Cracking the code - scene from The Imitation Game

Cracking the code – scene from The Imitation Game

A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I watched the movie, The Imitation Game. It took us four hours to watch it from start to finish. Why?

Because I had to pause the movie often in order to answer questions they were asking about events in the movie (based on a true story that takes place in the UK during WWII), such as:

  • Why were children wearing gas masks in the street?
  • Why didn’t the parents go with their children when they were evacuated to the country?
  • Why did Joan’s parents think it was inappropriate for her to go work with a group of men?
  • How could someone (the character of John Cairncross) think that spying for the Soviet Union would help the UK win the war?
  • Why did they have to keep their work on ENIGMA secret even after the war ended?
  • How could they send people to jail for being homosexual?

That’s when it hit me like a bolt of lightning–the way to get kids interested in history is to make them care about the people involved. The way to make them care is to tell them a story.

I don’t know why this revelation came as a surprise to me. As you may know, I’ve been a huge supporter of a friend and colleague’s Kickstarter campaign to bring history to life (and to relevance) for children. I suppose seeing a story create a thirst within my own children to learn more brought home the importance of teaching through story.

First TTT&T story will feature Michelangelo and Renaissance Italy. Stone Giant, Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley, Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc., 85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472, (617) 926-0329, www.charlesbridge.com. All rights reserved.

First TTT&T story will feature Michelangelo and Renaissance Italy. Stone Giant, Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley, Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc., 85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472, (617) 926-0329, www.charlesbridge.com. All rights reserved.

I used to be embarrassed to admit that I hated history in school because it was presented as a long string of facts, statistics, and explanations of political motivations. That information is important, but we won’t retain it without context. Knowing how many people died in WWII is just a number, but learning about the life of one family living in London during the Blitz–the scarcity of food, the constant smell of fire, the sight of crushed buildings, the rattle of bombs while sheltering–builds empathy toward all of the dead.

Much of what I have learned about history since school has come from reading historical fiction. When I read historical fiction, I become fascinated by the events of the time and place, and I am inspired then to read MORE on the subject, including nonfiction.

The Kickstarter campaign Time Traveler Tours & Tales is running aims to tell hiSTORY using both narrative nonfiction and historical fiction. What’s even more exciting (if not a little ironic), is that this storytelling will take advantage of the most modern of technologies – mobile devices and apps. In other words, the intent is to reach children where they are (on devices) and excite them into a love of history by helping them not only relate to the past, but to interact with it and make it their own.

BUT, and you knew there had to be a ‘but’, they’re running out of time. The TTT&T campaign has been endorsed by The Guardian, Neil Gaiman, and WorldReader. Authors such as Cornelia Funke (and yours truly) are backers. They’ve reached 90% of their funding goal. But all of that disappears if they don’t reach their goal within the next three days. Kickstarter is all or nothing.

I have no skin in this game, other than I would like to write a story for this imprint someday. I have written about and promoted the campaign because I’m passionate about the cause. So if you, too, want to help make history personal, relevant, real, and most importantly, FUN for kids, please consider a pledge. No amount is too small, and there are terrific rewards on offer at all levels.

Let’s Turn History On.

Screenshot 2015-06-23 12.03.14

Categories: Apps, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Publishing · Tags: , , , , , ,

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Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

If you have been following my blog for any period of time, you know I am passionate about all of the following:

  • Writing stories for children
  • Sharing stories with children
  • Using ALL avenues of publishing great books for children (including apps, ebooks, transmedia, etc.)
  • Italy (especially Florence!)
  • Historical fiction (especially books written by Mary Hoffman)
  • Entrepreneurial authors paving their own paths to success
  • Supporting fellow authors

For all of these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to share an outstanding project from my friend Sarah Towle that will not only bring fabulous historical tales to children in multiple formats, but will also create brand new opportunities for authors writing narrative historical nonfiction and historical fiction. Talk about a win-win!

