12 x 12 Member Johnell DeWittToday’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Johnell Dewitt, is one who can see the forest through the trees. In just a few short years she’s become an active member of the children’s writing community and most definitely part of its support system. I have a great deal of admiration for how much ambition and passion she’s brought, not just to her own writing, but also to helping other writers as she goes. As a fellow nomadic soul, I appreciate how challenging that can be when you’re always moving around, but perhaps too it is what grounds us most. Please welcome Johnell!

Every two to three years, I pick up my roots and replant them somewhere else, usually in another country. It’s a great lifestyle most of the time, but when I chose to pursue writing for children, I realized that in-person networking would be difficult. Fortunately, online forums like 12×12 provide connections vital to my growth as a writer.

There is power in community. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They are able to reach colossal heights and withstand amazing environmental stresses because they intertwine their roots. Despite their towering heights, the roots of the redwood are relatively shallow, sort of like my experience in writing for children.

I started seriously pursuing a childhood dream of writing picture books just three years ago, shortly after returning to the States. Fortunately, I had a writer friend who helped me get started. First thing she told me was to get on the Verla Kay (now SCBWI) blueboards.

With our nomadic lifestyle, an online forum was a perfect way to ease in. I spread my tiny roots out into the blueboards and was immediately grasped and strengthened by more experienced writers. I grew from their support.

From there, I learned about Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. I jumped on board, and loved meeting other writers through the Facebook forum. In fact, I realized that many of the people on the PiBoIdMo Facebook page lived near to my former home in Northern Virginia.

Long story short (see here for the long story), we set up a regional Facebook page and were able to arrange our own local events. Those in-person meetings were like Miracle-Gro for my budding root system. In fact, one of the writers I met through our regional get-togethers turned me on to 12×12 and that’s how I got here.

It’s easy to feel lost in a forest of towering authors and writers, but being part of a community like 12×12 jump starts the growing process. As we interlock our various life-experiences, we strengthen the entire system, making it possible for each of us to reach impossible heights.

So jump in. Reach out and extend your roots, no matter how shallow you think they are. As the redwoods attest, it doesn’t take a deep root system to thrive, just one that’s willing to give and receive nourishment from the forest of writers around them.

Johnell DeWitt is a former public relations executive and aspiring children’s book writer. Johnell blogs with her writing group at dewdropsofink.blogspot.com.

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



  1. What a superfun post, Johnell! It is always surprising to me how real and how close online support groups can become. Keep reaching for the sun! Good luck.

  2. Johnell, it’s wonderful to learn about your writing journey!!! Until I joined 12×12 I didn’t realize how wonderful an on-line writing relationship can be 🙂

  3. Johnell, thank you for your inspiring post!

  4. Such a beautiful essay on the power of community and setting down roots. Best of luck in your writing career, Johnell, whether you’ve settled somewhere or are in a peripatetic phase!

  5. Hi Johnell! What a great analogy with the redwood trees! That’s so perfect. The Northern VA writing community is not the same without you. . . you were an excellent organizer. I wish you the best of luck as you settle in El Salvador. (And I think I’m the one that mentioned 12×12 when we met at the Fairfax library last November! So glad you joined! 🙂

  6. Julie, thank you for your nice intro. And Kelli, thank you for making this look good. 🙂

  7. What a fantastic analogy. I will carry that image with me for a long time, to make me think of the way we writers are connected, our roots intertwined. Thank you, Johnell — and thank you for being a part of our community of writers. All the best in your continued growth as a writer and in all you do!

  8. Lovely post, Johnell! I’m grateful that you’re part of my writing community.

  9. Nice post, Johnell. I’m glad we connected through the Midatlantic group, though I’m bummed that we won’t get to meet in person. Happy trails and writing!

  10. I enjoyed the metaphor that ran through this post! I also appreciate that you highlighted the importance of online writing communities, and shed light on the fact that the Internet Age allows us to work from wherever we choose—we’re not mandated to pick up and move to NYC. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Miranda. And double thanks for being one of those redwoods that we all benefit from. Love your RYS program.

  11. Hi Johnell, great job SHOWING exactly what these writers communities are like. You are truly one of the Redwoods – wherever u are.

  12. Great post and a wonderful analogy! 😀

  13. Super post, Johnell – love learning about others’ journeys! And I also adore the analogy 🙂

  14. Hi Johnell! I hope you journal. What amazing adventures you must have hopping from place to place.

  15. Johnell, You are so amazing! Thanks for getting the writers in NoVa together. I’m so glad we network online too. 🙂

  16. Great post! What an adventurous life!

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