Armory of Aardvarks, courtesy of

Armory of Aardvarks, courtesy of

This is going to be a slightly different kind of Gratitude Sunday post. In fact, I’m going to share something that is going to sound decidedly UN-grateful (at first).

Yesterday I woke up and had a bit of a panic attack. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I am in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for my next picture book. Self-promotion, especially the kind that involves emailing people to ask them for money (even while offering rewards in exchange), is my least favorite part of this job. I do it because I have to. And I try to reciprocate as often as I can when my writing friends are doing the same. Still. Promotion is not within my direct comfort zone, so it is exhausting and completely somewhat excruciating.

In addition, I’ve got to gear up my marketing efforts for A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and the two apps for the holidays. I’m planning a launch party, trying to squeeze in a couple more school visits, calling local bookstores and libraries to inquire about events. Again, not at the top of my list of favorite activities.

That’s when it hit me. I had two thoughts in rapid succession:

  1. The business of writing for children is SO. HARD.
  2. It’s NEVER going to get easier. Not EVER. Every book, every project will require this level of effort and anxiety.

So I asked myself, “WHY am I doing this?” I’m an intelligent, educated, still-fairly-young *cough* woman with many transferable skills. I could make more money (a LOT more) with far less work. So I had a visceral moment of “doubt and shame.”

The pat answer is, of course, because I love writing for children. Because it’s my passion. But honestly, those answers oversimplify.

I got the true answer a little later in the day when I opened an email from one of my writing friends, Alison Stevens. She purchased a print copy of TROOP at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference to donate to her kids’ school library. This is what she wrote:

“The librarian was thrilled. Seriously, she looked it over, loved the plural nouns, fawned over the alliteration (which 3rd grade is learning right now), and hugged it.”

Wait just a darn minute! You mean there is another person in the world who loved my book enough to hug it??? 

Not to sound like Oprah, but that’s when I remembered that the reason I write for children is because nothing else I’ve ever done has made me feel like my life is in alignment with my purpose. Writing for children does.

To top that off, now that 300+ children in the community have seen me in a school visit, everywhere I go these days I seem to have a child waving, smiling, telling me they liked my books. In fact, at my son’s basketball practice the other day, there were two boys on the sidelines whispering with each other and looking over at me. Finally, after what seemed like quite a long debate, they approached me. Here’s how the conversation went:

BOY #1: ASK her!

BOY #2: After your presentation, one of the other kids told me that you know every animal group name.

ME: I don’t know if I know every single one, but I know a lot of them.

BOY #2: Do you know what a group of aardvarks is called?

Clearly these hooligans were trying to trip my up by picking one of the more obscure animals.

ME: Indeed I do. A group of aardvarks is called an “armory.”

BOY #1: WOW!

BOY #2: That is SO COOL!

Now, as a little girl I never daydreamed about becoming an expert on collective nouns for animal groups. But I DID dream about being able to make a difference in the world. Every time somebody loves what I write, I’ve reached them in a way that would not otherwise have been possible. So THAT is also why I do what I do.

The reason this whole post at first seemed ungrateful to me is because, as I wrote it, my Kickstarter campaign was almost 80% funded! So many people have pledged their support for a book that is near and dear to my heart. How lucky am I?

So I was able to come full circle — from fear, doubt, and anxiety all the way back to extreme gratitude.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. I really enjoyed this post. I love how things, how life, does come full circle. Good for you and for all you strive to do! 🙂

  2. I am grateful for your honesty! I am also grateful that you came full circle back to gratitude. Some days that’s a difficult journey, but it’s always a worthwhile one. (I would have been grateful for a “tissues needed” warning at the beginning of this post, though… 😉 )

    This week I’m particularly grateful for understanding friends who will listen when I need to talk, and who will help me get to a sense of equilibrium. It was a kind of upsy-downsy week.

  3. Lovely Julie! I have been really busy with other life projects and getting ready to pick up my kiddy lit life again. As always you are a true inspiration. Ronnie Eden

  4. Maybe it’s the timing of all this promotion too, right near Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a stressful time for some without all those difficult things to do. I’m grateful I’m more of a slow release marketing person it seems way less stressful and overwhelming. That conversation with those boys is fab!

    • You know, Catherine, I never thought about it that way but I think you’re right. There’s a lot of pressure to do marketing and promotion around the holidays (for obvious reasons), but it’s a time when you least want to do it. Luckily conversations like I had with those boys breaks it up and brings laughs in between.

  5. Thanks for your candor, Julie. How wonderful to know that you are making a difference!!!

  6. Loved the honesty in this post, Julie. I find the self-promotion, especially from my culture, also extraordinarily uncomfortable, so I getcha. It’s great to refocus on why we do this – the kids (and adults) who are blessed by our books!

