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Posts Tagged ‘Tara Lazar’

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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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.

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Now that I have your attention, let me make a few announcements about how the drawings will work going forward based upon the experience this time around.

First a couple of reminders.

Reminder #1: In order to be eligible to win one of the 12 x 12 in 2012 giveaways you must 1) be an official member (you should know who you are by now), and 2) leave a comment on the “first of the month” post by that month’s featured author.  So using January as an example, you would have had to sign up for the challenge by January 29th AND have left a comment on Tara Lazar’s (this month’s featured author) January 1st post.

That gets you one point.

Reminder #2: If you want to earn a second point, you must 1) first make yourself eligible for the first point (see above), 2) write a picture book draft in that month, and 3) leave a comment on the monthly check-in post on the last day of the month stating that you wrote a draft.  You do NOT need to submit a draft of your manuscript or write a post on your own blog in order to be eligible for the second point.  Using January again as an example, you would have received another point if you completed the requirements of #1, and then completed a draft and let us know in the comments section of the check-in post I put up on January 31st.

The drawings will work this way each month.

I am adding a new requirement going forward.  If your blog comments come up with anything other than your first AND last name, you must also leave your name in both your comment on the first of the month post and the check-in post.  Some people’s comments show up as their blog names, a nickname, or a first name only.  This makes it very difficult to determine who is who without checking URLs, going back to the sign-up sheet, etc., thereby drastically increasing the workload associated with sorting out points.  This new requirement will be effective starting with the February monthly check-in post on the 29th.  However, if you have already left your comment on February author George Shannon’s post, I would GREATLY appreciate it if you could go back and check to see how your name comes up.  If it is anything other than your first AND last name, please reply to your own comment and leave your full name. Thanks a gajillion.

Now, onto the moment you’ve all been waiting for… The winner of this month’s giveaway, a critique from the lovely Tara Lazar IS …..

MONICA LeMASTER !!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations Monica, and to EVERYONE who completed a draft in January.  What a great start to the year!!

Monica, I will forward your email to Tara so the two of you can determine next steps.  Congratulations again.

Keep writing everyone!!!

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One down, eleven to go!

As impossible as it is for me to believe we’re already one full month into 2012, here we are.  Did you get a Picture Book draft written in January?  Let us know in the comments section.  If you did – YAY – you’re eligible for an extra point toward a critique from Tara Lazar (but make sure you’ve left a comment on her Jan. 1 post).  You have until midnight EST Feb 1st to leave a comment on this post and Tara’s initial post to be eligible for the drawing.  I’ll draw a winner via Random.org on Feb. 2nd.

If you didn’t complete a draft this month, try not to be discouraged, and don’t get down on yourself.  Brush yourself off and get ready for February.  While the ultimate goal is 12 PBs, the main idea is to write more by being part of the group than you would have by going it on your own.

I did get my draft finished, albeit by the skin of my teeth.  I wrote the conclusion only yesterday.  With both of my kids having birthdays this month, January is always busy.  Add to that all the administration related to the launch of this challenge, and I can say for absolute certain that I would not have written anything this month if it weren’t for you guys.  So thanks!  The challenge is working its magic already!

Now, for those of you who are really, truly crazy need an even greater challenge, February is also the Picture Book Marathon.  The goal there is to write 26 PB drafts in February (with three rest days).  Good luck to those of you who participate.  I’ll be cheering you on – from the sidelines! 🙂

Many thanks, once again, to Tara Lazar, who launched this challenge for us so beautifully!!  We are all going to buy her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, when it comes out next year, right??

AND – Be sure to come back tomorrow for our February featured author. Excitement!

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Sign-up for the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge is now closed.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 401 brave souls who decided to take this plunge with me.  I am so grateful to you all for providing ME with the inspiration and encouragement I need to meet my writing goals this year.

A few announcements and reminders:

