I’ve been thinking a great deal about the financial viability of being an author this week. I just completed (or rather, started) the launch for my latest picture book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, AND a pre-launch (available only to my blog readers and newsletter subscribers) for a brand new course I created on How to Make Money as a Writer.

So for a Throwback Thursday, I’m re-sharing a Brain Burps podcast episode, featuring myself and Susanna Hill, on this very topic. Everything we discuss in the episode is still as relevant today as they were a year ago. If you are inspired to try the course after listening, I have a pre-launch special running through Friday, September 12th. In the meantime, enjoy the “oldie but goodie” podcast episode. :-)

Brain Burps BadgeI’m delighted to be a featured guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast today, alongside fellow author, friend and 12 x 12 member Susanna Leonard Hill. As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, we discuss the topic of Making Money in Children’s Publishing, but really, it’s applicable to writers of all genres.

For those of us who are not able to live off of book royalties but still need to put food on the table, finding a way to combine the passion and love of writing with the need to earn a living is imperative.

I’m not going to give away the guidance we gave in the podcast – you’ll have to listen for that. BUT, I did figure now would be a good time to share my top three takeaways from The O’Reilly Tools of Change Author (R)evolution conference in New York last week, as the lessons are 100% applicable to this podcast episode.

  1. Writers MUST be Entrepreneurs. The debate is no longer about traditional vs. self-publishing, as there are success stories in both and many authors are taking a hybrid
    Unfortunately, it doesn't grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow on trees. We need to earn it and stop making it a taboo subject!

    approach. What makes the difference between a book becoming a success or languishing unnoticed among the hundreds of thousands of new books published every year? It’s the authors who treat themselves, and their books, as a business who thrive.

  2. Social Media is NOT Marketing. It’s a Conversation. If you are using social media networks exclusively to blast information about your books, you are going to bomb. Social media is all about engagement and building an audience and community by sharing, conversing, being helpful. If you come to it from that angle, it can be a very effective engagement tool to motivate your audience and community to support your work.
  3. Writers Must Build Community. A community is more specific than an audience. A community is a group of people who are loyal to you and your work and will follow you everywhere. This does not happen overnight and can be a slow build, but it’s a must for success in 21st century publishing. So for pre-published authors who are wondering whether to take the plunge into social media, blogging, etc.? NOW is the time.

What are you doing to treat your writing and your books like a business?

 

Categories: Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Publishing, Social Media, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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This could quite possibly be the latest an author has ever announced the arrival of his/her book on publication day. But I have been working on a special commemoration video of this event. I hope you enjoy this “story behind the story” and MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN‘s long journey to publication.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know this book is particularly close to my heart. In fact, it IS my heart in 118 words. I only hope it brings as much joy to those who read it as it gave me to write it, and that it will give families everywhere a way to express the depth of their love for one another for years to come.

I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our backers on Kickstarter, without whom this book simply would not have been possible. My sincerest thanks to all of you for loving and supporting this book. You’ve made this girl’s dream come true, that’s for sure!

Huge thanks also go, of course, to Susan Eaddy for illustrations they defy belief, toStacey Williams-Ng at Little Bahalia for taking a risk on me once again, and to Erzsi Deak, my agent, for bushwhacking the path.

Here is… MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN.

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12 x 12 new bannerIt’s prize time! Our August Featured Author, Melissa Stewart, is giving away a 30 minute Skype critique or consultation.

And the lucky winner is…

KATHY BERMAN!!

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

It’s a brand new month and a brand new chance to win! Write those drafts and revise, revise, revise for your chance to win September’s prize.

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Erzsi DeakToday I have the honor of turning the tables on my agent, Erzsi Deak, and interviewing HER about HER writing. As the author of the newly minted picture book, PUMPKIN TIME!, she makes a perfect featured author for September. Being on both sides of the writing/agenting table also gives her a unique perspective to share on writing great picture books.

But before we get into the interview, I need to tell you about the fabulous prizes you might win this month. One is the end-of-month drawing we always do, and that winner will get the chance to submit THREE picture book pitches to Erzsi. 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.

Erzsi is also offering the chance to win a copy of PUMPKIN TIME! Here’s how: the FIRST person who emails Kelli with the correct answer to what GBID stands for wins the book. Ready, set, GO! :-)

Now please welcome Erzsi as our September featured author.

