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Easter Bunnies

Easter came a day early at our house. It all started in the afternoon when I went into the garden bed to clean it out in preparation for tilling and composting. In the process of pulling up hosing and stakes, I heard a rustling in the corner. I figured it was a mouse, but I kept hearing it, so I took a closer look. There, hidden in the tall grass, was the smallest baby bunny I had ever seen.

You can barely see bunny #1 hiding in the grass

I subscribe to the philosophy that it’s best to leave nature be if at all possible, so I called the Boulder County Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for advice. They suggested leaving him alone for no more than one hour. If he was still there, I was to gently catch him, put him in a shoebox with holes poked in the lid, put something in the box to keep him warm and take him to the emergency vet clinic where they could care for him until wildlife officials could collect him.

When I went back, I found the poor guy still there. I put uncooked rice in a sock, heated it in the microwave, wrapped it in one of my T-shirts and put that, and the bunny, in the shoebox. Off we went. The nurse told me they had special food to give him and that they would keep him in an incubator overnight. Whew! I drove home feeling like quite the Good Samaritan.

As soon as I stepped out of the car, my son ran up to me and said, “We found another one in the garden, but he ran behind the shed!” My heart sank. Now, instead of thinking I’d rescued a lone bunny that had gotten lost or abandoned, I had to face the likelihood that there was a nest in the garden that I’d disturbed. I went behind the shed looking for the little one, but no luck.

We decided to rake all the debris out of the garden before tilling, figuring we’d find any others that might still be hiding. Another two turned up, not alive. I thought perhaps the mother had not survived, orphaning the babies. The garden now bare, my husband fired up the tiller and got to work. All was well until he reached the center of the garden. I was in the garden with him, with my son and our dog Rocky. All of a sudden I saw a little one shoot out of nowhere, inches in front of the tiller. I screamed my fool head off and ran after him, catching him just before Rocky did. Here he is.

Bunny #2

So – another shoe box, another sock of rice, another T-shirt. In a moment of inspiration, I decided we should check behind the shed one more time before heading out. Sure enough, this time we found the little guy hiding in a clump of grass. We tucked him in the box, and the two of them burrowed under the warm sock together.

This time I let the kids come with me to deliver them. They were SO good about not trying to handle the bunnies. I explained to them that baby bunnies are highly stressed animals, and that they can actually die from too much stress (boy can I relate to that!). For the entire drive to the clinic, the kids spoke in whispers to each other and held the box absolutely still.

 Once at the clinic, the nurse was nice enough to let the kids see the first bunny in his overnight home. After the vet examined the other two, they would join their sibling.

Bunny #1 in the home where #s 2 and 3 would soon join him

I snuck in some good lessons for the kids – what happens to animals when their habitat is disrupted, why you shouldn’t handle or feed wild animals (or keep them as pets!!!), and what to do in the case of a wildlife emergency.

So, was the mother still alive? Would she have returned to the nest that evening if I hadn’t come in and started digging up the garden? Had I truly saved them or endangered them first and rescued them after? I’ll never know for sure, but I do know that once they were exposed, their chances of survival were next to nothing without protection from the elements and predators, so I did the best I could under the circumstances.

After the kids went to bed, I poured myself a rather large glass of wine and took a hot bath. It turns out spending six hours either rescuing, worrying about or shuttling baby bunnies to the vet is exhausting. But I went to bed feeling good about the fact that the three of them were safe, warm, fed and together. The wildlife officials were set to pick them up on Easter Sunday, of all days, and they will care for the bunnies until they can be released back into the wild.

I slept soundly until I had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to be ….. The Easter Bunny. 🙂

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The book I was going to choose for Perfect Picture Book Friday has already been featured – by none other than the host herself, Susanna Hill! However, I did want to bring attention to it again because it was written by one of our April Author-Palooza authors – Linda Ravin Lodding. The book is The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister.

Susanna’s review of the book is spot on – all the way down to the amusing names of the teachers. I also agree the book brings a very timely message about the importance of free, unstructured play.  So if you missed it the first time around, I recommend you take a look. To make it easier, I decided to share Ernestine’s wonderful book trailer. Enjoy!

