anti-resolutionFour years ago I wrote a blog post that garnered quite a bit of attention. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. I skipped 2013, but got back on track in 2014 and have stuck with the tradition. Now it’s time to reveal successes from 2015, and I’ve asked participants in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers program to do the same.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2015. 

  1. This was the year of revision. Nine out of twelve months this year were focused on MAJOR revisions to multiple manuscripts. All of those manuscripts ended up on submission.
  2. Two of my manuscripts made it all the way to acquisitions, one at two different publishing houses. Although those ended up as rejections, I got feedback about how “gorgeous” and “evocative” my writing was. I was also invited to revise and resubmit, which I am working on now.
  3. One of the manuscripts I’ve been working on all year is a picture book biography. I can honestly say it’s been the most difficult and most rewarding writing I’ve ever done.
  4. I wrote two new picture book manuscripts.
  5. I once again shepherded the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge participants through a year of writing, revising, submitting, and SUPPORTING. With almost 800 members in 2015, I take pride in the fact that the community still feels like family.
  6. Successfully launched the brand new 12 x 12 webinar series with fabulous speakers such as author/editor Emma Walton Hamilton, agent Jill Corcoran, author Jane Yolen, and editor Emma Dryden.
  7. A Jefferson County school got a grant to buy 300 copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, and I spent the whole day at their school presenting to each elementary grade. One of the most rewarding author experiences I’ve ever had.
  8. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, my agent Erzsi Deak sold Korean rights. The book has been translated into Korean and will likely go on sale in Korea this coming year.
  9. Co-hosted and launched the first-ever Picture Book Summit, an online conference that boasted keynote speakers Peter Brown, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Mac Barnett. With more than 700 registrants, it was a smashing success.
  10. With my partner Emma Walton Hamilton, fully updated and re-launched The Complete Picture Book Submissions System.
  11. I managed to get my taxes done, which showed a nice increase in income from 2013 to 2014.
  12. I sought more professional help, which I desperately needed.
  13. Came up with 30+ new picture book ideas in this year’s PiBoIdMo
  14. I managed to keep up with my work despite suffering a pinched nerve due to a bulging disc in my cervical spine. The injury was quite debilitating, and while I’m much, much better, I’m still recovering. So I honestly need to give myself credit for all I accomplished in the last six months of the year, given most of it was done while in chronic pain.
  15. Attending the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference in September, seeing old friends and making new, and learning loads in the post-conference picture book intensive.
  16. Spoke at two SCBWI Connect local events – one in Boulder and one in Colorado Springs (virtually)
  17. Was a guest lecturer at a University of Colorado Children’s Literature course. Super fun!!
  18. Presented a 12 x 12 webinar on crowdfunding
  19. Spoke with an editor at Scholastic for an hour, soaking up advice on possible revisions for my picture book biography.
  20. Got 20 agents for 12 x 12 in 2016 lined up BEFORE Christmas, plus five webinar speakers, and eight professional “critique ninjas,” a new feature for 2016. For once, I feel pretty organized for the launch of 12 x 12.

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

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Holidays, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Share

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

htwIt’s once again been too long since I’ve posted a Gratitude Sunday. I’m going to TRY even harder to get this in every week.

Quotes on Gratitude

All three of this week’s quotes are from Anne Lamott’s book, HELP, THANKS, WOW, which I received for Christmas.

“…(L)ife can seem like an endless desert of of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off your feet. So we say, ‘Oh My God. Thanks.”

“You say, Thank you for lifting this corner of the curtain so I can see the truth, maybe for just a moment, but in a way that might change my life forever.”