Which came first, the writing or the agenting?

I’ve been writing since before I was born, so I guess you’d say, that writing came first. Seriously, I wrote from as soon as I could conceptualize ideas and hold a writing tool. As for the agenting, it’s something I thought about for at least 25 years before doing (mostly because I wasn’t going to go through the traditional agenting ladder).

You represent PB through YA, but what is your favorite genre to write in and why? Which is your favorite to read and why?

You will laugh, but I started out (you know, before I was born) writing poetry. From there I went to journalism and back to poetry and essays. My first picture book text had a faint (read: heavily faint) resemblance to THE CAT IN THE HAT, though I never liked Seuss as a child (only later did I come close to understanding, or at least, enjoying what he was doing). I love picture books — the interplay of text and image. I studied graphic design in post-graduate school and always wanted to work with words and pictures. Picture books allow for that. Now middle-grade and YA do, too. And “big people” books, too, for that matter. As a writer, I’ll write whatever comes to mind and finds its way onto the screen/page in front of me. I don’t have a favorite genre to write. I don’t really have a favorite genre to read, either; though, that said, my go-to place is probably gentle or humorous picture books, well-rounded literary middle-grade and humorous, heartfelt YA. Intelligent and honest humor, overall, is of huge importance to me. If I laugh and cry, all-the-better. But I’m not the reader/agent for self-conscious serious works, nor particularly socially-correct works. I like to laugh at myself and with everyone else.

Julie’s note: I DID laugh! Erzsi and I have had MANY discussions about rhyme. Reading what she said here about Dr. Seuss makes me understand why it took so long for her to sign me – LOL.

During one of our conversations, we laughed about how you gave your clients the advice not to write about topics that are overdone (like seasons), and then you sold a “Pumpkin Book.” But Pumpkin Time! isn’t really about pumpkins. Give us your one-line pitch for the book! (Ha – how fun to turn that exercise around on an agent!)

PUMPKIN TIME! is actually a harvest tale. And at its heart is the story of process and stick-to-itiveness. I think it’s really a writer’s book! BIC and all that! In this case it’s GBID (the first 12×12 writer who can figure out what “GBID” means receives a free copy of PUMPKIN TIME! We’ll announce the winner on http://www.pumpkin-time.com. Send your responses to KELLI!).

Here’s the pitch: Evy, wearing her spiffy gardening boots, is so focused on her garden and the feast at the end of the year that she doesn’t see the wondrous things going on around her; luckily, her sidekick Turkey (in matching gardening boots) sees everything and keeps the pages turning. Gardening boots, btw, are very important; everyone should have his or her most beautiful pair.

Pumpkin Time by Erzsi DeakWhat advice would you give writers who want to write on a familiar theme but avoid being derivative of what’s already out there?

Whatever you do, make it your own and write from the heart. Read your work aloud; find a good critique group with other writers and illustrators who can be candid without being hurtful; revise, revise, revise. PUMPKIN TIME! did not arrive fully hatched (or, maybe I should say, ripe); it went through a good number of versions before happily finding its home at Sourcebooks. IF anything sounds or feels familiar, cross it out (aka, kill it) and come up with something else. There’s always room for the best in a genre; make yours the best. (Is that obnoxious enough?)

Because you read so many picture books each year, is it difficult for you to make “room” in your head for your own writing – your own voice?

Nice question. I try to leave room for my authors’ voices. That said, I definitely know what I like to read and know when something doesn’t ring true. As for my own voice, it’s still here; I keep it in a separate room. :-) I do far less writing of my own picture books than of cover letters for Hen&ink, however.

In my role as the leader of 12 x 12, I provide opportunities for PB authors to submit to agents. Some of the agents, like you, are also writers. Sometimes people express concern about whether a person can be as dedicated to both, especially since they are both time-consuming. How would you address those concerns?

I hope I addressed that in the question above, but basically, my focus is the agency and my clients. I’m pretty good at departmentalizing, however, as I wear many hats to make everything tick (ever-so-smoothly): agent, writer, editor.

Any parting advice on writing great picture books?

I can only repeat that which I hope everyone has heard before: Read 1000 picture books (or whatever genre you want to write in or are writing in) and keep reading; make the genre your own with original ideas and beautiful writing; avoid clichés at all costs; think active verbs and vibrant words and language; leave room for the illustrations (they are part of the story-telling experience). Finally, less-is-more remains a strong maxim for today’s market.

