I was so honored when I read today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 post from author Joanna Marple, and saw that she considered me a “kindred kidlit” writer. I feel exactly the same way about Joanna, as she and I have been on this journey for about the same amount of time and discovered each other just as we needed to reach out and expand our communities. In addition to our mutual love of travel, we are both passionate about helping imperiled animals around the world. We’ve been able to cheer each other on in the digital publishing space, too, as Joanna’s adorable e-picture book SNOW GAMES was released earlier this year. Please welcome Joanna!

I have always considered myself a storyteller, but writer? No! While writing has always been a pleasure (letters, newsletters, songs, journaling) I felt writing was for the pros. – those who had studied creative writing or poetry at college, whose grade 2 teacher had told them never to stop writing!

Alongside my storytelling, I have also always travelled, leading a very nomadic life as an adult. I have lived and worked on four continents over the past 25 years, the past 13 being spent in Southern France. I am now in a time of transition once again. This time it is my writing that is spearheading my move.  In all my travels, around fifty nations at the last count, I have noted certain things that humanity has in common, whatever the culture. Two of these commonalities are a desire for community, and the sharing of stories to consolidate the continuity and that sense of belonging to communities.

My passion for oral storytelling took on a new emphasis when I became head librarian and actually set up a bilingual library in an international school. Reading stories in French and English to our K-5 students rekindled my passion for children’s books and my own storytelling seed began to grow. I stumbled upon Emma Walton Hamilton’s “Just Write for Kids” online picture book course at just the right moment two years ago, when I sensed my life was taking a new direction. The course, The Children’s Book Hub and the LA SCBWI conference in 2011 all began to meet needs I felt to be growing in my storytelling craft and to build a supportive writing community/network, but I was missing a third element – challenge.

My first challenge came in signing up for PIBOIDMO 2011, and boy this kicked my butt into gear (thank you Tara Lazar). Now, when I started blogging early last year, I was on the look out for fellow kidlit blogs to follow and came across Julie Hedlund and her planned summer in Italy, just down the coast from where I was living. I started following her blog because of the Italian connection and because of her focus on the importance of thankfulness in our lives. I felt I had found a kindred kidlit writer and so when PIBOIDMO was coming to an end and Julie asked if any folks wanted to join her 12x12in12 challenge, I was one of the first to sign up, thinking it would be fun to be part of a small ongoing group challenge….. Whoa! One of the most exciting things about this year has been watching the growth, support and favor of the 12×12 group and many individual successes of participants. The children’s book-writing community, and especially the 12×12 group, has given me a tremendous sense of homecoming and belonging. We share our successes and heartaches, not only in our writing, but also in our personal lives. We share craft, agenting and publishing questions and tips and contribute to one another’s blogs. The level of mutual support is extraordinary, regardless of where one lives or whether published or unpublished.  I think 12x12in12 has been a tremendous initiative, which will continue to develop because it meets three key needs we writers have:




I am honored to be a part of this wonderful community and I sure hope I will be able to testify to a published 12×12 manuscript in the near future!

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. Her first picture book, SNOW GAMES, was published on the eBook platform, uTales, in May 2012. She can be followed on her blog, Miss Marple’s Musings and on Face Book and twitter @JoannaMarple.



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  1. This is a lovely post and very Joanna! I first met Joanna when the Hub forum started up, and eventually in person last year at the 2011 SCBWI Conference. Right away I loved her free spirit, kindred traveller, and passionate nature lover. If ever you publish your journaled travels I would be first in line to buy it. I am waiting for the day you visit our shores and enjoy natures beauty downunder. Thankyou Julie for showcasing a dear friend.

    • Diane, you and New Zealand is high up there on my list and thank you for encouraging me not to bin that travelogue idea!

  2. Lovely post, Joanna. Thanks for sharing your writer’s journey. I enjoy reading your posts and following you around the world. God bless you in your next endeavors!

  3. Craft Community Challenge-Yes! Thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. Great post Joanna. PiBoIdMo 2011 and 12 X 12 writing challenges have been the starting point for many of us on this new journey and it is wonderful watching everyone’s progress, including your own!

  5. I love the story of your journey. I totally agree – 12×12 really kicks it up a notch!

  6. Great post Miss Marple! I love it!

  7. Yippee Joanna!!!!!!! I love you and your journey! You really pay it back. CRAFT COMMUNITY CHALLENGE. Thanks, my friend! Sending you smiles and hugs. 🙂

  8. Joanna, you painted a full picture there of me, having never laid eyes on this southern Arkansas boy. The commonality among us as writers is worldwide. I think one reason we love the community aspect is that it helps us to define ourselves. Dreaming, wondering at the world around us makes us want to know who WE are in this story. Thanks for a. wonderful p

  9. And what a writer you are! This post captured what I I believe all of us feel about 12 x 12 in 12 and the online community that has developed as a result of this challenge. Well said! Thanks,Joanna.

    And continual thanks to you,Julie, for all your hard work and for creating 12 x 12 🙂

  10. Sounds like you’re on your way, Joanna! Can’t wait for your many stories just waiting to emerge. You are an inspiration to us all. Keep following your heart. And best of luck in this current challenge, aka, life’s adventure!

