Today is a special edition of Gratitude Sunday, not only because it’s been a while since I’ve posted one, but because it also falls on New Year’s Day. AND it coincides with an assignment I gave to the folks participating in the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to make a list of everything they were grateful for in their writing lives in 2016. So I am going to do the same. The list will thus be far more than 10 items this time. I hope everyone takes inspiration from how much we can find to be thankful for, even if we are experiencing difficult times.

First, how about a few inspirational quotes on gratitude from a few of the talented geniuses who we left behind in 2016.

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” — Prince

“For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” — Elie Wiesel

“When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That’s about all you can do.” — Leonard Cohen

“I like writing books. I’d rather be at home with my wife. I can write, take a break, come out, have a glass of tea, give my wife a kiss, and go back in and write some more. It’s not so bad. I am really lucky.” — Gene Wilder

Gratitude list for my writing life in 2016

  1. Kelli Panique, my trusty assistant, right-hand woman, and without whom nothing would be possible.
  2. My agent, Erzsi Deak, who keeps me (mostly) sane and centered, and who inspires me to do better and better work.
  3. ALL of the 800+ members of 12 x 12 in 2016. I think I say this every year, but this year’s group was special. We become more and more of a family with each passing year.
  4. Linda Silvestri, who created our beautiful 5-year anniversary banner, which was featured on a celebratory cake.
  5. Speaking of cake, many thanks to Julie Gribble and all the folks at KidlitTV for helping me plan and host an extraordinary anniversary party in NYC this past February. SUCH an amazing night!
  6. I am also grateful for having the chance to record an episode of Storymakers with KidlitTV, and thanks to Susan Eaddy for providing the brilliance behind the activity.
  7. To all of the 12 x 12 in 2016 webinar speakers: Tara Lazar, Deborah Warren and Erin Dealey, Sudipta Bardhank-Quallen, Michelle Cusolito, Erzsi Deak, Miranda Paul, Matthew Winner, Peter H. Reynolds, Martha Brockenbrough, Whitney Stewart and Don Tate. I learned so much from you all, but mostly I’m grateful for the inspiration.
  8. Katie Davis and Emma Walton Hamilton – two friends I can safely say I could not live without.
  9. Darshana Khiani, for being my accountability partner this year.
  10. Marcie Colleen, for the dance parties and everything else.
  11. Members of the Intense, A$$-kicking critique group: Julie Rowan-Zoch, Stacy Jensen, Carol Munro, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, and Heather Preusser. Thank you for helping me turn two of my manuscripts around in a very short time.
  12. I’m grateful to all the agents who dedicate their time to receiving submissions from 12 x 12 members. There were 20 of them in 2016, so I am not going to list them all, but please know how much the opportunity means to our members.
  13. I’m grateful to SCBWI, and especially for the 2 conferences I attended this year in NYC and Denver. Lin Oliver is not only one of the most generous human beings alive, but her presentation on how to write humor at the RMC-SCBWI conferences was one of the BEST sessions I’ve ever attended, hands down. Also to our local Schmooze group, especially Kim and Jeri who run it so well.
  14. I am grateful to all the editors who considered my manuscripts this year, even as they were turned down. Each provided me with useful feedback to help me take my writing to the next level.
  15. I am grateful that this writing life gives me the flexibility and freedom to design my own schedule and be active in my children’s lives.
  16. To the entire Picture Book Summit team, for throwing another epic online conference. I had so much fun creating my “Verse Curse” presentation, and learning from the other speakers and my esteemed colleagues. We ALL work hard all year long to make that conference happen. So here’s to Jon Bard & Laura Backes, Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis, Kristin Ammerman, Kelli Panique and Aaron Brown.
  17. Having the inspiration to write 6 new manuscripts in 2016. Thanks at least in part to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo (now Storystorm).
  18. Getting one manuscript out on submission before the end of the year (thanks again, Erzsi!)
  19. Sarah Towle for sharing an apartment with me in Bologna and all of the ongoing love and inspiration.
  20. To Susan Eaddy, again, for her stunning work. Every time I open MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN it makes me catch my breath to see those illustrations.
  21. My bookkeeper, for helping me keep my financial head on straight.
  22. I”m grateful for Facebook, which enables me to keep in touch with my writing peeps every day.
  23. Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, for treating me like family, coming to my party in Feb, and for all they do for fellow writers every day.
  24. Seriously, so many friends there are too many to name. Know that I am grateful for ALL of you.
  25. I will end the list on this one. I am truly, honestly, intensely grateful for the entire kidlit community. We are so fortunate to work in an industry where everyone wants and celebrates success for everyone. Where we share our time and talent with each other, and we take a stand on making the world a better place in myriad ways. I truly don’t know how I got so lucky to be surrounded by such brilliance, creativity, and kindness day in and day out. I am at the point now where I can’t imagine doing anything else. Thank you.

