Friday, December 30, 2016

2016, the Year of Trying It All

2016 started off with a writer friend encouraging me to try Julie Hedlund's 12x12 program for picture books writers. I had been focusing on a middle-grade novel for so long that I really needed an excuse to take a break from it and write some new things.
I made some new friends along the way and it really jump-started my year of trying everything I could to absorb as much as I could about writing for children. So to get it all straight in my head, I started a list of what I did in 2016 - Trying It All. 

Then... Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year.  Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2016. 
(All of this also helps to explain to my husband where all that money went and to anyone who asks, what I do all day when I'm not at work!)

I signed up for:
Julie Hedlund's 12x12 Challenge
Basically, the goal is to write and revise a picture book each month. I started out strong, got lost in the Spring and Summer, but finished respectably! The community of writers and mentors on the site as well as on Facebook and thru webinars is what makes this program so invaluable.

Road trip to NYC:
KidLit TV
Besides the great party, I got to know KidLit TV which is a great resource I now use in my day job as a Children's Librarian.

With the awesome Julies

Susanna Leonard Hill's Making Picture Book Magic - this is a 4-week online course with about 20 'lessons' that are so helpful when crafting a picture book. This course is great for beginners up thru intermediate writers who want to make sure their manuscripts are complete. I don't know when Susanna finds half the time to do all the great things she does on her blog but I am always inspired.

I also participated in a "Pitch Party" for the first time. These are ways to pitch your manuscripts on Twitter, where agents and editors might read them and indicate that you can send them a query. The one I did was called #PitMatch - where admins match your pitch to an agent or editor they feel might be interested in it. I did manage to get a match, but ultimately never heard back from the agent...

Those whispering pines

Held annually in March on the University of Rhode Island campus, this writer's retreat is listed as one of the best ones in the country. This year I only went for the day, but I had gone for the whole weekend the year before. You'll hear advice and writing exercises from authors, agents and editors while still having time to write or make some new like-minded friends.
Whispering Pines Retreat

This year I heard presentations by agent Jessica Sinsheimer who started #MSWL Manuscript Wish List - one of my favorite sites for writers. Author Jennifer Jacobson gave a great talk on "The Enemy of Fictional Density" which was incredibly helpful. I also got a chance to submit to Editor Mary Lee Donovan who was so lovely in her timely response to me. Well worth the money!

Time for the annual NE-SCBWI Conference in Springfield, MA. I've gone for the day and have also stayed over - get a friend for a roommate and it's much more fun! You never know what you're going to get at this conference. It all depends on the workshops you sign up for and actually get. The keynote addresses are usually amazing and I love to see illustrator's artwork outside the ballroom. In 2016, my favorite takeaways were meeting educator Donalyn Miller and attending an awesome writing workshop with author Jo Knowles (who may be the sweetest teacher in the universe). I had a great critique with an agent who seemed to indicate that with one minor adjustment, my manuscript was ready to go out. Though ultimately I didn't hear back from her - such is my luck.
Awesome critique group ladies!
May & June
were ultimately consumed by my kids' events. I did, however, faithfully go to my Critique Group!


Summer is completely weird for me and writing, mostly because my kids are home and it takes me 2 months just to get use to a new routine!  I did manage a trip with a friend to Jeff Kinney's An Unlikely Story Bookstore to hear a panel of Middle Grade authors talk about their upcoming books. Check out their events calendar and take a trip!

Secondly, I (sort of) participated in Kate Messner's Teachers Write! summer writing camp on her blog. I think it's a great idea filled with writing prompts and great lessons. I wish I spent more time with it but I have gone back and revisited some of the daily activities. Did I mention this one is free? Kate only asks that you purchase books by the mentors if you can.

I entered a writing contest offered by one of the groups I am in, where an editor gave everyone a picture book title prompt and read all the submissions. What I learned with this was that sometimes, what you hear that an editor wants is not really what an editor wants. Almost everyone who entered took his title at face value and probably wrote some great stories. They just weren't the stories he wanted.

I was brave this month and decided to attend the Squam Lake Writer's Retreat offered as part of NE-SCBWI - all by myself! Of course I saw and got to hang out with some familiar friends and faces during the weekend, all beside the picturesque setting of Squam Lake, New Hampshire! You can read about my first time submitting to a First Pages event at Pretty or Pretty Creepy?

October & November
I've combined these months because I took an 8-week online course, Revising and Reshaping Your Novel or Chapter Book, offered by Kid's Book Revisions editors Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. It started a little slow so I was getting nervous, but ultimately it picked up and got to the meat of revising a middle grade manuscript. I couldn't attend every webinar but I have a nice file to go back to and some great handouts.

One other fun thing in October was getting to meet the awesome Raina Telegemeier who came to speak at an event sponsored by R.J. Julia Independent Booksellers. All we had to do was sit and listen, but Raina really offered great inspiration to writers, young and old! 
Go Raina! signing for my daughter and friend
Wow, I'm exhausted. But then I saw that Susanna Leonard Hill was offering her annual holiday story contest and I thought, what the heck. I attempted a rough draft, then I thought some more about it (for a few weeks actually) and gave up. Then one day before the deadline, I finally got the story I wanted to tell re-arranged in my head and got it done. I was extremely excited to be one of 12 finalists out of about 80 entries or so! Then I found out I won 4th place! And that was just enough to encourage me to do this whole crazy writer thing for another year...

HAPPY 2017!


  1. All your hard work is paying off! Congrats on 4th place! Just imagine what next year will bring....

    1. Thanks Michele! I hope we all get to celebrate in 2017!

  2. You had an amazing year! I had fun reliving some of these fun memories we made together. Hoping for more of that in 2017!

    1. At the very least we can start making giveaways for your book launch party! Hats? too much? Wait, I've got it - fancy NAME badges!!!