2013 was a year of change for me. I moved 2000 miles across the country to be closer to our daughter and five-year old grandson.
2014 will also be a year of moving closer – closer to my dream of having one of my picture book stories published.
Along this journey, I’ve met many others who share this dream – and every month this year, I’ll be turning the spotlight on them and asking them to:
- Reveal their goals for 2014
- Tell us the steps they are taking to reach them
- Share how they will reward themselves
I hope you will return every 1st Monday of the month to meet them – there will be familiar faces – and some new ones, too.
I thought it only fair for me to go first…so for today, you are stuck with me.
“IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU ARE PLANNING TO FAIL.” – Benjamin Franklin
I believe that clever Mr. Franklin knew what he was talking about.
Success in any undertaking calls for preparation. I’ve been laying the groundwork by participating in various challenges, writing prompts and contests for the last couple of years. For 2014, I am revving it up and digging deeper.
- 12×12 at the Golden Book level membership (registration opens TODAY!): Julie Hedlund has put together a challenge (write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months), a FORUM (where you can post the 1st 250 words of a manuscript for critique, as well as a query or pitch), a FB page (where you can interact with hundreds of incredible generous helpful kid lit writers/illustrators) and an opportunity to submit to literary agents every month, bypassing the slush pile. Not enough, you say? How about frequent posts by experts in the kid lit field and lots of PRIZES! 12×12 was one of the most important influences in keeping me accountable on this writing journey last year.
- Rate Your Story at the Pro membership level: Miranda Paul organized the Rate Your Story site where you can submit (free on one particular day of the month – many other times with the Basic and/or Pro memberships) a picture book manuscript for critique. The membership levels will also provide a newsletter and other submitting perks. The blog is a well-spring of valuable information with guest posters who share their expertise and that is available to everyone.
- PiBoIdMo: Tara Lazar founded the Picture Book Idea Month five years ago – 30 days of inspiration, education, motivation in November – it doesn’t get any better than that! Oh, wait…yes it does…there are also LOTS of SUPER PRIZES. I won a great prize in 2013 – a professional critique from author Pat Miller – woo-hoo!
- Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic: I’m signed up to take Susanna’s online class in February. I’m really excited because I’ve heard so many awesome comments from others who have taken it already. In addition to the course (which is EXTREMELY reasonable), Susanna also provides Holiday Contests, Short and Sweet Writing Prompts, Would You Read It Wednesday Pitches, Perfect Picture Book Friday…the list goes on and on…and she provides all of this (except for the online picture book writing course) for…FREE! If you want to immerse yourself in the kid lit community, hone your craft by participate in many writing exercises, but you don’t have any money to spend, please hurry over to Susanna’s website and join in…she is kind, generous and pretty darn smart. And don’t forget…there are PRIZES!
- Start the Year off Write: Shannon Abercrombie is hosting a new challenge for January…what a super way to begin the year. Today was Day One…and Julie Hedlund kicked off the challenge with the first post and writing exercise. Because writing is a solitary occupation, I find it so helpful to have the encouragement and support of others…AND, just as important, the accountability….which is what I love most about these challenges. They push me to stretch my creativity and inspire me to put aside the mundane chores like laundry and cooking in order to concentrate on writing. You can always wear that outfit one more time, after all…and order pizza!
- ReviMo: Meg Miller has put together a revision challenge that starts January 12. For one whole week, we will be REVISING! I never realized how important revising was until I started working with my two critique groups. Before, I thought that you wrote a rough draft, polished it up, and submitted it. WRONG! After reading many of the posts by published authors, I’ve been amazed at how many times they revise a manuscript – not 5, not 10, but 20 plus times! And even after it’s been accepted by a publisher, it STILL NEEDS REVISING! One of the perks of this challenge is that creative genius and mentor Mira Reisberg is giving a FREE webinar on Writing Cover Letters and Pitches – January 24. And a post about important steps towards one’s goals wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that sometimes, the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always work out. Last year I registered for Mira’s famous ‘The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books’ class…but because of the unexpected cross-country move we made, I was unable to take it…I don’t know if that is in the cards for this year – but it is certainly something I am planning for the future.
- Sub Six: Last year, author and life coach Alayne Kay Christian founded this group to encourage writers to submit. She understood that many writers LOVE to write…but HATE to submit. Usually, we hate things we don’t know how to do or things that are out of our comfort zone. What better way to get comfortable with something than to do it over and over and over again, with a supportive group behind you. The Sub Six FB group has a tally sheet where you can post your submissions…the members are helpful and caring. Oh, and there are PRIZES! Last month, I won a professional in-depth critique from Alayne. She’s also started a blog series, ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS…which is, as you can guess, all about submissions. It debuted today with a fabulous post by Sylvia Lui. I’ll be doing a guest post in June, sharing some tips about submitting to niche markets.