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

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12 x 12 new banner

As you can probably tell from the lateness of this post today, I kind of forgot it was the last day of August. That said, August was a great month for me in that it started with the SCBWI-LA conference (and I was even interviewed for the “Official” SCBWI blog!) and proceeded with a great deal of revision (albeit no new drafts).

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 Melissa Stewart for showing us the ins and outs of writing non-fiction picture books. Be sure to stop back tomorrow to meet our September author! (Yes, September! Can you believe it?)

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win a 30 minute Skype critique or consultation with Melissa:

  1. See the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post that says “30 Minute Skype Consultation” at the top.
  2. Click on the “Comment on Melissa’s Blog Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on Melissa’s blog post. Commenting on Melissa’s post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in August. 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 August. 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 August. 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 September 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on September 2nd.

Keep on writing!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Giveaway, Picture Books, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Teresa RobesonI am so pleased to bring Teresa Robeson to the “How I Got My Agent” series. I think of her as a “fireball,” and you’ll see why when you read this post. Here’s a gal who can teach you how to make a vodka creamsicle, can bushels of garden beans, and carry on a lucid discussion about the laws of motion — all while making you laugh! Not to mention this is a story that began with two participants of 12 x 12. Read on and have fun…

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

The short version is: I’ve been writing for submission since the early 90s, and only started looking for an agent at the start of 2013.

The long version (and you might want to get some caffeine now, or skip to the next question) is:

I learned English at the age of eight when my family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, from Hong Kong. As soon as I learned this beautiful language, I started devouring books in English, going from “Matt the Rat” readers to Little Women in a year. As is the case with many avid readers, I also started writing, penning everything from crossword puzzles for my younger sister to poems to short stories — probably in order to catch the excess words that were spilling out of me.

But it wasn’t until around 1991, when I was approaching 30, that I decided to get serious about writing, taking a course with The Institute of Children’s Literature. At the completion of the class, I sold one of my assignments to Ladybug Magazine as a short story.

Within a couple of months of the sale to Ladybug, I sold a personal essay to Outdoor Indiana magazine. Buoyed by my success coming out of the gate, so to speak, I continued to submit to the Cricket Magazine Group (now Carus Publishing) and other places for the next little while.

My kids, born in 1996 and 1997, inspired many of the pieces that were bought by Babybug and Ladybug. But, as they got older, and I began to homeschool them, life got busy and I put writing on hold.

I didn’t start writing seriously again until around 2010 when I took a speculative fiction class, followed by another, from Gotham Writers’ Workshop with the wonderful Michaela Roessner. Science fiction had been a love of mine since I was four years old. But I hadn’t abandoned kidlit. Somehow, somewhere — I’m fuzzy on the details, but it could have been from the Children’s Writer newsletter, which I’ve been subscribing to for years — I discovered websites for kidlit writers folks to lurk on. It was in those communities such as the (then Verla Kay’s) Blue Boards and Write-On Con that I saw Julie’s posts about 12×12. What I read sounded good and I knew that I needed something to push me in my writing because I’m basically lazy and would love to sit around all day eating cookies and reading books instead of doing something more constructive.

12×12 turned out to be just the shove I needed. I considered joining at the Bronze or Silver level, but knew that if I didn’t feel pressured by having made a larger monetary commitment, and having agents practically handed to me to submit to, I’d probably slack off. As it is, I don’t get a brand new manuscript written every month…though I always get a revision, or ten, done. Anyway, the special access to agents was what made me start looking in earnest for one.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

Prior to joining 12×12 in 2013, I wrote mainly for the magazine market and hadn’t looked seriously at agents. When I joined 2013’s 12×12 as a Gold member, I used Julie’s monthly posts about the agents who were available to us as a starting point for research. As I began to search for agents on my own, I read about them in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Digest website posts on new agents, and a number of different online sites and blogs that feature agent interviews or highlights (e.g. Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating).

Once I found an agent through those venues who represented the type of writing I do, I looked at her/his agency’s website for up-to-date details on what s/he want and how to submit.

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?

