I guess it’s time for an update! The sound of crickets has permeated this website for far too long. Sorry, crickets, but you’ll have to stop singing for a few minutes while I explain myself.
Here’s how I’ve been tackling picture book writing:
Engaging in the great wide world of Twitter. Twitter writers of all genres have proved surprisingly supportive, often following just because I’m a writer. I started out with 0 followers and now, after several months of engaging, talking, laughing, and being generously added to writing threads, I have over 1,600 followers (update: over 2,000). My new-found secret to Twitter is this: be nice, have fun, and enjoy people. Writer hashtags are #writingcommunity #writerscommunity #writercommunity #writerslife and #kidlit. I also love checking in on #kidlitart.
Joining an SCBWI critique group. These people are gold. Contributing to and learning from this group has me excited every month. I’m finding that critiques helpful no matter what kind of feedback I receive. The advice I agree with helps me revise my manuscripts, and the advice I disagree with helps me firm up my goals.
Submitting three stories to my first ever contest. I entered the “Kindergarten rocks” contest put on by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Finishing and submitting my manuscripts was a bit intimidating, but I left feeling more accomplished. Even if I don’t win, I’ve gained valuable experience. The webinar announcing and critiquing the winners is free for writers who entered and $7 for anyone who didn’t submit an entry.
Joining the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge by Julie Hedlund. The challenge is to write twelve picture books in twelve months, but the community is what keeps people signing up year after year. Writers of all experience levels encourage each other in the art of picture books via a forum, a monthly webinar, and a Facebook group. Thinking I couldn’t afford it this year, I applied for a scholarship, which I didn’t win (another great learning experience, and possibly cringe-worthy). Then I received a surprise Christmas check and I was back in business!
Asking boatloads of questions. The biggest one I have in mind right now is: Where do I fit as a children’s writer? What are my goals? Do I want to stick with one style or vary? How quickly should I pursue publication? Do I want to pursue agents? What kind of agent do I want to pursue?
Writing. This one seems obvious, but honestly, it can be a challenge. I’m full of all kinds of ideas, but fleshing them out feels intimidating sometimes, especially when the standard word-count for picture books is 500 words or less.
Star-gazing. Lately I’ve felt like I’m staring into the ocean at night, just staring, and wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. I know there’s an island out there, somewhere, but the path feels dark and threatening and this menacing pile of wood sits here next to me, telling me to build it into a boat. My answer to this? I look up. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26) I know an endlessly powerful Creator who knows and cares about the answers to my small questions. I only need to follow Him, one faithful step at a time.