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Today I have the pleasure of introducing one of the other judges for the Tamson Weston pitch contest. Mira Reisberg is here to talk about what it takes to get published.  She is also generously giving away a one-hour Skype consultation to help one 12 x 12 participant polish his/her picture book draft.  To enter, read this post and then comment on this post on Mira’s blog telling her which “P” is the most challenging for you and why.  The deadline to enter is March 30th, and Mira will announce the winner on her blog on April 2nd. Welcome Mira!

I’ve been making, teaching, and mentoring others for over 20 years and realized recently that my own books had sold over 600,000 copies while my former students have sold well over a million copies of their books, including two New York Times best sellers. Needless to say, this made me very happy.

Over the years, I’ve developed what I call my 4 P’s. Until recently it was only 3 P’s, but after a wonderful conversation with master illustrator and author Ashley Wolff of the Miss Bindergarten, and Stella and Roy series fame, she pointed out that I was missing the word “Passion.” For me this is a given, but it needs to be included and spelled out loud and proud! So here are my four P’s and why they are so important for anyone who wants to get published.

Passion– You’ve got to really, really, truly, deeply care about making and loving picture books – if you don’t you’re never going to be able to do the other 3 P’s. If you’re not passionate about picture books, you’re not going to be haunting libraries and book stores getting excited about picture book discoveries or constantly reading and getting inspired and excited by picture   books and learning from them. If you’re not passionate about picture books, you’re also not going to have the willingness or joy or heart to do what it takes to create fantastic products.

Product – Your story and/or art has to be exceptional. Picture books are expensive and picture book publishing is a business. Often a business with tremendous heart (some publishers more than others) but the bottom line is that you have to both be and show that you are professional. That means revising, revising, revising. Reading, studying, taking courses, getting your work critiqued, using your passion, whatever it takes to have your work be the very best, most original, lyrical, funny, dramatic, heartfelt, adorable or whatever the major characteristics are. Your writing or illustrations have to sing, but it can sing in many different tunes. Send it out in a professional way with an appropriate cover or query letter, researching, researching, researching appropriate publishers and their submission policies (usually on their websites). Children’s book writing and/or illustrating is a craft; it takes practice and study to learn those skill to create a fantastic product that special publisher will love.

Patience – It takes a lot of patience to develop skills through practice and more practice. It also takes a lot of patience to redo something over and over until it’s as perfect as it gets. When I do school visits, I show and tell the students how in one of my books, Uncle Nacho’s Hat, I had some Brahmin cows common in Nicaragua (according to my research) in the background of the painting and because I was really tired, I didn’t redo them even though I should have. Now it’s 20 years later and I still have to live with what I call my “painting of sham,” (learn from me here).

The next two places requiring patience are in the rewriting or re-doing art – I’ve never heard of an editor or art director not wanting any revisions, but it is possible and I’ve never heard of it. Here’s where you really get to practice with your most gracious self – mostly agreeing to make this changes.

And the final pieces of patience necessary are waiting for the book to be illustrated and designed (if you’re not the artist or author/artist) and then for it to be printed and distributed. This is a whole subject in and of itself, but suffice to say it can take anywhere from six months to many years depending on many different factors. Waiting after submitting also requires A LOT of patience. It’s also a great time to research other editors or art directors or publishing houses to submit to and to start work on your next project.

Another place where patience is needed is if you get that magical call or email from an editor wanting to work with you. First, put your hand over the phone if they call you and then scream. Then listen to what they have to say and tell them that you are very interested but would like to see their contract first or if they offer you a number tell them you’d like to see the contract and think about it. Be patient, if they are contacting you, they’re interested and have probably already investing quite a bit of time and thought before contacting you. If you can afford it, join your area’s “Lawyers for the Arts” or see an intellectual property lawyer. Their contracts are set up to favor them, not you, no matter how nice they are. Sometimes, I think of patience as a form of surrender (not as in giving up) but as part of a spiritual practice of acceptance if that helps.

Persistence– Think J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss and just about every published author or illustrator out there. Persist in developing and honing your craft – join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org), which is an invaluable resource if you are serious. Attend their conferences and meet editors, agents, and art directors who you would not normally have access to as well as peers that you can network and connect with and learn from on this wondrous journey. Take classes and courses; keep working your craft and sending out to researched and specifically targeted editors. And most importantly, don’t give up!!! Fortunately, so many of the greats didn’t give up either : )

Mira Reisberg is the award-winning illustrator of 6 picture books and co-author of two award-winning anthologies of stories and art. Her books have sold over 600,000 copies world-wide. Mira received her MFA from Mills College in Painting and Digital Art. She received her PhD in Education and Cultural Studies from Washington State University writing a 370 page dissertation on children’s picture books and the healing power of art.

