12 x 12  Member Erik AmmonI love hearing stories like the one shared by this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author Erik Ammon, where 12 x 12 not only helps a writer overcome fear and inertia but also helps improve his or her writing. It’s amazing what being part of a supportive community can do for your confidence and your craft. For someone who needed to overcome a great deal of doubt to get where he is today (at a minimum, a near shoo-in for winning this year’s challenge), Erik has shown exceptional bravery. It takes courage to share your work with others, but it takes even more courage to recognize that you can get better and put in the hard work to do just that. I hope you’re as inspired by Erik’s story as I am. Welcome, Erik!

I’ve always loved writing. For a while, in the early to mid 90’s, I wrote some poetry and started the next great epic fantasy novel. Then I stopped. I’m not sure why I did, I just did. Honestly, it may have been the thought of actually writing 150,000 to 200,000 words.

Fast forward twenty years…

I started writing again while recovering from hip and knee surgery in 2013. It gave me something to do since I couldn’t run. I started with a running novella about my life in running that, in an ultimate world, would have ended with me getting back to ultra-marathons, qualifying for and racing in The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Trail Run. But, life isn’t perfect, and neither is my knee. I’m hoping to still finish that story, but it’s going to be a long time.

With a pause in the running novella, I turned to writing short stories, which I put up on a writing site. Someone on the site liked my writing and asked me to write a children’s story with a moral for a possible site published anthology to benefit multiple sclerosis (if I remember correctly- the site is now defunct, so I can’t check in to be sure). The story was quickly reviewed by many and received several 5 star reviews. With this confidence, I hired an illustrator and self-published The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly on February 14th, 2014. The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly by Erik Ammon

From there, I began to write more and more, but felt my writing was not quite good enough. I still wasn’t serious enough. I wasn’t a “real” writer. Funny thinking that. I always told runners they were real runners no matter how fast or slow they were, no matter how much or how little they ran. If you ran, you were a runner. But that thinking didn’t transfer to me, as a writer.

Enter 12×12. I found out about the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge in January. By now I knew I wanted to be a children’s book writer. The doubts came back to me: “You’re not a real writer” “You’re not good enough to sign-up.” I told those thoughts to go…somewhere and signed up.

During my time with 12×12, my writing has improved by an amazing amount. It started with breaking through my fear and posting in the critique section, First 250 Words. I put up what I thought was great work, and had it quickly, and expertly, dissected. I didn’t let that discourage me. This was why I joined 12×12. I needed these critiques and I used them to become a better writer. This past summer, I joined a critique group through 12×12 and even had another member ask to read a couple of my stories. Both the critique group and the individual have given great advice. I’ve seen my writing take another leap over the past two months with their advice. I feel like a few of my picture book manuscripts are now “finished.”

I have written eleven picture book manuscripts, have ideas for a few more, joined a critique group, sent manuscripts to publishers, and have been actively seeking an agent. I even started a writing blog! All things I never would have done without 12×12. If you’ve heard of 12×12 and are not sure if you should join next year, put those fears aside and sign-up!

My name is Erik Ammon. I’m a 2nd grade teacher in my 15th year of teaching. I’m also a running coach and a pre-published writer. I have a wonderful photographer wife, a trumpet playing 10 year old son and a 9 year old soccer star daughter. Oh, and a cat, Kona, that runs the house.

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Johnell DeWittToday’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Johnell Dewitt, is one who can see the forest through the trees. In just a few short years she’s become an active member of the children’s writing community and most definitely part of its support system. I have a great deal of admiration for how much ambition and passion she’s brought, not just to her own writing, but also to helping other writers as she goes. As a fellow nomadic soul, I appreciate how challenging that can be when you’re always moving around, but perhaps too it is what grounds us most. Please welcome Johnell!

Every two to three years, I pick up my roots and replant them somewhere else, usually in another country. It’s a great lifestyle most of the time, but when I chose to pursue writing for children, I realized that in-person networking would be difficult. Fortunately, online forums like 12×12 provide connections vital to my growth as a writer.

There is power in community. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They are able to reach colossal heights and withstand amazing environmental stresses because they intertwine their roots. Despite their towering heights, the roots of the redwood are relatively shallow, sort of like my experience in writing for children.

I started seriously pursuing a childhood dream of writing picture books just three years ago, shortly after returning to the States. Fortunately, I had a writer friend who helped me get started. First thing she told me was to get on the Verla Kay (now SCBWI) blueboards.

With our nomadic lifestyle, an online forum was a perfect way to ease in. I spread my tiny roots out into the blueboards and was immediately grasped and strengthened by more experienced writers. I grew from their support.

