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: , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

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12 x 12 Member Lisa Venditelli KarmelWOW did the story from today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Lisa Venditelli Karmel, resonate with me! I, too, have suffered the pain of seeing one of MY books published by someone else – more than once in fact. What kept me going were encouraging words from my writer friends and the fact that inspiration for new ideas is all around. The fact that the 12 x 12 community (and of course the lovely Renee LaTulippe) could do the same for someone else is SO gratifying. This is what it’s all about folks! Please help me welcome Lisa.

I am an artist and an author/illustrator. I’ve been working hard the last couple of years taking classes, joining SCBWI, critique groups, and 12 x12. I felt that I was making steady progress albeit slow at times. I have several stories in progress. One story I thought was really unique and humorous. People in the biz told me so, but I had to work more on the writing. So that is what I was doing.

Then one day a friend wrote me an email asking if it was me they should congratulate. It sounded like my story was getting published. Huh?! My stomach spun and flipped. Was someone trying to get a hold of me? Then my stomach sank like a rock. Someone else was getting “MY STORY!” published. I was devastated. I paced. I shouted. I cried. What can I say? I’m Italian. With the support of my writer friends I learned it has happened to others. You hear everything people have to say to make you feel better – proves it’s a great idea- it means you are on the right track-you politely say “thank you”. But you still hurt. Do you really believe it? At least not right away. You know the expression “you had to kill your darling”? Well I had to bury the whole family.

Luckily, through 12 x 12 and Julie’s testimonial, I had just signed up for Renee LaTullipe’s online class, the Lyrical Language Lab. It started about a week after that happened. The class got me to busily focus on other things and move on. I have learned SO much from Renee. She is a very giving teacher. Her feedback is spot on and plentiful. The course was challenging at times for me and I was working long hours at it. But I can already see the improvement in my writing. I am not so afraid of the rhyme and it has definitely improved my prose. I may not participate in all the “goodies” 12 x 12 has to offer, but it has been a wealth of information, encouragement and guidance through the publishing world.Illustration by Lisa Venditelli Karmel

I guess I’m the eternal optimist. I did hear that the most successful people tend to be optimists because they don’t give up. So I’m hopeful about that. The expressions “shake it off” and “rub dirt in it” really do have some validity. I still can’t even look at the title of my old story without my stomach sinking a bit, but it is a little less painful every time. I am starting to believe all the kind, encouraging support my friends gave me and I thank them. Most importantly, I am still working and you should too!

Lisa Venditelli Karmel is an unpublished author/illustrator and fine artist. She is a part-time professor of Fine Art. She went to RISD for her undergrad, but got away from illustration and stories until the last few years. She received a Masters of Fine Art at Mills College and has shown in many galleries across the country. Having her boys and sharing books with them rekindled her love for picture books, especially humorous ones. You can visit her website and blog at LisaVenditelliKarmel.com. Her fine art can be viewed at Lisavenditelli.com.

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

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12 X 12 Member Kaye Baillie I am delighted to bring you another installment of the “How I Got My Agent” series focused on picture book authors. It’s especially rewarding when these stories come about as a result of 12 x 12 submissions. AND, I adore Kaye Baillie’s description of Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris as having a “zesty attitude.” Truer words might never have been spoken. 🙂 Please welcome Kaye!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

In 1998 I’d had enough of being a personal assistant. I decided that what I really wanted to do was write for children so I began a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. My favorite subject was definitely writing for children. Towards the end of that year I got married. Then early the next year we moved house and by the end of the year had our first daughter. In 2002 our second daughter was born and I’d have to say, I struggled to get my Diploma finished which I finally did in 2005 via distance education.

I was fortunate that in 2001 and 2004 I had two educational leveled readers published which are still selling to this day. But I really wanted a trade book published. I dabbled with stories and submissions for many years and have to admit I wasn’t really putting in the effort required so had no success. In 2011 I decided to get serious. I began entering competitions, writing more and submitting to publishers more often, going to workshops and seminars and trying to immerse myself in the children’s book world. I was getting some results of highly commended or first prize in competitions and favorable feedback from some Australian publishers for my picture book submissions.