Introducing … Time Traveler Tours & Tales (TTT&T) – a brand new way of imagining and delivering stories to children that will bring history to life for them.

I first met Sarah at the Bologna Book Fair in 2011, when she was launching the first-ever StoryApp Tour and Tale – the critically acclaimed Beware Madame la Guillotine. I was so impressed with what she was doing, I glommed onto her continued to follow her progress and learn from her as I went on to publish my own two storybook apps. Along the way, we became great friends.

TTT&T aims to be the first publishing imprint of its kind–publishing their story-based tours and tales of history in all available formats.

  • Mobile StoryApp Tours narrated by the very people who walked the streets in that place in that time of history.
  • Interactive ebooks that bring the historical period to life.
  • Print and audio versions of each tale.
  • Free curriculum guides for each tour and tale to bring history to life inside the classroom.
Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer's Renaissance 2014

Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer’s Renaissance 2014

For their official debut, TTT&T have chosen to bring to life one of the world’s greatest artistic and genius giants – Michelangelo and his David. In the Footsteps of Giants is a story woven by one of the best historical fiction writers for children of our time, Mary Hoffman. In it, we get to walk the streets of Renaissance Florence alongside the fictional model for the statue of David (P.S. We all know what that guy looks like – wouldn’t you like to meet him??).

I know first-hand that nobody knows more about Michelangelo than Mary Hoffman. She was on faculty for both of my Writer’s Renaissance retreats, and I’ve had the amazing good fortune of standing before the David in her company. Life will never be the same for me, and now you can have the same treat by reading her book.

Many of you also know I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of one of my picture books. So I do have a special place in my heart for the power of crowdfunding. It’s the layperson’s way to support the arts and opportunities they want to see in the world. Here is your chance to do the same.

  • If you are a reader, you will enjoy a gripping story of Renaissance Florence with In the Footsteps of Giants and a whole series of historical stories that bring the locations and the events of that time period to life right before your eyes (and feet).
  • If you are a writer, TTT&T will provide opportunities for you to publish your own historical adventures for children.
  • If you are a teacher, you will have brand new ways to bring history alive for your students, using the stories themselves and the comprehensive curriculum guides.

I urge you to consider supporting TTT&T’s campaign to become one of the most exciting publishing imprints of our time. The number of backers is just as important as the total amount raised, so TRULY, no amount donated is too small. Rewards begin at $1.

If you are unable to donate, you can still help by sharing the project in your social media circles. In fact, here’s an easy tweet you can use.

New publisher plans to #turnhistoryon for kids. #writers, #teachers, check it out here: http://kck.st/1PyGzKO #kidlit (Click to Tweet this)

Me being one to put my money where my mouth is, I not only backed this project, I’m also offering a reward for others to do. Look for one of the CREATIVE COLLABORATOR rewards and you’ll see a one-hour strategy session with me on any aspect of your career as a writer, plus the first three Modules of my course, How to Make Money as a Writer. There’s only one of those, though, so if you want it, snag it soon.

There are fabulous rewards at all levels, however. Check out their campaign page to see for yourself.

As writers in the 21st Century, we have to create opportunities for ourselves whenever and however we can. What I love about what Sarah is doing with TTT&T is that she’s not only creating opportunity for herself, but extending that to children’s authors across the globe. I don’t know about you, but that turns me on. 🙂

Footsteps of Giants

Stone Giant Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 85 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 926-0329 www.charlesbridge.com All rights reserved.

Categories: Apps, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Friendship, Italy, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Travel, Writer's Renaissance · 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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TroopPNGThanks to everyone who entered the sweepstakes to help me celebrate A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS winning the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Digital Gold Award a couple of weeks ago.

Winners were selected randomly via Rafflecopter, but I must say it tickled my fancy that the grand prize winner had sent us a picture of himself reading the print version of TROOP to his granddaughter. HERE are all of the winners:

 

Winner Damon reading print version of TROOP with his granddaughter

Winner Damon reading print version of TROOP with his granddaughter

Winner of the GRAND PRIZE of a $100 Gift Card to Amazon OR the iTunes store is…

Damon Dean!!

