12 x 12 Member - Pam MillerToday’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Pam Miller, is not just a goal-setter, but an accomplished goal-achiever. And if she falls short, she tallies that result into her “lessons learned for the future” and moves on to the next one. We should all be such masters of invention and reinvention. I have absolutely no doubt that picture book publishing success is part of Pam’s latest journey. Please give her a warm welcome!

Be a Goal Setter
Mom always said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” I learned, as I grew older, that there is more than one right way to achieve a goal. It’s even more important to never lose sight of the goal.

Trying to publish a children’s picture book has brought that lesson to mind. When the goal is elephant in size, it can only be devoured in small pieces. So, I have the goal, (Thank You 12×12 admin/elves and participants). I have a plan broken into steps: days to write, to post and comment, and to read. I have a back-up plan, (self-publishing) and extra plans: Webinars, http://illinois.scbwi.org , and blogs at www.juliehedlund.com . Bases covered?

Haven’t you heard of Murphy’s Law? Plan on it. To combat something going wrong, tell a friend, tell a sibling, tell lots of folks. They will ask about your progress and encourage you. They may come through when Murphy strikes.

For one decade of my life I was an independent sales rep/manager for a direct selling company. I taught and sold needlecraft at home demonstrations. I set my own goals, earned commission. I was about ready for work, after loading the last bag in the car, when our son threw his fast ball to his younger sister at bat. No, he wasn’t using the whiffle ball. Not only was there blood, but her lip was so swollen; and she lost a tooth. I called my hostess, thinking I would be driving to the ER and not making money that night. My spouse drove up the drive in time to make the ER. I settled the boys and went to work.

My hostess and friend told me to come when I could. After I arrived, everyone ate dessert again and asked about my daughter. The orders were already added, totaling the biggest sale of the year. By the time I got home, my daughter was home. I met my sales goal, thanks to my spouse and friends. Don’t ever give up, and, don’t give up too soon. The latter was a self-taught lesson.

Like the Rafflecopter, sales and recruiting had to be timely. For achievement during a three-month period the prize/goal was a fabulous trip for me and my spouse. I had reached this goal three years in a row. The fourth year I made a good plan and got everything mailed early. What a shock to get a call from the V.P. saying that I was less than $100 short. I recalled that my last hostess offered to mail in her own paperwork, after she collected from one other. I called her to confirm that all was well, but, evidently, it was not.

The goal was mine, not hers. Lesson learned: Don’t take your eye off the ball. If you want to catch the ball, follow it all the way into the glove.

The real Forum prize is learning: how to write a better query letter, amazing feedback and sharing from 12 x 12 like-minded participants and elves, and encouraging badges.

So here I sat today, totally embarrassed for not navigating technology last night while trying to purchase a GREAT DEAL from savvy Katie Davis and finally join her Boot Camp, UNTIL her graciousness, and knowing I am a Video Idiot, prompted her to extend the offer for attendees like myself. Today, you are part of my plan. Thanks, Katie, for the offer. Thanks for kicking Murphy in the can.

Here is my real photo with all my wrinkles. When in college as an adult learner for life, I read Gail Sheey’s book, Passages, in which she suggests that, at age 45, we could develop another life. Expected mortality being 85, for women, gives me lots of years, still, to write.




Categories: 12 x 12, Goals, Guest Blogging, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,


Poetry expert Renee LaTulippeI am SO delighted to be hosting my friend Renee LaTulippe today. I met Renee initially through my 12 x 12 challenge, and quickly discovered her talent and effervescence as a children’s poet/actress/performer. So much so that I corralled her to serve as the “Poetry Elf” for 12 x 12 these past two years, where she passes her poetic passion onto other bards to be (and already are… no not to be…).

I then got to meet Renee IN PERSON in Florence, Italy where she came to film the inaugural participants of Writer’s Renaissance performing individual poems and a group poem we wrote together. You can see all those videos in this post of her blog, No Water River. 

Renee is so full of fabulousness and vivacity that no matter how shy you are or how much fear you have about poetry, she’ll immediately set you at ease so you can experience the FUN of poetry. (Case in point is my A Lotta Gelatta poem)

Now, Renee has long been an advocate for poets and a supporter of poetry for children, but now she’s passing on her gifts in a course designed to help ALL writers write more lyrically and rhythmically in her course THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching up Prose with Poetry. Because I am signed up to take this course in July, Renee gave me a sneak peek into the course and a spot in the private Facebook group.