“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”

Gratitude list for the week ending January 10

  1. A real-live editor liked one of my stories that’s on submission and asked for some revisions!
  2. A friend who was willing to talk ad nauseam in my hyper-excited state.
  3. I MADE those revisions yesterday!
  4. I also re-wrote a picture book draft I’d lost after my iPad broke. I like it even better now.
  5. All of the wonderful folks who participated in my 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series. Inspiring way to begin this New Year!
  6. Finally seeing Mockingjay, which ROCKED!
  7. The weather warming up enough to melt the glacier that had become my driveway
  8. Launching 12 x 12 with an interview with Tara Lazar.
  9. Watching the first Indiana Jones movie with the kids
  10. Skyping with a local SCBWI schmooze group in LA

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, Gratitude Sunday, Movies, Picture Books, SCBWI, 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

12 x 12 new banner

How DID we make it all the way through November already? As much as I love the holiday season, I’m always a little sad when the end of the 12 x 12 year is nigh. Another year of writing, bonding, supporting, and communing ready to go on the books. But WAIT! We have one more month to go, and it’s going to be a great one, starting with December’s featured author (be sure to come back tomorrow for some special inspiration).

Despite having announced that I did not plan to write any new drafts for the remainder of the year, one of my PiBoIdMo ideas grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. I wrote a complete draft on the plane to London, where I went to conduct research for a different book. Between coming up with 30 ideas for PiBoIdMo, writing a draft of one of them, completing a major revision on one of my earlier manuscripts and enjoying a hugely productive week of book research in London, I think November was my most productive writing month in 2014 (so far)!

How about you? Did you get your draft or revision done this month? Let us know in the comments and in the Rafflecopter. Remember one lucky 12 x 12 member will win their choice of The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions or How to Make Money as an Writer. Note: There is a Cyber-Monday sale on both of these courses underway at the moment that will expire at the same time as the Rafflecopter. If you decide to purchase either to get the deal and then you win, you’ll get a full refund. 🙂

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win your choice of:

The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions or How to Make Money as a Writer

  1. See the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post that says “Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions” at the top.
  2. Click on the “Comment on the Featured Post” button. It will reveal the task, which is to comment on the featured blog post. Commenting on the featured post is mandatory and gets you one point even if you didn’t complete a draft in November. If you haven’t yet commented, click here to do so. Then you click ENTER on that option in Rafflecopter, which will then open the next two options.
  3. Click on the “Wrote a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you completed a PB draft in November. If you did, click ENTER, if you did not, move on to the next step.
  4. Click on the last “Revised a PB Manuscript” button. This will ask if you revised a PB in November. If you did, click ENTER. If not, move on to the next step.
  5. Submit your entry. Rafflecopter will track your points.

You have until midnight Eastern on December 1st to enter your results. Rafflecopter will draw a winner and I’ll announce it on the blog on December 2nd.

Keep on writing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: 12 x 12, Giveaway, Goals, PiBoIdMo, Travel, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Share

12 x 12 Member L. Michelle Quraishi

Believe it or not folks, this is our last Tuesday 12 x 12 post for 2014, and what a great one to capture the spirit of our community as we roll from 2014 into 2015. Today’s author, L. Michelle Quraishi, brought tears to my eyes because I saw myself in every part of her journey. I suspect all of you will see yourselves too. Dreams deferred, crushed. Climbing out of the rubble to take hold of them again. (Side note: WHY do so many people get clobbered in college, at the very time teachers should be encouraging young writers the most – UGH!). Then of course, once free of the rubble, a community stretches out its hands. Please welcome L. Michelle Quraishi!

I always thought that what I needed in order to write was an audience. So much writing in me never makes it onto the page unless there’s someone out there waiting to read it. I write MORE when I have a deadline connected to a real person. I joined 12 x 12 because it offered readers and deadlines—a ready-made audience to stand-in for the nurturing agent and editors I have yet to meet.

As a child, finding an audience was easy. My mom typed my stories before I could write them myself, on a real old-fashioned clackety-clack.

© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My teachers glowed and encouraged when I set pages in their hands. My great-grandmas wrote back to every letter I ever sent them, letters that survived fire and flood, still tied up in bundles in my garage. By the time I was old enough to get in trouble for speckling my dad’s typewriter with white-out (I’ve always loved revising 😉 ), Creative Writing classes and literary journals gave me an outlet and an audience.

