Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Tours and Trailers

My latest detour in my writing world has been developing a book trailer.  When I think of the potential a book trailer has to draw an audience to the book on YouTube, I wondered why I hadn’t attempted it before.

I discovered that creating a book trailer required skills I didn’t have (yet!), but I was lucky enough to have a son who did. I studied the structure of several book trailers, wrote a script of what I wanted to say for my new release Cindy Moo, and jumped in.

It was a wonderful challenge, and looking back we realized there were things we’d do differently. The biggest mistake I made was not taking the time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do on paper first.  As it was, I wrote a short script, and then we figured out the imagery as we went along. But making changes in the layers of images, motion, timing, and text using Flash software was far more time consuming and frustrating than if I’d known where I was going from the beginning. If I'd planned it in a storyboard format on paper first, I could've made many changes on paper, rather than manipulating software later. It was also important to decide how much story I wanted to tell. I didn't want to replace the book. I only wanted to include enough story to make viewers want to know more.  

Because a book trailer is really a mini movie, timing was an important issue. How long should text stay on the screen? Too quick, and viewers can’t read it. Too slow, and the trailer would drag. And whatever it was, it needed to feel consistent throughout. Timing involved transitions as well. How quickly should one image change into another? How long should an image remain on the screen? These were issues I hadn’t considered when I completed the script.

Finding the music and sound effects for the trailer was an unexpected pleasure. I had a lot of fun selecting the music with just the right bounce and spunk to tell Cindy Moo’s story.  In many ways, making this picture book trailer was a lot like writing a picture book. I was creating a unique world and filling it with wonderful elements that would bring the story to life.

Surprisingly, (or maybe not!) it took several days to complete our one-minute book trailer. Hopefully, it’s the first of many. Here is the result:

If you like it and have a moment, please "like it" on YouTube and leave a comment! :-)

And something new is on the horizon at Random Acts of Writing too. On June 7, children’s author Nancy I. Sanders will be stopping by as part of her two-week virtual book tour about her new release, Frederick Douglass for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities. I’ll feature an interview with Nancy and information about her new biography about Frederick Douglass. This great man was a bestselling author, an outspoken newspaper editor, a brilliant orator, a tireless abolitionist, and a brave civil rights leader. After Civil War broke out, Abraham Lincoln invited him to the White House for counsel and advice. For a sneak peak, visit her website at, and

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Udderly Moovelous Encounter

One of the best things about writing is that I never know what wonderful places it will take me.  When I wrote In the Trees, Honey Bees! I spent hours at my friend’s beehives photographing their busy bees zooming in and out of the hives, gathering nectar and pollen, and taking tiny sips of water from a puddle. I was delighted when the editor used my picture of a bee with pollen packed on its leg in the back of the book. When I wrote Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, I harkened back to the days when I was a child on a school field trip watching a great brass pendulum swing back and forth until it knocked down one peg, then another.  (Who knew that the child quietly standing there watching would one day write a book about it?)

In just a few hours, Cindy Moo is bounding into bookstores! A grand day in a two-year publication journey!

In honor of Cindy Moo, I met a real life Cindy Moo named Butterfly Tilly. She lives on a quiet farm just a few miles away from my house.

When I saw her for the first time, I couldn’t believe it—Butterfly Tilly looked just like Cindy Moo! Cindy and Tilly not only have the same brown and white coloring, they have a brown patch on their eye too. If Cindy and Tilly lived on the same farm, they'd be great friends--and you know what they’d be doing late one night? They’d be trying to jump over that big ol’ silver moon!

(Actually, she was more interested in eating the book than hearing a story!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cindy Moo--the Backstory

Whenever I encounter an irresistible picture book, one of the first things I want to know is how the author came up with the idea. Capturing that illusive first idea is always a crucial step of any writing project.

Since spunky Cindy Moo is leaping into stores on May 15 (only two weeks away!) it’s a great time to share how Cindy Moo got started. One of the things I like to do is browse at my local thrift store, so one day I happened to see a figurine of a cow sitting on a moon. As soon as I saw the innocent looking cow perched on the crescent moon it, I knew it would be fun to write a story about how the cow got there. As I stood there in the store, a little debate went on in my head. Should I go ahead and buy the cow, or should I just walk away?  I told myself I didn’t have to buy it since I already had the idea. But wait, I argued, when you sell the manuscript to a wonderful publisher and give a talk about it, you’ll be able to hold up the very cow that gave you the idea. (Never mind that up until then, I’d given very few presentations.)

In the end, the “buy the cow” argument won and I bought the figurine and went home to write. It seemed obvious to me, that this cow would be connected to the “Hey Diddle Diddle” rhyme, and a cow that heard the rhyme would want to try and jump over the moon too. Rhyme was the logical choice since it was associated with a nursery rhyme, and rhyme would be a great way to infuse the story with a rollicking rhythm of gallant, galloping cow.

Two years later, much to my delight, I held up my little statuette when I spoke at SCBWI’s Beyond the Bay Series last November and told them about my upcoming rhyming picture book Cindy Moo.

It was great to complete the journey I’d only imagined one day in my local thrift store.