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OMG I JUST realized that today is the last day of 12 x 12 2014!!! Forgive me for allowing this to take me by surprise. I haven’t even had a chance to be sad yet! 

Seriously, the whole month of December has been like this. Christmas was over just as I fully realized it was upon us. Tonight is New Year’s Eve and I made dinner reservations last night. 

Perhaps it’s a form of rebellion against saying goodbye to another OUTSTANDING year of 12 x 12. Yet, I know it’s not truly goodbye. Many of you will come back in 2015. Some of you won’t. But no matter what, I cherish you all and the community we shared this year. I myself wrote 7 new drafts and revised 12. That is a personal best for me in terms of volume of writing, and I know it would never be possible without the support and motivation of this group.

I wish I had something more profound to say, but I always get a little verklempt at this time of year. So, allow me to wish you all a Happy, Safe, Joyous, Prosperous, CREATIVE, New Year!

Please visit our BRAND NEW 12 x 12 website if you are interested in joining next year. See you on the other side!

Now tell us about you. Did you get your draft or revision done this month? Let us know in the comments and in the Rafflecopter. Remember one lucky 12 x 12 member will win a picture book critique from our very own Marcie Colleen.

How did you do this year? If you completed 12 picture book drafts this year, send us a video or a headshot and tell us how many drafts you wrote and we’ll add you to the Winners Wall! Entries for the Winners Wall are due by midnight tonight!

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win a Picture Book Critique from Marcie Colleen:

  1. See the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post that says “Picture Book Critique from Marcie Colleen” at the top.
  2. Click on the “Comment on the Featured Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on the featured blog post. Commenting on the featured post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in December. 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 December. 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 December. 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 January 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on January 2nd.

Keep on writing! We hope to see you back in 2015!!

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Marcie ColleenI am always excited to introduce our monthly featured authors, but this month, I am jumping-out-of-my-skin excited. Why? Because today I get to bring you one of my first and best writing friends. Marcie Colleen began 12 x 12 in its inaugural year in 2012. She first appeared on my blog in March, 2012 as part of the Tuesday 12 x 12 series spotlighting pre-published authors. She came on again in July, 2013 in the “How I Got My Agent” series. And today, she appears once more, this time as an author with multiple book contracts from major publishing houses.

November was a big month for Marcie. First, Scholastic announced their acquisition of THE ADVENTURE OF THE PENGUINAUT (which by the way was her FIRST 12 x 12 PB draft in January, 2012!!). And if that wasn’t enough, her book LOVE, TRIANGLE (Harper Collins, Balzer & Bray) was sold at auction in a two-book deal with FIVE editors vying for the deal! Her story inspired ME so much I figured it couldn’t fail to inspire all of you – especially those of you who are “just writers.” PLUS, one lucky 12 x 12 participant will win a picture book critique from Marcie at the end of the month. So please help me give the warmest of welcomes to my dear friend and now PUBLISHED author, Marcie Colleen!

*squeal of a live microphone*

Ahem, ahem. Is this thing on?

Hi, fellow 12x12ers!

I am so glad that Julie asked me to be the 12×12 December Featured Author because I have a little Public Service Announcement that I would like to make.

December can be a fun, festive time. It’s a time of celebration as we look at the achievements of this past year. Yet we also look to a crisp clean slate labeled “2015” which is full of possibility.

But if you are even a tad insecure about your journey to be a picture book writer, this time of year can be unnerving.

You know what I am talking about. You are at some nice holiday gathering and the following scene happens…

RANDOM PARTY GUEST:                   What do you do?

YOU:                                                      I am a picture book writer.

RANDOM PARTY GUEST:                   Oh, do you illustrate?

YOU:                                                      No. I’m just a writer. (Sheepishly gulp your wine)

(end scene)

Painful, right? Can you relate?

Recently, Publisher’s Weekly ran a story about a debut picture book which sold for six figures in an eight house auction. Wowee! Holy smokes, right??

