12 x 12 Member Teresa RobesonI am so pleased to bring Teresa Robeson to the “How I Got My Agent” series. I think of her as a “fireball,” and you’ll see why when you read this post. Here’s a gal who can teach you how to make a vodka creamsicle, can bushels of garden beans, and carry on a lucid discussion about the laws of motion — all while making you laugh! Not to mention this is a story that began with two participants of 12 x 12. Read on and have fun…

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

The short version is: I’ve been writing for submission since the early 90s, and only started looking for an agent at the start of 2013.

The long version (and you might want to get some caffeine now, or skip to the next question) is:

I learned English at the age of eight when my family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, from Hong Kong. As soon as I learned this beautiful language, I started devouring books in English, going from “Matt the Rat” readers to Little Women in a year. As is the case with many avid readers, I also started writing, penning everything from crossword puzzles for my younger sister to poems to short stories — probably in order to catch the excess words that were spilling out of me.

But it wasn’t until around 1991, when I was approaching 30, that I decided to get serious about writing, taking a course with The Institute of Children’s Literature. At the completion of the class, I sold one of my assignments to Ladybug Magazine as a short story.

Within a couple of months of the sale to Ladybug, I sold a personal essay to Outdoor Indiana magazine. Buoyed by my success coming out of the gate, so to speak, I continued to submit to the Cricket Magazine Group (now Carus Publishing) and other places for the next little while.

My kids, born in 1996 and 1997, inspired many of the pieces that were bought by Babybug and Ladybug. But, as they got older, and I began to homeschool them, life got busy and I put writing on hold.

I didn’t start writing seriously again until around 2010 when I took a speculative fiction class, followed by another, from Gotham Writers’ Workshop with the wonderful Michaela Roessner. Science fiction had been a love of mine since I was four years old. But I hadn’t abandoned kidlit. Somehow, somewhere — I’m fuzzy on the details, but it could have been from the Children’s Writer newsletter, which I’ve been subscribing to for years — I discovered websites for kidlit writers folks to lurk on. It was in those communities such as the (then Verla Kay’s) Blue Boards and Write-On Con that I saw Julie’s posts about 12×12. What I read sounded good and I knew that I needed something to push me in my writing because I’m basically lazy and would love to sit around all day eating cookies and reading books instead of doing something more constructive.

12×12 turned out to be just the shove I needed. I considered joining at the Bronze or Silver level, but knew that if I didn’t feel pressured by having made a larger monetary commitment, and having agents practically handed to me to submit to, I’d probably slack off. As it is, I don’t get a brand new manuscript written every month…though I always get a revision, or ten, done. Anyway, the special access to agents was what made me start looking in earnest for one.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

Prior to joining 12×12 in 2013, I wrote mainly for the magazine market and hadn’t looked seriously at agents. When I joined 2013’s 12×12 as a Gold member, I used Julie’s monthly posts about the agents who were available to us as a starting point for research. As I began to search for agents on my own, I read about them in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Digest website posts on new agents, and a number of different online sites and blogs that feature agent interviews or highlights (e.g. Literary Rambles, Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating).

Once I found an agent through those venues who represented the type of writing I do, I looked at her/his agency’s website for up-to-date details on what s/he want and how to submit.

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

Since March, 2013, I submitted to 23 agents, and was rejected by all of them. I don’t count my agent, Ella Kennen, among those I submitted to because I came to sign with her through an unconventional route, which you can read about at my friend Sylvia Liu’s blog post.

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

Well, it wasn’t for me because I write for all ages, from PBs to short stories for adults. In fact, the hard part was finding an agent who actually takes all the genres and categories that I write. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to find one agent for PBs, one for MGs/YAs, etc. Fortunately for me, Ella has eclectic (and excellent, I might add! *grin*) tastes and can represent everything I crank out, including, hopefully, illustrative work in the future.

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

Ella and I first connected through 12×12 where she was a participant in 2013. We had lovely conversations about our common interests, including homeschooling and science fiction, and I already knew I liked her as a person. When she told me that she was interning to be an agent, and was interested in one of the stories I’d shown her, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it did occur to me that having an agent who was already a friend I admired would be a totally awesome thing! When she called me with the official offer, hubby told me that he could hear me squealing from out in our field (about a city block’s distance away).  Well, what did he expect? It was a dream come true!

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 🙂 )

Are you kidding? 12×12 was primarily responsible for my getting an agent (see answer to the above question)! If it weren’t for 12×12, I wouldn’t have met Ella and would not have an agent right now. Maybe I would have stumbled across her on my own eventually, but 12×12 was my “matchmaker.” 😉

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

Having an agent has freed me to concentrate on goofing off on Facebook, editing current manuscripts, as well as writing new stories, rather than spending time doing market research. Having an agent has also helped me figure out which pieces are worth working on and which should be scrapped, taking away a lot of the hand-wringing I was doing over which stories were actually publishable. It may still be just one person’s opinion, but it’s eliminated some of the uncertainty on my end.

