Tag Archives: goals

Now Offering Critiquing Services and a Limited-time Special

Since 2012, my professional writing focus has been on picture books – learning the craft, understanding the industry, and reading what’s currently being published. Sometimes I needed blinders to keep my attention from wandering into other things, like running for a seat on the town council or starting a chocolate truffle business or taking up spelunking.

Focus, Carol. Focus on your goals.

I, indeed, stayed focused. And my devotion to my dreams recently paid off when I signed with agent Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. What does this mean to me? Soooo much, but I won’t go into that right now because there’s something else I’m here to announce.

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© 2016 Photo by Carol Munro

Having an agent gives me extra hours in every day. I no longer need to research agents, editors, and publishers, write query letters, submit manuscripts, and track responses. So before I fill that time by, say, trying to break the Guinness world record for the largest yarn ball, I’ve decided to do something more meaningful while maintaining focus on my craft.

I’m now offering manuscript and query letter critique services primarily for serious picture book writers, but also for writers of other kidlit genres and novels for adults. Click here or on the Writing Services tab above for all the details.

I’m so excited! But to ratchet up the thrill just a bit more – and because May is my birthday month – I’m offering you a gift.

Request a picture book manuscript critique
now through May 31 and save $10!

So if you’re in the market for a professional critique, I hope you’ll use my services, especially if your focus is beginning to wander away from your dreams.

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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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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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Goals: old ones, new ones

I have a lot to cover in this post, so let’s jump right in.

First of all, if you aren’t writing down your goals for 2014, stop reading right now and go do it. It will remind you where you want to go. It will make you more accountable. It will help you succeed. Be specific and break the goals down into achievable tasks. Here’s a great tool from Katie Davis that can help you set and track your goals.

In 2013, I wanted to read 500 picture books. I read 501. Each month, I wanted to draft one new PB manuscript, edit at least one, and submit at least one. At year end, I have 10 new manuscripts, 17 revisions, and 19 submissions.

I also had two other goals I knew by February wouldn’t happen, so those were eliminated early. I think it’s important to reevaluate your objectives once you’ve gained a little distance from the January resolution-setting frenzy.

The really big deals in 2013? One, I got my first kidlit contract for a story in Highlights magazine. Woo hoo! I’m so thrilled! Two, my proposal to produce a workshop for PB writers for NESCBWI was accepted and will be held in March 2014. More about that in an upcoming blog or go here. And three, I was a judge in the Cybils Fiction Picture Book category. It was a tough job, but so much fun to work with Pam Coughlin of the Cybils organization and the other judges: Laura Given, Dawn Mooney, Jodell Sadler, Caryn Schafer, Melissa Wiley, and Paula Willey. See the 2013 Finalists list here.

This year, I want to continue studying PBs and writing for that market, but I want to expand into writing for older kids. I also want to research agents and publishers in more depth, take more workshops, and study the craft. By year end, I want to have a dozen or so polished manuscripts and an agent representing me. Watch me do it.

What will I see you do in 2014?

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A picture book intensive, of sorts.

I read 136 picture books this month, most of them for my role as a judge for the Cybils Awards. I’m so glad for this opportunity. I’ve read so many wonderful books, and I shout a big thank you to everyone who nominated books for this competition. If left to rely completely on my own efforts, I may have missed some of these treasures or taken another year or two to stumble upon them.

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(c) 2013 Photo by Carol Munro

Speaking of thanks, I owe the staff at my library a yummy treat of some sort for processing books I put on hold, notifying me of books that arrive through the Inter Library Loan system, checking them out, checking them back in, sending them back from whence they came. They. Have. Been. Busy.

 

Here are my favorites of books read during October (not all of these were Cybils noms):

  • AGAIN! by Emily Gravett, 2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • A HOME FOR BIRD by Philip C. Stead, 2013, Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • A IS FOR MUSK OX by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers, 2012, A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME by Jennifer Larue Huget, illustrated by Red Nose Studio, 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books
  • BEN RIDES ON by Matt Davies, 2013, A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • THE BLESSING CUP by Patricia Polacco, 2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • BRIEF THIEF by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, 2013, Enchanted Lion Books
  • COUNT THE MONKEYS by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, 2013, Disney-Hyperion (Disney Book Group)
  • THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Allen Say, 2013, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • THE HIGHWAY RAT by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, 2011, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • IN THE TREE HOUSE by Andrew Larson, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, 2013, Kids Can Press (Corus Entertainment Company)
  • JOURNEY by Aaron Becker, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • THE KINDHEARTED CROCODILE by Lucia Panzieri, illustrated by AntonGionata Ferrari, 2008, Holiday House
  • LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER by Mo Willems, 2005, Hyperion Books for Children
  • LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca, 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • THE MARKET BOWL by Jim Averbeck, 2013, Charlesbridge Publishing
  • MOONDAY by Adam Rex, 2013, Disney-Hyperion (Disney Book Group)
  • MY COLD PLUM LEMON PIE BLUESY MOOD by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, 2013, Viking (Penguin Group)
  • ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, 2013, Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams)
  • SOPHIE’S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books
  • TOO MUCH GLUE by Jason Lefebvre, illustrated by Zac Retz, 2013, Flashlight Press
  • TRAIN by Elisha Cooper, 2013, Orchard Books (Scholastic Inc.)

