Julie Falatko and I refer to each other as “the other Julie.” Truthfully though, she’s the original Julie and I’m “the other Julie” because we “met” on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast, and (the original) Julie was already a contributor. If you haven’t heard one of Julie’s picture book reviews on Katie’s podcast you are missing out. Each time I hear one I immediately want to go out and buy that book! It’s a gift. She should be on T.V. She’s a true picture book advocate, has a warped sense of humor (like mine), and is always on hand to give advice and encouragement. She also has the best blog name of all time – World of Julie (call me envious!). For all of these reasons, I am very excited to welcome Julie today as this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author.

In my 20s, I wrote and wrote, all terrible first drafts that I thought were brilliant, because isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? You get an idea, and the words flow out of you into a fully formed, excellent manuscript.

I can only pray that any of the magazines I submitted to have either folded or keep horribly unorganized records.

Then I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and it completely rocked my notion about how writing is supposed to go. It so rocked me, in fact, that I stopped writing for a few years. It was going to be work? I might have to revise for months? No thanks. I’ll wait for the magical fairies to take hold of my pencil and use me as their conduit for brilliance.

But I couldn’t stay away from writing. I kept having ideas, and I could only ignore them for so long before these characters started kind of yelling at me.

So now I write. And rewrite. And again. What I’m doing write now could probably most accurately be described as “Bird by bird by bird by bird and another bird by bird and in this next draft I think you should actually make this bird a manatee.”

I now have eight picture book drafts, thanks to 12×12. They are all awful. If an agent or editor were to hack into my computer and read them, I’d change my name and move to Canada. But they are drafts. They’re not necessarily supposed to be good. Yet.

Now I know. The first draft is the easy part. I write that, and let it sit, and then I revise when I can, for as long as I can. It takes a lot of time, and it should. Now I know: seemingly effortless writing takes lots of coffee, hair pulling, kid shushing, and nights when I lie in bed only to hear characters whispering in my ear, telling me to get up and write some more.

Julie Falatko loves to write, bake, run, and read – both to herself, and aloud to her children. She also loves to hide in the closet and eat chocolate meditatively when she’s pretending to fold laundry. Julie loves everything about children’s literature, and shares her love monthly with picture book reviews on Katie Davis’s Brain Burps About Books podcast. Julie blogs at http://worldofjulie.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @JulieFalatko, see what random food or sweaters she’s obsessed with on Pinterest http://pinterest.com/juliefalatko/ and see what she’s reading on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/268391-julie.

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Friendship, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. You’re funny, Julie F! I used to think revision was something you could do quickly and didn’t understand these authors who put their ms away for 6-12 mos or more. Now I understand. May your 8+ ms become successful someday!

  2. Glad you kept writing. Good luck with all those drafts.

  3. I’m with you on the running away from revision, Julie. I mean, if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time, then it wasn’t meant to be, right? It’s only since joining 12×12 and getting involved in the kids’ poetry community that I’ve learned to be a bit more disciplined and keep a notebook of ideas that I now let germinate for weeks or months before inflicting on the public. Good for you for getting eight awful drafts done — I look forward to seeing them become eight fabulous, Brain-Burp worthy books!

    • I have to say that, even though we’re all a little disheartened with all the kerfuffle about Jonah Lehrer’s “Imagine”, that book helped me a lot to think about revising. You might get the flash of insight that helps you write some brilliance, but it’s really through the dogged, hard work that your manuscript becomes brilliant. (AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I’M HOPING!).

  4. Julie – I adore your picture book reviews because you always find something so original to say about each book. Do you think that experience at critiquing influences your efforts to revise your drafts? Just mulling it over…..I am sure your 8 drafts will blossom into 8 stellar stories soon!

    • Well, unfortunately, sometimes doing picture book reviews just makes me feel glum. The books I review are ones I massively admire, and also ones I am depressedly in awe of. I often just think, “Well, I’ll never be able to write THIS, so what am I even doing?” That said, there are a lot of books that I read that I DON’T review, so it does make me feel that, well, someone liked THIS book enough to publish it, so it’s all maybe a matter of finding the agent and editor who agree with my/your vision (and my cracked sense of humor).

  5. Yep! When I first started writing, I thought my first drafts were pure GENIUS! So I sent them out. Uh-huh. And was totally insulted when a rejection was followed by more rejections. Then I slowly figured it out. Ha! Great to know you. Good luck with the revising.*waves peace sign*

  6. Thanks, Robyn! Good luck to you, too! I’m impressed that you sent out so much stuff. That’s the block I’m having right now — when will I know it’s the right time to send anything in? Ever? Right now I want to spend the next 12 months revising revising revising, and then SUBMITTING!

  7. Hi Julie, I love your sense of humor that comes across in your writing. My first, second, and sometimes third horribly suck as well. Glad to hear your first drafts are able to come out, I even have a hard time with that too. Best of luck with your writing and 8 drafts, I am sure they are as quirky and fun as your book reviews. It has been wonderful getting to know you!

  8. I always look forward to your reviews on Brain Burps, Your excitement is contagious and makes me want to own every book you review!
    I love your comments about revision. And I, too, had to learn that this writing stuff is actually time consuming and a boatload of work.
    My characters whisper to me at night, too. I keep my phone by the bed and email myself what they say…because it seems like such a great secret they are whispering. Sometimes when I look at the email in the morning, I wonder why I didn’t tell them to be quiet and go on to sleep…other times it truly is a great secret and it moves my manuscript on down the road a little bit!
    Thanks for a great post!