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

I don’t usually like to give advice (unless you’re my offspring, and then you can’t shut me up; they’ll thank me one day), but would suggest that when you start out doing something – whether it be writing for publication or looking for an agent or tackling the fine art of ikebana – read all you can about the topic from books and online (search engines are your friends), then ask informed questions in friendly forums, like 12×12 or Blue Boards, before you actually leap into it.

And always keep in mind that publishing is a subjective field. I know you’ve heard it before and are probably so sick of hearing it, you want to throw a chair at me, but that won’t change the truism.

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

Perhaps not directly, but it was on Twitter that I started a conversation with Ella that led to my eventual signing with her. (Yes, I committed the big no-no of whining on Twitter. Don’t do what I did, boys and girls.)

I’ve been blogging since 2006, so I have a decent, if not huge, following, most of whom are not writers, which is actually pretty nice because we know we have a friend in other writers, but we want non-writers to buy our books too.

Also helpful in platform building is the fact that my speculative fiction critique group, The Minnows Literary Group, has self-published a couple of short story anthologies (on different themes) with 100% of the profits being donated to Doctors Without Borders. These anthologies have done quite well – we’ve donated over $2,000 to MSF so far – and I’ve received fan letters from strangers about my stories in the books; I’m sure Ella can’t find fault with my building a fan base before I have books published.

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 🙂 )

There are three things I really want to do; unfortunately, they are also highly improbable for me to achieve:
1) I want to land a huge portrait commission; I would love to paint the portraits of the National Academy of Sciences members.
2) I want to sing an aria, just once, at the Met because, many moons ago, I sang with a choir for 12 years and had wanted to be an opera singer.
3) I want to do graduate work in physics — particle/quantum, or astrophysics would be lovely.

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

Besides daydreaming about the impossible things on my bucket list, I’m currently editing a couple of picture book manuscripts, revising a completed MG novel, writing the first draft of a YA novel (and doing some historical research as I go along), as well as working on a number of sci-fi short stories and a possible novella for adults. Meanwhile, Ella and I are putting the finishing touches on two manuscripts that she’ll start shopping around soon.

The fun never ends!

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


12 x 12 Member Kelly Lenihan

I have a huge amount of admiration for anyone who, like today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author Kelly Lenihan, can make up stories on the spot. I’ve never been good at that; I always freeze up (perfectionist much?). A few weeks ago at the LA-SCBWI conference, Tomie dePaola said that courage is what artists need most if they want to have a sustainable career. Kelly’s story reminded me of that, since she not only had the courage to create those stories in her head, but to write them down, and eventually even to self-publish one of them. Please welcome Kelly!

I’m a book lover, both to read and to write. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who designated a room in the house as the “den” — reserving one wall, floor to ceiling, for books — and in so doing gifted me with a love of books that has stayed with me my entire life.

I grew up with a pen in my hand.

As a child – pretty much all the way through college – I was forever making up stories. The imagination is a wondrous thing and I was often lost in mine, my head filled with fanciful characters’ adventures in magical lands. I’m not sure when I started writing things down, but once I discovered that writing provided me a creative outlet for the abundance of daydreams swirling around in my head, I knew what my purpose was!

A shy child, the pen gave me a mighty voice.

Over the years, as I turned to other interests, my writing evolved into essays on multicultural arts and crafts or exploring gardening and nature through science and art, including hands-on projects. These days, tapping into my background as an avowed foodie, I have been sharing original recipes on my food blog: In the Kitchen With Kelly. Sadly, my childhood stories were long-forgotten, both on paper and in my imagination. Until I had children.

Reading aloud to my two sons every night at bedtime reminded me of my own childhood delight in the power of stories. As a stalling tactic, once we finished a bedtime book, my younger son would beg for “one more story”. He’d look at me, his big brown eyes filled with hope, placing his tiny hand on mine – how could I refuse? So I started making up stories right there, in the moment. Some of these stories delighted my son so much, he would have me tell them again, night after night, especially the ones he starred in. Thankfully, I was smart enough to write some of these stories down.

The Skipping Stone – a self-published children’s picture book – was one of these stories. Even though it took me a few years to publish it (my son is now grown), it remains a beloved family favorite. I am extremely proud – if not a little awestruck – to finally be sharing my precious story with children everywhere.

This year, I joined the online community, 12×12, providing me access to the motivation and accountability to get 12 picture book drafts finished in one year, all with the support of the friendliest writing community on earth. Although I’ve written a lot over the years, until now—much of it has remained unpublished. I’m ecstatic to be working on changing that, one book at a time. I’ve actually managed to write three more picture books and outlined ideas for four more since joining 12×12. Yippee!

