Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Works in Progress’ Category

Important note: Due to a recent family emergency, I will not be drawing April winners until later this week, and possibly next week. Once I know when winners will be drawn, I will post that information here on the blog.The monthly check-in procedure AND the deadlines (commenting by midnight ET May 1) are the same.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Whew what a month! I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.  It’s now time for 12 x 12 in 2012 participants to check in.  Did you complete a picture book draft for April?

For the first time, I must admit I did not complete a draft.  What can I say? Life happened.  However, I am participating in National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee) starting tomorrow, so I hope to make some good ground there.

Many thanks, once again, to our four featured authors for April-Palooza – Jennifer WardLinda Ravin LoddingSandy Asher, Susanna Leonard Hill!!!  If you left a comment on their April 1st post, you are automatically entered to win a critique from Jennifer, Linda or Susanna or a copy of Sandy’s book WRITING IT RIGHT: How Successful Children’s Authors Perfect and Sell Their Stories, regardless of whether you completed a PB draft this month.

If you did complete a draft in April, let us know in the comments and that will get you another entry.  YOU MUST LEAVE YOUR NAME (FIRST AND LAST) IN YOUR COMMENT IF YOU WANT IT TO BE COUNTED AS AN ENTRY.   You have until midnight EST May 1st to leave a comment on this post and/or the April 1st post to be eligible for the drawing.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to meet our May authorl!!

Read Full Post »

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, Julie Rowan-Zoch is practically a neighbor – a fellow Coloradan! I was glad to read this post because I realized (the horror!) that I wasn’t following her blog. I’ve certainly rectified that and encourage you all to follow it too. She’s only been blogging since March and is practically a poster-child for launching a blog well. Please welcome Julie!

My Classroom: the 12x12in’12 Challenge

“Are you really serious about writing that picture book?”

“Yes!”

A friend was learning to be a creativity coach and needed a guinea pig. She helped me to create an overview of what it would take and a plan of execution – and kicked my butt! But uncontrollable tragic events shook things up in 2011, and slowed me down. My friend helped me give myself permission to let go of the creative process and put things away for a while. I continued developing skills, mostly through reading, which pulled me up and kept me going.

When she saw I was in need of more to focus on she packed up art supplies, drove me to a local garden and said, “Paint.” I have since been enamored with watercolors and continue to learn on my own.

My ‘coach’ talked me into joining SCBWI and I found an illustration contest to participate in. Viewing other entries through Diandra Mae’s Unofficial Gallery of the Tomie dePaola Award (http://scbwicontest.blogspot.com/), led me to fellow participant websites where I kept seeing sidebar badges over and over, and the cute illustration on the 12x12in’12 badge intrigued me most. As soon as I read through the guidelines I signed up. I thought it was crazy, but hey, just a rough draft? I can DO that!

Participating really got the juices flowing! And daily contact on the facebook page has had an enormous effect on my self-discipline. I am now reminded of how much more I can learn in a classroom than alone from a book. The 12x12in’12 Challenge has become the classroom I needed. The solidarity, the sharing of ups and downs, tips and warnings, and above all joy – all these things have become a lifeline.

Back in (pre-computer dark ages) art school (FIT in New York and Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste in Braunschweig, Germany) one of the strongest
influences on the betterment of my own work was learning to critique my classmate’s artwork and learning to accept and work with the criticism I received. This is no different and equally necessary in my writing.

Despite great effort within my local SCBWI Schmooze group I couldn’t get a PB critique group going (though I am now on the verge!), so I literally had no one to bounce my thoughts off of. Through 12×12 I also have 4 ‘VIPs’ – Hi Kirsten, Jen, Jodi and Rena! – to do that with! I also love the stories shared from all over: Andi’s tornado warnings, Joanna’s aperitifs, Miranda’s African trek, Erik (the kid himself is amazing!), walking with Diane in Aotearoa…and all the new baby pics!

In March I completed my first PB dummy and entered it for the SCBWI Don Freeman WIP Grant, and thanks to Susanna Hill and Punxsutawney Phyllis’
World Tour, I started a blog, which I am unexpectedly getting a big kick out of!

So why stop there? I recently decided to raise the ante of my illustration efforts by posting weekly on http://www.illustrationfriday.com, much like Rena Traxel’s A-Z: 26 Poems in April, using a given word for inspiration.

I still feel as energized now as I did starting 12x12in’12 four months ago! When I go to the local Schmooze meetings I feel informed and up-to-date, and able to contribute – which is huge considering I only started attending a few months before starting the challenge!

The images I have included are digital (AI): the profile pic really does look like me, and the squirrel is part of a series I am trying to launch in Café Press – stay tuned!

At this point, and forever more, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Julie Hedlund and all my fellow Challenge-mates!

Julie Rowan-Zoch is a graphic designer morphed by motherhood into super-volunteer, spun into a pre-pubbie cocoon, soon to spread wings as a writer and Illustrator of children’s books. Designer is only one of many jobs she has held: caterer, bartender, art teacher, pre-school teacher, cheese wrapper, gardener, house cleaner, and co-creator a local-biz coupon book! Raised on Long Island, NY, matured in Germany, unfolding in Colorado. Find her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Artist-Julie-Rowan-Zoch and her blog: http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com.