- Just Write For Kids: Award-winning children’s author Emma Walton Hamilton offers an online class – I actually won this at the end of 2012 as a prize from Julie Hedlund’s 12×12. I am sorry to say that although I completed 4 of the 8 lessons…and learned so much about what needs to go into writing a picture book that I didn’t know before (who knew I had to make a character study of my main character, as well as the other characters in the story), I got involved in packing and moving and wasn’t able to finish the class. I hope to do that, even though I may not get a certificate (since it is taking me more than a year)…but I can recommend the class as a fantastic way to learn about theme, character and plot. The five picture books that are used in the course are five of my all-time favorites!
- Critique groups: I’m a member of two fantastic critique groups – one group is international with members in South Korea, New Zealand, France and the US. The other is based in Colorado Springs…that was my local in-person group…when I moved, I was so humbled when they asked if I would stay a member and so we Skype for our once-a-month meeting. As I mentioned before, I never understood the critical importance of revisions…I also never thought my work needed to be seen by other eyes. Sure, my husband and daughter and son listened when I read my stories…and they were honest if they didn’t like it. But that is a far cry from having others, who are studying the craft of writing picture books, read your work…they will surely catch the rhythm issues, lack of story arc and other problems that need to be addressed. I love my critique buddies…I hope we will all remain friends forever.
- SCBWI: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an organization that every writer and illustrator should join. They provide conferences and workshops that are life-changing…and information, networking and support that is critical. I’m hoping to attend at least one conference this year…perhaps the New England SCBWI one that takes place in May in Massachusetts. There is also an awesome picture book workshop on March 3 in Amherst, MA at the Eric Carle Museum given by Harold Underdown. I would LOVE to attend, but don’t drive anymore, so we will see if I can work something out.
- Blogging and Social Media: I started blogging when my self-published award-winning parent-teacher resource book came out…as a way to reach my audience. I still blog with parents and kids in mind, but I’ve also added a strong emphasis on writing kid lit. My Monday Writing Magic posts provide writing tips and resources and upcoming events (with Goal-Buster posts occurring on the 1st Monday of each month). Fridays are reserved for Picture Book reviews and craft or cooking activities and I link up with Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. Will Write for Cookies is my author/illustrator interview series and I am wildly excited to have such a powerhouse lineup…Iza Trapani, Susanna Leonard Hill and Susanne Gervay last year and David Seow, Emily Lim, Dianne de las Casas, Emma Walton Hamilton, Chris Cheng, Jane Yolen, Anne Marie Pace, Julie Hedlund, Tara Lazar and more to come! Each will give us an inside peek at how and why they create…and they’ve also agreed to share one of their favorite cookie recipes. I’m planning on taking a baker’s dozen of these interviews and recipes and turning it into a book. I’d write for cookies (especially if they had chocolate in them), wouldn’t you? Many of you ask if, as an aspiring author, it is necessary to be active in social media channels. I don’t know the answer to that…there are many authors who have never used a computer…but I would say that some presence is preferable. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest and, of course, Word Press for my blog/website. It can get overwhelming, however, and just because I am on these networks, doesn’t mean I am using them as effectively as I could. For this year, I will be concentrating on the writing, revising and submitting…and stepping back somewhat from the social media.
- READING PICTURE BOOKS AND BOOKS ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING: Being surrounded with dozens of picture books is like being in heaven. Now that I am living with our 5-year old grandson, I can use him as an excuse when I walk out of the library, carrying a stack of books that is almost as tall as me…wait a minute…did I ever need an excuse to do that? Reading and carefully examining classic and newer picture books is one of the best ways to improve your own writing. There are also many resources that are crucial for writers to read: Ann Whitford Paul’s “Writing Picture Books” (thank you, Sheri) is the one I would recommend if there was only one book you could read…but there are many others.
So there you have it…my goals and the dozen steps I am taking to reach them.
Oh, that’s right…I promised to share the ways I reward myself.
I have a big bowl of air-popped popcorn EVERY EVENING! With an occasional piece of chocolate!
And when I close my eyes at night, I thank God for all that has been given to me – I am blessed to be a part of this incredible community (it’s so much fun to enter a FB group and see so many familiar names) – and happy to be doing what I enjoy – and thrilled to be living with the people I love.