Julie Hedlund – Will Write for Cookies

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WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

JULIE HEDLUND

I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor several years ago when I hesitantly wriggled my writing toes in the waters of kid lit. There was a strong community that was building around Julie’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge – write a picture book draft every month for a year – what a novel idea! I took a deep breath, pinched my nose, and jumped in – and the rest is history. Julie Hedlund is a trailblazer…from an app of her first picture book, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys to a Kickstarter Campaign for her latest one, My Love for You is the Sun. Her Renaissance Writer’s Retreat in Florence, Italy is an opportunity of a life time that I hope one day to attend. Best of all, she is a friend to all writers and illustrators. She speaks at SCBWI and other conferences and generously shares her knowledge and expertise. I finally got to meet her at a Peter Brown book event in Denver, right before I moved from Colorado. I’m thrilled she agreed to participate today – so, without further ado…here’s JULIE!

HEAD SHOT

 

Welcome, Julie! Thanks again for being here. I know you’ve got a lot to say, so I’ll start with the first question.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 

Julie: Well that’s an easy one – Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss. It’s funny because I don’t remember reading very many picture books as a child. I lived in a small town in Northern Michigan, and when I was little, we just had a tiny library with an even tinier children’s book session. But somehow I read (devoured more like) every Dr. Seuss book. 

 

The first illustrations I remember loving were Hilary Knight’s in ELOISE, which is also one of the first books I owned. Oh how I pored over them for hours and hours. And you know what? I still do! 

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ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

 

Julie: I don’t mean to sound discouraging, but I wish I had known that the writing never gets easier. Other things about the business get easier, but not the writing. Every book is its own being, comes about in a unique way, and uses pieces of your heart and brain that haven’t been used before. I spent a lot of time worrying that I just wasn’t “getting it” because I found each manuscript as challenging as the next. I hope by sharing this, others can be spared some frustration and self-doubt. 

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ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

 

Julie: I have a desk that faces out to my yard and the Rocky Mountains beyond, so I can’t complain. I do most of my physical writing on a computer, but the truth is I do the vast majority of my writing in my head. I know that sounds like a copout, but because I ruminate over stories for so long, many times by the time I sit down to write I’m usually able to knock out a complete draft or a full revision. Not that the first drafts (or revisions) are always good mind you, but they’re usually fully-formed.

 

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

 

Julie: No official schedule here. I WISH I could be that type of writer, and believe me I’ve tried. What works for me is deadlines. Imposing deadlines on myself was the primary motivation for creating 12 x 12. It’s also why I attend as many workshops and courses as I can. For example, this winter I was preparing for Jane Yolen’s picture book boot camp. You can bet your booty I was writing up a storm to get ready for that one! 

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ME: Why do you write for children?

Julie: Because once I had children of my own, I fell 100% in love with picture books.  To end with the beginning, I think it’s because I don’t remember reading many of them as a child that I was so overjoyed to discover their beauty and sophistication. Also, I truly believe books change children’s lives for the better. The idea that one of my books might mean the world to a child is all the motivation I need. Plus, writing for children is just plain FUN! Right now I have a dragon, a talking stick, a cowgirl in medieval times, and dancing dogs as just a few of my main characters. Lucky me!

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ME: Please share any tips that will help aspiring writers/illustrators or anything else you feel would be of interest.

 

Julie: Advice for aspiring writers…it’s not very sexy – but my advice is to be patient. The most common trait I see in newer writers is a huge sense of urgency to be published, to “make it,” to grab the brass ring. Even worse is when that desire turns to entitlement — that they deserve to be published NOW and WHY is it taking so long? 

I think this mindset comes from a mistaken view that once they get that publishing contract, or the agent, or the first foot in the door, the world will open up to them and the struggle will be over. I understand that deep desire, I do. I’ve been there. But now that I’m on what other people perceive to be the “other side,” I can tell you there is no brass ring. The second book isn’t easier than the first. Your agent won’t like everything you write and his or her submissions on your behalf will still get rejected. There will be bad reviews. Days when the writing just won’t come. The only people who make it in this business are the ones who are in it for the long haul. You have to love the writing for itself and trust that the rest will come. I HIGHLY recommend all your readers go out and pick up a copy of TAKE JOY by Jane Yolen. She says this all far better than I ever could. 🙂

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Now, after all that I think we deserve a treat. For me, digging up a recipe was the most challenging part of writing this post. While I love cooking, I’ve never been a baker, and especially not now that I have the added challenge of high altitude in Colorado. But I do love these Bourbon Balls. AND, they don’t require baking. 🙂

 

Bourbon Balls – Makes about 25

6 oz vanilla wafers

1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you prefer)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 tbsp honey

1/2 cup bourbon

1. Put cookies in a plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. Put the crumbs in a large bowl and add the nuts, cocoa powder and half the confectioner’s sugar. Add the honey and bourbon. Stir until mixture forms a stiff paste. Add a little more bourbon if needed.

