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Posts Tagged ‘Works in Progress’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Classroom: the 12x12in’12 Challenge

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

“Yes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Leap Day everyone!  The whole world gets an extra day this year, and thank goodness since it’s 2012 and it might all come to an end in December! Kidding, kidding.  But this day has special significance for 12 x 12 in 2012 participants because it is check-in day.  So let’s hear it.  Did you complete a draft this month?  I know there are some of you crazy folks who completed 26 drafts for the Picture Book Marathon!  But for purposes of this challenge, you only needed to complete one.

Once again I can say without a doubt that without the support and motivation of this group I never would have written a draft this month.  I depart for my trip to Italy in less than 2 weeks and the preparation has been insane.  Knowing I had to post this check-in today forced me to sit down at my desk on Tuesday night (yes, that IS yesterday) after the kids went to bed and knock out my draft.  There is no question about the suckitude in that draft, but it has a beginning, middle and end, so I call it a month!

Thanks again to George Shannon for giving us such great inspiration as our February featured author.  If you left a comment on his original post, you are automatically entered to win a critique from him, regardless of whether you completed a PB draft this month.  If you did complete a draft in February, let us know in the comments and that will get you another entry.  ONE IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT: YOU MUST LEAVE YOUR NAME (FIRST AND LAST) IN YOUR COMMENT IF YOU WANT IT TO BE COUNTED AS AN ENTRY.  Last month it took hours trying to figure out who everybody was based upon the aliases that WordPress sometimes uses as a name.  So that is going to be the rule from now on for all giveaways – full name must be left in the comments.  You have until midnight EST March 1st to leave a comment on this post and/or George’s original post to be eligible for the drawing.  I’ll draw a winner via Random.org and post it to the blog on Friday, March 2nd.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to meet our featured author for March!!

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Snow sculpture illuminated by colored spotlights

Much to be grateful for this week!

Quotes on Gratitude

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

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

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

Gratitude list for the week ending February 4

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

What are you grateful for this week?

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My first FULL morning pages journal

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

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

Any “Aha” Moments? 

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

A few favorite quotes from the Week 8 chapter:

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

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

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

A few favorite quotes from the Week 9 chapter:

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

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

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

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

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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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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