As a child, Kelly Lenihan was forever dreaming up fantastical stories, inventing make-believe worlds replete with colorful characters engaging in wondrous adventures. By the end of her teens, she’d written countless short stories. Never losing her penchant for writing; she’s been published in various magazines and enjoyed her own newspaper column for several years. To this day, she is an avid blogger and has several full-length books in the works. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find her outdoors with her camera, enjoying the beautiful northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. A bit of a word nerd, Kelly has been known to read the dictionary for fun. And you probably don’t want to play Scrabble with her! You can find Kelly at http://www.kellylenihanbooks.com.

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


12 x 12 Member Emily LimIt seems that Emily Lim and I are kindred spirits in forging less-conventional paths to publishing. We even both got breaks at the Bologna Book Fair. Moral? There’s more than one way to achieve your dreams! What I love about her How I Got My Agent post is how she was able to turn what some viewed as drawbacks and/or risks (location, self-publishing, etc.), and turned them into strengths. She didn’t give up. She kept writing. And eventually, she found an agent who shared her vision for her career. Please welcome Emily!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I had what appeared to be a quick start to landing an agent. The founder of a top US children’s books literary agency was on the expert panel for my Book Council Publishing Initiative where I was a winner in 2007. She said a line in my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear manuscript made her laugh, and that if you can make an agent laugh or cry, that’s a very good thing. Her agency signed me up in 2008 and marketed my story to several US publishers. It was a self-published book as part of the Initiative, and many of the publishers passed. Whilst I received positive feedback to my story, several felt the combination of artwork and text didn’t work for them and others said it was “too quiet”, amongst other comments.

With the benefit of additional grants from my Book Council, I published 3 more titles over the next two years to complete my Toy Series. I went to the Bologna Book Fair where I tried to market them directly to publishers. There, I met a foreign rights agent. Although she did not handle picture books at this time, I stayed in touch by spamming her with my occasional marketing updates. She remembered me after a year on and decided to try marketing my book. We closed a Korean translation rights deal for my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear shortly after. Following that, we closed four rights deals with more publishers in Korea, China and Malaysia for my 4 titles. My Toy Series has now sold 40,000 copies.

I became a mum shortly after and started taking on commissioned work for children’s picture books.

I started thinking about seeking an agent again after I signed up for 12 x 12 in 2013 and starting submitting to the 12 x 12 agents as a Gold Member. Seeing how everyone was so motivated with their personal and professional development made me examine my writing goals again.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?
After my first agency agreement ended, I made a list of publishers who accepted unagented work, checked out their requirements on their websites and submitted to several of them.

After I joined 12×12 in 2013, my focus changed towards getting into the momentum of writing and revising my new picture book manuscripts more actively. So, at this point, I was just trying to keep up with the Challenge and making submissions to 12×12 agents. I simply relied on Julie’s research links on the 12×12 agents which was very comprehensive.

Prince Bear & Pauper Bear by Emily LimThe dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Let’s just say I started on a high before falling to a low. When I was first signed up by the first literary agent I met, I thought I was off to a lucky start. They submitted to about 16 US publishers who either rejected or did not respond. The US financial markets tanked shortly after. That led to the end of our agency agreement.

I went to Bologna and also wrote into publishers directly and received another 25 rejections (silence counted because those are very rejecting!). I later wrote to 9 literary agents (after looking up directories like the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market). Interestingly enough, I received zero response from the literary agents whereas I had quite a number of publishers respond back, even though they were rejections.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
After what appeared as a successful start, followed by a low with multiple rejections, I was fortunate to hear from an author friend writing picture books that he had he had just signed up with Jacaranda Literary Agency. He told me that they had just opened up to authors of children’s books. I was by then thinking about finding an agent again so I checked out the agency.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?
For various reasons really.

Jacaranda has 3 agents spread out in 3 locations in Asia and Europe, which makes communication easier for me given the time zones. I like that they were just opening up to children’s book authors and I would be in their pioneer batch. Being part of something new is exciting but at the same time, I get the benefit of their existing publisher relationships and experience with selling and representing authors from Asia.

I also liked a few other things from my discussions with them. For one, they are willing to work with my existing self-published titles and will market them again to publishers (as manuscripts this time round) as well as foreign rights sales. They were open to all my questions and clarifications on the contract – and I had many – and were willing to work through these with me. I also get to work with two agents!

One story that inspired me to look beyond U.S. agents was Julie’s story of signing with Hen & Ink. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she decided to go with an agency based in Europe and I appreciated her sharing her reasons for her choice. I realize that my writing and publishing path has taken a less conventional route and what I need is an agency that sees value in that, wants to work with me for that reason and can appreciate that my needs will be slightly different because of that.

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 🙂 )
12×12 has definitely made a huge difference for me in the development of my craft. I’ve been going it alone for the past few years because the Singapore market is small and only started developing in recent years. We had no SCBWI chapter until 2010 and it’s only grown in recent years. Finding 12×12 has really given me that new focus to write and revise with good momentum. The 12×12 community support and information sharing has been amazing and I don’t feel as alone anymore in my little corner of this world! To borrow Julie’s line, 12×12 is 24×7!