The Two Winners of 1 set (each) of download codes for the app versions of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS are…

Sara Lynn Eastler and Gandamu Baka!!

Winner of an adorable stuffed monkey and a bag of TROOP and SHIVER customized M & M’s is…

Jackie Gove Bryla!!

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who joined in the fun.

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Giveaway, Picture Books, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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TROOP IBPA BannerThis was the kind of week that makes me feel like I should go buy a lottery ticket. I started the week with the news that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS won an Independent Book Publisher’s Association Digital Gold award, and I’ve been on a high ever since.

So yeah, it’s been a good one. 🙂

I heard One Love by Bob Marley a few days ago and thought the chorus is a fitting “Gratitude” quote for this week’s post, especially in light of the inspiring We Need Diverse Books campaign.

One Love! What about the one heart? 
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love!);
So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),

Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.

Gratitude list for the week ending May 3rd

  1. TROOP won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold award!! (Yes I know I’ve mentioned this a few times this week :-)). Don’t forget to join me in the celebration by entering my sweepstakes to WIN awesome prizes.
  2. SO MANY PEOPLE sent good wishes and congratulations over all forms of social media, email, and phone calls. It was overwhelming (in a great way). My mom even sent me flowers!
  3. Boulder Book Store called to say they are stocking TROOP after finding out about the award.
  4. My fantabulous friend Katie Davis made me this video.
  5. My favorite children’s author, Jane Yolen, is my 12 x 12 Featured Author this month.
  6. My agent told me she’s taking one of my picture book manuscripts out on submission.
  7. It was so gratifying to see more than a dozen 12 x 12 members gather at the NESCBWI conference this weekend. I love this community!
  8. Another 12 x 12 member signed with an agent this week as a result of her participation.
  9. I ramped up my physical activity thanks to my new Fitbit. Feel more energetic than I have in a long time.
  10. I received several amazing testimonials from this year’s Writer’s Renaissance participants.

Seriously? I get a book award, the news that a new manuscript is going out on submission AND Jane Yolen all in one week? Pinch me!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Giveaway, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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troop ibpaBFDA_Awards_Seals_GOLD_highresWhen I found out late last week that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS was an Independent Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Award Gold winner, needless to say I went a little bananas! I wrote all about it in this post, also published today.

Having to wait the whole weekend before sharing was excruciating, but now I am CELEBRATING with a sweepstakes for YOU. That’s right, these fabulous prizes are yours for the taking. Instructions for entering the Rafflecopter and the rules are below.

  1. GRAND PRIZE = $100 gift card to EITHER the Apple iTunes store OR Amazon.com
  2. 8 x 10 print of your choice of TROOP or SHIVER illustration, signed by illustrator Pamela Baron
  3. FREE download codes (one each) for both TROOP and SHIVER – there will be two winners drawn for this prize
  4. An adorable stuffed monkey + a bag of TROOP and SHIVER customized M & Ms

    Stuffed monkey prize similar to this one if not exactly the same.

    Stuffed monkey prize similar to this one if not exactly the same.

Although purchasing (or owning) a print version of TROOP is one of the ways to win, there are MANY others – something for everyone. These are all listed on the Rafflecopter below, but here is a bit more information on each.

UPDATE! The sweepstakes will now be open until Friday, May 9th to give people who purchase the print version of TROOP an opportunity to write reviews and increase their chances of winning.

