Today we continue our theme, “Inside the Artist’s Studio,” featuring the illustrator of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN — Susan Eaddy. The lovely Joanna Marple is hosting Susan for her Illustrator Interview series (after you’re finished reading Susan’s, I urge you to read more — they’re all fabulous!). So head over to Joanna’s for more insights into Susan and her work!

Categories: Authors, Crowdfunding, Picture Books, Publishing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Peter Brown to our 12 x 12 featured author series. I have been a HUGE fan of Peter’s work for years so, needless to say, I was excited to learn that I would get to meet him at the NJ-SCBWI conference where we were both on faculty this past June.

Being the shy type, I barged right up to him at the cocktail party, told him I use Children Make Terrible Pets in nearly all of my school visits, and asked him to be a featured author for 12 x 12. I don’t think he had any idea what he was agreeing to, but he said yes, and HERE HE IS! 

Peter and I spoke for almost an hour, and I know we’re all busy. Therefore I painstakingly, torturingly (why yes, I DID just invent a new adverb) cut it down to just under 30 minutes to keep it manageable. Also, I must tell you I was a hot mess during this interview. Literally. I had just finished a run on a hot summer day, and it was approximately 9000 degrees in my house because my swamp cooler was on the fritz. So if I’m looking a bit pinkish / oompa loompa-like, you’ll know why. Okay – I’ll put my vanity aside now.

Peter has very generously offered to critique either a picture book manuscript (author only) or a sketch dummy Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It hits bookstores on September 3rd.

One last thing. I was so inspired by Peter’s keynote speech at NJ-SCBWI, I wrote a blog post about it afterward. So be sure to check that out too! Now, please welcome Peter…

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


Magical Faerie Crystall

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Kelly McDonald, is multi-talented indeed. She writes and illustrates picture books, chapter books AND Young Adult Novels. She is a writer, artist, performer and photographer. Luckily, she spreads her talent and inspiration freely in the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge where we can all learn from her. Please welcome Kelly!

The 12×12 challenge. It has been a blessing in so many ways. I am Kelly McDonald, a nearly 40 year old married, mother of one, children’s entertainer, writer, photographer and artist.

The 12×12 is half over. Can you believe that? I still remember being a little scared about signing up. Would I look stupid compared to all the real writers there? Would I even make a deadline, let alone two? Was I really a writer? Could I do it? I was so scared! But I signed up anyway. Why? Because I want it! I want to be a writer, I always have. It is a dream from childhood that never faded. I have quite a few stories I have written over the years, and the drawer full of rejection slips to prove it. I needed to learn how to get my ideas down on paper so that the stories would work as well in book form as they do when I am telling them on stage.

After moving to Europe, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands and slowly began to learn…. a trick here, an idea there. I wrote my first full length novel during this time and it landed me an agent.

Then, I took a breath, and entered the 12×12! I have learnt SO much from you all. I am amazed at the generosity and the encouragement and support of this group. When I have bravely put my hand up to ask a question, I have found that others out there want to know too, and another always has the answer. Through this group I met Becky Fyfe, and also joined her chapter book challenge. What a bonus that was! I have just finished my third chapter book in the series, and my agent has taken that as well! Here I was thinking I was a picture book writer, and yet I have found bliss writing for older kids. I have met some wonderful new online buddies, and hopefully will meet a few in person one day too. This group has given me new wings, new dreams, and new inspiration to fly a little higher. Thanks to you one and all for your amazing imput into our (not so) little 12×12. Thanks Julie for an amazing opportunity!

Oh and its one week til June is finished… and I haven’t had an idea for this month. It is ok, I have 6 days 😉

For the past 16 years, Kelly McDonald has been entertaining as the Magical Faerie Crystall throughout Australia and has even spread a little fairy dust in Europe. With a background/training in childcare/kindergarten, she has worked with children since leaving school. The past 8 years have seen her working in digital art, and photography. Kelly has sold quite a few personalised stories she illustrated using her clients’ children. She’s also had a few covers published, and placed third in the Australian CYA conference in 2011. Kelly secured an agent last year with her YA novel, The Hidden Fey. She’s now written a second YA novel, A darkness in Shelley, and has written picture book and chapter book drafts through the 12 x 12 in 2012 and chapter book challenges. She lives on the peninsula in Victoria with her gorgeous hubby and son.

