Showing posts with label Kirsti Call. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kirsti Call. Show all posts

Monday, March 30, 2020

ReFoReMo Day 21: Reading for Research in Abnormal Times

by Founders Kirsti Call and Carrie Charley Brown

It’s been quite a month of unexpected changes. We are all experiencing this pandemic from different angles. We think about our ReFoReMo community every day and we hope everyone is healthy.

Kirsti: After two weeks of pressing pause on my life, I’m realizing that it’s okay that I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. There’s nothing like having five kids home to put a damper on writing. And getting interrupted every five minutes doesn’t help. Now may not be the time to write or revise my first novel.  But it is the time to read and enjoy novels that other people have written. And it is the time to savor the magical moments of this forced family time. Plus, reading ReFoReMo books every morning with my youngest feels sacred.

Carrie: At the beginning of the year, I moved my picture books to my classroom. The collection that I relied on as a writer everyday was… gone. When I sat down to write, something was missing from my reading for research routine. With schools closing, and instruction happening from home now, I recently moved my entire picture book collection back to my comfort zone. Ahhh... I can breathe again! Even though teaching days are now filled with nonstop customer service and data entry, I am still able to connect with my students through Zoom story times. We are simply letting go of anxieties through story. Take this opportunity to enjoy your personal collections every day with no pressure to write, unless you are able. 

Tomorrow, we will open the Rafflecopters to registered participants. We realize that your research might have been interrupted by unexpected happenings. That is okay. We’re so happy we spent this month together. Reading and researching has been one way to de-stress. We are also incredibly thankful for our guest educators and our fellow ReFoReMo teammates. Best wishes continuing your reading routine all year long!

How are you reading in these abnormal times? 

Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call

Monday, March 2, 2020

ReFoReMo Day 1: Founders Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call Round Up Mentor Texts for Personalized Projects

By Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call

During ReFoReMo, we feature a list of books that are recommended by our presenters. The plan is to analyze these from many different perspectives. Does that mean that you should ONLY look at the books from this list? Absolutely not! Our challenge is about learning how to analyze mentor texts from many angles, but most importantly how to learn from them while you research your current works-in-progress. That means personalizing your pile. What are your needs? What are your weaknesses? Where are you stuck? What new elements are you applying to your writing?

How does that look, you say?

A Personal Example from Carrie

The cumulative structure of This is the House that Jack Built is a classic. Knowing that I wanted to fracture a cumulative structure, but still find ways to show repetition, I paid careful attention to how others authors maneuvered the cumulative format. This process began after I had written a a few drafts of my own story and I desired to learn more as I revised.

Some authors used the structure in a straight-forward simple way. This was especially apparent in Simms Taback's version of the tale.

Others utilized intricate, poetic language, but still repeated each line verbatim as the story built.

And as I had hoped, some fractured the structure and wove in a huge dose of heart. I studied where and why that structure was fractured in relation to the plot.

After researching the cumulative approach that many different ‘...built’ books utilized (9 books), I now turn my eyes to other concepts that gradually build with variations of repetition.

Having already read Penny Parker Klostermann’s story, I learned about the importance of read-aloud-ability and reliance on predictability.

This is also true of the original There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly series by Lucille Colandro. But, I also love the way that Penny’s story introduces a fracture of the classic fly concept.

I will continue to study her craft approaches in relation to the cumulative structure itself, and add Jomike Tejido’s story and others to my study pile. Will a fractured concept turn into a fractured structure? I am excited to research additional picture books that inform and teach varied approaches to the cumulative structure.

“Mentor-texting”, or the practice of learning from mentor texts can branch off in many directions. My research also included picture books that feature the same type of character and setting that I have. Being intentional with research is key. What will help your story specifically? Are you always willing to learn more? Are you willing to dig deep into revision by researching?

A Personal Example from Kirsti       

Next spring, my book COW SAYS MEOW comes out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The story breaks the 4th wall and has a narrator who uses wordplay and idioms to comment on the mixed up onomatopoeia. Here are several books where the narrator and the characters in the story disagree. Although I wrote COW before any of these books came out, they are stellar mentor texts that helped shape my revisions of the story.


This funny book’s interchange between the narrator and Snappsy is a rollicking read that ends with a surprising yet satisfying twist.

IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, Josh Funk and Edwardian Talor

In this comical book the narrator and Jack disagree about almost every aspect of the story. In the end, Jack takes charge and completely changes the story in a way that satisfies the narrator and the readers.

NORMAL NORMAN, Tara Lazar and S. Brit

In this book, the little girl narrator has a tough time dealing with Norman and his abnormalities. As she tries to prove how normal he is, Norman proves otherwise. Another book filled with surprises and humor!

CHLOE AND THE LION, Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

This story is a rambunctious meta story of Mac as the narrator and writer, Adam as the illustrator and their main character, Chloe. The conflict begins when Mac says a lion comes out of the forest, but Adam draws a dragon instead. Filled with humor and chaos, this is the kind of story that surprises and delights all ages.

