Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist

Photo: Maurice Sendak at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia.© 1985 by Frank Armstrong

Part four in this series is based on my notes taken at the Highlights Foundation workshop, "Books that Rise Above," that I attended last October in Honesdale, PA. Today I am privileged to touch on parts of Leonard Marcus's talk about Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) and how he changed children's literature forever.

What We May Know about Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak was self-taught; he did not attend college. He is known as the most original picture book artist of our time. The reasons are many and varied. A few from my notes are that he had important mentors. He knew more about the history of children's books than anyone, which Leonard pointed out is crucial. His childhood was filled with emotion, which is what he was good at. He and his brother made their own fun; they started with nothing and found a lot.

What We May Not Know

In the chapter on Leonard's interviews with Sendak in Leonard's book, Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter, Sendak said he and his older brother held newspaper comics up to the glass window, traced the characters then colored them. They built a miniature of the 1939 World's Fair out of wax. He was an unhappy child, said he made everybody else unhappy, too, except his brother. He adored his brother and felt he saved his life. The illustrator of more than fifty books, author of seven by 1964 when he won the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak transformed himself with each book. He did not want to be known for one type of book.

How Maurice Sendak Revolutionalized Children's Literature

Leonard discussed earlier children's books and those written by Sendak's contemporaries to help shed light on the landscape in which he worked. Prior children's stories portrayed a romantic image of childhood, i.e., happy young Dick and Jane-types running through fields of flowers; and such contemporary books as Robert McCloskey's Time of Wonder. Sendak understood that children take  books to bed with them and read stories to their cats; also, that children's feelings run deep. He believed children can't be protected from how they feel. And, children's books can help them be honest about even their worst feelings. His direction, instead, was toward works like Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown published in 1946, which was presented in an experimental format, and tuning in to how children learn and what children enjoy, which Ruth Krauss, author of The Carrot Seed, did by visiting preschools and listening to what children say.

Leonard's take-away: Sendak wanted to express himself as much as he could. He used his fame as an opportunity to be a spokesman for children, to broadcast the idea that adults aren't the only ones who have First Amendment rights. Children do, too. How I benefited from Leonard's talk: I am touched by Maurice Sendak. Not only by becoming more familiar with his works, what they mean to the world and how they were created. But also, perhaps I benefited most by learning about Sendak's life, which is illuminated so vividly in Leonard's book, Show Me a Story!. I was amazed to find quite a few parallels to my own life, as I imagine might be true of most of us, which has helped me better analyze my own childhood.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
Next month: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
In future posts: A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end of this series.
Sources: Photo: Many thanks to Patrick Rodgers, Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia for putting me in touch with photographer Frank Armstrong, who took the above photo at the museum and graciously allowed me to include it in my post. Books: Marcus, Leonard, Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2012; Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. New York: Harper Collins, 1963; Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed. New York: Harper Collins, 1945; and McCloskey, Robert, Time of Wonder, Viking Press, 1957. 
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 


Bloom Where You Are Planted

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
William Wordsworth 
Sometimes we dream of a writing retreat to find fresh creativity or end writers' block. Cozying up to a roaring fire at a ski lodge with your laptop or digging your toes in warm tropical sand with pad and pen, conjures up the perfect setting. Productivity will ooze from you! Perhaps. But perhaps not. 

Writers must find the breathings of their heart no matter what their situation, circumstances or environment.  

Bloom where you are planted.

I have found some of my best writing occurred when the circumstances were undesirable. It drew something deep within me that found its way on paper. Who hasn't stopped to notice a flower sprouting from a crack in a city sidewalk? Just like that flower, your writing can have a profound affect when you're going through something. Use those emotions to stir something deep within you.

Do you have a story to tell of how you bloomed where you were planted?

Photo Credit:
 Theophilos / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND


Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer.  You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts - http://kathleenmoulton.com/


The Law of Confessions

A confession to a crime is considered a direct evidence of guilt, not a presumption of guilt. It is the main thing most often used and relied upon for a conviction.

                  The law of confessions is rather involved and is a conglomeration of Constitutional law, Federal and State statues (legislative law), and Anglo-American tradition. There are five hurdles a confession must pass in order to be considered valid:

                  1.  4th Amendment exclusionary rule -- this rule forces a suppression hearing
                       anytime someone claims a confession is not valid. In a nutshell, a
                       confession is not acceptable if obtained illegally.

                  2.  5th Amendment self-incrimination right -- no person shall be compelled in
                        any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This entails testimony,
                        not physical evidence.

                  3.  6th Amendment right to counsel -- this is extended to all “critical” pretrial
                       phases of criminal procedure.

                  4.  5th Amendment due process clause -- this rule is combined with the 14th
                       Amendment due process clause. Together they make up the basis for the
                       free and voluntary rule and is the major test in the law of confessions.