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
It’s a bit early to answer as I’ve only just signed with them. But I’m sure it will as they start giving feedback to my manuscripts.

The Tale of Rusty Horse by Emily LimWhat advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
I think the most important thing is still to work on our craft and have several submission-ready manuscripts at one time. 12×12 has seen so many success stories in the past months so I believe this is the right community to be a part of because we can share and learn from each other’s acceptances and rejections from publishers and agents.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
My agents did mention that they liked that I have a social media presence with my blog and Facebook. But what caught their attention was my book sales and all the media support and marketing presence that I have built up over here in the past few years.

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 🙂 )
Hmm…that’s a tough one because I don’t have much of a bucket list. My husband and I travelled a lot when we were younger already (sort of bucket list item checked) and also went through a 10-year period of coping with a strange voice disorder I was suddenly afflicted with (Spasmodic Dysphonia – the same one as Dilbert creator Scott Adams). I recovered my voice, both literally and figuratively, when I started writing children’s books.

But since becoming full-time mum to an energetic three year old, I’m just content with just sitting at a café reading a book peacefully when my son is in preschool! Although I’ve published and also been published with indie publishers (another bucket list item checked), I suppose I have every writer’s dream that my books will travel far and wide!

What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I’m currently taking Emma Walton Hamilton’s 12-week Just Write for Middle Grade course. I’m at Week 8 and hope to use all I learn to work on my middle grade draft.

Emily has written several children’s picture books. She is the 1st outside North America to win 3 medals in children’s books at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the world’s largest book awards, and 1st in Southeast Asia to win the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (where she received a Gold Medal). She also received the Honorable Mention Award at Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2012 and is a Finalist for SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award 2013 (Asia/India/Middle East Region). Her books have been published in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea and Indonesia, and also crossed over to animation and theatre.

Emily was named Singapore Woman Award Honoree 2013 for inspiring readers through her children’s books and her memoir Finding My Voice, based on her journey of losing her voice to a rare disorder and finding it again through writing. Over 3 years back, Emily graduated from writing for children to having one of her own. She’s full-time mum to her energetic preschooler who inspired her blog http://mummumstheword.wordpress.com/ where she blogs on mummy-ing and writing.


Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Self Publishing, Social Media, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Christine Irvin featured on www.juliehedlund.com

Today’s guest blogger, Christine Irvin, is a published author who wanted to tell the story of why she joined the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge. Christine’s achievements since joining 12 x 12 are all hers, but I admit it gives me so much reward whenever I hear that members have found not only the inspiration to get their writing done, but to find people, resources and tools that will give them more control over their careers. So please welcome Christine!


I joined Julie’s 12 x 12 mostly out of desperation.

Although I am a writer with extensive list of publishing credits, I am not satisfied with my writing career. I am the author of a series of eight children’s craft books, published by Children’s Press in 2002. Two years later, Gramercy Press published a bindup of three of the titles. In addition, a picture book of mine was published by Sprite Press, a tiny publishing house owned by a friend. And, together with a couple of my friends, we wrote, illustrated and self-published, a picture book. Over the years I have also had articles, stories, recipes, book reviews and web content published in many forms and venues.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I felt “desperate” enough to join the 12 x12. It certainly has been satisfying to be published in so many areas, but it’s not what I really want, not what I’m really after. I really want to have a successful picture book-writing career. I want a picture book that sells 1000s of copies and that is enjoyed by children everywhere! (Don’t we all!?!)

To that end, I joined the 12 x 12. I haven’t achieved my dream, yet, but I have enjoyed these benefits:

Connections – After joining the 12 x 12, I immediately felt connected to the writing world. I was welcomed “into the fold” and made to feel like I belong here. I am now also a member of  two other groups I discovered through this one. And in August, I will be a member of a start-up critique group.

Camaraderie – I’ve made connections with many, many wonderful writers who have been sharing their hopes and dreams, their triumphs and their pitfalls. I feel I’m really part of a great community of writers.

Opportunities – One of the main reasons for joining, as a GOLD member, was for the opportunity to submit stories directly to agents. I thought that was incredible and well worth the “admission” cost.

Promotion – I’ve also become reacquainted with blogging. I started a blog years ago in a weak effort to promote my craft books. I created the blog account, uploaded book covers and wrote short blurbs about each book, then left it up to the cosmos to promote them. Guess what? The cosmos won’t do much by itself; you have to push, guide and direct it. So, I have recently revamped and revitalized my blog, giving myself a new outlet for my work.

Resources – I’m come upon a whole host of writing resources I didn’t know existed. I signed up for The Craft & Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books writing course. I’ve learned about lots of writing contests and have already entered three. When someone in one of my groups  shares something interesting they’ve found online, I check it out. If I like it, I bookmark it, then write a short blurb about it and share it on my blog. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the world of writing.