Z IS FOR MOOSE, Kelly Bingham and Paul Zalinsky

“Moose does not start with D. You are on the wrong page.” This hilarious story stars Moose who can not wait for his turn in the alphabet book! He interrupts, ruins and makes a mess of every page until the end when his friend Zebra makes a kind choice.

My mentor-texting always involves two questions:
1. What do I love about this story?
2. How can incorporate what I love into my manuscripts?

How will you personalize your reading list?

Carrie and Kirsti are giving away a 15-minute Google Hangout to one lucky winner. Discuss mentor texts or pick our brains about picture books! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 2, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.

Carrie Charley Brown is the founder and co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She eats, sleeps, and breathes picture books as a writer, professional critique mentor, and elementary educator. Carrie serves as a 12 x 12 Critique Ninja, and contributed as a 2014/2015 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist and regional advisor for SCBWI North Texas. She enjoys blogging, reviewing books, and spreading mentor text love to students and adult writers. Her publications include ghostwritten projects and teacher resources. Carrie holds a masters of education in School Library Media, with an endorsement in Literacy.

Kirsti Call is the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She reads, reviews, revises and critiques every day as a 12x12 elf, a blogger for , and a member of critique groups. She's judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. Kirsti's picture book, MOOTILITA'S BAD MOOD (Little Bee) debuts fall 2020.  COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) release in 2021. Kirsti is represented by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.

Friday, March 1, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 1: Founders Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call Talk Bibliotherapy

Welcome to ReFoReMo 2019!  As ReFoReMo begins today, we're excited to build a consistent habit of exploring mentor texts together.  Reading takes us on an emotional journey that both enhances our writing skills and brings joy to our lives.  So why not start with some bibliotherapeutic books?

Bibliotherapy is the use of books as therapy. As a therapist, Kirsti uses books with her clients to evoke discussion and help clients heal. A bibliotherapeutic picture book disguises a lesson as an emotional journey. What starts as character interaction transfers to the readers' background experiences. Relating to the characters enables healing and problem solving.  Although we may not directly relate to every problem portrayed in stories, they also build empathy and act as windows to the world around us.

Character to Character

Emotion starts with character interaction.  In Be Kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller, compassion is number one as a new classmate struggles to find her place and another contemplates what she can do to help. We have all struggled to fit in at one time or another, and therefore, the emotion and problem transfers to us as readers.  

The Day you Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez, is another powerful example of feeling different, yet finding friendship. Filled with lyrical language, and powerful imagery, the story helps everyone know that they are not alone.

I love Jory John and Lane Smith's Giraffe Problems.  Giraffe is unsatisfied with his long neck and when he meets Turtle who is unsatisfied with his short neck, they form a friendship that helps Giraffe realize the positives of his own neck situation. Funny text interweaves with expressive illustrations that resonate with  anyone who has been disillusioned with their own traits.

In Stegothesaurus, by Bridget Heos and T. L. McBeth, Stegothesaurus experiences a relationship journey that involves feeling different from his brothers, finding someone he thinks he has a lot in common with, and then realizing his brothers are the ones who love him best after-all. This journey helps us realize that what  really matters in relationships is connection and love.

Reader to Character

Although Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola is not a recent picture book, it is one of the first picture books I read long ago that allowed me to have a holistic experience with the characters. Tomie’s traditions with his grandparents made me think of my own family relationships, and therefore I inherited little Tomie's emotions. Even though I had not lost a grandparent when I first read it, it helped me prepare for what would happen in the future.

Likewise, empathy and compassion can transfer to us even when we have not experienced something directly. As I read Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant, I did not have a pet a the time, but I internalized the meaningful relationship. Now that I have a cat of my own, I look at it from a deeper emotional perspective.

In Sterling, The Best Dog Ever, by Aidan Cassie, the reader empathizes with Sterling, who is determined to be what others want him to be. Everyone has had an experience with people pleasing in a way that is inauthentic. When Sterling realizes that he is loved for being himself, we have the opportunity to apply this lesson to ourselves.

Similarly, in Rot The Cutest in the WORLD!, by Ben Clanton, the reader sympathizes with a potato named Rot who feels like he needs to be like all the other contestants in a cuteness contest.This results in hilarious attempts to be someone that he isn't. In the end, we learn that cuteness really is in the (potato!) eye of the beholder.

Reader as the Observer

Sometimes a problem is misunderstood by others, which creates additional obstacles for the main character. In Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, Niko draws his feelings as abstract art, but others cannot understand what he is doing. Niko struggles to connect fully with others and our eyes are opened to individual differences through observation.

Other times, characters are blind-sided by overwhelming traumas which change the course of their lives. Healing is part of their journey but does not come easily. In Rescue & Jessica: A Life-ChangingFriendship by Jessica Kensky, the reader observes parallel perspectives from a therapy dog and a girl who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. Both perspectives are not likely to be something the reader has experienced directly, yet the reader is still part of the emotional journey.

As you study bibliotherapeutic picture books, we hope you reveal a deeper understanding of successful emotional journeys. Happy reading and writing as ReFoReMo 2019 begins!
What mentor texts have helped you create emotional journeys in your writing?

Carrie is offering a quick-look critique and Kirsti is offering a signed copy of her book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall to one lucky winner. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.