                  5.  McNabb-Mallory rule -- a legislative law which prohibits any “undue
                       delay” in arraignment and holds null and void any confession, no matter
                       how voluntary, if derived from lengthy delays in bringing the suspect to
                       to justice.

                  The free and voluntary rule is a two-part test involving subjective and objective factors. One part focuses on the susceptibility of the suspect which includes: background of the suspect, intelligence of the suspect, education of the suspect, prior experience with the system, physical condition of the suspect, mental condition of the suspect, and coping skills. The other part deals with the environment and methods used: location of the setting, length of the questioning, intensity of the questioning, frequency of the questioning, food and sleep deprivation, and intimidating presence of officers.

                  The Anglo-American tradition says that confessions must be a product of free will and voluntary choice. Free will should not be “overcome,” and voluntary choice should not be “coerced.” In other words, there must be a positive freedom of choice.

                  Suppression hearings generally occur when the accused’s lawyer determines the confession was obtained illegally. The motion for suppression must be made prior to trial, and the burden of proof is on the defense lawyer that a search was illegal or a confession was coerced. A motion for suppression is generally looked upon with skepticism by the prosecutor and the judge as a delay tactic by the defense lawyer.

                  As you can see, there is a lot involved in the acceptance of a confession. As writers we cannot always go through these steps in our story as it could be rather boring to our readers. But there may be some of you who can use some part of this to enhance your story or to even add suspense to a courtroom scene.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Do You Really Need an Author Website?

The idea of creating an author or freelance writing website may seem overwhelming to many who are new to the writing arena. This may lead to a hesitation in regard to taking the website step.

But, don’t let fear or procrastination get in the way of your online presence. A website is a necessary online marketing element that is at the foundation of your author platform.

Here are a couple of statistics to demonstrate the need for a website if you have any intention of building an author platform:

According to PCMag.com, there are 694,445 Google search queries made and 1,500 blog posts published each minute.

The internet is the place for people to search globally for what they want or need. Having a website allows you to be in on that action.

If you want to create visibility for you and your book or product, a website is the initial spark that will ignite your internet presence. And, it will be the hub or central location where you will let people know who you are and what you have to offer.

To further cement the need for a website, it’s through your website that you will attract readers, get email subscribers, and sell your books and products.

There’s really no way around the fact that you need to create your author platform, and it should be before you are ready to submit your manuscript, according to Chuck Sambuchino, in his book “Create Your Writer Platform.” The reason for this is that now having an author online presence and platform is a factor in whether a publishing house will say YES to your manuscript. And, the first step in creating that author platform is to setup a website.

It’s easy to see that a website is positively, absolutely necessary, and it’s not as difficult as you may think to create one. The first step is planning.

Plan Your Way to a Website

As with any project you undertake, the first course of action should be to plan out your course of action. This is usually considered a business plan or writing plan.

Your website is your online calling card or business card. It needs to be as professional as you can get it and needs to have all the necessary elements of an effective site.

So, if you’re not familiar with websites, one of the first steps in your course of action should be to learn about all the elements needed to create an effective website.

As an example, one of the first elements that you’ll need to work on is the domain name. Choosing a domain name is serious business. It needs to be searchable, convey what the site is about, and relate to you. It should be part of your platform, your brand. And, if at all possible, it should have your keyword in it.

Other elements of an effective website include: optimization, specific pages, posting fresh content regularly, an opt-in, and a freebie.

While a website is an absolute necessity, it also needs to be effective. The saying, “if you build it they will come,” doesn’t cut it in the internet world. Your site needs to attract visitors, be engaging / informative, be reader friendly, and convert. It needs to be planned out and optimized.


There are hundreds of thousands of searches done every day and there are around 2,000 blog posts published every minute. In all that internet noise, how do you get noticed? How do you become someone's search results? How do you create an optimized online platform?

Let me answer your questions and show you how in my next WOW! Women on Writing e-class on creating and building your author/writer online platform.

To keep up with writing and marketing information, along with Free webinars, join us in The Writing World (top right top sidebar).

Karen Cioffi
Award-Winning Author, Freelance/Ghostwriter
Author-Writer Online Platform Instructor


Writing Minute by Minute

In the theory assignment for their qualification, my students have to answer set questions on the practice and principles of assessment.

The questions are clearly stated for each unit section and subsection. The evidence they need to produce in their answers is itemized in the course handbook.

All they have to do is put the questions and answers together. Can they do it? No.

The excuses seem valid--not enough time, too many interruptions, inability to cope with work, home and family as well as compiling a portfolio for a qualification. The deadline looms and deadlock hits the brain.

To solve the problem, I copied each question into a Word file leaving a suitable boxed space for them to type in an answer. In that space I printed the keywords they need to incorporate.