  1. I have sent an email to all registered participants confirming your participation in the challenge.  You DO NOT NEED TO REPLY to that email.  It is for your reference.  If you believe you signed up for the challenge and do not get an email from me, please contact me at JulieFHedlund (at) gmail (dot) com as soon as possible.
  2. If you want to be eligible for at least one point toward this month’s giveaway – a PB critique from author Tara Lazar, you MUST leave a comment on her post by midnight EST on Wednesday, February 1st.  I will draw a winner through Random.org on February 2nd.
  3. Check the blog tomorrow for our monthly check-in.  If you completed a PB draft in January, leave a comment saying so and you’ll be eligible for an additional point toward the giveaway.  Please remember that a comment on the check-in post will not count unless you’ve also commented on Tara’s initial post.
  4. All “official” 12 x 12 announcements, giveaways and prizes will be made here on the blog.  Please make sure you are following so you receive all of the information.
  5. We have a very active 12 x 12 Facebook group where people are introducing themselves, sharing information and support and forming critique groups.  If you are on Facebook, I highly encourage you to join us there.
  6. I am now following all 12 x 12 participants with Twitter accounts. If you haven’t already followed me back, please do so at https://twitter.com/#!/JulieFHedlund.  I have created a list of all 12 x 12 participants that you can follow if you want to keep up with your fellow participants: https://twitter.com/#!/list/JulieFHedlund/twelve-by-twelve-in-2012.  We are tweeting about the 12 x 12 challenge using the hashtag #12x.  If you provided me with your Twitter handle and I wasn’t able to follow you, you will hear from me within the next week or so via email.
  7. I am also following all participants who are blogging.  If I had any difficulty following your blog, you will hear from me within the next week or so via email.  Some of you provided me with static author and/or illustrator websites.  Please note that I am not able to follow those, as they do not have feeds embedded into them.
  8. We have created a list of participant blogs on the Facebook page, and I encourage you all to follow each other.  We’re here to support one another, after all.
  9. As a reminder, all “official” 12 x 12 posts will have our banner displayed across the top.  It’s a companion to our lovely badge.  So whenever you see the banner, you know that post will be 12 x 12 related.  Don’t forget you can put the badge on your blog too!  Wear it proudly! 🙂
  10. Last, but certainly not least, GOOD LUCK to everyone!  I can’t believe we’re already almost one month in.  What a fantastic month it has been!
Do you have any other questions about the 12 x 12?  Please consult the Frequently Asked Questions.

Still more questions?  Please leave them in the comments.

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REMINDER: The deadline to sign up for the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge is 10:00 p.m. MST on Sunday, January 29th.  Don’t miss this chance to connect and work with 350+ picture book authors and illustrators who’ve committed to writing one picture book draft every month in 2012.  Still not sure?  Consider these benefits:

  1. The chance to win craft-related giveaways such as critiques, books, consultations, etc. from our monthly featured authors.  This month’s prize is a critique from Tara Lazar.
  2. Access to the 12 x 12 Facebook Group, where an active and supportive group of writers are cheering each other on and helping each other out.  Seriously, these people are already moving mountains for each other – forming critique groups, sharing resources, giving advice.
  3. Spontaneous opportunities such as the one being offered in February – a chance to win a critique with freelance editor Tamson Weston.
  4. The biggest benefit?  You could end the year with 12 shiny PB drafts.  What could be better than that?

If you are ready to take the plunge, you can sign on the digital line here.  

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Smile, You’re on Katie Davis!*

That’s the way I feel today as I have the extreme honor of being Katie Davis’ first Brain Burps About Books podcast guest of 2012.  I am so excited I’ll be throwing the link around all over the place – in this post, on Facebook, on Twitter, email.  Want to make sure everyone in the world who wants to hear it gets a chance. 🙂

Before I write another word, here’s the link to the podcast.  http://traffic.libsyn.com/brainburps/78_JulieHedlund.mp3.  You can listen to it on your computer just by clicking the link, or you can do the same by clicking the link from your smart phone or tablet and listen to it from there. Or you can listen from the link on Katie’s blog here: http://katiedavis.com/78/

On this podcast, in a fitting tribute to the new year (because Mayans or no Mayans, we’re going to do our best work!), Katie and I talk about anti-resolutions (based on this post) and the need to set goals from a positive place rather than beating ourselves up over (perceived) failures from the previous year. What struck me during our discussion was how we all face doubt and disappointment, regardless of how far along we are in our careers.  It’s easy to look at a successful, multi-published author and think, “Oh s/he’s made it.”  However, that author may very well be plagued by the same doubts and frustrations.  So Katie and I discuss how to overcome that, and how being an active part of the writing community helps.

We also discuss the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge and other opportunities for writers to get a head start in the new year.  I had so much fun recording this podcast with Katie, and I hope you enjoy listening to it just as much!  It’s a great “feel-good” way to hit the ground running in 2012, if I do say so myself.

