Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Run a Crit Session...my only-slightly-experienced tips

Ok.  So last week I talked about “How to Start a Critique Group.”  You have cast the net and gathered together some writers, you’ve set a time and a date.  Now what?  You might be thinking, “oh crap.  I’ve never done this before and now I am the ‘leader’.  Eeeek!”   Well, here are some tips on how to proceed.
Before the session...
·          Remind.  I usually send out an email the week before the Crit Session to remind folks that the date is coming up.  I just like to make sure I am still on people’s radars.  I would hate to get forgotten because a great episode of Glee was on.  Its also a good way to remind them to get those manuscripts ready to be read the following week.

·         Confirm and RSVP.  Two days before the session I send out an email asking for an RSVP.  This is in important for a couple of different reasons.  A)  The space we meet in reserves tables for us…I need to know how much space we need based on how many people are coming.  B)  I will then be able to let the writers know how many copies of their manuscript they need to bring to the session.  That way we can avoid wasting paper.

o   Once the writers RSVP, I let the group know who is coming and it is up to each individual writer as to whether or not they want to send out manuscripts beforehand.  Some find it helpful to have time to critique before the session, especially if you are dealing with more long-form writing such as novels.  Picture Books make it easier to read on the spot.  For novels, you might even ask for the manuscripts a week beforehand so your group can better prepare.

At the session…
·         I would not recommend more than 5-6 people per group.  That does not mean you have to limit how many people are in attendance, it just means that you might have to break the group in to smaller groups.  The last session I ran had 11 people in attendance.  We broke up in to two groups.

·         Everyone should be critiqued by everyone.  If we have to have more than one group, I ask the writers of each group to get critiques to those in the other group within a week after the session.  It helps everyone still feel like a community and get to know eachother’s writing styles.  Also, each session, mix up the groups so people get to know everyone.

·         Reading Manuscripts.  There are many approaches to this.  In my group we have been taking time to read each manuscript silently to ourselves and then critique.  We then read another manuscript and then critique.  Other groups read manuscripts aloud.  There are pros and cons to each approach.

o   Reading manuscripts silently.  I chose this approach because I wanted the manuscript to be treated as it would be if it came across the desk of an agent or editor.  Basically it has to “hold up” on paper.  This has worked for my group so far.

o   Having author read manuscript aloud.  There is great benefit to reading your work aloud…and everyone should have this as part of their writing process.  To feel how the words formulate in the mouth and the ease or unease with which the language flows in very helpful to a writer.

o   Having another member of the group read the manuscript aloud.  Again, it is so helpful to the author to have their work read…but it also allows the author to just listen to observe.

This is all just preference.  I would recommend trying it one way and then maybe trying it another to see what works for your group, maybe even change it up a bit from session to session.

·         How to give criticism.  After a manuscript is read, we take turns in the group giving our critique (at least 1 thing that worked and at least 1 way to improve upon).  And yes, you can ALWAYS find one thing that worked and one thing to improve!  To just say you loved the manuscript is not helpful to the author.  On the flip side, to just bombard the author with criticism is equally not as helpful.  Therefore, this is the approach I like to take.

·         How to take criticism.  While a work is being critiqued, the author is not allowed to respond.  Their job is to take notes and listen.  Remember, if you have to defend your work or make excuses, something is wrong.  Of course, you do not have to take the criticism to heart.  Some comments you will let roll off your back, others you will take into consideration.   But DO NOT defend your work.  If it wasn’t clear to the reader on paper, then it wasn’t clear. 
     After every member of the group critiques the piece, I then allow the author to ask for clarification or answer any questions that the readers might have had…but for the most part the author is quiet.

After the session...
·         I like to send a follow up email thanking those who made it out.

·         I also like to send the dates for the next two sessions.  Scheduling far enough in advance is helpful so people can clear their calendars.

A few more things to keep in mind…

·         Require a certain level of commitment.  In order for a Crit Group to succeed, I believe that the members must make the group somewhat of a priority.  This means that they need to attend regularly.  Since my group meets once a month, I require that members attend at least once every 3 months.  This way we can build a community of writers who’s goal is to support and encourage eachother.