Read Full Post »

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author is Dana Carey. When I was in Bologna, I met one of her critique partners, which made me feel one step closer to knowing her in person. Dana is the Associate Regional Advisor of SCBWI France, and as such, she has kindly made me an honorary member. I hope to one day make that more than honorary and visit them all there! Please welcome Dana!

Balancing Acts

One of the things I love about the 12 x 12 challenge is getting to know people who share an interest in picture books. Something you may not know about me is I’m an American living in France with a daughter I’ve been raising as a bilingual. I wanted her to know both families, French and American, to keep things balanced. Or at least as balanced as possible.

To do this, I speak to her exclusively in English and her father speaks to her in French. I swing back and forth between the two languages on a daily basis, sometimes within one conversation. It probably seems weird to others looking in but as a family, we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t live immersed in one foreign language and my French is fine but keeping both languages up to snuff is a concern.

We all strive for balance in our lives between family, job, friends and more with writing. Or illustrating. Or both. Some of you 12x12ers may be like me an author/illustrator. The dream is to have lots of great dummy books of our stories. And the hard part is doing both things at the same time and getting better at both.

What can we do to keep to everything balanced and progressing at more or less the same speed?

The 12 x 12 has been great in providing some balance for me. Instead of thinking about writing, I write. Every month! Especially when the 12X12 deadline looms: I have to get something down on paper. It swings the balance back.

A monthly critique group complements the 12 x 12. Through my SCBWI France chapter, I found a group that meets in Paris. One problem I live about 6 hours from there. But thanks to my Virtual Identity (I skype in), I’m part of the group. They put me on a sideboard while they gather round the dining room table of our host. Again, it may seem weird to others looking in but it works for us. And each month I have a rendez-vous with writing.

What about swinging back to illustration?

While I find time and distance a great help to revising texts, I find this to be less true with illustration. Breaking the chain of sketching page layouts or painting spreads slows progress. The more time I spend illustrating, the better it is. If I get sidetracked for awhile, diving back in is slower than diving back into writing. Much like if I were to stop writing a first draft of a picture book halfway in and let it go for a week or two. Doesn’t work for me but if I finish and come back to revise 2 weeks later, that’s perfect.

A skype meeting on Monday mornings with an illustration partner helps swing the balance back to illustration. To prepare, I scan in sketches or finished work from the week and email it. This makes me conscious of what I’m doing each week. Come Sunday night, I assess how I’ve spent my time. Sometimes all I have to send are rough sketches but this helps. For one thing, I realize I did do something. And I won’t forget those sketches by showing them to my partner I’ve legitimized the effort and can continue to push that work forward. All those sketches eventually add up to layouts, character studies, ideas for a portfolio piece.

We are all familiar with the “To Do” list (that daunting document that mocks us all week long). I’ve taken the Sunday night prep scanning a step further: writing the “Done” list everything I’ve actually accomplished during the week. I’m learning that a big part of balance is mental. I feel like I haven’t done enough but I did push things forward. Acknowledging my weekly accomplishments, however humble they may be, helps create
continuity and keeps me on track.

Swinging back and forth between French and English got easier over time. Happily, it has provided balance to my family my daughter loves talking to her American family and they are so happy that she can.

And I’m so happy Julie came up with this great challenge because it helps me even the scales between writing and illustrating. Imagine the “Done” list we’ll have at the end of the year! In the meantime, what do you do to maintain balance in your lives? Writing and illustrating? Or writing picture books/middle grade/young adult? Verse and prose? Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Dana Carey was a graphic designer and art director in New York and then Paris, and later taught English in Versailles (Architecture School) and Paris (Art School). Now living in Brittany, she’s a pre-pubbed author/illustrator of picture books. She reads MG/YA books in English and writes reports in French for a French publisher as well as doing some translation and painting. Find her on twitter: @danaFR; facebook and at her blog: http://danacarey.blogspot.fr/.

Read Full Post »

It is my pleasure to announce our three winners for the March 12 x 12 in 2012 prizes! The first prize is a copy of Katie Davis’ outstanding ebook – How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a BestsellerNext, I am giving away two free Brain Burps About Books iPhone apps because I love the podcast so much (and NOT just because I am sometimes in it. :-))

Winners, if you already have Katie’s book, or the iPhone app, OR don’t have an iPhone and therefore can’t use the app, please let me know ASAP.  I’ve kept the Random.org list of winners, and if you can’t use the prize, I will simply keep going down the list until I find someone who can.  Thanks!

And now, for the winners…. *CUE DRUMROLL*

Winner of How to Promote Your Children’s book is…..    BRENDA HARRIS!!!!!!!!

Winners of the Brain Burps About Books iPhone App are….    ROBYN CAMPBELL and JARM DEL BOCCIO!!!!!!!

Congratulations to all the winners! Contact me for info on how to claim your prizes.

Onward, ho!!!

