• Fun,  Uncategorized

    Wednesday Updates

    Creative Goals:

    I’m getting really close to finishing up the images for this cat comic I’m working on. Just need a few more hours I hope. I’m hoping to finish the 3 I’m working on. I’ll have to finish the other two in my portfolio as well, but I’m happy I’m almost there!

    Currently Reading:

    I’m currently reading A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. I just summarized the story for a friend so I’ll post it here. There is a minor spoiler in the text about an event that happens within the first few chapters. I’ve whited these areas out.  

    It’s from two perspectives. A magical being takes Malik’s sister as his prisoner. Malik enters a deal with a magical being to save his sister. The deal is to kill Karina who is the Crown Princess of Ziran.

    Karina’s mother is murdered and Karina wants to bring her back using dark magic (which could end up with her killing Malik). She also has to contend with her council who seems to be working against her and undermining everything she does. She has to hide her mother’s death and deal with a unknown traitor.

    Malik is chosen by a goddess to enter the Solstasia competition. This gives Malik a way to get to Karina, but everything gets more complicated when the two meet and start having feelings for one another.

    I’m almost done with this story and I’m so excited to find out how it’s all resolved!

    More Fun Stuff:

    My son was asking for math worksheets to do over the summer. He loves math. I remembered my friend Evelyn B Christensen does some wonderful puzzle books for kids. She has logic, math, word and other puzzles in her books. Evelyn has all kinds of puzzles on her website for kids to do and sample sheets from each of her books.  There is lots to for free on her site that will keep kids busy for hours. I printed up a bunch of sheets to see what my son likes so I know which books to order for him! http://evelynchristensen.com/index.html

  • Art,  Books,  Writing

    Wednesday Updates

    I’m going to start doing weekly updates again! I will be posting my own creative goals (and maybe some artwork), my current reads, and any art/writing events and fun stuff that’s coming up. The format and name for this may change a bit, but I’m really excited to have time to do these updates again.

    Creative Goals:

    I just got an iPad Pro. I’m currently using it to work on some illustration work! I have a cat book that I think will work well with on the iPad.

    I have another cat graphic novel that I’m doing on my desktop. I am almost done with the images for this, but it is taking some time. I’m hoping that the work for this will give me more things to share for Smart Dummies later this year! 

    Currently Reading:

    I have honestly not had much time for reading in recent years and that’s been very sad for me. I am listening to a TON of audiobooks right now. It’s easier for me to listen to something while I’m working on art or cleaning the house than it is to sit and read. I can read so much faster than I can listen, so I was resistant at first. I found that I do love listening to these books. I’ve had so much fun hearing these stories.

    Stories I’ve read in the last little while:

    Full Disclosure by Cameryn Garrett

    Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

    Tarnished are the Stars by Rosilee Thor

    The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

    A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow

    The Black Flamingo By Dean Atta

    The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

    King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

    The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

    Most of these are by Black authors other than Tarnished are the Stars and The Henna Wars. These are both queer stories! I highly recommend reading all of these books. 

    Currently Reading: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson  

    This book is different from all the books I’ve been reading lately, because it’s nonfiction. It’s a memoir/manifesto. I’d also say there are CW for this book of sexual abuse, general abuse, homophobia, transphobia, racism and repeated use of the f-word and n-word. The writer of this book is Black, queer and does not put the bad things that happened in his life in a good light. 

    More Fun Stuff:

    Just around the corner is the SCBWI Summer Spectacular conference! I’m attending this event. It starts Friday  July 31st and runs through August 4th. I’m very excited for this to start. I honestly keep forgetting the start date, so posting the date here is as much for myself as it is for you! https://www.scbwi.org/events/scbwi-summer-spectacular-2020/

    The Children’s Book Academy is having their Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books starting August 31st. This is an absolutely fantastic class. You will learn so much in this class. The fantastic Larissa Marantz is a new teacher in this course. She is absolutely fantastic! It will be the best year to take this class. ADs, Editors and Agents will be looking at your work at the end of the course so sign up now! https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/2020-craft–business-of-illustrating-childrens-books.html

  • Giveaway,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Warren of Writing Voice, Kaitlyn Sanchez — Plus a Prize!

    Kaitlyn Sanchez is awesome and I’m so glad that she could be on my blog today! Kaitlyn wears many hats as a mother, math teacher, writer and most recently she has become a intern at Olswanger Literary! Soon she will be a fantastic agent (as she is already a fantastic intern) and be gathering all of the best stories to put in bookstores near you! I absolutely can not wait to see this happen. 

    Here is Kaitlyn’s website: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/

    You can follow her updates there and see when Kaitlyn opens up to submissions! Look at the end of this post to see how you can enter to win a  PRIZE from Kaitlyn. She’s offering a critique to one lucky winner!


    Voice--How Do You Find That?

    Voice. It’s one of the most important and most difficult things to understand in writing.