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Goals, Picture Books, Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author/illustrator is Kristen Applebee. I was so charmed by the post she wrote that I decided to forgive her for attending Ohio State (given that I am a Wolverine). 🙂  In all seriousness, she is a talented and forward-thinking illustrator and art teacher, and I’m glad she’s bringing her considerable skills to the world of kidlit to benefit children. Please welcome Kristen!

Walls Can Talk

Want a story? Look around your living room, community swimming pool, or grocery store parking lot. The things you see are offering you their stories. Go ahead.Take one.

During my second year as a graduate student, The Ohio State University printmaking department was scheduled to move to a different building. Many art students were angry that their work was disrupted and began having meetings about how they could convince administrators to wait until summer.

I came late to one of these meetings; in fact, the meeting had ended and room was empty. After a moment alone, I began to I feel something in that room. Maybe it was little bits of frustration lingering in the air. I looked at how the chairs were arranged and could imagine who had been sitting in each seat. I could practically see dialogue bubbles hanging over the empty chairs and hear tense voices. Something had happened. I had missed it, but the story was still being told in the objects left behind.

I spent the following days and months thinking about how the things in my immediate environment were telling me stories. I noticed smudged windows, dusty bookshelves, and worn upholstery. There were stories there. I thought about my quilts. They were made from clothes. The clothes had been worn by someone while riding bike in the rain, while writing letters home, while experiencing a first kiss. There were stories there. Stop wishing chairs, or quilts, or walls could talk. If start listening more carefully and you may find that they already do.

Kristen Applebee earned a BFA from Brigham Young University and an MFA from the Ohio State University. She also has an Early Childhood Educator’s Certificate from Wesleyan College. She taught art there for almost a decade and is currently teaching at Georgia Military College. Kristen loves her regional chapter of SCBWI (Southern Breeze) where she won the Liz Conrad Memorial Scholarship for Illustration in 2010 and 2nd Place in the Illustrated Fiction/Non-fiction category for her manuscript BANJO DAN AND THE PORK BELLY JUG BAND in 2011. Her interactive ebook THE BODY LANGUAGE OF VERONICA SUE, published by My Black Dog Books, is available for ipad, iphones and ipod touch. Kristen lives with her husband and three children in Macon, Georgia.


Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Apps, Authors, Digital Publishing, Picture Books, Storybook Apps, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


As a person who can barely draw a stick figure, I am in awe of illustrators with Heather’s talent, and I’ve learned so much about the art of illustrating picture books from her blog.  I especially enjoy her Work in Progress Wednesdays, where she shows us the progression of her art from sketches to final pieces.  I know much about the writer’s process but none about an illustrators, so it’s been quite illuminating.  Please welcome Heather!

My life today doesn’t look the way I imagined it years ago. Whose does? When David and I started our family, we agreed I would stay home to take care of our boys with the understanding that I would actively pursue my career when the kids went to school and were older, more independent people. Fifteen years later, we choose to homeschool and have children who will need our support for the rest of their lives. A good life, but not exactly what I had planned. Last fall I determined it was finally time to see if I could  find a balance between my kid’s needs and my own desire to write and illustrate. I had absolutely no idea where to start.

Enter the 12X12 Challenge. I heard about it from Loni Edwards, a fellow illustrator and writer, and thought it would be a good tool to get me motivated to create again. The challenge could offer a relaxed accountability, perhaps a bit of community throughout the year. It has turned out to be so much more than I ever expected!

The vast amount of information shared on participant blogs and the 12X12 facebook page has offered a quick education in all things involving the art and business of children’s book publishing. It’s a crash course in marketing, query letters, pitch writing, finding the right agent, social networking, the changing face of publishing, ebooks, editing and revising. Instead of floundering through the internet trying to figure out the best blogs and reference books with my limited time, my 12X12 peers offer excellent suggestions and recommendations on a daily basis.

I enjoy reading the blogs of our diverse group of participants. I may not comment often due to time restraints, but I am reading, laughing, commiserating and learning. This group offers a positive, friendly support network of published and unpublished writers. A community that shares a passion for children’s literature. People that are willing to help out with any question or project brought their way. I have found a wonderful critique group (#4!) through the 12X12 facebook page to thoughtfully help me hone my rusty writing skills. It mitigates the feeling of isolation that so often comes along with this profession.

