Living with a children's author isn't as easy as it looks!


Picture books should have about 500 words. Not 700, not 900, and NOT 1,075!! Mom dug out (from inside her computer) an old story of hers called Mail for Jessica. She always thought this would be her official Book #2. Waaaay back then, when picture books were about 1,000 words, Mom framed the manuscript and hung it up because she was THAT sure it would be snapped up and published any minute.


Cut to a hundred million years later (yesterday), and that big, overgrown story is still hanging unpublished on the wall and still sitting unpublished inside the Dropbox. Mom said, “It’s too long!” and “There are so many words I don’t need.” and “Where’s your stuffed watermelon?”

watermelon nap

Just like people and dogs, picture books should have only what they NEED. That’s what makes a story tight and fresh and filled with possibilities for success.

Mom needs her ice pack for a little while each day. She says she does NOT need my bony head on her sore leg.


Sometimes, cutting out the extra stuff isn’t as easy as it sounds…..


Comments on: "Need" (67)

  1. I know what you mean Cupcake. Seems like when I’m trying to keep it short, it ends up too long. Or if I need to meet a certain word requirement, I just can’t reach it! Weird how that works out…

  2. Same here – when I try to keep it short, it’s always xxxl. Maybe that’s something like fate? Oh and where is your stuffed Watermelon? Best wishes to your mom’s knee – have a great Monday :o)

    • Sometimes I just don’t get it, E. I fall asleep for a while, and when I wake up, my watermelon is gone. I may need to sleep with one eye open….

      Love and XXXL licks,

  3. All your doing is healing in your own way your mum’s knee. Maybe you need a new approach to get attention LOL πŸ™‚

  4. We hope your Momma’s knee is feeling better. Are you kissing it enough? I hear that helps with humans ouchies!

  5. Hey Cupcake, I love that last photograph of you, how adorable is that! Hope your Mommy is recovering well, as we have done a great job thinking of her! Yep, it’s hard to write something short, because when you’re in the middle of it, you think of something else to say and continue on. We all do it! Huggies to you! πŸ™‚

  6. Great post, Genevieve, er Cupcake. I hope your leg feels 100% better soon. Now I’m off to see exactly what the story I’m working on today “needs”.

  7. Cupcake I see you’re still performing nursing duties for your Mom….and in such a cute way too with the leg cuddles. She has ice on it AND a warm puppy as well – now that just HAS to be good medicine!

    Kitty Hugs, Sammy

  8. Words seem to have a life of their own sometimes! I’m glad you’re trying to help your mom. I hope she’s fully recovered soon.

  9. Your mama may not need your head on her knee, but she needs you beside her!

  10. Cupcake, Mamma has that problem all the time (hehe you might notice from some blog posts). Your Mom is very talented and she surely appreciates your help and company!

    ~ Coccolino the mini pig

  11. Great post, Cupcake! I bet your Mom will get Mail for Jessica whittled into shape. Maybe you’d better rest your head on your stuffed watermelon for a while though, until she gets her knee into shape.

  12. Maybe she should give you a few pages to chew! That’ll trim the fat. πŸ™‚
    Mom will find a way. I am confident of that. Good luck. I’m waiting on book two. Any minute now…;-)

    • Thanks, G. I like your idea. I enjoy eating paper. Once I ate the rent bill – and the envelope and the carbon paper and the return envelope. Mmmm…

      Love and licks,

  13. I hope your Mom’s knee gets better (or your head gets softer!) πŸ˜‰ Good luck Ms. Petrillo!

  14. Hoping your Mom is feeling better soon! My Mom tries to be less “wordy” but it rarely happens!

  15. Ouch, careful there Cupcake! Hope the knee heals soon.

  16. Could she cut the story in half and make the second half into a sequel? Hope she figures it out. At uni mummy used to have the opposite problem and would be under the word count and had run out of things to say.
    ps Cupcake, I’m sure your mummy appreciates your knee cuddles really πŸ™‚

  17. Great post Cupcake. I totally understand. I recently took out a MS that was edited several years ago by a professional editor, and at that time was encouraged to flesh it out more. I had it line edited too, but it was at a time when they handed spoken the magice #500 words. So, I finally took out about 150 words a month ago (which I found very easy) and it is a much tighter story now. I love Patricia Polacco’s books, but they are consistently wordy and for older kids — and I love them. I guess when you’ve made it and have a following you can do anything.

