Category Archives: Advice – Helpful or Otherwise

Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Farewell, Happiness, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing

Clearing The Path

Not too long ago I tackled one of those (kind of miserable) projects to which there is no alternative but hard work. I had to remove the grass that had grown for years between pavers and was progressing to cover the walkway completely. The only way to remove said grass was to get down on my hands and knees with a couple of sharp turf knives. I’m not fond of chemicals and with this kind of growth? No alternatives to using muscle and making sweat.

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The path before.

I decided to spend an hour every morning, an hour that coincided with consuming my second cup of coffee, on hands and knees and getting the job done a bit at a time. That way my back could recover after each foray, I’d feel accomplished for the day, and the job would, in fact, get done. Eventually.

It took me about two weeks all told, but I’ve removed the grass, and I can assure you it won’t be allowed to regrow there. The path looks terrific and I enjoy walking on it again. It frames my garden as it should. It feels nice underfoot. I’ve saved something I almost lost.

As with all things in life, metaphors to writing abound.

That grass was really stubborn. The knives had to be re-sharpened every day – sometimes twice a day (thank you, DH). Some places had to be dug deeper and deeper – the roots had become entwined and grown right under the pavers. Sometimes the grass pulled up in a long intact piece, like peeling a banana – especially where it had grown across the rocks so the roots had no soil.

I’ve been struggling with a revision of a piece that I adore but that I wrote a long time ago. It needs a lot of work. The roots of words, in places, have dug in deep. In other places, the roots are so shallow they have no foundation. The story and the character had both disappeared underneath a pretty but choking mat of wordy growth. It’s been hard for me to find my way and re-expose the stuff that’s important.

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And after

I’m figuratively on my hands and knees and my back gets cramped, and I have to stand up every so often and take another gulp of coffee. I can only work on this for so long before I need a break.

Yet, bit by bit, little by little, the pathway is reopening. My story is revealing itself again after having nearly been smothered. I have to remind myself that this is painstaking work (just ask my back) and that it will take time, but that each day brings a new revelation, and each effort exposes more of the story and more of the character, and eventually, when I stand back, I’ll be delighted.

And that’s the way we writers roll, do we not?

(ps in case you’re curious: I was told that white vinegar spray would kill grass just as effectively as a commercial herbicide – and it does! It’ll be very easy to spray the new invaders now that I’ve done the hard work.)

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Farewell, Secrets, Memes, Poems, Art for the Sake of Art, Be Who You Are, and Carry On!

The time has come for me to take my leave of this amazing group of debuts, since my Middle Grade debut Foot Davis Probably Is Crazy has been out in the world for several months now! I hope to someday return for a picture book debut, but that may be an impossible dream … (cue wonky music).

imageSo, as I go, I thought I’d tell some not-so-closely guarded secrets. The big one is, writing wasn’t my first love as an art form. No, seriously. It wasn’t! I wanted to paint. I really, really tried to paint. When I was five, I actually had a canvas, and kid paints, and everything, and sat down to copy a Monet, and … well, this went horribly wrong (I think my mother still has lamps with paint flecks on them). I made lots of color blobs, but never anything with a real shape. This type of art, it wasn’t my talent. So, then I took up ballet dancing, and yeah, never mind that, either.

When I did start to wrimageite, it was in third grade, and my first book was of course about horses. The second was about aliens and I still sorta like it, even if it was so totally terrible. In high school, I went through the mandatory poetry and twisty-short-story phase because I absolutely knew everything in the universe and I needed to make ART  (note the big letters, because emo).

I finally came to novel-writing, and young-adult novel writing much later in life, and I have loved it since then. And yet, imagemoments of those earlier artistic dreams sneak in. Lately, I’ve been taking photographs and using quotes from my novels to make memes/posters–not for any reason other than the fact that it makes me happy. Art, for the sake of art. It makes my soul sing. Also–ha–I’m working on a novel that involves horses…funny how that circle comes ’round. Funny, and also wonderful.