·         I also cap the membership for the group.  I do not find it helpful to be always adding new faces to the mix.  My goal is to be a strong, consistent community.  Therefore, my group is only open to new members each January…and that is only if we deem it appropriate to add.

I hope these “tips” have gotten you thinking.  But remember this is only my approach, spoken from my experience.  You might have other opinions or approaches.  If so, I welcome you to comment below. 

Good luck!  Tell us about your Crit Group. 
And as always, Happy Writing!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tune in Tomorrow...plus a Special Exciting Annoucement on Friday!

After a truly fabulous weekend at the SCBWI Conference in NYC, I am exhausted and a tad fried in the brain.  Therefore, I am going to delay today's post on "How to Run a Critique Group Session" til tomorrow.

Wednesday will be a Weigh In and then Friday I will be blogging about my conference experience.

Stay tuned!

Also, on Friday I will be making a special challenge announcement!  You're going to want to be in on this!  But you are going to have to wait...

Happy Writing!  See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 27, 2012

SCBWI Conference or Bust!

Well, the time has come. 

You know that feeling you have before the first day of school?   A  little "day before Christmas" with a dash more of dread?  That's how I feel today...the day before I attend my very first SCBWI conference in NYC. 

*Deep Breath*  I know this is going to be wonderful.  I have heard nothing but amazing stories about conferences of the past and how much people have "taken away from them".  However, I can't help but feel a little nervous.

I have never had a problem making friends or networking or simply making "small talk".  So, armed with my usual smile and "go get 'em" attitude and a box of several hundred business cards that bear that smiling face ...I am ready!  I think...

Here's where you come in.

There are so many of you out there in the blogosphere who have been to these conferences.  And although I am sure I will have many words/advice/feedback to give after this weekend (and I will blog about it, I promise) I was wondering...if you had to give ONE tip to a newbie on the day before conference...what would it be?

I welcome your tips in advance. 

Happy Writing and Conferencing to you all!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Do You Use Kid Critics?

I have been wondering....

Do you "workshop" your manuscript drafts by reading them aloud to children?  If so, who do you read to and how do you find it helpful? 

If you do NOT, tell us your reasoning for this.

Discuss.  :)

Don't forget to mark your calendars for World Read Aloud Day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Start A Critique Group

As readers of this blog know, I am a HUGE supporter of Critique Groups and believe that every writer needs to have a group (of some capacity) they belong to.  I value my monthly Crit Group so much.  And yes, I organized it myself...so, I often get asked how I did that.  Therefore, here it is...

How to Start A Critique Group

1)  Decide what GENRE you want to focus on.  There are lots of different writers out there, and therefore lots of different types of groups.  The first step in creating a Critique Group is to know what kind of group you want or are looking for. 
  • Rhyme vs Prose
  • Picture Book
  • Middle Grade
  • Chapter Book
  • YA novel
  • Illustrators vs. Authors vs Author/Illustrators

At first you might feel inclined to cast the net wide and say you are open to any and all Children's Writers...but I am speaking from experience.  It is best to be specific from the onset.  This kind of uniformity it helpful for gathering those who "specialize" in a particular genre so that you can give the BEST most KNOWLEDGEABLE critiques possible.  Afterall, part of being a good artist is knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are.  It is also helpful for the pacing of your sessions...more on that later.

2)  Decide what TYPE of sessions you want to have.  Are you looking for a face-to-face group?  Or does "online" work best for you? 

The group I started was face-to-face, as I wanted to build a community.  I also live in NYC, so we have an abundance of writers in the area.  If you live in a more remote area or someplace where writers are not as abundant, you might choose online. 

However, online is a little trickier if you are looking to create a group with more than 2 people.  Email swaps get a little muddy with more than 2 people involved...so I would look into a forum that allows "conference" type sharing online.  I have to admit, I am not well-versed in this, but perhaps someone who is can share more in the comments section.

Also consider your own schedule.  If you cannot commit to meeting face-to-face because you have soooo much going on...then do not force it.  You can try online.  Commitment is A MUST for your group to work and flourish!  More on that later...