Since March, 2013, I submitted to 23 agents, and was rejected by all of them. I don’t count my agent, Ella Kennen, among those I submitted to because I came to sign with her through an unconventional route, which you can read about at my friend Sylvia Liu’s blog post.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

Well, it wasn’t for me because I write for all ages, from PBs to short stories for adults. In fact, the hard part was finding an agent who actually takes all the genres and categories that I write. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to find one agent for PBs, one for MGs/YAs, etc. Fortunately for me, Ella has eclectic (and excellent, I might add! *grin*) tastes and can represent everything I crank out, including, hopefully, illustrative work in the future.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

Ella and I first connected through 12×12 where she was a participant in 2013. We had lovely conversations about our common interests, including homeschooling and science fiction, and I already knew I liked her as a person. When she told me that she was interning to be an agent, and was interested in one of the stories I’d shown her, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it did occur to me that having an agent who was already a friend I admired would be a totally awesome thing! When she called me with the official offer, hubby told me that he could hear me squealing from out in our field (about a city block’s distance away).  Well, what did he expect? It was a dream come true!

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you :-) )

Are you kidding? 12×12 was primarily responsible for my getting an agent (see answer to the above question)! If it weren’t for 12×12, I wouldn’t have met Ella and would not have an agent right now. Maybe I would have stumbled across her on my own eventually, but 12×12 was my “matchmaker.” ;)

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

Having an agent has freed me to concentrate on goofing off on Facebook, editing current manuscripts, as well as writing new stories, rather than spending time doing market research. Having an agent has also helped me figure out which pieces are worth working on and which should be scrapped, taking away a lot of the hand-wringing I was doing over which stories were actually publishable. It may still be just one person’s opinion, but it’s eliminated some of the uncertainty on my end.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?

I don’t usually like to give advice (unless you’re my offspring, and then you can’t shut me up; they’ll thank me one day), but would suggest that when you start out doing something – whether it be writing for publication or looking for an agent or tackling the fine art of ikebana – read all you can about the topic from books and online (search engines are your friends), then ask informed questions in friendly forums, like 12×12 or Blue Boards, before you actually leap into it.

And always keep in mind that publishing is a subjective field. I know you’ve heard it before and are probably so sick of hearing it, you want to throw a chair at me, but that won’t change the truism.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

Perhaps not directly, but it was on Twitter that I started a conversation with Ella that led to my eventual signing with her. (Yes, I committed the big no-no of whining on Twitter. Don’t do what I did, boys and girls.)

I’ve been blogging since 2006, so I have a decent, if not huge, following, most of whom are not writers, which is actually pretty nice because we know we have a friend in other writers, but we want non-writers to buy our books too.

Also helpful in platform building is the fact that my speculative fiction critique group, The Minnows Literary Group, has self-published a couple of short story anthologies (on different themes) with 100% of the profits being donated to Doctors Without Borders. These anthologies have done quite well – we’ve donated over $2,000 to MSF so far – and I’ve received fan letters from strangers about my stories in the books; I’m sure Ella can’t find fault with my building a fan base before I have books published.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point :-) )

There are three things I really want to do; unfortunately, they are also highly improbable for me to achieve:
1) I want to land a huge portrait commission; I would love to paint the portraits of the National Academy of Sciences members.
2) I want to sing an aria, just once, at the Met because, many moons ago, I sang with a choir for 12 years and had wanted to be an opera singer.
3) I want to do graduate work in physics — particle/quantum, or astrophysics would be lovely.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

Besides daydreaming about the impossible things on my bucket list, I’m currently editing a couple of picture book manuscripts, revising a completed MG novel, writing the first draft of a YA novel (and doing some historical research as I go along), as well as working on a number of sci-fi short stories and a possible novella for adults. Meanwhile, Ella and I are putting the finishing touches on two manuscripts that she’ll start shopping around soon.

The fun never ends!

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, Self Publishing, 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. Danielle Smith from Red Fox Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members September 1-15. Alexandra Penfold from Upstart Crow Literary will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members September 16-30. Danielle’s profile appears first, followed by Alexandra’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

Danielle Smith - Forward LiteraryDANIELLE SMITH

Danielle was a featured agent in 2013. She is now with Red Fox Literary and you can see her bio here. You can find our extensive profile post on her here. More recent interviews and resources appear at the end of this profile update

Every wonderful thing I said about Danielle last year remains true, and even more so! I spent some time talking with her again this year at SCBWI-LA, and once again walked away impressed with her approach, her knowledge, and her “niceness.” Perhaps that sounds strange, but Danielle is fun, funny, and human. There is no “agent aura” that separates her from the unwashed masses (i.e. us – LOL), and I love that about her. I’m so excited she’s back for another round of 12 x 12!