Then in 2013 I discovered a Writer’s Digest Webinar. Hmmm, access to an agent I thought. This could be a good direction as submitting directly to publishers is proving to be unsuccessful. The Webinar was on picture books and the agent running the Webinar would critique our submissions. Well I was shocked when the Agent replied how much she loved my story and would I consider reworking the ending and resubmitting to her. Absolutely! I did this and waited, and waited and waited. She kept in touch with me, each time saying that she would be discussing my story at the next staff meeting.

This went on for months with me nudging in between. In February 2014 I told the Agent that I would now like to submit to agents through Julie’s 12×12. In early April the Agent told me that she would not take on a new author but that one of the other agents in the agency would like to talk to me. I was excited again although still waited to speak to the next agent. Now we were into April. I decided to submit to Ginger Harris of Liza Royce the same story that the Agent had liked. Two things happened at once. The earlier Agent came back to me with an offer of representation AND Ginger had also made an offer.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

The information on the 12×12 site each month is terrific. I read all links about the agents and Google them also. I also look at the agents through Twitter and try to find out as much as I can about what books they have represented and sold.

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

I ducked across to my Excel spreadsheet and would say that over a four year period, I submitted 9 different manuscripts to publishers in Australia, which totaled about 70 queries. Each of the 9 stories would usually be sent to the same list of publishers. Most of the rejections were standard form letters with only several offering encouraging feedback. After receiving encouragement from the Agent through Writer’s Digest, this is when I really focused on finding an Agent instead of the submission process I had been taking.

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

Not really. I have had discussions with three agents in the last few weeks and two of them wanted to see more of my picture books. There was no mention of other genres.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

Well, to continue on from what I said above, I had the unexpected dilemma about what to do with two offers at the same time. My gut was telling me to go with Ginger and Liza. I was impressed with their swift offer of representation, their friendly style and zesty attitude. We discussed who might be a good publishing fit for my story and I straight away felt like I would be in good hands. I also felt that Liza Royce Agency would be accessible and that we would have regular communications.

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

12×12 gives incredible background information on top agents, who we are fortunate to have an opportunity to submit to. I think this is a golden opportunity for authors. Being able to choose between agents each month is not only a privilege, but also is a great learning device that made me think about the differences within agencies and between agents. It is so important to find the right fit and to understand what an agent is looking for. Being able to read discussions and posts from other members leads to wonderful opportunities where we can follow links on craft development. 12×12 really showed me what is possible and then it was up to me to follow those leads.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

As I have only just signed it is hard to say, but I am thinking about my story which the Agent chose to represent and am now using that as a benchmark for future work. I definitely feel that I have to work more solidly and regularly and that ‘Children’s author’ is my actual profession. I will also be preparing to meet deadlines and to put my writing first rather than allowing ‘daily grind’ duties to take over my day.

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

I would say that 12×12 is a glowing opportunity. There is support, shared knowledge and opportunity for authors. Through 12×12 you will learn about agents that you may not have known about (which is what happened to me.) I would also say to learn about pitches and queries. I don’t think they are as complicated as I had thought and once you have them under control, they are easier to send out.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

Not really. I think it’s in the query and the manuscript. I have used Twitter for a few years and still like it but it did not play a part in me finding an agent. I have a website which I think is a good thing to showcase what you’ve done. Facebook is a nice way to communicate with peers but I don’t think it’s helpful to find an agent. I don’t blog.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish.

Probably finding the right hairstyle is something I’ve been trying to achieve my whole life and have failed. Something that I have dreamed of doing for many years though is taking a long long train trip across beautiful country-sides and having my own private compartment and I get to dine in the old style dining carriage. I would gaze and write and sip fine wines.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

I am working on a picture book about one aspect of World War I and I have just come up with a cute idea for another picture book. I seem to have two stories on the go lately as I want to keep up with the 12×12 challenge. I also will be fine tuning my manuscript for Liza Royce agency so they can start submitting – gosh, can hardly believe I’m saying that.

