With all the Christmas rush, I have been absentee the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t want to miss again. Because this is the time of year where I hold myself accountable for the goals I set at the beginning of last year. And if I don’t hold myself accountable, who will?
So here we go. My goals from last year and my assessment:
1. Write 5 days a week. I started out well with this, then wow. A big fail on this goal. BUT, if you consider all the non-book-writing things I wrote, perhaps I didn’t do so terribly. That said, I hope to do better this coming year. But I realize that for me, this type of goal will always be a fail, because I hate being tied down. I do much better when I assign myself a project to accomplish, as you’ll see in the next goal . . .
One page of my crazy edits
2. Finish revising my 2 WIPS (Works in Progress). WOOT! TOTAL WIN! Granted, I now have more revising to do on WIP #2, BUT I finished 2 other rounds of revisions on it (2 other MAJOR rounds of revision), and this next round won’t be so terrible. WIP #1 is now on submission. *curls up in fetal position*
3. Finish a first draft of a new book. Okay. Total fail. I just started yesterday. But in my defense, I didn’t expect the majorness of the revisions for WIP #2. Plus I wrote a bonus story for PB&J SOCIETY (hoping you will all love it!), and a bunch of other PB&J-related things. The next book just didn’t happen. However, it is STARTED, so finishing the first draft at the very least is this year’s goal.
4. Write at least two picture books. Sigh. Nope. I did take a PB class, but I was so busy, I mostly skimmed through it. Turns out that when you have a book contract (which I didn’t have when I made these goals), you suddenly become much busier. While I would like to do this again, I realize debut year will be full of too many other things.
5. Attend at least one writing conference. And Hooray!! Another accomplished goal! I will definitely be keeping this goal. I am attending LDStorymakers again as an attendee (my husband will be presenting!), and I will be presenting at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference in April. So check and check! It really is good to plan a goal that you have already facilitated the accomplishment of.
And there you have it. Not a great showing, to be sure. However, life sometimes mixes things up for you. It is somewhat surreal to realize that last year at this time, I had no idea what was in store for me. I had no idea I was on the verge of signing my first book contract . . . which changed the course of my whole year.
So while I didn’t accomplish all the specific goals I set for myself, I DID accomplish some pretty major things. And I am a firm believer in being flexible. Yes, I could have killed myself to accomplish every one of these goals above, but I feel pretty proud of all I accomplished this past year.
Now it’s your turn. Please tell me what you accomplished this past year so I can celebrate with you! 🙂
Okay, maybe it’s not as secret as I like to think. I love picture books. Like LOVE. I check them out at the library by the dozens, and tell myself they’re “for the kids.” Ha! Nope. Definitely for me.
But the real secret is that I want to write picture books. I have played at it for years. Studied the greats endlessly. Taken classes at conferences. Paid for critiques by professionals. Even written several ugly drafts of would be stories. But I could tell I had a long way to go.
So when my lovely CP (Dee Romito) told me she had signed up for an online picture book writing class called “Making Picture Book Magic,” I was all ears. And then, THEN, she told me it was by one of my favorite author/bloggers (who I also consider a friend), Susanna Leonard Hill. I didn’t even know she had a class! So of course I signed up right away.
Her class is so popular, I had to wait a few months to get in, but let me tell you, it blew me away! It’s not even that she told me anything I didn’t already know. But the way she broke everything down into the perfect sized daily lessons was awesome. It felt like I had a friend walking me through the process from start to finish. I felt productive. Capable. Excited to write!
And even better, as part of the lessons, there was a facebook group where we could share and discuss with the other participants and get feedback from Susanna (and each other). And let me tell you, the feedback was pure gold. GOLD. And not just the feedback on my work. I learned tons reading the feedback on the others’ work.
Honestly, the money I paid for Susanna’s class is the best spent money I have ever put into my writing career.
I was so excited by the class, that I asked Susanna if she would be my guest on the blog and answer a few questions. And she said yes! So I welcome Susanna to my blog.