2. Shape the mixture into small balls. Place on a platter and chill until firm.

3. Roll the balls in the remaining confectioner’s sugar, then chill for 15 minutes. Then roll again in the sugar.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, JULIE! I know everyone joins me in a rousing cheer for all the golden nuggets you shared. In fact, I’m on my way to see if I can grab of copy of Jane Yolen’s TAKE JOY. And the Bourbon Balls remind me so much of the rum balls I used to make – yum!

If you would like to find out more about Julie, her picture books and apps, 12×12, the Renaissance for Writers or any of the other fabulous things she is involved with, please click on the links below.

 

  1. juliehedlund.com
    Coming Fall, 2014! MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN
    Now in Print! A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS
    Available on iTunes: A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS(IBPA Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award Winner, 2014)
    Available on iTunes: A SHIVER OF SHARKS (Digital Book Award Winner, 2014)
    Founder, 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge
    Leader, Writer’s Renaissance Retreat in Florence, Italy

    Facebook Twitter

12 x 12 in 2012: Picture Book Writer’s Party!

julie hedlund, vivian kirkfield

Have any of you read “The Celestine Prophecy”?  Author James Redfield talks about ‘synchronicity’…a term first used in the 1920’s by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.  Redfield explains that coincidences have a meaning personal to those who experience them.

Late last year, one of my blogging buddies, Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way, suggested I check out a Friday linky of Picture Book Reviews.  I hurried over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday…and I’ve happily been there every Friday since then!  Susanna also hosts writing contests and writing prompts that encourage us to express our creativity.

Connecting with an amazing kid-lit community that followed Susanna’s blog, I met dozens of wonderful writers (one of whom has a birthday today…Happy Birthday, Beth!!!!), illustrators, librarians, teachers, moms…one of those was Julie Hedlund.  It turns out that Julie had just organized a challenge called 12×12 in 2012…write a picture book draft every month of the coming year.

My love affair with picture books began over sixty years ago, but I had put away my picture book writing when I started working on my book for parents and teachers, “Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.   Heart beating like a rock-band drummer, I immediately signed up.

And now the year is almost over…so it is definitely party-time!  I know WE are all ready!

I have completed twelve picture book drafts…twelve more than I would have had if not for Julie Hedlund!  Two or three have been critiqued and polished (hopefully enough) and will be submitted to publishers/editors shortly.

  1. Caroline’s Flower-Sprigged Hat
  2. Whom Do I Love?
  3. The Boots of Dylan McGee
  4. The Tomato Turner
  5. No Brother for My Birthday
  6. Grandma’s Visit
  7. Confessions of the Tomato Turner
  8. Hugs Are Not For Sale
  9. How Can I Learn How to Snow
  10. The Witches of Fairy Top Hill
  11. Where Is Buddy?
  12. Further Adventures of The Tomato Turner

Julie’s blog also provides guest posts by writers, illustrators, editors and others who love children and books…each sharing a journey that motivates and teaches.  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that we couldn’t have done it without her.

I also have thirty picture book ideas, generated during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo…an amazing challenge in November that I recommend to anyone who has ever thought of writing a picture book or to anyone who has dozens of published picture books…the information and inspiration gained by reading the guest posts is invaluable!

This year has been a joyous one for me…due, in large part, to my immersion in Julie’s picture book writing challenge.  It’s kind of like a picture book party where I am always dancing around, scribbling story titles, character names and plot ideas…what fun!

I will be retiring from my ‘day’ job on December 31…lots more time for picture book writing, I’m sure!  I’ll be hopping aboard the 12×12 in 2013 train…I’m looking forward to continuing this picture book writing journey…with Julie Hedlund as the engineer!

Show Me How is in the News!

THE SUMMER IS MORE THAN HALFWAY OVER!

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE…KIDS ARE OUT BUYING NEW SCHOOL SUPPLIES….AND TEACHERS ARE GEARING UP FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR.

This post is a summary of some of the projects I have underway and some of the events that have been taking place recently, here in Colorado.