From there, I learned about Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. I jumped on board, and loved meeting other writers through the Facebook forum. In fact, I realized that many of the people on the PiBoIdMo Facebook page lived near to my former home in Northern Virginia.

Long story short (see here for the long story), we set up a regional Facebook page and were able to arrange our own local events. Those in-person meetings were like Miracle-Gro for my budding root system. In fact, one of the writers I met through our regional get-togethers turned me on to 12×12 and that’s how I got here.

It’s easy to feel lost in a forest of towering authors and writers, but being part of a community like 12×12 jump starts the growing process. As we interlock our various life-experiences, we strengthen the entire system, making it possible for each of us to reach impossible heights.

So jump in. Reach out and extend your roots, no matter how shallow you think they are. As the redwoods attest, it doesn’t take a deep root system to thrive, just one that’s willing to give and receive nourishment from the forest of writers around them.

Johnell DeWitt is a former public relations executive and aspiring children’s book writer. Johnell blogs with her writing group at dewdropsofink.blogspot.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Kirsten Bock

I love that today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Kirsten Bock, recognizes that if we want our children to follow their dreams, we must first follow our own. Perhaps that realization is the greatest gift that comes from being a parent. And as someone who also kept a diary for each year (the equivalent of the “school journal”), I can now say the contents make great material for school visits and provides a mainline right back into the heart of of childhood. I think you’ll agree with me that Kirsten’s dreams are anything but “loony.” Please help me give her a warm welcome!

When I was in elementary school my mom started a “school journal” with me. Each year, we glued a school photo onto the page and then dutifully filled out important information: hobbies/interests, current friends and future career. Although my friends and hobbies changed from year to year, my aspirations for the future never did. The answer to the last question was always “an author and a teacher” (well, there was a brief stint where “racecar driver” made it into the mix, but who has time for three careers?).

I was made to be a teacher. I love to boss people around…er, I mean “lead and inspire.” My idea of a fantastic day is a trip to the container store and then, wielding my very own label maker, spending hours organizing a room. And I absolutely must have a job that includes dressing up for Halloween and acting like a complete loon.

Writing is also perfect for me. In my stories, I can boss my characters around all the live long day. My idea of an even more fabulous day is spending hours reading picture books in the teeny seats of Barnes and Noble’s children’s section. I also get to play dress up with all of my characters, acting like a complete loon through the eyes of each and every one of them.

After elementary school, though, the answer to that “future career” question grew shorter. A teacher sounded like a reasonable goal. Something that would help me earn a living (or at least rent in a shoebox apartment). An author? Not so much.

So, I went on to teach. And I loved it. But there was always that nagging voice in the back of my head. It motivated me to write occasionally and it definitely gave me a strong passion for teaching writing. It wasn’t until my twins were born that I realized what I wanted…no needed to do.

I needed my sweet little babies to believe wholeheartedly that they could be anything they wanted to be. What kind of role model would I be if I didn’t at least give my dream a decent kick in the behind? So, in between nighttime feedings and chasing two giggling monsters, I picked up my pencil and began to write again.

My twins are four years old now and my youngest is two. A lot has changed in my life and I am proud to say that my writing is definitely one of those changes. With 12X12, PiBoIdMo, SCBWI, Susannah Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic and the fantastic support of my critique groups, I have come such a long way towards my goal of being an author. Although I don’t keep a school journal anymore, the answer to that last question would definitely be “an author.”

Kirsten Bock is a writer and stay at home mom of three, living in North Carolina. In between changing diapers and pulling children off of the drapes, she finds a moment or two to write picture books. Most of the stories and dialogue are taken from her children, so she fully expects to give them the royalties when she becomes rich and famous.

Categories: 12 x 12, Childhood, Children's Books, Goals, Guest Blogging, 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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12 x 12 Member Laura GehlI realize our October featured author post for 12 x 12 is a little late, but boy is it worth the wait! I’m so happy to introduce you to our OWN Laura Gehl. Laura is a 12 x 12 member who found her agent (who is also my agent and our featured author from last month!) through her membership in 12 x 12. If that wasn’t enough to already have in common, our most recent picture books released on the SAME DAY this year – September 9th. I bought Laura’s book, ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, right away (did you know I try to buy all books published by 12 x 12 members?). Anyway, I didn’t have a chance to read it until after I returned from my own book launch, but once I did, I realized how brilliant it was and I asked her to be the featured author for October so she could ‘splain to me us how she did it. One lucky winner this month will win a picture book critique from her too. Please welcome Laura!

When Julie asked me to write a post about “having multiple hooks in a picture book,” I realized I should start out with a related question: what the heck is a “hook” anyway?