Mira is also an editor, art director, instructor/mentor and picture book consultant whose students’ award-winning  books have sold over a million copies. Mira’s passion for picture books spills out into her empowering online Hero’s Art Journey course, which features contributions from major picture book authors and illustrators  (www.herosartjourney.com) as well as in the courses that she is creating for the Picture Book Academy (www.picturebookacademy.com). The next Hero’s Art Journey course starts March 5th and will be amazing. Please feel free to contact her at miraguy@gmail.com with any questions.

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CHECK!

I DID IT!!! I MADE IT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE ARTIST’S WAY! I get to check that off my Bucket List now. 🙂  What a great feeling.

  • Week 12 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Faith.”  In this chapter, we learn to trust and protect our creativity and recognize signs of slippage.
  • Morning Pages: I forgot to bring my journal to Breckenridge this weekend (AGAIN), so I missed two days.  Right back into it though.
  • Artist Date: No.  No excuses this time.  Answer is just no.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • This chapter asks us to write down any resistance or fears about going forward from here.  I already know my big resistance is in the Artist Dates.  I realize that, aside from a few of the weeks, I pretty much blew them off.  It always seems to be impossible to find the time.  I am good with the “grand gestures,” which are artist dates in the form of BIG events like conferences or travel, but not very good at all in the daily care and feeding of my artist.  I need to spend some time with that knowledge and figure out how to make changes.
  • I will have no problem continuing the morning pages.  They are life blood to me now.  I’ve even noticed that on days when I forget to write them, I feel off-kilter.
  • Even though I’ve “finished” the program, I realize I’ve only just begun.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  For that reason, each week I intend to randomly choose exercises throughout the book that I didn’t get to and work on them.  So let the artistic miracles continue!

A few favorite quotes from the Week 12 chapter:

“It is a paradox of our creative recovery that we must get serious about taking ourselves lightly.  We must work at learning to play.” (This, by the way, ties in quite nicely with George Shannon’s post on this blog earlier in the month).

“Life is meant to be an artist date. That’s why we were created.

“The truth is that this is how to raise the best ideas. Let them grow in dark and mystery. Let them form on the roof of our consciousness. Let them hit the page in droplets. Trusting this slow and seemingly random drip, we will be startled one day by the flash of, ‘Oh! That’s it!

So, what did you think of this series?  Did it inspire you in any way? Do you think you might try The Artist’s Way?

Week 11 Check-In

Week 10 Check-In

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Exercise as artistic and spiritual practice. Hiking Cinque Terre

Could it possibly be right that I have just one week left to go? I might finally make it all the way through this time! 🙂

  • Week 11 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Autonomy.”  This chapter teaches us ways to nurture and accept ourselves as artists by exploring behaviors that strengthen that artist.
  • Morning Pages: I forgot to bring my journal to Breckenridge this weekend, so I missed two days.  I’m back in the saddle now though.
  • Artist Date: No.  My planned artist date (and Valentine to myself) was to go to yoga class on the 14th.  But my son came down with the croup overnight, so I couldn’t go.  I guess that’s what I get for saving it for the last minute.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Learning to focus on and honor the process rather than the product is VERY difficult to do, especially if you hope to one day make money from your art.  This chapter made me realize that our best chance at both being the best artist we can be AND to make money is to do work that is authentic and true.  There is a LOT of process involved, and let’s face it, who ever feels like a piece of work is “done?”  Just keep moving, keep working.
  • Likewise, I totally agree with Cameron on the importance and benefits of exercise to the artist.  I often get my best “writing” done while I’m running.  I need to treat the time to exercise as just as vital to my writing as the writing is itself.  Because it is.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 11 chapter:

“As an artist, I must be very careful to surround myself with people who nurture my artist–not people who try to overly domesticate it for my own good.. I may be a good cook, a rotten housekeeper, and a strong artist (caveat: I have NO idea how Julia Cameron snuck into my house to figure that out :-)).”

“The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew.

“We learn by going where we have to go. Exercise is often the going that moves us from stagnation to inspiration, from problem to solution, from self-pity to self-respect.”

In what way do you nurture your artist?

Week 10 Check-In

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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I’m finally getting one of these posts up on time! 🙂

  • Week 10 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection.”  This chapter asks us to examine any toxic patterns that we use to block our creative path and how to overcome them.
  • Morning Pages: I missed a couple of days over the weekend because I was getting up SO EARLY to go skiing.  Got right back into them though.
  • Artist Date: I’m still participating in a free online business boot camp called Women on Purpose, and the calls are so inspiring I’m considering them my artist date.  Probably a cop-out, but that’s the best I can do right now.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Some of the self-inflicted blocks to creativity mentioned in Chapter 10 include alcohol, food, obsessive love, etc.  Another is workaholism, which I

    Social Media. A boon, a block or both?

    at first dismissed as not applicable.  After all, I’m doing work I love, and I don’t have a day job that gets in the way of my creative time.  However, this book was written 20 years ago, well before the explosion of the Internet and Social Media in particular.  It’s tricky because so much of what I do online is work-related, but I also realize that I am often seduced into tinkering around on social media sites when I should be creating.  Updating Twitter and Facebook, blogging and commenting on blogs can seem like “real” work – and sometimes it is – but very often it’s also procrastination, or even worse, total avoidance.  It’s also a bottomless pit.  There is no way to be “finished” with social media tasks.

