12 x 12 Member Heather PreusserI can’t even begin to say how excited I am to share my friend Heather Preusser’s “How I Got My Agent” story with you. You see, Heather is a real-life friend who lives right here in Colorado, and we’ve been in a critique group together for four years. I’ve loved Heather’s writing since Day 1, and trust me when I tell you she is going to be a SUPER star. Not only does she write heartfelt and hilarious picture books, but she’s also on submission with a middle grade novel. She does both high-concept and humor, and quiet and meaningful, equally well. Please welcome… Heather!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I started writing children’s picture books in the spring of 2011 when I enrolled in a class with Linda Ashman at the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver. (If you ever have the opportunity to work with Linda, I HIGHLY recommend it.) Of course, that summer I made the rookie mistake of sending out manuscripts too soon. Crickets. I attended my first SCBWI Rocky Mountain conference that fall and realized just how much I had left to learn.

True story: While my query letter was being critiqued in one of the conference sessions, I actually put my coat on in an attempt to cover up my nametag; I didn’t want anyone connecting me with that awful query letter, the one where I sounded like a high school English teacher applying for a teaching job rather than a writer trying to capture the tone and style of a picture book manuscript. That humbling learning experience helped me see that I had no idea what I was doing; I wasn’t ready to submit my manuscripts. I spent a few years focusing on craft, going back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing, joining critique groups, and participating in both online and in-person workshops. Almost three years later, some of my stories were placing in little contests, and the critiques I was receiving from agents participating the Writer’s Digest webinars I’d signed up for encouraged me to submit to them through traditional means. I was getting closer.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?
While focusing on craft, I started following blogs, like Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating: Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children and Chuck Sambuchino’s New Agency Alerts. Every time they mentioned a new agent who fit my criteria, I added the information to my Excel spreadsheet, which I cleverly titled “Dream Agents.”

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
In the winter of 2014, I queried eleven agents. Three responded asking for additional manuscripts (My soon-to-be agent Janine Le at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency got back to me in one week!). I received a form rejection from one agent and never heard from the others.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
I wasn’t looking for an agent who focused solely on picture books. As part of my MFA, I wrote a middle grade novel, so, ideally, I wanted an agent who represented picture books through young adult; however, I didn’t think my novel was submission-ready, so I didn’t mention it to Janine initially.

How did you know your agent was “the one?
In addition to Janine’s patience and understanding (a family emergency came up shortly after I contacted her, which meant we had to postpone our first phone conversation), I appreciated every piece of editorial feedback she gave me. Every comment rang true. When she told me she was also a wordsmith, I knew we’d be a perfect fit.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )
Although I didn’t find my agent through 12×12, the community most definitely helped me, particularly when I was living in Germany with my new husband and his family. I felt isolated and uninspired; because of the language barrier, I couldn’t glean story ideas by eavesdropping on conversations or checking out books from the local library. (My husband, however, did translate and read picture books aloud to me whenever we went in bookstores.) That year my husband and I rented an apartment in Berlin, and after throwing our own Thanksgiving feast, I sat down determined to make the 12×12 Winner’s Wall. I entered what Donald Graves calls “a state of constant composition” and managed to write eight first drafts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, eight new stories I wouldn’t have birthed then and there without that Julie-imposed deadline. They were far from elegant, but at least I had something down on paper, something to work with. Sadly, I have yet to make the Wall; that year I was one manuscript short.

There’s also a wealth of knowledge that’s shared in the 12×12 community, which was instrumental as I researched agents, how to write query letters, etc. It was through 12×12 that I learned of other wondrous kidlit resources, such as Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, Miranda Paul’s Rate Your Story, and Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” class.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
I’m still exploring what it means to have an agent and how that affects my writing process. Janine has encouraged me to run ideas by her in any genre, and – more importantly, I think – she’s encouraged me to work on projects I’m passionate about.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
Take your time. Learn your craft. Of the four picture book manuscripts I submitted to Janine, two were the 18th draft, while the other two were drafts 12 and 20. And we’re still revising!