And then came college. I loved college, but nobody cared about my writing anymore. I applied and was accepted to the Creative Writing Department, which included the remote but enticing possibility of working with Toni Morrison, an opportunity lost that I’ll never cease to regret. Nothing in my young life as a writer had prepared me to swim with the big fish, and a freshman semester with a scathing graduate student in fiction seminar sent my writing voice scuttling to hide under a rock. I dropped out of Creative Writing and instead majored in English with a focus on children’s literature, to spend three years reading and writing about the children’s books I treasured.

De grote vissen eten de kleine, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569)

De grote vissen eten de kleine, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569)

I never stopped writing, but my failure to connect to an audience in college put Maleficent’s enchantment on my writing ambition, cursing it to a deep sleep. Ten years of my young adulthood were dedicated to writing about education, as I struggled with the dilemmas urban teachers face in underfunded schools, and took solace in my classroom library of picture books.

 

Louis Sußmann-Hellborn (1828- 1908): Dornröschen - Mutter Erde

Louis Sußmann-Hellborn (1828- 1908): Dornröschen – Mutter Erde

I stopped teaching to stay home with my children, writing in scraps and corners of time stolen from each day. Then, when my youngest turned two, I could see the time looming when the financial contribution I’d been making to our family—childrearing—would have to be replaced with something else. And at that moment in 2012, I determined that the something else would be my writing. Somehow, I would learn to make my way as a writer in the world again. It was my daughter’s promise to grow up that rousted my ambition from sleep.

I went to the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference at Book Passage, three years in a row. There I learned about SCBWI, and have attended every local event since. Heard about Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, where I read about 12 x 12, and joined this year for the first time. All along I thought that it was audience I needed. Turns out, what I really needed was community.

I’ve been mostly quiet here in 12 x 12, and feel pretty shy about sending this little essay to Kelli. But I also get pretty choked up when I think about how 12 x 12 has transformed and enlivened my writing life since I joined. I wanted to share my gratitude for those badges, the “Well, done, Michelle,” the thoughtful feedback on 250 words, Query Corner and Pitch Perfect, and the support of my online critique group.

Long ago, I locked myself into a tower where my writing dreams withered. And I rescued myself, too. All it took was putting my hand on the doorknob, and turning it. But when I opened the door, all of you folks at 12 x 12 were right there waiting for me, and you welcomed me as if I already belonged. Thank you.

Born to a Pakistani father and American mother in California, L. Michelle Quraishi was raised in Half Moon Bay, CA, on a balanced diet of donuts and liverwurst, Madeleine L’Engle, and sitar music. She now lives in Walnut Creek, finding inspiration for her books in goddess lore, brain science, animal behavior, her children, calculus and kung fu. Inspired by Julie Hedlund’s How to Make Money as a Writer course, she’s just started work on her author website. You can also find her on Twitter or check out research for her new novel about Baba Yaga in middle school on Pinterest. When she’s not busy making up stories, Michelle blogs at amomnextdoor.wordpress.com, folds origami, collects rainwater in jars, pickles green beans and keeps knives in dangerous places.

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Childhood, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

anais ninThis month, November 2014, 12 x 12 has a featured post instead of a featured author post. Why is that? Well, the God’s honest truth is that I drowned in October. That funny noise you hear in the background? That’s me… glugging. Glug. Glug.

I’m always busy, but combine book launch events with travel, launching two new products within the span of a month, trying to meet writing deadlines, AND running 12 x 12, all while parenting a highly emotional middle-schooler and an active 3rd-grader and you’ve got one strung-out Julie. So when I finally came to and realized I didn’t have a featured author scheduled this month, I didn’t have the capacity to find one in time. Luckily, between Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Picture Book Month, there will be a smorgasbord of posts from unimaginably talented authors and illustrators for you to enjoy.

HOWEVER, don’t think for a minute that I don’t have nuggets and prizes for you. I do.

