Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Up a tree with me (and a contest!)

What gets our attention? Often, it's the thing out of place, the unexpected. Like this duck up a tree. I see ducks paddling along, leaving rippling wakes. Sometimes, they're tail up, looking underwater for some delectable or they're waddling along the shoreline. Although I've seen video of odd ducks who nest in trees and make their ducklings leap out, free-falling to the ground (well-padded), I've never seen a duck in a tree. Hence the photo.

This got me to thinking how the best stories surprise us, make us do a double-take or sit back and ponder. A good writing experiment would be to comb through our stories looking for places we could put our characters up a tree--metaphorically, of course.



Okay, so I really want to whisper instead of shout this, because everyone with a picture book manuscript is going to jump at this chance, and I so want to win!
Dear Editor (Deborah Halverson) is celebrating her six-month online anniversary with a free picture book edit. This is truly amazing for the winner. Deborah was an editor with Harcourt Children's Books for a decade.
If you aren't reading her regularly, you're missing out on lots of advice about writing and the industry.
The rules for this contest are a picture book for ages three to eight, text only and no longer than 2K. Deadline is midnight PST Oct. 10. Specifics on how to enter are on her site.
Right now I'm feeling laptop love. I've been away from home--unexpectedly up a tree--for days due to a family situation. It's raining and I'm listening to the soft patter and putting up this post. The view from the tree limb is pretty good, actually.


Dawn Ius said...

Thanks Tricia. I'm sending all my characters up a tree :0)

Davin Malasarn said...

Tricia, this is a great point! That was something I started to realize when I was analyzing stories I loved. They were all quirky in some way. They all wrote about something out of the ordinary. I try to do this more now, but sometimes I get distracted by technique and forget how important this is.

Good luck in the contest!

Bish Denham said...

Yep, ducks up a tree are funny, but have you ever seen a pelican in a tree? Do you know those big unwieldy web-footed birds actually nest in trees? It still makes me laugh when I see them land on a branch!

Good luck with the picture book contest!

Unknown said...

Aww, I love that pic! Cute lil ducky. :)

I don't do picture books but good luck to all who enter!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love the picture and appreciate the contest tip! :-)

Tere Kirkland said...

Very cool! Picture book writers are always missing out of the fun contests, it's time they had one of their own.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

What an odd picture! So intriguing, I can't stop looking at it, and the duck is quite handsome. You're right, this is exactly what a book should be! Good luck on the contest!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Dawn: Ha! I'm glad to hear it. ;)

@Domey: Thank you! Somehow I bet your characters are all pretty quirky from the pieces you've shared.

@Bish: No, I've never seen a pelican in a tree! How amazing that would be. I always see them on piers or flying.

@Karen: Thank you!

@Shannon: I hope you enter. What an opportunity, huh?

@Tere: Yeah, I mostly write YA but I do have a PB I kinda love.

@Karen: I took a number of pictures of the duck and kept thinking he'd split, but he stayed for the photo op!

Angie said...

That's an awesome picture. Duck up a tree. I'm going to remind myself of that while I'm writing.

Sherrie Petersen said...

You always have the best photos :)

Lola Sharp said...

Hmmm, come to think of it, I have never seen a duck in a tree. Not once. *scratches head*

My new favorite saying is going to now be "duck up a tree". I love it. :)

And you're right, my favorite stories are unique and do the unexpected. And I love quirky writing.

Happy Humpday!

Belle said...

Such a good point, finding the metaphoric duck up a tree points in our stories! The picture book contest looks great.

Janet Johnson said...

Thanks for reminding me! I need to do a post for an extra entry. We'll have to fight for the prize. ;)

Liza said...

Love the duck and believe it or not, we've had turkeys in our trees...very bizarre.

The Words Crafter said...

Mmmmm, pattering rain, up a tree-doesn't get much better. Hope the situation is resolved well....

Sounds like a great contest, good luck!

L.T. Elliot said...

I don't see ducks up trees either.
Meghan Whalen Turner surprised me in The Queen of Attolia. Best surprise ever.

Angela Ackerman said...

I once saw a goose up in a tree. Two other geese had chased it and it flew up there, waiting on a thick branch until they went away.

Cool contest--luck to all who enter!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Stephanie Thornton said...

Okay, that duck up a tree is cute. And come to think of it, I've never seen a duck up a tree. I just put out my bird feeder- all my feathered friends are returning!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Angie: I am, too. :)

@Sherrie: Thanks!

@Lola: It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? ;)

@Belle: Thanks, and I hope you enter that contest.

@Janet: It's a prize worth fighting for! Good luck, my friend.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Liza: Turkeys! I be they look humungus in a tree.

@WordsCrafter: Thank you for the kind wishes. It's been a strange combination of lovely and disturbing. Definitely a week of being up a tree.

@LT: I haven't read that , so it goes on my TBR list now!

@Angela: Geese could sure chase me up a tree!

@Stephanie: I hope your birdfeeder draws some surprising birds. I was watching a hummingbird in the rain today.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

A duck in a tree? That's awesome. I don't think I've ever seen that either. Even though they fly. But, why the tree? Silly duck. You catch the coolest pictures.

Wish I wrote PB. That sounds like an amazing contest!

storyqueen said...

I am searching for a surprise in my WIP right now....but surprise are wily and hide when they know you are looking for them.


Oh well.....

VR Barkowski said...

Excellent advice and a great picture. Surprise is everything. Who wants to read a book that's 100% predictable?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Carol: Silly duck, indeed, Thanks!

@Shelley: Come out, come out, whereever you are. We'll find 'em.

@Viva: Exactly. And thanks!

Unknown said...

Lovely post, hmmm.. will have to think about those ideas.. putting characters in odd tree-like situations...