3)  Decide on HOW OFTEN you want your group to meet/swap.  People are busy.  Life happens.  So be honest with yourself and your expectations.  My recommendation is to start with once a month.  Remember, its best if your members are committed to attending each session.  When you meet more than once a month it can be difficult to maintain that commitment.  However, I do know there are groups that meet every week and that works for them and they are very successful...but at first, I would start out once a month.  It eases you in to it and gives plenty of time for revisions, etc in between. 

4)  Cast the net!  Find your PEEPS!  How?  First...make that SCBWI membership work for you.  (if you don't know who SCBWI ~ The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators~ are or you are not a member...become one!  It will be the best thing you did for yourself as a Children's Writer).  Contact your Regional Advisor and ask for a listing of members where you live.  I inquired of the NYC Metro Region and was sent an Excel document of members in the area who have requested Crit Groups.  Now, not every region will have such a list, but every region will have a member list.  Get it and send out an email introducing yourself and seeing who is interested in joining you in a Crit Group.
You can also attend any local SCBWI events and ask around.

Yes, you can post on Craigslist or on Facebook or other Social Media.  But I recommend reaching out to SCBWI.  You might find that is all you need.  That's what I did.  I'd actually be a little concerned about who would show up if I just posted on Craigslist...but again, you know your area.  I'm in NYC...so its a tad different.

Other places to post...your local library, college bulletin boards, coffee shops, book stores.  Be creative and cast that net!

5)  SCHEDULE.  Once you have people interested, schedule your first meeting and make it happen!  It can be kinda daunting to have that first meeting, but do it.  Stop talking about it and make it happen.  And remember, although it is nice to have many eyes look at your work, you only really need one other person to make a Crit Group.  Start there. 

I had 2 people (aside from me) show up at the first meeting.  This last month, we had 11 people.  Allow time to grow.  Be patient.

6)  Choose a LOCATION.  Choose a location that is central and easy to get to.  A library, bookshop, a coffee shop, diner, pub, etc.  Make sure there is space at the location.  This can be difficult.  The first location I chose was the cafe at Barnes and Noble.  It was crowded and hard to find enough chairs to place around the small table.

The next location we tried was a Starbucks.  Again, crowded...and incredibly LOUD, as the only spaces to sit were right below the speakers,  Trust me, its not easy trying to read manuscripts when Christmas music is blasting in your ears.

Now we meet at another coffee shop that reserves a large area for us each month.  Its also quieter.  So, do your research.  And don't be afraid to keep searching for that special place even after meetings have begun. 

You can have the meeting at your house...but that's up to you.  I know that works for some...but its not really my cup of tea.  Its a personal preference.

7)  Show up and HAVE FUN!  Building community and partnerships that work can be a challenge...but have fun with it.  Be honest with yourself and others.  Its not going to work for everyone.  Personalities might not gel.  Its like dating.  Allow people to come and go.  But remember, your main focus is your work.  You do not have to like everyone, you don't have to like all of their writing.  What is important is that you are all writers and dedicated to helping eachother be the best writer you can be.

 In that case, diversity is very important, if possible, in your group.  Men and women.  Young and older.  All ethnicities.  This won't happen right away.  But it is something to strive for.

I hope this was helpful.  Stay tuned for next Monday when I will discuss "How to Run a Crit Group Session". 

Happy Writing!

Monday, January 23, 2012

stay tuned til tomorrow: "How to Start Your Own Critique Group"

Hello.  I apologize, but today's post will have to be postponed til tomorrow.  I have been experiencing a really rough migraine since Friday and therefore can't seem to get my thoughts together for today.

Therefore, stay tuned til tomorrow when I discuss "How to Start Your Own Critique Group."

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things That Make Me Go "Hmmmmmm"

Its done.  My January manscript for the 12 x 12 in '12 Challenge is done.  Kinda.  I mean, I have the first draft and I am truly pleased with it.  And the sense of accomplishment from meeting the challenge is wonderful!  Thank you again to Julie Hedlund for this amazing opportunity and fantastic journey. 

That being said, I am a little perplexed and have hit a tad of a roadblock as a Picture Book author who is NOT an illustrator.

