‘A Box Story’ by Kenneth Kit Lamug: The Review

Kenneth Kit Lamug is a trend setter.

Sure, the habit of children playing with and/or in boxes has existed for ages. But if my 18 nieces and nephews have taught me anything, it’s the boxes that house their precious (and expensive) toys that they play with.

What Kenneth’s magnificent book proposes, is that a box can lead you down a rabbit hole of adventure, just as a box. Not as a box that held a 200$ tricycle or a beloved American Girl Doll. Just a box. A Box Story strips the box down to its skivvies and then the real fun begins.

Starting with the cover. I can’t tell you how much I love this cover. It’s as simplistic as a box itself, but holds a certain mystery about it. What could possibly be between the covers of a book called A Box Story, it asks the viewer. It’s so simple that it becomes completely eye-catching.

The first page on the inside features one of my all time favorite things: a This Book Belongs To space. As a child, there is nothing greater than being able to mark something as your very own. And then the adventure begins…

Something that I found incredibly remarkable about the illustrations is that the box stays in the same place on every single page, but becomes something new and exciting every time you flip to a new page. This gives the reader the impression that it is in fact, the same box being used for a myriad of adventures.

I first came across Kenneth’s illustrations while working on my children’s magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree for which Kenneth regularly contributes. He was asked to do one of our earliest covers because his art is so exceptional. While A Box Story keeps the illustrations somewhat simple, that classic Kenneth comes out and it’s downright stunning.

The words are simple but thought-provoking. They help build the imagination while simultaneously challenging the reader to find a purpose for their box. A purpose all of their own. Every child will want to build a life inside a box after reading this story.

I’ve been an avid proponent of children using their imaginations to entertain themselves, and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of this book.

I challenge you. Buy A Box Story for your child, read it with them, run to the store and pick up a brown cardboard moving box, tape the bottom together, and watch your child’s imagination grow. Join the revolution: www.aboxstory.com


Challenge-a writer’s refiner’s fire

I love a good challenge. Especially as a writer. A writing challenge is such a fantastic way to keep the creative side of your brain vibrating with ideas and your heart pumping alive with innovation and artistry. And love. Because you have to love to write. #laboroflove

I’ve heard that feisty Marjorie and testy little Tex over at Underneath The Juniper Tree (see post below) know just how to challenge a great writer as yourself. Be sure to check out the ridiculously bizarre and fun weekly challenges as well as the larger contest going on right now, the Sinister Summer Stories Contest.

Also remember that this IS NOT JUST FOR WRITERS. Underneath The Juniper Tree wants artists. And everything I said above about challenging yourself goes for an artist as well. And I heard Tex goes a bit easier on artists because he really truly loves to eat words…and toes, but that’s for another conversation.

Challenge Yourself. 


Be the Evel Knievel of Writing

Let’s talk about risk taking.

For a long while now I have been soliciting a Dexter-type YA manuscript, something risky, something daring. Well. I missed that boat. And that boat is called Barry Lyga’s I HUNT KILLERS, “a dark thriller pitched as Dexter meets The Silence of the Lambs for teens, about a teen boy who uses his killer instinct, inherited from his serial killer father, to help solve a series of gruesome murders.” Well played, Barry. I absolutely cannot wait to read this.

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of seemingly risky manuscripts (usually in the form of something paranormal) that when broken down to their basic elements, are not really risky at all. Denis Waitley said, “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

I love that sentiment. But I’m changing it to this: “Writing is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of writing without risk.”

Bree’s Rules for Risky Writing:

1. Place real people with real problems in a risky/unusual/daring/dangerous setting, and make the story about the people, not the setting. I.e., Rot & Ruin.

2. Utilize drastic non-linear storytelling. I.e., Invisible Monsters.

3. If you are going to have obsession, make sure it involves legitimate turmoil, not teenage angst. I.e., Wuthering Heights.

4. Try this: the not-so-happily-ever-after. I.e., Identity Crisis.

5. Or this: the unsure ending. Are they happy? Who knows. Who cares. That’s life. I.e., How To Be Good.

6. One word: Historical. One more word: Dazzling. I.e., Bright Young Things.

7. Get rid of angst, try the extreme opposite: sociopathic nonchalance. I.e., Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

8. Incorporate unusually dark themes in an otherwise normal world. I.e., Nevermore.

9. Write real. I.e., The Duff.

10. Do your research, know the exact feelings of the people you are writing about and writing for. Those real feelings are probably a lot scarier than your imagination can come up with. I.e., Go Ask Alice

I’ve said it many times and I will say it again: I know it’s not the easy path to be a risk taker in writing, but these risks are what set you apart in this ridiculously competitive marketplace.