    • Joanna, I try to remind myself that we’re not promoting ourselves, we’re promoting our books and our work. These things have value. A great deal of value. It doesn’t necessarily make the promotion easier, but when I get responses like I did from the librarian or those boys, it helps me remember the value of what we do.

  7. Great post – I loved your personal examples of book hugging and showing those wannabe hooligans what a smarty pants you are! There’s just a tickly-goosebumpy-kinda feeling you get when you hear those stories, and you just know getting more of those tickly-goosebumpy-kinda feelings is why you write.

  8. Yay!! Oh, Julie, I’m so delighted to hear that my email was so well timed. Writing IS hard. But you’ve found your calling, and I know you’ll slog through the rough parts to emerge, successful, on the other side. Not to mention, you’ll inspire the rest of us by taking us along on your journey. ((((hugs))))

    • Yes Alison. Isn’t it funny how the exact right message reaches us at the exact right time? So I’m grateful that you didn’t get TROOP into that library any earlier, because NOW is when I needed to get the response. 🙂 Thank you!!

  9. YES – last night I was freaking out about how my time for writing is so limited, now that my toddler isn’t napping, which leaves me 2 hours of “me time” in the evening if I want to get to bed by 10, which I need to do being 7 months pregnant (but hasn’t been happening). With the holidays approaching I’m feeling even more pressed for time, and there is so much I want to get done writing-wise before the baby comes in January. I was venting to my husband and he said “you say this every day” (which made me try to re-approach it from complaining to how I can utilize more time during the day and weekends), but as I was falling asleep I started thinking about how even though it’s stressing me out so much, writing picture books is what I love to do and am passionate about. I remembered to appreciate that I finally found a career that doesn’t feel like “work”, and thought about where I was 3 years ago, as my maternity leave from my (then) job approached. I was burnt out and looking forward to leaving, and planned to use my baby as an excuse to quit. Back then I was thinking, “I can’t wait to not be working!” and now I”m thinking “I need more time to revise and submit my stories! And finish the research for my literary NF biography and etc. etc” So I’m trying to re-frame my perspective to appreciating that I DO have all this writing work on my plate, and enjoying that I’m excited about my ideas and manuscripts, rather than focusing on the pressure of not having enough time and stressing out about the next couple of months. So, I’m in a different place in the publishing process than you, Julie, but it’s the same sentiment. We are lucky to be doing what we are doing!

    • Julie, I’m in awe of YOU for being able to stay dedicated to your passion for writing while being 7 months pregnant with a toddler in tow! I would not have been able to do it in those days. Just know that the day will come (far more quickly than you think) when they’re in school all day and you’ll have more time to write. The difference is you’ll be far more prepared than I was for having worked on it during those baby days. 🙂

  10. What a wonderful conversation with those boys! 😀

  11. Appreciate your honest post about the sort of struggles you face in this writing journey. Know that you are making a difference for a whole community of children’s content creators 🙂
    I’m grateful to have stumbled on 12×12 this year!

  12. Amazing post Julie, this may sound strange, but it’s great to know that there are other writers out there who have anxiety about their books too…

    • It doesn’t sound strange at all Melissa. That’s why I wanted to share. I know sometimes people look at what I’m doing and think it’s always enjoyable for me, that it comes naturally to me or that I’m preternaturally brave. None of these things are true. We all struggle with the anxiety, but I think we all know it’s worth it too.

  13. That’s wonderful about all the school visits. I think I’d go with an armadillo question? Pretty cool the boys didn’t google the Aardvark question and asked you! Great news to hear about the kickstarter funding … almost there. Grateful for some family time over a “not the greatest” meal, but we were together.

    • Stacy – the answer to the armadillo question is the same. An armory. I think aardvarks and armadillos are related somehow (species-wise).

      Your comment about your family meal reminded me that I’m grateful to have made my first batch of chili for the winter season. I LOVE comfort food! 🙂

  14. Such a true post!!! So happy to hear/see that your Kickstarter campaign is almost there!!! yay!!!

    • Thanks Kelly! I think it’s important to keep things real, especially when there are a lot of eyeballs on me right now. The rewards are more than worth the effort, but that takes reminding sometimes!!

  15. Hi Julie,

    I certainly understand the apprehension you have toward the business aspects to writing. But it is empowering to be able to make an impact in ways not possible years ago. Anyway, I made this video reply I hope keeps your morale up-

    I hope it’s not too rough. I’m still new to recording myself. Despite the statistics stating otherwise, I’m not among the “Twenty-somethings” used to filming themselves. Anyway, take care.

    Taurean (Taury)

    • Wow Taury! I’ve never had anyone make me a video comment before, much less one where the whole purpose was to keep my morale up! You are a gem. You keep on keepin’ on and I’ll do the same! 🙂

  16. That is so fun that you’re “famous” in your city!

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software