I’ve taken quite a few writing courses in my time, and I must say it’s ASTONISHING how much learning Renee packs into this class. Whether you’ve never written a line of poetry or you’ve been writing poetry your whole life, this course will help you hone your skills as a writer so that ALL forms of your writing shine. In addition to the formal lessons, Renee provides a huge amount personal attention, teaching, and support in the Facebook group. I’ve read some “before feedback” and “after feedback” assignments from the students and the improvement is amazing.

I asked Renee if she would pop into the blog to provide a bit of wisdom and wit about poetry and why studying and “playing” with it is so important for writers of all genres. Please welcome Renee!

First a little about you.

How did you develop your passion for poetry?
I don’t think I developed it so much as it developed me. I guess I had an innate love of language, words, and wordplay. I wrote my first poem when I was seven and was immediately hooked. Putting together sounds and syllables has always been really satisfying.

I also have to point out that I had a couple of wonderful teachers to support and encourage me along the way. Without them, I probably would not have continued writing. I wrote about my early poetic adventures here.

The focus of your blog, No Water River, is reading and performing poetry out loud. Why do you think this aspect is so important?

Poetry is music and is meant to be spoken and heard and savored by ears, mouth, eyes, and bodies, and not just dissected on paper and left there with its guts hanging out. I am especially adamant about this when it comes to sharing any literature with kids – whether it’s a poem or Huck Finn – because, for me, appreciation (of language, story, character, and craft) must come first. And you just can’t do that in a chair!

My high school students rarely sat down. I ran a noisy and weird classroom. I’m pretty sure that “formal text analysis” happens naturally if you just let kids live the literature and get excited about it. I mean, who wants to analyze something she doesn’t first feel in her bones and heart? [Off soapbox, exit stage right]

So now I do poetry videos and ask other poets to do the same because I want kids to see that poetry is alive and fun and not scary, and is waiting to be slurped up with a straw.

What other genres do you write? Is poetry your favorite?

I am published in the educational market with nine award-winning leveled readers for beginning readers through fourth grade, which I co-authored with Marie Rippel. Published by All About Learning Press, these books are collections of short, illustrated, vocabulary-controlled stories that range from 100 words at the early end to 1200 words in the higher levels.

Through 12×12, I also began exploring the world of picture books and have a lot of ideas but only a few paltry drafts. They’re so hard! Why are they so hard?! Oh, and here’s an odd tidbit: although I am a poet first, I prefer prose picture books, both for writing and reading. Go figure.

And yes, I do have a special affinity for poetry because of the art itself and because it’s what comes most naturally to me. I feel at home when writing poetry, and it doesn’t make me angst-eat nearly as much chocolate as PB and short story writing does.

Okay, now on to the course.

What inspired you to create your online course, The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry? Lyrical Language Lab with Renee LaTulippe
As a full-time editor in the educational and personal development markets, I see a lot of books with good concepts but weak language. No matter what you’re writing, it has to be engaging or you will lose your audience in the first paragraph. Over the years, I’ve found myself repeating the same advice to authors: punch up your prose. Engage and delight your readers. Surprise them with unexpected turns of phrase. Keep them on their toes.

And once I started writing for young people and doing critiques, I realized that the advice is doubly important for children’s writers. I have a profound appreciation for language and craft, and a desire to impart that to others.

Many people are intimidated by poetry. How do you address that fear in the course?
Poetry schmoetry! The first thing I do is stress that the The Lyrical Language Lab is not a poetry course. The focus is on using poetic techniques to enhance your writing, not on “becoming poets,” so poetry is simply a vehicle for understanding lyrical language and how it can be applied to all writing. And most of the mentor texts are non-threatening, user-friendly children’s poems and PBs. So be not afraid, prose people!

Why do you think ALL writers need to understand poetry and poetic form, and what approach do you take to teaching it?
Poetry has so much to teach all writers, but especially PB writers. Picture books are meant to be read aloud, so using poetic techniques simply makes sense. You need to create read-aloud language that transports both children and parents into a world of imagination in as few words as possible.

Poetry is about conciseness, word choice, imagery, emotional weight, storytelling, rhythm, and sound – and so must be all texts for young people.

My approach is to
• introduce one concept per lesson
• explain it in detail through the use of mentor texts and my own “points to ponder” analysis
• show students why and how the poetic technique works
• enhance lessons with infographics to visually organize the material
• provide audio files in which I verbally demonstrate the concept

Daily assignments give students the chance to
• put the concept into practice
• write new material, with both prose and poetry options
• apply the concepts to a work in progress
• get personalized feedback

An important part of the class is the private Facebook group, where students post assignments for my feedback. I work hard to create a nurturing and encouraging environment, and to give detailed, honest feedback so students know which areas to work on.