What are you grateful for with respect to your writing life in 2016?

Categories: 12 x 12, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Rhyming, SCBWI, Writing

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Five years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014 and have stuck with the tradition. Now it’s time to reveal successes from 2016, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation… Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done

It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Because I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself, I’ve invited 12 Days of Christmas for Writers participants to post their successes on their blogs and websites too. Feel free to share links to your posts in the comments here!

Now, I’m going to be honest and say 2016 was NOT my best year on any front — professionally, personally, etc. I did NOT want to sit down to write this list. On the one hand, I want 2016 to be gone and on the other, I am afraid for the unknowns of 2017. Sitting down to reflect upon this year seemed like a final torture.

But guess what?

When times are tough, when you start feeling as if your dreams are outside of your grasp, it becomes MORE IMPORTANT to reflect on your accomplishments and give yourself credit for all that you DID achieve. When I put my list together, I was surprised because I accomplished far more than I thought I did. I had a FEELING that 2016 was full of failure, but the truth tells another story.

Here is my list of my major professional accomplishments for 2016.

  1. I wrote six new picture book drafts this year. Honestly, I thought the number was much lower and found myself quite pleasantly surprised when I did the tally.
  2. I did countless revisions on multiple manuscripts. I did complete re-writes of two stories based on editorial feedback from publishers.
  3. Two of my manuscripts went to acquisitions at major publishing houses. Although they were ultimately rejected, they garnered positive feedback from the editors along with requests to see more work in the future.
  4. I set a goal of completing four manuscripts to submission-ready during the month of October. I fell a little short, but got two completed and two others into solid draft form.
  5. One of my completed manuscripts from October is now on submission.
  6. I hosted a showcase at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair. During the showcase, a major U.S. publisher expressed interest in rights to MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. I never expected another publisher to bring it back into print. We shall see what happens, but that was validation I needed at the time.
  7. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, the Korean version was released this year.
  8. With the help of Julie Gribble and my friends at KidlitTV, I hosted a 5-year anniversary party for the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing challenge in New York. I was touched by the number of people who came, and it felt wonderful to celebrate all that EVERYONE in the challenge has achieved in the past 5 years.
  9. Speaking of KidlitTV, I was honored to record an episode of Storymakers with My Love for You is the Sun illustrator Susan Eaddy.
  10. I once again shepherded the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge participants through a year of writing, revising, submitting, and SUPPORTING. With 800+ members in 2016, I take pride in the fact that the community becomes MORE of a family each year despite its growth.
  11. Once again, hosted 12 fantastic and inspirational webinars during the 12 x 12 challenge.
  12. Launched my Teachable website to offer the webinars for purchase to non-members
  13. With my partners Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis, Jon Bard, and Laura Backes, hosted the second annual Picture Book Summit online conference to the same success we had in 2015.
  14. Due to the generosity of 12 x 12 members, we were able to increase our number of available scholarships in 2017 from four to six.
  15. I had the pleasure of teaching at the first annual Writers Who Run Retreat.
  16. Formed a new online critique group
  17. With the help of a fantastic bookkeeper, I have kept my finances in fairly decent order this year.
  18. I opened a new retirement account.

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list! Share in the comments if you’d like! 🙂

Categories: Goals, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing

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anti-resolutionFour years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014 and have stuck with the tradition. Now it’s time to reveal successes from 2015, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation… Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done

It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Because I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself, I’ve invited 12 Days of Christmas for Writers participants to post their successes on their blogs and websites too. Feel free to share links to your posts in the comments here!