So, for all of you coming new to writing, and those of you not new to it, and those of you who are “old heads,” and those of you kind enough to read what we do, I’ll leave you with these oh-so-sage words (excuse the coughing fit as I laugh myself silly):  Come as you are, be who you are–and ART. Just, art.

And, for good measure, here’s a really emo old poem that I used in EXPOSED, in 2007:

AT THE TOP

The rains

Are coming again I can

Feel them

On my shoulders

At my back

Wind

Scrapes my cheek

A cold paintbrush

Stiff

With unknown pictures

Now, carry on with your brilliance, and I’ll see you all soon!

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Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught is the author of many books for young adults, such as TRIGGER, BIG FAT MANIFESTO, and FREAKS LIKE US. Her debut novel for middle-grade readers, FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, published by Simon & Schuster, hit the shelves in March, 2015. Please visit Susan at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Creativity, Farewell

Unless You Have Already Called 911–Some Tips for Sharing the Summer with Kids

So, it’s summer. Strawberries. Kayaks. Kids in my office.

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Ok, my office is a corner of the bedroom. Or the kitchen table. Or the living room couch. And school’s out.

So if you work from home and you’re in that phase of life where you’re writing and raising kids at the same time, here are a few ideas about how to share the summer so that both the writer and the kids are happy.

Make a sign for your door.

The sign that goes up on my bedroom door during the summer says, “Unless you have already called 911, do not knock on this door. I’m writing.” I know, I know. It sounds a little harsh. But my at-home kids are 14 and 11. They are perfectly capable people. And the sign was made one afternoon when they had knocked on the door to ask “Do we only have creamy peanut butter?” “Can Vi come over tomorrow?” “Do you know where the toenail clippers are?” and seventeen other things that could have waited until after work time.

The point is to set work times and kid times and then honor them. Talk to your kids about what time you need. Ask them to honor that time. But then honor their time too. During the summer, I only work two hours a day. It’s a lot less time than I usually write. But it’s enough time to keep my brain working. It’s summer and I know that in September, I’ll hit it hard again. And once I walk out of that room and take down my sign, I’m home from work and can do kid stuff without thinking about the writing because I know tomorrow at 2:00, I’ll have two hours where no one will interrupt me at all.

You know that cute middle school kid on your block? Maybe they need a summer job.

When my kids were younger, just hanging a sign on the door would not have worked at all. But there were certain fun kids who lived in our neighborhood who really wanted to earn some spending money but weren’t quite old enough for a job. And they were still young enough to enjoy playing. So I’d hire them to come play wild games of soccer for two hours with my boys. I’d get writing time. They’d get money from me and total adoration—hero status, really—from my boys. And it was the best time of the day for my boys.

Create an artificial media shortage.

I’m not sure I’m proud of this technique but I used it for two summers and it works amazingly well. Simply cut off all access to media except during the two hours you’re planning to write. My kids did all sorts of other things because media wasn’t the easy default. And at 2:00 in the afternoon, every device in the house flickered on and an eerie silence descended as the little brains went in for their fix. And I went into my room and wrote like a maniac for two hours.

Teach yourself to work where you are.

You’ve got to drive a kid to soccer/science/art/drama camp and then you’ve got to drive home and snatch some work time. But then you’ve got to drive back. You just lost a lot of time back and forthing in the car. What if you just dropped the kid off and plunked yourself under a tree with a notebook or a laptop?

Enjoy your kids.

You only get so many summers. And as Elaine reminded us last week, it’s all about balance and having those “real-life, non-writing adventures” feeds the writing too. (You can read that post here.) So go climb to that waterfall that you have to let yourself down to with a rope someone tied to a tree. Let ten fourteen year olds invade your house and don’t stop the waterfight that develops. Wake a kid up early and go watch the sunrise from a kayak. Everything goes into the well and we draw it back out and transform it. Maybe it’s time to spend some time filling up the well.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Writing and Life

Gifts and Talent

Mothman's Curse Final CoverFirst of all, an announcement: the winner of the Mothman’s Curse giveaway is TheSmitlyJotter! Congratulations! Christine will be in touch soon to arrange delivery. Thanks to everyone who commented and followed along with us through Christine’s launch. We hope you had as much fun as we did. If you didn’t win last week—stay with us! There are many more launches ahead this summer.

