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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


12 x 12 new banner

Hello everyone! How was your August? Mine was thrilling, exhausting, rewarding, and memorable. Most notably, I had the honor of being on Faculty for the SCBWI-LA conference. I even got to ask many of my favorite authors and illustrators why they were grateful to create books for children. I even hijacked Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast so I could share their responses. Give it a listen if you haven’t already. Lots of inspiration tucked into 20 short minutes.

But the key question of the hour is: Did I write a PB draft in August? Did you? The answer for me is no, BUT I did do an extensive revision on an existing manuscript that had been eluding me for some time. I’m still not sure if I’ve gotten it “right,” but I am ecstatic that I’ll have something to share with my critique partners this month.

Now it is your turn. How did you fare in the dog days of summer (Northern Hemisphere)? Let us know in the comments and of course in the Rafflecopter.

Quick reminder: Submissions to our August featured agent Jennifer Mattson will close today at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/3:00 p.m. Pacific SHARP! Our September featured agent, John Cusick, will accept submissions from GOLD members in September. HOWEVER, John’s submission guidelines will be delayed for a few days because he is out of town for the Labor Day weekend. I will announce on the Forum and the Facebook Page once submissions to him are officially open. Thanks for your patience.

Here is what you need to do to check in for a chance to win a critique from Corey Schwartz, even if you didn’t complete a draft!

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

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

Many, many thanks to Corey for helping us earn our black belt in rhyme!

Finally, don’t forget to come back tomorrow to meet September’s awesome featured author!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goofing off with Jim Averbeck, a contributor to this podcast episode, at the Black & White Ball.

Goofing off with Jim Averbeck, a contributor to this podcast episode, at the Black & White Ball.

Yesterday, I did something unprecedented. I hijacked Katie Davis‘ Brain Burps podcast. Took it all for myself!


So I could share all of the amazing, astounding gratitude quotes I got from faculty members at SCBWI-LA. The likes of Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Bruce Degen, Ellen Hopkins, David Diaz, Lin Oliver, Marla Frazee, Paul Zelinsky… The list goes on.

I so hope you will all listen because it will be impossible not be inspired (and perhaps a little teary) afterward. Plus it’s short. It had to be because I had Katie tied up in the closet with duct tape over her mouth!!

My apologies to Katie for taking such drastic measures, but I’ve been traveling so much I wasn’t able to write a Gratitude Sunday post after the LA conference. I think this podcast episode will do well in its place.

To use Jon Scieszka’s “word” from the conference (you’ll hear more about that in the podcast) — ENJOY!

Categories: Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, SCBWI, Travel, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My sweet girl looking so grown up as Hermia!

My sweet girl looking so grown up as Hermia!

Here’s this week’s Gratitude Sunday, capping off a fantastic spring week!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah… it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” — Rumi

“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.” — Michael Jackson

“Every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Gratitude List for the week ending May 19

  1. My lovely daughter knocked the role of Hermia in her class performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream out of the PARK – even with a broken toe!
  2. Speaking of broken toes, the doctor said hers is healing well and she’ll be able to get the pins out in two weeks.
  3. I visited Jay’s class to present A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS. It was the first time I’ve shown the app to a large group of children, and it was so rewarding to see them bounce around to the song, jump up with eagerness to touch the animals and race themselves to the front to get their bookmarks!
  4. I finished my welcome video for my website! It’s been a work in progress ever since I agreed to be the poster-girl of vidiots for Katie Davis’ Video Idiot Boot Camp.
  5. Speaking of Katie Davis, Stacey Williams – who is my publisher at Little Bahalia – was on the Brain Burps About Books podcast talking about storybook apps, including TROOP and my upcoming A SHIVER OF SHARKS.
  6. Jay’s first grade teacher is retiring, and I was able to attend her retirement party and thank her for being such a fantastic teacher for both of my kids. I’m happy for her but sorry for all the younger kids who won’t get to have her for a teacher.
  7. Lovely evenings to do celebratory dinners outside with the kids.
  8. Fun happy hour with friends on Friday evening
  9. Waking up to the sound of birds chirping
  10. Giving myself time to write in my journal

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Brain Burps About Books, Digital Publishing, Family, Gratitude Sunday, Video Idiot Boot Camp · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Today you get a two for Tuesday 12 x 12, as the authors are a husband and wife team – Chris and Mel Bugaj. Even more exciting is the chance to share their unconventional path to publishing, proving once again what exciting times we live in as authors. As they embark on publishing their 50th story through their podcast and blog – Night Light Stories – they are now venturing into the app space. Congratulations Chris and Mel, and welcome to Tuesday 12 x 12!