In the process of revising, you’ll need to kill some of your proverbial darlings, but you’ll also need to stay true to the story and yourself as a writer. In her first email response, Janine said I caught her attention with a particular line that many people told me to cut (either they didn’t understand my humor or they didn’t understand cow anatomy or both), but I liked it so I kept it in draft after draft after draft. I’m learning over time to trust myself as a writer.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
Although I wrote and recorded reviews for Katie Davis’s podcast Brain Burps About Books, and Katie recommended that I create an author website, I didn’t have much of a web presence when I contacted Janine, and I only dabbled in the Twitterverse; however, in our first conversation Janine referenced my query letter, asking if I was still reviewing MG and YA novels for Katie’s podcast. It made a difference that I was involved in the industry, that I was actively participating in the online kidlit community (blogs, webinars, podcasts, etc.).

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )
I’ve always wanted to learn another language. Despite living in Germany for almost two years, right now my German only consists of useful, fun-to-remember words, like Formfleischvorderschinken (ham), Eisenbahnbetriebsordnung (railroad rules) and Taschenfederkernmatratze (mattress with springs in it). Like David Sedaris, I hope that I too will “talk pretty one day.”

What’s up next/what are you working on now?
After finishing another round of revisions on my middle grade novel, we sent it out to editors. I’m also currently revising a handful of picture book manuscripts.

Heather teaches high school English in Colorado. When she’s not teaching, reading or writing, she enjoys telemark skiing, rock climbing and learning ridiculously long German words. You can find her on Twitter at @HeatherPreusser.

P.S. Are you looking for an agent who represents picture books? Four of them are participating in the Picture Book Summit online conference October 3rd, and will be accepting submissions from attendees! Registration closes Friday at midnight though, so act fast if you’re interested!

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Queries, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

anti-resolutionThree years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014. I’m bringing this tradition with me into 2015, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation… Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done

It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Because I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself, I’ve invited 12 Days of Christmas for Writers participants to post their successes on their blogs and websites too. Feel free to share links to your posts in the comments here!

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2014. 

  1. I wrote 7 new picture book drafts and revised 12. Plus I wrote a book proposal. That’s a personal best for me in terms of volume of writing!!
  2. Launched the third year of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge with a spruced up Membership Forum. Grew to 750 members!
  3. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS storybook app won the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award.
  4. A SHIVER OF SHARKS storybook app won a 2014 Digital Book Award.
  5. Attended the first-ever Picture Book Boot Camp with THE Jane Yolen at her home in Massachusetts.
  6. My agent, Erzsi Deak, took my one of my books out on submission (still awaiting responses).
  7. Ran the second annual Writer’s Renaissance retreat in Florence Italy to great success.
  8. Launched a brand new website for Writer’s Renaissance.Me with MLFY
  9. Filed my first tax return as a single, self-employed person.
  10. Launched a comprehensive online course – How to Make Money as a Writer.
  11. Launched The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions (with my friend and colleague Emma Walton Hamilton).
  12. Participated as a speaker in the SCBWI-MI webinar series on the topic of being an Author Entrepreneur.
  13. Met with all Denver-area bookstores to plan events for the launch of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN and to get them to carry the print version of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS.
  14. Learned, once and for all, to use Scrivener. I have to credit Joe Michael’s excellent course,* which I keep open every time I write in the program.
  15. Presented at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction conference on the topic of changes in the publishing industry, storybook apps, and connecting with your audience.
  16. Presented at the New Jersey SCBWI conference on the topics of author-entrepreneurship and crowdfunding.
  17. Attended the LA-SCBWI Annual Summer conference and was interviewed by Lee Wind for the Official SCBWI Blog.
  18. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN released on September 9th!
  19. My first radio show interview took place the day before my book launch party.
  20. Held hugely successful book launch at Saturn Booksellers in my hometown of Gaylord, MI. (psst… Saturn still has signed copies of the book in their store…)
  21. Visited all three elementary schools, for free, in my hometown during my launch week.
  22. Presented at the SCBWI-MI conference on the subject of 21st century publishing.
  23. Presented at my first-ever book festival – The Southern Festival of Books – with MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN illustrator Susan Eaddy.
  24. Conducted school visits and several bookstore signings with Susan Eaddy, including Parnassus Books, The Tattered Cover, The Book Bar, The Bookies, and Boulder Bookstore. (As a public service announcement, ALL of these stores have signed copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN)
  25. Fulfilled all the rewards for Kickstarter backers of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN.
  26. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN was nominated for the 2014 CYBILS awards in the picture book category.
  27. Spent a week in London doing research for my picture book biography.
  28. Launched a brand new website for the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge
  29. Participated in PiBoIdMo and came up with 28 new picture book ideas, one of which is already drafted.
  30. Hired a bookkeeper and have begun to get my business finances in order, not just for tax season but also for planning and forecasting.
  31. Continued to contribute to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast.