“Creative people who can’t help but explore other mental territories are at greater risk, just as someone who climbs a mountain is more at risk than someone who just walks along a village lane.” -R.D. Laing

What I’ve learned so far…

Although it is technically more pleasant to read blogs in prose, I’m (1) a trained journalist, facts facts facts! No flowery writing!, and (2) tired out of my MIND. So bullet points it is.

1. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic are the new trends. Although, in post-apocalyptic try to avoid zombies. As with everything else I will say in the rest of these bullet points…editors want NEW and FRESH twists.

2. Steampunk may or may not work as a genre in general. It is too early to tell. We are still waiting… So be cautious.

3. While there are definitely still (a select few) editors who will do vampires and werewolves, there are a lot of editors who want fun, quirky, real life, average girl, “she doesn’t know her potential” type of books.

4. Editors want writing that does not talk down to the reader. They want intelligent writing that will challenge the reader. And just to make it clear: 7-10 is considered “middle grade”…10-12 is considered “tween”…12 and up is “teen/YA.” 14 and up is for naughty material (cursing, steamier scenes, suicide, drug use, etc).

5. Just about every editor I have spoken to is looking for that perfect middle grade (7-10) boy book that steps away from high fantasy. Fun, quirky, scary, humorous. They want it. But it can’t talk down to the reader, which is the main problem they find.

6. The picture book market is incredibly soft. If you want to have success with your picture book it needs to be very unique and fun with an attitude. Verse is not too big right now. Think Tori Spelling’s new book Tallulah or Fancy Nancy.

7. I had one editor tell me she would love a teen Veronica Mars type book… Another editor said she would love a book set in New Orleans. One Editor said she is craving a book about a big, fun, crazy latino family. She said like a “Latino Cheaper By The Dozen.”

8. Historical fiction is not huge right now, but there are definitely editors that are interested in it. But it needs to be character driven, not time period driven.

9. One editor said to me, “A book needs to be so well written that you forget what genre you are reading.” Which I thought was a perfect way to sum it up.

Okay. Tomorrow…we talk my passion. Graphic Novels. They deserve their own post.

**Please note that I have pages and pages and pages of notes. Very specific notes. If you have any questions, never hesitate to email me (right hand corner of my blog) and ask me any specific questions.

Attn: Writers followup

(This is a followup post to Attn: Writers.)

One question that was asked by the hot blogger himself was “What kind of stories do you want and what are you not getting?”

Today, while chatting with a wonderful editor, I asked her what she “was craving that she just wasn’t getting.” Her answer? Great fiction for boys between the ages of 7-10. She said, and I quote: We are looking for the next twist for boys that is not necessarily fantasy related.

This got me thinking about my favorite series when I was younger…(can we say Goosebumps? Best series EVER), and it led to a discussion about “scary” books for boys ages 7-10 and the appropriateness of the genre and the age group. She said that if you are going to take the horror route, there needs to be a strong overtone of humor. “Comic horror” is the phrase I believe was used.

So there you have it. I’m slapping a big HELP WANTED sign on the door of my blog, and the fine print reads “Must be able to write new and exciting–possibly comic horror–fiction for boys, age 7-10.”

Think outside the human (or animal) brain

I’m talking about personification of inanimate objects. I recently got a query letter with such an interesting story. Only problem was, it lacked the children appeal. I suggested to the author of this awesome query that she perhaps personify the main object in the story…the house.

Remember the epic film The Brave Little Toaster? Very few humans in that film. It personified everything from the toaster to the blankey, to the creepy metal machine that obliterated old junk cars (even the old junk cars if memory serves me correctly).

I’m going to be painfully honest: something does not sit right with me when it comes to anthropomorphic animals. Talking animals are as common as talking humans now a days—only there is something covertly sly about them. Anthropomorphic animals have gigantic potential to give me the heebie-jeebies. Not always…just the potential. But give me a house with an attitude? I’m all over that. Especially if it’s perhaps…a haunted house with an attitude? A sassy tea infuser that is picky about the tea leaves placed within her metal perforated belly?

I encourage you to think outside the human and animal brain. I encourage you to look around yourself and assign emotions to the objects in your house. Make homework out of it. You never know what you’ll come up with. And when you do come up with it: Query me!