Tag Archives: 12 x 12

Three Things You Should Think About Doing Now. Really, NOW.

Warning: Hot deadlines enclosed. Please handle in a timely manner.

I was going to write about the top things I’ve done for myself as a picture book writer, but I got to seven and still had more to say! It was a long blog post. I’ll save that list for another day, but for now, here are three from my Best Things I Ever Did list, all with ticking enrollment deadlines.

Revising — and Re-imagining — Your Picture Book Manuscript. Revision advice I’ve gleaned from here and there, including the sparkly gems I learned in this workshop, are in a folder labelled “PB Revision Tips,” which is at my side whenever I work to polish a picture book draft. I had been interested in this workshop when it was first offered a few years ago, but family obligations kept me on a short rope, and I couldn’t travel to attend it. So I contacted my SCBWI chapter and asked how I could bring the workshop to me with their help. They agreed to support it if I was willing to chair the event. So I did. This workshop was worth every drop of energy I spent to bring it to Western Massachusetts for my fellow SCBWI members. And for me. OK, mostly for me. Eileen Robinson and Harold Underdown of Kid’s Book Revisions created the workshop and will be offering it again — beginning on Wednesday, February 15. If you’re interested, sign up soon. Like NOW. Go here for details.

Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo Challenge. You’ll read a heck of a lot of picture books and learn so much about writing them if you join ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month). Plus, you’ll get daily blog posts from experts who offer advice and knowledge about using mentor texts to improve your skills. Registration opens February 15, and the challenge begins on February 28. Go here for more information about it.

Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. Last, and most definitely not least, is this challenge to draft a picture book every month during the year. But that’s not all. There are monthly webinars, interviews, a supportive Facebook group, opportunities for Gold-level members to submit manuscripts to agents, and a forum where members can learn craft, give and get critique on manuscripts, queries, and pitches, and participate in other discussions. Hyperbole aside, it’s one of the freakin’ best things for picture book writers ever, man! Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself here. Membership for 2017 closes on February 28. (Full disclosure: I’m one of Julie’s elves, helping her out in the forum, but I wouldn’t use my precious time to do if I didn’t think this group was truly worthwhile.)

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PBers: Eyes Over Here! Hot News. Act NOW!

I’m here to tell you about two important things — 12×12 and ReFoReMo. Read on.

12×12 registration ends February 28.

I’ve mentioned Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge often in this blog, and here I am again shouting out about the best writing challenge for PB writers who want to:

  • get and stay motivated to study craft,
  • write and revise manuscripts, and
  • get brave – and smart – about submitting.

The benefits are too numerous to mention here, but you can see for yourself here.

Membership at the GOLD level is now closed, and the SILVER and BRONZE levels will close on February 28. If you write PBs, you owe it to yourself to learn more about 12×12 and decide if you should join. Do it now because after February 28, membership is closed. For. The. Rest. Of. The. Year. And you’ll have to wait until next January for another chance to join.

ReFoReMo is coming in March.

Never heard of it? That’s because this brainchild of Carrie Charley Brown is debuting this year. It’s a month of study of picture books for PB writers and illustrators with PB experts posting daily about – you guessed it – PBs.

I first met Carrie through the 12×12 picture book challenge. We quickly became online friends and recently served together (with five others) as first round judges of picture books for the Cybils competition. I so enjoyed reading her comments about the books we judged, and I appreciated seeing things from her point of view when we stood on opposite ends in our whittling down of the best seven of more than 200 books. She’s intelligent, insightful, a former teacher using picture books in her classroom, and a writer of PBs who’s studied her craft. I’m sure ReFoReMo will be a grand success because of her experience and her big heart that makes her want to help others. Click here to learn more about ReFoReMo.

You’re welcome. Have a great year!

 

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From Beyond the Grave.

Happy 2015, everyone!

I began my new year with a party — drinking good wine, eating delicious food, chatting with old friends and making some new ones. It’s said that whatever you do on the first day of the year reflects what you’ll be doing throughout the year.