Sometimes, the term “hook” is used to mean anything that gets a potential buyer to pick up a book. For example, I grabbed “No Fits, Nilson” off the shelf because my 4-year-old spends about half of her time having fits (and the other half asking for ice cream). I’m pretty sure I am not the only one in this situation. The word “fits” alone is enough to draw parents to a book. That’s a hook. When a parent or teacher searches for a book about sharing, bullying, sibling rivalry, positive self-image, gratitude, creativity, or tolerance, those are hooks too. (I call these hooks “emotional hooks”—more on that later!)What is a picture book hook?

Other times, the term “hook” is used to mean a premise that is out of the ordinary or takes a risk. Not just another book about counting, sharing, blah blah blah. Some premises that immediately hook the reader with their originality: A bunch of crayons airing their complaints. A baby with a mustache. A boy who eats books.

In yet another meaning of the word, “hook” can be used to mean a popular theme or character type that all children love. Any book about princesses, dinosaurs, or trains will sell, right? (Right! Except when editor after editor looks at your story and says “Sorry, we have too many princess/dinosaur/train books on our list already.”)

And then we have the “commercial hook,” also known as the “sales hook” or “marketing hook.” Can a bookstore feature your book prominently in December because it is about a snowstorm? Or in late August because the story takes place at school? Those are commercial hooks. Excuses for a bookseller to trot your book out to the front of the store.

Okay…I’m now going to move on to multiple hooks, which is, after all, what Julie asked me to write about. In order to address this topic, I have created a simple rule.

ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR by Laura Gehl
Laura’s Simple Rule of Multiple Hooks:

Your Picture Book Needs (at least) One Emotional Hook and (at least) One “Other” Hook.

Julie pointed out that my debut picture book, “One Big Pair of Underwear,” has both sharing (hook #1) and counting (hook #2). Here, sharing is the emotional hook. The animals learn that they can have more fun by sharing. Note the word “learn.” The emotional hook should involve characters learning or growing or changing in some way (which in turn means the child might possibly learn/grow/change by reading the book). But of course, this learning/growing/changing needs to happen in a subtle…usually humorous…way, and not be shoved down the child’s throat.

In “One Big Pair of Underwear,” counting is the “other” hook (although, lucky for me, having the word “Underwear” in the title of a book turns out to be a hook in and of itself). In your picture book manuscript, the “other” hook could be any of the types of hooks I mentioned above. It could be a basic concept such as alphabet, shapes, or colors. It could be a popular character type or theme such as princesses, dinosaurs, or trains. Or it could be an unusual premise, such as a baby with a mustache (sadly, that one is already taken).
How many hooks should a book have?

Okay, now I’m going to pick a few books at random and see whether they follow my rule. Since I just made up the rule five minutes ago, it has not yet been fully tested.

1. Uni the Unicorn. Hook #1 (emotional): believing in the impossible; Hook #2 (popular character type): unicorns
2. Z is for Moose. Hook #1 (emotional): wanting to be special; Hook #2 (concept): alphabet
3. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Hook #1 (emotional): bedtime*; Hook #2 (popular theme): construction vehicles

*I count bedtime as an emotional hook because bedtime is a hard time for kids (and parents!). Good bedtime books soothe the anxiety/fear/grumpiness associated with bedtime, both for the books’ main characters, and for the children reading the books.

Wow, those three books follow my rule beautifully, don’t they? No wonder they are bestsellers and award winners! And, I swear, those really were the first three books that popped into my head.

Of course, I am sure there are gazillions of wonderful books that don’t follow my rule. But if you go through your favorite picture books, I bet most of them will. So when you are revising your own picture book drafts, ask yourself, “Does my book have only one hook?” If the answer is yes…throw in a few princesses (preferably sleepy princesses who are heading to bed wearing dinosaur pajamas), the Easter Bunny (preferably teaming up with Santa Claus and eating latkes), or a subtle-and-humorous lesson about standing up to bullies (while counting to 10 and singing the alphabet song). Maybe all of the above.

Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which released last month. Laura is also the author of several upcoming picture books: Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel, And Then Another Sheep Turned Up, Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching, and Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick or Treating. Laura has not checked to see whether her upcoming picture books follow Laura’s Simple Rule of Multiple Hooks, because she is afraid they might not, and it is a little bit late to do anything about that now! You can visit Laura at www.lauragehl.com and www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraGehl.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Books, Childhood, Children's Books, Creativity, Family, Friendship, Giveaway, Guest Blogging, Parenting, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 new banner

It’s prize time! Our September Featured Author, Erzsi Deak, is giving one 12 x 12 member a chance to submit THREE picture book pitches to her. She will then give feedback on which she thinks is the strongest, most marketable. Plus, if she is interested in one or more of the winner’s pitches, she may ask you to submit to her. Since Hen & Ink is closed to submissions, this is a fantastic opportunity.