My bonus for all this dedicated reading? Today I got my very own copy of TOO MUCH GLUE signed by Jason Lefebvre. Yay!

 

 

 

 

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Cybils judging has started!

Nominations began flooding in for the 2013 Cybils awards on October 1. Public nominations will be accepted until October 15. That means if you’re not a professional agent, editor, or publisher working in the kid lit industry, go here to find out how to nominate your favorite children’s books. After October 15, noms are open to the pros only.

I’ve been having a fun time judging the Fiction Picture Book category, and some gorgeously illustrated, beautifully written books are accumulating on my short list. I’m making notes about every book I read – what I love, what I don’t – to jog my memory in December when I have to whittled that list down to about five books. FIVE! Oh, give me strength. How will I decide? In January, the final round judges will begin the truly difficult work of choosing winners in each category.

Meanwhile, I’m doing well on my personal goals (which are to write a new PB manuscript each month, revise at least one each month, submit at least one each month, and read at least 10 PBs per week). I read 56 picture books in September, so I’m behind by only a hundred or so. Of those 56, here are my favorites:

  • BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, 2012, A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck Publishing)
  • FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle, 2013, Chronicle Books
  • FROG SONG by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, 2013, Henry Holt and Company
  • GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS AND THE 33 BEARS AND THE BLIIM AND THE FURNITURE AND LOTS MORE VARIATIONS by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg, 2012, Candlewick Press
  • IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, 2013, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing)
  • KEL GILLIGAN’S DAREDEVIL STUNT SHOW by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat, 2012 Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • LITTLE PIG JOINS THE BAND by David Hyde Costello, 2011, Charlesbridge
  • LUCKY DUCKLINGS by Eva Moore, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, 2013, Orchard Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • MOLE HAD EVERYTHING by Jamison Odone, 2012, Blue Apple Books
  • RED CAT, BLUE CAT by Jenni Desmond, 2012, Blue Apple Books
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(c) 2013 Photo by Carol Munro

Now, if I were a round two judge, and these books were the Cybils’ finalists, LITTLE PIG JOINS THE BAND would easily be my choice for THE WIN. (It doesn’t meet the rules regarding publication date, so, sadly, I can’t nominate it. Oh, and I must confess that I wrote a love fan letter to David Hyde Costello. Alright, love letter, since I think I used the word love about a dozen times. But it’s Little Pig I really love.)

I don’t care who you are or how old you are, go to your library or bookstore, find this book, and sit down to read it. Picture book writers and illustrators: you’ll learn something even if you think you already know it all. Slackers: think of it as a motivational handbook. Corporate ladder climbers: here’s your leadership training manual. I’m teasing, but seriously, get the book and read it. I already hear you thanking me for the recommendation.

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Do I get a robe and gavel?

I read 27 picture books in August. I should have read 40. Wait. I’m way behind on my goal for the year, and to catch up I should have read 162. What’s a girl to do to get her butt in gear and reach her goal?

Voila! Cybils to the rescue!

I’ve been chosen to be a Round One judge in the Fiction Picture Books category of the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards seventh annual competition. That means I’ll be reading and evaluating about 200 books nominated this year. It should help me catch up on my reading, don’t you think?

I’m honored to be selected, and I’m eager to put my opinionated self expertise to work. I can hardly wait to begin discussing favorites with the other judges.

Nominations will be accepted October 1-15. If you want to nominate a favorite children’s book, check out the guidelines and how-to details here.

If you’re curious about becoming a judge for next year, you can learn more here.

And now here’s what you’ve all been waiting for (right?) – my favorite reads of August:

  • ALL THOSE SECRETS OF THE WORLD by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Leslie Baker, 1991, Little, Brown & Company
  • COWPOKE CLYDE AND DIRTY DAWG by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin, 2013, Clarion Books
  • EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, 2012, Nancy Paulsen Book (Penguin Young Readers Group)
  • EVEN ALIENS NEED SNACKS by Matthew McElligott, 2012, Walker BFYR (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS by Mo Willems, 2012, Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • MINETTE’S FEAST by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Amy Bates, 2012, Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • THE MONSTERS’ MONSTER by Patrick McDonnell, 2012, Little Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
  • MY FATHER’S ARMS ARE A BOAT by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter, 2012, Enchanted Lion Books
  • WHEN THE COWS GOT LOOSE by Carol Weis, illustrated by Ard Hoyt, 2006, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)

By the way, if you live in or will be visiting Western Mass any time in the next 5 months, check out “Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. The exhibit will be on display through February 23, 2014.

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