I’m quite happy with this list. 🙂

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list! Share in the comments if you’d like. 🙂

*I love Joe’s course so much I became an affiliate. That means if you use my link and make a purchase, I get a small commission. As always, I NEVER recommend anything I don’t love and use myself. But it is important to do your own due diligence before making any purchase to determine whether it will work for you and/or meet your needs. 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Holidays, Italy, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, SCBWI, Storybook Apps, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Share

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: , , , , , , ,

Share

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: , , , , , , , , ,

Share

12 x 12 new bannerWhew! It’s been another busy week with registration for the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge. So much so that I have been remiss in sharing some great opportunities associated with joining.

First, anyone who registers at the Little GOLDen Book level and pays in full by 6:00 p.m. EST on Monday, January 20th is GUARANTEED a picture book query critique by either “query whisperer” Emma Walton Hamilton (who will do as many as she can) or myself.

But that’s not all! The queries will be stripped of identifying information, and Emma and I will be video-recording the critique session. Therefore, you’ll not only get your own query critiqued, but you’ll have full access to a video recording of 100+ picture book query critiques. Emma charges $150 for a single query critique – more than the FULL amount of your 12 x 12 GOLD membership!! I’m not aware of any opportunity like this being offered anywhere, so I hope you’ll take advantage of it while you can.

Second, earlier this week I hosted a live Google+ hangout discussing not only the opportunity for GOLD members of 12 x 12 to submit to agents, but about submissions in general and how to craft a good one. Below is the video recording, which everyone is free to watch and learn from, regardless of whether you plan to join 12 x 12 or not. It covers dos and don’ts of submissions, whether and when it is okay to follow up, and even the age-old question of “Should I send a rhyming manuscript?”

Lastly, I was proud to once-again be a guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast discussing this year’s features and benefits of 12 x 12. Here is the link to the episode, which also contains a sneak peek into the Membership Forum.

If you’re thinking of joining 12 x 12, please register soon so you don’t miss any opportunities available to you! Registration closes altogether at the end of February, and the next chance won’t be until 2015.

“The 12 x 12 is really a family of kidlit writers. Although there are various “levels” that offer wonderful, amazing opportunities, it’s the things (IMHO) that can’t be measured, that are the most beneficial to your career. The support, the passion, the sharing of information.” — Elaine Kiely Kearns, founder of KIDLIT411

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Friendship, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

anti-resolutionTwo years ago I wrote a blog post that grabbed the attention and touched the heart of none other than Katie Davis, who is now one of my very best friends. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. Katie was so inspired by that post, she created her own special tool to capture her accomplishments throughout the year and evaluate them at the end. She has graciously offered to share this workbook with you – click here for more info.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation.  So I figured, why not start with what I did accomplish this year and set goals from there.  Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year, rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done..

I didn’t write a similar post in 2013, but I should have. It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Here’s an example from my own year. All year long, in my head, I lamented how little writing I got done. So much so that by the end of the year I was sure I’d done almost nothing. Yesterday, when I tallied it all up, I was pleasantly to find I’d written far more than I thought I had. I had written full drafts that I’d completely forgotten about. Drafts that I can continue revising and working with this year.