And the lucky winner is…

ANDREA ALLEN!!

Congrats! Please contact me at JulieFHedlund (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.

It’s time to FALL back in to writing! Write those drafts and revise, revise, revise for your chance to win October’s prize.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, Picture Books, Queries, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 new banner

It’s been a bit of a month. Some sad – we lost my Aunt and my mom’s only sister. Some happy – the release of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN and the celebrations that ensued. Some productive – the launch of my new How to Make Money as a Writer course.

What fell onto the back burner, unfortunately, was the writing. BUT, I make this pledge to you here and now — by the end of today, September 30th, I will have written a new draft. It’s one that has been on my mind for months. I have a meeting with my in-person critique group tomorrow, so I am going to vomit the thing out and show up with something in my hands. So I guess that means I’ll have a September draft even if it takes me all day to do it. (And it probably will)

How about you? Did you get your draft or revision done this month? Let us know in the comments and in the Rafflecopter. Special thanks to our featured author Erzsi Deak for sharing with us a peek at the life of an author/agent. Be sure to stop back tomorrow to meet our October author!

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win a Picture Book Pitch Critique with Erzsi:

  1. See the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post that says “Picture Book Pitch Critique” at the top.
  2. Click on the “Comment on Erzsi’s Blog Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on Erzsi’s blog post. Commenting on Erzsi’s post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in September. If you haven’t yet commented, click here to do so. Then you click ENTER on that option in Rafflecopter, which will then open the next two options.
  3. Click on the “Wrote a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you completed a PB draft in September. If you did, click ENTER, if you did not, move on to the next step.
  4. Click on the last “Revised a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you revised a PB in September. If you did, click ENTER. If not, move on to the next step.
  5. Submit your entry. Rafflecopter will track your points.

You have until midnight Eastern on October 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on October 2nd.

Keep on writing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Christa Heschke from McIntosh and Otis will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members October 1-15. Janine Le from Sheldon Fogelman Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members October 16-31. Christa’s profile appears first, followed by Janine’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Christa HeschkeCHRISTA HESCHKE

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Christa, but after a few email exchanges with her about the 12 x 12 program, I was impressed with her love for picture books and her enthusiasm for participating in 12 x 12 as a featured agent. I was also happy to discover she is actively seeking nonfiction picture books with a strong hook, as I know quite a few members who write those. Please welcome Christa!

A little bit about Christa from the McIntosh & Otis website:

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.  For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.”

Find out more about Christa:

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Janine LeJANINE LE

I have also not yet met Janine Le in person, but one of my longtime in-person critique partners signed with her a few months ago and is extremely happy with her representation. One of our previous featured agents, Sean McCarthy, used to work at Sheldon Fogelman before creating his own agency. He had nothing but great things to say about Janine when we spoke at the NJ-SCBWI conference this past summer. Please welcome Janine!

A little bit about Janine from the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website:

Janine Le joined the agency after graduating from Bucknell Unversity with honors in English (Creative Writing) and completing NYU’s program at its Summer Publishing Institute. She enjoys working with the agency’s clients as an assistant agent and as the agency’s foreign rights manager. Janine has licensed translation rights in over 20 languages and has represented the agency and its clients annually at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both.”

Articles featuring Janine:

Full submission guidelines for Christa and Janine will posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Christa Heschke from October 1st – October 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Janine Le from October 16th – October 31st at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Me with MLFYI’m chagrined by how long it’s been since I posted a Gratitude Sunday, but I am rectifying that today. How could I not when I had such an AMAZING week in my hometown of Gaylord, Michigan launching MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN? Between the phenomenal launch party hosted by Saturn Booksellers in the company of my family, speaking at SCBWI-MI on gorgeous Mackinac Island, having a nice long visit with my best friend from high school, and visiting the elementary schools, it was one of the most rewarding 2014-09-24 08.12.01trips I’ve ever been lucky enough to take.