I took my January Manuscript to my monthly Critique Group this past Wednesday, and as always they had very helpful feedback and also some nice compliments on the piece.  It felt good to get some direction on areas that were giving me trouble and to have a focus for my revisions.  (By the way, if you are a writer and not already a part of a Crit Group....get one!  I started mine myself and I have to say, what I have gained has been priceless!)

Anyway, one of the hardest aspects of writing Picture Books that I most hear from authors is the struggle to tell the story while also leaving room for pictures and an illustrator's imagination and creative flair.  Some struggle with describing and telling too much so that the illustrator does not have room to "collaborate".  In fact, the very first manuscript I wrote got that very comment from an editor/friend of mine..."make sure to leave room for the illustrator's portion of the story."

I wrestled with this idea for so long.  I wrote and wrote, always trying to "leave room" for the illustrator.  When I finally got feedback that said, "Wow!  An illustrator would have so much fun with this project.  There is so much here to depict," I knew that I had finally somewhat achieved this.

Therefore, when I write manuscripts I try to keep them action-packed and fun on every page so that I can visualize them in my head...but not paint all of that visualizing with words.  So, sometimes it means leaving "space"for for an illustrator's ideas.  Does that make sense?  Still with me?

Let me provide an example....

My latest manuscript involves a crazy trip to the moon in a homemade rocketship of sorts.  I did keep this line brief, only stating that the protagonists "began to build with any items they could find."  In my writer's mind I was leaving an open enough space for an illustrator to really have fun with this. 

BUT...when I brought this manuscript to my Crit Group we spent a lot of time discussing  what these found items were that made up the rocketship and some even wrote on my manuscript that they wanted to see  or know what these items were.

Now enter a perplexed Marcie.  Should I add a line that lists perhaps 3 items and then leave the rest to the illustrator?  Do I list more and add this detail verbally?  Do I leave as is? 

When someone gives the feedback, "I want to see..." after reading a PB manuscript, does this mean that the author has done their job or not written enough?

Definitely something that makes this PB author go "hmmmmm......"

I would love to know what you all in the kidlit blogosphere have to say...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Buy vs. Borrow

Well, here we are again on Wednesday and yet another opportunity to "Weigh In" with other writers and make your opinion heard.  Afterall, last week's Earth shattering results probably changed your life, no?  Well, at least  you had fun...that's the point!

Today is about how you obtain the books that you read. 

See, I struggle with this topic in my personal life, a lot.  I don't have a ton of money, so I tend to not buy a lot of books and I rely heavily on my public library to provide books for me (believe me, my name is always on the "hold shelf" for something.)  Not to mention, that libraries need our help in this day and age...I want to support them.

But, as a writer I want to support other writers and actually buy the books.  Plus, I recognize that a book is special.  It smells good.  It feels good in my hands.  It looks good on a shelf.  Its all mine.  And bookstores need our help in this day and age....I want to support them.

So for this one, we are going to go with comments only...as I know you all probably have your own system for deciding when to buy a book, when to borrow and which you do more often.

Feel free to re-post, tweet, provide a link so we can get as many writers as possible commenting.

So...Buy vs. Borrow....Writers Weigh In!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Perpetuate the Dream!

(from a dear friend of mine, Jon Egging)
2012 is an important year in the life of us all. We have a chance to be everything we have dreamed we could be. It is in no small part due to the efforts of great people like MLK that we can all look at life in this way. I encourage you to celebrate this fact by finding ways to encourage others to dream big.
I thank you for being a Follower of this blog and hope that next year will be filled with success.
Check out these links for further inspiration:


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Curious Case of...Buttons!

When trying to gather thoughts for this post I Googled "story" and "buttons". I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when the only hits were about interactive apps and ebooks for kids. For example, "Press the button and hear the sheep sing out in chorus." I was then reminded of Lane Smith's brilliant "Its a Book!" and want to say simply, what I am talking about here is "a book, jackass." But that is another topic for another day...don't need to get in to my thoughts on ebooks right now.

Today I want to talk about the beauty of the well-crafted "button" at the end of a picture book. 