Read Full Post »

It’s no foolin’! April has arrived and with it, blooming flowers, singing birds, and the shining sun. Plus – Poetry Month!  AND for 12 x 12 in 2012 participants, it’s not just one but FOUR opportunities to win prizes to improve your writing craft.

That’s right.  April features four multi-published authors, all of whom are participating in the 12 x 12 challenge.  I asked each of them to answer four questions about writing and publishing picture books.  4 questions, 4 authors, 4th month.  (I’m sorry I can’t help myself!).

First allow me to introduce these generous and accomplished authors in alphabetical order by first name — Jennifer Ward, Linda Ravin Lodding, Sandy Asher and Susannah Leonard Hill.  Then keep reading for their valuable insights into the craft of picture book writing.

Jennifer

Jennifer Ward is the author of numerous acclaimed books for children, including, Way Out in the Desert, Somewhere in the Ocean, and There Was an Odd Princess Who Swallowed a PeaShe’s also written parenting books including, I Love Dirt! 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of NatureLet’s Go Outside: Outdoor Activities and Projects to Get You and Your Kids Closer to Nature, andIt’s a Jungle Out There: 52 Nature Adventures for City KidsForthcoming titles by Jennifer include What Will Hatch? (Bloomsbury/Walker Books), Mama Built a Little Nest, (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books),  The Sunhat, (Rio Chico), and, There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish, (Marshall Cavendish). You can find Jennifer on her website and Facebook  Jennifer is offering one 12 x 12 participant a manuscript critique.

Linda

Linda Ravin Lodding is the author of The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister (Flashlight Press, 2011) and the upcoming Hold That Thought, Milton! (illustrated by Ross Collins) and Oskar’s Perfect Present (illustrated by Alison Jay) both from Gullane Children’s Books, London. Linda is originally from New York, but has spent the past 15 years in Sweden, Austria and now The Netherlands. Today she lives in a one-windmill with her wonderful husband and daughter (who is, at times, as busy as Ernestine) and their sometimes-dog Nino (who speaks Dutch, Swedish, Spanish and a smattering of English). She loves dreaming up stories, biking along the canals, taking photos, doing pottery, traipsing through quaint towns, playing the flute…and sometimes just playing. You can find Linda, on her websiteFacebook and Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and located (in person!) at 52°9’7″N , 4°23’05″W.  Linda is offering one 12 x 12 participant a manuscript critique.

Sandy

Sandy Asher’s first book for young readers, SUMMER BEGINS, was published in 1980. Since then, she’s written 25 more. Her latest picture books are all about Froggie and Rabbit, Too Many Frogs!What a Party!, and Here Comes Gosling!. Sandy has also edited five anthologies, including, DUDE! Stories and Stuff for Boys, coedited with her friend David Harrison. Her latest anthology is WRITING IT RIGHT: How Successful Children’s Authors Perfect and Sell Their Stories. Sandy and her husband are the proud parents of two grown children, and have three small grandchildren.  They live in Lancaster, PA, with their cat Friday. You can find Sandy at the website she co-founded with David Harrison – America Writes for Kids, their blog and on FacebookSandy is offering one 12 x 12 participant a copy of her book, WRITING IT RIGHT! 

Susanna

Susanna Leonard Hill began writing as soon as she could hold a pencil, but her first published book was The House That Mack Built, released by Little Simon in 2002. Since then, she has published eight more books, including: Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House, 2005), No Sword Fighting In The House (Holiday House, 2007), Not Yet, Rose (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009), Airplane Flight! (Little Simon, 2009)Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, (Walker Books, 2010) and April Fool, Phyllis! (Holiday House, 2011). In her spare time, Susanna is also a chauffeur, housekeeper, laundress, reader, rider-when-she-gets-the-chance, gardener-wanna-be, and former teacher. You can find Susanna on her website, blog (where she hosts the popular Perfect Picture Book Friday, and Would You Read It? series), Facebook and YouTubeSusanna is offering one 12 x 12 participant a manuscript critique.

1. What, in your opinion, is the most important element of an outstanding picture book?  Please name one picture book that executes this well.

Jennifer: The most important element found in an outstanding picture book is the ability to transcend the reader’s thoughts and emotions. The story isn’t simply read by the reader, but processed on a variety of levels.  This happens during the book’s creation, when many-many thoughtful, technical and artful elements are woven into the book’s design, seamlessly:  language, characters, concept, text placement, illustration, tone, composition…
The result is a book that not only resonates with each individual reader on some personal level, but also stands the test of time, becoming a classic.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, written and illustrated by William Steig, is an example of a book that executes this perfectly.

Linda: Only one element? There are so many important ones. Great character! Rich text! Read aloud rhythm! Strong narrative!  Sense of playfulness! (See how I worked in more than one?) But if I had to choose, I think I’d linger on the word “picture” in “picture book”.  Ultimately, an outstanding picture book is a “pas de deux” between words and pictures; each without the other isn’t complete.  So for me, (one of) the most important elements of a picture book is the way the text and illustrations dance together — each relying on the other to create something magical.

There are so many books that do this brilliantly but one that pops into my head is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann.

