12 x 12 member Katelyn AronsonIt is always exciting when a 12 x 12 member signs with an agent, and even more so when the agent is also one that takes submissions from 12 x 12 members outside the slush pile. That is the case with Katelyn Aronson, who has taken 12 x 12 by storm in this, her first year of participating. She sent me the sweetest thank you gift (even though her success is hers alone), and has already given much to the community — all the way from France where she lives! Please join me in congratulating Katelyn.

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

Growing up, I always loved writing (even more than reading), and I got a job in a children’s bookstore straight out of high school. (This was shortly after the release of the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” which had convinced me that I was a real-life Kathleen Kelly.) I loved that job, but somehow, selling children’s books was not enough. I knew I would eventually have to write them.

In my mid-twenties, however, I put that dream on hold in favor of another dream: living in Europe. I moved to France and began the long, painful process of learning French and integrating myself into French culture. Flash forward eight years, and once comfortably settled in Europe with the wanderlust of my 20s behind me, the desire to write for children resurfaced…with a vengeance! Suddenly, almost inexplicably, all I wanted to do was write, write, write.

So, last year–February of 2015–I decided to write a couple hours every day for one year and see where it got me. After a few months, I had written a few pieces and was getting some positive feedback from professional paid critiques. So, I started querying the very few publishers still open to unsolicited manuscripts. When that proved unfruitful, I started looking for an agent in August 2015.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

I scoured the internet for literary agencies, their agents, and the agents’ tastes and manuscript wishlists. I became a querying machine, averaging a few queries a week, and sometimes up to six in one day. Did I make stupid mistakes? Yes. Did I send manuscripts out before they were ready? (*cringe*) Oh yes. Lots. But through trial and error, I learned from my faux pas and kept going.

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

In the past year, I have received too many rejections to count! A lot of personalized rejections, a lot of “near-hits,” but A LOT of rejections nonetheless. Rejections are a writer’s rite of passage. Victory comes to those who hang in there. I’ve found that the most heart-wrenching rejections can be those that say, “This is well-written, but I’m just not falling in love.” Ouch. But after receiving wildly disparate reactions to the same manuscript, I’ve learned that this industry is extremely subjective. You just have to hold on to the hope that one day, you’ll find your match–i.e. the agent who “gets” you.

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

It’s true that most agents are looking for MG/YA these days. But luckily, good PBs are still sought-after, and I think they’ll ultimately make their comeback. I worked in children’s books for 6 years, first as a bookseller, then as a bookstore manager and purchaser, and the market is clearly cyclical. More difficult was seeing the number of agents interested in ONLY “writer-illustrators” of picture books. Sometimes I wondered if being a good writer was enough anymore, in such a competitive market.

Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.

My agent is…Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis!

The night I got “the news,” I had been so depressed over some fresh disappointments in my writing career that I’d convinced myself that the agent I wanted most (Christa!) wouldn’t even be interested. I can get really down on myself at times. I had actually received a couple of other offers, but I didn’t feel 100% right about them, and I worried that maybe my career wasn’t heading in the direction I’d hoped. I crawled into bed early that night, in my melodramatic, “I’m feeling defeated” fashion.

I remember lying awake and hearing that distinctive “DING!” from my phone. An email from Christa flashed across the top of the screen. I prepared myself for the worst…I opened the email, heart pounding. There it was, at the end of the first paragraph: “I’d LOVE to offer you representation…!”

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

There were many things that recommended Christa to me. First, I could relate to Christa’s taste in picture books. I liked what she had to say on her blog and her “What I’m Looking For” post seemed right up my alley.

Christa also asked to see more manuscripts than others did prior to making an offer. At first, that made me really nervous. But by the time she did make an offer, when I read that she’d “fallen in love” with a number of manuscripts, those words were all the more meaningful to me.

Other agents had liked different manuscripts on my list, but often not the same ones. But Christa’s favorite manuscripts of mine encompassed quite a few of the ones I was proudest of. I’d found the agent who understood my voice and was willing to be my advocate.