Tara Lazar kicked off the 12 x 12 in '12 challenge with a post about how to end a story...afterall, it can be helpful to have that roadmap approach to writing and know where you are going to end up.  If you missed her article, read it here.

But I want to take the idea of how to end a story one step further and talk about buttons.  In fact, that is exactly what a button is.  Its the last little phrase or visual at the end that kinda seems to take things one step further.  In fact, if eliminated you would still have a fully formed story.  But the button adds a little oomph and leaves the reader with that much more.

Let's look at 2 amazing examples of buttons...one verbal and one visual...one from a classic children's picture book that you have probably read 100 times and one from a newly released non-fiction picture book that is topping bestseller lists shortly after its recent release.

1)  A verbal button:  Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

"and it was still hot."

After Max has returned home to his room to find his supper, Sendak found it important to add "and it was still hot" on the last blank page.  No illustration.  Why is this?  What do those 5 little words add to the end of the story? 

In a recent writing class, my instructor said that his wife cannot read that line to their son without tearing up.  To her, this little button further comments on the love that his mother has for Max.  Despite his "wild thing" behaviors and being sent to his room without supper, his mother still leaves a hot meal for him.

This button can also be interpreted as a measure of time...meaning that Max has felt like he has been on such a long journey, but back in reality we realize that supper is still hot and although Max's world has grown through imagination, the time it took was actually not that long.  Therefore a comment on imaginative play.

You might have other interpretations or comments on this button.  I would love to hear them below.  But the point being here is that the story was actually quite complete when Max returns to "his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him."  However, this button adds something...

2)  A visual button:  "Me...Jane" by Patrick McDonnell

If you haven't already read this "sure to be a classic" bestseller, you really need to get your hands on it!  Its a delightful nonfiction account of Jane Goodall's childhood.  The story takes us through the adventures and dreams of Jane as a child with her companion....a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee.  Little Jane dreams of someday going to Africa to be with the animals...and at the end we are told, "At night Jane would tuck Jubilee into bed, say her prayers, and fall asleep...to awake one day...to her dream come true."  What a beautiful story!  But Patrick McDonnell did not leave it there.  And he also did not illustrate this page...although I absolutely love his charming and whimsical illustrations throughout.  No, Patrick McDonnell adds a button here of a photograph of grown-up Jane (the real Jane Goodall) with a young chimp (shown right). Gorgeous! 

I have to admit, the first time I read this story I instantly teared up and got goosebumps upon the turning of this page. Was this photo necessary to finish the story?  No.  But it serves as a lovely reminder that Jane Goodall is a real person and that dreams really do come true. 

A button adds that little tear, smile, chuckle or "awwwww".  Perhaps a button is even the reason why we like to read certain stories over and over again.  They satisfy in some way that a simple ending does not.

What are some favorite stories of yours that have buttons? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Series: Wednesday Writers Weigh-In!

I have questions.  Some basic, some frivolous, some pressing.  But I have questions that I really want to pose to the writing community. 

So today I launch a new weekly series on this blog called Wednesday Writers Weigh-In!

This highly re-Tweetable series will hopefully spark dialogue, ignite inspiration and possibly answer some pressing and/or just plain curious questions about writers' lifestyle, practice, the biz, etc.

Let's start out with a fun, light topic.  Today's Weigh-In is something I have been curious about.  It is inspired by Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  So, writers, Weigh-In and re-Tweet away as we answer the question:

And please feel free to expand upon your answer by commenting and starting a dialogue.

Note: Special thanks to Susanna Hill for the tips on how to place a poll on my blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Waiting for the Lightning to Strike!

Ever feel like Marty McFly waiting out in Hill Valley til historic lightning hits the clock tower and you're home free?  I know I do.  I have the brilliant idea, the excitement for the project, the laptop to write it on, various notebooks in my book bag, purse, by the bed and on my desk...the only thing I need is the "lightning" needed to actually write the manuscript!  I know it will come and when it does I will be shaking with adrenaline and creative energy.  I've been here many times before.  But the waiting is tough.

So what do I do when I am waiting for the lightning? 

