Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Julie Rowan-Zoch is practically a neighbor – a fellow Coloradan! I was glad to read this post because I realized (the horror!) that I wasn’t following her blog. I’ve certainly rectified that and encourage you all to follow it too. She’s only been blogging since March and is practically a poster-child for launching a blog well. Please welcome Julie!

My Classroom: the 12x12in’12 Challenge

“Are you really serious about writing that picture book?”


A friend was learning to be a creativity coach and needed a guinea pig. She helped me to create an overview of what it would take and a plan of execution – and kicked my butt! But uncontrollable tragic events shook things up in 2011, and slowed me down. My friend helped me give myself permission to let go of the creative process and put things away for a while. I continued developing skills, mostly through reading, which pulled me up and kept me going.

When she saw I was in need of more to focus on she packed up art supplies, drove me to a local garden and said, “Paint.” I have since been enamored with watercolors and continue to learn on my own.

My ‘coach’ talked me into joining SCBWI and I found an illustration contest to participate in. Viewing other entries through Diandra Mae’s Unofficial Gallery of the Tomie dePaola Award (, led me to fellow participant websites where I kept seeing sidebar badges over and over, and the cute illustration on the 12x12in’12 badge intrigued me most. As soon as I read through the guidelines I signed up. I thought it was crazy, but hey, just a rough draft? I can DO that!

Participating really got the juices flowing! And daily contact on the facebook page has had an enormous effect on my self-discipline. I am now reminded of how much more I can learn in a classroom than alone from a book. The 12x12in’12 Challenge has become the classroom I needed. The solidarity, the sharing of ups and downs, tips and warnings, and above all joy – all these things have become a lifeline.

Back in (pre-computer dark ages) art school (FIT in New York and Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste in Braunschweig, Germany) one of the strongest
influences on the betterment of my own work was learning to critique my classmate’s artwork and learning to accept and work with the criticism I received. This is no different and equally necessary in my writing.

Despite great effort within my local SCBWI Schmooze group I couldn’t get a PB critique group going (though I am now on the verge!), so I literally had no one to bounce my thoughts off of. Through 12×12 I also have 4 ‘VIPs’ – Hi Kirsten, Jen, Jodi and Rena! – to do that with! I also love the stories shared from all over: Andi’s tornado warnings, Joanna’s aperitifs, Miranda’s African trek, Erik (the kid himself is amazing!), walking with Diane in Aotearoa…and all the new baby pics!

In March I completed my first PB dummy and entered it for the SCBWI Don Freeman WIP Grant, and thanks to Susanna Hill and Punxsutawney Phyllis’
World Tour, I started a blog, which I am unexpectedly getting a big kick out of!

So why stop there? I recently decided to raise the ante of my illustration efforts by posting weekly on, much like Rena Traxel’s A-Z: 26 Poems in April, using a given word for inspiration.

I still feel as energized now as I did starting 12x12in’12 four months ago! When I go to the local Schmooze meetings I feel informed and up-to-date, and able to contribute – which is huge considering I only started attending a few months before starting the challenge!

The images I have included are digital (AI): the profile pic really does look like me, and the squirrel is part of a series I am trying to launch in Café Press – stay tuned!

At this point, and forever more, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Julie Hedlund and all my fellow Challenge-mates!

Julie Rowan-Zoch is a graphic designer morphed by motherhood into super-volunteer, spun into a pre-pubbie cocoon, soon to spread wings as a writer and Illustrator of children’s books. Designer is only one of many jobs she has held: caterer, bartender, art teacher, pre-school teacher, cheese wrapper, gardener, house cleaner, and co-creator a local-biz coupon book! Raised on Long Island, NY, matured in Germany, unfolding in Colorado. Find her on Facebook: and her blog:

Categories: 12 x 12 in 2012, Picture Books, SCBWI, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,



  1. Nice to learn more about you Julie. (I’m in Colorado Springs!)

  2. It’s fun to read about you, Julie. You’re very creative and lucky you had a “coach.” I agree….the enthusiasm in our 12×12 group is invigorating. Love how you described yourself as raised, matured, and now unfolding! And a cheese wrapper job? sounds like humor for a story!

  3. I have been loving seeing Julie’s work on Rena’s blog this month. Julie you sound as though you are on a fast track this year, doing everything you can to become that published author/illustrator.

    I lived in Hamburg for a while, which is not far from Braunschweig!

    I actually think you could have a career in sock puppet picture book character creation, myself!

    Rock on Julie, and feel free to drop in for an apéritif some time!

    • Merci liebe Joanna! Actually lived in Hannover and the cheapest commute was a monthly open train ticket for all Germany. Lunch in Bremen? Exhibit in Duesseldorf? Lets go!

  4. Lovely to hear more about you, Julie. You’ve achieved a lot in a short time and your illos are brilliant, so fresh and new!

  5. Loved your story, Julie. And I just subscribed to your blog, too – it looks great! I’m glad you started following Illustration Friday – I actually pop into Linda Silvestri’s blog to see what she comes up with, so now I can pop into yours too. 🙂

    • One of the benefits to IF has been blog hits from all over the world though it still doesn’t get me a view of the Mediterranean! Or maybe I should send that in as a theme suggestion! lol

  6. Fantastic post!!!! Julie, I had no idea you were a cheese wrapper! You are too funny!! I’m so happy for you that you are now in a better place than before the challenge. I love how you named the 12 x 12 your “classroom” -perfect! Can’t wait to hear about Cafe Press!

  7. Julie, I feel so lucky to have “fallen in” with you, Jen, Rena and Jodi. All your hard work shows in your illustrations, the stories you write and the thoughtful critiques you offer. I know you will find success.

  8. Julie X2, what an energizing post! As a creativity coach, I want to congratulate and connect with your coach as well as with you! Your passion and excitement are contagious, and I have no doubt you’re going places. Best wishes…

  9. I’m excited about the squirrel series – keep us posted!

  10. You are so blessed, Julie, to have a friend cheer and urge you on to greater heights. As soon as our blogging challenge is over, I’m going to connect back with my critique group…thanks for the inspiration!


  11. You’ve come so far so fast, Julie! And we are all so glad you’re here with us! 🙂

  12. I loved reading about this! It’s fun to know there are others just starting out on the writing/publishing journey sharing the same issues and joys. Great interview!

  13. Great post, Julie. And a helpful reminder that no matter where we are we can get unstuck, take time out, find a different path… but a creativity coach! wow! that is way cool.

  14. Nice to get to know you, Julie. Love your enthusiasm. I went to FIT at night a long time ago in the continuing ed program while I worked days on a big bank’s trade floor. Loved it–and yes–so good for learning to give/get critiques.

  15. You’ve come a loong way, Julie. It is lovely to meet you. Thanks for sharing. Love the idea of a creativity coach.

  16. Wow, Julie – you’re like a rocket going for your stars! Wonderful blog, great story of how you got to 12 x 12…you give me new fuel. Cheers to you!

  17. Julie, you are a fireball. LOL of laughs. Just scrolled up to see other comments and saw many similar descriptions. Your enthusiasm is refreshing and I love your artwork. Love the idea of a creativity coach. Inspiring interview!

  18. i LOVE LOVE LOVE that squirrel. Keep me posted on that!!

  19. I cannot believe you only started your blog in March! AMAZING, Julie! You are so creative and so supportive of us in 12 x 12. I am inspired by your story. Wish you could bottle that energy. I’d but a case. I’d also buy that cute Phyllis puppet!! Thank you Julie for this post! Fun read!

  20. Julie — It has been a pleasure getting to know you this year. Your illustrations are awesomely unique! Looking forward to following your progress in 2012!

  21. Thank you Ms. Rowan-Zoch! I really apprecieate “talking” to people from all over the world! I’m am glad so many people like writing and reading! This is awesome! I liked reading your story about you and 12x12in’12!
    One for all and all for writing and reading!

  22. Julie, thank you for sharing your journey with us. You have accomplished so much in four months. Looking forward to hearing about what else 12×12 brings your way.

  23. Very nice Julies (plural). You are both amazing and hope to meet each one of you one day. Julie RZ, I always appreciate your positive comments. You’re a wonderful support on 12×12. 🙂

    • I bow to you Brenda. Your having asked us illustrators for questions before you went to the conference AND sharing all the answers with us was priceless! THAT is true support!

  24. What a fantasticly interesting daughter I have. Love Mom

  25. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for your love of creating. You are very blessed to have great a support group with whom you can interact.

  26. Yay! I also just followed your blog. I’m kind of sad we no longer live in the same state. I was looking forward to seeing you at fall conference. Maybe it’ll still happen one of these days… somehow.

  27. Wonderful post Julie and Julie! I really enjoyed hearing about your journey. I have thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations you have shared in our A to Z Poetry Challenge. You are very talented. Good luck with all your writing and illustrating endeavors!

  28. Julie, thanks for relating your journey. It’s critical to be reminded that when life throws you a curve it’s okay to retreat for a while, but still let the embers of creativity burn beneath the temporary ashes. We are all susceptible to life happening, but all writers and illustrators have that burn down there beneath the surface, that should be nurtured during down times.
    (Thanks Julie H for making a way for these wonderful cohorts to share with us.)
    Hmmm….I kinda think cheese-wrapping would be calmly therapeutic…

    • Thanks SevenAcreSky, I hate to burst the bubble but cheese wrapping was exhausting and understandably smelly! Folding clothes is more therapeutic for me, probably because I complete the task while viewing favorite classics: two I’d suggest are ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ and ‘Hobson’s Choice’. Enjoy!

  29. I’m so glad Julie that you joined the challenge! You have been a wonderful critique partner! I have been enjoying your stories and your illustrations. I love how one of your jobs was cheese wrapper. I also need to get myself a coach.

    • Thanks again Rena. I appreciate how much you have involved us in your process, be it stories, poetry, blog set-up, biz cards – you are ‘wonderful to have in class’ (you’ll get it when your own darlins bring home report cards!)

  30. Hi Julie! It was so great to read about more about you. Illustration Friday is a great prompt for inspiration. Good luck on your further creative adventures!

  31. Julie! It was so great to learn more about you! What an interesting life you have had! I am impressed and inspired that you are teaching yourself to watercolor. I think I my try that! I am so glad you found this place as a source of motivation and inspiration. 12×12 has been truly amazing. Great post!

  32. Thanks Elizabeth. Do try water colors! I always thought it too difficult after I ‘painted’ a hole through my first attempt…long time ago!

  33. This was a wonderful Julie duet. 🙂
    Thanks Julie 1, for bringing Julie into the spotlight!
    Julie 2, you are definitely an inspiration…and I was thrilled to find out that you are a Colorado implant from NYC…me too, athough I got here via Connecticut, not Germany. 🙂
    The 12×12 group has been life-changing for me…even though I don’t even participate as much as I would like to (as in the Facebook page discussions). I’m following your blog now and Facebook page…maybe we will connect face-to-face one day…like Stacy, I’m in Colorado Springs. And isn’t RMNP an amazing place…inspiration for writers and illustrators galore. 🙂

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