Each week I shall send one unit. In eight weeks, the course will be completed--just in time for the exam board to  accredit their qualification.

Confine  Your Writing                      

A foolproof way for writers struggling with time and/or family constraints to complete a full-length work is obviously to divide it into sections.

But these need not be chapters. Try confining yourself to paragraphs or even sentences. Give your ideas time to percolate. 

Whether you're struggling with a short story, a newspaper article, a novella or even a novel--divide it into sections.

Novels up until the mid-twentieth century often had little summaries to preface each chapter.

image from classroom clipart.com

Chapter One
In which Mistress Craddock finds the flower garden besieged by cows and her sympathies sorely tried...

For a writer starting out or one stuck for ideas, this is a fun way to let the ideas talk for themselves.

Start as always with the inciting incident. What starts the action rolling? Then let the journalist's mantra take hold.

Who, what, when, where, why and how. The order in which you choose to answer these questions is what gives your unique twist to the tale.

Back to Mistress Craddock. Who was responsible for letting the cows escape? Why was it so trying for her at this particular time? How will her problems be resolved?

Pop in your keywords. Each question can be answered with another until bit by bit you've constructed a completed work. Ten minutes a day can still produce great stories, great writing.

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she shares hopefully helpful, writing, editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers relatively regularly. 

Childhood Memories and Writing Books

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a book club that I started with a few other people.  We read books on the craft of writing. The club has been beneficial so far.

The first book that the members of my book club decided to read was Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin.  It was published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2000. CCKWL is more for those who are writing books for middle grade, but I think that one will find some useful information on writing books for other age groups. Since CCKWL contains a lot of information, we divided the book into sections to read and discuss. I read Part 1. (In the future, I think all of us should read the entire book, regardless of the length or content.) This is not a full review of Elaine’s book, but I will share something that made an impact on me.

Elaine suggested recalling your own childhood and drawing from those experiences to create your characters and stories.  Diaries, journals, scrapbooks, and photos from your youth may help you remember your life and provide ideas. Talking to friends and family can also offer some insight into your early years.

Throughout the book, Elaine included exercises to help inspire the writer. One exercise in particular, really hit home for me. This exercise concerned emotions that a character might feel. The reader was asked to make a list of possible emotions, situations and sensations. An example that Elaine gave was the emotion of fear. A very common emotion of course, but it was her example of a situation that jumped right out at me. She mentioned an unleashed barking dog. Whoa!

When I was a child, I had a fear of dogs. Elaine’s exercise brought up some old memories. I don’t remember the initial incident, but I was told that a large, friendly neighborhood dog wanted to play. I was little and frightened by this animal. As a result, I grew up with a fear of dogs. Whenever I saw one, I tried my best to avoid it. I can remember screaming, I was so scared. I was never bitten or attacked, but the emotion that I felt was very real. I felt this way around most dogs. As for dogs I knew (ones owned by friends for example), usually I was fine and could even make friends with them. However, in most cases, the fear would overtake me and ultimately, I would have nothing to do with the dog.

Eventually I out grew most of my fear. However, I continue to avoid dogs. I make friends with very few of them. I do not like dogs jumping up on me or trying to sit in my lap. When encountering a dog I do not know, I freeze, and those old feelings come rushing back.

I wasn’t expecting all of this from reading a book on how to write a children’s book!

Writing can help one resolve old issues. My fellow club members suggested I use my childhood fear as a basis for a story. Perhaps then, I can better come to terms with these long ago experiences.

I recommend Elaine’s book. I borrowed a copy but will probably purchase one eventually. Even if the book you are writing is not for children, you may still find “CCKWL” helpful.

I wonder what the next book on the craft of writing will bring forth!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Why Do You Write?

Why are you writing?  You need to be clear on your purpose. Although we all would like to be well compensated, if you are writing just for the money or to be famous, you will never sustain a writing life.  Writing is a passion and a process.  Understanding why your write will help you direct the process.   When you are in the middle of writing you need to be writing because you want to write.  If you are writing to market yourself but do not value the process of writing, then maybe what you want to do is hire a ghostwriter. 

So the question is…As a writer, are you committed to the process?  Writing is a commitment. Many people want to write, but never seem to make it happen.  How we spend the time in our life reflects what we value.  If you don’t make time to write, then at this juncture in your life writing is not what you value, at least not right now.

I know writers who have full lives with children, families, full time jobs, community commitments and still find time to write an hour or two a day, by getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning.  They value writing so have found a way to squeeze it into their lives.  I am not suggesting that you need to write 2 hours a day.  There are no judgments about how much your write or when your write. What is important is to notice where you put your time and focus.