Hi All! We are Mel and Chris, a husband and wife duo who started writing children’s books about thirteen years ago. After years of writing query letters to publishers, we decided to make a platform to tell our stories. Being two special educators, we recognized the impact of listening to audio stories on the reading abilities of students. Therefore, we thought it would be fun to create an audio podcast.

We started the podcast and compendium blog four years ago as a creative project to do together. We thought it would be a fun alternative for families, educators, and classrooms to listen to our stories on car trips, around the house, as part of listening stations, as literacy projects, or anytime.  We also thought that since our kids seemed to enjoy the stories, other kids around the world might like them too.  We say in the podcast that the stories are “for children of all ages” and it is our hope that families are enjoying the stories together.

One of our goals for the project was, of course, to get published. Recently one of our stories, Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Show Us the Way, was produced as a fully-illustrated e-book as in-app purchase from a children’s literacy app called Flying Books. We have a few other Night Light Stories currently in the process of production for release within this app as well. It’s a fun experience to see our stories come to life!

The 12×12 has really helped us feel like we part of a community working toward the same goals together.  We had a challenging summer to say the least with some unexpected personal events, so this really helped us keep our eyes on our goal of producing one picture book a month to post on our podcast. On top of that, the “Featured Author Posts” and “Tuesday 12X12” provided us with useful information and inspiring stories. Thanks, Julie, for posting so many incredible resources! And keep on rocking the picture book writing 12×12’ers!

Chris and Mel are the proud parents to their seven-year-old boy and four (and a half)-year-old girl. They are both special educators in their thirteenth year of teaching. Mel has taught all grade levels from preschool to grade five in both general and special education. Currently, she is a Supervisor for student teachers for Walden University as well as a Homebound Teacher in the evenings. She also has a solo blog that she writes about the silly antics of her family called According To Mags. Chris is a speech-language pathologist and founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools. He and a co-worker were published by the International Society for Technology in Education. Their book is called “The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools“.  After hours he also produces and hosts the A.T.TIPSCAST, an award-winning podcast about free or commonly found technology that can be used to help students meet their educational goals.

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Storybook Apps, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


This could be YOUR table, where you eat breakfast, have coffee, prepare for your day, and come for aperitivo in the evenings before dinner.

I am so pleased to announce that the Writer’s Renaissance retreat, to take place in Florence, Italy April 7-13, 2013, has met its minimum number of registered participants and is officially a DEFINITE!

  • Want to go to the Boboli Gardens and learn about ‘Writing from a Sense of Place’ with the author, Lisa Clifford, of a memoir so popular in Europe and Australia that it might be made into a movie?
  • Want to go “On Location” to a famous site in Florence with historical fiction, fantasy and picture book author Mary Hoffman, author of 90+ books, and write our own story “scene” using Mary’s secret techniques for research and writing?
  • Want to learn how to use the visual arts (even if you are not an artist!) to improve your writing in a gorgeous setting with author/illustrator Katie Davis?
  • Want to participate in poetry-writing activities that are FUN and NON-THREATENING and NOT HOITY-TOITY?
  • Want to talk tools for chipping away at writer’s block while visiting Michelangelo’s David?
  • Want to sip prosecco from the most beautiful terrace in all of Florence? One that just happens to be attached to YOUR hotel?
  • Want to be swept off into the Tuscan countryside to a former monastery to take a cooking class, eat a fabulous dinner and have a toast with wine made from grapes descendant from vines planted by monks in the 12th century?
  • Want to return home with a lifetime of inspiration for your writing?

Sounds fabulous right? But don’t take my word for it. The fabulous poet and founder of the No Water River video poetry blog Renee LaTulippe, who will join us on our last morning to record our poems for posterity, lives in Tuscany. She recently appeared on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast and revealed why Italy is so perennially inspiring and why, in her words, “If you can swing (Writer’s Renaissance), it should be swung.”

But register soon! The early-bird discount is about to expire and spaces are going fast. I hope to see you there!

Categories: Brain Burps About Books, Cooking, Creativity, Florence, Friendship, Italy, Picture Books, Poetry, Travel, Travel Writing, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


I’m excited to report that I am the featured guest on Katie DavisBrain Burps About Books podcast today. This time we talk all things apps and ebooks. Although we do spend time talking about how to submit them and my Template for Storybook App Proposals, we give equal attention to what makes a great app or ebook (hint: it’s all about the story).

PLUS, Katie offers a special deal for listeners who want to purchase the Template. Hope you can make it over there and give it a listen!

Categories: Apps, Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Giveaway, Self Publishing, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Oh happy, happy day! My friend Katie Davis aired her 100th episode of Brain Burps About Books today! For this special event, she interviewed all three of the National Ambassadors for Young People’s Literature – two emeritus and one current. That means she has interviews with Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and Walter Dean Myers!!

Our current ambassador, Walter Dean Myers, chose “Reading is not optional” as his platform. Likewise, verily I say unto you, if you care at ALL about children’s literature, literacy, or reading and writing in ANY of its forms (children or adult), LISTENING TO THIS EPISODE IS NOT OPTIONAL. These three people are heroes, pioneers, warriors and role models – not just to children but to all adults who advocate for children, whether as parents, teachers, librarians, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.

I’m lucky because I got to listen to the episode in all of its greatness yesterday. That is an advantage of owning the Brain Burps app – you get the podcasts a whole day early. I can assure you the interviews are funny, informative, inspirational and everything you’d expect they’d be coming from these paragons of kidlit.

I’ve met both Jon Scieszka and Katherine Paterson in person. We met Jon at the Boulder Bookstore a few months ago, where he patiently listened to my five year-old recount every incidence of potty humor in all of the books we’d read by him. If you’ve read any of Scieszka’s work, you probably already know this is quite a formidable list. Then, he signed one of my son’s books, “To Jay – a real Stinker.” You can only imagine how much more my son loves that book now.

I met Katherine Paterson at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair after an interview she gave at the Author’s Cafe. During her interview, she said her ambition as a writer was to write a book that did for children what the book The Secret Garden had done for her. How gratifying it was to be able to tell her unequivocally that she has done that, many times over, for me. Particularly with Bridge to Terabithia, which remains one of my all-time favorite books and one that I believe is perfectly written.

Please don’t miss your opportunity to be inspired by these literary giants. I’m not promoting this episode because I’m in it (because I’m not), but because it is simply unmissable. And to help celebrate Katie’s achievement and all she has brought to the world of kidlit with this podcast, I am giving away three Brain Burps apps from the iTunes app store. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite part of the 100th episode. It is a long one, so I’ll give you a full week to listen and comment. You have until midnight EDT, Wednesday June 20th to comment. I’ll draw winners on Thursday the 21st. So GO. NOW. LISTEN!


Categories: Apps, Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Giveaway, Picture Books, Poetry, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Today I once again Get All Grateful on Your A** on Katie DavisBrain Burps About Books podcast. It’s a special segment because it’s all about The Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I talk about specific people I met who inspired gratitude, but also about the overwhelming sense of honor I felt walking the halls and realizing that I am part of this amazing community and industry. The segment is about 10 minutes in, before the main interview, which is AWESOME! Author/Illustrator Maryann Cocca-Leffler talks about taking one of her books to the stage, and about how she sold more than a million copies of two of her books. Fascinating!

I haven’t written much about my experience in Bologna on the blog yet. I’m still writing my articles for SCBWI and CBI, and I don’t want to scoop my own self by publishing on the blog first. However, I would like to share some inspirational quotes with you from some interviews I caught in the Author’s Cafe.

Meeting Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author, Former U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and Recipient of the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (+ many others):

  • “I love to write because I can live so many lives.”
  • “The world is full of people with talent, but perseverance is rare. To be a writer, you need talent and perseverance.”
  • She writes for children because, “I have the same questions that children have, and I haven’t been able to answer them.”
  • “I don’t publish anything I don’t love.”
  • It is very humbling to have someone say that your book inspired them to become a writer.”

Sonya Hartnett, Australian author and recipient of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “When you write for children, you have to call upon every single ability you have as a writer to write a difficult scene (like war). Never do I have to reach as deep into my abilities to write for adults as I do for children.”
  • “A writer lives many times, and yet doesn’t live at all. I put my entire experience into my writing. I’ve given my life to fiction.” She said in reference to sometimes feeling existential angst with regard to questions such as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’

Ryoji Arai, Japanese Illustrator and recipient of the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “The ending of my stories are also a beginning. I think about that beginning when I write my stories.”
  • “An artist has to find space between the words.”
  • “People ask me, ‘How do you invent stories?’ I answer, ‘Well, how do you play?”
  • “A child equals hope.”

Lin Oliver, U.S. Author and Executive Director of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

  • She became a children’s author because she went into the L.A. Unemployment Office and saw a sign that said, “Children’s Book Writer Wanted.” She went on to say that she “hasn’t seen those words before or since.”
  • “If you write for children, you are going back to your own childhood.”
  • On writing for boys: “They like to laugh or be scared.”
  • If you want to get published, “Read everything in the field. Write and practice your craft until you are good enough to be published.”
  • On why we need to support libraries. “Librarians are people who teach you how to find information.” This is a critical skill for 21st century kids.
  • “It is important that we all come to regard children’s literature as a global enterprise.” That is why SCBWI is now playing an active role in advocating diversity in children’s literature.

Which of these quotes inspires you the most?

Categories: Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Italy, Picture Books, Publishing, SCBWI, Travel, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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