Challenges – The whole idea of joining the 12 x 12 was to be “challenged,” and I have been. I’ve been challenged to write a rough draft of at least one PB every month. I’ve signed up for NonFicPic Week where the idea is to write a rough draft of a nonfiction PB every day for one week. And, I have been participating in Shannon Abercrombie’s 100 Days of Summer Writing Challenge, with a given a daily writing prompt.

Being part of the 12 x 12 has been so much fun, I can’t wait to sign up again next year! Thanks, Julie, and everyone else.

And I’m still working on achieving my dream. I’ve learned a lot but I know I still have much more to learn. With your help, I think I’ll make it!

I am a freelance editor and writer and a published author. I have been in “the writing business” for about 20 years. In addition to writing, I love to read, do crafts, and work in the garden. I live in the Central Ohio area with my hubby, my son and my dog.

Categories: 12 x 12, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Cover for bookI am always inspired by people like Gaye Hemsley — today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author — who combine their passions to live the fullest life possible. Frankly, as somebody who can’t dance, sing, draw or seemingly do anything else that’s creative besides writing, I’m in awe of people like Gaye who do so many. On her website, Gaye says she needs to live to be 100 because she has so much to do. I believe her, and I love that spirit! I am also very grateful to finally know where the phrase “stark naked” came from. 🙂 Please welcome Gaye!

Follow your passions.             

My first published articles were in the ‘Pixies Pages’ of the Woman’s Weekly in the 1940’s. I enjoyed sending in little poems and tongue twisters. One advantage of being an only child was my having to invent friends and create my own games. When teachers gave us a choice of subjects to write about I would usually pick the likes of ‘The journey of a penny.’ To me that was much more fun than ‘Gold mining in New Zealand.’ Unfortunately my poor spelling always let me down. Teachers told me they took marks off an otherwise good story. With age and the help of thesaurus it has improved.

My English grandmother, who lived with us, kept my imagination alive with wonderful stories of her life in England, her voyage to New Zealand and her marriage to my Norwegian grandfather. When I was ten years old my mother, who was a ballroom dancing teacher, took me to see the visiting English Ballet Company’s presentation of ‘Giselle.’ Well that was it!  Ballet lessons started the following week. I adored my teacher who was one of the dancers who performed at the Civic Winter- Gardens for the American troops who were on furlough in my home city, Auckland.  One of the other dancers in her troupe was ‘Freda Stark’ who danced a provocative fan dance finishing baring a beautiful body completely covered with gold paint. In case you don’t know, that’s where the Kiwi saying came from ‘Stark Naked.’

When I was fifteen I started teaching. Writing came back into my life some years later when I commenced writing little poems and setting them to music. My preschoolers enjoyed dancing and acting out the stories. A friend suggested I find an artist and have them made into little books. Since then I have self published many more. To give me more guide lines with my writing I signed up for a correspondence course on ‘Writing for Children.’ It took me twelve months to complete and graduate.

Like many writers out there I suffer from TMIS syndrome. ‘What’s that’ some of you ask. It stands for ‘too many ideas syndrome’ which can be just as much a dilemma as BPS (blank page syndrome.)

How many of you wake in the night with little gremlin ideas buzzing around in your head. Well don’t get up, have a pen and paper next to your bed; jot your ideas down. Don’t turn on the light, that will tell your brain it’s time to get up and you’ll never go back to sleep. Put your ideas in a folder, computer or drawer. When your creative juices are running freely, open your folder and write! It’s amazing how many times you twist and glide phrases and words around. In no time your words are ready to dance.

Social contact with other writers, whether on line groups like 12×12 or local  groups is very beneficial. Stay true to yourself, take advice and do remember it’s your story.  

Competitions and deadlines are essential for writers starting their journey. It’s a real boost to your confidence when you manage to get in the top three or even short listed. 

Over the years I’ve sent manuscripts away to publishers and waited, sometimes I may get an nice refusal, but many times no reply. 

So, I self publish my own books under the name of DanceWrite Promotions.’

I’m lucky to have a platform for my little action stories. I do have my books listed on my web page and social networks but find not many sales eventuate. It’s an advantage to get out there by visiting kindergartens, craft markets, etc.

For me I find teaching dance and writing is a happy combination. Doing dance choreography is not unlike planning a story that is; an interesting beginning, exciting middle and satisfactory ending.

May the dance never end and the story never finish.                        

A lifetime of working with children as a dance teacher has motivated ‘Nana Gaye’ into writing picture books, organizing children’s events and private parties. Many of her little books have been the theme for dance shows she has presented.

Her life has been surrounded by children, her own, her grandchildren, great grandchildren, and hundreds of dance pupils. With all the experience she has had with working with children her next project is a book full of original ideas for holding a ‘Fabulous Fun Party.’ She’s passionate about passing on her love of dance and writing. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Productions/115056665208409




Categories: 12 x 12, Authors, Books, Childhood, Children's Books, Creativity, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Whats-a-Book-App-27-Writers-Cover-with-TBB-logo-FinalMy friend Karen Robertson, who has more than earned the name “Digital Kids Author,” recently published another book on creating book apps: What is a Book App (and Could You Create One)?