    • Ah, Sarah, another who has never shied away from life’s adventures! We are connected in so many ways and I love the mutual inspiration!

  11. Hurray Joanna! I always enjoy your broadly – experienced world view on books and writing.

  12. I think many of us started on this wonderful writing journey at about the same time. Great post Joanna and here’s to many more literary successes!

    Donna L Martin

    • So happy to be following yours and others progress too, Donna, as we took our first steps around the same time.

  13. Love this line: “I felt writing was for the pros. – those who had studied creative writing or poetry at college, whose grade 2 teacher had told them never to stop writing!” I have felt this way many a time. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Hahaha, I think I received a lot more comments about my atrocious handwriting than my budding creative skills in Grade 2!

  14. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Joanna. What a privilege to have been able to travel extensively and live in many foreign countries. You share my love of travel….and I am a former school librarian as well! I agree with your observations about PiBoIdMo and 12×12. They have been such a boost to my writing and I love the community we have developed!

    • Great to know you were a librarian too, Jarm! I follow your travels with great interest, as you know!

  15. What a wonderful post. Thank you, Joanna! I feel privileged to have come to know you through the Children’s Book Hub, and to have met you in person at SCBWI LA ’11 — I hope that is just the first of many meetings. Getting to know you more deeply over the past year has been, and continues to be, a joy. This line in your post particularly resonated with me: “The children’s book-writing community, and especially the 12×12 group, has given me a tremendous sense of homecoming and belonging.” “Homecoming” — yes. How true that we feel such a kinship with all these other writers across the globe that it truly is a homecoming. (That spot on my shelf is waiting eagerly!)

  16. As always, a delight to “visit” with you, Joanna, this time via Julie’s wonderful blog.

  17. A beautiful post, Joanna! I’m so happy you joined all of these writing communities, giving us all a chance to share in your passions and writing journey. It’s been wonderful getting to know you.

  18. I have to chime in on Beth’s comment because I agree with the same sentiment in your post, we are a community come home! I look forward to hearing even more about your life and where it has taken you – I will be on line for that collection, right behind Diane! Adding my comment to all the others is giving me chills! Rock on Joanna! Thanks Julie, for calling us together!

  19. What a lovely post, Joanna. I certainly cherish the 12 x 12 community. Writing is such a solitary experience, and having folks to share with is priceless.

  20. How exciting! 12×12 has been a wonderful community.

  21. Lovely post, Joanna. I enjoyed learning about how you got into writing. I think you are in a unique position from all your travels (50 nations!) to write picture books that make a real difference in inter-cultural appreciation. I can envision a whole library of Joanna books! Meanwhile, hope Snow Games is doing well. I also enjoyed learning about the 12×12 community. And Julie, thanks for inviting Joanna. This is my first time to your blog, and it looks very interesting. I’ll be back.

  22. I’m so glad you joined 12×12, Joanna. To your list, I would add “collaboration.” I feel like I learn so much from you and everyone else in this group. 🙂

  23. You refer to your nomadic life, but I always have thought of you as a free spirit who wants to learn as much about life as you can! You’ve had a remarkable life. And, I treasure the hours we’ve spent together over the last two years. Lovely post!

  24. Thank you, Pat. I love the term ‘free spirit’ and also treasure all our shared moments.

  25. Great post. Would love to hear more about your travels. It has been a pleasure getting to know you via the 12×12.

  26. A wonderful post from two wonderful writers. I love the many intersections of your lives & how so many of us share some or all of these intersections. Craft-community-challenge: what a succinct summation of our kidlit world!

  27. Joanna, you summed up this community very well. It is amazing that technology makes it easy for us to connect. I feel this kindred spirit with all of you even if we haven’t met in person. Well, as a story teller, I am sure you make a great writer!

  28. Thank you, Romelle.

  29. You are just a lovely human being Joanna Marple. Loved reading this post, of your global travels and your acknowledgement that community is something that we all desire. I can’t wait to see what contributions you make to the world of kid lit with all of your global expereinces. Great post!

  30. Aw, Elizabeth, thank you. I can’t wait to meet up some day with you and so many others here. I am sure our paths will cross.

  31. I’m very late in commenting. Sorry:( Joanne, I just wanted to let you know that I’m very grateful that you reached out to me and it’s been wonderful getting to know you through your blog and Facebook. Can’t wait to meet you in person.

  32. Thank you for this post, Joanna. I so agree with your points, especially about community. It’s nice to know that there’s a whole group of people, not just in the US but around the globe, who are all striving as I am, who all sit around and gnash their teeth over story arcs, and character development, and how to write a pitch, and on, and on. And a great thing about having such a global community is that, no matter when I post something, I know SOMEONE will be awake to read it! Happy travels to you. Sorry about the snow. 😉

  33. I’m late, but wanted to read your post. I’m never disappointed. So glad all the course, conference and the challenge joined forces in your life. I’m glad to know you and we enjoy Snow Games!

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