The course is fun but challenging. No gimmicks; just solid teaching.

Is the course targeted to prose writers who want to learn to write more rhythmically or writers who want to write poetry and/or rhyming books specifically?

I designed the course with prose writers in mind, but it’s really versatile and serves all sorts of writers:

Prose writers looking to write more lyrically and enrich their writing with poetic techniques
Rhyming PB writers who would like a stronger foundation in the mechanics of poetry
• Writers who would like to learn more about writing poetry for children
• Anyone with a WIP in need of revision – the class is great for revision!

So far students have included non-fiction prose PB writers, prose and rhyming PB writers, children’s poets, and MG and YA writers, from beginner to advanced. Recently an accomplished published poet used the class to polish a new collection for submission.Ann Whitford Paul Quote

What about writers, like me, who already have a grasp of meter and writing in rhyme? Are we candidates for the course too?
While I do teach meter at the beginning of the course, it’s a small part of the whole, and all the concepts covered are beneficial to all writers. I go into enough nitty-gritty detail that I think everyone will learn something new.

But don’t just take it from me! Here’s a great article by Jane Yolen on revising for lyrical language, and some words of wisdom from Ann Whitford Paul on the need to be familiar with poetic concepts.

What do you hope your students will walk away with at the end of your course?
• The knowledge that every word we use is more than just a verb or a noun or an adjective; it’s also an emotion, an image, a sound, and a memory that can elicit a specific response from the reader.
• The skills to put that knowledge to work to make their own stories and poems more powerful and memorable.

Two questions to finish (and to satisfy my curiosity)

If you had to choose two of your No Water River poetry performances that are your favorite, which would they be?
The only full performances I do are of those poems in my Classics series. Of those, I’d say my favorites are “Jabberwocky” because of the delicious sounds and language (and the costume!) and the three witches from Macbeth because it took me fifteen hours to figure out how to get three of me talking on screen at once.

I also have a whole lot of amazing guest poets, from Joyce Sidman to J. Patrick Lewis. One of my favorite videos of all time is Janet Wong’s performance of her poem “GongGong and Susie.” What a storyteller!

You live in Italy with your husband and two children, and you are fluent in Italian. Do you think having a second language, especially one as beautiful as Italian, informs and enriches your poetry and other writing?
Definitely. As a girl, I wanted to be a multilingual interpreter, and at some point or other I’ve studied French, Portuguese, and Italian in depth and dabbled briefly in Spanish and German. And I love accents of every kind. Studying foreign languages attunes your ear to all the different cadences and nuances of speech and heightens your awareness of sounds and rhythms. Idiomatic expressions also catch my fancy and can spark new writing ideas.

And even the syntax can make me look at things in new ways. For example, in English we say “This flower is beautiful,” while in Italian the syntax is reversed: “È bello questo fiore” (It’s beautiful this flower). I have been accused of Yoda-speak when I use this syntax, but to me “It’s beautiful, this flower” says something completely different than “This flower is beautiful.”

Thanks Renee! I had to ask that last question because I SO want to learn Italian and become fluent. In my spare time – LOL. But on my recent trip for Writer’s Renaissance 2014 I learned that instead of saying “sweet dreams” to someone at bedtime, Italians say “sogni d’oro,” which translates to “dreams of gold.” Talk about a phrase that’s used the same way but says something completely different!

Thank you for this fabulous and heartfelt interview, Renee! I hope I’ll some of my readers will sign up for the Lyrical Language Lab and be classmates with me in July!! :-)

Click here to learn more about The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry.


Renée M. LaTulippe has co-authored nine early readers and a volume of poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new (Moonbeam Children’s Book Award) for All About Learning Press, where she is also the editor, and has poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology Middle School and Science editions (Pomelo Books). She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and creates children’s poetry videos for her blog NoWaterRiver.com. Renée holds theater and English education degrees from Marymount Manhattan College and New York University, and taught English and theater in NYC before moving to Italy, where she lives with her husband and twin boys.
Facebook: NoWaterRiver
Twitter: @ReneeMLaTulippe

Categories: Authors, Books, Childhood, Children's Books, Creativity, Guest Blogging, Poetry, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


12 x 12 Member - Lynn BaldwinI love how taking one leap of faith, as today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author Lynn Baldwin did, can lead to a trove of additional discoveries. My first hope when people join 12 x 12 is that they will write more, become an active member of the community and realize they are capable of far more than they thought they were before joining. So please welcome Lynn, not just to 12 x 12 but to the whole wide web world of writing. I know I’m glad to have her! :-)

Like many writers, I struggle with time management and am wary of things that detract from the limited amount of time I have for writing. That’s why I was initially skeptical of Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge.