If you have never listened to a Brain Burps About Books podcast, you can start with the one with ME in it!  Then, get thyself over to Katie’s website and download and listen to the rest.  I’ve been a subscriber for a year now, and I’ve learned so much.  Every show is great. It’s like having portable conference sessions that you can listen to at your convenience.  And they’re FREE!  Or you can do as I did and buy the app from the iTunes store for $1.99 and have all the episodes in one place.  People, it’s a bargain.  Katie is an exceptionally talented, multi-published author/illustrator, a whizz-bang marketing guru and a pioneer in using all forms of media in the children’s book arena.  She recently published an e-book entitled, How to Promote Your Children’s Book. Best of all, she has her bio written in both haiku and limerick form (among others).  Sounds like a lady you can learn a lot from, no?

What can you learn from these podcasts, you ask? Well, Brain Burps About Books is all about children’s literature and has held the #1 in the iTunes store in Children’s Publishing since it began almost two years ago.  It has been downloaded in 40% of the world’s countries. If it has to do with the children’s book business – whether it’s craft, creating a platform, developing eBooks and apps, or supporting a small business as a writer, it’s fair game. Interview subjects include authors, illustrators, librarians, editors, app creators… anyone in the field covering anything under the umbrella of children’s books. Regular features include a “Take 5 Marketing Tips” by Dianne de Las Casas and picture book and middle grade reviews by contributors Betsy Bird of SLJ’s Fuse #8 Production, “Mommy” blogger Julie Falatko, Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, and YA reviews by Bookalicious Pam.

I happen to know that in this episode, you get a double-dose of Julie, as 12 x 12 challenger Julie Falatko provides a review at the end of the show.  That’s 2 Julies for the price of one! An offer you simply can’t refuse.

Thanks again to Katie for making the start of 2012 especially awesome by inviting me to come on the show.  In conclusion, I’ll leave you with this trailer of Katie’s book, Little Chicken’s Big Day.  Warning: it is off the cuteness meter!

*My weekly Wednesday Artist’s Way Check-in will be posted tomorrow.

Questions or comments about the podcast? Leave them here!

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The first Gratitude Sunday post of 2012. Happy New Year everyone!  This week I was especially grateful that my family gave me two full days by myself at the Breckenridge rental to organize for the year.  I worked from the moment I got up until I collapsed into bed, only taking breaks to walk the dog and take my nightly soak in the jet tub.  I loved every minute of it, and I feel so ready for 2012!

Quotes on Gratitude

“A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.” — Unknown

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” — Ralph Marston

“Each moment of the year has its own beauty… a picture which was never seen before and shall never be seen again.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gratitude list for the week ending January 7

  1. Author Katie Davis gave me an amazing New Year’s gift by asking me to come on her Brain Burps About Books kidlit podcast.  I’ll be her first guest of 2012, and the interview goes live this Wednesday (so you’ll be hearing more soon :-))  What an honor and what a way to start the year!!
  2. I set four-year goals, which drove my annual goals (including 2012), which drove my monthly goals for 2012.  First time I’ve ever planned this strategically (and tactically), and it feels great!  Goals, not resolutions.
  3. Michigan won the Sugar Bowl!!  Bonus video of the song that’s been going through my head all week at the end of the post!  Hint: Def Leppard, 1980s…
  4. Laid down my first tracks of the season skiing at Breckenridge
  5. Six inches of snowfall on Saturday night
  6. The aforementioned deep-soaking jet tub at the Breckenridge rental.  It is heaven on earth.
  7. Jay catching snowflakes on his tongue on the chairlift
  8. Watching Rocky’s pure, unadulterated joy at running through fresh snow
  9. Bright pink mountains in the morning at sunrise, and deep red mountains in the evening at sunset.
  10. The astonishing response to the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge, the support and camaraderie of the group, and the whimsical, phenomenal badge Linda Silvestri made for us.  I’m also grateful for Tara Lazar who kicked us off on Sunday.  I started the 12 x 12 group to inspire other picture book writers, but the participants in the group are inspiring me far more!

What are you grateful for this week?

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At last! At last! 12 x 12 in 2012 is here!!

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had a great celebration to ring in the New Year.  I also hope that after you are finished watching football and nursing whatever *ahem* hangover you might have, you are ready for DAY ONE of the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, fire up your laptops, your tablets, your PCs because today you may start writing your first picture book draft for the challenge!

Here to kick us off is none other than author Tara Lazar – the founder of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo).  I am so tickled to have Tara here today because it is she, after all, who set us on this path by having us set down all those great ideas in November.  To make it even sweeter, Tara is offering one lucky 12 x 12er a picture book critique. Hooray!

To enter to win the critique, you must be an official challenger and have signed the form as explained here.  Then, leave a comment on this post any time during the month of January for one point.  On the last day of the month, we’ll check in and if you completed a picture book draft, you can comment there to get another point.  I will draw a winner using Random.org and announce on February 2nd.