The most up-to-date interviews with Danielle:

ALEXANDRA PENFOLD

I have not only had the great pleasure of meeting Alexandra in person when she was still with Paula Wiseman, but I also had one of my greatest writerly epiphanies (to date) at her hands. I attended a picture book writing intensive she taught at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI 2011 conference. Here is the blog post I wrote summarizing what I learned. I should add, too, that I STILL look back on that session as one of the most comprehensive and helpful I’ve ever taken at a conference. I was so excited when I heard Alexandra had become one, and I’m happy for GOLD members who will get a chance to submit to her. You guys have a tough choice (as always) this month. :-)

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Alexandra PenfoldA little bit about Alexandra from the Upstart Crow Literary website:

Alexandra Penfold has been working in publishing for nearly a decade. Formerly an Editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, she specializes in young picture books, middle-grade fiction, and young adult. Prior to becoming an editor, Alexandra was a children’s book publicist. She worked on media campaigns that appeared in USA Today, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She’s the co-author of New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple’s Best Food Trucks, and is looking to take on select lifestyle and cooking projects in addition to children’s books.”

In her own words:

“I can’t remember a time when my life wasn’t filled with books. From an early age I loved to read and write stories. I was an obsessive reader as a kid. I read everything I could get my hands on and bankrolled the public library with my allowance because I always wanted to read books one more time before I returned them. I like to say that some of my favorite people live in books.

I didn’t follow the traditional English major track, instead my concentration at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study was in Entertainment Business and Marketing, basically did a business major with lots of writing and entertainment and media classes thrown in. I rediscovered by love of children’s books through an internship in the marketing department at Simon & Schuster the summer of my junior year. I joined the team there as a publicity assistant soon thereafter and two years later, transitioned to the editorial side of things in 2005.

In the close to ten years that I spent at S&S, I had the privilege to edit award-winning picture books and novels. I look forward to continuing to champion books and their creators as an agent.”

Articles featuring Alexandra:

  • Find Alexandra on the Upstart Crow Literary website here.
  • Find Alexandra on Twitter
  • Deconstructing characters on The Writing Barn’s blog.
  • Profile on SCBWI Conference blog.
  • Summary of her character class from Samantha Clark.
  • Agent panel at SCBWI Conference blog.
  • Faculty profile for SCBWI Western Washington here.
  • Alexandra on Salon Author Connect here.

Full submission guidelines for Danielle and Alexandra are 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 Danielle Smith from September 1st – September 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Alexandra Penfold from September 16th – September 30th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Picture Books · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Kelly Lenihan

I have a huge amount of admiration for anyone who, like today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author Kelly Lenihan, can make up stories on the spot. I’ve never been good at that; I always freeze up (perfectionist much?). A few weeks ago at the LA-SCBWI conference, Tomie dePaola said that courage is what artists need most if they want to have a sustainable career. Kelly’s story reminded me of that, since she not only had the courage to create those stories in her head, but to write them down, and eventually even to self-publish one of them. Please welcome Kelly!

I’m a book lover, both to read and to write. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who designated a room in the house as the “den” — reserving one wall, floor to ceiling, for books — and in so doing gifted me with a love of books that has stayed with me my entire life.

I grew up with a pen in my hand.

As a child – pretty much all the way through college – I was forever making up stories. The imagination is a wondrous thing and I was often lost in mine, my head filled with fanciful characters’ adventures in magical lands. I’m not sure when I started writing things down, but once I discovered that writing provided me a creative outlet for the abundance of daydreams swirling around in my head, I knew what my purpose was!

A shy child, the pen gave me a mighty voice.

Over the years, as I turned to other interests, my writing evolved into essays on multicultural arts and crafts or exploring gardening and nature through science and art, including hands-on projects. These days, tapping into my background as an avowed foodie, I have been sharing original recipes on my food blog: In the Kitchen With Kelly. Sadly, my childhood stories were long-forgotten, both on paper and in my imagination. Until I had children.