  • Once again I am examining the amount of time I spend on social media to see if there is a way to balance it more with creative time.  For one thing, I know I have to let go of the guilt I’ve been feeling lately around not being able to comment on as many blogs, or even respond to comments on my own blog.  I genuinely want to support others’ blogs and acknowledge the folks who support mine, but I also know that if I keep going at the pace I kept before the 12 x 12 challenge started, I would never get any writing done.  So I’m still working on striking the right balance. Cameron emphasizes that the things we use to block are not bad in and of themselves (and in fact can be good).  The key is acknowledging when we are abusing them to block ourselves.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 10 chapter:

“If creativity is like a burst of the universe’s breath through the straw that is each of us, we pinch that straw whenever we pick up one of our blocks.  We shut down our flow. And we do it on purpose.”

“There is a difference between zestful work toward a cherished goal and workaholism.  That difference lies less in the hours than it does in the emotional quality of the hours spent.

“We are the origin of our art, it’s homeland. Viewed this way, originality is the process of remaining true to ourselves.”

Do you have creative blocks?  How do you attempt to overcome them?

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Snow sculpture illuminated by colored spotlights

Much to be grateful for this week!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” — Aristotle

“Deficiency motivation doesn’t work. It will lead to a life-long pursuit of try to fix me. Learn to appreciate what you have and where and who you are.” — Wayne Dyer

“Many times a day I realize how much my own life is built on the labours of my fellowmen, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” — Albert Einstein

Gratitude list for the week ending February 4

  1. Getting to ski and hang out with great friends, including my bestest girlfriend!
  2. Witnessing more than one beautiful sunrise reflecting on the mountains
  3. Completing my January picture book draft for the 12 x 12 challenge
  4. The incredible community of writers that have come together for the 12 x 12.  They inspire me daily.
  5. Finishing one good book and starting another
  6. Reading THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES with the kids
  7. Skype
  8. Writing the last page of a lovely journal (was a gift from the friend above). Great way to end Week 9 of The Artist’s Way.
  9. Snow sculptures in Breckenridge
  10. A long nap on a day I felt under the weather

What are you grateful for this week?

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My first FULL morning pages journal

Per my post last week, I’m combining Weeks 8 and 9 into one check-in. It is way later than usual because, well, the vagaries of life got in the way this week – grocery shopping, cooking dinner, transporting kids all over hell’s half-acre.  BUT, this one is a doozy so hold onto your seats! 🙂

  • Week 8 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Strength.”  This chapter focuses on surviving artistic losses by turning them into gains.  It also works on freeing us from using time as an avoidance strategy and creative block.
  • Week 9 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Compassion.”  This chapter deals with our biggest creative blocks – the internal ones.  We learn that creative blocks are born from fear and only fear, and that it is artist-abuse to call it anything else – laziness, untalented, unworthy, etc.
  • Morning Pages: I missed a couple of days over the past two weeks, even though I didn’t intend to.  Here’s what I’ve learned about morning pages.  If I say to myself, “I’ll do them later,” I won’t.  They have to get done first thing after I wake up or they just don’t get done.
  • Artist Date: I didn’t go anywhere, but I did indulge myself in a couple of different activities.  First, I have been participating in a free online business boot camp called Women on Purpose.  The calls are an hour a day a few days a week.  Normally I would not allow myself the luxury of a whole hour to do something that is seemingly not directly related to my work.  What I’ve found, however, is that the topics addressed on these calls ARE directly related to how I want to run my business.  They are fun, encouraging and inspiring to listen to.  Second, when I found myself feeling run down this week, I allowed myself a couple of long naps in the late morning.  Very restorative.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Chapter 8: One of the tasks for the week was a “memory mining” exercise.  I discovered that I had done several things in my youth to sabotage my budding writer.  Out of nowhere, I remembered that in my freshman year, my creative writing professor wanted to submit a couple of my papers (which were really personal essays) for publication.  I said no.  He encouraged me to take more creative writing courses.  I didn’t.  I know exactly why I didn’t, which I’m not going to say here, but what’s amazing is that I had forgotten ALL about it.  From there, I was able to remember other things I did over the years to squash myself before anybody else could.  Must. Stop. Doing That.
  • Chapter 9: The big assignment this week was to read the morning pages so far.  Wow.  In a way, that was extremely painful, and in another way, both enlightening and encouraging.  All along I’ve been pleased with my progress.  Just making it to Week 10 is an achievement.  Yet, I hadn’t yet felt that I’d experienced any major transformation.  Well, I was wrong.  My early pages contain lots of name-calling (of myself), feelings of lack – of accomplishment, creativity, discipline, etc.  Somewhere in the middle of my journal (because I have now filled an entire book!), more often than not the name-calling and feelings of inadequacy gave way to insights, ideas and excitement.  After I finished reading, I started thinking about all I have done and everything that has happened since I began November 9, 2011.  A few examples:
Things I’ve done since I began The Artist’s Way
  • Was a PiBoIdMo Winner
  • Set up the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge.  This idea was just a twinkle in my eye at the beginning of November.  Now we are one full month into the challenge with 400+ members!
  • Completed revisions on my primary WIP from the second half of 2012 and sent it off for final comments
  • Continued work on a plan for a soon-to-be-announced side business, including networking and setting up meetings
  • Was a guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast!
  • Got three assignments (so far) to write articles for the Tools of Change conference in Bologna and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
  • Got a press pass for ToC Bologna
  • Established four-year goals for all aspects of my business, working backwards into each month for 2012
  • Outlined rough ideas for two potential e-books
  • Wrote a picture book draft in January of a story I’ve wanted to write for more than a year
  • Had my very first school visit and got invited for three more as a result
  • Set my networking and continuing education schedule for 2012 – conferences, seminars, etc.
Not too shabby, right?  And I still have three weeks left to go!  The best outcome so far, however, is all of the friends I’ve made along the way, especially from PiBoIdMo and 12 x 12!

