Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Keeping Up With The Jones'

Most of us following Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo Facebook site and blog, along with the numerous other bloggers tackling the subject, are finding the inspiration invigorating.  There are some folks, however, who would describe the challenge as overwhelming. I have read numerous posts from individuals who are feeling the pressure... pressure of keeping up with Jones', as they say.  To these folks I say... "hold up! Who are you doing this for?" Not me. Not Tara. Not even the members of your critique group. PiBoIdMo is an opportunity to challenge yourself - end of story. 

PiBoIdMo is not about competition, but about inspiring one another. Does it stress you out to read that Jane Author has logged 85 ideas in November when you only have 5? Then, don't read it! Instead, move on to the next post. PiBoIdMo is FULL of ideas for digging deep and pulling those ideas out. The strategies are amazing. I marvel at the diversity of this group - a group that aspires to the same end; further evidence of the fact that we are each a unique being. 

The real beauty lies in our ability to help one another through this process. I had a bit of a lull in my PiBoIdMo journey this weekend. The motivation just wasn't there. Did I panic? Nope... the only one who needs to know is me. Well, and you now, of course. 

Instead, I gave myself permission to lay low. I read - for fun! I watched some movies! Played with the dog (see my inspiration above)! And guess what? The ideas started to flow again... along with my energy and confidence. Knocking myself out because I wasn't kicking butt in PiBoIdMo world wasn't going to help anyone. Yesterday? I had several ideas, one of which turned in to a full-blown first draft and I'm back on track. 

So, remember who you are doing this for. Whether you end up with 30 ideas or 3 - you still have new ideas to roll with, right? And who knows, maybe one of those ideas will be your big break!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writer, Author.... Delusional Fraud? I Think Not!

I have, along with others like Michelle Benton Senters, been posting questions on the PiBoIdMo site over the past couple of days, picking the brains and souls of other writers. Some are published, some are not, but the responses have been enlightening to say the least. 

We have talked about inspiration and doubt, goal setting and believing in ourselves. One theme resonates throughout... we are a resilient bunch. What other group of individuals do you know who work tirelessly, only to be told by others that their dream is silly and fruitless? How many people do you know who set themselves up, willingly, for rejection over and over again? What strangers do you know who will, day after day, support you... encourage you.. and share their secrets to success with you - just because they can? The answer to all these questions is the same - writers, aspiring or otherwise. We are an amazing bunch. Because, at least, we believe in each other.

There are days, of course, when I question my fate in this business. I ask, "who am I to think that I can do this? There are so many people with fabulous books, just waiting to be published. Am I good enough?" After all, I only recently admitted to others, even my own family, how serious I am about this goal. I decided, finally, that putting myself out there... making it public... was all about accountability. It is much easier to step back from a goal if no one else knows about it. If you are trying to quit smoking and haven't told anyone, you won't get any strange looks when you light up - makes failure - and giving up - a lot easier. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a writer is: 1) someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc. 2)someone who has written something. I have written something - so, therefore, I am a writer. They say an author is: 1) a person who has written something; especially 2) a person who has written a book or who writes many books. Done that too.

So... I'm shouting it from the rooftops. Call it a bucket list, or a life-long goal... whatever you like... I am, hereby announcing my intention to obtain a literary agent and get a children's book published before the next election. There. Done!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roll With It

It is day ten of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)and we are swimming in ideas. A poll on Tara's FB site started by JackieWellington asked: "How many picture book ideas have you logged thus far?" The answers range from just a few to 30+. Impressive!
PiBoIdMo challenges us to come up with at least one picture book idea/day for the month of November. Some people lament the fact that they have great difficulty coming up with ideas. Others find them pouring in.  For me, this is not a difficult task, ideas seem to attack me from every angle; usually when I least expect it. I have pages and pages of ideas every month of the year. An idea might be as specific as a plot or problem. Others as obscure as a character name, but they are all ideas, just the same. The difficulty, for me, lies in the next steps. Now What?
Which story do I think about next? In what direction will this character take the story? Should I finish the oodles of stories I've already started or roll with one of my new ideas? I am fairly scattered when it comes to writing - I can be distracted sooo easily (look - squirrel!).
I have found that my best strategy is to let the ideas take me and not try to control them. One day, out of the blue an inspiration will hit me and I will go back to a story I started months ago. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I do know that I can't force an idea that just isn't there. My best ideas/strategies seem to come when I'm not trying. I might be in the middle of a story and hit a wall. Instead of trying to plow my way through it I back off. In doing something else... something mindless... the wall sometimes crumbles. It isn't always that easy, but it is far less frustrating for me than chiseling away at the wall with a pick and hammer.
 So, whether you have one fantastic idea (that might turn in to a best-seller) or pages of cryptic words, roll with it and take it where it leads you. And most importantly - have fun!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Community of Beautiful Strangers

PiBoIdMo participants, 12 x 12 groupies, critique group members, Writer's Support 4 You folks, bloggers, editors, agents....... I am amazed every single day at the community of writers that I find myself a part of. After all, I haven't met any of them in person ..... not one..... but they help me every day! There are people in my life, even relatives, even published writers, who have not stepped up in the way these individuals have.