Sure, I’d heard good things about the online challenge. But, really – how much time did I want to spend reading blog posts, critiquing other people’s work, contributing to an online forum, being part of yet another Facebook group? If I did all this, when would I have time to work on the 12 picture books I’d be committed to writing? And, could I really write one picture book a month for all of 2014?

Despite my skepticism, I decided to take the plunge and nervously signed up for the Little GOLDen Book membership. After all, if I was going to do it, I might as well jump all the way in.

I couldn’t be happier that I did. It’s only mid-March, and I’ve already found a lot of value in my participation in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition to the fantastic opportunity to submit my work to agents, I have benefited from…

• Writing More: So far, I’ve completed three new picture book manuscripts and have been working on revising two others. I always feel I could/should be doing more, but this is a huge increase from the amount of writing I did last year, so I’m pleased.

• Query Critiques: The query critique I received from Emma Walton Hamilton was great, even though I learned that I erred on the side of “giving away the ending.” I’ve also really enjoyed critiquing other people’s queries on the online forum and getting feedback on mine.

• Online Community: I’ve been so impressed by the participation on the Facebook group and the willingness of other members to share their expertise, ideas and writing-related opportunities and contests…which leads to my next benefit…

• Learning about the Wide Web World of Writing: Before joining the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, I really wasn’t doing much online beside reading an occasional blog. Thanks to 12 x 12, I’ve learned there’s a wide world of writing opportunities out there. I’ve participated in Red Light, Green Light: Freetiques, Rate Your Story..and a few others I can’t think of right now! I am also probably going to do RhyPiBoMo. if I can get over my fear of committing to another writing challenge. :)

So, thank you, Julie Hedlund, and thank you to all of my fellow 12 x 12ers. It’s been a great first few months, and I’m looking forward to a fantastic rest of the year!

Lynn Baldwin is an aspiring picture book author, marketing freelance writer, mother to an adorable preschooler and lover of the Spanish language, travel and dark chocolate.



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


12 x12 Member - Kyle HartYou know how it’s graduation season right now? Well, if you have any graduates in your lives I urge you to print up this post from Kyle Hart, today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, and put it in their cards. How I WISH I hadn’t given up on imagination and creativity in my youth. I wish it hadn’t taken me almost 20 years to realize that the corporate life is not the only road to success. The world needs more young people like Kyle, who are unwilling to let dreams languish for so long. Please welcome Kyle! 

I’ve been a writing enthusiast my whole life. It’s provided me with an effective and healthy outlet to unwind as well as everlasting encouragement to keep my imagination alive and push the bounds of creativity. Last summer, after graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in Psychological Sciences, I had no choice but to immerse myself in the ‘real world.’ Determined to not let my passion of writing go by the wayside, I allotted time in my daily life to creating stories, characters, and ideas that depicted the human condition through my eyes. With a rap sheet of odd jobs and different personalities encountered along the way, I quickly realized that the average person is far too complacent with living their lives comfortably and without challenge.

There seems to be a certain point where people stop believing in imagination. Where it becomes more of an abnormality and less of a gift. For this reason and from that moment on I promised myself that I would never let my imagination go and would continually encourage others to do the same. I began drawing, writing, laughing, sharing, and piecing together these ‘mock’ or ‘prototype’ picture books. I shared them with family and friends with the understanding that they would ‘eat it up’ and urge me to keep going. My background up to this point in writing for newspapers and various blogs in the past taught me that, although it’s nice to have the support of loved ones, it’s sweeter and more difficult to gain the appreciation of those you don’t know, those who dislike your writing, and those who just prefer to sit on the sideline and criticize. Those were the people I was trying to reach.

I wanted to take these picture book ideas as far as I could. So I started sending emails, joining the SCBWI, pooling knowledge from other published and unpublished writers I knew, and, quite frankly, probably annoyed a lot of people with the amount of questions I was asking. Not necessarily in an overbearing, or Internet trolling kind of way. It was more a proactive way of expressing my desire to learn and my passion for this field of writing. Various sources and different paths led me to Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge (however, I believe the root was information from Katie Davis’ email list).

