There is something wonderful about the New Year. I see it as a time to look back on what I’ve done and it’s also an opportunity to make adjustments as I move forward. For the past few years, I’ve participated in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas – a challenge to lift up all you have accomplished. Because the business of writing can be fraught with rejection and disappointment, it’s all the more important to spend time celebrating the positive. and the steps you’ve taken to follow your dream and make it a reality.
Today is Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas and the assignment is to list ALL of your successes for the year…big ones and little ones. I feel so blessed because in 2012, I made a conscious decision to follow my dream and now I am living it…and I’m thrilled to be taking this journey with all of you! Here are my twelve writing success for 2018:
- Wrote 9 full length nonfiction picture book stories for a compilation book: FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin, Fall 2020) and met my May 1st deadline. There were times I worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with 9 polished manuscripts, but I employed the mindset of NEVER GIVE UP…and I kept going until I finished. Fortunately, I have a lot of amazing critique buddies who support and encourage me and give awesome feedback. I was thrilled to find out that the illustrator is none other than the award-winning Gilbert Ford…and last month I got to see the book dummy…YAY! And here’s a first sneak peek at a tentative illustration from that book dummy!!!
- Sold another manuscript early this year – one that is near and dear to my heart: MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020). This manuscript was an R&R three previous times with different editors over the past 3 years which just goes to show that NEVER GIVE UP is an important mantra for all of us. And the illustrator for that is the talented Alleanna Harris – I absolutely love her portfolio and can’t wait to see early sketches.
- Participated as a guest poster for writing challenges and blogs including: Tara Lazar’s Storystorm in January; Rate Your Story in June, and Beth Anderson’s Mining for the Heart in November. I’ve already scheduled more than a dozen guest posts for next year on blog around the world and on January 3 at 8:30pm, I’ll be joining several authors to chat about writing picture books (I’ll be talking about techniques for crafting your pitch and bio) on Mira Reisberg’s free mini workshop webinar How To Write A Picture Book with Awesome Authors.
- Hosted the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge. 298 wonderful stories were submitted and 15 prizes were awarded. The top winner chose as her prize a critique with my incredible agent, Essie White, and wound up accepting an offer of representation from her partner, the fabulous Vicky Selvaggio. I also held the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge in May although my husband had just passed away. But reading the stories the children had written was a wonderfully inspiring distraction. And I had so much loving support from friends and family that all was well.
- Picture Books Help Kids Soar, my blog, has 850 posts as of today with almost 200,000 views and a readership that spans the globe, from the U.S. and Canada to Switzerland and Germany to Singapore and New Zealand. This year, it was recognized as one of the top 100 children’s book blogs. This is amazing to me because when I started blogging, I was so afraid of technology and computers and was sure I would delete the universe with an incorrect keystroke. In 2018, I reviewed over three dozen picture books, featured many for their book birthdays, and interviewed two dozen authors and illustrators. And now, thanks to my talented daughter-in-law, I have an updated banner that captures a bit of my child-like spirit.
- Several manuscripts made it to the editorial team and/or acquisitions, but were ultimately passed on. However, since my wonderful agent also embraces the mantra of NEVER GIVE UP, I know that those stories will find a good home down the road.
- During the year, many kidlit friends reached out to let me know when the manuscripts I’ve critiqued have garnered agent and/or editor interest. This is such a thrill for me because as much as I love getting book deals of my own, I am over the moon when a friend finds success – and if it is a story I’ve given feedback on…oh my goodness…that is even better!
- I offered a mentorship in Susanna Hill’s Holiday Contest this month and I’m excited to work with the 1st place winner who chose me as his prize. That in itself is way cool and a wonderful validation. Plus, I was a finalist with my own story and I plan to expand it and submit it as a picture book story to my agent.
- I collaborated with the illustrators for two of my debut picture books and the experience was stellar! Jill Weber, a local critique buddy, shared early sketches and book dummy for PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019). And Mirka Hokkanen, one of my Storm Literary Agency teammates, did incredible research on the endangered animals and shared her illustration ideas and then the finished woodcuts (they are amazing!) for FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (PomegranateKids, March 15, 2019). And although the process for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019) was not as smooth, I’m proud to hold the finished book in my hands and it glows. Which brings me to number 10.
- Received my FIRST box of author copies! It’s been a long haul (the book deal was signed in November 2015…remember the mantra…NEVER GIVE UP)…but the finished product is beautiful and I am proud to have a book that honors Sarah E. Goode, one of the first African American women to secure a U.S. patent.
- Booked flights to Sydney to attend the Australia SCBWI conference in February where I will be presenting; and also to Auckland to spend a few weeks with a dear critique buddy, seeing the beautiful country of New Zealand and speaking with their local SCBWI members; also to Geneva to hook up with another dear critique partner and Storm teammate who may take me to London and France before we train to Italy for the Bologna Book Fair where I’ll meet up with yet another long-time critique buddy and dear friend who is flying in from Washington.
- I’m also filling my 2019 calendar with book events and conferences in the U.S. So far, I’ve been asked to be part of the faculty in May for the NESCBWI in Springfield Massachusetts which is my regional conference and I’ll be signing books at the annual ALA conference in Washington DC next June.
All of these successes sprang from a decision I made in the summer of 2011 – at the age of 64 – to become a traditionally published picture book author. I’d always been intimidated…by meeting new people, going to new places, doing new things. But I went skydiving with my son that summer and when my feet touched the ground, I knew that if I could do that, I could do just about anything. And I jumped into writing with my whole heart, just like I had jumped out of that perfectly good airplane…and I NEVER GAVE UP.
Yup…if you are looking for a formula…that’s the one that worked for me. I’m still nervous about getting up in front of a big audience and I don’t relish going places by myself, but taking the journey with this incredible kidlit community by my side has made all the difference.
Let’s step forward into 2019 together!