First of all, I need to extend my sincere thanks to author Tammi Sauer for inviting me to participate in the official BAWK AND ROLL World Tour. Tammi is my kind of writer – a PUNNY one, and we own nearly every single book she’s written (so far!).  Plus, Tammi is giving away one copy (U.S. only) of BAWK AND ROLL to a lucky blog reader. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling us which Elvis Poultry song is your favorite. (Hint: Your chances of winning are greater if you don’t choose Love Me Tender. Unfortunately, too many of the chickens’ fans have taken this one out of context, and Mr. Poultry doesn’t want to have to find new dancers…)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis Poultry is at it again, and this time we’re catching him on the next-to-last drumstick of his blog tour.  Since we last met Elvis, Marge and Lola in CHICKEN DANCE, the two chicks have gotten in on the act as dancers. But instead of flapping their feathers, they flop. Can Elvis Poultry get these chicks to chill, or will he have to leave them behind at the Heartbreak Henhouse? You’ll have to read the book to find out – no spoilers here!

Perhaps the most important question is, will Elvis take Marge and Lola on the road again? Will we see them in another book? I asked Elvis, and all he would say was, “The chicks’ll just have to cross that road when they get to it.”

So maybe we’ll see all of them on the other side. I sure hope so, because after reading this book I told Elvis Poultry, “I can’t help falling in love with you!”

He just winked and clucked, “I know…”

That’s all for now folks. Leave your comment and enter to win. Oh, and Elvis asked me to remind you all that if you do go see them in concert, please leave the hound dogs at home. They cry all the time, and though they’ve never caught a chicken, they ain’t no friends of his.

Tammi Sauer is officially my hero, not only because we love her books – such as Mr. Duck Means Business and Cowboy Camp, but also because she has FIVE picture books coming out this year (see below for details). You can keep track of Tammi on her website, her blog, and Twitter. If you want to check out where else you can find Elvis and the gang this week, here is the official schedule:

 April 2-6 Rob Sanders: Picture This!

http://robsanderswrites.blogspot.com/

April 3 Julie Danielson: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/

April 4 Jennifer Bertman: From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman

http://writerjenn.blogspot.com/

April 4 Kristen Remenar: Author, Librarian, National Speaker

http://kristenremenar.com/

April 5 Julie Hedlund: Write Up My Life

http://writeupmylife.com/

April 6 Jennifer Rumberger: Children’s Author

http://www.jenniferrumberger.com/

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
COMING FROM TAMMI SAUER IN 2012:

Me Want Pet!
 (Simon & Schuster)

“This account of the age-old bond between animals and children is ideally paced for read-aloud pleasure.”–Kirkus
“Sauer has crafted a humorous read-aloud that’s both age-appropriate and entertaining.”–School Library Journal
“In this Stone Age comedy, Sauer and Shea imagine a child with a demand as old as time.”–Publisher’s Weekly
Bawk and Roll (Sterling)
“This flock rocks.”–Kirkus
“…punny, rocking romp.”–Publisher’s Weekly

Princess in Training (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Oh, Nuts! (Bloomsbury)
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma (Sterling)

Inspiration from Bologna

Today I once again Get All Grateful on Your A** on Katie DavisBrain Burps About Books podcast. It’s a special segment because it’s all about The Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I talk about specific people I met who inspired gratitude, but also about the overwhelming sense of honor I felt walking the halls and realizing that I am part of this amazing community and industry. The segment is about 10 minutes in, before the main interview, which is AWESOME! Author/Illustrator Maryann Cocca-Leffler talks about taking one of her books to the stage, and about how she sold more than a million copies of two of her books. Fascinating!

I haven’t written much about my experience in Bologna on the blog yet. I’m still writing my articles for SCBWI and CBI, and I don’t want to scoop my own self by publishing on the blog first. However, I would like to share some inspirational quotes with you from some interviews I caught in the Author’s Cafe.

Meeting Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author, Former U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and Recipient of the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (+ many others):

  • “I love to write because I can live so many lives.”
  • “The world is full of people with talent, but perseverance is rare. To be a writer, you need talent and perseverance.”
  • She writes for children because, “I have the same questions that children have, and I haven’t been able to answer them.”
  • “I don’t publish anything I don’t love.”
  • It is very humbling to have someone say that your book inspired them to become a writer.”

