming article on that very issue.

Thanks again for playing!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


In the style of Jeff Foxworthy's famous REDNECK series of jokes, I thought it would be fun to add our own Children's Writer's version to the mix. I'd like each of you to stop and think of a funny but true situation you found yourself in (at least in terms of your writer's imagination) and finish the following line:

You know you're a children's writer when. . .
Post it by Thursday, the 13th and on Friday, the 14th, I'll pick the one I think is the funniest. The winner will receive a complimentary copy of my book, NATURE'S LULLABY. However, there is a catch. If you win it, you've got to review it on Amazon. (Okay, a bit shamless, but hey, whatever works!)
Now get to it. Here's mine:
You know you're a children's writer when you find yourself thinking up vivid color descriptions for your son's bloody nose.

UP, DOWN, ALL AROUND; Directional Crutches

Have you ever stopped a stranger on the street to ask for directions and then wished you hadn’t? More than once I’ve been unfortunate enough to ask someone for help who is extremely happy to direct me on the long and circuitous route. During their lengthy and confusing diatribe, my head starts spinning in every direction except the one I want to go. It takes all my energy to suppress the urge to slap them in order to get them to stop. This is much the feeling a reader gets when a writer fills the pages of a good story with unnecessary direction. Directional crutches, as I like to call them, are a problem most of us unconsciously do. We try so hard to keep our readers moving in the right direction we sometimes become oblivious to the obvious.

The concept of over-direction is simple really. Most movements or motions our characters do can speak for themselves and really don’t need any direction thrown in for good measure. For instance, consider the following sentence:

Margaret sat down in the chair to ponder her situation.

The directional crutch here is the word “down”. The simple fact that Margaret sat, states the obvious. When she did so, it was in a downward direction. Therefore, use of the word “down” is not needed. The sentence should simply read:

Margaret sat in the chair to ponder her situation.

If most of your story is peppered with directional crutches similar to the one mentioned above, it can become an irritating nuisance to the reader, making them feel as though you’re talking down to them. Remember, your readers aren’t brainless and they don’t need your help understanding simple concepts. By removing these needless crutches, your text will read stronger and easier. Not to mention a lowered word count! Here are a few more examples:

Ed went out to the porch to have a smoke.

Gordon stood up and brushed the dirt from his pants.

Maria turned around in circles until she was dizzy.

In the first one, Ed goes out to the porch. If he was in the house prior, then it is obvious he went “out” in order to get to the porch. The word “out” is pointless and can be cut.

In the next one, Gordon stood to brush dirt from his pants. If he was in a crouched or kneeling position to begin with, then when he stands it can be assumed he does so in an upward motion. Use of the word “up” is needless and can be deleted.

In Maria’s instance, she is turning in circles. Since, when in the act of doing circles, it is assumed you are moving “around” in a circular manner, it is not necessary to point that out to the reader. This is another directional crutch that can be stricken from the text. The new and improved sentences should read like this:

Ed went to the porch to have a smoke.

Gordon stood and brushed the dirt from his pants.

Maria turned circles until she was dizzy.

As you have likely figured out by now, there is often no need to state the obvious in your writing. Give the reader some credit and let their imaginations be guided by your words. Be creative, be intense, but stick to the point. Tell a good story in a simple manner and your readers will come back for more. Don’t worry, they’ll find their way.

-Niki Schoenfeldt