I’ll be the first to admit that I was overwhelmed, scared, and anxious when I paid for the Shel SILVERstein package. But I’m reminded almost daily of how thankful I am that I pulled the trigger. Despite the mass amount of knowledge, resources, and helpful brains this challenge has to offer, this program has taught and continues to teach me the most important aspect, in my opinion, of the burning desire we have to write: patience. The process of picture book and children’s story writing, I’m learning, is tedious, difficult, and testy but so worth it if the storm is weathered and you persevere. However, patience is a crucial component to survival.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many groups of creative and talented people in my life, but none have come close to the support and cohesiveness offered by the 12×12 family. It’s heartwarming and humbling to witness and be an active part in an artistic community supporting one another with their endeavors. Since I’ve joined I have written four first drafts aside from posting 5 times per week on my blog Always Looking Up. The blog is founded on the idea that we are all capable of truly achieving the things we want in life. My goals for the site is to encourage, motivate, and instill optimism in all readers regarding their dreams and belief in their capabilities. The 12×12 challenge has been nothing short of a blessing and I will be a continual member for years to come.

Kyle Hart is a passionate, dedicated, and motivated individual who thoroughly enjoys reading and writing in almost every form. With his love for communication, Kyle hopes to positively impact others through his words and actions on a daily basis. He is currently a freelance writer working on several projects that center around self-empowerment, embracing individuality, and consistently remaining upbeat.


Categories: 12 x 12, Creativity, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


12 x 12 Member K Callard

You can bet I was honored when I read this post from K Callard, today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author. Anytime we make commitments, especially financial ones, to our writing it’s critical to take them seriously. One of my goals with 12 x 12 is to make sure everyone gets MORE than the expect from the challenge so they feel their resources have been put to good use. So I did a little Snoopy dance after reading this post. Please welcome K Callard. I’m so glad YOU made the choice to join us!

I was one of the last people to join 12×12 this year. I signed up on February 27th (which, due to my fabulous calendar-reading skills, I actually thought was the 28th). Why so late? Well, I could only pick one writing workshop/conference/learning experience to attend this spring, and I wanted to make sure I picked the right one.

Even though I laid out the pros and cons on my blog (you can read them here), there still wasn’t an obvious winner – so it came down to a personal choice.

Choosing 12×12 was a turning point for me. A decision to take picture book writing seriously. Up until I made the commitment to join 12×12, I thought of myself as a Middle Grade writer – who also wrote picture books for fun, and wouldn’t it be nice if one day I could get one published? (Seriously, I think those are the exact words I used at my local SCBWI conference last year when someone asked me what I wrote.)

Why so wishy-washy? Well, because picture book writing is hard. Not only is the actual writing hard, but there aren’t that many agents who rep PBs (compared to, say, YA) and the competition is really stiff. I figured it would be easier to get an agent with an MG ms, and then add PBs later.

Yet, when I made my list of agents to query with my MG, I only included those who also repped PBs.

And when I scribbled down story ideas, most of them were for PBs.

Then there were those query-ready PB mss gathering virtual dust on my hard drive.

Hmmm…maybe I needed to start taking this whole PB-thing more seriously, after all.

Hence the 12×12 membership.

Will I miss travelling this spring? Getting away from the chaos that is three kids under five? Maybe a bit. But in the last three weeks I’ve drafted three PBs and already made some revisions on all three drafts. Plus I’ve come up with ideas for another three or four PBs. 12×12 has been the spur I needed to really focus on the craft of PB writing. And the crits and advice I’ve received have both helped me grow as a writer, and given me the encouragement I need (maybe I can do this after all).

Joining 12×12 may have been a tough decision for me, but it was definitely the right one.

K Callard lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband, three kids, and a life-sized polar bear. Somewhere in that chaos she manages to write Middle Grade and Picture Books, and query agents. When not writing or taking care of her family, she decorates cakes, reads, and tries not to embarrass herself (or others) with her geekiness. She blogs about her writing journey at kcallard.wordpress.com and tweets about just about anything at @k_callard.


Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Guest Blogging, Queries, SCBWI, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,


12 x 12 Member Jennifer Reid This is a special Tuesday 12 x 12 post, and NOT because it’s being posted on Wednesday (result of jet lag).