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2015. 

  1. This was the year of revision. Nine out of twelve months this year were focused on MAJOR revisions to multiple manuscripts. All of those manuscripts ended up on submission.
  2. Two of my manuscripts made it all the way to acquisitions, one at two different publishing houses. Although those ended up as rejections, I got feedback about how “gorgeous” and “evocative” my writing was. I was also invited to revise and resubmit, which I am working on now.
  3. One of the manuscripts I’ve been working on all year is a picture book biography. I can honestly say it’s been the most difficult and most rewarding writing I’ve ever done.
  4. I wrote two new picture book manuscripts.
  5. I once again shepherded the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge participants through a year of writing, revising, submitting, and SUPPORTING. With almost 800 members in 2015, I take pride in the fact that the community still feels like family.
  6. Successfully launched the brand new 12 x 12 webinar series with fabulous speakers such as author/editor Emma Walton Hamilton, agent Jill Corcoran, author Jane Yolen, and editor Emma Dryden.
  7. A Jefferson County school got a grant to buy 300 copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, and I spent the whole day at their school presenting to each elementary grade. One of the most rewarding author experiences I’ve ever had.
  8. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, my agent Erzsi Deak sold Korean rights. The book has been translated into Korean and will likely go on sale in Korea this coming year.
  9. Co-hosted and launched the first-ever Picture Book Summit, an online conference that boasted keynote speakers Peter Brown, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Mac Barnett. With more than 700 registrants, it was a smashing success.
  10. With my partner Emma Walton Hamilton, fully updated and re-launched The Complete Picture Book Submissions System.
  11. I managed to get my taxes done, which showed a nice increase in income from 2013 to 2014.
  12. I sought more professional help, which I desperately needed.
  13. Came up with 30+ new picture book ideas in this year’s PiBoIdMo
  14. I managed to keep up with my work despite suffering a pinched nerve due to a bulging disc in my cervical spine. The injury was quite debilitating, and while I’m much, much better, I’m still recovering. So I honestly need to give myself credit for all I accomplished in the last six months of the year, given most of it was done while in chronic pain.
  15. Attending the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference in September, seeing old friends and making new, and learning loads in the post-conference picture book intensive.
  16. Spoke at two SCBWI Connect local events – one in Boulder and one in Colorado Springs (virtually)
  17. Was a guest lecturer at a University of Colorado Children’s Literature course. Super fun!!
  18. Presented a 12 x 12 webinar on crowdfunding
  19. Spoke with an editor at Scholastic for an hour, soaking up advice on possible revisions for my picture book biography.
  20. Got 20 agents for 12 x 12 in 2016 lined up BEFORE Christmas, plus five webinar speakers, and eight professional “critique ninjas,” a new feature for 2016. For once, I feel pretty organized for the launch of 12 x 12.

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list! Share in the comments if you’d like! 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Holidays, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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There’s a Twitter hashtag today, #pb10for10, where folks are sharing 10 of their favorite picture books in different themes and categories to provide inspiration for teachers getting ready for a new school year.

I couldn’t resist jumping on this and featuring a few books published within the past year (or coming soon!) by some of the many talented participants of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. (NOTE: I edited this post to include a BRAND NEW picture book by one of our members that releases tomorrow!!). So now there are 11 books on the list. 🙂 In no particular order:

1. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Cheesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia, by Miranda Paul

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred. The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change. Isatou Ceesay was that change.