Given that Emma Walton Hamilton and I just launched The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the submissions process. Before I got an agent, I used to dream of the day I didn’t have to submit anymore. Oh that sweet, sweet day…

Guess what? That day never comes. It’s true I don’t have to write my own submissions to editors, and that I can access publishing houses closed to unsolicited submissions. But even though it’s my agent writing and sending them, the submissions still happen. And they’re still painful, hard to bear, nerve-racking. And rejections still come in–lots of them. I suspect that until a person becomes a national, consistent best-selling author, rejections remain more common than acceptances, whether it’s your agent rejecting because the manuscript is not strong enough to submit or you do submit and editors reject.

Where am I going with this, you ask? Aren’t the monthly posts supposed to be inspirational?

Hang on. It’s coming.

Hearken to before I started submitting to agents. It took me a long time to realize that the answer was always going to be no unless I submitted. Fear of rejection is extremely powerful, especially when it comes to something as tender and personal as something you’ve written from your heart. So powerful, in fact, that rejection can keep you from allowing amazing things to happen.

While I’ve also been thinking a lot about submissions, I’ve also spent a lot of time holding my latest “baby” — MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. Many, many heart-wrenching rejections, but now a beautiful book. A book that sprung from my soul and is now alive in the world, perhaps stirring other people’s souls. And if I hadn’t had the courage to submit – to my agent, to my publisher, it would probably still be living on my hard drive.

I’m sure many of you have seen this quote before, but it bears repeating often:

anais nin blossom

So whether you are ready to submit your work or not, don’t let fear stop you. You don’t have to cross the chasm all at once. One step at a time will get you there. So really, all you need is the courage to take the next step.

In fact, Emma and I talked about that when we put together The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions. So many people find the process mysterious and frightening, so we wanted to break it down into manageable chunks that wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

Once, as a child, I got very nervous about meeting a “famous” person who was coming to our school. My brother said, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.”

So do agents. And everyone else you perceive to be occupying the space between you and your dreams. Just go for it!

This month, the giveaway for one lucky 12 x 12 participant is a FREE registration to The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions. If it turns out that the winner already has an agent, I’ll give a free registration to my other new course, How to Make Money as a Writer. In fact, whoever the winner is can choose between them – how’s that?

One thing to note is that our early-bird rate for The Guide expires Monday, November 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. If you know you want to purchase it, go ahead and do so before the price increases by $50. If you win this month, you’ll get a full refund.

Good luck with those drafts this month!! 🙂

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Creativity, Giveaway, Goals, My Love For You Is The Sun, PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Share

12 x 12 Member Johnell DeWittToday’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Johnell Dewitt, is one who can see the forest through the trees. In just a few short years she’s become an active member of the children’s writing community and most definitely part of its support system. I have a great deal of admiration for how much ambition and passion she’s brought, not just to her own writing, but also to helping other writers as she goes. As a fellow nomadic soul, I appreciate how challenging that can be when you’re always moving around, but perhaps too it is what grounds us most. Please welcome Johnell!

Every two to three years, I pick up my roots and replant them somewhere else, usually in another country. It’s a great lifestyle most of the time, but when I chose to pursue writing for children, I realized that in-person networking would be difficult. Fortunately, online forums like 12×12 provide connections vital to my growth as a writer.

There is power in community. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They are able to reach colossal heights and withstand amazing environmental stresses because they intertwine their roots. Despite their towering heights, the roots of the redwood are relatively shallow, sort of like my experience in writing for children.

I started seriously pursuing a childhood dream of writing picture books just three years ago, shortly after returning to the States. Fortunately, I had a writer friend who helped me get started. First thing she told me was to get on the Verla Kay (now SCBWI) blueboards.

With our nomadic lifestyle, an online forum was a perfect way to ease in. I spread my tiny roots out into the blueboards and was immediately grasped and strengthened by more experienced writers. I grew from their support.

From there, I learned about Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. I jumped on board, and loved meeting other writers through the Facebook forum. In fact, I realized that many of the people on the PiBoIdMo Facebook page lived near to my former home in Northern Virginia.