I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself. So let’s get started.

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2013. 

In addition to this list, I ran the 12 x 12 challenge all year, wrote new drafts and revised existing ones, and continued to contribute to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast. Whew! I’ll be sure to come back to this whenever I feel discouraged about how much I “don’t get done.” 🙂

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list!

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Goals, Holidays, How I Got My Agent, Italy, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Storybook Apps, Travel, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share
Now available everywhere books are sold!

Now available everywhere books are sold!

Well, despite being down with a cold and an eye infection, this has been a banner week! I celebrated the official print release of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, for starters. Read on for more!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. Gratitude opens the door.” — Deepak Chopra

“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” — Tony Robbins

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” — Maya Angelou

Gratitude list for the week ending October 19

  1. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is now available at Amazon and all bookstores!
  2. I am an “official” author at Amazon! Check out my new author page.
  3. I have been making videos for various purposes all week and am once again grateful to Katie Davis for her Video Idiot
    I'm an Amazon Author!

    I’m an Amazon Author!

    Boot Camp class. Taught me everything I know!

  4. My housekeeper/life manager Laurie Mekelberg returned after a month of surgery recovery. She was SO missed and any illusion I might have had that I can get by without her is completely gone.
  5. Gorgeous fall weather and colors, plus the first snowfall!
  6. Cold enough for bubble bath season to begin
  7. Getting some legal issues taken care of. Not sexy, but necessary, and it’s a relief to be done.
  8. Visiting some of the cutest dogs and puppies known to humanity at the Humane Society. I wanted to take them ALL home!
  9. Writer’s Renaissance 2014 met its minimum number of participants, so I’ll be going to Florence again in April!
  10. Everything is in place for me to make a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT about my next publishing project tomorrow!!! Stay tuned. All the details will be right here tomorrow. 🙂

What are you grateful for this week?

Puppies

How can your spirits not be lifted when there are puppies in the world this cute?

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Dogs, Florence, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Those of you in the 12 x 12 “know” realize that this post is late because: 1) my scheduled July author had to cancel right before I went on a week-long Internet-less vacation, and 2) my hard drive crashed immediately upon my return from said Internet-less vacation. Luckily, files have been restored and I am back in action!

Normally I try not to repeat featured authors. After all, there is so much talent out there in the kidlit space, I want to provide a stage for as many as possible. But I was in a serious bind this month and as many of you know, Katie Davis is a close friend of mine, and she graciously offered to pinch hit for me. 

We brainstormed many possible topics for the post, as Katie is an expert in so many areas. 🙂 At last I realized what I really wanted was a post about how experimenting with video and making videos can benefit your picture book writing. As a graduate of Katie’s Video Idiot Boot Camp course, I have been so amazed and liberated by my newfound ability to think visually in a way I never was before. It has definitely helped me with my PB writing. Previously, whenever I would dummy a PB, it was always by breaking down the words. But learning to storyboard for videos changed all of that. I feel I’ll never write a PB the same way again.

When I started seeing other VIBC students making similar comments in the class Facebook Group, I knew we had a whopper of a post topic. And of course, Katie made it a video post. And as an added bonus, the video features three special guests, two of whom are beloved 12 x 12 members! So go ahead! Watch the video and find out why Katie is skiing in the summertime!! The read on to find out what you could win this month.

In addition to the fabulous prizes Katie is offering (see below – there will be THREE winners this month), she is also offering a special opportunity for any 12 x 12 members who want to take Video Idiot Boot Camp. The early-bird pricing expired three days ago, BUT 12 x 12 members will be able to get the early-bird rate through the month of July. That means if you decide you want to take the course, you’ll get a $50 discount.

Before I get to the details on that, let me tell you what Katie is offering this month’s winners. One lucky winner will get a FREE 30-minute consultation with Katie on ANY topic related to PB-writing or the business of writing. It could be about videos, social media, marketing, a critique – the choice will be YOURS, lucky winner. PLUS, two additional winners will receive a $10 coupon for any item in Katie’s store.