Sandy: As Sue Alexander told me long ago, an outstanding picture book works on three levels:  Very young children understand and enjoy the events.  Older children understand and enjoy the connections between the events.  Adults understand and enjoy the universality of the connections between the events.  Example:  Very young children laugh at Max’s antics at home and with the Wild Things in Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  Older children realize that Max’s misbehavior has gotten him sent to his room, where he’s angry and imagines the land of Wild Things until he’s ready to calm down and everything’s okay again.  Adults appreciate the depiction of a world in which a child can misbehave and get angry and wild but still be surrounded by his knowing parent’s love as symbolized in the waiting dinner.  Those levels are a lot to accomplish in only a few words, but that’s what makes a picture book truly outstanding.

Susannah: Someone (sorry, I forget who) said that picture books are big emotion for little people.  To me, the most important element of an outstanding picture book is the emotion, the connectedness, the “I know exactly what that feels like” rush of understanding you get when a character experiences something that you’ve experienced.  A picture book that does emotion well – whatever the emotion is – speaks to kids.  It brings comfort, or reassurance, or relief, or a laugh, or a feeling of common humanity to small people who have yet to learn that everyone sometimes misses their mom, or feels sad, or gets angry, or thinks a joke is funny, or is afraid of something.  Owl Moon by Jane Yolen shows the quiet happiness of a father and his daughter sharing something special together.  The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney help children feel the depth of parental love even when kids and parents have to be apart.  Z Is For Moose by Kelly Bingham is laugh-out-loud funny because every child understands impatience and not wanting to be left out.  Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak lets kids know that even when they’re bad, they’re loved.  To me, it is this depth of emotion that resonates with children and makes them ask for a book over and over and over.

2. What is your number one piece of advice for improving in the craft of picture book writing?

Jennifer:  Read, read, read.  Don’t ever stop reading in the genre you’re writing. I also believe it is important to give each manuscript time for subconscious processing – you know, that time you think about your work while doing the mundane, day-to-day stuff?  During this time, don’t ignore the “aha” elements that may surface:  a new twist, a different ending, another level or layer that adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the book. Often these thoughts surface as nothing more than a fleeting whisper in your mind and could easily be ignored.  But latch on to them and give them attention.   There might be a shy bud of thought that blossoms into a moment of genius.

Linda: It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again… Read!  On Linda Sue Park’s website she quotes an editor who once said, “Read a thousand books of the genre you’re interested in. THEN write yours.”

Sandy: Read, read, read.  We learn language by hearing it spoken.  We learn the elements of storytelling by listening to storytellers.  Read, read, read picture books until their rhythms become a natural part of your own storytelling voice.

Susannah: I guess my number one tip for improving in the craft of picture book writing is two-fold.  First, read a lot of picture books to get a feel for the length, the rhythm, and the language, to get a feel for what is in the story and what is in the pictures, and to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Second, write.  Every day.  Practice your craft.  The more you write, the more you will find your own rhythm and language – the kind of stories you can make work well, the voice that is yours and yours alone.

3. What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known starting out?

Jennifer:   I’m going to spin your question around, because today finds me grateful for what I didn’t know back when I started out.  I suppose it is true on some levels:  ignorance is bliss!  In the beginning, I had no knowledge regarding the “business” aspect of being a writer.  I didn’t know about reviews or sales numbers or marketing.  I was green!

Back then, I wrote because I loved children’s books, words as a medium, and writing.  I sent off my first manuscript to one publisher, it was accepted, it was successful, and continues to sell very well today. Back then, the process of writing was pure bliss and joy. My focus was solely on craft.

Fourteen years and many books later, I am a full-time writer who makes a living as a writer.  Today I find it’s quite easy to get consumed with the business aspect of making books:  the marketing (a whole world in and of itself), traveling, speaking and promoting.  I will spin all of those plates on my fingers, and since there’s no finger left to spin the writing plate, I’ll try to spin that one on my toe.

So to answer your question, I am glad to know what my experience was like in the beginning, because it serves as a reminder that craft needs a place in my day-to-day realm of existence: to ensure success in this business, and to provide me with some balance.  The fact of the matter is – writing/creating – brings me the greatest joy.

Linda: To refer back to Q1, I wish I had known how to write with the illustrator in mind. Ten years later, and, by George,  I think I got it! It took me awhile to learn to let go of my manuscript and trust that a savvy editor, wonderful illustrator and a child’s imagination would “tell the rest of the story.”

Oh, and I also wish I knew that I’d have to be patient (but I’m still working on this).

Sandy: I wish I’d known how to study the market.  A story is art when you create it and art when readers receive it, but everything in between is business, and you can’t get your story to readers if you don’t understand how that business works.  Basic rule:  If a publication, publishing house, or contest offers specific guidelines, believe them!  Sure, people break the rules and get away with it.  But not often!

Susannah: The one thing I know now that I wish I had known starting out… hmmm… that is a tough question!  I’m not sure I have an answer.  I’m glad I didn’t know how long it would take to get published, or that I would have to do my own marketing, or that even once I was published I would have no guarantee of future publication.  I think those things would have made the process more intimidating than it already was.  I have certainly learned a lot along the way, but I can’t really think of something I wish I’d known.  I’m sure when the other authors post their answers I’ll think, “Oh, yes!  Of course!  I wish I’d known that too!” 🙂

4. Why, as a multi-published author, did you decide to participate in the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge?