Next, I have a confession to make.

I forgot that I was supposed to post today.

Fortunately, the talented, helpful and far-better-organized-than-I Mylisa Larson sent me a heads up. That got me thinking.

If we remove the far-better-organized-than-I bit from the list of attributes above then we’re left with two traits: talented and helpful. I think there’s something about those two qualities, and the relationship between them, that merits some attention.

We all know people who are talented. We all know people who are helpful. But I think that if we were all to construct a Venn Diagram detailing the people in our lives who are talented and who are helpful then a good number of people would be listed in the in-between area—that special place reserved for people who are not just one thing or the other, but both.

That’s not a revolutionary thought, of course. Obviously we all know people who are talented and helpful. But I know that in recent years I’ve been developing a whole new appreciation for such people and how much good they do.

I think this awakening started when I began pursuing my Master’s in Children’s Literature. I had been away from writing and scholarship for a long time. I was (at least) ten years older than most of my classmates, who were all inconsiderately clever and creative and made me very conscious of my insecurities about moving from the education field (where I knew a thing or two) to the field of children’s literature (where I did not).

But as anxiety inducing as my classmates were, I was most influenced by my professors. And I quickly began to notice that the professors that seemed to be the most knowledgeable of their craft or area of scholarship were also the professors that were the most generous with their time and encouragement. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, or an observation born of gratitude. I think there’s a connection between talent and helpfulness. Maybe it’s because the most talented people are the most secure, and therefore the most open. Maybe talent demands growth and kindness nurtures growth—within and without. Maybe it’s more complicated than either of those thigns (or more simple).

All I know is that, since entering the world of writing for children, the people that have impressed me the most with their talent and skill have also been the people who are most inclined to encourage and support the growth of others. I think that’s true of the community here at EMU’s Debuts. I think it’s true elsewhere.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Maybe it’s a reminder to myself to remain appreciative. Maybe it’s a note that while I may not ever achieve the level of talent possessed by those that inspire me I can still aspire to match their generosity and level of encouragement. It’s so easy to forget to do both those things. Life is busy. There are weddings and honeymoons and medical tests and deadlines and new Batman video games to play. It’s easy to forget to be grateful and generous. But I genuinely believe it’s worth the effort, both for ourselves and the people around us.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Book Giveaway

A (Not Terribly Original) Writer’s Top 10

Top TenAs my launch date comes hurtling toward me, I’ve been trying to sum up ALL the FEELINGS, struggling to think of something new or meaningful to say. Here’s what I came up with instead, in honor of David Letterman’s recent retirement:

THE TOP 10 NOT TERRIBLY ORIGINAL THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS A SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED AUTHOR

10. Writing is difficult and emotionally draining and often takes way longer than it should. What do you mean my plot has to make sense?!?

9. Writing is EVERYTHING because you are creating living, breathing beings with the power of your brain and fingers. And those beings can actually change someone else’s life. That’s huge.

8. Social media is apparently a big deal. It makes my head feel like it’s going to explode, but I’ve been trying anyway because it’s a BIG DEAL. (Here I am on my web site, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and now Instagram. Arrrgggh.) But the writing should always, always come first.

7. There are long periods of time in which you just have to wait, graciously, and try to be productive while you’re waiting. Sometimes you will throw things or throw tantrums and hopefully you will keep it within the walls of your own home so that only your family will know for sure that you’ve totally lost it.

6. You will cry. You will be disappointed sometimes. Sometimes there will be wonderful surprises, like amazing friends who are supportive and who totally get you.

5. You will form this tough, thick core of inner strength and resolve that will surprise you and the people who know you. You’ll learn to take risks in your writing and in other areas of your life.

4. It never really gets easier. Just different.

3. You will stress out about a thousand separate things that do not matter. STOP IT! (Yeah, I know, I can’t stop either.)

2. When someone tells you they liked your book, your insides will glow and you will smile a lot. It’s a really, really good feeling.

1. Don’t try to be anybody else but you. There is greatness inside you, but it won’t look the same as someone else’s, because it’s not supposed to.