WE’VE BEEN POUNDED BY TRAGEDY…FIRST THE WALDO CANYON FIRES RIGHT HERE IN COLORADO SPRINGS (AND VARIOUS OTHER WILDFIRES IN THE REST OF THE STATE) AND JUST LAST WEEK, THE AURORA THEATER MASSACRE, WHERE TWELVE PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES AND DOZENS OF OTHERS WERE SERIOUSLY INJURED.

MANY ASK…HOW CAN WE STOP THIS TYPE OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE?

UNFORTUNATELY, I DON’T THINK THERE IS AN ANSWER…NOT UNTIL EVERY PERSON’S HEART IS FILLED WITH LOVE FOR OTHERS.

WHAT WE CAN DO IS PRAY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN IMPACTED.  WE ARE ALL ONE FAMILY.  WE CAN REACH OUT TO EACH OTHER WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION BECAUSE, IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY, LOVE IS WHAT HEALS.

WE CAN ALSO TRY TO MAKE OUR OWN LITTLE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

SOMEONE WHO DOES THAT VERY WELL IS picture book author, SUSANNA LEONARD HILL.

DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR, SHE HOSTS A PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY  WHERE SHE INVITES OTHERS TO LINK UP WITH A PICTURE BOOK REVIEW AND RELATED ACTIVITIES AND RESOURCES.

FOR THE SUMMER, SHE HAS COME UP WITH A WHOLE NEW CHALLENGE: SUMMER SHORT AND SWEETS.

DO YOU LIKE TO WRITE?  ARE YOU AN ASPIRING AUTHOR?

JOIN SUSANNA AND FRIENDS FOR THIS CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE.

I hope you will check out this fun-filled writing exercise!  Here is my entry for week #3:

I am Castle.
Gray as weathered stone in a cloud-filled twilight.
With tall turreted towers.
Decaying.
Crumbling.
Adjacent to an ancient herb garden where quartz paving stones glisten in the moonlight.
Guarding a hidden secret.
Protecting a forgotten treasure.
Waiting for eventual discovery.
Like a tightrope walker holding his breath.
I am Castle.

Another project for me this summer was to submit a picture book to Rate Your Story.  This amazing website is hosted by several children’s authors, illustrators and editors.  They provide professional manuscript critiques and other services…but will look over your story for FREE and rate it from “1”…great story, you should consider submitting…to “10”…consider this story as practice and write another one.  In addition, some of the judges may even give your story some constructive suggestions to help make it better.

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted, “The Boots of Dylan McGee”.  This is a rhyming picture book that tells the story of a little boy who wants to be a cowboy and loves his boots so much that he never wants to take them off. 

Here’s the first verse:

Dylan McGee was a cowboy-in-training.

Boots were his garb, whether sunshine or raining.

“It’s time to go nighty-night”, Momma would say.

But take off his boots?  Nada, nix, no and nay!

 When his boots begin to hurt his feet because they are too small, “he tried to remove them but couldn’t succeed…those boots wouldn’t budge ‘cause he’d grown like a weed.”

Early this week, I got the reply back…”The Boots of Dylan McGee” scored a “3”… which means: good story, get a critique or two and polish before submitting.  I was really excited because the judge gave me three awesome suggestions which I am working on implementing to make the story better and ready to put out there in publishing-land.

I’m also continuing in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge.

I’ve been having so much fun since January…writing a picture book draft each month.  Thanks to Julie and the encouraging group of more than FOUR HUNDRED participants, I now have seven picture book drafts waiting to be revised and polished and revised and polished and revised and polished some more.  July’s picture book draft is completed!

Another project for me is to de-clutter my garage. 

 

As the comic strip character, Cathy, would say, “AACK!!!!!!”

I know that clutter is a problem for many of us.  Objectively, I understand that clutter creates stress.  Subjectively, it is difficult to decide what to keep and what to toss.

But I have done a little work on this and plan to do more every weekend until I am done.

As Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way would say, “Aaaah, that’s better.

And now I’d like to share some lovely news.

Lovely news #1: Last week, I got an email from WordPress notifying me that I had reached a milepost in “likes”…1000 of them.

For that I have to thank all of you, my readers!  Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to write, especially because I love to read and comment on everyone else’s posts.  I’m thrilled to have connected with so many people all over the world…what an exciting journey this has been!

Lovely news #2: I just got word from TaRhonda Thomas, Emmy-winning anchor for the 9News Morning Show in Denver.  She will be interviewing me on August 27th and we will be discussing an extremely timely topic for the opening of the new school year…how parents can detect the subtle signs of bullying.  I’ll share more details in future posts.