One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul

2. What About Moose? by Corey Rosen Schwartz

When Fox, Toad, Bear, Porcupine, and Skunk set out to build a tree house, they know just what to do: they’ll follow a plan and they’ll work as a team. But when bossy Moose barges in and upends their plans with some of his own, his friends become more and more frustrated…until things go hilariously awry!

what-about-moose-9781481404969_hr

3. I Thought This Was a Bear Book, by Tara Lazar

After an unfortunate bookcase collapse, Alien suddenly finds himself jolted out of his story and into a very strange world, complete with talking bears. Desperate to return to his book, Alien asks the Bear family for help so he can get back to his story and save his beloved Planet Zero from total destruction before it’s too late.

bear-book-final-cover

4. When A Dragon Moves In Again, by Jodi Moore

Preparations are in full swing to welcome a new family member in this sequel to the award-winningWhen a Dragon Moves In. A young boy has become a big brother and he and his beloved dragon dedicate themselves to entertaining the little baby. But when the drooling, crying baby somehow charms the dragon and his attention, the boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business.

dragon moves in

5. Buster, The Little Garbage Truck, by Marcia Berneger

Buster is a sweet little garbage truck. He can’t wait to grow up to be a big truck, just like his father. Buster practices driving and lifting and beeping with his friend, Kitty. There’s one small problem. Loud noises frighten Buster. When his father takes him to the truck yard to meet the other vehicles, their air-horn blasts and roaring engines send Buster skidding away to hide. He wants to be big and brave, but how can he work with Daddy and his friends when their loud sounds scare him?

buster

6. Circus Train, by Jennifer Cole Judd

As the circus train rolls into town, excited children and their parents get in line for their chance to experience the Big Top. Clowns paint faces and people scurry to their seats. Then the show begins, wrapping readers in all the wonders of the circus. Dancing elephants, flipping trapeze artists, and pie-throwing clowns captivate both young and old.

Circus train

7. King Cake Baby, by Keila Dawson

When an old Creole woman bakes dessert on King’s Day, she has no idea what shenanigans will ensue. In this New Orleans adaptation of The Gingerbread Man, a mischievous king cake baby escapes his cake! He outruns a praline lady and a waiter at Café du Monde, but can he outsmart the clever baker?

king cake baby

8. Missing Nimama, by Melanie Florence

Kateri is a young girl, growing up in the care of her grandmother. We see her reaching important milestones her first day of school, first dance, first date, wedding, first child along with her mother, who is always there, watching her child growing up without her. Told in alternating voices, Missing Nimama is a story of love, loss, and acceptance, showing the human side of a national tragedy.

nimama

9. Albie’s First Word, by Jacqueline Tourville

Three-year-old Albie has never said a single word. When his worried mother and father consult a doctor, he advises them to expose little Albie to new things: a trip to the orchestra, an astronomy lecture, a toy boat race in the park. But though Albie dances with excitement at each new experience, he remains silent. Finally, the thoughtful, quiet child witnesses something so incredible, he utters his very first word: “Why?”

albies word

10. My Love For You Is The Sun, by Julie Hedlund

My Love for You is the Sun is a love letter from parent to child, expressing that timeless and unconditional love through soothing verses evoking the beauty and wonder of the natural world. My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but more than just familial or parental love, it captures the universal, infinite nature of love itself.

MLFY_cover

11. If An Elephant Went to School, by Ellen Fischer

Would an elephant learn the ABCs if she went to school? No way! She would learn to use her trunk as a nose, a straw, a hand, and a hose! Through a series of questions and answers, readers learn about animals and their unique behaviors. And in the end, you might find yourself asking just what would you learn.

elephant

Have you read any of these books? Have favorites? Found ones you want to check out? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: 12 x 12, Authors, Books, Children's Books, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books · Tags: , , ,

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My beautiful Mom

My beautiful Mom

“I embrace you with all my heart.” — Albert Camus, in a letter of gratitude to a childhood teacher.

“I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars.” — Margaret Wertheim

“…this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart   i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” — ee cummings

WARNING: SOME MAY FIND WHAT FOLLOWS OVERLY SAPPY AND SENTIMENTAL.

This is going to be a different kind of Gratitude Sunday post. Instead of sharing the weekly list of what I am grateful for, I’m feeling the need to ruminate on gratitude’s relationship to love.

Love my kiddos!

Today, Mother’s Day, I am thinking about love. The love of a child for a mother or a mother for a child, of course. But also other, and all, kinds of love.

As I have gotten older (and yes, I do have a birthday coming up so perhaps that is where the philosophizing is coming from), I’ve come to understand that the more I let go of expectations about what love in any of its forms should look like, the more love grows and deepens, and the more I can actually feel and savor the experience of it.