Long story short (see here for the long story), we set up a regional Facebook page and were able to arrange our own local events. Those in-person meetings were like Miracle-Gro for my budding root system. In fact, one of the writers I met through our regional get-togethers turned me on to 12×12 and that’s how I got here.

It’s easy to feel lost in a forest of towering authors and writers, but being part of a community like 12×12 jump starts the growing process. As we interlock our various life-experiences, we strengthen the entire system, making it possible for each of us to reach impossible heights.

So jump in. Reach out and extend your roots, no matter how shallow you think they are. As the redwoods attest, it doesn’t take a deep root system to thrive, just one that’s willing to give and receive nourishment from the forest of writers around them.

Johnell DeWitt is a former public relations executive and aspiring children’s book writer. Johnell blogs with her writing group at dewdropsofink.blogspot.com.

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

Share

12 x 12 Member Joanne Sher

I am a firm believer that once you set an intention, especially one pertaining to writing, a path appears before you. So I love the story today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Joanne Sher, has to tell about how she ended up in our community. Like all good stories, it involves determination, overcoming hardship, and finding mentors who help you while you get your hands steady on the wheel. I hope you find the story as uplifting as I did. Please welcome Joanne!

I love my computer: It’s where all my friends live.

For the last decade or so, I’ve wanted to be a writer. But only in the last year did I decide to write picture books. And it all happened because of the Internet. NO – really.

You see, I’d been writing devotionals and short stories, a nonfiction book, and even made a bit of headway on a novel – but I wasn’t engaged. I dabbled in writing, but not with passion – at least not regularly.

But then a couple friends I’d met through two different organizations whose primary presence is online (American Christian Fiction Writers and FaithWriters) offered to give me $900 (YES – you read that right!) to go to a writers’ conference. My husband is on disability – and has been for over ten years now. I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a ten and thirteen-year old. Needless to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. So I can honestly say there is no way I could have afforded a conference if it weren’t for my friends. (By the way – one of the “donors” had never met me in person!)

So I researched (on the Internet, of course!) writing conferences, and ended up attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May of 2013. It was a wonderful experience (where I had a chance to meet the lovely lady who helped me get there :D) – and I took a four-part practicum on picture book writing (led by the lovely Pam Zollman) that woke a desire in me to write for young children.

So once summer was over (had to spend time with the kids, yanno), I started searching the Internet for information on picture book writing. First, I found the Kidlitosphere, which sent me scanning hundreds of children’s lit blogs. And I discovered Tara Lazar and her WAY fun PiBoIdMo, which I dove into last November with reckless abandon (ended up with 47 picture book ideas). And one of the guest posts during that month was…wait for it…

Julie Hedlund. And on that day, my fate was sealed. I WOULD learn as much as I could about picture book writing. I WOULD write twelve picture book drafts in twelve months. I signed up the very first day that I possibly could.

And here I am, halfway through the challenge, and what do I have to show for it? Eight picture book drafts. Incredible resources – both human and material – to keep me motivated, on the right track, learning, and growing in my writing skills. A sense that I am writing what God WANTS me – what He has led me – to write. People who GET ME. Incredibly talented folks who probably realize by now that I’ve never met a picture-book-writing challenge I haven’t at least tried. (Can you say Start The Year off Write? ReviMo? RhyPiBoMo? Debut PB Study Group? Summer Sparks? PPBF?)

Does it matter that 99.9% of the people and resources that have helped me get to this point disappear when I turn off my computer? (You DO believe that, don’t you?) I don’t think so. Cuz though I would LOVE to meet these folks face to face, their impact on my life – on my writing journey – is no less important. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m not ready to send my babies out into “the real world” yet, but with the help of 12 x12 in ALL its facets, I will some day.

Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a children’s writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husband and two school-aged children. In addition to writing, she is also a freelance editor, the blogger at at the FaithWriters blog, and posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions. Visit her at www.joannesher.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Perfect Picture Book Friday, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

12 x 12 Member Dani Duck

I need to begin today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 post from Dani Duck by making a correction. Dani is not, as she described herself, unpublished. She is PRE-published. This is an important distinction we make because for someone like Dani, working hard on her craft and actively engaging in communities like 12 x 12, publication becomes a “when” not an “if.”