Now, Take it Away Tara!

What better place to begin the 12×12 challenge than at the end?

Seriously—the end of your story.

Most of us know the importance of the first line in hooking the reader. Well, the end is where you can lose them—forever.

At the end, your entire story can fall apart. Splat flat on its face. Writing a wondrous 450 words means nothing if the last 50 are wimpy. Your reader will shove your story back on the shelf with a mere “meh.”

The key to writing a memorable picture book, a best-seller, is not in its readability but its re-readability. Parents aren’t going to plunk down $16 on something their kids will only want to experience once. You’ve got to punch-up the ending.

As a creative writing major in college, I rarely finished a story (and somehow they gave me a diploma anyway). I thought there was some mystical formula for ending a story that the professors were holding hostage. I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do. No one explained that you finish a story by…well…finishing it. Don’t let it linger. Sit down and get’r’done!

Now I realize that’s not great advice. So I’m going to tell you three things about endings that I wish I knew back then.

  1. Wrap presents—not endings—with neat little bows.
    When in life is any solution so tidy? Crossing all your i’s and dotting all your t’s—strike that, reverse it—tends to feel unsatisfying because it’s too easy, too clean. It’s not honest. So be careful about making everything scream “happily ever after.” Leave a little opening for your readers to crawl through and explore what happens next. Let their imagination tie up the loose ends.
  2.  The circular ending can be clever and fun.
    As you approach the conclusion of your story, re-read the beginning. Is there any way to echo the opening, to bring the characters back to where they started, but have them arrive as changed beings? They’ve taken an emotional journey and they’re not the same characters they were a few hundred words ago, so what about the beginning has changed at the end? In my picture book THE MONSTORE, one of the final lines is the same as the opening line, with just a few key word changes that make it totally different. And the reader can imagine another story jumping off from this old-but-new sentence.
  3. The twist extends the story beyond the story.
    Bringing a twist to the end means you’re adding something unexpected that leaves room for more story to happen once the book is closed. Remember point #1 above? The twist tangles the loose ends. Think of CLICK, CLACK, MOO. Was the story over when the cows and chickens got their electric blankets? Nooooo. The clever duck never brought the typewriter back! And the flock demanded a diving board! Hilarious! So think about what little twist you can tack onto your story to give a final guffaw. A story that ends on a smile guarantees it will be read again and again.

Tara Lazar is a picture book author, mother, foodie and boogeyman assassin, currently booked at 3am nightly. She’s the creator of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoidMo), the picture book writer’s alternative to NaNoWriMo, held every November on her blog at http://taralazar.wordpress.com. Her first two picture books, THE MONSTORE and I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK will be released by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2013 and 2014. Follow her kidlit capers at http://twitter.com/taralazar.

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That’s right!  I do solemnly swear that I have faithfully executed the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge, and will, to the best of my ability, parlay my ideas into picture book manuscripts.

This was my second year as a PiBoIdMo participant, and it’s hard to believe, but the experience was even better than last year.  First, the amazing PiBo host, Tara Lazar, brought us an amazing array of picture book authors and experts on her blog.  They shared their wisdom, their methods for generating ideas, and their techniques for taking ideas to the next phase – a completed picture book.

Second, many participants gathered on Facebook where we were able to get to know each other better, support one another and share our experience.  So a huge THANK YOU to Tara for bringing us this hugely inspirational and FUN event!

Since one of my lessons learned from last year was to avoid censoring ideas as they came into my head, I wrote them down before I had too much time to overthink them.  This year, I also added a sentence or two, or even a few words about the idea under the title to trigger my memory later because last year, I only wrote titles or snippets.  In some cases, when I reviewed the list later, I couldn’t recall the crux of the idea.

Finally, as I said at the beginning of this year’s PiBoIdMo, my main challenge is taking the ideas and actually turning them into completed picture book drafts.  I find that once I have a draft, I can experiment with the story until I know whether or not it has potential and if it is worth doing the deep revisions and critique group rounds.  However, I have a poor track record of getting those first drafts down.

By now many of you know my solution to this problem: My new 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge.  If you haven’t heard of it yet, follow the link and check it out.  We already have 88 participants signed up, but there is still room for YOU!

Tara also deserves a huge share of thanks for the response to the 12 x 12 challenge.  If it weren’t for all the fantastic momentum we’ve built this past month, I don’t think there would be as much interest in continuing to work together as we draft those PBs!

Thanks again to Tara, and here’s to writing 12 picture book drafts in 2012!

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