The more love I experience, the more I can give. The more I give, the more that is returned to me.

What I am most grateful for today is my awareness of this simple truth.

Many times in my past, I have thought, ‘This person didn’t love me in this way, so therefore I am deprived of love and/or I love him/her more than he/she loves me.’  If the scales didn’t balance, whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or with family members, pain and resentment would often follow.

Now I realize it is entirely possible, in any relationship, to take the love and leave the disappointment.

Take the love. Leave the disappointment. (Or, for Godfather fans, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”)

Dogs love unconditionally

I believe most people are trying as hard as they can to be good and kind and loving. However, they may not present those qualities to us the way we expect or want them to. But instead of feeling shortchanged, I’ve found appreciating what they are offering is far more rewarding than being resentful about what they’re not. I do not mean we should allow ourselves to be stepped on or treated poorly by those we love – not at all. But when someone is in earnest and doing the best he or she can, accept that goodness and keep it with you.

I’ve also been sloooowly building toward another realization. Love will seldom, if ever, grow as much as you want it to if you don’t first love yourself. Now before you run away screaming, I am NOT saying I truly love myself all the time. Not by a long shot. But I am trying to, and as I try, I realize that when I deprive myself of my own love, I have less available for others.

The reason why the stakes are so high with loving others, I think, is because we’re always looking for love as it is reflected back to us from them. But what if we just gave it to ourselves, regardless of what others were doing?

So, here is a mission for you, should you choose to accept it. Although the full lyrics of this song (Bruno Mars) clearly indicate it is a man expressing his love for a woman, you can take this verse, go in front of a mirror and belt it out to yourself. To you from yourself. I’m not gonna lie, it feels strange at first. But it also feels good and powerful.

When I see your face,

There’s not a thing that I would change.

‘Cause you’re amazing

Just the way you are.

Looping back around to loving and being loved by others, this week I’m sharing a list of people who shared love and gifts with me this week and lifted my heart in the process.

  1. My Mom – she is, without fail, my best friend, the person I rely on most, and the one whose love for me is always pure, even when she’s mad. 🙂
  2. Em – my sweet, gorgeous, talented, artistic girl. She sneaks up on me to give me hugs and kisses and never lets me forget she loves me.
  3. Jay – my bubbly, smart, funny, sensitive boy. His favorite place in the world is (still) cuddled up next to me, and he

    Overflowing Fountain of Joy

    expresses himself so deeply it can move me to tears.

  4. Kellie Johnson – one of my How to Make Money as a Writer students, wrote to say she had been feeling down, watched one of my course videos, and, “…within a handful of minutes, Julie’s joy for both her own writing and her overflowing fountain of joy for helping other writers had me feeling warm and fuzzy once again.” Kellie went on to send me a photo of an overflowing fountain. The beauty of this experience is that I, too, had been coming out of a recent funk, so her comment helped lift my spirit out of its own dark spot.
  5. David – company and companionship, laughter, tears, friendship, food, deep discussions, silly jokes, music, movies – all in the face of sickness.
  6. A seventh grade boy named Colby, who took his guitar onstage at the middle school music concert and belted out The House of the Rising Sun like I’ve never experienced before. Brought me to tears, the whole audience to their feet, and made me want to go home and immediately create something. Perfection in this unexpected package.
  7. Double Emmas – Emma Dryden who gave me important, insightful, and encouraging feedback on one of my manuscripts, and Emma Walton Hamilton who dropped everything on a busy night to answer some burning questions.
  8. Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple – talked about the art and craft of writing picture books for a 12 x 12 webinar. I walked with a golden glow of inspiration all day afterward.
  9. Erzsi Deak – my agent, friend, cheerleader, therapist. She always makes me feel better about my writing and more motivated to continue. Plus, this week she gave me a contract for Korean rights to My Love For You is the Sun! 🙂
  10. Rocky – not human in body but definitely in heart – and a constant warm presence.

So, I guess this week I will ask you WHO you are grateful for?