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll allow you to be inspired and encouraged by how Dani has taken ownership of her identity and path as a children’s picture book author/illustrator. Her contributions to 12 x 12 have been many, and you can bet that we will be there cheering her on WHEN her first book is published. Welcome Dani!

My name is Dani Duck and I’m an unpublished Writer/Illustrator. It feels like an admission at an AA meeting. It’s not that I’m trying to quit, but actually the opposite. I’m finally admitting to myself, and more importantly others, that I am a Writer and Illustrator.

I’ve struggled most of my life with identity issues. I’ve always wanted to be this great _____. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was creative. My whole life I’ve fought discovering myself by doing things that weren’t suited to me.

I never had that eureka moment (at least not just once)! I picture my path coming at me like a hammer. This hammer followed me around smacking me upside the head. I’d feel it connect, and then worry about everything else over the big bump on my head.

I don’t know what made me ignore that nail being smacked. As a Freshman in high school I had to create a picture book and mine was the best in class. *Wham* Second year I was the most invested writer in my English Class. *Wham* In University my favourite books were kidlit. *Wham* I attended a Grad. Level Picture Book Illustration Course, created my first submission package, and loved it! *Wham* *Wham* *Wham*

It wasn’t until I had my son David (January 2011) that I had no doubts about my path in life. It wasn’t just that I decided my path, but also I became passionate and focused creatively. I don’t know if this was a result of having almost no time to work, but it seems that way.

2012 brought my first SCBWI conference. I brought a terrible portfolio, but got great tips in the conference for improvement. I joined later that year, all ready to become a great Picture Book Writer/Illustrator. I was still missing a bit of motivation, but mostly opportunity. That opportunity came with the 12×12. The fly swatter by 12 x 12 illustrator Dani Duck

Last year I joined the 12×12 for the first time. I wanted it to be the best year ever, so I joined at the gold level (without having a polished manuscript). I knew that this was something I needed to do for my career. Then I shot myself in the foot – figuratively speaking. I took on too many responsibilities and my focus was not on picture books. Sure, I wrote a few books, but soon ran out of ideas. The stories I wrote never got farther than a first draft despite having a wonderful critique group.

I don’t regret joining the 12×12 last year even though I didn’t submit anything. Because of the 12×12 I was able to make concrete(ish) plans for achieving success. My first step was making blog posts of my goals. I also decided to have a smaller critique group, and to work on a full dummy submission. Two events last year helped me out: The first being Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo so now I have no excuses for not having enough ideas! The second was in Jamie Morrow and Erin L. Funk’s “What’s Up Wednesday!” which keeps me scheduling my time and motivates me weekly. I also can’t forget Meg Miller (who was actually in my critique group last year) started ReviMo this year. ReviMo helped me with revising my neglected stories. It all sounds like a lot of non-12×12 things, but if it weren’t for the 12×12 I wouldn’t have known about these events. I certainly wouldn’t have found the motivation to continue my craft.

I feel like the 12×12 is helping me with my final exam of getting published. All the members are like my graduating class. I love that we are all here motivating and helping each other. I have a long way to go before I’m published, I know. When I do finally get that first book published I’ll have Julie Hedlund and everyone involved with the 12×12 to thank!

—–
Born in Ohio, Dani now resides in the outer, outer reaches of the greater Vancouver area. She lives in constant fun and loving chaos with my husband, Peter, & three year old son, David. Dani blogs several times a week at http://daniduckart.blogspot.ca/ where she has artwork, updates, interviews with writer’s/illustrators and anything else she can think to post. You can find her website is: www.daniduck.com. You can connect with Dani on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/duckgal and Twitter at: https://twitter.com/DaniDuck. Any mistakes you see in this post are imaginary.

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

Share
Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software