I was more than a little inspired reading this post from today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author — Jennifer Bertman. I remember reading during those middle of the night nursing sessions with my babies but writing??? I think that makes Jennifer my new hero. Reading her post reminded me that finding the joy is what it’s all about. We also have a mutual admiration of author Linda Ashman. I’ve also taken one of Linda’s workshops, which makes me feel an even greater kinship with Jennifer. I’m sure you will too after reading this post. Please welcome Jennifer!

When I was in graduate school I took a class called “Alternate Genres” where we studied a new genre of fiction every two weeks. One segment focused on children’s books, and we created our own for an assignment. I can’t remember ever having as much fun with a school project as I did creating that book. I’ve been a lifelong fan of children’s books, but it never occurred to me that I could attempt to write them myself until I was immersed in that project. That was over ten years ago and I’ve been slowly but steadily working toward a career as a writer of children’s books ever since.

I focused my energy on picture books first, but a few years and many rejections later I began to fear that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a children’s book author after all. I’ve never been one to back down from pursuing a dream so I decided to switch my focus to middle grade novels. I received some early encouragement from an editor and an agent that had me thinking I must be on the right track. But picture book ideas continued to call to me. I’ve flirted with them over the years, but I could never really shake that worry that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a Tammi Sauer/Liz Garton Scanlon/Doreen Cronin.

But then I started up a correspondence with an agent who was so encouraging about one of my picture books it made me start to believe in myself again as a picture book writer. I attended a writing retreat led by Linda Ashman, one of my all-time favorite contemporary picture book authors. I was filled with inspiration and my confidence continued to build. At the end of last year I simultaneously joined a picture book critique group and the 12x12x12 Challenge. This undertaking was a little bit crazy on my part because I was also expecting my first baby in April and working on revisions of my middle grade novel for the encouraging agent.

But the concept of the 12x12x12 Challenge was just too brilliant to pass up. The clincher was first draft. Not polished draft. Not submission-quality work. Just purge the idea from brain to paper. And the idea of a community of writers working toward the same goal appealed to me as well. I had worries that my writing would not only take a backseat to becoming a mom, but it would get left curbside as the minivan rolled away. The 12x12x12 Challenge seemed like the perfect way to keep myself tethered to the writing community and my writing goals. Surely amidst my baby and revision mania I could manage one picture book rough draft a month.

Well . . . I have to confess I’ve fallen short of the goal, but I still consider my participation in the 12x12x12 Challenge a success. I’ve written six drafts so far: two were one-finger typed into Notes on my iPhone in the middle of the night while nursing, one is scribbled in a notebook in the middle of notes for the novel I’m revising, and three are typed on my computer. I’ve discovered several new blogs and writers whose work I enjoy, and I’ve gained inspiration from the 12 x 12 x 12 posts and Facebook community. But something unexpected is perhaps the most valuable thing I’m taking away from this challenge: I’ve rediscovered the fun. Perhaps because I had low expectations for myself given the other things I’m trying to juggle, perhaps because I’m not approaching these drafts as “something I hope to publish”, or perhaps it’s just sheer deliriousness of sleep deprivation or spending hours making nonsensical noises to entertain my baby. For whatever reason, I’ve found myself revisiting that mental space I was in when I worked on the picture book assignment back in graduate school.

I don’t know if I will ever hit that sweet spot of the perfect picture book idea executed in the right way on the right editor’s desk at the right time. But I know I need to listen to the advice I’ve given to countless writer friends: Just. Keep. Going. I truly believe if you love something enough, and if you work hard to study the field and hone your skills, and you keep trying to reach your goal no matter what obstacles you face, you will succeed. Hopefully I’ll be able to report back in a future 12×12 Challenge as being proof of that.

Jennifer Bertman earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of Moraga, CA. Visit her blog where she hosts the Creative Spaces interview series featuring the workspaces and processes of various children’s book authors and illustrators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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26 Comments

  1. This was lovely getting to know Linda, a multi-tasker if ever there was one! I can also empathise with having low self estem, and 12x12in12 friends certainly put you on the right track. Keep on keeping on Linda and enjoy!

  2. I ‘believe’ too. Thank you for this post. I love all the support of our Children’s writing community. (and crit groups)

  3. I enjoyed learning about you, Jennifer! I can’t believe you wrote while nursing. That’s a new one! I’m glad you found the fun of writing again. Best wishes on getting a pb published!

  4. That’s very impressive doing all that with your first child. It’s great to hear you can succeed in two genres. Best wishes!

  5. Very interesting! I only have 3-5 (probably 4) drafts done.

  6. You are an inspiration, Jennifer! Good luck with all your projects 🙂

  7. With an MFA, writing is clearly your passion. With the new baby you’ll have lots of brand new ideas coming your way! Good luck.

  8. Jennifer, I’ll never be a multi-tasker. I can barely stir my creamer into my coffee at the same time I’m watching the Today show! HA! BUT your post was inspirational and encouraging even to those of us who can’t think twice at the same time. Confidence building is what this whole community is about, thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks for your words of encouragement, Jennifer! I have gained new friends, too, through 12×12, and a mound of inspiration. I am grateful this Thanksgiving for 12×12, and Julie, who drew it all together.

  10. I remember doing keyboard with baby in the snugli – but writing while nursing? I’m impressed!

  11. What a great post, Jennifer. Keep going with your dream. It is a good feeling to find the “fun” again. It seems like a cycle that writer’s go through…discouragement…fun, etc. Your encourageing words will help us with the fun.

  12. EEEKKK! I misspelled encouraging and I can’t just let it slip by!

  13. Jennifer, great thoughts here. We’ve all experienced these feelings at one point or another. (Mine is right now.) So thanks for this. I mean to see my stories published! 🙂

  14. Thank you for your comments, everyone. And thank you for letting me share here today, Julie! You know what’s funny is I actually consider myself a horrible multi-tasker. I’m like you, SevenAcreSky, stirring creamer into a coffee while trying to watch a TV show might lead to a disaster. But I guess there are some things I’ve figured out how to multi-task. Of course now that my son is 6.5 months and highly distractable while nursing, those writing-while-nursing days are gone!

  15. Eek!,sorry,meant Jennifer! Couldn’t fix original comment as I’m on iPhone. Soooooory!

  16. Thanks for the inspiring words, Jennifer. So impressed with your juggling skills & know that as you continue to work towards your dreams, you will one day achieve them! And how wonderful for your baby to learn someday that the words she/he hears are words that you wrote while nursing!

  17. Jennifer, very inspiring – I can also remember typing & nursing but nothing nearly as interesting as a picture book draft! What a wonderful gift for your baby to be able to share the words you write with him or her as she/he grows older.

  18. Too much multi-tasking leads to bad coffee, is that what I can take away from the comments? Lol – No one can multitask. It’s a myth! Enjoyed meeting you Jennifer, good luck with your writing and with your new family!

  19. How fun! You’re a multitasker. You have to be when you have children. I think my best stories were during nursing sessions with my boys. There is only so much you can do then so the mine starts wandering and creating. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration, Jennifer.

  20. I enjoyed reading this. Community is so important. I didn’t get as far with the 12×12 writing challenge as I had planned to, too much got in the way and I stopped trying. Was I discouraged? yes, but I have a few very rough drafts. Maybe someday I will even polish them.

  21. Thanks for this, Jennifer! As everyone else has said, you are an inspiration! Long may the ideas flow!

  22. Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer. I do love the picture book genre…but then, lounging around in the pages of a novel is pretty neat too. How wonderful for your new little one – all those stories you’ll share. All the best! I’ll be looking for your titles.

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