1)  Stay calm and relaxed about it.  Chances are there are no family pictures with fading relatives that will eventually be erased from existence if I do not complete the manuscript urgently.  Therefore, it is best to breathe deeply and tell myself that it will come...just not right now.  I try not to fixate.  Just go about daily life.

2)  Keep that pan on the back burner simmering and sauteeing.  The key is to not forget about the brilliant idea but to keep checking on it and perhaps even getting my spatula in there and move things around a bit.  Maybe at this point I will realize it needs more salt or oil.  I just keep an eye on it, checking in on the idea daily (or more often). 

3)  Build craft and gather more inspiration.  I know when I am waiting for the lightning I sometimes start to freak thinking, "what if I don't have anymore good ideas?  what if the manuscripts I have already written are the only ones I will ever have?"  Its best to kill these thoughts.  One way is to continue to treat myself as a writer.  Hang with other writers or a Critique Group.  Read online blogs.  Enroll in a webinar or class or workshop.  The key is to continue to build craft in the waiting....afterall, who knows what will spark that lightning.  Its best to keep creating the atmospheric conditions.

4)  Read past work.  At these times I like to read past work for mine.  Isn't wonderful when you become your own inspiration?  Continue to foster belief in yourself.

5)  Research.  Ok.  So this seems more relevant for certain manuscripts over others.  I mean, my current manuscripts is about monsters in the closet.  I could embark on a journey through closets and interview the monsters living there....OR I could just hang with kids and possibly ask them about monsters living in their closets and how they would deal with it.  Or post a poll on some social networking.  Keep those ideas coming.

6)  Chill the champagne and buy the chocolate.  Bottomline is to believe that it will come.  It has come before.  It will come again...and the exuberance will be overwhelming!  And when it does come...don't forget to celebrate! That is important.  So...in the meantime, get that post-manuscript reward ready!

So here I am with my lightning rod up high, drinking coffee, heading to the playground, getting ready for a workshop and webinar this week, reading various blogs...Happy Monday, Happy Writing everyone!  Breathe...and triumph will come!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bear+Hat+Crime=Murder and Inspiration!

"I Want My Hat Back" by Jon Klassen has spent the last 4 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, so obviously, as a Picture Book writer I was looking forward to reading it.  Afterall, I am always curious to see what makes a best-selling picture book...and what kind of story skyrockets a first-time author to the top!  What I found was a delightfully simple story with equally simple, yet engaging, illustrations...and some unexpected inspiration!

In this simple story a bear is on the quest to find his lost red and pointy hat.  After questioning several other animals he finds the perp and takes the law into his own hands.  Brilliant...and I have to say, a breath of fresh air.  Why?  Because I learned to no longer edit those crazy stories in my head that others might say would be "controversial". 

Let me explain....

Sometimes as Picture Book writers I think we tend to "play it safe."  We don't want to write about anything too scary or controversial....so instead we edit our stories to avoid such criticism.  Let me give a few examples to better illustrate my point.

1)  I was once a part of a conversation among writers regarding a portion of a story I had written that included what could be described as Bullying.  It was told to me that in this day and age bullying is a very serious issue and it is important that parents and other adults intervene.  So...it was not considered a good move for me to write a story in which the protagonist was bullied and decided to deal with the issue on his own, without adult help.  Worst yet, my story took a comical look at bullying which I was told would be very frowned upon.  But how do you explain Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series?  Does his behavior and the way that Harry, Ron and Hermoine deal with it on their own somehow condone bullying?  This is an issue I have really struggled with...

2)  A colleague of mine once wrote a Picture Book in which the protagonist ran away from home and into the woods because she was not happy with her step-mom.  In the woods she meets an enchanted frog and the story escalates from there.  It was brought up that her book seemed to make running away enticing and therefore would not be a good sell.  But how many fairy tales involve children wandering off on their own?  This is a real conundrum.

3) Lastly, and perhaps worst of all is when someone says they think a word or phrase is not "kid language" and needs to be changed!  Really?  So if I use a big word my book will no longer appeal to children?  Hmmmm....