Sonya Hartnett, Australian author and recipient of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “When you write for children, you have to call upon every single ability you have as a writer to write a difficult scene (like war). Never do I have to reach as deep into my abilities to write for adults as I do for children.”
  • “A writer lives many times, and yet doesn’t live at all. I put my entire experience into my writing. I’ve given my life to fiction.” She said in reference to sometimes feeling existential angst with regard to questions such as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’

Ryoji Arai, Japanese Illustrator and recipient of the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “The ending of my stories are also a beginning. I think about that beginning when I write my stories.”
  • “An artist has to find space between the words.”
  • “People ask me, ‘How do you invent stories?’ I answer, ‘Well, how do you play?”
  • “A child equals hope.”

Lin Oliver, U.S. Author and Executive Director of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

  • She became a children’s author because she went into the L.A. Unemployment Office and saw a sign that said, “Children’s Book Writer Wanted.” She went on to say that she “hasn’t seen those words before or since.”
  • “If you write for children, you are going back to your own childhood.”
  • On writing for boys: “They like to laugh or be scared.”
  • If you want to get published, “Read everything in the field. Write and practice your craft until you are good enough to be published.”
  • On why we need to support libraries. “Librarians are people who teach you how to find information.” This is a critical skill for 21st century kids.
  • “It is important that we all come to regard children’s literature as a global enterprise.” That is why SCBWI is now playing an active role in advocating diversity in children’s literature.

Which of these quotes inspires you the most?

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 guest is a very busy man. In addition to keeping his popular blog, Happy Birthday Author, he recently celebrated his own birthday. He published two ebooks last month (see info in the bio below) which my son LOVES. He’s about to take up beekeeping (for real). Oh, and he welcomed his fourth child, Kate, into the world just a couple of weeks ago. Are you tired yet? I am! Please welcome Eric Van Raepenbusch.

I was a special education teacher before becoming a stay at home dad, a blogger, and an aspiring children’s book author. Special education teachers are constantly gathering and evaluating information about students to clearly identify their needs.  They know their student’s strengths and weaknesses, abilities and deficiencies.  They communicate openly with the student and their parents. Measurable goals are established to guide the instruction to obtain academic and social growth.

I enjoyed this structure. I knew exactly where a student was at the beginning of the school year.  The measurable goals kept their instruction focused throughout the school year. I knew exactly what my students had accomplished when the school year ended.  Seeing growth in a student over the course of the school year was one of the reasons why I loved being a teacher.

In 2011, I participated in my first online challenge; Read to Me Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Danielle Smith at There’s a Book.  My children and I set the goal to read 200 picture books. I recorded all the books in diary form on my blog each night after reading to them.  We reached our goal early on, but kept on reading.  At the end of the year, we had accomplished reading 944 unique picture books.  It was amazing to look back at all the books we experienced together.  It showed me the impact of reading to my children every night.

Near the completion of my reading challenge, I discovered the 12 x 12 in 2012 writing challenge.  I thought to myself, “Right now, I have all these ideas for picture books.  It would be great if I could end the year with twelve written manuscripts.”  I signed up for the challenge to find out the impact of writing consistently over the course of a year.  After three months, I now expect to grow as a children’s picture book writer just like many of my students grew academically and socially during a school year.  I also, expect to feel the same sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of picture book reading challenge but this time I will be holding twelve picture book manuscripts in my hand.

My fellow 12 x 12ers, we are at the end of the first quarter of this challenge.  The accomplishments of the group are piling up and I am excited for what the future holds.  Keep working toward your goal.  It will be an amazing feeling when the year comes to an end and we can all reflect on our own accomplishments.

Eric Van Raepenbusch is a stay-at-home dad, blogger,and read aloud extraordinaire. He creates memorable reading experiences by celebrating children’s author and illustrator birthdays. His blog, Happy Birthday Author, shares his family’s reading experiences to encourage other families to read together. He has self-published two e-books; Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Colors and Three Ghost Friends: Learn about Opposites. You can learn more about the Three Ghost Friends at http://www.threeghostfriends.com.  


March 12 x 12 Winners!

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!!!

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.

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