If you decide you want to take VIBC, follow this link or any of the links to VIBC in this post. Add VIBC to your cart, and when you get to checkout, enter the special code exclusive to 12 x 12 members.* Update the cart and then check out. Voila’! You’ll get the discount.

THANK YOU to Katie for creating such a unique lesson on PB writing on such short notice and for the generous giveaways. Write on everyone! 🙂

*The discount code will be available in the 12 x 12 Facebook Group documents and the 12 x 12 Membership Forum.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Creativity, Friendship, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Skiing, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Julie_02

Please welcome author Julie Falatko to the How I Got My Agent series. Julie is a two-time member of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge and a friend to boot! We’re both Brain Burps girls, and although we have not (yet) met in person, I feel like I’ve known her forever. I’ve long since forgiven her for stealing snapping up the best blog name ever — World of Julie. I’m so happy for her and I know you will be too!

Julie, how long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one? What kind of research did you do before submitting?

When I started getting serious about writing, I researched all the publishers who accepted unagented submissions, and it quickly became clear I’d do better with an agent.

It was still another year-and-a-half after realizing I’d need an agent before I started submitting. I did a lot of research both into agents and into the querying process. It seemed like a lot of people were doing a LOT of querying, which is certainly one approach. But I know that my stories are a little quirky and weird, and might not be for everyone. I only sent queries to agents who seemed like they’d want my style of writing. It would be a waste of everyone’s time otherwise. (Seriously, some days I barely have time to tie my shoes. I definitely don’t have time to send a query to an agent who doesn’t like books like the ones I write.)

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

Eleven queries. Of those, five were basic rejections. Two were what I call, in my spreadsheet, “lovely rejections,” meaning personal rejections. Those personal rejections kept me going.

And there was one more rejection that was above and beyond a lovely rejection. I want to frame this rejection. It was the most encouraging, heartening, happy-making rejection imaginable. I know not every agent has time to send a personal rejection, or even a response. But when agents are moved to write something that lets the writer know they’re not crazy for trying to do this thing, it makes a huge difference.

Two agents (Danielle and another one) wanted to see more of my work. When Danielle (Danielle Smith of ForeWord Literary) offered, I nudged the other agent and they said they were going to make me an offer also (!!) but were stepping aside given the situation.

How’s my math? (You see why I need an agent?) Eleven queries, I’ve mentioned ten responses. There was one more that kind of fell through the cracks – I sent a follow-up nudge after Danielle offered representation and never heard anything. That happens, too.  It’s ok.

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

Not really! But maybe that’s because I didn’t send out too many queries. All the information is out there. You look on QueryTracker and follow interesting agents on Twitter, and it’s pretty easy to make a list of agents to look at.

The greater focus for me was to find an agent who would think my stories were charming and funny, rather than shudder and try to quietly toss them out the nearest window.

How did you know your agent was “the one?

When I saw that Foreword Literary had formed in March, and that Danielle would be their picture book agent, I took another look at her blog, There’s a Book. And I saw that we have nearly identical taste in books.

So I sent off my story. I think you have to be really zen about submissions. You write your best story, you write your best query, and then there’s nothing else you can do. Forget about it for a while.

And so I was very, very excited when Danielle responded about two weeks later asking for more stories. And then about a week after that she emailed me to set up a phone call. And we all know (or hope we know) about The Call.

On the phone, over email, and online, Danielle is enthusiastic and extremely supportive. She is just as passionate about children’s books as I am (as we all are, those of you reading this). So I knew right away that I liked her, as a person. It was clear that she is also extremely organized, knowledgeable, connected, and would be good at contracts and things, so I knew she is also an excellent agent.

Do you think your platform (blog, reviewer on Brain Burps, etc.) helped you find your agent?

The very first question Danielle asked me on the phone was, “Do you still do the reviews for Brain Burps?” She was asking because the fact that I do picture book reviews shows that I have a knowledge of the industry. You know, I’m so surrounded by you all, these smart, smart writer people. But I guess there are people who just dash off what they think is a picture book and send it off to whomever. So doing the podcast reviews immediately put a big star over my head that said, “This one’s not a loon” (not for that reason, at least).