Anyway, my point here being that storytelling...GOOD storytelling...will prevail no matter what!  Jon Klassen's book is delightful despite including thievery and eventual murder.  Its fun, believe it or not!  But upon reading it, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of feedback he got from other writers when he would share his manuscript!  Is it too dark?  Should it be more benign?  Should the bear become friends with the rabbit at the end and share the hat?  All I can say is that I am happy the story is what it is. 

Congrats, Jon Klassen for showing me that the sky's the limit!  Despite naysayers, the spirit of the Grim Brothers lives on!

Tell your tale!  Believe in your writing....someone has to, right? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."  ~ Anthony Robbins, American advisor to many leaders.

One of the reasons why I simply do not like New Years resolutions, is that I feel like you are setting yourself up for failure.  We can often visualize these grand gestures of good intentions, but few of us actually take that first step to "turning the invisible into the visible." 

Many of us are guilty of the "its in my head, I just haven't written it down yet" syndrome.  But the scary reality is that that's where many great stories begin and end.  Let's make sure we don't fall victim to that in 2012.

I struggled with this as I sat down yesterday to write my first picture book draft for 12x12 in '12.  I had an idea in my head...but I felt frozen when it came down to writing it.

So...how do you make the invisible into the visible?  I can answer that with a quote from another great leader, Kris Kringle.  "Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking out the door!"

As a Picture Book writer what does that look like? 

1)  Get all of the ideas in your head down on paper...or screen, in many cases.  Take that idea that has been swimming around and get it out.  This doesn't have to be anymore than a brainstorm session or stream of consciousness.

2)  Fill in any other ideas through research or further investigation into your topic.  Do you have enough conflict?  Does your character have enough to do?  Do you have a story arch?  Take as long as you need.  Remember, you might not have a draft yet, but you are taking the steps necessary.

3)  Start putting those "bones" together to create a first draft.  Tbis may take awhile...but you will probably feel yourself build up momentum as you start this process.

Voila!  You are well on your way!  No one said it had to be done in one day.

Stop staring at that blank screen looking for your award-winning first line!  Just do it!  Write!  It will come!  And as for 12x12 in '12...its only January 4th! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012...Bring It!

I've never been much for New Year's Resolutions, despite my goal-oriented nature. In fact, I have never put that much emphasis on New Years, in general.  Sometimes I don't even stay awake til midnight.  What can I say?  One year in California we decided to party with the East Coasters at 9pm, watch the ball drop and head to bed.  Its just not my thing.

Instead, I usually set professional goals for myself in the fall (its probably the former teacher in me).  This past September I launched this blog and embarked on my 10 month war against dabbling. 

I also set personal goals for myself on my birthday each year.  This past year I created a list of 37 Things To Do When 37.  I am proud to say that I have accomplished many of them...but still have 4 months to try and complete them all.  We shall see.  If not, come April 17th I will be transferring some of them on to my 38 Things To Do When 38 list.  :)

But this New Year is different.  2012.  Whoah. 


Well, first, I am going to be running the ING NYC Marathon on November 4th.  This will be my very first marathon.  The longest I have run is the NYC Half Marathon (13.1 miles) in March 2011.  This is huge!  And I am focusing on this goal from this day until November 4th.  So, 2012 to me means building running endurance, taking lots of boot camps to strengthen and slim down my entire body, and overal mentally preparing.  I have always said I wanted to run the NYC Marathon before I turned 40...so November 4, 2012...Bring It!

Secondly, I have enrolled to participate in Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 in '12 challenge.  What does this mean?  It means that I will be working to write 12 Picture Book Manuscripts in the 12 months of 2012...one per month. 

There are monthly prizes for participants, guest posts from those in the picture book industry and a great community of fellow particpants in the Facebook group Julia has set up for the challenge. You can also follow the #12x12in2012 hashtag on Twitter.

So....yes, 2012 looks to be a busy one.  I look forward to sitting at my favorite pub on December 31, 2012 and raising a glass to accomplishments!  I might be raising that glass at 6pm before passing out from exhaustion...but midnight or no midnight, this girl is getting it done in 2012. 

Now I have some work to do...excuse me.  :)

What goals have you set for yourself this year? I'd love to hear all about them. And if you are a Picture Book writer, please consider joining 12 x 12 in '12. :)

Happy Writing!