Lovely news #3: Diane Kress Hower over at bookwisdombydiane did an amazing review of Show Me How! and also one of Cindy Moo.  She has a spot on the local NBC affiliate KKCO TV 11 News morning show where she spotlights children’s books.  On Tuesday morning, she talked about the importance of self-esteem and how those two books were wonderful resources for parents and teachers.  Diane is offering a copy of each of the books as a giveaway on her website…you just need to leave her a comment.

Lovely news #4:  My daughter and her family will definitely be moving to Colorado Springs within the year…I can’t wait to be able to spend more time with my grandson!

It’s a Picture Book Party for 12 x 12’ers AND a Giveaway!

 

There will definitely be CAKE!  I’m sure Jeremy will be happy to share a piece with you.

 

You are welcome to help yourself to an Overnight Cookie!

And make sure you read through to the end, because there is a prize lurking around!

I’m joining in on the six-month celebration of Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge.

In January, Julie issued a challenge to picture book writers and illustrators: write a picture book draft each month of 2012.  Hundreds of people hopped aboard the 12 x 12 train and Julie set up an amazing Facebook page to encourage participants to connect with each other.  Her blog posts are a treasure…filled with information and valuable advice…often offered via interviews with editors, authors, illustrators and others in the field of children’s picture books.

I’ve had a life-long passion for picture books…as a child, I loved listening to them…as a teacher and mom, I loved reading them to kids…and for the past forty years, I’ve dabbled in writing them.

Julie’s challenge has spurred me to do more than just dabble…and in the past six months, I’m proud to say that I HAVE written six picture book drafts…and scribbled ideas for quite a few more!

What’s so  special about picture books you may ask?

  • Picture books are usually a child’s first introduction to the written word.
  • Picture books help develop better reading readiness and literacy skills.
  • Picture books introduce children to the world of art.
  • Picture books help parents and children bond with each other.
  • Picture books are a crucial tool for encouraging life-long learning among children.
  • Picture books allow kids to relate their own life experiences to the events in the story.
  • Picture books help build self-esteem in children.
  • Picture books are enjoyable and entertaining.

Here’s an example of one of the classic picture books that I love.

Do those words sound familiar?  This verse comes from one of the most famous picture books every published.  Madeline was written in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans, an Austrian author who relocated to New York City.  Madeline is quite the modern day young girl who thinks for herself and has courage and determination.

Maybe one day, my stories will be enjoyed by children all over the world…for now, my grandchildren and the kindergarten classes I visit during the school year are my audience.  In the next few days, I plan to submit one of them to Rate Your Story.

 In January, my picture book draft was a rhyming story about my daughter and her favorite hat: Caroline’s Flower-Sprigged Hat.

 In February, I wrote another rhyming tale about a bunch of unlikely Valentine’s: Whom Do I Love?

 In March, my picture book draft relayed the saga of a little boy who refuses to take off his boots: The Boots of Dylan McGee.

 In April, I entered Susanna Leonard Hill’s Birthday Contest with another rhyme about a little girl who came up with an ingenious idea because she didn’t want her brother to come to her party: No Brother for My Birthday.

 In May, I turned my efforts to prose in a true story about my younger son: The Tomato Turner.

 And this month, I wrote a sequel to the saga: Confessions of the Tomato Turner.

 I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy.  This wonderful kid lit community is filled with picture book authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers and others who love picture books and understand how important they are for children.  I am so fortunate to have connected with them and I look forward to the second half of the year…Thank You to Julie, Susanna, Tracy, Penny, Clar, Joanna, Stacy, Tina, Robyn, Beth, Heather, Catherine, Kirsten, Jennifer Y, Jennifer R, Amy, Jackie, Darshana, Emily, Diane, Renee, Erik…I know I’ve missed a bunch of you…but I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and your comments on mine…and I’ve learned so much!

 

And now for the prize!  This is the 300th post on my blog!  I’m so excited because when I started out almost two years ago, I knew almost nothing about the Internet, blogging and social media like Twitter.  When someone said I could “grab their button” I thought they were talking about the round piece of plastic, metal or wood that you sew onto a coat.  I had no idea how to link a URL to a picture or word…and I also had no idea what a URL was.

In honor of this 300th post, I’d like to give away a lovely copy of The Lap-Time Song and Play Book, edited by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Margot Tomes.  If you’d like a chance to receive this special picture book with favorites like “I’m a Little Teapot” and “The Eensy Weensy Spider”, please leave a comment on this post and let me know you’d like to win it.  When I get back from my trip to Chicago, I’ll use Random.org to pick the winner.