No, today’s post from author Jennifer Reid is special because it reminded me of everything that is important in life while also underscoring why we need to give ourselves permission (TODAY) to create. We must OWN the fact that we are writers, illustrators, poets, artists, creators. Even better if we can support each other along the way. I won’t say anything more so as to allow this post to unfold for you in the way it did for me. Please welcome Jennifer. 

A Wonderful Journey

“Don’t worry, it’s not cancer.”

The famous last words of the doctor as I left her office for an ultrasound back in May 2009…a routine test that would soon turn my world upside down.

The sonographer’s face as she moved over my right breast said it all. She stared at the unusual black circle in my breast on her screen, then her eyes moved to another black shape under my right arm. Something was clearly wrong.

I pushed the panic back down, long enough to keep impossibly still as my breasts were painfully jammed between two cold metal plates. Who would have thought breasts could be squashed as thin as pancakes? It was my very first mammogram.

Then a needle was jabbed through my breast, directly into the centre of that black shape discovered earlier. Why had I never heard of a core needle biopsy? What the heck is inside that black thing? Am I going to die?
The voice in my head shouted, this can’t be happening to me. I don’t drink or smoke. I only eat junk food every now and then. I’m only 39 years old.

But I had breast cancer.

They cut out the lump and ripped out all my lymph nodes. My body was scanned, poked, prodded and interrogated, but the cancer may have spread its ugliness elsewhere. It could be quietly clever and sneakily invisible, lurking somewhere waiting to pounce. So doctors weren’t taking any chances. Guilty cells, along with the innocent, had to be stopped. Chemotherapy was the answer – chemical warfare.

Before the first drop of poison was pumped into my body, I sat holding my husband’s hand tight, tears streaming down my face. The nurse asked for my name and date of birth to match the right poison with the right person. I nudged, “You tell her”. But she insisted, “No, you have to tell me.”

My heart thudded. No one else could do this for me. My body, my life, my fight.

On 28th July 2010, after I’d successfully done some of the necessary fighting against this enemy called cancer, I embarked on another epic journey. It was on this day I wrote my very first blog post, reigniting my long lost passion for writing. It became my therapy, giving me the courage to move on from the trauma of cancer and take back the life I was meant to live.

Writing got me out of my comfort zone, so much so, that I decided to do a marathon, and in Paris, no less! I’ve heard only 1% of the world’s population have ever run a marathon. I wonder what the statistics are relating to writers becoming published authors? I never thought I could do a marathon, but now have the medal to prove I did! And I never thought I was a writer either, up until that day I allowed myself to write again.

That first blog post opened the floodgate to my creative soul. I am a writer and illustrator, (and I’m not afraid to say it!)

I have embraced my creative soul, and am committed to ‘creating’ and not apologising for it. I had always tried to hide my creative pursuits, but not anymore. Becoming part of the amazingly talented 12×12 community has brought it all out in the open. I feel like I’ve finally ‘put it out there’ to the universe…I am a writer and illustrator (and I’m not afraid to say it!)

Mrs. T's Cranky PantsThank God for the generous and most talented Julie Hedlund, who could have kept her success to herself, but didn’t. Being part of 12×12 is like training for my next marathon, but this time with a team of elite athletes. I’m so grateful to be part of such a talented team of artists and am confident that no matter where this ‘writing race’ takes us, it’s going to be a wonderful journey!

In addition to being a writer and illustrator, Jennifer Reid is a doting wife, mum of two cherubs, primary school teacher, National Breast Cancer Foundation Ambassador and day-dreamer. Since she believes in living life to the full, her creative work focuses on positivity and ‘looking for the good’ in every situation. In her previous life, Jennifer worked in radio, banking and the health & beauty industry. Nowadays, when she’s not writing or drawing, she can usually be found dreaming of her next travel adventure. But family always comes first, so Jennifer is very good at squeezing her creative pursuits into every spare nook and cranny of her day. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2009, Jennifer quickly decided that life was too short not to pursue her true creative passions. She is currently writing a historical fiction novel based on the life of a family who migrated to Australia after World War II. She has her first children’s picture book, based on her cancer experience, due to be published in 2014…so be sure to ‘watch this space’          

Websites: jenniferreid.com.au, fantangledesigns.com

Email: info@jenniferreid.com.au

Facebook Page

Twitter @_JenniferReid

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


12 x 12 Member Cecilia ClarkToday I am delighted to begin the 2014 “Tuesday 12 x 12″ series, where we feature one pre-published author who shares his or her writing journey (so far) for the edification and inspiration of us all. We often hear from published authors after they’ve achieved some level of success, but I think it is just as important and absolutely as inspiring to learn from those in the deepest part of the trenches. The ones who’ve made the brave decision to make their creative lives a priority.