Categories: Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun · Tags: , , , ,

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Piglet GratitudeI write this post to the sound of the ocean waves outside the window–quite possibly the most soothing sound on earth. Lucky me! I have much to be grateful for this week, so let’s just get started. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know my love of Rumi. All of our quotes today are his, including one that mentions the ocean. Apropos of my location.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”

“Gratitude is wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.”

“Love rests on no foundation. It is an endless ocean, with no beginning or end.”

 

Gratitude list for the week ending March 7

  1. I am grateful that my friend Lara France, who lives in England and who has never even met me in person, sent me the image I’ve shared on this post saying she “thought of me” when she saw it.
  2. Another friend, Carmela LaVigna Coyle, recommended me to the loveliest new children’s bookstore that’s opened in Denver called Second Star to the Right. I met with them on Tuesday. They not only booked me for a reading, but bought four copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN right out of my hands because they “couldn’t wait for their order to come in” from Baker & Taylor!
  3. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, I got a call from a school principal in Denver who loves the book. She invited me to come for an author visit, and… they are going to buy 300+ copies of the book!!!! One for every child in the school. Grateful for my friend Marcie Colleen who created the fabulous Teacher’s Guide for the book, which helped them make the case for funding for the book purchase.
  4. Fate put me in the path of a friend I don’t see often in the form of lunch at the Atlanta airport, making for what is no doubt the most enjoyable layover I’ve ever had.
  5. Continuing on the friendship theme, I’ve had a wonderful time working with Emma Walton Hamilton on The Complete Picture Book Submissions System. Today is the last day of our product launch, and we’ve spent countless hours working together over the past few months. It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun because we were in it together.
  6. I had the honor of hosting a webinar featuring agent Jill Corcoran on Thursday. She was so generous of her time and wisdom, and it was a raging success!
  7. My kids were particularly sweet and well-behaved this week. Nuff said.
  8. Sledding with the kiddos in Carpenter Park followed by hot chocolate
  9. My stepmother treated me to this much-needed break from winter and the accumulated stress of two of the busiest months I’ve ever had. I haven’t yet walked on the beach, but that is on the agenda as soon as this post goes live.
  10. My assistant Kelli, without whom my business would unravel to the point of being unrecognizable.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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anti-resolutionThree years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014. I’m bringing this tradition with me into 2015, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation… Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done

It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Because I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself, I’ve invited 12 Days of Christmas for Writers participants to post their successes on their blogs and websites too. Feel free to share links to your posts in the comments here!

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2014. 

  1. I wrote 7 new picture book drafts and revised 12. Plus I wrote a book proposal. That’s a personal best for me in terms of volume of writing!!
  2. Launched the third year of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge with a spruced up Membership Forum. Grew to 750 members!
  3. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS storybook app won the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award.
  4. A SHIVER OF SHARKS storybook app won a 2014 Digital Book Award.
  5. Attended the first-ever Picture Book Boot Camp with THE Jane Yolen at her home in Massachusetts.
  6. My agent, Erzsi Deak, took my one of my books out on submission (still awaiting responses).
  7. Ran the second annual Writer’s Renaissance retreat in Florence Italy to great success.
  8. Launched a brand new website for Writer’s Renaissance.Me with MLFY
  9. Filed my first tax return as a single, self-employed person.
  10. Launched a comprehensive online course – How to Make Money as a Writer.
  11. Launched The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions (with my friend and colleague Emma Walton Hamilton).
  12. Participated as a speaker in the SCBWI-MI webinar series on the topic of being an Author Entrepreneur.
  13. Met with all Denver-area bookstores to plan events for the launch of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN and to get them to carry the print version of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS.
  14. Learned, once and for all, to use Scrivener. I have to credit Joe Michael’s excellent course,* which I keep open every time I write in the program.
  15. Presented at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction conference on the topic of changes in the publishing industry, storybook apps, and connecting with your audience.
  16. Presented at the New Jersey SCBWI conference on the topics of author-entrepreneurship and crowdfunding.
  17. Attended the LA-SCBWI Annual Summer conference and was interviewed by Lee Wind for the Official SCBWI Blog.
  18. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN released on September 9th!
  19. My first radio show interview took place the day before my book launch party.
  20. Held hugely successful book launch at Saturn Booksellers in my hometown of Gaylord, MI. (psst… Saturn still has signed copies of the book in their store…)
  21. Visited all three elementary schools, for free, in my hometown during my launch week.
  22. Presented at the SCBWI-MI conference on the subject of 21st century publishing.
  23. Presented at my first-ever book festival – The Southern Festival of Books – with MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN illustrator Susan Eaddy.
  24. Conducted school visits and several bookstore signings with Susan Eaddy, including Parnassus Books, The Tattered Cover, The Book Bar, The Bookies, and Boulder Bookstore. (As a public service announcement, ALL of these stores have signed copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN)
  25. Fulfilled all the rewards for Kickstarter backers of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN.
  26. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN was nominated for the 2014 CYBILS awards in the picture book category.
  27. Spent a week in London doing research for my picture book biography.
  28. Launched a brand new website for the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge
  29. Participated in PiBoIdMo and came up with 28 new picture book ideas, one of which is already drafted.
  30. Hired a bookkeeper and have begun to get my business finances in order, not just for tax season but also for planning and forecasting.
  31. Continued to contribute to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast.