I guess sometimes the trips that take you the farthest are the ones that take you home.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” — Mary Anne Roadacher-Hershey

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” — Fernandez de Andrada

“Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oscars. The World Cup. But we’re all eligible for life’s smaller prizes… A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer.” — Unknown

Gratitude list for the week ending September 27

  1. Saturn Booksellers for the outstanding job they did planning, promoting, and hosting my book launch party
  2. My mom, Jeff, and Ashley for traveling up to MI for the big eventautumn red
  3. Fantastic dinner with family at The Bearded Dogg
  4. Nancy – for hosting me all week, feeding me, letting me sleep whenever I had the chance, and putting up with my crazy schedule
  5. The fall color and warm sunshine. As much as autumn is beautiful in CO, those reds and oranges in MI just take your breath away
  6. Mackinac Island fudge. Yes, it’s official. Even though I am from Northern Michigan, I’ve now become a “fudgie.”
  7. Mel – for inviting me into her classroom to see her teach, and sharing a long walk, a delicious meal, and even more delicious conversation. I’m grateful to her for being the amazing, inspiring friend she is.
  8. The 1000 or so local school children I had the honor of visiting. They were so welcoming, enthusiastic, and inspiring!
  9. Pot roast with cheese curds on top of truffle french fries!
  10. Getting hand cramps from signing so many books! :-)

What are you grateful for this week?

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

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12 x 12 Member Kim MacPherson

As I sat down to write the introduction for this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Kim MacPherson, I was reflecting on a school visit I conducted today (Monday, September 22). Rarely does a picture book author meet with high schoolers, but this was a small private school so I got every grade from K-12. In speaking to the high schoolers, I talked about “dreams deferred” and choosing “logical, rational” career paths over doing what you love. It seems Kim and I both came to writing books for children via the circuitous route after leaving “responsible” jobs. So I appreciate her willingness to share her story to inspire others of you out there who have done the same, may be considering the same, or will perhaps bypass the detour altogether and go straight for the goal. Please welcome Kim! 

Until 12 x 12, I had a whole lot of “works-in-progress.” Oh yes, I’m a very good starter. (You non-finishers out there know of what I speak!)

I am not kidding or exaggerating. Over the past couple of years, I think I’ve started no less than several dozen children’s books.

Granted, over these last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to have more time to dedicate to the craft since leaving a big corporate job. However, until 12 x 12, I’ve mainly only come up with ideas and first drafts. Or just first paragraphs. Sometimes only first lines.

And endings? Ah, there’s my nemesis. (Actually, to clarify—I’ve become an expert at writing the first 2/3 of a book, and then the very last page. It’s the in-between that always has me flummoxed.)

Perhaps My Past Explains It…
As a child, I was all about art and words. All I wanted to do was draw and paint and color. I was an only child, so I had a lot of free time to explore my imagination. By the end of elementary school, I was also writing. A lot. However, I didn’t LOVE it in and of itself (and by itself) like I loved drawing.

When art and words came together for me, though, my brain exploded. I was downright prolific. AND I finished everything I started! Imagine that.

Then life got in the way. I won’t bore you with the details, but a lot of home moves (eleven of them before I graduated high school) and tumultuous times had me heading for a “logical” degree by the time I went off to college. All of that led to a sometimes fulfilling marketing career that completely stalled my artistic ambitions. I mean it ground them to a screeching halt. Bella_illo_stand_600_2

Having a Baby Really DOES Change Everything
That is, until one crazy day, I simply quit. My son was eight years old at the time and my love of words and pictures had been simmering in my heart from the time I was reading him books in utero. Something was rekindled when HE was created… and it has never waned. In fact, it has only gotten stronger.

Again, though (and I’ll mention this for a third time), there was still that non-finisher in me. Where was that prolific girl who finished everything she started? Oh sure, I had all kinds of excuses. My son’s activities took up a lot of time. My freelance editing work took hours. Tennis… school volunteer gigs… etc. They all got in the way. I was busy, but I was trying.

As Yoda says, though: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
And that’s what 12 x 12 makes you do. It makes you DO! I thought about joining in 2013, and then actually joined in January of this year. And I’m so grateful that I did, because while it hasn’t completely brought me back to my astoundingly productive past, I have actually finished—and I mean polished-finished, not just “completed”—no less than three picture book manuscripts this year, and I’ve written five new drafts. I am going to polish those up starting in September. What progress!

Thank you, Julie Hedlund (AND Kelli—can’t forget about Kelli!) in addition to all of the great 12 x 12 volunteers for helping authors like me (as well as the already-productive ones) stay on task and connect to a like-minded community.

Oh yeah… and for helping us actually finish all of those great works-in-progress.

Kim MacPherson is a children’s author, illustrator, and editor. Her favorite book as a kid was the original (and gorgeously illustrated) Golden Book of Fairy Tales. She was also obsessed with Dr. Seuss, but some of Sendak’s early drawings creeped her out. (Sorry to say.) She blogs about writing, drawing, and reading children’s books at KidLitDish.com and also edits PBs at PictureBookEditor.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,

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