Debra Schumaker - Guest Post on

I love the epiphany today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Debra Shumaker, had at a conference in 2012 (read on to find out what it was). I too am a person who often needs to hear things many times before the truth of them sinks in. Debra’s story is inspiring because it shows that while dreams might defer for a time, they never die. So long as the person having the dream is determined enough to see it through. I have a feeling there will be a bestselling nonfiction book about fences, bridges and stoplights that will be published in the future! And Debra, I implore you to stop using the word “if” and stick to “when.” 🙂 Please welcome Debra.

Back in 2005, whenever we were on a road trip, my oldest son, then 2 1/2, loved fences, bridges and stoplights and always pointed them out. I kept joking that I would write him a picture book about fences, bridges and stoplights. Finally my husband called my bluff so I signed up for a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. And fell in love with writing.

I also fell in love with research, and wrote several non-fiction articles for my class assignments. My instructor thought I had a knack for non-fiction and encouraged me to keep going with it.

But real life got in the way. I had my third boy half-way through the course. That made three boys in 3 1/2 years. I barely found the time to think, much less write. I occasionally submitted those magazine pieces and a few years later one of them was accepted by Spider magazine. I was ecstatic. That publication reignited my desire to write more and I joined SCBWI, found a critique group and started attending conferences. Occasionally I wrote, but only when “I found the time.”

Finally in the fall of 2012 my youngest started first grade – I actually had some time. I threw myself into writing, but at this point I had only written one other non-fiction article, one picture book and was in the middle of a second. IN FIVE YEARS. I had become the master of constant revision.

In October 2012 I attended my third conference, wondering if I would really ever get published again. By this time I had started to focus on picture books. Late in the afternoon at an editor and author panel, someone had asked how long one should wait to hear about a submission. An editor responded, “Who cares? Once you send it off, forget about it and start on your next piece.” (Those probably weren’t his exact words, but that was his bottom line.) And for whatever reason, no matter how many times I had probably heard it before, this time those words spoke to me. I had to stop revising, polishing and submitting the things I had written. I HAD TO WRITE NEW STUFF. Unfortunately I was suffering from brain freeze. I had no idea what else to write.

Thankfully the stars aligned and the following week I heard about PiBoIdMo. BINGO. That’s what I needed. A few days into November I found ideas everywhere! I ended the month with 38 ideas, some of them with actual potential. Then I found 12×12.

So what has 12×12 meant to me? The difference in my writing has been astounding. The blog overflows with great information. The community on Facebook is my writing friend. Writing is no longer something I do “now and then,” it is something that I do. Period. Well, almost every day.

In addition to those first two picture book manuscripts, I now have three more almost “there.” And another handful in early stages, all due to 12×12. Most are non-fiction, because research rocks. But some are fiction too. (None of them are about stoplights, fences or bridges, but that might be my first idea for PiBoIdMo 2013.) I started a website in May and have started to query agents. I don’t know when (or if) I’ll get a picture book published, but I am enjoying the journey and learning so much. Thank you 12×12.

Debra grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin, but now lives with her husband and three sons in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. When she’s not writing or running her boys everywhere, she loves to read, cook or work in her garden. You can find Debra at her website: Recently Debra found out that Boys’ Quest is interested in another of her non-fiction articles. Stay tuned for “A Tale of Two Races” in October of 2016!

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



  1. Good for you, Debra! You wouldn’t consider one of your sons raised and done in five years. We need to be as patient with our manuscripts as with our kids–helping them to grow and become stronger and better behaved. Hopefully we’ll be reading about your first book publication on another of Julie’s posts, Best wishes!

  2. Debra, so nice to hear your story. I CANNOT wait to meet up with you on Published Avenue. One day we will!
    P.S. It takes me forever to finally ‘GET IT’. *waving*

  3. Great post, Debra! I’m a frim believer we can have it all, just not all at the same time. The time spent with your kids than writing was time spent doing valuable research!

  4. What an inspiring story! Good for you Debra! Can’t wait to hear how it all comes to fruition!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Debra! Glad you’ve kept at it, and that PiBoIdMo and 12×12 were there when you had your AHA! moment. We’ll be reading your books one of these days!

  6. I’m thinking there’s still room for the stoplights, fences and bridges book. My kiddo would likely say yes to it! Good luck.

  7. Still stunned about 3 boys in 3 1/2 yrs! Atleast the sources of inspiration are, er, growing! Sounds like you are definitely on the right track, Debra!

  8. Great post! I love the sound of the dences, posts and stop light book too. 3 boys must generate some fun ideas. Best wishes, Debra!

  9. Congratulations on your magazine successes! Glad to have you in 12×12!

  10. Hi Debra. Nice to meet you. The journey is the best part!

  11. I love this post!! I’m glad that editor had just the right words for you! And I’m so glad I got to meet you in person at SCBWI in October!!!!

  12. Debra, thanks for sharing your journey thus far. Always great to hear other people’s path.

  13. Hooray for nonfiction! And congrats on your sale to BOYS’ QUEST. I do find that nonfiction often takes longer because of the research, but the support of 12 x 12 definitely helps. Nice to “meet” you online.

  14. Ain’t that the truth. 🙂 Well said! 😀

  15. Debra, you and I share the same passion for non-fiction PBs. All the best for your submissions, and keep up the good work. Having three boys is both a challenge and an inspiration!

  16. Awww, thanks everyone for commenting and being part of this group. I think I’ve only met Marcie in person, but feel like I know so many of you because of the support from 12×12! Children’s lit writers and illustrators are just plain awesome.

  17. Debra. Sounds to me like you are a little bit ahead of Wonderwoman. Wow. Thanks for sharing your journey, and looking forward to more of your successes as you share in this connected community of writers. I’m needing to pursue non-fiction more, and your story is challenging for me. Your first commenter, gpatmiller, is the Pat Miller hosting the NF4NF non-fiction conference in Texas, that is within my reach next October. I’m hoping to attend, as this new year for me is going to have a non-fiction focus. Thanks for the encouragement!

  18. Kathy Cornell Berman

    Congratulations on your magazine articles AND having three boys in 3 1/2 years. Good luck with your submissions!

  19. Thanks for sharing with us Debra. Good luck on your writing journey.

  20. Debra – It’s wonderful that you’ve carved out a space for writing despite a very busy life. It seems like there’s a great need for fun non-fiction out there, so I’m glad you’re filling the void. Sounds like you’re making your dreams come true!

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