If you really want a clear picture of what you are putting value on in your life, track all your activities for one week.  You may be surprised where your time goes and you may just find some additional writing time.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist. For more information check out  www.donorth.biz   or folllow her at:


When Bloopers Go International

"Molly put on her Dolly Varden and went to the fair," writes the British author. The readers in England picture Molly dressed up in her elaborate, flower-decked hat. The American reader who lives near to the Northern Pacific, is bewildered, as he knows the Dolly Varden is a type of brightly spotted trout. Australian readers have just as big a problem, as the Dolly Varden for him is a doll-shaped cake. And in South Africa, it is a draped dressing-table.

In today's cyber world, any writing we post on the Internet or publish electronically, such as for Kindle, Nook, or any other form of e-Readers, immediately goes international. Even books that are only available in print are soon available through online stores such as Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel.com, and many others. So even if the book is published in the States, it's highly unlikely that it will remain in that country.

My own book, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, was written in South Africa, but published in the States. Yet by the time of its official launch date it was available across the word.

As authors, it's important we bear in mind our international readers with our choice of words. We need to be careful not to presume that our key words mean the same in all lands. Yet we may not be able to avoid the use of the word.

Let's look again at the example above referring to the Dolly Varden. Rather than just avoid the word, the English writer could say something like, “Look at that amazing hat,” she whispered. “I’m sure it’s a Dolly Varden.” The international readers understand no matter where they live.

Another example is the word, "wattle". To the English reader this is a type of fence; to the American it is the loose skin at the throat of a turkey. The South African frequently sees mud-and-wattle huts along the roadside; but for the Australian, wattle is the golden-yellow flower that is his country’s national emblem.

So the Australian could write, "She picked a few golden-yellow flowers from the wattle tree and added them to the arrangement." Readers will know what he means. The South African need only say "The old women sat in the doorway of their mud-and-wattle hut and discussed the events of the day." That's clear to everyone.

I read recently on a website of a student in Northern India who was asked, "What do you do?"

"Main chata hoon," he replied in Hindi, meaning to say, "I'm a student." He later discovered he had actually said, "I'm an umbrella." Chatra is a student; chata is an umbrella.

When my daughter was new to Venezuela, she was making her way through a crowd of people. She kept saying, in her newly acquired Spanish, "Excuse me," as she tried to pass people. In South Africa this would mean, "Please make way--I need to get through." She later learned she had been moving through the throng saying, "What's the matter? What's the matter?" to the surprised people.

If I, as a South African writer, send my heroine for a leisurely stroll along the pavement, this is good for her health. The pavement in South Africa and England is the paved area alongside the road, reserved for pedestrians. However sending her for a stroll along the pavement in America could have dire consequences as that's where the cars drive in the States.

I asked a group of writers to share with me some of the international bloomers they had heard of.

Ruth Ann Dell of South Africa shared this: When we visited friends in England, they were astonished when we talked about turning right at the robot. They couldn't see any robots on the road. We had a good laugh as we explained that back home in South Africa we called traffic lights robots.

Donald C. Bowman of Georgia, USA said: In Spanish, 'El ruedas facilmente.' means He tires easily. The problem is 'ruedas' are actually automobile tires.

Barbara Strohmenger in Germany shared this: A funny thing is the wrong use of "become" by Germans; the German "bekommen" means "to receive", but some think it means "to become" because it sounds similar; so they say "I become a gift" instead of "I receive a gift".

Karen Shaw Fanner, formally of Zimbabwe, now living in England says: In Africa  'just now' means 'in a while, at some point', 'when I get around to it.' In the UK 'just now' means 'immediately, right this minute.' How to really annoy people is to tell them you'll do it 'just now' and leave it an hour!

I nursed for many years in a paediatric ward in Krugersdorp, South Africa. Although as a Christian I don't believe in "luck", and I often prayed with parents when their little ones headed for surgery, I nevertheless fell into the practice of saying, "Good luck! I'll be praying."

If the patients were Afrikaans, I would translate this and say, "Geluk! Ek sal bid," which I thought was "Good luck! I'll be praying." One day a colleague overheard me, and with a wide grin asked me why I was congratulating the parents. Turns out that although "Geluk" sounds like "Good luck" it actually means, "Congratulations!" So I was sending the patients off with the words, "Congratulations! I'll be praying."

So, writers, be careful of the words you use, especially if you're trying to use a snippet of foreign language to add flavour to your work. You might just be adding the wrong flavour.

What in the World Do You Mean? expands some of the ideas above as well as giving a list of some of the words that have different meanings.

Different Cultures, Different Ethics shares a few major differences between some of the major cultures.

International Critique Partners. Some of the advantages and challenges of having International critique partners.

OVER TO YOU: How about you? Do you have an amusing story to share of the wrong word being used as a result of a different language or culture? If so, please comment below or email me your story. Perhaps I can include them in another post for us all to enjoy.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. Thanks to her international critique group, she has avoided publishing most of her cultural bloopers.

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook.

Cartoon dog: Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...