Reading aloud to my two sons every night at bedtime reminded me of my own childhood delight in the power of stories. As a stalling tactic, once we finished a bedtime book, my younger son would beg for “one more story”. He’d look at me, his big brown eyes filled with hope, placing his tiny hand on mine – how could I refuse? So I started making up stories right there, in the moment. Some of these stories delighted my son so much, he would have me tell them again, night after night, especially the ones he starred in. Thankfully, I was smart enough to write some of these stories down.

The Skipping Stone – a self-published children’s picture book – was one of these stories. Even though it took me a few years to publish it (my son is now grown), it remains a beloved family favorite. I am extremely proud – if not a little awestruck – to finally be sharing my precious story with children everywhere.

This year, I joined the online community, 12×12, providing me access to the motivation and accountability to get 12 picture book drafts finished in one year, all with the support of the friendliest writing community on earth. Although I’ve written a lot over the years, until now—much of it has remained unpublished. I’m ecstatic to be working on changing that, one book at a time. I’ve actually managed to write three more picture books and outlined ideas for four more since joining 12×12. Yippee!

As a child, Kelly Lenihan was forever dreaming up fantastical stories, inventing make-believe worlds replete with colorful characters engaging in wondrous adventures. By the end of her teens, she’d written countless short stories. Never losing her penchant for writing; she’s been published in various magazines and enjoyed her own newspaper column for several years. To this day, she is an avid blogger and has several full-length books in the works. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find her outdoors with her camera, enjoying the beautiful northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. A bit of a word nerd, Kelly has been known to read the dictionary for fun. And you probably don’t want to play Scrabble with her! You can find Kelly at http://www.kellylenihanbooks.com.

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

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Dad and Infant MeAugust 20th is a tough day every year, since it is my Dad’s birthday and not one day goes by that I don’t miss him.

My Dad lived with the mistaken belief that once I grew up I would no longer need him. As if we somehow “outgrow” our parents. My father was my first male protector and remained, until the day he died, my fiercest one.

His persona, not inaccurate, was a whip-smart, tough-as-nails “man’s man,” with a blistering sense of humor and the ability to say things NOBODY else would ever get away with. More often than not, this particular talent served to dissipate tension rather than create the shockwaves you would expect. As a result, people loved him (or in some cases, hated him) more for it.

I’ve never known anyone more comfortable in his own skin than my Dad, so quintessentially “himself.” It turns out that’s a pretty magnetic quality and made him very much in demand, as if he had an aura people thought might rub off on them. Sometimes when he entered a room it seemed like the parting of the red seas. “Make way for Fred!” My stepmother Nancy and I used to joke that when he went to the bar or the golf course or out to dinner, that was his way of “holding court.”

A few years ago at my brother’s wedding, his best friend from childhood described my Dad as “just like Clint Eastwood, only someone’s dad.”

My Dad was who he was and made no apologies, which is not to say he didn’t have demons — he had them aplenty. In fact, I think he experienced and felt them even more acutely because he viewed them as his sole responsibility. It was anathema to him to blame others for his problems or his failures or, unfortunately, to ask for help.

Most of the “Fred” anecdotes people tell are of his quips and sayings, “Fredisms” that have gone into the annals of “funniest things anybody ever said or did.” One of my personal favorites was when he ordered flowers for Nancy for their anniversary one year. The florist asked what he wanted, to which he responded, “Just something nice. You choose.” A few minutes later, he called back and said, “Listen, don’t make it TOO nice. I’m not looking for anything serious here. Just a one-night stand.” When I heard that story I could almost hear the gears turning in my Dad’s head, coming up with that joke and not being willing, or able, to let the opportunity to let it rip pass him by.

photo (11)But the flip side to his public persona was a deep, abiding tenderness and love for family. What was most “pure” about him was his love and loyalty to his family – always and no matter what. His love was like a fortress – when you were in his presence, the walls of that love closed around you and kept you safe.

It might seem strange to post a picture from my wedding when I am no longer married, but this is one of my favorite photos of Dad and me. The band was playing “Daddy’s Little Girl,” and he sang it to me as we danced. When you look at that picture, imagine that little girl, now all grown up, suddenly not needing her father anymore.

Ludicrous. Luckily I had a chance to prove him wrong on that count.

One month from this very day, I will celebrate the launch of my second book, dedicated to Dad, in my hometown of Gaylord, Michigan.

Where I will still be, as always, Daddy’s Little Girl.