    • Ha, Penny! I always have that worry, too — that I’ll wake up in the morning and look at my scribbling and be like, “I roused myself out almost-asleep for THAT?” But the biggest problem seems to be that, since I’m writing in the dark and trying not to wake my husband, the notebook is completely illegible in the morning, and I’ve written three paragraphs all on top of each other.

  9. Thanks for a great post Jx2! Just reading Writing It Right: How Successful Children’s Authors Revise and Sell Their Stories/Sandy Asher. I really appreciate the window into published mss, copies of their first, tenth or twenty-fifth drafts. The first in the book kept TWO lines from the original in the final draft! I’ve come to see it all a bit differently, as I also illustrate – I do lots of sketches and some ‘have it’, but most of what I create has been worked over numerous times before I get to a final image – especially in designing something like a logo. It’s the process we learn to enjoy – the hard part is keeping the initial spark that was there in the first draft alive! Best of luck!

    • Julie (or should I say: Other, Other Julie): I love that book. I’ve been thinking about it a LOT with all the revising I’ve been trying to do. It’s hard — I write some things in first drafts that I love, but then it becomes clear that it needs to be cut. But I save all my drafts; who knows, maybe that line could show up in a completely unexpected place, in a totally different story, later on.

      The other book that has been HUGELY helpful is Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. It really takes you step by step through all the aspects of your story. It’s time-consuming, as it should be. It’s great.

  10. What a great post, and all so true!!! Isn’t it nice to know we all share the same struggles? At least we’re not alone in our coffee-drinking, hair-pulling, kid-shushing, woken by character voices in the night situations 🙂

    • Yeah, seriously, it’d be a huge bummer if all the comments were like, “What’s your problem, Julie? I usually have to revise like one time, and I have a quaint writing cottage where I go while my kids cook dinner and vacuum the living room.”

  11. Julie, I adore your brainburps reviews. You always make me want to run to the store for each book. You have a fabulous oral presentation technique, which makes me think that even if it takes you twenty drafts (as it does me), you will produce some pretty darn funny picture books!

    • Aw, thanks, Joanna! You’re so sweet! And I hope the publishers are reading these comments. See, publishers! It’s worth it to send me those review copies! I know I don’t pick them all, but the ones I do pick send people to the bookstores, money in hand!

  12. ““Bird by bird by bird by bird and another bird by bird and in this next draft I think you should actually make this bird a manatee.”” — this is a fantastic description of the revising process! Thanks for this post, Julie. (Has anyone ever counted how many Julies we have in this 12×12 group? Because it seems to be a very popular 12×12 name…)

    When I first started writing, and had a friend read my first attempt at a novel, she read it, handed it back and said, “It’s good, but it needs to be longer.” That was at the end of July (1996). I thought, “No problem, I’ll have it done by the end of August, maybe it’ll even be published by Christmas!” Um… I had so much to learn. Every revision of every piece of writing gets me closer to my goal! We can do this!!!!

    • I feel like if I’d done it right, I would have had another six “bird by”s in there. It often takes a long time to get to the AHA moment of finding the manatee. (When I become a motivational speaker, “finding the manatee” — or “transforming the manatee”? “discovering the manatee”? — will become part of standard working-hard-on-a-problem lexicon. Forget “who moved my cheese?” It’s all about finding the manatee!

      And thanks for telling the story of thinking you’d finish the novel in a month and have it published by Christmas. I’m so glad we’re all on THIS side of the research and work, no longer naive, but KNOWLEDGEABLE.

      • “It’s all about finding the manatee!” THAT is a fantastic statement of truth. Write that down somewhere.

        And YES to “so glad we’re all on THIS side of the research and work” — yes, indeed.

  13. Thanks Ms. Falatko! Good luck! Love the metamorphosis of bird to manatee! 😉

  14. I have had the very good fortune to know Julie since high school, and to enjoy her smart (and yes, warped) sense of humor, big beautiful smile and real talent for picture books since then. In fact, I happen to remember a certain set of comics that she made about my cat Puppy (ok, so he was exploring his species identity). In fact, I still have the originals, safely tucked away. Julie, when you become the picture book maven that you are destined to be, I will be the proud owner of some of your first works, and they are, truly precious.

    • No way! Naomi, I can’t believe you still have those comics! I so wish for that idyllic summer, sitting in the living room of that house on Martha’s Vineyard (because I HAD NO JOB — remember that? I think I applied every everywhere), with the time and inclination to draw comics about a cat named Puppy.

  15. Thank you for sharing your writing process. Bird bY bird by bird by bird… Love that. So nice to meet the “original” Julie. That was a great introduction by our Julie.

    • I think Beth Stillborn might be right — there seem to be an unusually high number of 12×12 Julies. And while I’d like to think I was the first, I can hardly claim to be the first 12×12 Julie. She’s Original 12×12 Julie, I’m original Brain Burps Julie. Both of those names, by the way, would have meant nothing to me two years ago!

  16. Julie Falatko, love your book reviews on BB! And, you sorta defined the revision process with your response to Tina above… “sigh-revising.” A part of writing life for sure.

  17. Julie H…thank you for these great 12×12 spotlight posts…I always learn so much! Julie F, thank you so much for sharing how hard one must work at writing and rewriting…in order to get it write/right! 🙂

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