I’m also off to the SCBWI conference in Sydney in July. One of the master-classes I’m taking is run by Connie Hsu of Roaring Brooks.

 

 

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Kathleen Rushall from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members November 1-15. Heather Alexander from Pippin Properties will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members November 16-30. Kathleen’s profile appears first, followed by Heather’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Kathleen RushallKATHLEEN RUSHALL

I have not met Kathleen Rushall in person, but every agent I’ve asked who they would recommend as a featured agent for 12 x 12 have recommended Kathleen. I also love that Kathleen is dedicated to developing “debut” writers and says, “There’s no better part of this job than calling a writer to tell her she’s been offered a contract for her very first book.” Absolutely, I say! It’s also wonderful to welcome such a committed agent to 12 x 12 as a first-time featured agent.

A little bit about Kathleen from the Marsal Lyon website:

“Kathleen Rushall joined Marsal Lyon in 2011. She represents writers for all age groups of children’s literature, including picture books (fiction and non-fiction), middle grade, and young adult novels. Kathleen is also looking for fresh new adult, women’s fiction, and romance projects. The most important element that draws Kathleen to any project is a strong voice and unforgettable characters.

Kathleen graduated from Seattle University with her bachelor’s degree in English and minor in fine arts. She moved back to her hometown of San Diego to earn her master’s degree in English, specializing in children’s literature, from San Diego State University. When she’s not at her desk, Kathleen enjoys hanging out with her Australian Shepherd, Finn, and German Shepherd, Abe.”

Find out more about Kathleen:

  • Check out the rest of Kathleen’s profile on the Marsal Lyon website here
  • Find Kathleen on Twitter
  • First Five Frenzy on Catching the Crazies
  • Profile on Quick Brown Fox here
  • Kathleen was featured on Stacy O’Neale’s blog here
  • Kathleen on Literary Rambles
  • Operation Awesome interview and Kathleen’s pitch picks here
  • Interview on Love YA
  • Kathleen being interviewed by one of her clients J.R. Johansson here
  • Interview with Deana Barnhart here
  • Interview with YA Fusion
  • Krista Van Dolzer interview here

12 x 12 Featured Agent Heather AlexanderHEATHER ALEXANDER

First, I am incredibly envious of Heather Alexander’s ability to pull off such an adorable hairstyle. 🙂 But in seriousness, I have huge admiration for Heather’s experience and passion in the field of children’s literature. I heard her speak last year at the NJ-SCBWI conference and was so impressed by her breadth of knowledge. I’m happy to welcome Heather to 12 x 12, also as a first-time featured agent.

A little bit about Heather from the Pippin Properties website:

“Heather Alexander comes from a family where the constant ​​refrain was, “Don’t forget to bring a book!” In college, she hid THE PRINCESS DIARIES between Dickens and Hawthorne. One Children’s Lit class later, and her path in publishing became obvious. Heather landed in editorial at Penguin, where she happily stayed for six years, working with ​both​ debut and veteran authors and illustrators. As an agent, she is ​excited to develop new talent and help shape careers, which is what she loves to do best.”

Articles featuring Heather:

Full submission guidelines for Kathleen and Heather will posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Kathleen Rushall from November 1st – November 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Heather from November 16th – November 30th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Publishing, Queries · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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: , , , , , , , , , ,

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This year 12 x 12 Little GOLDen Book members will be able to choose one of two agents to submit their manuscript to each month. Christa Heschke from McIntosh and Otis will be accepting picture book submissions from 12 x 12 Gold members October 1-15. Janine Le from Sheldon Fogelman Agency will be accepting picture book submissions from 12×12 Gold members October 16-31. Christa’s profile appears first, followed by Janine’s. Please read BOTH and then decide who would be the best fit for your work.