Categories: Family

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12 x 12 Member Teresa Schaefer

I think after you read this post, you’ll agree that today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Teresa Schaefer, does an outstanding job of SHOWING us that she is a picture book writer (rather than telling). Get ready for a few belly laughs along with the standard-issue inspiration! Also, I DARE you to not to have a huge craving for pie after reading this. For me? I’m kind of dying for tart-cherry right now. Or perhaps rhubarb… :-) Please welcome Teresa!

Writing, Pies, and Balance

I began writing when I was eight. But being a bit of a late-bloomer, I have only recently pursued it with any great intent. Two years ago, I sought out a close friend who happens to be a published author and told her, “I want to pursue publishing books.”

“That’s exciting,” she said. “What do you want to write?”

My reply,

“Picture books for children – the ones the adults also like to read and re-read and keep forever to read to their grandchildren; the ones they recommend to friends and give as gifts – that’s what I want to write.”

Our conversation went on for about an hour and after many encouraging words she said, “You know, it’s a bunny eat bunny world – the picture book world.”

bunny eat bunny

I have since heard that quote several times. But, rub on my lucky rabbit’s foot – no, not really, I don’t have one. I saw one when I was eight and touched it, but I don’t have one. So, knock on wood, this has NOT been my experience.

Instead, it’s been much more like being at a pie smorgasbord.

cartoon pie

Forgive me, I’m on a diet.

That’s not to suggest that I believe writing for children is as ‘easy as pie’.

Nope, writing for children is definitely NOT as easy as pie. In my working hard to write publishable PBs life, I think Mem Fox nailed it: “Writing a picture book is like writing ‘War and Peace’ in Haiku.”

Writing for children is a craft, an art-form, a community, a business. And, while the business world of writing is competitive, there is a community of writers, authors, agents, editors, and publishers who make the bunny saying – well, balderdash.

The 12×12 community hosted by Julie Hedlund with her amazing elves is one of these communities. There are many more: PiBoIdMo, ReviMo, Summer Sparks, RYS, and these are just a few samplings at the pie smorgasbord. There are books on the craft, blogs galore, classes from beginner to advanced, conferences, societies, chapters, digests, whipped cream, ice cream, coconut cream….

WOOT! So many ‘pies,’ yet so little time.

As I bellied up to the 12×12 smorgasbord, I was mesmerized. Instantly, I knew why Laurie Halse Anderson said, “Pie makes everybody happy.” — The Impossible Knife of Memory

I earned badges and points. I pushed send and submitted my First 250. I read about pitches and practiced pitching. I read query letters and tried writing a couple. I’ve read many great First 250s and wanted to finish the story. I’ve written a draft a month and revised many more. I’ve been inspired and tried to inspire. I participated in show vs. tell. I’ve offered critiques and joined a critique group. I’ve made many friends and stayed up late chatting.

I dove in and became so pie-eyed that I had to push back from the table and take a breath.

I was full to the gills and like a wobbling washer with a heavy, wet rug in its belly, I was out of balance. I had overindulged in the 12×12 smorgasbord. Important aspects of my life and writing had been left idle; but life requires its own sustenance.

And, keeping all those pies in the air requires lots of balance.

Pie spinning

So, I made a pie chart (of course).

pie chart
I divided my time into slices: one for 12×12, one for family, one for work, one for chores, a slice for sleep, a slice for leisure, one for platform building; and,

lest I forget why I showed up to the smorgasbord in the first place –

a slice for writing –

I want to write picture books for children – the ones the adults also like to read and re-read and keep forever to read to their grandchildren; the ones they recommend to friends and give as gifts – that’s what I want to eat write.

Teresa M.I. Schaefer is a new writer seeking to become a great writer. Not much of a cook, she does enjoy baking pies. Books and libraries have been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. As an elementary student, she helped the school librarian re-shelve books, wrote her first story at age eight, joined what she now knows was a critique group at age 10, and has continued dabbling with stories ever since. Professionally trained as a licensed psychologist, it is not uncommon for her stories to have a psychological bent. She is the proud mother of two very outstanding young adults, a clumsy bull-dog, an old cat, and a cat that thinks she is a dog. Feel free to friend her on Facebook, visit her website at http://tschaefer.wix.com/twrites, or send her a tweet @TMISchaefer. She hopes you are finding balance in writing and life and would love to hear about your smorgasbord experience.
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Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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