But I can’t party every day. Well, yes. I could. But there are bills to pay.

So over the next few days, I got things ready for business in 2015. I created documents to keep track of my writing and reading and client work. I reviewed goals I had set in previous years and set some new ones. I analyzed where I’d submitted manuscripts, researched editors and publishers’ catalogs, and made notes about where and what to submit this year. I created a new Excel document that would help me work more efficiently and submit manuscripts more wisely (which took more than three hours of data entry).

And then my hard drive said, “Tink. Tink-tink. Tink.”

Gone. All that prep work for the year, and everything else I had on that hard drive, gone.

It made me wish I worked in a field where computers weren’t necessary. I wished I wasn’t so dependent on technology. I wished I wasn’t a writer.

So right then and there, I quit. I shut my laptop. I declared myself Not-A-Writer.

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(c) 2014 Photo by Carol Munro

 

It was like a death. I felt hollowed. Empty and echo-y and silenced.

I stayed dead for about a day, then I put my party pants back on, drank some good wine, and got back to the business of writing. Because a writer’s gotta write, right?

One of the things that brought me back was Facebook. Or more accurately, the community of writing friends I have there. Yes, YOU. You saved me. Thank you.

Thank you, Julie Hedlund, Kelli Panique, my co-Elves, and 12×12 (which is open for 2015 membership now through February 28).

Thank you, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Sylvia Liu, and KidLit411 (celebrating a one-year anniversary now with a party full of prizes, but the best gift of all is the wealth of info for all kidlit writers all year long).

Thank you, Alayne Kay Christian and Sub Six. Thank you to my fellow Cybils judges, to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo (just named one of the top 10 blogs for writers), to the other online groups I belong to, and to the writers who are not only my friends on Facebook or face-to-face, but also in my heart.

You all brought this writer back.

And hopefully, soon, a techno-wizard will bring back the contents of my hard drive.

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Focus. Write. Squirrels!

There’s a new post in Marcie Flinchum AtkinsWe’re All In This Together. This month we answered this question: What is one thing that you’ve done to help yourself grow as a writer that you would recommend to someone else?” If you’re a writer, hop over to WAITT and see what Marcie, Vivian Kirkfield, Sue Heavenrich, Romelle Broas, and I have to say.

I talked about staying focused. That’s a tough thing for me. If you follow astrology, you’ll understand when I say I’m a Gemini. I love projects, and it’s easy for me to start many and finish few. So to stay on target with my writing, I need to remind myself of my goals.

Every. Single. Day.

Mmmm…good omelet.

Oh, sorry, I’m having breakfast as I write this. Got distracted. (Focus, Carol.)

In the 12×12 online community of picture book writers (best place ever for PB writers), our challenge is to write one new manuscript per month. So far this year, by staying focused, I’ve written nine. Two of them include squirrels. Maybe because I’ve also renewed my focus on photography (pun unintended), and squirrels in our yard have been a subject for me. Check out this baby (an eight week old, I’m guessing).

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He fell asleep in the nook of my arm.

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CYBILS winners, WAITT words, & 12×12 warning

I’m popping in here at my blog to tell you about three things.

First: The CYBILS Awards were announced yesterday. YAY! The winner for Fiction Picture Books is MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown. For a list of winners in all categories, go here.

Second: The February post for We’re All In This Together on Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s blog is there for you to read. This month, writers (Sue Heavenrich, Robyn Campbell, Amie Rose Rotruck, Alayne Kay Christian, Dona L. Sadd, EW Clark, Vivian Kirkfield, Marcie, and me) commented about why we write for kids.

Third: Don’t forget! If you’re interested in writing picture books, you have until February 28 to sign up for the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge (which is soooo much more than a challenge). As 12×12 founder Julie Hedlund says, it’s “the accountability of a year-long writing challenge coupled with the support of the most generous and talented community of writers on the planet (no exaggeration!)” And I totally agree. Three membership levels. Pick one and GO!

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!