12 x 12 Featured Agent Christa HeschkeCHRISTA HESCHKE

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Christa, but after a few email exchanges with her about the 12 x 12 program, I was impressed with her love for picture books and her enthusiasm for participating in 12 x 12 as a featured agent. I was also happy to discover she is actively seeking nonfiction picture books with a strong hook, as I know quite a few members who write those. Please welcome Christa!

A little bit about Christa from the McIntosh & Otis website:

CHRISTA HESCHKE graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects.  For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.”

Find out more about Christa:

Featured 12 x 12 Agent Janine LeJANINE LE

I have also not yet met Janine Le in person, but one of my longtime in-person critique partners signed with her a few months ago and is extremely happy with her representation. One of our previous featured agents, Sean McCarthy, used to work at Sheldon Fogelman before creating his own agency. He had nothing but great things to say about Janine when we spoke at the NJ-SCBWI conference this past summer. Please welcome Janine!

A little bit about Janine from the Sheldon Fogelman Agency website:

Janine Le joined the agency after graduating from Bucknell Unversity with honors in English (Creative Writing) and completing NYU’s program at its Summer Publishing Institute. She enjoys working with the agency’s clients as an assistant agent and as the agency’s foreign rights manager. Janine has licensed translation rights in over 20 languages and has represented the agency and its clients annually at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Janine is building her list of clients and is open to picture books through YA. She is most drawn to stories with a strong emotional core that influence the way readers view the world, themselves, and the people around them. She is also fond of complex characters and relationships, unique cultural perspectives, and stories with a touch of humor, romance, or both.”

Articles featuring Janine:

Full submission guidelines for Christa and Janine will posted in the Membership Forum. Please note Little GOLDen Book Members may only submit to ONE of these agents. Please choose the agent who is the best fit for you and your manuscript.

Submissions will only be accepted for Christa Heschke from October 1st – October 15th at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Submissions will only be accepted for Janine Le from October 16th – October 31st at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

Good Luck!
Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Picture Books, Queries, SCBWI · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Me with MLFYI’m chagrined by how long it’s been since I posted a Gratitude Sunday, but I am rectifying that today. How could I not when I had such an AMAZING week in my hometown of Gaylord, Michigan launching MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN? Between the phenomenal launch party hosted by Saturn Booksellers in the company of my family, speaking at SCBWI-MI on gorgeous Mackinac Island, having a nice long visit with my best friend from high school, and visiting the elementary schools, it was one of the most rewarding 2014-09-24 08.12.01trips I’ve ever been lucky enough to take.

I guess sometimes the trips that take you the farthest are the ones that take you home.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” — Mary Anne Roadacher-Hershey

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” — Fernandez de Andrada

“Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oscars. The World Cup. But we’re all eligible for life’s smaller prizes… A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer.” — Unknown

Gratitude list for the week ending September 27

  1. Saturn Booksellers for the outstanding job they did planning, promoting, and hosting my book launch party
  2. My mom, Jeff, and Ashley for traveling up to MI for the big eventautumn red
  3. Fantastic dinner with family at The Bearded Dogg
  4. Nancy – for hosting me all week, feeding me, letting me sleep whenever I had the chance, and putting up with my crazy schedule
  5. The fall color and warm sunshine. As much as autumn is beautiful in CO, those reds and oranges in MI just take your breath away
  6. Mackinac Island fudge. Yes, it’s official. Even though I am from Northern Michigan, I’ve now become a “fudgie.”
  7. Mel – for inviting me into her classroom to see her teach, and sharing a long walk, a delicious meal, and even more delicious conversation. I’m grateful to her for being the amazing, inspiring friend she is.
  8. The 1000 or so local school children I had the honor of visiting. They were so welcoming, enthusiastic, and inspiring!
  9. Pot roast with cheese curds on top of truffle french fries!
  10. Getting hand cramps from signing so many books! 🙂

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Children's Books, Family, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Volunteer/Community · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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