 

Oh! And if you happen to live somewhere in northern Utah (or if you’re a fan of driving long distances), I would LOVE to see you on June 16 , 7 pm at the Provo Library for the official MOTHMAN’S CURSE launch event, part of the Author Link series! Check it out here.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Happiness, Launch, Promotion, Thankfulness

Finding my balance between promotion and writing

On Thursday, Luke put up an honest, heartfelt post about the realities of being a writer (please go read it right now—all the way to the end!). There are often many years spent waiting—writing, revising, submitting, revising again, submitting again, writing something new, repeat—the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes. We long for that golden ticket, that recognition, that validation that will make all of that effort worth it.

Then, finally, success: we’re published! We think our new status will make things easier for us somehow, like we discovered the secret formula and can just apply it over and over whenever we need to produce a publishable manuscript. In some ways it does: people do take you more seriously when you’re published. But in many other ways, it actually makes things harder.

I’ve seen writers with a successful first book struggle with the second, fearful that it won’t live up to their previous work. Others want to write something completely different, but feel pigeon-holed in a single genre. An unlucky few are so stung by negative reviews that they have a hard time putting themselves out there for more. Still others spend so much time promoting the first book that they simply don’t have time to write another one!

My challenge was similar to Luke’s: It’s so exciting to check on the status of your book, so compelling to want to nudge it out into the world a bit more, so easy to pop in and do quick, light promotion. And there’s always more you can be doing pre- or post-launch to get the word out. You’re constantly wondering what else you should be doing, who else you should be talking to. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in the world of that first book.

It’s not so much that you don’t have time to write anymore. You really don’t have to do all of those things. It’s more that all of the checking, nudging, and promoting feels necessary. It seems important. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of your first book—and, heaven forbid, of that first publisher who took a chance on you and made all of your big dreams come true!—to do anything less. It’s exceedingly difficult to switch gears and go back to the waiting; back to the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes; back to the writing.

This was actually one of the scariest and hardest parts of the whole journey for me. For months after Be a Changemaker came out, I worried that I’d never be able to write again, never be able to get myself back into that mindset, back to the focus and discipline needed to dive into writing something new. It was part of the process that I wasn’t at all expecting, and it took me completely off guard. Fortunately, I had other author friends (mostly Emus!) to discuss it with. They all said things like, “Yep, the same thing happened to me. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

And, you know what? I did. I’m back to writing, and I’m loving it. I still do promotion, and I’m loving that, too. But, I’m finally starting to find my balance, discovering ways to foster the creative beginning of the process with one project while at the same time managing the more analytical business end of the process on another.

As I told the kids at the school visit I did last Friday: “Writers write. Period.” And, eventually, we discover that the writing itself is what makes it all worth it. We realize that we can’t NOT write. And we get back to work.

Writers write


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Colleagues, Creativity, Discipline

A Plea for Anger

This is one of those posts where I’ll wear both my professional hats–author, and psychologist. I want to talk about anger as a normal and even positive human emotion that deserves a spot in children’s literature.

Yes, anger. ANGER. The bad feeling! The demonized emotional state! That emotion people are told they shouldn’t feel, or that they should work to eradicate. In today’s world, we have come to a point of teaching people that if they experience anger, there might be something wrong with them (not the thing that made them angry). Worse, I see a not-so-subtle push to hint that everyone, even victims, can choose whether or not to feel anger.

As both a writer and a psychologist, my opinion about that is, UM, NO. <Oops. Did that sound angry?>Mad-Lady

Anger, like fear, happiness, and unhappiness, is a regular, healthy human emotion. Like hunger, excitement, and pain, anger is also a physical sensation with a specific purpose. A colleague of mine in the field of psychology has survived three harrowing battles with cancer (two his own, one his beloved wife), and he said once, of pain, “It’s so simple. Pain is the body’s way of saying Look! LOOK RIGHT HERE! Pay attention to this.” Pain is the body’s alert and cry for help and care.