Carrie Charley Brown is the founder and co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She eats, sleeps, and breathes picture books as a library media specialist, writer, and critique mentor. Carrie contributed as a 2014/2015 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist and regional advisor for SCBWI North Texas. She enjoys supporting the kidlit community by spreading mentor text love.

Kirsti Call is the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo and a marriage and family therapist who uses bibliotherapy with every client. She reads, critiques and revises every day as a member of various critique groups, and blogs for Writers Rumpus. As the author of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, Kirsti coaches revision at school visits through interactive writing, singing, and of course, reading for research! Kirsti contributed as a 2015 CYBILS YA Fiction panelist and 2016-2018 CYBILS fiction picture book panelist. She is repped by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


*This originally ran on Writer's Rumpus, here.

The free online education offered during Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) challenges writers to read picture books for writing research. Each weekday of March features an educational online guest presenter who discusses mentor texts from a new perspective. Participants read mentor texts and blog posts to learn more about great writing.  As the Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) challenge inches closer, we thought it would be fun to do a blog mash up with a THINK QUICK interview right here on Writers’ Rumpus! We challenge you to THINK QUICK with us! Ready? Set? GO!
Illustration by Lori Nawyn

On Mentor Texts: Fiction or Nonfiction?

Carrie Charley Brown: Both! When it comes to ReFoReMo, it’s all about the story and/or the approach. Reading what’s already out there shows us what’s already been done. One may not think that fiction stories provide good fodder for research, but au contraire! For example, if word choice alone is studied intently in a fiction picture book, imagine the focused model that is exemplified when problem-solving the dull language in one of our own personal manuscripts? And how one author tackles a focused element may be completely different than another. Whether reading a stellar model (or not), we can learn how-to, or not-to, approach certain elements by reading both fiction or nonfiction picture books.

On Guest Presenters: Author or Illustrator? Agent or Editor? Book Expert?

Kirsti Call:  All of them! Authors, illustrators, agents, editors and book experts each have perspectives that are helpful for our ReFoReMo mission of reading and learning from stellar mentor texts. I love how individuals with different perspectives and professions help us see books in a whole new way. Speaking of perspectives…

On More Perspectives: Complicated or Mind-Expanding?

Carrie: Mind-Expanding! If two guest presenters coincidentally cover the same element or picture book, we welcome both. Just as everything in this business is subjective, it’s better to have wider exposure to expand our perspectives, too! Looking at the same picture book from two different points of view will allow us to have a greater understanding of writing styles, structures, and the layers needed to create something special.

On Reading: A lot or a little?

Kirsti:  A lot. I believe in reading while walking, waiting, lounging, bathing and “sleeping.” What could be better?

On Note-taking: Any Old Way or One Right Way?

Carrie: Any old way, but why not share your approach to help others? For example, I may read a picture book and write down the title, publisher, year, creators, as well as the structure type, the plot, and the theme. I may add a few sentences about what makes the book stand out as fresh or I may paginate with illustration notes so that I understand the interplay. Each picture book may stand out in different ways, or I may be trying to learn about one element that I lack in my own work and only take notes on that. Another person may use a standard template and never veer from it. By sharing what works in our ReFoReMo Facebook group, we can once again add to the note-taking process. Reviewing books is another great way to highlight stellar elements.

On Reading for Research: Necessity or Privilege?

Kirsti: Both! If we want to write well and read well, we need to read with attention to what makes the book great or mediocre.  And honestly, having the time to really research and ponder on the great books I read is a privilege.

On Visiting the Library: Wagon or Plastic Grocery Sack?

Kirsti: During ReFoReMo month, I’ve actually brought a rolling suitcase to the library… (I have a pic of this somewhere)…
Carrie: A wagon’s not a bad idea! I normally bring several canvas bags with strong handles, but honestly, I have hurt my back doing that!  They get heavy fast! Good thinking with the wheels, Kirsti!

On Sharing: Keep Research to Yourself or Share?

Carrie: While there is no one right way to research, we encourage others to share the discoveries they make. Our Facebook group is the perfect place to do so!

On Getting the Most out of the Month: Reserve Books in Advance or Wait Until the Last Minute?

Kirsti: I love reserving my books in advance and having them ready to read on each day our guest educators recommend them. We will release the reading list on February 12, allowing others to reserve books early.

On ReFoReMo: Do it or DO IT?

Carrie and Kirsti: DO IT! The reason ReFoReMo started was because we read many pictures in a short period of time as CYBILS judges and saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more we read, the more we learned about what works and what doesn’t. We wanted others to experience this also. The thing we have heard most from agents and editors in workshops, conferences and seminars is read, read, read! What have you got to lose? We’ll reveal the ReFoReMo presenters on January 29 and registration opens February 19. ReFoReMo begins March 1 and we’d love to learn with you!
Carrie Charley Brown eats, sleeps, and breathes children’s literature as a PK-8 school library media specialist, writer, and critique mentor. Kirsti Call reads, critiques and revises every day as a member of various critique groups, and blogs for several kidlit focused communities. Together, they coordinate ReFoReMo, which will celebrate its 5th annual challenge this year!