• Picturebooking Prof

It's a New Year! Reflections, Insights, & Goals

These reflections on the last year were completed as part of Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas program for writers, with the goal of appreciating the successes, learning from the disappointments, and making 2020 the best writing year yet. Thanks, Julie!

My little guy giving me a "standing" ovation for a great 2019!

First, the positive: SURPRISES & SUCCESSES!


SURPRISES:

  • Entered two contests via Susanna Leonard Hill’s website (Halloweensie and Holiday); won honorable mention (Great for Younger Readers) the first time, then earned a Finalist spot the second time. Shocked!

  • How many ideas I have for stories. I have lots of drafts or half-finished thoughts, I just need to hone in on finishing and revising a bit (a lot!) more.

  • All of the positive comments I got from fellow writers/authors on my work and my journey—the local SCBWI chapter had so many positive things to say about a story I shared for critique, and I had several folks from the kidlit world take the time to share positive comments on my blog posts and via email. I find this community so supportive and encouraging!

  • Got a Twitter account to connect with the kidlit community and participate in #PBpitch (I always swore I would NEVER be on Twitter!).

  • Discovered how much I enjoy and am energized by writing kidlit!


SUCCESSES:

  • Joined SCBWI and started posting on the forum to connect and learn. Attended a couple of in-person meetings of the local chapter.

  • Started a blog/writing persona, mainly for accountability and to make it “real” for myself.

  • Began studying the characteristics of the PB’s I read to my kiddos, instead of just buzzing through them. The review segments on my blog also helped me hone in on what “works” in our favorite published stories, and helped me identify some mentor texts.

  • Learned A TON about the craft and about the kidlit world—read books, took advantage of free online content, purchased market guides, and simply tried to immerse myself in the kidlit culture via the SCBWI chapter meetings and online forums.

  • Participated in #PBpitch, learning a lot about how to craft a pitch—no hearts, but several retweets and encouraging interactions on Twitter.

  • As mentioned above, being recognized as honorable mention or a finalist in two contests! As a newbie, I consider this a huge success!





  • I submitted manuscripts to two magazines, one publisher, and nine agents. No, nothing came of these submissions, but I’m proud of myself for putting my work out there, and see the rejections as opportunities to improve my skill at revising, crafting query letters, and navigating the publishing world.


Next, the bummers: DISAPPOINTMENTS & CHALLENGES! As instructed in the program, I accompany each disappointment/challenge with the worst possible judgement, then follow that with what is actually true.


DISAPPOINTMENT #1: I didn’t keep up my blogging as consistently as I had hoped to.

  • JUDGEMENT: I’m not serious about this, what am I thinking trying to do this when I have so much else going on in my life? I’ll never find the time.

  • TRUTH: This was a temporary season where one facet of my life required a larger portion of my focus and effort than it typically will. I will be able to get back into blogging when this phase eases, and it is okay if the frequency of posts is less than weekly.

DISAPPOINTMENT #2: I only lasted 4 months with the online critique group I joined via the SCBWI forums.

  • JUDGEMENT: I’m a terrible critique partner, and my writing isn’t even good enough for my critique partners to bother with. I’m an imposter.

  • TRUTH: It takes two (or three) to tango. The reality is all of us fell off the face of the earth, so it must not have been the best fit. I’ll just have to keep looking for a critique partner (or partners) who I really mesh with, whether online or in person.

DISAPPOINTMENT #3: I only made it to one of the local chapter’s SCBWI meetings.

  • JUDGEMENT: I’m lazy. I’m too busy, this is obviously not a priority.

  • TRUTH: Nearly all of the monthly meetings landed on days when we were physically out of state. This is not my fault. I’ll just hope that next year’s schedule allows me to be in town for more of the meetings, since I’d love to connect with some local folks.

DISAPPOINTMENT #4: Nothing I submitted to agents, magazines, publishers, etc. received any interest.

  • JUDGEMENT: I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, what am I even doing?

  • TRUTH: Rejection is part of the process. I will just continue working on my craft and know that with practice and effort, the responses to my work will improve.


LEARNINGS & GOALS

Based on the realities above, I’ve learned the following:

  • I need to spend more time on my craft—simply practicing storytelling, wordsmithing, character development—versus devoting so much time on the getting published part. To do this, I need to make writing a more consistent habit—I need to schedule time into my day or week that I devote to writing exercises. MY GOAL is to spend at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week, on writing/revision.

  • I need to connect with other writers, ideally in person. MY GOAL is to attend at least one writing conference this year, and at least 4 of the local SCBWI shop talks.

  • I need to read/review more picture books. That is something I can do more consistently for my blog, but it’s also a really important piece to improving craft. MY GOAL is to review 6 new picture books each month on my blog.

  • I need critiques. I need other (professional) eyes on my work. MY GOAL is to find a critique partner or find some other (affordable) way to get professional feedback on my work.


Well, there you have it! Maybe putting it here will keep me more accountable. I really enjoy writing for kids, and too often let it slide because of all of my other many obligations. I have learned, though, that when I take this "me time," my functioning in other areas of life (work/home/sanity) is so much better!


I hope your 2020 is the best year yet for whatever you enjoy! Happy new year. :)

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