Roland (1)Anger, likewise, is one of the mind’s attention-getters. Consider it your brain’s way of saying, “Hey! Look right here!” Think of anger as a spiritual alert that some essential aspect of you or what you value is being violated. Then find a healthy way to spend the physical energy anger generates, the purpose of which is to allow you to defend yourself or your world when that defense is needed. Yes, anger is very physical, and it needs to be spent, not stored, or it can lead to dis-ease, disease, or even violence.

And there’s the key. While anger often contributes to violence, anger does not equate with violence. Anger isn’t a choice, but usually, violence is. There are many other positive, healthy things to do with anger, like exercise, or write a fiery speech or even an entire book, make a video, paint it out, write a bill to become law, walk away from a toxic person or situation, protest injustice–the list of healthy ways to spend anger is pretty limitless. Put it to work. That’s why you have it, and why you feel it. Identify the violation, and address it productively. Anger doesn’t have to lead to harm to anyone or anything. In fact, anger can herald that historic moment when harm finally meets its match in our will, and ceases.

In the absence of violence, anger itself is not the problem. The violation that sparked it is the problem. Anger is a change agent. Sometimes it’s the situation/violator that needs to change, and sometimes it’s our own perceptions (ooooh, yes, we can ALL get angry over “nothing,” toothpaste in the sink, misperceptions–that list is endless, too).

As writers, especially children’s writers, I think we owe anger some serious attention. I hope we’ll let some of our characters FreakinTroubleget down-and-dirty, white-hot furious sometimes, and do something productive with that emotion. We all know that children need to see themselves on our pages–and kids get angry. Ticked. Pissed off. Cross-eyed, spitting, shouting MAD. Asking them to put the feeling away, to not express it, to become “long-suffering” in the face of obvious injustice and violations–it may just distance them from what we write. It could rob them of vicarious opportunities to practice healthy spending of that energy, evaluating what caused it, and putting their anger to good use to make needed changes in our world.

So, the short version is this:

Mad ≠ Bad!

Give anger a little respect!

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Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught

Susan Vaught is the author of many books for young adults, such as TRIGGER, BIG FAT MANIFESTO, and FREAKS LIKE US. Her debut novel for middle-grade readers, FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, published by Simon & Schuster, hit the shelves in March, 2015. Please visit Susan at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Character Development, craft~writing

“I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Picture Book”-Getting Started

I have a lot of people ask me how I got a book published. Because . . .

They’ve always wanted to write. Or they have an idea for a picture book. Or their daughter has an idea. Or their mother always wanted them to write about the goose that lived in the shed across the street. Or they wrote a story years ago and they have a second cousin who could illustrate it.

I know other writers get asked the same thing. Many times I’ve found that the person asking is just making conversation. Because the minute I say “writing journey” they don’t seem quite so interested. I think they thought the “journey” was really just a “jaunt”. And then when I mention SCBWI (of course I say the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), their eyes glaze over. TMI! I know it’s time to stop.

There have been a few, though, that want more information. I email them links and information I think they would find helpful. Usually I don’t hear back. But, recently, I shared information with someone who has written professionally for years. Now she wants to write picture books. And she’s a member of SCBWI! She’s attended conferences. She’s serious, folks! And I had a ton of fun sharing resources and talking picture books. It reminded me that of all those who say they want to write, a few REALLY do!

It seems that most of the people who read our blog are already on their writing journey. But I imagine we have a few that visited this site who are just getting started. I know I visited this site regularly when I was new on my journey. So I thought I might address the “How did you get a book published?” question for those who are truly interested and would just like a starting point and places to gather information.

Note: There is no way to list every resource and website. These are only a few of the ones that were particularly helpful on my journey as they include challenges, etc. that inspired me to write. On top of these, I read many blogs. When you check out KidLit411 below, I will provide their link to a list of wonderful blogs.

SCBWI: Click HERE to browse their website. It is chock full of all things KidLit. I strongly advise becoming a member. My membership is invaluable. There is a forum available. To read all of the boards in forum, you have to be a member of SCBWI. You can get a taste of the valuable information on the forum without being a member.

Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo: PiBoIdMo stands for Picture Book Idea Month.This takes place in November. Each day you will be inspired by amazing posts by authors, illustrators, and other KidLit lovers. This challenge is free and if you participate you’re likely to end the month with a list of new ideas for picture books. You’ll also get a glimpse into the wonderful, sharing KidLit community. You don’t have to wait until November if you want to be inspired. Follow her blog and check out the archives for wonderful posts. You can find out more information HERE.

Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog: Susanna always has something going on over at her blog. I met her early in my writing journey and her blog has been a huge plus for me. Her Perfect Picture Book Friday series will clue you in to excellent picture books. The series features reviews by a variety of picture book lovers. Her Would You Read It Wednesday series focuses on picture book pitches which are extremely important for writers when they have manuscripts ready to pitch to agents and editors. Susanna also hosts amazing contests with amazing prizes. Click HERE to browse Susanna’s blog.

Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12: This is a challenge to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. If you’re wanting accountability, community, and resources it is well worth the fee. Registration for next year will be in January. In the meantime, follow Julie’s blog and you will benefit. Find more information HERE.

Then there is the site of all sites-KidLit411: Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu have gathered KidLit resources from all around the Internet on their website. It is AMAZING. It includes all the sites I’ve mentioned and many, many more. Many more! HERE is the link to their list of Blogs to Follow. Click HERE for their home page and prepare to spend hours immersed in all things KidLit!

And, of course, follow us here at Emus Debuts where we were all once beginners. Join us as we talk about how, with hard work, our dreams became reality.

I’m far from the first person to blog about these resources. But I hope they’ll help someone on their writing journey.


penny edited

Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHTis coming from Random House Books For Young Readers August 4, 2015. Also, coming from Random House Books For Young Readers is A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, Spring, 2017. You can follow Penny on on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence.

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Picture books

Quit the Chicken Job, You Must

KFC BucketWhen I was 16 I got my first job with my first real paycheck, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I only lasted for five months. It wasn’t the low pay or the terrible hours that drove me to quit, or even the fact that I came home every night smelling like poultry.

It was the sensory overload that did me in.

More than once, when a line of hungry, impatient people snaked all the way out the door, I ended up in the back room, crying and flustered. It was just too much. Looking back, I realize I took the job way too seriously. I wanted everyone to be happy, wanted to do a good job. But it was just chicken. I wish I could go back and give 16-year-old me a hug and tell her that: “Girl, it’s just chicken.” I’d still encourage her to quit, though. To have enough confidence in herself and her skills to go find something better. Calmer. More in line with her interests and talents.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I’m actually doing what I love! The book debut looms just three short months away. And I’m back in panic mode. Am I establishing an online presence? Am I doing enough to prepare, to network, to suddenly become outgoing and eloquent? Will any of it make any difference in the long run? It’s that queue of impatient customers all over again, all clamoring for their bucket of chicken.

I’m the first to admit that social media often sends me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m not witty or interesting or invested enough to keep up. Some days I try. Many days I don’t. Sometimes just having unanswered email feels like an unbearable source of noise and clutter. It can even dictate whether or not I have a productive writing day. I’ve read lots of articles about how much authors should be doing to promote themselves online.  They range from do everything to do only the things you feel comfortable with. Our very own Megan Morrison wrote a wonderful, sensible post along those lines here.

YodaBut what about the days when I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH ANY OF IT?!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: that’s okay too.

You might be familiar with Yoda’s famous line from The Empire Strikes Back: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” An inspiring quote for most any situation, right? But at the risk of alienating my fellow Star Wars fans, I’d like to propose an alternate philosophy when it comes to book promotion and social media: “Do, or do not. Or try, if you want. But if it stresses you out, or interferes with your writing, then don’t worry about it.

I will say that I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter. I think I’ve been signed up for almost two years now. Needless to say, it’s very, very, verrrrrry slooooow going for me. But that’s the pace I’m comfortable with, and I have noticed my brain gradually absorbing bits and pieces—enough to keep me from giving up. So I will continue to try.

I totally think Yoda would get on board with that.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter: @christinenhayes.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Book Promotion, Panic, Promotion, Social Media, Time Management, Writing, Writing and Life