This time, after a fantastic introduction to book apps and considerations for creating them, she shares stories from 27 authors and illustrators (myself included!) on how they created their own apps.

If you have ever even had the twinkling of an idea that you might like to create and publish a book app, What is a Book App? should be required reading. Here you have the opportunity to learn from 27 authors who have gone before you — share in their successes and learn from their mistakes.

The book is divided into sections based on how the authors’ apps were created.

  1. Writers Who Worked with Book App Specialists/Developers (e-Publishers fall into this category, which is also the section where A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is featured)
  2. Book Apps Created Using a Do-It-Yourself Book App Service
  3. Book Apps Created Using a Developer Studio
  4. Book Apps Created by an Individual Developer or Small Team

So in addition to reading 27 inspiring stories, you’ll also learn about the myriad options available for publishing book apps.

This book is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle but you don’t have to have a Kindle device to read it! You can get the free Kindle app that lets you read books from the Kindle store on your Apple or Android devices!

I am honored to be among the many talented authors who contributed to this book. Many thanks to Karen for putting it all together!

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Digital Publishing, Picture Books, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17. January 2013 · Comments Off on Three Opportunities to Kick-off Your Writing Year
Emma Walton Hamilton

Emma Walton Hamilton

I am excited to share three amazing opportunities available to you this month that are sure to get your writing year off to an explosive start.

First, NYT bestselling, award-winning author Emma Walton Hamilton will conduct a multi-day query critique session, January 23-25, on the 12 x 12 Membership Forum. Little GOLDen Book and Shel SILVERstein members will be able to submit one query for Emma’s review and comment, with LGB member queries taking priority if there is not enough time to get through all the queries. Those of you who have attended Emma’s similar sessions during WriteOnCon know how invaluable her feedback is and how much you learn, even from her comments on others’ queries. But you have to be a 12 x 12 member, so sign up today and don’t miss the chance to get your query in shipshape for submissions in 2013.

Emma is also offering a special deal for 12 x 12 members interested in joining the Children’s Book Hub. Details will be provided next week on the Membership Forum.

Second, my friend Karen Robertson, a pioneer author of storybook apps, has joined two other authors and coaches to create a

Karen Robertson

Karen Robertson

unique workshop for authors on how to take advantage of the marketing, promotion and publishing opportunities in the digital age. It’s called Author Success 2013, and it’s designed for published, self-published and unpublished authors of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books — either printed or digital.

The workshop itself will be a paid, half-day virtual event on January 28th, but you can sign up for more information for FREE and get three introductory videos from the instructors at no cost. I watched Karen’s “Living the Dream” video yesterday, and it was 30 minutes of pure inspiration! I have no doubt that the next two complimentary videos will also be full of tips and encouragement. It’s worth signing up just for those.

I’ll be attending the live event on the 28th too, and I hope some of you will join me.

Hey Girl, I'll see YOU in Florence!

Hey Girl, I’ll see YOU in Florence!

Third, I am down to the LAST TWO spaces in my Writer’s Renaissance Retreat, taking place April 7-13 in Florence, Italy. If you are interested, you should register before they are gone. This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and one that will stoke the creative fires of your writing long after you return home.

Do you know of other writing events or opportunities that can help people kickstart 2013? Please share in the comments.

Categories: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Florence, Goals, Italy, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Self Publishing, Social Media, Storybook Apps, Travel, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


A childhood dream realized!

I’m a couple of weeks behind due to travel, so I’ll use this week’s Gratitude Sunday to catch up on all the goodness that has happened.

I do have to make special mention of one event that was truly extraordinary. I got to meet one of my childhood/adolescent heroes at the SCBWI LA conference – Henry Winkler, a.k.a. The Fonz. I’m sure, after all Henry Winkler has accomplished as an actor, director, producer and now children’s author since the end of Happy Days, it’s a bit frustrating for him to have fangirls like me who still can’t get over him in that role. But, in my defense, it is not an exaggeration to say that show got me through my wrecked middle school years. In the midst of some very unhappy days, I’d watch marathons of Happy Days reruns in syndication in order to get me to Tuesday night when the new episodes would air.

PLUS, Night Shift is one of my ALL TIME favorite movies. I swear one summer my brother and I watched that movie on tape so many times we could recite every single line from memory. “Hello, this is Chuck to remind Bill to SHUT UP…” and “I’m alright. Fortunately the ground broke my fall.” 

Now he writes the Hank Zipzer series with none other than Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director. Hank is a humorous series that features a 4th grade boy with dyslexia, a learning disability Winkler himself suffers from. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for him to grow up with dyslexia before parents, educators and doctors really understood the condition. What an inspiration for children with learning disabilities to have a hero in a book series who’s like them.