Jennifer:  My reason relates to Q3.  The 12 x 12 served as a vehicle to allow Craft to jump back into my work days and elbow Business out of the way a bit.   As a bonus, being part of the 12×12 challenge has allowed me to meet many wonderful people who share a passion for children’s books and creating. So thank you, Julie, for providing such a rich place for picture book lovers to converge.  I have drafted four complete manuscripts so far, and I am “loving” the momentum!

Linda: For the past  two years I participated in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo and, while I ended up with a list of ideas, they stayed seeds buried under a pile of dirt (or laundry as the case usually is). The 12 x 12 challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to tend to those seeds – give them a bit of water, a ray of sunlight, coo to them and see if they actually could grow.

But the number one reason for jumping on the 12×12 bandwagon with all you wonderful participants, was because I wanted to get back to writing.

In the run-up to the debut of my picture book The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, I threw myself head first into marketing and promoting the book — built my website, organized bi-continental book launches, signed at bookstores, posted on blogs, solicited reviews, prepared school visits – everything that writers do….except I wasn’t writing. In addition, I’d been working on edits for  two new picture books due out in 2013 (more like sitting on them and waiting for then to hatch but still…).

While this doesn’t diminish the thrill of all the things that happen post-book, it got me wondering if I had any books left in me.  I wanted to find that spark again, make writing a priority and feel the buzz of a new book project. Nearly four months into 12 x 12, I have four new picture book drafts!  Thank you, Julie!

Sandy: Quite frankly, after 40+ years in the business, I’d reached a place where I wasn’t sure I had anything more to say — and that was bothering me.  I’d completed WRITING IT RIGHT, an anthology of other authors’ work, I’ve been working on several plays that are centered on bringing other people’s stories to the stage, and I’m helping my husband with his blog America — The Owner’s Manual (http://americatheownersmanual.wordpress.com).  Obviously, I’m deeply committed to helping other people share their stories, but I never intended for that to be all my work for the rest of my life!  I read about the Picture Book Marathon in the SCBWI Bulletin and signed on, but weeks passed and I didn’t hear back from the organizers, so I figured it wasn’t going to happen.  Then I heard about 12 X 12 via a Facebook posting and decided that’d work just fine, so I signed on.  About the time I finished my January draft for 12 X 12, I heard that the PB Marathon was indeed on for February!  What the heck, I thought, I’ll do them both.  And sure enough, the more I’ve written picture book drafts — one in January, 26 in February, one in March so far — the more ideas I’ve discovered for writing picture books. Rather than an exhausting double dare, it’s all been wonderfully invigorating!  Have I thanked you recently, Julie?  THANK YOU!

Susanna: I have been lucky to be published, but I know I still have a lot to learn about writing.  For me there is always room for improvement.  I joined 12×12 partly to learn what I could learn, and partly for the motivation – to help me make sure that at the very least I would have 12 new MSS by the end of 2012.  But I also joined largely for the camaraderie.  I like being part of a community of picture book writers.  I love the guest posts on this blog.  I’ve enjoyed getting to meet so many wonderful people.  We all have things to teach each other, and it’s nice to have a place where everyone understands the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations, of being a writer.  I’m so glad you had this idea, Julie, and I’m really enjoying participating!

It is truly my honor to host these four inspiring authors on my blog this month.  PLEASE help me thank them by visiting their websites and social media networks and, especially, BY BUYING THEIR BOOKS! 

12 x 12 Participants – to enter to win one of the four prizes, you must be an official challenger and leave a comment on this post (INCLUDING YOUR FIRST AND LAST NAME) any time during the month of April for one point.  On April 30th, l’ll put a check-in post on the blog.  If you completed a picture book draft in April, you can let us know in the comments of that post for another point.  I will draw winners using Random.org and announce them on May 2nd.

Read Full Post »

Well, here in Boulder March came in AND out like a lamb.  I’ve never experienced such a warm and early spring before.  I hope that is auspicious for writing!   12 x 12 in 2012 participants know that today is the day to check-in on your picture book draft for the month.  Did you complete one this month?

I completed a draft this month – once again on the second to last day.  You guys are such slave-drivers – LOL!  Seriously though, you all keep me so motivated and inspired.  You amaze me – truly.

Thanks again to Katie Davis for giving us fantastic marketing and promotion tips as March’s featured author.  If you left a comment on her March 1st post, you are automatically entered to win a copy of her book – How to Promote Your Children’s Books: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a Bestseller, regardless of whether you completed a PB draft this month. I am also giving away two of her Brain Burps About Books podcast apps. If you did complete a draft in March, let us know in the comments and that will get you another entry.  YOU MUST LEAVE YOUR NAME (FIRST AND LAST) IN YOUR COMMENT IF YOU WANT IT TO BE COUNTED AS AN ENTRY.   You have until midnight EST April 1st to leave a comment on this post and/or Katie’s original post to be eligible for the drawing.  I’ll draw a winner via Random.org and post it to the blog on Monday, April 2nd.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see who’s on deck for April!!