A few favorite quotes from the Week 8 chapter:

“Creativity cannot be comfortably quantified in intellectual terms… (T)he entire thrust of intellectualism runs counter to the creative impulse. For an artist, to become overly cerebral is to become crippled.”

“Pain that is not used profitably quickly solidifies into a leaden heart, which makes any action difficult. When faced with a loss, immediately take one small action to support your artist.

“At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.”

A few favorite quotes from the Week 9 chapter:

“Fear is the true name for what ails the blocked artist. It may be fear of failure or fear of success. Most frequently, it is the fear of abandonment.”

“(B)eing an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline… Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work.”

“Remember that art is process. The process is supposed to be fun.”

How have you overcome avoidance (fear) and/or internal blocks to your art?

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Click the image to go to the O Website where you can make an electronic vision board

Another late Artist’s Way check-in due to the blackout yesterday, but it was for a good cause.  Now here it is.

I enjoyed this chapter, and I wish I’d had more time to work on some of the journaling exercises.  I’m going to bleed some of them into week eight.

  • Week 7 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Connection.”  This chapter is about connecting to your dreams and working on receiving as well as doing.  There is a focus on excavating areas of creative interest, dropping perfectionism and taking risks.
  • Morning Pages: Yup – every day.  They felt boring to me this week.  Mostly I ended up writing to-do lists in the pages, but I suppose that freed my mind for more creative pursuits later in the day.
  • Artist Date: One of this week’s tasks was to get a stack of  magazines and cut out images that appeal to you or reflect your life or interests.  They could be related to the past, present, or future.  Since I’ve been wanting to create a “vision” board, I used my artist date to sit down with my magazines and focus on images related to what I want my future to look like.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • It was WAY more difficult to cut out those images than I thought it would be.  In the end, I was left with very few and my foam board is still bare.  First of all, I am a verbal, rather than a visual person, so using pictures of any kind feels strange to me when doing “blue sky” work like this.  Perhaps I should have gotten a smaller board so it wouldn’t be so daunting – LOL.  I thought it would be fun, but I found it kind of stressful instead.  Do I really want to do that, go there, meet him/her?  Or I’d think, “Oh I couldn’t possibly cut that out. I’ll never do that, go there, meet him/her.  But, I’m not going to give up on it!  It’s just going to be a work in progress, and I’ll keep you posted.
  • I had a LOT of ideas this week.  My skin is practically tingling with creative energy.  It’s all very exciting, but now I have to find the time and the discipline to actually make something of these ideas.
  • I was offered (and accepted) a fantastic and exciting opportunity (details coming soon).  I can’t help but wonder if these ideas and opportunities are coming as a result of whatever “opening” is happening within myself from doing The Artist’s Way.  *Cue mysterious music*

A few favorite quotes from the Week 7 chapter:

“Expect the universe to support your dream.  It will.”

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best.  It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough...”

“We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living, but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining.  The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action.  This brings us squarely to risk.”

“There is something enlivening about expanding our self-definition, and a risk does exactly that.  Selecting a challenge and meeting it creates a sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for further successful challenges.  Viewed this way, running a marathon increases your chances of writing a full-length play.  Writing a full-length play gives you a leg up on a marathon.”

What creative risks have you taken lately?

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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