Participating in this challenge with it’s gentle accountability has changed the way I approach my work, as well. Instead of treating it as some precious hothouse orchid needing a very narrow set of conditions to survive (a certain time of day, David being home, a quiet space that never materializes), I treat it like a dandelion that thrives anywhere it lands. The desk in the corner of our living room is my workspace and I write, draw and paint in between answering questions, fixing snacks, projects and listening to my boys talk about their interests. Art is now woven into my daily life. It needs to be or it will never have the opportunity to happen. My sons have picked up on my newly found joy and often draw and write alongside me. Of course, there are days when their needs fill all of my time and yes, it’s very discouraging when that happens for several days in a row, but this balancing act is my life for the indefinite future. I can choose to accept it and work with where I am or I can make myself unhappy fighting what cannot be changed. No one wants to live with a miserable person, so I choose acceptance.

The support and enthusiasm of the 12X12 participants makes that acceptance easier. Thank you all for sharing your passions and thank you, Julie, for starting something so wonderful.

Heather Newman has been drawing since she was big enough to hold a pencil and her prized possession as a young girl was a large box of blank essay books,  perfect for writing and illustrating stories or drawing her own images for favorite stories. Creating art continues to bring her great joy over 30 years later and her favorite projects involve work for children.  After spending a little over a year having many grand adventures traveling the country in an RV with her family, Heather found her dream home in the woods of Maine.  She lives with her husband, three sons, two friendly mutts and a slightly grumpy, geriatric cat.

She can be found at  and  Her recent work has included illustrating both Cody Greene and the Rainbow Mystery by Linda Fields and The Howling Vowels by Leslie Schultz, from Do Life Right Publishing in 2011.


Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author is Dana Carey. When I was in Bologna, I met one of her critique partners, which made me feel one step closer to knowing her in person. Dana is the Associate Regional Advisor of SCBWI France, and as such, she has kindly made me an honorary member. I hope to one day make that more than honorary and visit them all there! Please welcome Dana!

Balancing Acts

One of the things I love about the 12 x 12 challenge is getting to know people who share an interest in picture books. Something you may not know about me is I’m an American living in France with a daughter I’ve been raising as a bilingual. I wanted her to know both families, French and American, to keep things balanced. Or at least as balanced as possible.

To do this, I speak to her exclusively in English and her father speaks to her in French. I swing back and forth between the two languages on a daily basis, sometimes within one conversation. It probably seems weird to others looking in but as a family, we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t live immersed in one foreign language and my French is fine but keeping both languages up to snuff is a concern.

We all strive for balance in our lives between family, job, friends and more with writing. Or illustrating. Or both. Some of you 12x12ers may be like me an author/illustrator. The dream is to have lots of great dummy books of our stories. And the hard part is doing both things at the same time and getting better at both.

What can we do to keep to everything balanced and progressing at more or less the same speed?

The 12 x 12 has been great in providing some balance for me. Instead of thinking about writing, I write. Every month! Especially when the 12X12 deadline looms: I have to get something down on paper. It swings the balance back.

A monthly critique group complements the 12 x 12. Through my SCBWI France chapter, I found a group that meets in Paris. One problem I live about 6 hours from there. But thanks to my Virtual Identity (I skype in), I’m part of the group. They put me on a sideboard while they gather round the dining room table of our host. Again, it may seem weird to others looking in but it works for us. And each month I have a rendez-vous with writing.

What about swinging back to illustration?

While I find time and distance a great help to revising texts, I find this to be less true with illustration. Breaking the chain of sketching page layouts or painting spreads slows progress. The more time I spend illustrating, the better it is. If I get sidetracked for awhile, diving back in is slower than diving back into writing. Much like if I were to stop writing a first draft of a picture book halfway in and let it go for a week or two. Doesn’t work for me but if I finish and come back to revise 2 weeks later, that’s perfect.

A skype meeting on Monday mornings with an illustration partner helps swing the balance back to illustration. To prepare, I scan in sketches or finished work from the week and email it. This makes me conscious of what I’m doing each week. Come Sunday night, I assess how I’ve spent my time. Sometimes all I have to send are rough sketches but this helps. For one thing, I realize I did do something. And I won’t forget those sketches by showing them to my partner I’ve legitimized the effort and can continue to push that work forward. All those sketches eventually add up to layouts, character studies, ideas for a portfolio piece.

We are all familiar with the “To Do” list (that daunting document that mocks us all week long). I’ve taken the Sunday night prep scanning a step further: writing the “Done” list everything I’ve actually accomplished during the week. I’m learning that a big part of balance is mental. I feel like I haven’t done enough but I did push things forward. Acknowledging my weekly accomplishments, however humble they may be, helps create
continuity and keeps me on track.