 

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Lessons learned, life paths paved

This past week, a friend mentioned diagramming sentences in a blog post and in a Facebook comment. It brought back fond memories. How I loved deconstructing sentences and labeling their parts.

It got me thinking about Miss Baronian’s English class in junior high, and Mr. Joy’s, Mrs. Martin’s, and Mr. Cass’s English classes in high school. Oh, how I loved those teachers and all they could load on me. More. More. Give me more.

And then I thought farther back – to that day in grammar school when I first learned about paragraphs. I actually remember being amazed. I probably sat there in my little chair with big eyes and dropped jaw. I could hardly wait to break apart a body of text into paragraphs.

And this brings me to a conversation I had with a friend earlier this week. She’s worried about her son who’s beginning to think about college and life pursuits. He seems, to her, directionless.

I don’t think I helped her much that evening, but now that I’ve been thinking about my introduction-to-paragraphs experience, I’d ask her to try to remember what little, mundane, everyday things made his eyes sparkle or his voice sing. If my teacher had truly looked at me the day she taught her paragraph lesson, she would have known right then and there, I would be a writer.

And a reader. Here are my favorites of the picture books I read in January:

  • HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, 2013, Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • LET’S SING A LULLABY WITH THE BRAVE COWBOY by Jan Thomas, 2012, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)
  • WHEN LIONS ROAR by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Raschka, 2013, Orchard Books (Scholastic)

P.S. The link above will take you to KidLit 411, a new website created by Elaine Kiely Kearns (with help from others) for kidlit writers. It’s almost cooler than diagramming sentences and making paragraphs.

Another P.S. If you write picture books, you may want to check out the ultra cool 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. If you want to be part of this phenomenal community — with access to agents, a sparkly new forum, and loads of inspiration, information, and support — you need to register by February 28. After that, membership is closed, and you’ll be pounding on the door until next January. That will hurt.

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More about goals

It’s January, so it’s goal-setting time. I’m pretty excited about that because setting goals last year proved successful for me. Yeah, some aspirations fell into that dusty place behind the desk, but that’s fine. I think most of us tend to over-do it, inspired by the spirit of the season and peer pressure. So I don’t beat myself up for those lost goals. I consider it the angel’s share, and I focus on my successes.

This month, over at Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ We’re All In This Together, Sue Heavenrich, Amie Rose Rotruck, Donna L. Sadd, Alayne Kay Christian, Vivian Kirkfield, Marcie, and I talk about writing goals for 2014, and how we expect to achieve them. Go check it out. There are links to resources that may help you.

My goals for 2014? I mentioned them in the previous post, but here’s the formal list:

  • Write at least one new PB manuscript per month.
  • Revise at least one PB manuscript per month.
  • Submit at least one PB manuscript per month. (Being a GOLD member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge will help me achieve these first three goals. If you’re writing PBs, think about joining 12×12. You have until 2/28/14 to join, then the door to this BEST thing you can do for yourself slams shut. Go. Now. Really. Stop reading this blah-blah-blog and sign up.)
  • Continue to read lots of picture books. The focus is on books that are the best examples of the craft and to better understand what’s going on in the industry (what gets published).
  • Study craft. Take classes. Attend workshops and conferences. Improve skills.
  • Sign with an agent. Not just any agent. I’m very particular about whom I’ll choose as my partner in this business.
  • Give back to the community. Last year, I volunteered at the New England SCBWI spring conference, as a Cybils judge, and as a forum moderator for the 12×12 challenge. I’ll probably do the same this year (though I’m off to a rough start in 12×12, having been too sick to spend much time in the Forum these last two weeks). I’m also coordinating an NESCBWI workshop for PB writers that will be held in March, and I’ve taken a leadership role with my SCBWI crit group. Lastly, I’ll continue to share my favorite PB reads on my blog each month.

Sorry, angels. I expect to reach all these goals this year. I’ll have to share something else with you in 2014. Will you take my great and undying appreciation for sticking with me to my successful end? I thought so. Thanks!

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