I’m quite happy with this list. 🙂

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list! Share in the comments if you’d like. 🙂

*I love Joe’s course so much I became an affiliate. That means if you use my link and make a purchase, I get a small commission. As always, I NEVER recommend anything I don’t love and use myself. But it is important to do your own due diligence before making any purchase to determine whether it will work for you and/or meet your needs. 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Holidays, Italy, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, SCBWI, Storybook Apps, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Signing at Boulder Bookstore!

Signing at Boulder Bookstore!

This week was filled with the stuff of dreams. Signing books in some of my favorite stores, reading MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN to children of all ages, “playing” with illustrator Susan Eaddy and showing her around Boulder/Denver, and being surrounded by friends and loved ones. Most of all, I am grateful I was able to share all of this with my children.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Today I choose to live with gratitude for the love that fills my heart, the peace that rests within my spirit, and the voice of hope that says… all things are possible.” — Unknown

“There is no joy without gratitude.” — Brene Brown

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Gratitude list for the week ending November 8

  1. Susan and I got to present and/or sign books at four of my favorite local bookstores — The Tattered Cover, The Book Bar, The Boulder Bookstore, and The Bookies! You can pick up signed copies of both MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN and A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS at all of these stores. Go Indies!!
  2. Being able to share my home and town with Susan in exchange for the wonderful time she showed me in
    Look Mom, Face Out!

    Look Mom, Face Out!

    Nashville

  3. GOOD NEWS on a new manuscript! Much excitement and the thrill of possibility
  4. My daughter knocked her singing solo out of the park at the 6th grade choir performance. So proud!
  5. So many friends and family came to our signings and events – an honor
  6. Doing a school visit with one of my in-person critique partner’s fourth grade class! She’s an amazing teacher and writer!!
  7. Boulder put on its best in terms of weather – gorgeous all week
  8. Dinner at Ten Ten Brasserie
  9. Seldom do I engage in retail therapy, but since I was showing Susan around… 🙂 I found a few great things for myself.
  10. The right to vote

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Children's Books, Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Poetry, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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anais ninThis month, November 2014, 12 x 12 has a featured post instead of a featured author post. Why is that? Well, the God’s honest truth is that I drowned in October. That funny noise you hear in the background? That’s me… glugging. Glug. Glug.

I’m always busy, but combine book launch events with travel, launching two new products within the span of a month, trying to meet writing deadlines, AND running 12 x 12, all while parenting a highly emotional middle-schooler and an active 3rd-grader and you’ve got one strung-out Julie. So when I finally came to and realized I didn’t have a featured author scheduled this month, I didn’t have the capacity to find one in time. Luckily, between Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Picture Book Month, there will be a smorgasbord of posts from unimaginably talented authors and illustrators for you to enjoy.

HOWEVER, don’t think for a minute that I don’t have nuggets and prizes for you. I do.

