Summer Short And Sweets – Week 7 – And The Give Away Winner!

I can’t believe it!  We’re up to week 7 of Short & Sweets already!  That means there’s only one more week to go (and boy is next week going to be awesome!!!) but it also means that summer is drawing to an end.  It has flown by so fast!  And I still haven’t updated the backlog of Perfect Picture Books that I was sure to get done with so much time…. Better get cracking! 🙂

But I’ve been hard at work on some other things…. which maybe I’ll tell you about one of these days… 🙂

badge by Loni Edwards 

For today’s Short & Sweet, we’re taking a field trip!  It can be anywhere you want – and anything that fits into what you’re already doing – no special outings necessary.  Going out with your kids to the beach, the zoo, a museum, the playground, the library?    Going shopping at the grocery store?  Washing the car?  You don’t even need to leave the house – the kitchen or the back porch will be just fine!

Your challenge today is to describe a setting – any setting that tickles your fancy.  In 50-100 words (more or less if you like, that’s just a ball park) make us feel like we’re there.  Take a careful look at your surroundings – whatever they are.  What does it look like? sound like? smell like? feel like? taste like?
BUT – here’s the trick 🙂 – you can’t use the actual word of the place!  So if you’re describing the kitchen, you can’t use the word kitchen.  We have to be able to guess!
For an extra challenge, describe it from a kid’s perspective – try to look at it through the eyes of the average 5 year old – the typical picture book age target.  Places can look a lot different to a five year old than they do to an adult.  Different features stand out, and kids’ react to things differently.
Although we don’t devote a lot of words to setting in picture books because that part of the job is done by the illustrator, it is helpful to you as a writer to envision your setting clearly.  Certain select details will be necessary, depending on your story, and this is good practice in focusing on the details that really matter.  If you write for older readers, setting description is very important to make your reader feel like they’re there – but you can’t ramble on indefinitely.  MG and even YA readers are not going to have a lot of patience for long-winded descriptions.  So this is a chance to practice picking out the part you really need to say!
Here’s my example (which, as per Short & Sweet instructions I am writing in 5 minutes off the top of my head because this day is WAY too packed for me to have any more time than that!)

Weathered wood.  Dutch doors.
It smells like summer, warm and sweet, but with a hint of molasses and clean leather.  Dust motes hang in the haze of late afternoon sunshine slanting through the barred windows.  The brass nameplates on the leather halters wink in the golden light – Jasmine, Pennywhistle, Thumbelina.
Clip-clop-clip-clop.  Snowflake’s unshod hooves thud lightly on the aisle as Ginny leads her in from the pasture.  She lowers her muzzle to her bucket and takes long swallows, then lifts her head, dark eyes soft, drops of water bejeweling her whiskers.
A few feet away, Blackjack sneezes into his hay.
Ginny runs a hand over Snowflake’s satin shoulder.  She reaches up and straightens the silver forelock between her ears, smoothing it down.  Snowflake rubs her cheek against Ginny’s arm, almost knocking her down.
“Silly girl!”  Ginny laughs, then steps back into the aisle and rolls the heavy door shut.
It is quiet but for the occasional rustle of a hoof drawn through straw, the rhythmic munching of horses nose deep in alfalfa and timothy.
This is Ginny’s favorite place to be.
(Okay.  So mine is 181 words.  I never claimed to be succinct 🙂  And I hope you didn’t have too much trouble figuring out where Ginny is :))

So, are you ready to give it a try?  I can’t wait to read all your setting descriptions and see if I can guess where you are!  And I have no doubt that many of these descriptions will serve as story sparkers for readers, who feel themselves transported to that time and place and are suddenly inspired by a character who pops into their head and onto the scene! 🙂
OH!  And I almost forgot!  The winner of the giveaway from Monday – a hardcover copy of Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin, courtesy of Lee & Low Books – is PAMELA!!!!  Pamela, please email me and let me know your address so I can mail it out 🙂

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!  There will be a birthday party going on at my house – YUM!  MORE CAKE! 🙂

59 thoughts on “Summer Short And Sweets – Week 7 – And The Give Away Winner!

  1. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    That's so funny! I was imagining YOU playing baseball – thinking back to when you were a child 🙂 Great description. And BTW, congrats on winning Christie's picture book contest! 🙂

    Romelle Broas (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    You are right! Every week this summer was spent at my son's baseball games.

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  2. Jarm Del Boccio says:

    As far as the eye can see, in all directions, are verdant rolling hills, sheep grazing, and low stone fences outlining the paddocks.  A cottage here and there dot this pastoral scene. The early morning dew settles on the grass beneath my feet, and I take in the scent of fresh grass.  I wonder: is this where the Victorian writers escaped to find inspiration?  I feel drawn to do the same…
    (70 words)

  3. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Posted by me but actually from Cathy!

    As the glass doors swung open, the powerful smell of antiseptic floor cleaner clogged my nose. My eyes began to water slightly, making the bright overhead lights seem to waiver and sparkle. RRROOOF! RRROOF! An anxious young lab strained against his leash, eager to spring toward the door that was closing slowly behind us. MROOW! MROOW! squealed a cat through the wire mesh window of her plastic carrier on the floor. Waiting in cheap plastic chairs, their owners were flipping nonchalantly through old issues of BETTER PETS and FANCY FRIENDS magazines. I looked up at Chrissie quizzically. “Don't worry, pal. We're just here to pick up your flea powder. Dr. Shotalot won't be seeing you today.”

  4. Heather Newman says:

    Christopher is hidden among the flowers, watching the spider weave a web between the strong, green stems. A startled grasshopper jumps away from him, just missing the sticky strands. Christopher waits quietly as sunlight warms the top of his head. Several butterflies skim from flower to flower, landing here and there for a quick drink. He sits as still as he possibly can. Finally, a bright hummingbird dips into the feeder cupped in Christopher's hands. Wings a buzzing blur, chest fluttering, the bird enjoys a tasty snack. After it flies off Christopher smiles and stretches his legs. The wait was worth it.

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