I have recently been participating in a lot of helpful writing forums. The Picture Book Idea Month was a helpful way to motivate writers to come up with 30 ideas for books in 30 days. (Tara Lazar hosts this event in November each year.) I am also participating in a year-long forum called the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge. In this challenge, Julie Hedlund encourages writers to complete an entire picture book manuscript each month for a year.
You probably see where this is going! My plan is to take my 30 ideas from November and choose the 12 ideas I am most excited about to develop into full manuscripts. I already have my January story close to completion.
It is a daunting task to begin a fresh story from scratch. Multiply that by 12 months and add in being a mom and having a full time job. Now sprinkle in the New York SCBWI conference, the International Reading Conference in New Orleans, a couple Indiana SCBWI conferences, and some author visits, and you have one very excited, but time-deprived lady.
I had an ah-ha moment today when reading some posts and blogs of other writers. Every story needs to have an essential or dramatic question. This question guides your whole story. This question is why the reader keeps reading. How you get the reader to the answer of this question is where your storytelling magic comes in.
You are way ahead of the game if you already know the essential question for your story when you begin writing it. I am going to go through my 12 favorite story ideas and come up with my big question for each before beginning another draft. It seems obvious, but I did not start some of my past stories this way. I look back on some stories I have abandoned and now see that I got stuck because there wasn't a question guiding me through to the end.
So for Project: Write All Year, I am making a promise to myself to be ready to face each new month with a story already asking a question. All I have to do is come up with an interesting and entertaining way to answer it! Best wishes to the rest of you that are a part of the Picture Book Challenge this year.
On my morning run this morning, I was thinking about what I would write for my blog. I know it is only January, but so far I have stuck with my goal to blog each weekend! ;)
So, I started thinking about how similar two of my favorite things are…running and writing.
So really, running and writing are almost exactly the same thing I guess. :)
As a former first grade teacher, I naturally think about ways to extend lessons to create a more meaningful learning experiences for students. We all know that making connections makes the learning and memory potential stronger. Many of my author friends are very good at coming up with activities and projects to go along with their books. I have come up with my own little list of possibilities.
Of course finding the time to write in the first place is a challenge in itself. But, I think it is worthwhile to get more mileage out of a book or article, especially if it is something you are passionate about. Some of the things I am thinking about are articles for parent magazines about amblyopia to go along with my book, I am Not a Pirate. I am working on a play script and reader's theater script for my upcoming book, Nicken Chuggets. This book also lends itself to some phonemic awareness lessons for teachers I could develop. I may take another upcoming book, Maggot Man, and write a magazine article spotlighting a career as a forensic entomologist.
This can work backwards too. Instead of taking a book and adding small things to go with it, you can take a smaller thing you have had published and make a book out of it. Why not take an article or poem you have published and develop it into a book?
Woke up and enjoyed a glorious 9 mile run with a friend. No wind, light snow, 30 degrees…beautiful. Also feels good to get a run in now, knowing the subzero temps the next two days will not be so nice to run in. Came home and took advantage of my runner's high to reorganize some kitchen cabinets, get laundry going, and crinkle cut up a bag of carrots for snacking on later today. Got a refreshing shower, drank a chocolate protein shake, the hubby is vacuuming right now and the girls are playing together nicely so far. The attire today is cuddle duds and fuzzy socks. Like I said, it doesn't get any better than this!
Today the "Start the Year off Write" challenge begins and tomorrow the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge is in full swing. I can't wait to dedicate some time each day to learn more and play more with writing in a focused way. I am excited to learn from and get inspiration from other authors, editors, and agents. When I am asked about how to become a better writer, I always say that my best tip is to learn from others through conferences, workshops, critique groups, and experts in the field. You can always learn more and you can always improve. Writing can be a lonely gig; it is important to network with other writers and get feedback and inspiration whenever you can.
Everyone enjoy this snowy day and stay warm!
Becoming an author really started back in 2009 when someone at Eli Lilly believed in me enough to grant me the Creativity Fellowship. This fellowship sent me to writing conferences in LA and on St. Simon Island, bought my first laptop, paid for a children's writing course, and paid for a membership to SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). I also received a first place Children's Writing Award in Georgia that year.
This boosted my confidence enough to submit stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul and Highlights Magazine. After publishing there, I decided to carve out some time to write each week and go to as many conferences as possible.
I am happy to say that 2013 was a great year too. My story, I am Not a Pirate, was published by Tate Publishing and released in November. When I went to Oklahoma to record my audio book, I met with the acquisitions editor and she took another story, Nicken Chuggets! This will be coming out in 2014.
I also have a contract for a non-fiction work, Maggot Man, being published by Royal Fireworks Press. This came about while attending a conference in Indianapolis and visiting with an editor at an exposition booth!
I was also fortunate enough to visit several schools to share my love for writing with kids. What an amazing experience! I got to do a storytime at the library, was invited to speak at the Lions club, had a book signing at the Willow Switch, and was honored at the Jasper Foundation Gala. What a fun ride it has been!
I am happily plugging away at a new picture book that I can't wait to share. I am trying to be patient and polish and edit as much as possible before submitting. It is hard when you are so excited about a story.
My New Year's Resolution for writing this year is to try to carve out more than the once-a-week spot I currently have to write. I am going to do something writing-related everyday. I am realistic enough to know that I cannot commit a certain amount of time at this point, but if I am firm about dedicating some amount of time each day, it is a step in the right direction.
I have spent some time over Christmas break working on some of the non-writing tasks of writing…creating author profiles on Amazon and Goodreads, updating my website, starting a blog, etc.. I hope to also create a Facebook page soon. I am off and running to a good start for this year after completing the "Picture Book Idea Month" in November. I am participating in "Start the Year off Write" provided by Shannon Abercrombie next week and will also be participating in the "12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge" provided by Julie Hedlund. These are all great opportunities to learn from other writers and from some amazing editors and agents.
I am excited to see what 2014 brings. I plan to write, learn, and write some more! I hope all of you are working towards your dreams too.