I could go on and on, but I’ll end with this. I was a bit embarrassed because I practically tackled him as he was on his way on out the door at the end of the book signing party. I apologized up and down, but I simply could not let the opportunity to meet him pass me by. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “Don’t apologize.” We took the photo, and then he rubbed my back and gave me a hug. *Picture me melting now*

I was trembling for a full 30 minutes after he left. Luckily, that’s exactly how long I had to wait in Jon Klassen’s line to get Extra Yarn signed…

When I showed the picture to my daughter, she wasn’t immediately convinced of Winkler’s status as an iconic hero. So I had to play a few Fonzie clips for her on YouTube and now she is more than convinced. I’ve included one at the end of this post for your own enjoyment. Aaaay!

Quotes on Gratitude

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The gratest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” — Seneca

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” — A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Gratitude list for the week ending August 11

  1. I went to San Francisco the day before the SCBWI LA conference to stay with my college friend Erica and got to right a 20-year wrong – the fact that we had to leave Les Miserables early as poor study-abroad students in London. We saw the 25-year anniversary show at the Orpheum Theater downtown – all the way to the end!
  2. Although I took pitifully few photos at the conference, I got to meet many friends who up to this point had only been virtual – Carter Higgins, Kirsten Larson, Miranda Paul, Jan O’Neill, Christine Alemshah, Mira Reisberg, Karen Cheesman, Sue Fliess, Lori Degman, Tammi Sauer, Debbie Ohi, and Emma Dryden.
  3. Getting a chance to thank agent Steven Malk for two very personal, very helpful rejections (yes, rejections). In an industry where “if you never hear anything from me that means no,” I think it’s very genteel and classy that he takes the time to respond.
  4. Tony DiTerlizzi’s keynote speech. I swear he transforms into Robin Williams on the stage. He could easily play at the Improv.
  5. Getting my eBook on Submissions finished! For a long time I’ve wanted to offer a free gift to people who sign up for my newsletter, and now I can.
  6. Two amazing books by Robert Hellenga, which kept me great company on my travels – The Sixteen Pleasures (a re-read) and The Italian Lover (a sequel of sorts). Now I’m reading The Fall of a Sparrow, which features a character from The Italian Lover. Next up is Philosophy Made Simple, which features the father of the female protagonist in The Sixteen Pleasures. Brilliant!
  7. The Brain Burps About Books podcast episode I was in, talking about apps, came out this week.
  8. My kids both got the teachers they most wanted for the upcoming school year.
  9. My mom’s amazing fried chicken and the company of my aunt and cousin to enjoy it with
  10. Sleeping to the sound of crickets at night

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Books, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Yesterday, I quietly launched my first product – a template for creating storybook apps. Although the template went live with minimal fanfare, it did feel like a birth of sorts. As such, I thought I should share the template’s “creation” story. 🙂

The template emerged after I developed my own proposal, from scratch and with little information to go on. I had an idea for a series of apps based upon one of my manuscripts. I believed these stories would work better in digital vs. print form. I wanted to start submitting the idea to app publishers and developers, but I had no idea what information to include in a submission.

Would it be better to send the manuscript, text only, and include my ideas for sound and animation in the query? What about illustrations? I am not an illustrator, so I wondered if I should send the the app submission with or without suggestions for illustrations. In traditional publishing, an editor who acquires your manuscript will match you with an illustrator. This is not necessarily the case among e-publishers.

After months of research, attending digital publishing conferences, and scouring the websites of e-publishers, authors of successful apps, and storybook app reviews, I was unable to find a clear standard for app submissions. I followed with phone interviews of key publishers, authors and reviewers. I also spoke with a few freelance editors and literary agents.

I took all the knowledge I gained from these events, conversations and websites and wrote a storybook app proposal that I have used to submit my own project. Since then, I have received positive feedback on the proposal structure and content from editors and agents.

Knowing that information on how to organize and submit ideas for apps is still sparse and evolving, I decided to turn my own proposal into a template for others to use. I deliberately set the price low to make it affordable for all authors and illustrators.

If you are interested in developing and publishing storybook apps, or learning more about them, I hope you will use the template, learn from it, and possibly write proposals in far less time than it took me to write my first one.

Have you considered publishing a storybook app? If so, do you think a template like this one could help? Feedback is welcome!

(A special shout-out to Karen Robertson’s website, which introduced me to the notion of an “app brief”, to Roxie Munro for talking me through her process, to Emma Dryden who spent far more time with me on the phone than I’m sure she had, to Sarah Towle for planting the seed and to Katie Davis for helping to fertilize it.).

Categories: Apps, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Self Publishing, Storybook Apps, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Joanna Marple is a 12 x 12 in 2012 participant and the author of Snow Games, an ebook published through uTales. Like many picture book authors, I am closely monitoring trends in digital publishing and keeping an eye on platforms available for authors and illustrators. As part of Joanna’s blog tour for Snow Games (congratulations Joanna!), I asked her to tell us a bit about why she chose the uTales platform to publish her story. Please welcome Joanna, and be sure to check the adorable Snow Games!