    • Thanks, P. Mom absolutely loves Patricia Polacco. Whenever she gets a following, she will write stories that are CRAZY-long, too, and it’ll be OK.

      Love and licks,

  18. If your mom doesn’t like your head on her knee right now, maybe she would be okay with it on her foot. I hope she’s completely better soon.

  19. snoopys@snoopysdogblog said:

    Hey Cupcake

    I think your Mom is super lucky to have you right there by her side (or on her leg) just waiting to fulfill her every wish on her road to recovery, you’re such a great nurse! πŸ™‚

    Uh oh, think I’m in danger of writing too many words myself now….. πŸ™‚

    Get well soon Mom.

    Your pal Snoopy πŸ™‚

  20. Poor Mummy’s knee, we can see you are taking good care of her Cupcake πŸ™‚ xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  21. Cupcake, you take good care of that knee. You know, if your momma has trouble walking she may not be able to get to the kibble bin.

    You read my reviews, well you used to, and they are always wordy. But now you read my short reviews and they are tighter. Words are a tricky thing, and each year there are MORE of them.

    You have a smart moma there kiddo. Keep her healthy.

    • You clearly have the skill to cut your reviews, so Mom and I can read the short version if we have a million blogs to read. You are a good editor. Editing is not fun for Mom.

      Love and licks,

  22. In a former life, my mommy was an editor. She finds great joy in cutting words! It’s sometimes easier to cut someone else’s words than to cut your own, she says. And about that bony head, you’re just trying to transfer your healing powers, right?

  23. Writing sure is a tricky business, Cupcake. I just know your mom will pick out just the right words to keep for this story though! Now if only you could make your chin nice and cold; I bet she wouldn’t mind your head on her knee then πŸ™‚

  24. Oh Cupcake…I don’t think us canines are wired to understand “less is more.” We love with our whole selves, right down to our core. I give you credit for trying to with nursing your beloved mom back to health….albeit challenging. Keep on loving big and the rest will follow. Lots of love, Wiles

  25. I bet she finds that bony head strangely soothing πŸ™‚

  26. looks like your momma sewed up that watermelon really good πŸ™‚ So nice to see your mommys accomplishments framed for all to see πŸ™‚

  27. Perhaps you should chew on your Mom’s story a little bit? Or put an ice pack on it so that it shrinks?
    My papers are always at least twice as long as they should be… I have graphomania!!!

    • You are a problem-solver, K! I could definitely eat some paper! Paper is delicious! After Mom’s story, I can eat your papers for dessert!

      Love and licks,

      • What do you think about computer screen licking? My recent paper is 38 pages long (15331 words!) instead of 15-20 pages!

      • Throw that computer away, and get a new one, K. You need to start over!!! :/

      • OMG, Cupcake, that would be a disaster! My computer is only 3 months old and belongs to my workplace!!! Moreover, my co-author would kill me if I started over!
        BTW: Time often helps because you may get some distance from your own work and read it as someone else’s product.

  28. Cutting out the extra “stuff”…that’s exactly what I’m working on here … I’m trying to fill at least one small box every couple of days and taking it to the goodwill (or the library for books) I’m ready to pare down the “stuff” and feel lighter with every box that goes out

  29. Sorry, Cupcake, but I missed this one. You’re a good nurse, Sweetie! Healing Pawkisses πŸ™‚

  30. Our mom just finished writing something that was supposed to 500 words maximum. It was 675 when she finished, and it took her forever to get down to the 500. Rereading and rereading over and over. She made it finally. She sure is glad we have computers that give word counts. She remembers in school having to count in her head and sometimes losing track. Good luck with your story. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  31. Hope your knee is feeling better! Best wishes on your book rewrite… We can’t wait till it is in print!

  32. Absolutely understand. “Brevity is the soul of wit,” but not easy to get there.

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