Posts Tagged ‘Tuesday 12 x 12’

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?”


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.

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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/.

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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/

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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!

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Today I have the sincere pleasure of hosting Marcie Colleen as the Tuesday 12 x 12 author.  Marcie keeps a wonderful blog – The Write Stuff.  I especially love her Wednesday weigh-in series because they always get me thinking about writing from a different angle, especially after reading the comments from all the others.  I also love how Marcie applies lessons from running to writing, as I too am both.  So, please welcome Marcie!

In January 2011 I ran my first race – a 5 miler through Central Park in NYC – as part of my training to run a half marathon a few months later.  I remember clearly standing in my corral waiting for the starting gun feeling like I didn’t quite fit in.  Everyone else around me looked like the “real deal”, wearing cool gear.  I looked like I was wearing a costume. “Hi, I’m Marcie.  I am a dressed as a runner for Halloween wearing various mismatched pieces of workout clothes I found buried in my closet.”   I was sure that someone would stop me and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, you do not belong here.  Please exit the corral.”  But no one said that, so I ran it and crossed the finish line with a big (albeit sweaty and exhausted) smile!

This scenario has proved a wonderful analogy for my writing career.  It has also helped me boil down my adventure into two distinct concepts which I would like to share with you.

1)     Find ways to treat yourself like a writer.  (build confidence and craft)

2)     Find situations where others will treat you like a writer. (build connections and community)

When I first started out, I packed my days with activities that fulfilled the first concept.  Yet, I didn’t quite understand why, despite all of the time spent in front of my laptop researching, reading, and actually writing, something was missing. It was not merely enough that I was “wearing my writer costume”…I needed to get into the corral with all the others in order to fully “run the race”.

When I trained for the NYC Half Marathon it might have been my own two feet that got me across the finish line, but I didn’t do it alone.  I had coaches, mentors, running partners, my amazing boyfriend, family and  friends that were a part of each step I took.  Through  wisdom, encouragement, laughter and cheers they all fueled and fed me.  Just like running that race, life is about community for me.  And what my writing “career” was lacking was community.

The real moment came for me when I signed up to participate in PiBoIdMo in November of 2011 which then led to participation in 12 x12 in ’12.  I originally decided to participate in both of these challenges in order to give myself goals to work toward, but what I found was greater than that!  I suddenly gained entry into a family of likeminded picture book writers who provided support, encouragement, and wisdom.  This community shares its ups and downs, its struggles and triumphs.  I found a writer to swap manuscripts with through email who doesn’t even live in the same country as me.  I gained 24 hour access to writers to bounce ideas off of.  My blog quickly gained Followers and became a true place of discussion!  It was clear that this circle of writers from various reaches of the earth were a community in every sense of the word.

I value my friends and colleagues of both PiBoIdMo and 12 x 12 in ’12.  I am proud to be counted among you.  You treat me as a writer and therefore I am able to treat myself like a writer with more confidence.  On the day that I am finally published, it will be my name on that book, but I won’t forget that you have been my coaches, my mentors, my “running partners” who along with my amazing boyfriend, family and friends make every step on this crazy journey a triumph and a joy.

Marcie Colleen is a pre-published Picture Book writer living in Brooklyn, NY.  You can read about her journey on her blog, The Write Routine (http://writeroutine.blogspot.com). Her new Friday Treats segment deals with the two concepts mentioned above and provides ways to bring them into your own writing life.  She loves the challenge of balancing her fulltime job as a nanny with her writing career and various other activities she dabbles in. She will be running the NYC ING Marathon for the first time on November 4, 2012. 

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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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For today’s Tuesday 12 x 12, meet Cheryl Velasquez, a writer who is getting used to sharing her work and her life – this post is a big step in that direction! I’m sure she’ll inspire you with what she has already done to achieve her goals this year.  Take it away, Cheryl!

Hello from the sunny state of Florida. I’m a 2nd grade teacher working at an inner city elementary school. I love to travel. I am your go to girl if you want to take a trip. I have been to 7 countries and 3 continents. This summer I hope to check off Italy, and Greece.  My family is important to me. I have been happily married for 28 years and have three great kids…well they are grown now, but I still call them my kids. I love to write in rhyme and read historical fiction.

Why did I join 12x12x12?

Having a hard time getting inspired? Or maybe what is rolling around in your head can’t find its way to paper? And when you FINALLY get it down, you think to yourself,”this story sucks!”  Well maybe you have what I had… WDS. You ask, what is WDS…Writer’s Doubt Syndrome. (That’s my own diagnosis)  2011 was not a good year for me. I was stuck in a writing rut. You know the one I’m talking about! I needed a new focus.