    I think the only way to find your voice is to write. Most writers have tried many things before they find their niche, sometimes it’s different styles, sometimes it’s even different genres. I think many writers discover their voice when they find their niche. And for others it’s the opposite, their voice dictates their niche. Now, by niche, I don’t mean once you write funny, you have to always write funny, so to make this a bit more clear, let’s journey through my past.

    When I started writing picture books, I began writing about math, in rhyme. When I realized I need to have more than one story to get my work out there, I tried to figure out this whole “character-driven” thing I kept reading about. So I thought of a character, my daughter, and wrote a story about her using imagination to make chores more fun. Next, I tried a story inspired by my students’ beautiful way of blending Spanish and English language when they talk and had to create a premise to fit. At this point I had no idea how to access the ideas side of my brain when it came to writing, so I only had these three stories.

    Then, enter STORYSTORM! Reading all this advice of how to come up with ideas and and live in a way that keeps my mind open to story ideas, helped ideas come in left and right. The hard part was writing them down. Once I started writing more and getting feedback from my friends and from critiques I won (and competing in contests), I started realizing my voice is often enthusiastic with some humor added in–I love writing in the How To style with a comical narrator, I love rhyming, and I often have similar onomatopoeia and/or exclamations in my stories. Sometimes, I write stories that are more intense and serious, but I still tend to have at least one of these things–a part with humor, enthusiastic interjections, etc. Things that have always been a part of my life.

    I believe my voice is my uninhibited self in a kid’s mind–often my mind as a kid. But to rediscover that child within me, I had to write…a lot! And read a lot: my critique partners’ stories, TONS of picture books from the library and local book stores, and I had to open my mind to ideas that would let that voice grow and speak to me. 

    So, when people ask you about your voice and you’re a new writer, you may still be searching for it. Your voice in writing isn’t one thing, it’s just what happens when you’re training, writing, idea-finding, reading, and writing some more. Are there people that just know their voice from the get go? Of course! You naturals rock so hard! We adore you! But, if you’re not sure of your voice, that’s okay too, just keep at it, keep writing, reading, and querying, you’ll find it in due time. 

    Now if you’re still wondering, what does voice really mean? I FINALLY got it when I read this post “Defining Voice” by Jessica Faust: http://bookendsliterary.com/2019/01/10/defining-voice/ “Voice is the author’s style. It’s the way the author writes that is unique to that author–the way the author writes characters, plot, and dialogue.”

    Please share what you think your voice is, or what you’d love your voice to be, or what you’re doing to find it.


    Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez is a mom, wife, math teacher, picture book author, and intern at Olswanger Literary looking to sell her first manuscript.

    She is also the co-creator and co-host of the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest and creator of the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest.

    In her free time, she loves to play soccer, binge-watch TV shows, and, of course, read. Especially when her husband and daughter cozy up so they can all read together.

    Website // Twitter // Facebook

     @%@%@%@%@% @%@%@%@%@%


    Kaitlyn is giving out a critique to one lucky person!
    To win this prize:
    Follow Kaitlyn on Twitter 
    Comment below your answer to this: Please share what you think your voice is, or what you’d love your voice to be, or what you’re doing to find it.
    One lucky winner will be randomly chosen at the end of the event. Prize winners have 30 days to claim their prize. 
  • Events,  Fun,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Starts TODAY!

    Today is the first day of Spring into Writing and do I have a fun month of writing planned for you! I’ve got a bunch of great writers all lined up for you this month. with a fun 50-page workbook you can download and print!

    If you aren’t signed up for Spring into Writing go here: http://ngi.c96.myftpupload.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/

    Grab one of these two participant badges you see here and put it on your website, blog, or anywhere on social media. Please link to www.daniduck.com/blog

    Here are the links to the workbook. They are both the same booklet but ordered differently depending on how you wish to print them: 

    This is a print ready version of the workbook. Each spread (or two pages) are made to fit on typical printer paper. This is meant to be double sided. The papers can be stapled in the middle into a book:  Spring into Writing Workbook 2020

    Spring into Writing "day" badge. Bunny jumping over flower bush while a duckling and two chicks watch.

    This is the copy to print if you want larger pages. Make sure to set the print to vertical and “fit to page”. You can bind these pages together with staples or a three ring binder. If you want a read-only version this is the one to download.

    Spring into Writing 2020 Booklet


    Spring into Writing "night" badge. Bunny in the shadows holding a red pen. Red ink drips from the pen and saturates the page.

    This event is meant to be relaxing. There are a ton of activities to do in the workbook. You do not need to do any of them to win Spring into Writing. If you have writing to do just continue working on that! Unlike my other event “Smart Dummies” (and other events like it) there is no way to lose Spring into Writing. Everyone wins!

    Sundays I will be posting the weekly schedule of posts. 3 days a week there will be posts from guests. The other two days will be either a post from me or another guest. You can use the planner to write down the guests if you like. 

    There is no particular order in doing the booklet. I wont be announcing which page to do when. I might discuss some of the pages, but any order you want to do the book in is up to you! 


    There are some prizes! Kaitlyn Sanchez is offering a critique for one lucky winner. Her post will be Monday. I am offering a $25 gift card for anyone who helps me get out the word for Spring into Writing. If you talk about me on twitter please tag @daniduck on Twitter or @dani_duck_art on Instagram!  There may be more prizes. They tend to show up at the last minute, and are very wonderful, so keep an eye out!

  • Events,  Fun,  Giveaway,  Spring into Writing,  Uncategorized

    Win a $25 Gift Card!

    Bunny Banner

    I just realized that my post about Spring into Writing registration being OPEN may not have been sent. You can register at the link below.

    Help me get the word out about Spring into Writing and you could win a $25 USD gift card to an indie book store of your choice! You can enter every day by mentioning the event on social media.

    Spring into Writing is a free event to help writers have fun while writing. Since it’s all about having fun you win just by being a part of the event. There will be a free downloadable workbook.

    I can manually add in entries, so if you’ve gone over and beyond what’s in the Rafflecopter  please let me know! Also let me know if you have any trouble entering.

    You must be signed up to Spring into Writing to enter. The new guest list is up, but still in progress! Sign up to Spring into Writing here: http://ngi.c96.myftpupload.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/ (Signing up is absolutely free!) Feel free to use any of my Spring into Writing images to share with your social media posts! 

  • 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/


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  • Smart Dummies

    Finding Places to Submit Your Work

    A Bit About Publishing

    There are lots of places where you could get your book published, but sometimes finding the right place is hard!

    In many cases finding an agent is extremely important. They can help you tweak your story for publication. Agents have a bigger pool of places to submit work to, so a person with a good agent will likely do better than a person without. They also can help you get better contracts, money and answer questions you need answered. If you are thinking about an agent, submit to agents first. They get back to you faster, and won’t be able to shop your manuscript to editors you’ve already submitted to on your own.

    You can find an editor before you get published. There are a lot of great publishing companies that do accept manuscripts/dummies from individuals. Do your research on these companies. Publishing companies should pay you, and you should not be paying anything out of pocket! 

    The Book by SCBWI — A publishing guide with kidlit places to submit your work. Must be a current member of the SCBWI to access. https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/

    The Writer’s Market Books — A series of books created for writers and illustrators to get their books published. Recently acquired by Penguin Random House so the website may change. https://www.writersdigest.com/WritersMarket

    Twitter Events:

    #DVPit http://dvpit.com/

    #Pitmad  http://pitchwars.org/pitmad/

    #PB Pitch http://www.pbpitch.com/

    Pitch Wars https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-schedule/

    #MSWL  (not a pitch Event) on Twitter (Manuscript Wish List). https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/

    This is in no way a full list, but it will help you get started! Check out this post for more events and writing help: http://ngi.c96.myftpupload.com/writing-fun/

    The Children’s Book Academy writing class is over, but there is time to sign up for her illustration class here: https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/p/the-craft-business-of-illustrating-children-s-picture-books

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  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Planning Out Pages

    Those who joined me for Pre-Smart Dummies, but I decided to go over this step just in case you’ve not done this yet! 

    1) Choose Your Story

    If you have written a story then you can choose one of your own. If you’ve written several stories, but this is your first time creating a dummy try to pick something that has simple characters or backgrounds you like drawing. Let’s make this first dummy fun!

    If you have not written a story, or if you don’t have anything edited DON’T PANIC! Use a story in the public domain. Most fairy tales are public domain. Here is a bunch of great books to choose from. I like the Andrew Lang Fairy Books: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/

    I chose Cinderella as my story. I went over my process for choosing the best parts of the story to include in my version. https://www.daniduck.com/a-new-cinderella-story/ I decided afterward that the story I wanted to do was going to be too much work for everything on my plate so I will be going with another story. I want to finish this story, so I’m choosing the easiest one for me. 

    2) Edit Your Story

    Before you start on your story you should have it edited. Here is a lot of information for editing your story. If you are rewriting a fairy tale be sure to have at least all the basics planned out like in the second link for “Choose Your Story”.  Here are some quick tips for editing along with some wonderful editing resources: http://ngi.c96.myftpupload.com/editing-your-story/

    3) Plan Your Story

    You’ll want to plan out which images are going on which pages, and how long your story is going to be. Marla Lesage shared a fantastic post with us for Smart Dummies about Picture Book Length.   https://marlalesage.com/2019/08/12/picture-books-length-layout/ Graphic novels start at picture book length and some can be several hundred pages. Research page lengths at your library or book store for the type of books you’d like to write!

    Here is an example of how to plan out your pages: http://ngi.c96.myftpupload.com/planning-out-your-pages/* If you physically want to cut up your manuscript into pages, then do it. As long as it’s not your only manuscript copy! 😉 

    *Please note that Critique Groups are now closed, but you can ask for critique partners in the Smart Dummies Facebook group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/

    Tomorrow I’ll be talking about Thumbnails. I may do a video. Wish me luck!

  • 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!

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