I will make no comment. 🙂

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

I can honestly say that I would not have an agent if it weren’t for 12×12. (I swear I didn’t hold her in a headlock and make her say that!!)

Last summer (2012) I had one story polished and submittable. So I submitted it, twice (and got rejected). But then a friend in my critique group got an agent, and the biggest lesson she shared from that experience was that you have to have at least three finished, polished stories before you even think about submitting.

So I stopped submitting to focus on writing. If you remember my 12×12 post from last year, 12×12 in 2012 gave me a lot of first drafts. I buckled down and finished them.

This process was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done. But it was something I passionately wanted to do, and felt like I had to do.

(There was another factor in this, and that was my incredibly supportive husband. He has a particular brand of tough-love motivation that works brilliantly for me. And so he said, “You’ve been talking about writing for years now. Enough. Either do it or don’t. But if you’re going to do it, do it.” And he was right. Was I going to do this or not?)

I put my younger two kids in preschool two days a week, and my husband forbid me from running errands on those days. So I revised, and I wrote. I focused more than I knew I could. It was a blast.

Okay, I have to interject here and say I love your husband! I mean, I don’t LOVE love him, because that would be wrong, but what a superstar for both supporting AND pushing you!!

And while I was working 12×12 kept rolling. And I’m proud to say that my December, January, March, April, and May drafts are all either done or at their final stages with Danielle.

12×12 taught me that the more you write, the better your writing gets. I know, I know. Caveman Writer Guy pretty much wrote that sentiment on the cave walls in mammoth blood. But still, it’s one thing to know it, and another thing to experience it yourself. It’s practice. And the more I write, the less my drafts are like those things from the beginning of 2012, which I’m going to use for firestarters the next time I go camping.

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

The first thing would be to take your time. Get those three (or more!) stories ready. Join a critique group. Revise a lot.

Write a lot, too. Expect to write some terrible stories. That’s ok. You need to get the terrible ones out of your system. They’re all stepping stones to your amazing stories.

The second would be to do your research. There’s often a lot of information online about agents. Find out as much as you can. Does the agent seem like someone who would like your stuff? Who would be able to sell your manuscripts? Do you like what you read about the agent?

And do your research about how to query, too. There are approximately one gazillion articles on the internet about proper query formatting, and common agent pet peeves. It’s pretty easy to figure this stuff out. Take your time, and do it right.

You have four children. Have you ever considered selling them in order to fund attendance at writer’s conferences?

I think it is worth noting that I’ve never been to a writer’s conference. I know they’re amazing, and a great way to meet agents. But they’re not a necessity. I have a lot of wee children, and the time and money for going to writer’s conferences never grew out of that tree I planted in the backyard expressly for that purpose.

Despite the fact that I am a self-professed conference junkie, I think it is HUGELY inspiring that you found your agent through the standard, “available to everyone” query process. It just goes to show all of us that talent does rise to the top. There are as many paths as there are writers. The most important thing, always, is the craft.

I still think the most important thing to do if you want to get an agent, to sell a book, is to write. A lot. Work on your craft. There are so many “other” things you can do – go to conferences, blog, join 12×12, Tweet, Tumbl, Foofinfarf (that’s a new one I just made up; it’ll be super hot by next week). Do those things if you can, but first, always, write.

Oh! But that’s not what you asked me. My children, I’m afraid, are not worth much on the open market. Instead I am training them to do all the housework so that I can spend more time writing. So far it’s going…well, look around. You can see how it’s going. Watch out! Don’t step there! Yeah, ok. It’s not going so well so far. Though my 7 year-old does make a fabulous English muffin pizza.

Julie Falatko writes picture books from her home in Maine, which she shares with her husband and four children. She reviews picture books for Katie Davis’s Brain Burps About Books podcast, blogs at worldofjulie.com, and bakes when she’s procrastinating. You can find her on Twitter at @JulieFalatko.

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Creativity, Family, Goals, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Social Media, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share
Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software