So now I know what it is, how do I get rid of it?

WDS can steal your passion. It creeps in between rejection letters and revision-raises it ugly head…sometime to the point of frustration and tears, resulting in “maybe I should stop trying.” People who doubt themselves take fewer chances, and do not reach their full potential. So here is my advice one writer to another.

1)  Celebrate the little things.

2)  Take risks, even if you have to force yourself.

3)  Embrace the 12x12x12 support.

4)  Relax and enjoy the ride.

Celebrate with me my little successes. Since joining the 12x12x12 team, I have a blog, a facebook writer’s page, written 2 picture book drafts, and submitted an entry in the Highlights Fiction Contest. What more could a girl want except 10 more drafts and  a contract!

I am taking my own advice…stepping out of my comfort zone to do this interview. Normally I would NEVER volunteer to do anything like this. Public writing makes me nervous. I do not enjoy being in the spotlight. But every time I push myself, I find a little more of myself. As a writer I have challenged myself to write at least one nonfiction draft this year.  At the end of your comfort zone is where magic begins. So what will you do in 2012 to bring the magic? Put yourself out there. You will be surprised where it can take you. Look at me!

My family and critique buddies (thank you Jennifer Young) have supported me every step of my journey. But now, I have the support of 278 new friends.This does wonders for the self confidence!  I’m very exciting to part of an incredible group of talented writers and illustrators. As a newbie, I find there is so much I have to learn. But I don’t have to look far, because here, right beside me, are all of you. I am inspired by all of the 12x12x12 participants-your blogs, willingness to share your knowledge and especially your encouragement.

So let’s relax, enjoy the ride and see what magic comes in 2012!

Visit Cheryl at her blog, Book Nook, where she writes about the writing life, the path to publication, and shares picture book reviews written by her second graders.

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Please welcome author Rebecca Fyfe to the Tuesday 12 x 12 series.  She manages to write while raising seven children!  She didn’t stop at the 12 x 12 either – she’s also participating in February’s picture book marathon.  Whew!  Excuse me while I go take a nap… 🙂  Welcome Rebecca!

I first heard about the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge through my Facebook friend and author Jo Hart. She had joined the challenge and posted about it on Facebook as well as on her blog. Having previously written three children’s stories that were currently sitting on my computer without any idea what to do with them next, I knew that this challenge would be a great one for me.

Being a mom to seven children means that I have read a large amount of picture books (usually to my children as I tuck them into bed). Sometimes, I would make up stories to tell them instead of reading them a book, and often they would plead with me to tell them a “made-up story” because they always loved these stories. As a result, I have a library of ideas in my head for picture books which have never been written down.

With the new year arriving, I re-evaluated my writing goals for the year ahead and decided to set myself monthly writing goals in order to keep myself productive and to circumvent my tendency to procrastinate. Joining the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge seemed like the perfect way to both get those children’s story ideas of mine written down and to give myself a set time frame in order to do so.

After joining, I found out that the 12 x 12 in 2012 group on Facebook had opened up many new connections for me with other picture book writers and the whole community is so helpful and supportive that it has been a wonderful experience so far. I am enjoying reading the many blog posts from the different published and unpublished authors who have joined this challenge along with me.

As I attempt to get my stories out of my head and typed into my computer, I am learning that it is much easier to come up with the idea for a picture book than it is to write it down. Aside from finding the right idea to run with, there are word counts to consider and deciding whether to rhyme or not to rhyme. While it is a challenge paring down my stories to more acceptable word counts, I am enjoying the process and the feeling of accomplishment when I finish a story.

Rebecca Fyfe is a wife and mother to seven children, a writer, blogger and she writes kid-related health and fitness articles for a monthly magazine. She has a BA in English and an AA in Child Development. Born and raised in California, she now resides in the United Kingdom. She is an advocate for raising healthy children and has appeared in several national magazines and has appeared on the UK morning television show Daybreak.

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Please welcome this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author Melissa Khalinsky, who hails from waaaaaay across the pond in Australia.  She is here today to tell us a bit about her writing journey.  You can read more on her blog Melissa Writes.  Welcome Melissa!  

When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. My younger sister had her life mapped out by the time she was 15 but I still had absolutely no idea. In year 10, I had to choose my subjects for the VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education, years 11 & 12) and chose subjects to keep my options open.

The one subject I always loved was English, especially when we were doing creative writing. I wrote prolifically, having the unenviable task of narrowing down my pieces for my Writing Folio task, rather than madly writing new pieces to make up the required number of pieces for the task. I even won a couple of awards – one for a short story and one for a play. A children’s picture book that was part of my Year 12 writing folio was submitted, and rejected, by publishers (but that’s the subject for another blog post).