  1. Purchase a copy of the print version of TROOP (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound – if you live in the Denver/Boulder corridor, TROOP is stocked at the Boulder Pearl Street, Thornton Creek, Westminster, and 16th Street Mall B&N locations). Then email your receipt per the instructions in the R/C. OR, if you already own a copy, snap a shot of yourself with your book and email using the same instructions.
  2. Write an honest review of TROOP on Amazon (It counts if you’ve already left one – just enter the link according to the instructions). Note that is IS acceptable to copy and paste reviews from one site to another. 🙂
  3. Write an honest review of TROOP on Barnes & Noble
  4. Write an honest review of TROOP on Goodreads
  5. Once per day, you may tweet about the giveaway. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is Benjamin Franklin Digital Award Winner! Celebrate with #giveaway of $100 #giftcard. http://wp.me/p2 (Click to tweet this)
  6. Once per day, you may share the giveaway on Facebook. The kids’ storybook app A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is a Benjamin Franklin Digital Award Winner! Author @JulieFHedlund is celebrating with a great sweepstakes. http://wp.me/p2pGqV-3h8
  7. If you haven’t already, you can like my Author Page on Facebook.

Rules

Must be a resident of the United States (SO sorry to my international friends, but trying to comply with sweepstakes rules/laws in multiple countries proved too much for me!). No purchase necessary. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 12th 2014. Prizes will be shipped no later than May 23rd, 2014. Winners will be required to provide an email and/or mailing address in order to receive prizes. Prizes must be claimed within three business days of the winners being announced or alternate winners will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Giveaway, Picture Books, Rhyming · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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BFDA_Awards_Seals_GOLD_highresI am honored, humbled, and quite frankly gobsmacked to announce that A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS has been awarded a Gold Benjamin Franklin Digital Award by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

In the comments sent to my (awesome!) publisher Little Bahalia, one judge wrote:

“This is an excellent enhanced e-book for kids that introduces the fun plural nouns of various animal groupings—a pride of lions, a bloat of hippopotami, an ostentation of peacocks, etc. Super fun.” [Five stars!]

And even more heartwarming for a writer, and of rhyme in particular, the writing quality component of the award achieved FIVE STARS, and one judge had this to say:

“The book has a nice rhyme structure–not too overbearing, nicely constructed, not forced.” [Five stars!]

On their website, the IBPA acknowledges that the definition of “book” continues to evolve, and they established the Digital awards category to “honor and encourage the field’s innovators.” 

TROOP has received critical acclaim in reviews, most notably being named by the Guardian last year as a Top 50 App for Kids, but this is its first award, and it is major. So I am in the mood to celebrate with a SWEEPSTAKES featuring amazing prizes! I hope you’ll join in the fun. Click here to go there now.

Thank you for celebrating with us!

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Giveaway, Picture Books, Publishing, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list!

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

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Armory of Aardvarks, courtesy of SydneyPadua.com

Armory of Aardvarks, courtesy of SydneyPadua.com

This is going to be a slightly different kind of Gratitude Sunday post. In fact, I’m going to share something that is going to sound decidedly UN-grateful (at first).

Yesterday I woke up and had a bit of a panic attack. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I am in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for my next picture book. Self-promotion, especially the kind that involves emailing people to ask them for money (even while offering rewards in exchange), is my least favorite part of this job. I do it because I have to. And I try to reciprocate as often as I can when my writing friends are doing the same. Still. Promotion is not within my direct comfort zone, so it is exhausting and completely somewhat excruciating.

In addition, I’ve got to gear up my marketing efforts for A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and the two apps for the holidays. I’m planning a launch party, trying to squeeze in a couple more school visits, calling local bookstores and libraries to inquire about events. Again, not at the top of my list of favorite activities.

That’s when it hit me. I had two thoughts in rapid succession:

  1. The business of writing for children is SO. HARD.
  2. It’s NEVER going to get easier. Not EVER. Every book, every project will require this level of effort and anxiety.

So I asked myself, “WHY am I doing this?” I’m an intelligent, educated, still-fairly-young *cough* woman with many transferable skills. I could make more money (a LOT more) with far less work. So I had a visceral moment of “doubt and shame.”