Daily I read messages via the internet from aspiring and published writers alike, sharing their own secrets to success. They WILLINGLY help their competitors.... do you get that? We critique one another's works in an attempt to improve their chances of publication - the very prize that we covet!

We blog and post via FB - sharing the resources that we have discovered. Many spend countless hours organizing online contest and instructional sessions. We remind one another of contests that we are entering ourselves. We share strategies, encourage one another and give constructive criticism.......... all in an attempt to help one another.

We don't get paid for it, there is no proof that it will help us in our own journey to publication and we know that others are too busy to acknowledge our efforts at times, but we venture on. Some would say it has something to do with the "misery loves company" adage, but it is, in my opinion, more about camaraderie and support. We all get discouraged and overwhelmed at times... and there is always someone there to pick us up.

We are cheerleaders and therapists, teachers and event planners. And in the end there is comfort in knowing that there is someone there, day and night, to enable our dysfunctional behavior and tell us that the housework will wait, because it's all about the books!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Liebster award has been making its rounds. It is awarded to blogs with fewer than 200 followers who have inspired others in some way and could use more love from readers like you.  I am honored to be nominated by Jackie Wellington.

I have been asked to answer 10 questions, nominate 5-10 other blogs for this award, and ask them some questions as well.

Here are the questions from Jackie at Why I Write Picture Books. My answers are in RED.

1. Which do you prefer in a picture book — Rhyme or prose? I love rhyme, but it doesn't work for all stories. So, I guess that means, both.

2. What is your favorite season of the year and why? I love Spring because it is the promise of new life and the beauty of growing things.

3. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas because it is a time to spend with  family.

4. How many children do you have? If you do not have children, do you want children someday? I have two beautiful grown daughters who I am VERY proud of.

5.  Favorite TV show (s)? That's tough, because it really depends on my mood. I love Big Band Theory when I feel like laughing, Chicago Fire, Parenthood and even some reality TV when I feel like escaping from my own reality. :)

6. Favorite author (s) My favorite children's authors include Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Frances Hodgson Burnett, E.B. White - there are soooo many. For my own reading, I love Jodi Picoult.

7. Favorite movie (s) Again, this is mood dependent, but I love a good romantic comedy like The Holiday or Sweet Home Alabama. I also love some classics like It's a Wonderful Life.

8. If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be? Hmmmm. I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, but I think I would have to say Italy.

9. If you could award, “THE MAKE A DIFFERENCE AWARD”, to whom would you give it? Ellen DeGeneres. She gives back a great deal and makes people laugh every day.

10. What is it that you want everyone to know about you? That I care about doing my best for myself and others.

The Perils of a PB Critiquer. (I know, that isn't a word, but it should be)

I have spent a great deal of time, during the past couple of years, studying, enjoying and learning from the blogs of other folks who write for children. I can honestly say that I would not have persevered without their wisdom and inspiration. So... I have decided that it is my turn to give back by encouraging others, sharing resources and building a community.

I could spend my first post telling you why I think it is important to have a blog (aside from the above statement, of course), but we all know that. I have decided, instead, to relay an experience that I had yesterday - an inevitable side effect to this journey of writing for children.

I had the opportunity, last night, to spend a rare 30 minutes in one of my favorite places: Barnes and Noble. Thirty minutes? Seriously? It was all I could do to tear myself away once I got there. Intent on capitalizing on every second, I planted myself in front of the New Release Picture Books. To study those lucky folks who (in my mind, anyway) have accomplished a dream.

I declared yesterday that I was making an "Old Year's Resolution", because I didn't want to wait for the new year to start: "I will get a literary agent!" Did you hear me? I WILL DO IT!

As an active critique participant and one who changes her own work often (several time a day sometimes) to follow all the "rules", I have honed my skills. I am one of the weird ones who actually enjoys ripping apart my work and that of others.... and, ultimately, seeing the end result. It is so exciting to see a project go from idea to an amazing story.

So... back to the bookstore. Last night, unfortunately, I found myself reading the beautifully glossy new PBs with a critical eye. And guess what? I didn't enjoy them nearly as much. I was, instead, picking out every little thing that I had been cautioned against. "Hey... wait... I thought PBs were supposed to state the problem right away" or "the MC didn't solve her own problem."  What I should have been saying was, "Hey... I really liked/didn't like that story."

I was cursing myself for this behavior when (honestly... this really happened), I heard a "blip" from my phone. A message from a new crit partner. It said, "Thanks for the suggestions! I'm honestly not trying to butter you up here, but 99% of ever comment you make I go "duh, why didn't I think of that?" You're the best! Back to revisions."  :)

Okay, so maybe the revision/critique process has tainted my abilities to read and enjoy PBs in quite the same way, but if I can continue to help and be helped by others..... it's all worth it. After all, there is no way I could do this alone. So, thanks to all of my critique partners. You're the best!!!