Swinging back and forth between French and English got easier over time. Happily, it has provided balance to my family my daughter loves talking to her American family and they are so happy that she can.

And I’m so happy Julie came up with this great challenge because it helps me even the scales between writing and illustrating. Imagine the “Done” list we’ll have at the end of the year! In the meantime, what do you do to maintain balance in your lives? Writing and illustrating? Or writing picture books/middle grade/young adult? Verse and prose? Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Dana Carey was a graphic designer and art director in New York and then Paris, and later taught English in Versailles (Architecture School) and Paris (Art School). Now living in Brittany, she’s a pre-pubbed author/illustrator of picture books. She reads MG/YA books in English and writes reports in French for a French publisher as well as doing some translation and painting. Find her on twitter: @danaFR; facebook and at her blog:

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Please welcome Sylvia Liu, a 12 x 12 in 2012 participant and illustrator.  She gives us advice on how to overcome a challenge I know we all face – procrastination.  Thanks Sylvia!

Do you struggle with procrastination? I do. Once I sit down to write or paint, I’m fine, but getting myself to my work space without detouring is extremely difficult. I also have trouble deciding what to work on first if I have several projects, and I find myself spinning my wheels. Other people in the same boat who have a goal to achieve — whether it’s exercising more or finishing a manuscript — have turned to commitment devices.

What is a commitment device? A commitment device is a term economists use for a self-imposed mechanism to achieve one’s goals. Commitment devices are based on the idea that there are two selves, a rational one who knows what’s good for herself (I’ve got to work every day to get my picture book done), and a less rational self who decides she has better things to do (I really need to check Twitter and Facebook, and look, a really cute video of singing cats). A commitment device lets the present rational self constrain the choices of the future irrational one.

So how would a commitment device work for picture book writers doing the 12x12x12?  Here are 4 options, starting from the least “commitment-y” to the most:

1. Publicly commit to the goal. By signing up for 12x12x12, you have already taken this first step. You have proclaimed to the world that you intend to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. Signing up for online challenges like this motivates you to stick to a schedule and to report back to your peers when you have accomplished the goal. Unfortunately, this is a pretty soft commitment, because there’s no downside to failing other than disappointing yourself. It also may backfire. As founder of CD Baby Derek Sivers explained in his TED video, psychology researchers have discovered that telling someone about a goal will make it less likely to happen. It turns out that the act of getting affirmation from others tricks your brain into thinking you’re well on your way to accomplishing your goal.

2. Bribe yourself. As any parent with a toddler knows, bribes can work wonders for getting something done (anyone give out M&Ms for successful potty training activities?). You can promise yourself a small reward at the end of each month when you have completed a manuscript. Take yourself out to a nice lunch or put $20 away for an end-of-the-year $240 splurge.

3. Get a partner. Another commitment device is to make yourself accountable to someone else. I am a really fair-weather runner, only going out when it’s pleasant. I have found, however, that I will run in cold and windy conditions when I have a weekly standing appointment with my friend. One way for you to make sure you stick to the 12x12x12 schedule is to pick a writing partner who is also doing this challenge. Report back to each other once a month, or swap manuscripts at the end of each month.

4. Set up a contract with yourself. You can do it yourself or use websites to help you commit to a goal with a consequence if you don’t meet it. For example, you can decide that if you don’t finish a manuscript each month, you will donate $10 to a designated charity. Websites like help you do this by helpfully taking your credit card number and setting up a system (including designating referees) to enforce your goals. (Using similar principles, Gympact is an iPhone app that lets you decide how often you will go to the gym. You get paid each time you meet your goals and penalized each time you fail; the money comes from the pool of people who participate.)

If you really want to give yourself further incentive, you can set up the payments to go to a charity that is antithetical to what you believe in. A recent Freakonomics podcast about commitment devices reported how one man committed to living healthfully for a month, and when he failed, he sent a $750 check to someone his girlfriend liked but he really didn’t, Oprah Winfrey.

Have you ever used a commitment device? What kind of commitment device might help you achieve your goals in the 12x12x12 challenge? Is mere will power and the satisfaction of accomplishment enough? 

Sylvia Liu was an environmental attorney working on protecting the oceans for a decade. Now she has gone back to her first love, art and illustration, and is working on several projects, including writing and illustrating picture books. She blogs about ebooks, tools for writers/illustrators, and other fun stuff at:, and can be found many other places on the web: Twitter:, Facebook:, Portfolio:, Google+, and Pinterest:

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Children's Books, Goals, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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