Then, life got in the way. I went to uni, got married at 20, went to full-time work, had my first child at 24, second child at 26, started a business, was divorced by 30 and life went on. The usual story. All the while, I was blogging (www.businessmumsblog.com) and writing for business, but my first love, writing fiction, fell by the wayside.

Bring on 2011. I had to go back to work, and my business had fallen off the rails. My fingers still itched to write and fiction started swirling in my mind. The first idea was Accidental WAHM (www.accidentalwahm.com), a series of fictional short stories to do with work at home Mums, which is turning in to a series of novels. Then along came Jimmy James, a young boy with some magical socks.

The ideas started to flow, short stories, novels in progress, and I dusted off the picture book I wrote in high school. With the benefit of 15 years, I could see many reasons why it was rejected by publishers.

I started sharing my journey on my blog and through Facebook, and I discovered a world outside small business and the pages I liked on Facebook changed from business to writers pages. I also started a hunt for writers groups to develop my writing.

Then a friend told me about the 12×12 in 12 challenge. Most of my writing in 2011 had been either short stories and novels for adults, or chapter books for kids, so picture books was a challenge, my skills here were incredibly rusty. But the challenge looked like fun, so I signed up.

It has been amazing so far. The ideas are flowing. My two gorgeous boys have been helping, and are excited by the challenge. I have already completed 2 manuscript drafts and things are looking good for a few more. The first one, I am now polishing.

The 12×12 in 12 group has been what I’ve been searching for. I have met some wonderful writers and have found some people to critique my work. It’s been exciting following everyone’s progress and part of me wonders who will be the first of us to get our picture books in print (I hope the group stays open after the end of the challenge so we can keep up to date).

This is my journey so far. I’m looking forward to the day when I can quit my job and be a full-time published author and Mum to my two boys, aged 8 and 10. for now, I’m enjoying the journey and getting all the stories and characters out of my head!

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Today is the kick-off for the weekly Tuesday 12 x 12 series, which, each week will feature a pre-published 12 x 12 participating author and/or illustrator.  I hope this series will enable you to get to know these hard-working, talented people a bit better, and that you will discover some fabulous blogs to follow along the way.

I am thrilled to welcome Stacy Jensen today for the inaugural post in this series.  Stacy was one of my first regular blog followers, and she also hosted me on her blog for my very first guest post.  She is generous with her time and talent, and you can find the myriad ways to find and contact her at the end of this post.  Without further adieu, here is Stacy.

Which way to go with your writing? Photo credit: Stacy Jensen

Write Without Rules

Do you ever get confused about what to write? I do.

I read about writing rules on blogs and in books. I hear, “Oh, you can’t do that” in critique groups.  Or, “That’s a tough topic in this market.”

As I’ve been studying the craft of writing picture books, I decided to say “No more” to this chatter when I write. I turn off the rule checklist, stare at a blank piece of paper and go for it.

Last year, I wrote my first intentional picture book manuscript for a Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ retreat. As I faced a deadline, I researched the basics of how to write a picture book, but realized I needed to scrap them and just write.

Here’s what I did:

I wrote in rhyme. I’m not very good at it. I should be in rhyming jail, but I did it anyway.

I drew a map of my main character’s neighborhood. I’m not an artist, but the black squiggles helped me visualize where my main character misbehaved in the story.

I studied my ABCs by creating a list of words for my story. It pushed me to not only consider the setting, but also the things, people and places my characters encounter in their world. Plus, I had to find logical items for Q, X, and Z.

I gave myself permission to be a newbie. I signed up for the retreat to learn. I submitted my manuscript to the published author in charge and my small group with no regret.

My drafts are layers in a larger project. Each draft is helping me reach my goal of submitting polished stories to an agent or publisher. I spend non-writing time studying trends, writing tips and word counts. These rules are applied to my story during the revision process.

Just like my son doesn’t like to hear “No” all the time, neither do the stories in my head. They just want to escape and explore the page for a bit before reality reels them in.

So, I’m writing my 12 x 12 in 2012 drafts like there are no rules.

How are rules part of your writing routine?  Can you live without them or do you need them?

Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she mothers a toddler at home, one boy in her picture book manuscripts, and a memoir manuscript. She does this with no rules in mind during the draft stage. You can find Stacy on her blog – http://stacysjensen.blogspot.com, Twitter – http://twitter.com/StacySJensen, and Facebook –  http://www.facebook.com/StacySJensen

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