Given that Emma Walton Hamilton and I just launched The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the submissions process. Before I got an agent, I used to dream of the day I didn’t have to submit anymore. Oh that sweet, sweet day…

Guess what? That day never comes. It’s true I don’t have to write my own submissions to editors, and that I can access publishing houses closed to unsolicited submissions. But even though it’s my agent writing and sending them, the submissions still happen. And they’re still painful, hard to bear, nerve-racking. And rejections still come in–lots of them. I suspect that until a person becomes a national, consistent best-selling author, rejections remain more common than acceptances, whether it’s your agent rejecting because the manuscript is not strong enough to submit or you do submit and editors reject.

Where am I going with this, you ask? Aren’t the monthly posts supposed to be inspirational?

Hang on. It’s coming.

Hearken to before I started submitting to agents. It took me a long time to realize that the answer was always going to be no unless I submitted. Fear of rejection is extremely powerful, especially when it comes to something as tender and personal as something you’ve written from your heart. So powerful, in fact, that rejection can keep you from allowing amazing things to happen.

While I’ve also been thinking a lot about submissions, I’ve also spent a lot of time holding my latest “baby” — MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. Many, many heart-wrenching rejections, but now a beautiful book. A book that sprung from my soul and is now alive in the world, perhaps stirring other people’s souls. And if I hadn’t had the courage to submit – to my agent, to my publisher, it would probably still be living on my hard drive.

I’m sure many of you have seen this quote before, but it bears repeating often:

anais nin blossom

So whether you are ready to submit your work or not, don’t let fear stop you. You don’t have to cross the chasm all at once. One step at a time will get you there. So really, all you need is the courage to take the next step.

In fact, Emma and I talked about that when we put together The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions. So many people find the process mysterious and frightening, so we wanted to break it down into manageable chunks that wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

Once, as a child, I got very nervous about meeting a “famous” person who was coming to our school. My brother said, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.”

So do agents. And everyone else you perceive to be occupying the space between you and your dreams. Just go for it!

This month, the giveaway for one lucky 12 x 12 participant is a FREE registration to The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions. If it turns out that the winner already has an agent, I’ll give a free registration to my other new course, How to Make Money as a Writer. In fact, whoever the winner is can choose between them – how’s that?

One thing to note is that our early-bird rate for The Guide expires Monday, November 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. If you know you want to purchase it, go ahead and do so before the price increases by $50. If you win this month, you’ll get a full refund.

Good luck with those drafts this month!! 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Creativity, Giveaway, Goals, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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The sky in Boulder on Tuesday

The sky in Boulder on Tuesday

An up and down week, but with gratitude practice comes acceptance of both. So here is this week’s post.

Quotes on Gratitude

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” — Richard Bach

“Everything is a gift of the universe—even joy, anger, jealously, frustration, or separateness. Everything is perfect either for our growth or our enjoyment.” — Ken Keyes, Jr.

“If we become uncomfortable in any given moment, we can look at a flower, a pebble in the street or the tire on our car and be grateful. We can gaze at a person in the distance or at a cloud in the sky and be appreciative. We can smile at a stranger, hug someone we know or tidy a disorganized shelf and be thankful for the opportunity. If we choose gratitude, we will be happy!” — Barry Neil Kaufman

Gratitude list for the week ending October 4

  1. The memory of my father
  2. The passing of September into October
  3. Cooking and sharing a delicious dinner in celebration of my mother’s 70th birthday
  4. Although difficult, making discoveries about my daughter that will enable me to be a better mother to her.
  5. My fabulous (and tolerant) in-person critique group
  6. Susan Eaddy, illustrator of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, put us on the Nashville bestseller list AND the prestigious kidlit blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
  7. Meeting a friend, previously known only electronically, for a fantastic, fun, and yummy lunch in downtown Boulder, followed by a trip to the children’s section of the Boulder Bookstore
  8. Margaritas on the rooftop patio of Rio Grande on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon
  9. Penne Pizzaiola at Carelli’s restaurant (why yes, there IS a food theme this week it seems)
  10. My ill-behaved hound, Rocky, who makes up for everything by curling his huge self at my feet while I work.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Children's Books, Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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