So it seems fitting to begin with Cecilia Clark, who has taken the writing challenge world by storm in the one year since she made the commitment to herself to follow her dream. Like me, she took the risk of leaving her day job and its familiarity behind her. I recognize the mix of terror and elation she describes here, but given all she has accomplished already, I have no doubt her dream is well within reach. Please welcome Cecilia!

Prior to February 2013 my only writing was 25 word or less competition entries and the occasional desultory blog post once a year and once upon a long time ago I wrote a novel that was rejected three times. At the start of last year I was exhausted and burnt out and facing the first of three surgeries and I was thinking I had lost my chance at ever achieving the dreams I had had since I was a child. Finally, I took a deep breath and made the risky decision to quit my day job. Life had taken some convoluted twists and turns but I was determined that I would somehow turn my life around.

January 2014 I joined 12 x 12 as an investment in my future. I had been hearing of it ever since I made the decision in February 2013 to pursue a writing career. From the moment of that decision I joined every challenge I could find and started networking with many of the people I encountered. First I went for campNaNoWriMo last April and wrote 57,000 words of a novel. Then I stumbled across the chapter book challenge(ChaBooCha) and missed it by the nth degree but I did submit stories and art to an anthology Becky Fyfe was coordinating. I joined organisations and began to look at what they offered in supporting me to my goals such as SCBWI and RWA as well as National writing organisations. I began submitting work to anthologies everywhere I could find them.

To date I have not made one red cent from my writing. Most of the anthologies fund the next year’s edition, several had funds directed to charity, one funded a film and key speaker, one sent the stories to soldiers in a war zone and one is funding a library. I submitted to online flash fiction opportunities and entered flash fiction competitions. I did NaNoWriMo and the Romance Writers of Australia 50k challenge and PiBoIdMo and SkaDaMo, all in November. I gained swollen ankles, fuzzy eyesight, neck strain, 104,000 words, 32 illustrations, 45 PB ideas and a huge bubble of excitement inside me. I went on to the HohoDooDa and the Holiday writing Competition in December and in January missed out on membership of RYS by the skin of my teeth and budgeting tightly in my newly unemployed state I  joined 12 x 12.  I have completed one novel from the crazy November and sent my first ever query to an agent in March. I have three PB drafts so far this year and another 28 ideas from February’s PB marathon and learning how to blog PB reviews in 14:14.. Now ChaBooCha, art every week to the 52 week challenge on FB. I revise with ReviMo and Started the Year Off Write and know I have so much more to learn. 12 x 12 is giving me an anchor or a hub to connect me into all the other things I can try and do. I am meeting new people, joined two critique groups, I have peers to bounce ideas off and to support and encourage. I have goals and I am crazy enough to be a writer. 12 x 12 represents for me the wonderful, generous, kind and caring community that is the kidlit world. For the first time in my life I feel like I belong and for the first time in my life I am introducing myself as a writer and illustrator. My past history which includes 23 years as a foster parent is now relegated to the basket marked – fodder for writing ideas.

My youngest son noticed I was grumpy the other day and he said “Mum have you done any writing today?”

It was a risk worth taking.

Cecilia is a member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FWA), Romance Writer’s Australia(RWA) and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Australia and New Zealand.

Cecilia can be followed on any given day rambling along on her blog sharing her art and writing journey  http://ceciliaaclark.blogspot.com.au

Cecilia can be found on her Goodreads author profile https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7245110.Cecilia_Clark

Her Amazon author profile http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00FUXSGWG

Facebook      https://www.facebook.com/cecilia.clark.336

Twitter         https://twitter.com/cc_lark

email            ceciliaAclark@gmail.com


Categories: 12 x 12, Guest Blogging, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, SCBWI, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Banner_StartTheYearOffWrite12 x 12 isn’t the only writing challenge in town you know. :-)

My friend and fellow 12 x 12 member Shannon Abercrombie is running a fun challenge where each day in January, an established author provides a writing exercise for you to complete. If you complete the exercise and comment on that day’s blog post you will earn an entry toward the prize drawings.

It was my honor to kick this challenge off today! Please see my post on Shannon’s blog and then do the writing prompt!

AND, if you are a picture book writer, don’t forget that 12 x 12 registration for 2014 opens TOMORROW. Yay!