Read Full Post »

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 guest is Jennifer Young.  Jennifer’s clever story, Poison Apple Pie, was recently published by e-publisher MeeGenius.  Congratulations Jennifer! Here she talks about what the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge has meant to her.  Welcome!  

Hello from South Jersey! I live right smack in between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. I’ m surrounded by farms, deer, and I even have a rafter of wild turkey that like to hang out in my backyard.

I’m lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my two little girls while my son attends second grade. My kids are a big inspiration when it comes to writing stories. They love helping me with ideas and my husband doesn’t mind critiquing one bit, or so he tells me anyway. All kidding aside, I’ve got some great listeners in my house which I’m very grateful for. It’s always busy here with miscellaneous family matters and unfortunately last year I lost some of my motivation to write. I still wrote but not as much as I would have liked to.

I enjoy participating in blog hops, writing contest, and I submit to agents and publishing house regularly. One of the reasons I wanted to join the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge because I missed out in participating in the PiBoIdMo hosted by Tara Lazar. After I joined, I was thrilled to find out my critique partners Cheryl Velasquez and Kris Christopherson also joined in the fun.

Since the challenge started, I learned this group of writers and illustrators are all very different, but they are willing to share their talents with everyone. They jump to help others in need to help them succeed. I’ve been following the other members’ blogs which are full of great information like; how to query agents, helpful story starters, ways to organize your time and much more. I’m also happy to say I’ve joined an incredibly supportive critique group which includes four other 12 x 12 members.

Last thing I wanted to mention, even though I haven’t taken a class on how-to-write for children (though I want to badly), I kind of feel like I’m in one. Every time I visit the 12 x 12 in 2012 Facebook group I see members giving out writing tips, ideas, short-cuts and encouragement. So far this year, I’m proud to say I’ve been motivated and inspired to write and it’s all because I joined this group.

Jennifer Young enjoys writing quirky and humorous stories for children. She has a BS in Sociology. She was born and raised in Southern Connecticut, and she now resides in South Jersey with her husband and three children. She has one children’s poem published in Stories for Children Magazine and one children’s illustrated book under contract with Willow Moon Publishing due out before fall 2013. You can follow her at her blog Jennifer Young –Castles in the Sky: http://jennyleeyoung.blogspot.com/

Read Full Post »

Please welcome Elizabeth Stevens Omlor to the Tuesday 12 x 12 series.  With her trademark wit and charm, she shares her own banana peelin’ moments on the way to calling herself a storyteller. 🙂

I’ve never thought of myself as a storyteller. Well, that is until I began to share my picture book manuscripts with other poor kind souls outside my family. Someone mentioned it casually, you see, my name in the same sentence along with the term storyteller. I thought, “Who, me?” It might seem obvious to some that they’re storytellers, but for me I really had to think about it for a couple of days or seven months. I had to roll the idea around in this little noggin of mine for a while, each roll slowly dusting off memories of my storytelling self, starting way back when, yep, back in the olden days. I believe it was 1988.

It was an eventful year, what with my parents’ divorce (don’t be sad, it’s been awesome), my introduction to Roald Dahl (and therefore the onset of my obsession with unwrapping chocolate bars), and my brief law breaking stint having to do with my friend Annie H., clean desk checks and a delicious/tempting Starburst reward (long story that basically ends with me living a law abiding existence for the rest of my days). The memories I really have had to struggle to recall though are the tall tales I began telling at this age. I had tall tales of me having ten siblings, of me speaking other languages, and of someone else carving my same exact initials into our staircase’s wooden banister (How could they!).  I say tall tales, because it sounds more literary than white lies. Mostly, however, to think of myself as a storyteller, I must believe that these tales were a sign of boundless imagination, not moral corruption.

With my tall tale days behind me, still trying to persuade myself that I, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor might somehow be a storyteller, I began my search for more evidence that would prove that I had in fact been bit by the storytelling bug. Ashamedly, I love being the center of attention. Family dinners were and still are, my family sitting in silence, nodding, smiling, gritting their teeth, as I recount events I deem humorous, complete with big arm gestures, a loud voice, and dramatic endings (think Gone with the Wind meets Carol Burnett). When I truly think about it, I guess I can see myself as a storyteller, and what better way to channel that love for telling stories than through writing?

Involvement in Julie’s 12 x 12 in 2012 has been an absolute gift. This challenge has inspired me to break out of my shell (well, online shell that is). Previously, writing was such an isolated practice for me. I sat on the sidelines during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo 2011, just dipping my big, chubby toe in the water by writing new ideas every day. I still relied on my in-person peeps for feedback. My first peep, my husband, the poor, poor man, was previously forced, guilted and yes, sometimes bribed to read my manuscripts. He, along with my mom, my sister, and a couple of kind and gracious friends, even though they may not know you, they all thank you 12x12ers. And I thank you. I can now pretty much guarantee that the relationships with my peeps will last and stand the test of time since I have found others to suffer  read through my manuscripts and with whom I can talk shop.