I am a new picture book author with a desire, along with 1000’s of other talented picture book authors and illustrators, to have my stories out there touching children’s lives.  I am busy writing and revising (rinse and repeat) to have manuscripts submission-ready for that lucky agent just waiting to find me. While optimistically believing in that happy-ever-after ending, I am also a pragmatist, and in considering uTales as an approach in tandem with traditional publishing, I see a win-win situation for myself.

I wanted to become involved with the growing number of families enjoying digital books with their young children. I also wanted to have an opportunity to experience publication and promotion now, knowing that even when that agent finds me, the time between her/him selling my story and it being published, could be, at the minimum, a couple of years. So, why uTales as the digital platform of my choice?

  • Community
  • Editorial control and quality
  • Rights to book retained
  • International focus
  • The founder’s heart
  • Foundational commitment to supporting the charity Pencils of Promise

In short, I would say that uTales is built around a community in ways other platforms are not. We want to be a family of creators, rather than just a digital bookstore. This is a huge joy to me and the best example I can give you of this is The Friendship Alphabet.

Initiated by Swedish illustrator Anders Lindholm, the project saw more than thirty uTalers from fifteen different countries creating together! This is unique and precious! It showcases different storytelling and illustrative styles from all over the world. The creative friendship behind this project was amazing to be part of, and even more gratifying, perhaps, is the fact that all proceeds from this eBook will support Pencils of Promise and their work to build new schools in developing countries. I found my fabulous illustrator for SNOW GAMES, Maja Sereda, from her “O” page for this project. My collaboration with Maja was a pleasure throughout and we hope to work together in the future.

uTales is also very keen on making the books truly excellent stories for kids – and that’s why it stays away from turning the books into games, and is careful about the addition of sound and animation, so as not to detract from the story! uTales values the joint reading experience between parent and child, and welcomes inspirational stories from a great variety of sources. It is working on some unique educational projects including an upcoming book about “Ubuntu” created together with hundreds of students in South Africa and the non-profit The Lalela Project.

I think these examples illustrate how innovative, open, relational and quality -focused the founder, Nils von Heijne, whom I have met personally, is. In all I do in life, I think relationships will always hold the greatest value, thus Nils’ ethos and vision are very important to me, as is his choice of Emma D. Dryden to oversee the Editorial Quality uTales Panel. I have used Emma’s freelance editorial services, drydenbks, so I knew the level of professionalism, publishing experience and care that would go into uTales editorial control. This week Nils held a Google+ hangout to discuss new ideas and I can vouch for his willingness to receive ideas and feedback from all uTalers! We are in this together.

You will probably notice I haven’t mentioned financial gain as a main motivation for selecting uTales. A percentage (of our choosing) of any profit Maja and I make on SNOW GAMES goes to Pencils of Promise and we split the 60% profit equally between us. Have I earned anything? Why, yes! J But I still plan on being part of the work force after the school summer holidays! uTales is a new platform, which launched in November 2011, and I was aware in joining them, that the benefits I have mentioned above would far outweigh any financial gains at this point, though Nils and his team are constantly working on their marketing strategy.

This has been a highly positive experience for me thus far and I encourage readers to join our Facebook uTales Collaborations page, if they are at all interested. Thank you so much for allowing me to share on your blog, Julie.

Other Stops on Joanna’s Snow Games Blog Tour

Wednesday, Mat 16th, Darshana’s Blog, Flowering Minds – Interview

Wednesday, May 23rd – Krista Rausin’s blog, Parenting with a Dash of Inspiration – Multiple Characters in Picture Books

Tuesday, May 29th – Sharon Stanley’s blog, Sharon Stanley Writes – Interview

Tuesday, June 5th – Clarike Bo Jahn, Clarbojahn’s Blog – The Story Behind the Story

Wednesday, June 6th – Diane Tulloch’s blog, The Patient Dreamer – Book Review

Wednesday,  June,13th – Julie Hedlund’s Blog, Why uTales?

Monday, June 18th – Susanna Leonard Hill’s Blog – The Process of Submitting a Story to uTales

Wednesday June 27th – Patricia Hilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, Book Review

Author Bio: Joanna grew up surrounded by the architecture and awe of the city of Cambridge, UK, and immersed in the books and the landscapes of the Brontes, Tolkein and Beatrix Potter. Her tall tales were not always appreciated as a young child, but her passion for storytelling remained unfettered and was fuelled by the marvelous people and animals she encountered during her humanitarian work across the continents. More recently her years as school librarian in Southern France relit her passion for children’s books. Her stories focus on her love of the natural world and the richness of the cultures she has encountered in her travels. She lives presently in Nice with two quirky cats and a stream of visitors from all over the globe. 


Categories: Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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