Categories: 12 x 12, Authors, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Write-a-thon, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,


I’m honored that my friend and fellow 12 x 12 member Kirsti Call invited me to guest post on Writer’s Rumpus where, appropriately, I answer 12 questions. I’d love it if you’d drop by. Thanks! :-)

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Creativity, Digital Publishing, Guest Blogging, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Lori Degman - 12 x 12 Featured Author - www.juliehedlund.comIn a huge nod to the old adage, “Better Late than Never,” I am so pleased to introduce our October 12 x 12 Featured Author Lori Degman. Especially when part of the reason why the post is late is because her son got married the last weekend of September! So first, congratulations Lori!

Lori is also not only a 12 x 12 featured author, but a two-time participant in 12 x 12. Who better to advise participants on writing than someone who is a participant herself? I’ve had the good fortune to meet Lori twice at the past two LA-SCBWI conferences, and her energy, enthusiasm and vivaciousness is absolutely contagious. So it did not surprise me one bit to find all of those traits in her book ONE ZANY ZOO, which oozes fun and humor. I’m anxiously awaiting her next book, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! But while we are waiting and trying to be patient about it, I give you ONE ZANY AUTHOR talking about plotting picture books. Please welcome Lori!

Oh, and one lucky 12 x 12 participant will win a PB critique from Lori this month. So set those pens to paper or fingers to keyboard!

Got Plot?

When I asked Julie for some topic ideas for this post, she suggested I discuss Plot, because it is one of the areas I cover in my critiques. I am not a “Plot Whisperer” – by any means – but I think it could be helpful to tell you the elements I feel are essential to a good story.

When critiquing plot for others or when editing my own picture book manuscripts, I ask myself these questions:

1. Does the story have a strong beginning that introduces the setting, characters or problem in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading? Does it start at a point of action or change? This will draw the reader into the story. In my original manuscript for 1 Zany zoo, the story took place during show & tell at school, where the main character is talking about his zany adventures at the zoo. My editor suggested we start the story at the zoo, in present time, to jump right into the action. Great idea!

2. Does every sentence add to the story or move it along? Go through your manuscript and make sure every sentence is essential and moves the story forward. Also, look for words or phrases that could be replaced by more interesting, colorful or active words. With editors wanting lower word counts, it’s even more important to choose your words carefully.

3. Does the main character(s) make failed attempts (typically three) to solve the problem? By making multiple attempts, you’re building tension, which will keep the reader invested in the story and make the solution more satisfying. Also, make sure your main character solves his/her own problem. There’s nothing worse than having an adult ride to the rescue and save the day!

4. Is the ending satisfying? I don’t’ mean, “Did the character learn a lesson” – in fact, you should be careful not to make any lesson too obvious or preachy. I mean, did the ending make you laugh or cry or wonder? Was it memorable? Each of my stories has a twist ending that catches the reader by surprise and makes them laugh (hopefully). I also write endings that go full circle and bring the story back to the beginning.

5. Is the story age appropriate and entertaining? Ask yourself if the topic is something your target audience will relate to or want to read about. Picture books are meant to be read over and over again and, if your story’s not entertaining for both the child and adult, then it will sit on the shelf – if it makes it out of the editors slush pile.

6. For all you fellow rhymers – ask yourself: Is this story best told through rhyme or would it be better told in prose? Are the rhyme and meter limiting the story or taking it in the wrong direction? If you’re not sure, write it both ways and see what happens.

As I said earlier, I am not a “plot expert” – this is just how I approach writing and editing stories. I hope it will be helpful to you and I’m pretty sure if you keep these things in mind, you’ll have a better story when you’re done!

Thanks so much for letting me guest post on your amazing blog, Julie! I LOVE 12×12 – even though, these days, I’m more like a 3×12.

Don’t worry Lori! I’m more like a 3 x 12 too! Thank you so much for being here!

Lori Degman is a teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students by day and a writer of picture books by night, weekend and school holiday. Her debut picture book, 1 Zany Zoo, illustrated by Colin Jack, was the winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest and was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. 1 Zany Zoo received the Mom’s Choice Award for Picture Book Humor and is included on the inaugural “Illinois Reads” book list, sponsored by the Illinois Reading Council. Her second picture book, Cock-a-Doodle Oops!, illustrated by Deborah Zemke, will be released by Creston Books in May, 2014. She is represented by Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary. You can learn more about her on her website, LoriDegman.com.

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

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