In December of 2011, after downing several glasses of wine mustering up enough confidence, I felt it was time to unleash the beast, the blog beast that is. Well, it was more like a sleepy and shy blog beast who wandered lost into the cyber forest with her wicker basket filled with embarrassing moments from writing and mothering, complete with  seven followers: a sister, a few supportive friends, a cousin, Lynn Davidson from Canada (I’ll never forget you Lynn!) and some occasional hits from Russian spammers. My blog, Banana Peelin’, was the perfect avenue for me to share my own banana peel moments, moments where I had felt confident and on top of the world only to slip on a banana peel or have a huge piece of spinach dangling from between my teeth. I had come to the conclusion that some people were just born cool. But were they, really? Older and wiser, I now choose to believe that others, even the cool ones, have experienced humiliation of some kind. And thus, the Banana Peel Thursdays blog series was born. With published children’s authors giving accounts of their very own banana peel moments, we learn:

a)     what mistakes we should try to avoid along the road to publication

b)    that these authors are in fact human

Did you hear that Universe? THE COOL KIDS ARE HUMAN!

I am so grateful to have stumbled upon the online children’s literature community. The relationships that I have been lucky enough to make in this short amount of time have been life altering. My blog has become what I consider to be a part-time job. I choose to put time into it because I love doing it. It’s my baby. Personally never a big fan of the idea of giving birth alone, one might say that each author, artist, follower, reader, commenter, Russian spammer, who has contributed to the progress of the blog these last few months has basically helped me to give birth. There you have it. And for the record, ANY individual who has assisted either with the birth or nurturing of my “blog baby” basically has me on a short leash for the rest of my days!

Julie’s interview with Sandi Hershenson was poignant in that she mentioned the beauty in the authentic relationships she has created through the building of her online presence. In an attempt to create this online presence for myself, I had no idea how much I would learn, what sense of community I would feel, and with how much gratitude I would be filled through the kindness and generosity of others. I am sure fellow wanderers in the cyber forest feel the same. For me, storytelling is this amazing dream and nothing could be greater than to have the support of one’s peers in the pursuit of their dreams.

From the bottom of my caffeine-pumped heart, THANK YOU!

Read Full Post »

Please welcome Sylvia Liu, a 12 x 12 in 2012 participant and illustrator.  She gives us advice on how to overcome a challenge I know we all face – procrastination.  Thanks Sylvia!

Do you struggle with procrastination? I do. Once I sit down to write or paint, I’m fine, but getting myself to my work space without detouring is extremely difficult. I also have trouble deciding what to work on first if I have several projects, and I find myself spinning my wheels. Other people in the same boat who have a goal to achieve — whether it’s exercising more or finishing a manuscript — have turned to commitment devices.

What is a commitment device? A commitment device is a term economists use for a self-imposed mechanism to achieve one’s goals. Commitment devices are based on the idea that there are two selves, a rational one who knows what’s good for herself (I’ve got to work every day to get my picture book done), and a less rational self who decides she has better things to do (I really need to check Twitter and Facebook, and look, a really cute video of singing cats). A commitment device lets the present rational self constrain the choices of the future irrational one.

So how would a commitment device work for picture book writers doing the 12x12x12?  Here are 4 options, starting from the least “commitment-y” to the most:

1. Publicly commit to the goal. By signing up for 12x12x12, you have already taken this first step. You have proclaimed to the world that you intend to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. Signing up for online challenges like this motivates you to stick to a schedule and to report back to your peers when you have accomplished the goal. Unfortunately, this is a pretty soft commitment, because there’s no downside to failing other than disappointing yourself. It also may backfire. As founder of CD Baby Derek Sivers explained in his TED video, psychology researchers have discovered that telling someone about a goal will make it less likely to happen. It turns out that the act of getting affirmation from others tricks your brain into thinking you’re well on your way to accomplishing your goal.

2. Bribe yourself. As any parent with a toddler knows, bribes can work wonders for getting something done (anyone give out M&Ms for successful potty training activities?). You can promise yourself a small reward at the end of each month when you have completed a manuscript. Take yourself out to a nice lunch or put $20 away for an end-of-the-year $240 splurge.

3. Get a partner. Another commitment device is to make yourself accountable to someone else. I am a really fair-weather runner, only going out when it’s pleasant. I have found, however, that I will run in cold and windy conditions when I have a weekly standing appointment with my friend. One way for you to make sure you stick to the 12x12x12 schedule is to pick a writing partner who is also doing this challenge. Report back to each other once a month, or swap manuscripts at the end of each month.

4. Set up a contract with yourself. You can do it yourself or use websites to help you commit to a goal with a consequence if you don’t meet it. For example, you can decide that if you don’t finish a manuscript each month, you will donate $10 to a designated charity. Websites like http://www.Stickk.com help you do this by helpfully taking your credit card number and setting up a system (including designating referees) to enforce your goals. (Using similar principles, Gympact is an iPhone app that lets you decide how often you will go to the gym. You get paid each time you meet your goals and penalized each time you fail; the money comes from the pool of people who participate.)