Lastly, reading Christa’s description of how she saw her role as agent, and how McIntosh & Otis operated as an agency, really clinched it. She explained that she was a very editorial agent (I love that) but not dictatorial, and that her agency focused on selling authors, not just selling a single book. THAT spoke volumes to me, because I was not looking to be a “one-hit wonder,” but rather to build a long-term career.

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

Be as prolific as possible. Have plenty of manuscripts for an agent to look through. Every writer is different, of course, but I had a list of 9 completed manuscripts and 7 more in-process or idea-stage pieces when Christa asked to see more. Keep a growing “Synopses” or “Pitch” list of all your manuscripts. There is no single agent who will like everything you’ve written, but the agent who is right for you will fall in love with a certain number of your manuscripts and will believe in your “voice” as a writer for the long-haul.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how?

Yes! I only became a member of 12×12 in January of this year, but the feedback and support I have found on the forum since then has proved invaluable. I have loved the challenge of creating something new every month, and then getting it critiqued like crazy by many different reviewers—something only possible through 12×12! Two of the manuscripts that caught my agent’s eye came from my January and February 12×12 drafts, and four of the manuscripts she liked had been critiqued on the 12×12 forum. I consider 12×12 a crucial element in building a successful writing career, because it challenges me to be prolific, holds me accountable, and provides great tools for polishing my manuscripts. The community spirit and friendships that spring out of 12×12 are the buttercream icing on the cake!

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

Social media helped me keep an eye on the various agents out there, and gave me some great pitch events and writing contest opportunities to attract agent attention. That said, I don’t have much of a “platform” to speak of (yet), so I can’t say that it led me to Christa. I do suspect, however, that an agent can be reassured by a writer’s online presence, in the sense that it shows a writer is 1) keeping informed about the book industry, 2) open to networking, and 3) willing to do self-promotion.

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 J )

Hmm…How about two things?

  1. I’d like to be trilingual. I’ve actually always preferred Italian to French, but because there weren’t any Italian courses available to me back in high school, I opted for French! Little did I know that language would shape the course of my life. I’d love for Italian to be my next language. (Meet up at the next Bologna Book Fair, Julie? Anyone? D’accordo ?)
  2. When I get around to marrying the Frenchman in my life (who is wonderful, patient, bilingual too, and always the first one to critique my manuscripts!), I dream of bringing my Californian family over to Europe to celebrate a French wedding. Call me old-fashioned, but that girlish dream still lingers. And those dreams which nag at you and never go away? Listen to them. Embrace them.

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

There is one inevitable thing in a writer’s life (besides death and taxes): revisions. Other than that, I am really looking forward to flying to New York and meeting my agent in person this summer!

Categories: 12 x 12, How I Got My Agent, Queries · Tags: , ,


IMG_4742This is the end of what turned out to be a very difficult week, in what was a pretty difficult summer. I don’t feel much like writing a Gratitude Sunday post, so that’s how I know it’s more important than ever that I do. Here it is.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Gratitude is one of the most important human virtues and the most common human deficiencies. Gratitude does not develop without effort.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Find out where joy resides and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” — Kak Sri

Gratitude list for the week ending 8/14

  1. Peach cobbler, made with fresh, in-season, juicy peaches
  2. The geese returning, signaling autumn is on its way
  3. Watching the Olympics
  4. Receiving unquestioning assistance from someone who didn’t have to help
  5. This week, I tasted the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten (and I make EXCELLENT scrambled eggs)
  6. My dog Rocky who, despite his near constant misbehavior, is always there for me.
  7. My mom for giving up some of her time this weekend to help me with aforementioned dog at the last minute
  8. My kids are back from their vacation with their dad. Jay and I had one of the most mature, meaningful conversations we’ve ever had, and he gave me great comfort. He’s growing up!
  9. I got myself out for a run this week.
  10. Girlfriends

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday

03. July 2016 · Comments Off on Gratitude Sunday 152

Einstein MiracleTragedy struck the family of a dear friend this week, who is also the mother of my son’s best friend. As I write this post, my son sleeps. When he wakes, I will have to deliver news that will take a piece of his innocence away. Yet, this is part of my job as a parent–to prepare my son to one day become a man. He will be sad, but he’ll also need to be strong for his friend. Same as me. I am heart-wrenchingly sad, but I have to be strong for my son.

My first instinct when I sat down to write this week’s Gratitude Sunday post was to reflect upon the BIG things we need to be grateful for that we often take for granted, such as our precious lives, our health, the health of our loved ones. But I still believe the true path of gratitude practice lies in appreciating the small, everyday graces–some might even call them miracles. When we see the extraordinary in the mundane, the beauty in the mess, the perfect inside the imperfect, we become more connected to our humanity and to our greater purpose. If we cannot see the small things, we will not see the big things.

For that reason, my list this week will be the same everyday things I make a point to notice each week. I’ve used the Einstein quote before, but it seems particularly compelling today.

May you all have a wonderful week, and for those in the U.S., Happy Independence Day.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

“All holy and difficult experiences are there to transform us.” — Elizabeth Lesser

AND, also from Elizabeth Lesser…

“When all else fails, love.”

Gratitude list for the week ending July 2Jack Trellis

  1. The simple sprouting of plants in my garden
  2. Jay helping me make a trellis for the beans and peas
  3. A dessert of blueberries, nectarines and fresh mint
  4. Spending a full day with a friend after the absence of travel
  5. Watching my first live rugby match since I was studying abroad in England. The gentle, joyful summer fun of people coming together to share a sporting event.
  6. My stepmother found a new, more capable doctor to help her through some health issues.
  7. Going to a summer “mind candy” movie with the kids and Mom
  8. Taking Rocky for a run along the creek
  9. My assistant, Kelli, for keeping my business running so well
  10. I WROTE this week! I wrote a new draft of a manuscript dear to my heart and I don’t hate it (yet). 🙂

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday · Tags: , ,

Baby nephew

Baby nephew

I’ve gotten behind in the weekly posts, but today seems as good a day as any to get my streak going again. Much to be grateful for over the past few weeks, and this week in particular.

Quotes on Gratitude

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” — Brene Brown

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” — Kristin Armstrong

“Feeling gratitude isn’t born in us – it’s something we are taught, and in turn, we teach our children.” — Joyce Brothers

And one extra for my father, whom I miss on this Father’s Day.

“To her the name of father was another name for love.” — Fanny Fern

Gratitude List for the week ending June 18

  1. Cooking a delicious dinner in great company and enjoying the results for the rest of the week.
  2. My daughter rose early the day we traveled to Florida and made me breakfast – before I even woke up!


    Em took this stunning picture of fireworks at our hotel.

  3. Fireworks
  4. Happening upon an art gallery displaying 2014 paintings painted consecutively over as many days.
  5. Now You See Me 2, also in great company, in a cinema drafthouse
  6. My stepmother has a good and thorough doctor who has steered her toward an important life-saving surgery.
  7. Visiting my brother, SIL, and seeing both my oldest and my youngest nephews!
  8. Holding my youngest nephew. Nothing more therapeutic than cuddling a four month-old baby.
  9. Watching my kids hold and love their new cousin.
  10. Body surfing in big waves at Boca Beach.

What are you grateful for this week?


Categories: Family, Gratitude Sunday


viv black dressToday we are celebrating the story of how one of the most generous, gracious, supportive people in the kidlit community got HER agent. Vivian Kirkfield has lifted me up and inspired me for YEARS with her kindness, tenacity, and talent. Her desire to contribute to the lives of children and her fellow writers is boundless. That I have been able to play a small part in her success story is an honor. Please welcome Vivian!

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

Coming from a background as a kindergarten teacher, I always loved picture books. But my baptism into the world of writing actually started out with a book for parents and teachers. When I self-published Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking at the end of 2010, I catapulted into social media. I knew nothing about Twitter (I thought a tweet was something a bird said), Facebook (I unfriended marketing guru John Kremer in my first week on Facebook because I didn’t understand how Facebook worked and when I got a bunch of posts from him in my feed, I panicked and thought someone was messing with my profile), or blogging. But it was through blogging that I connected with this amazing kid lit community—and by 2012, when the word went out that Julie Hedlund was starting a picture book writing challenge, I knew what path I wanted to take. So I hopped on board and never looked back. And, having already experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of the self-publishing road, I was determined to try the traditional route for my picture book stories.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

In the beginning, I didn’t do any research. I really didn’t know what I was doing or what I was looking for.  There are a ton of agents out there…but not every agent is right for every author. I think, for most of us, it takes time to understand what you need from an agent. Some people want a good communicator—an agent who keeps you in the loop with regular email updates. Others are searching for an editorial agent—someone who can help you polish your manuscript till it sings. I guess everyone wants an agent who is a great networker and salesperson—after all, the bottom line is that you need your agent to get in front of editors and sell your book. For me, another key ingredient is the passion the agent has for your writing. Once you know what you are looking for, you can refine your research and hone in on submitting to those agents who would be a good fit for you. Thank goodness for 12×12 which gave me the basics…and so much more…about how to submit. And the more I did it, the easier it was to write a query or cover letter. I talked to friends, mentors, and critique partners who already had agents. I asked them how things were going. I attended webinars featuring agents talking about getting an agent. I read blog posts that outlined what to look for in an author/agent relationship.

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

I guess we can do the math. In 2012, I wrote twelve picture book drafts and fleshed several of those into stories. I had joined two critique groups, one in-person and one online. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to have other writers giving me feedback and encouragement. In 2013, when Julie started the submissions component of 12×12, I submitted every month. Some of my manuscripts got nice responses from the agents, but no bites…and truthfully, I’m not surprised. I don’t think my work was really ready. In fact, I KNOW my work was not ready. In 2014, not only did I submit via 12×12, I also submitted to a few agents and editors on my own. In addition, I took five different picture book writing classes. My May 2014 12×12 submission got a nod from an agent who asked to see more of my work. Oh my gosh…was I ever excited!!!!

But it wasn’t until this year, 2015, that things really started cooking. From January through September, I submitted to over fifteen agents, five editors, plus I entered six contests and sent twelve manuscripts to Rate Your Story. That’s a LOT of submissions.

Then in February, I heard back from the October 12×12 agent (word to the wise…never give up…sometimes agents are really busy and they will get to your work when they can) who wanted to see more of my work. In March, a friend tweeted that she had signed with Essie White from Storm Literary Agency. I had a lot of respect for that writer’s work so I went to Essie’s website and fell in love with her. On a whim, I sent her the manuscript that had peaked the interest of the other agent. And when I checked my inbox an hour later, there was a message from Essie telling me how much she loved that story. In June, I participated in #Pitmad (a Twitter pitching opportunity where agents are ‘lurking’ on Twitter and if they give your pitch a favorite, you can send them the manuscript – make sure you follow their submission guidelines which you can usually find on their agency website). That same story received a favorite from another agent! And then I checked the #mswl (Manuscript Wish List on Twitter where agents, and sometimes editors, tweet about what type of stories they are looking for – go to their agency website and follow the guidelines for submission) and noticed a different agent was looking for that type of story, so I sent it to her. She responded within a day or two!

At that point, I knew I needed to think carefully about what was really important to me. I wanted someone who was organized and a timely communicator. I wanted someone who was personable, easy to work with, and savvy about business. And I wanted someone who was passionate about my stories.

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

No, I don’t think so. In fact, there are some who do focus mainly on picture books, although I think that most agents have a wider scope of representation and will also be open to chapter books (CB), middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA). Usually you can find out about their scope of representation from reading their bio on their agency website.

Who is your new agent? Tell us about getting the news.

I’m thrilled to be represented by Essie White from Storm Literary Agency. As I mentioned, she had responded IMMEDIATELY when I sent her the Sarah story. She had so much confidence in it and passion for it that she even ran it past an editor she happened to be meeting with. Unfortunately, that editor passed on it, but Essie’s heart was in the right place…and I loved that about her. During the June #pitmad challenge, she noticed I had pitched a different nonfiction picture book and she asked if she could see it. After reading that one, she offered me representation…but I hesitated because I was slated to go to the WOW Retreat and I wanted to go with an open mind and no strings attached. When I returned from WOW at the end of July, I started getting lots of activity with those other agents. For two months, I had a chance to be a bit more up close and personal with how they worked. And they were a stellar group! Each had tremendous strengths. Was I looking for a big established agency or a smaller newer one? Would I be happy with an agent who had many clients and less time for me or did I want someone who would respond more quickly? Should I go with an agent who felt my writing was just about perfect or someone who had a different vision for my story?

In the end, I went with my heart and my gut. I emailed Essie and asked her to send me a contract and we set up a time to chat on the phone. I’m thrilled with Essie’s communication style. Every Monday, she sends an update of what’s going on. In addition, as soon as she receives feedback from an editor, she immediately emails me. And I can tell from the tone of the editors’ comments that they all think very highly of Essie—as do all of her clients. I spoke to quite a few of them before I signed with her. I would encourage those of you who receive an offer of representation to absolutely, positively, definitely connect with the agent’s authors. You know what they say about word of mouth—it’s the best advertisement and the way the agent treats her authors is probably how you will be treated.

Two weeks after I signed the contract, Essie had already formulated a submission list and Sweet Dreams, Sarah began her journey. And only a few weeks later, Creston Books editor, Marissa Moss, offered us a contract. Whoa! I realize that it doesn’t usually happen this way…but it’s been great validation. I am extremely grateful to Marissa for believing in me…and honoring a worthy main character like Sarah E. Goode. There were only a few minor revisions requested…and the manuscript is now in the hands of the illustrator, Chris Ewald.

Essie also has three other manuscripts of mine out on submission…one of them has piqued the interest of three different editors…so it’s back to the drawing board to address their feedback with a revision or two or three. You are all seeing a pattern here, I’m sure…research, write, revise, submit, repeat! As you can imagine, I am walking on air and over the moon about how things are going with my writing career.

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

I probably answered this question in the previous paragraphs. From the very beginning, I felt Essie would be a staunch supporter of my work. That is a crucial ingredient in the author/agent relationship, at least for me. The tone and timeliness of her first communication hit a sweet spot…and each succeeding email was no different. I’m thrilled that I’ll be getting to meet Essie in person at the WOW Retreat next July where she will be part of the esteemed faculty.

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 🙂 )

12×12 played a HUGE role in my agent search AND in the development of my craft. I’m a person who responds positively to challenges and accountability. You all know how easy it is for life to get in the way of what we want to do. I would never have accomplished so much in so little time if not for Julie Hedlund, her 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, and the incredible kid lit community that has grown up around it. If I have a question or a concern about a character in a new manuscript, what editor is looking for nonfiction, or which software program would be best for writing, I can turn to the 12×12 Facebook group or hop over to the 12×12 Forum. And since I’ve connected with so many fellow writers (and illustrators even though I’m not one of them), I can reach out by email, chat, or phone.

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

Yes, it has. I can say that ALL the time and energy that I had given over to agent search has now been channeled to writing and revising…mostly revising. Over the last few years, because of 12×12, I’ve amassed a large number of stories. The ones I wrote in 2012 and 2013 might have nuggets of gold, but just like the miners of old, each story is a panful of water filled with sediment that needs to be cleaned and edited and polished to reveal a possibly marketable manuscript. I’ve got a notebook that is filling up with even more ideas.  But now I have someone, other than my critique buddies (YES…you MUST be in at least one critique group…more if possible), to run my stories by. Essie will let me know if she feels the story has a place in the market today. Hopefully, she’ll also be able to give me feedback as to what the editors are looking for. And THAT may change my writing process as well.

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

  1. Write what you love and what you know.
  2. Read agency websites/#mswl on Twitter/agent blogs to find out which agents are looking for the stories you are writing.
  3. Listen to webinars that feature agents.
  4. Talk with friends and acquaintances who have agents.
  5. Learn how to write a killer query letter – Julie Hedlund and Emma Walton Hamilton just did a stellar webinar all about that…they also offer an amazing package called The Complete Picture Book Submission System that will get you up to speed in record time.
  6. Submit your work to critique groups, contests, Rate Your Story, and of course, agents. You know what they say…you can’t win if you don’t play. Don’t send out work that is not up to par…but don’t hold it back because you think it isn’t perfect.
  7. Believe in yourself—you will succeed!

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

No, I don’t think my own platform helped per se, although I did hear about Essie from a tweet…and two of the other agents from Twitter-related opportunities. So I guess I’d say that it is helpful to be involved in a certain amount of social media so you can have your finger on the pulse of what is going on.

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 🙂 )

Inevitable? Well, I do love that type of positive thinking, Julie! I’ve never been to Europe. I’m hoping to go in 2017 with my son and his family…unless another opportunity pops up to go there before then.

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

I fell in love with nonfiction when I took Kristen Fulton’s Non Fiction Archaeology class last June, so a lot of my stories are nonfiction. I LOVE finding a gem of an event or incident that history seems to have forgotten and then I love bringing it to life for young readers. So I’m doing lots of research, lots of writing, and lots of revising. I keep saying I’m going to cut down on the insane number of critique groups I participate with, but I doubt that will happen because it is a joy for me to connect with other writers.  They support and encourage me as much as I, hopefully, support and encourage them. I’m living my bliss…I couldn’t ask for more.

Categories: 12 x 12, How I Got My Agent, Writing · Tags: , , ,


Picture Book Summit 2016

Mark your calendar! I’m happy to announce Picture Book Summit 2016 is coming October 1, 2016. It’s a privilege to reteam with Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis and Laura Backes to bring you another extraordinary event.

The fun is already underway on the Facebook page where we’ve been giving hints about our Superstar Speakers all week. Come on over and join in the fun by CLICKING HERE.

If you’re truly a fan of picture books, you are going to LOVE this line up!

What is Picture Book Summit, you ask?

One day not so long ago, a group of friends (who also happened to be successful picture book authors, editors and educators) were chatting online.

“That looks like a cool conference,” said one.  “But if I have to get on another plane or check into another hotel, I think I’m going to explode.”

The others commiserated, sharing their own stories of uprooting their lives and spending far too much money to travel to conferences.

That’s when one of the group piped up and said “What if we….”


The rest is history.   Picture Book Summit was born.


Picture Book Summit 2016 is the dream conference for picture book writers — an unprecedented day of instruction, fun and inspiration…and it all takes place online. No plane ticket. No hotel. No bad conference food. From the comfort of your home, you’ll get to experience our dream line up of picture book superstars on October 1, 2016.

As we started getting ready for this year’s event, we were reminiscing about the best moments from our first event last Fall:

  • Peter Brown sharing why it’s important to have fun while you’re creating picture books.
  • Andrea Davis Pinkney inspiring us to show how real people can be even more entertaining than imaginary characters.
  • Mac Barnett helping us rediscover the magic of a page turn.

We’ve gathered 10 of our favorites and put them in one place. You can download the Top 10 Takeaways from Picture Book Summit 2015 for FREE by clicking HERE.

Pick up the Top 10 Takeaways today and you’ll be among the first to hear when Early Bird registration open in a couple weeks. Believe me, you don’t want miss that. Picture Book Summit is going to be even more inspiring, educational, and fun than last year with agent and editor panels, workshops and our three out-of-this-world Superstar Speakers, each an uber-successful author in their own right.

Don’t miss it!

Categories: Picture Books, Writing · Tags:

I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain

I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain

Since the Colorado May Day includes snow, I felt obliged to include a quote on gratitude that included snow, even though I’d be feeling especially grateful for some sun right about now. 🙂

Quotes on Gratitude

“Just as millions of snowflakes pile up to create a blanket of snow, the ‘thank you’s’ we say pile up and fall gently upon one another until, in our hearts and minds, we are adrift in gratitude.” – Daphne Rose Kingman 

“When a child gives you a gift, even if it is just a rock, exude gratitude. It may be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you.” — Dean Jackson

“Gratitude is Heaven itself.” – William Blake

Gratitude list for the week ending April 30

  1. Went to see “dueling pianos” on Friday, and the guys turned on the purple lights and busted out Purple Rain
  2. At the same show, a woman requested “Gangnam Style.” They declined, saying neither of them could read or sing in Korean. So the woman jumped up and belted it out karaoke style – IN Korean. It just made me happy that this random white woman in the middle of suburbia could have the guts to stand up in front of a crowd and sing that song just for the joy of it. Check out video below.
  3. Watched the movie “Overboard” with the kids. Laughed like crazy.
  4. Comfort food on cold nights
  5. Marianne Williamson
  6. I poured my heart out in this blog post and got SO MUCH love and support back from 12 x 12 members. Even when we have the illusion of being alone, we’re really not.
  7. Watching Jay play flag football and have fun
  8. Spaghetti dinner over at Mom’s
  9. Walks with Rocky
  10. Last, but not least, being able to celebrate the release of my friend Sylvia Liu’s debut picture book, A Morning with Grandpa. You owe it to yourself to check out this beautiful book!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday


prince-memeSecond week of getting back in the saddle with Gratitude Sunday posts! I’ve spent a lot of time appreciating Prince, devastated as I am by his premature death. If you haven’t seen the retrospective of his performance at the Superbowl in 2007, it is worth a watch. As for the rest of the week…

Quotes on Gratitude

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.” — Ruth Ann Schabacker

May you begin each day in the spirit of Gratitude
With oceans of love and a kiss on each wave. — Katherine Scherer and Eileen Bodoh

“Gratitude incorporates both the heart and mind, and instantly paves the shortest road to happiness.”
–Alan Cohen

“He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.”
–J. A. Shedd

Gratitude list for the week ending April 23

  1. Prince! For his life, his music. For his bravery. For being the soundtrack of my youth. I don’t think there is any other musician who had such an impact on me. RIP
  2. Lovely lunch followed by a walk in the park on a gorgeous spring day
  3. My kids paying an Improv Poet on Pearl Street to say a poem about Prince for me
  4. Delicious dinner with the kids on Pearl Street Friday night. Jammed with people out and about enjoying the weather
  5. Fun movie night with the kids
  6. Getting great sleep (highly unusual for me)
  7. Another phenomenal Italian Food & Wine meetup at Valerio’s house
  8. My hyacinths are blooming.
  9. Last week’s snow didn’t kill my lilacs, which will bloom any minute now!
  10. Cosmic forces known only to me 😉

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday

Spring in Colorado!

Spring in Colorado!

“I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I’m going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.” Mike Ericksen

“Practicing appreciation is like receiving everything you already have all over again. Focusing on that which you have engenders more of the same.” — Jack Peterson

“You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in the sad, the gain in your pain, and what makes you grateful, not hateful.” — Karen Salmonsohn

It’s been far, FAR too long since I’ve done a Gratitude Sunday post, and I honestly feel its absence. So I’m starting anew with this series. It keeps me grounded and, yes, grateful.

Gratitude list for the week ending April 16

  1. My taxes are done!
  2. Opened new retirement account!
  3. 75 degrees and tulips one day, 12 inches of snow two days later. Gotta love the variety in Colorado weather!
  4. Two fun dinners out with my kiddos
  5. A couple of important, meaningful conversations with each of my kids
  6. Lovely lunch at a “new to me” restaurant on Pearl Street
  7. Won three games of pool on Friday!
  8. Got lots of rest this week – now fully recovered from jet lag
  9. Great 12 x 12 webinar on school visits – thanks Michelle Cusolito!
  10. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, Family, Gratitude Sunday


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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