The pat answer is, of course, because I love writing for children. Because it’s my passion. But honestly, those answers oversimplify.

I got the true answer a little later in the day when I opened an email from one of my writing friends, Alison Stevens. She purchased a print copy of TROOP at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference to donate to her kids’ school library. This is what she wrote:

“The librarian was thrilled. Seriously, she looked it over, loved the plural nouns, fawned over the alliteration (which 3rd grade is learning right now), and hugged it.”

Wait just a darn minute! You mean there is another person in the world who loved my book enough to hug it??? 

Not to sound like Oprah, but that’s when I remembered that the reason I write for children is because nothing else I’ve ever done has made me feel like my life is in alignment with my purpose. Writing for children does.

To top that off, now that 300+ children in the community have seen me in a school visit, everywhere I go these days I seem to have a child waving, smiling, telling me they liked my books. In fact, at my son’s basketball practice the other day, there were two boys on the sidelines whispering with each other and looking over at me. Finally, after what seemed like quite a long debate, they approached me. Here’s how the conversation went:

BOY #1: ASK her!

BOY #2: After your presentation, one of the other kids told me that you know every animal group name.

ME: I don’t know if I know every single one, but I know a lot of them.

BOY #2: Do you know what a group of aardvarks is called?

Clearly these hooligans were trying to trip my up by picking one of the more obscure animals.

ME: Indeed I do. A group of aardvarks is called an “armory.”

BOY #1: WOW!

BOY #2: That is SO COOL!

Now, as a little girl I never daydreamed about becoming an expert on collective nouns for animal groups. But I DID dream about being able to make a difference in the world. Every time somebody loves what I write, I’ve reached them in a way that would not otherwise have been possible. So THAT is also why I do what I do.

The reason this whole post at first seemed ungrateful to me is because, as I wrote it, my Kickstarter campaign was almost 80% funded! So many people have pledged their support for a book that is near and dear to my heart. How lucky am I?

So I was able to come full circle — from fear, doubt, and anxiety all the way back to extreme gratitude.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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View out the window from my writing spot this weekend!

View out the window from my writing spot this weekend!

It’s been another crazy week over here in Julie-land. I embarked upon one of the most exhilarating and terrifying journeys I’ve ever taken. I announced that I am attempting to crowdfund my next picture book via Kickstarter. This particular book is so close to my heart, and I underestimated the emotional impact of going “live” with the announcement. Nonetheless, I am so grateful to have a fantastic team, not behind me, but WITH me. This includes not only those directly involved, but also my “Crowdfunding Crew,” my “Mastermind group,” and all of the people who left comments of support and encouragement on my blog this week. THANK YOU!

Quotes on Gratitude

“I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not practice gratitude.” Brene’ Brown

“Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.” — David Thomas

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” — Albert Einstein

Gratitude list for the week ending October 26

  1. Everyone who shared the news about my crowdfunding project and/or left encouraging comments. Every share, every comment, every “You Go Girl!” makes a HUGE difference in my outlook.
  2. Fantastic Girl’s Night out with the book group gals
  3. Having the honor of guest blogging, TODAY, for Tara Lazar in preparation for Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo)

    Can't beat a great Girl's Night!

    Can’t beat a great Girl’s Night!

  4. Spending the weekend in Breckenridge with my critique group for a writing retreat where all we do is… write.
  5. Having one of the best meals (and cocktails) I’ve ever consumed on Friday night as we began the retreat.
  6. The spectacular, invigorating mountain air, which seems to feed my creativity (and my soul).
  7. Lita, for sharing her most lovingly created and decorated vacation home with us. I could not imagine a better place to write or better company with whom to write.
  8. Both A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS were nominated for Cybils awards in the book app category!
  9. A great meeting with Jon Bard at Children’s Book Insider, on his porch on a gorgeous fall day in Fort Collins, CO
  10. My mom’s flank steak, which fed me three times during a very busy week

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Apps, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Travel, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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