As writers, we need to allow stories like this to give us hope. However, the conversation on 12×12’s Facebook page quickly turned to “Well, it’s an author-illustrator project. If only I could draw.” And the sad trombone played as the lowly “just writers” sheepishly hung their heads and opened a bottle of wine.

This year I am making it my personal mission to end the “just a writer” response. Let’s not tolerate this talk moving into 2015.

Instead, I would like to provide you with a new script I have written. It’s my little holiday gift to you. Enjoy.

RANDOM PARTY GUEST:                   What do you do?

YOU:                                                      I am a picture book writer.

RANDOM PARTY GUEST:                   Oh, do you illustrate?

YOU:                                                      No. I am a writer. Words are my paint. I am a wordsmith. I dabble in puns like Tammi Sauer. I use brushstrokes of rhyme like Lori Degman.

I build worlds with various combinations of only 26 letters, like Aaron Reynolds, Mac Barnett and Tara Lazar.

I sometimes twist familiar worlds with my own imagination to create something fresh and new like Corey Rosen Schwartz or Jon Scieszka.

With only black text I can conjure a character so life-like they jump right off the page and into the hearts of those who read it. Like Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Susanna Leonard Hill and Doreen Cronin.

And on that same white paper, with the Times New Roman text, I can inspire like Alexis O’Neill, explore like Kate Messner, comfort like Eileen Spinelli, quiet like Deborah Underwood, tug at the heart strings like Ame Dyckman, and have kids and parents alike rolling on the floor like Michael Ian Black.

After all, BJ Novak helped us all see the power and value in words when he did all of this in The Book with No Pictures.

My 300-500 words in 12 point font on white can sell in a multi-house auction with comparable money to an author-illustrator’s deal.

Even without illustrations. Even if I am a debut. Like Marcie Colleen’s Love, Triangle that had a five house auction and ended up with a very nice two book deal from HarperCollins.

To answer your question, I do not illustrate. My words inspire illustrations. I come from a long tradition of storytellers.

I am a picture book writer.

(end scene)

Got it?

Now, all of my lovely former “just writers,” go celebrate. You’ve done well. Finish 2014 strong and see you in the New Year. Raise that glass of wine to those who have gone before you and those you will someday join. No more sheepish gulping.

*drops mic*

Bio:

Marcie Colleen is proud to be just a picture book writer. She is an inaugural member of 12×12 and her debut, The Adventure of the Penguinaut (Scholastic, 2016), was her January manuscript in 2012. This past November, Marcie sold Love, Triangle in a five house auction to Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins as part of a two book deal. Marcie is represented by Susan Hawk/The Bent Agency. She lives in Brooklyn, NYC with her husband—Lego artist Jonathan Lopes—and their mischievous sock monkey. To learn more, visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com or follow her at @MarcieColleen1.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Agents, Authors, Friendship, Giveaway, Goals, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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Kelli here. Beat me with a wet noodle for not posting this earlier! I’m so sorry, but prizes are better late than never right?! Our October Featured Author, Laura Gehl, is giving away a picture book critique to one lucky 12 x 12 member.

And the lucky winner is…

DEBBIE AUSTIN

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

Alright, show your thanks for all the picture book ideas in your head and write at least one of them down this month! Write those drafts and revise, revise, revise for your chance to win November’s prize.

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There’s a good reason this post is a little late today, and that’s because I spent this morning finishing my October draft! So while I didn’t revise any manuscripts this month, I did write a new one – woo hoo! In fact, my plan for the remaining two months of the year (Two months? Now THAT’S Spooky!), I plan to spend NOT writing new manuscripts but revising the dickens out of several that I already have.

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 Laura Gehl for teaching us how to hook readers with our books. Be sure to stop back tomorrow for a special November treat! Oh, and Happy Halloween!!

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

  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 Laura’s Blog Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on Laura’s blog post. Commenting on Laura’s post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in October. 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 October. 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 October. 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 November 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on November 2nd.

Keep on writing!
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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.

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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.

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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

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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! 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.

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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

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