If you really want to give yourself further incentive, you can set up the payments to go to a charity that is antithetical to what you believe in. A recent Freakonomics podcast about commitment devices reported how one man committed to living healthfully for a month, and when he failed, he sent a $750 check to someone his girlfriend liked but he really didn’t, Oprah Winfrey.

Have you ever used a commitment device? What kind of commitment device might help you achieve your goals in the 12x12x12 challenge? Is mere will power and the satisfaction of accomplishment enough? 

Sylvia Liu was an environmental attorney working on protecting the oceans for a decade. Now she has gone back to her first love, art and illustration, and is working on several projects, including writing and illustrating picture books. She blogs about ebooks, tools for writers/illustrators, and other fun stuff at: http://www.sylvialiuland.com, and can be found many other places on the web: Twitter: http://twitter.com/artsylliu, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArtbySylviaLiu, Portfolio: http://www.sylvialiuart.com, Google+, and Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sylliu/

Read Full Post »

One of Louise's favorite writing books

For today’s Tuesday 12 x 12, please welcome Louise Nottingham.  I love that one of Louise’s blogs focuses on poetry, as I am working on writing more poetry myself this year. I have no doubt you will one day be published and acclaimed! 🙂

The Adrenalin Of The Challenge!

Unpublished writer, unrecognized artist, wife, mother, grandmother, and woman of extreme silly imagination! I wonder if I can get that on the label of my urn? 😉  of course I will want to change ‘unpublished’ and ‘unrecognized’ to published and acclaimed! Fingers crossed everyone!

I have to say I don’t know how I stumbled onto the PiBoIdMo Challenge, but I think it must have been some chatter on my Facebook Wall.  I have over 300 ‘Facebook friends’ who are near and dear to me as well as being totally unknown and unmet! Most are writers and authors.  I do so love the book chatter that the authors share. When Tara Lazar started chatting about her past success with a Picture Book IDEA Month I was intrigued. Then when someone compared it to National Novel Writing Month, which I have started often but ‘won’ never (!), I thought “this is something I can do and win!”  I was right! I did it! Throughout the month I found that what I liked most was the accountability and encouragement of the other participants.

Years ago, a library coworker and I had poetry challenges every April (National Poetry Month) We did a poem a day challenge with each other via email each April.  After a couple of years, we expanded that challenge to a full year.  At the end of that year I was so pleased with myself and so grateful to her.  That’s how I feel today when I think of November. No longer is November the month of writing frustration, but the month of ‘idea’ success! I can hardly wait for next November.

Late into the November PiBoIdMo challenge, someone said that they challenged themselves, the year before, to complete one story a month to draft, I thought to myself, “I wish we had a similar support group for that!” THANKFULLY Julie Hedlund stepped up to be our facilitator and leader!

Because of the 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge I have written daily.  I have been challenged with a marathon in February.  And in March I am going to flex my writing muscles to do a chapter a day (challenge) as well as writing at least one picture book!

Best of all I feel like I am making wonderful friends who have been so encouraging to me! I have been lucky enough to connect with someone in my area who invited me to her critique group, something I have missed after moving from my previous home in Florida.

Before I end I want to share what I have on my bookshelves. I own a large collection of picture books, and juvenile chapter books and a couple of young adult chapter books.  I also have many books on writing. I have books on writing plots. I have books on writing flash fiction. I have books on writing character. I have book on writing for children. I have books on illustrating the story. I have books on marketing your books. I have books on publishing and self-publishing books. And yes, all of these are plural: books!

If I have to pick three books specifically for children’s writing I would pick:

Children’s Writer’s Word Book.

Most of this book is just a children’s level thesaurus but in the first few pages it talks about how children read. It also suggests what words work best for what reading grade level.  I really like this feature. Although I used this more a few years ago than recently, it’s still one I would recommend be on all children’s writer shelves.

Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

This is on every illustrator’s shelf, but it should be on every picture book writer’s shelf. Especially if you are NOT an illustrator! On Facebook there is often dialog on what words to cut and how to ‘write for the illustrator’. Read this book and check out some of the books Uri uses as examples.  You will begin to get a feel for what is the writer’s job vs the illustrator’s job.

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Ok, Gail wrote this book for young writers my granddaughter’s age, but I love how she is able to talk about gathering your ideas and writing about them.  Many books for children are total fantasy with fairies and elves and dragons and she taps into that magic fantasy.

In closing, I hope you have enjoyed your time with me as much as I have enjoyed the past unpublished author Tuesdays.  I want to thank each of you for your encouragement! I wish each of ‘us’ luck in our writing pursuits!

And I have a couple of blogs I invite you to visit:

http://poeticlouise.blogspot.com/ Remember when I said I used to write a poem a day? Now it’s a haiku a week!

http://louisesblogtoday.blogspot.com/ Did I mention I was a children’s librarian for 5 or 6 years? During that time I started reviewing books on our shelves, which I liked, for our patrons.  This year I started wanting to keep track of what I read this year.  I am already behind on that, but I do post a few now and then, so stop by every once and awhile to see what I am reading.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: