Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Robb Terranova, is the embodiment of what this challenge and community is all about. He decided to follow his dream, jump in with both feet and swim, swim, SWIM! For me, I find it very inspiring when people come to writing for children later in life and pursue it with all the gusto that comes from that fabulous life experience. Robb proves that it is never too late to take action on a dream. Also, the old cliche that if first you don’t succeed – do everything in your power to learn what you need to learn. The 12 x 12 community is richer with Robb a part of it, and I have no doubt he will pull that brass ring in the near future. Please welcome Robb!
This Has Become An Exciting Journey
Holy scratch-paper, where to start?
They told me I could write for kids. So, I did. I wrote a story about a squirrel who got lost on a football field. One of my friends read it to her kids. She said they loved it. I think she lied, because not one of about 18 publishers liked it enough to send anything more than a form rejection letter.
Twenty years later I decided to try it again. I had a great idea for a Santa Claus story. I submitted it to a dozen agents. One was nice enough to add a short sentence to the bottom of the form rejection, “This is much too long.”
That didn’t make sense to me. It was only about 3,550 words.
I started researching ‘how to write children’s books. I couldn’t believe it, a thousand words or less, preferably a lot less. I think that’s where a lot of people give up. It’s easy to write a 3,550 word story. It’s not so easy to write a 500 word story. I decided I was going to learn how. I like making children laugh. I always enjoyed reading to my daughter and to the first, second, and third graders I subbed for. I started reading everything I could find on the internet about picture book writing.
Eventually that led me to Julie Hedlund and 12 x 12. I found a mention of a ‘great project’ that encouraged picture book writers to complete at least one book a month. I checked it out and found it was much more than that.
“My gosh,” I thought, “I’ve stumbled across a diamond mine.” Here was just what I was looking for, a group of people very interested in writing picture books. There were three membership levels, but the top level was fantastic. Not only did it offer some guidance, it also offered online critiques of the first 250 words of a story, but a dozen different agents – one a month – were tossed in. Every month I could submit a story to an agent who would be sitting there waiting for it.
I went for the gold. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. One thing I’ve learned about learning how to do things is that you can read, and study, and research all you want. That will help, but it’s not until you actually get your hands on the stuff and do it that you start to learn. Beyond that, if you can find someone to help guide you, your chances of success increase.
That’s the big thing 12 x 12 was offering me the chance to not only get ink on my hands, but to also get some guidance.
- Let me tell you a few of the things that have happened to me since I joined.
- I’ve written 16 picture books. A half dozen are making the rounds of the agents. Two are about ready to be submitted. The rest are all somewhere between first draft and submission ready.
- Through 12 x 12 I discovered the value of joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I attended a SCBWI conference with thousands of other Children’s book writers.
- I’ve discovered a number of courses teaching picture book writing, two of which I’ve taken.
- I also discovered ‘Rate Your Story,’ a site that offers publish-ability ratings and a critique for submitted stories.
- Also thanks to 12 x 12, I formed an online critique group with five other members; we discuss picture book writing and critique each other’s work.
- I started a blog: www.robbterranova.com
12 x 12 has led me to so many possibilities, I doubt I would have found as soon and as easily on my own.
So, to answer my question: “Holy scratch-paper, where to start?” 12 x 12 is a pretty good place.
Robb Terranova always wanted to be a writer. That’s how he stumbled into radio announcing. It was his creative outlet for 20 years creating on-air skits and stories, copywriting, and news reporting and writing. He’s also been a teacher and has read stories to first graders and high school seniors as well as to his daughter when she was growing up. He was born in New York, NY, raised in the Midwest, and he now lives in Southern California. He often overhears children asking their parents, “Is he a real pirate?”Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Books, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Guest Blog, Picture Books, Robb Terranova, SCBWI, Tuesday 12 x 12, Writer, Writing