Me: When did you begin your Making Picture Book Magic class, and what inspired you to do so?
Susanna: I started Making Picture Book Magic in February 2012, after I’d spent the better part of 9 months writing the course, beta testing it, and commissioning art to decorate the lessons and inspire writers. I got the idea for the class because I do critiques for people on a pretty regular basis, and I found that many of the manuscripts I received from beginning writers were showing similar types of problems. It got me to thinking that maybe I could offer a class that covered some of the basics. I wanted the class to be interactive so that people would have the opportunity to ask questions, not just generally about writing, but specifically about the stories they were working on. I wanted writers to be able to learn from each other as well as from me. I wanted the class to be affordable, because lots of writers don’t have a lot of money to spend on such things. I also wanted it to be something the average person could manage in the small amounts of time they could find in their busy life. So that was my aim. You’ve taken the class, so you can say if you think I succeeded or not 🙂
Me: Yes! You definitely succeeded. I particularly loved being able to ask specific questions about my work. So helpful!
So let’s talk about your writing. One of my favorite books of yours is Can’t Sleep Without Sheep. My kids and I (and my husband) were cracking up! I think the cows were my favorite. Where did you get your inspiration for that book? How long did it take you to write it?
Susanna: I’m so glad you like Can’t Sleep 🙂 I owe that story to my son and a mattress commercial. (And yes, I know the main character in the story is a girl, and there are no mattresses to be seen :)) When my son was little, he wasn’t big on sleep. Every night he’d get in bed and have what he called his “thinking time.” Many nights, long after I thought he was asleep and had gone to bed myself, he’d come into our room wide awake and full of questions. “What’s the temperature of the sun?” “How many teeth does a t-rex have?” “Where does the wind come from?” To which I would answer knowledgeably, “Uh….” I’d take him back to bed, tuck him in, and tell him to count sheep, sitting beside him in the dark while he did so until he finally drifted off. When I got to writing the story, for some reason (maybe so he wouldn’t know I was talking about him :)) I changed the main character to a girl. But by itself a story about a child with a busy mind who couldn’t fall asleep was not enough. I had that part rolling around in the back of my mind for a while, unwritten, unfinished, because I knew it needed more. Then one day, when I was driving the kids to school, a commercial came on the radio. It said something like, “Tired of counting sheep? Buy our mattress!” And I thought to myself, what if instead of getting tired of counting sheep, the sheep got tired of being counted? And that’s when I finally had a story 🙂 The actual writing only took a few hours, but I’d been thinking about it for ages.
Me: It amazes me how much of ‘writing’ is really ‘thinking.’ And I love hearing how a story is born. So fascinating!
Seven of your picture books have been published. Have you ever considered dabbling in longer stories? Why or why not?
Susanna: I have considered it! In fact, I have attempted it! I have 4 completed novels (and by completed I mean I got to “The End” but boy do they need work!) and about 10 others in various stages. I am the queen of jumping in, writing 30-45 pages, and then realizing I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. But I would love to figure it out, so I’m still working on it 🙂
Me: Haha! Sounds familiar. I always feel bad about the unfinished books of mine. Maybe someday I’ll go back. 🙂
Through your blog, you began the Perfect Picture Book database a couple of years ago. It is so useful, and I’ve learned of so many great books through it. Can you tell us a little about this, and what inspired you to start it (I seem to be all about inspiration today!)?
Susanna: My younger sister-in-law is actually responsible for inspiring Perfect Picture Books. She asked me a couple different times if I knew of good picture books about one topic or another, and it got me to thinking that there were probably a lot of parents out there who didn’t have the kind of background we writers have in what’s out there for kids to read. I thought it might be helpful if they had a place to go where they could find excellent, highly recommended picture books on various topics and themes. Then I thought I could take it a step further (as long as I was doing it anyway :)) and add resources to the reviews so that parents, teachers and homeschoolers could easily find ways to expand on the use of picture books at home and in the classroom. I knew it would take me a REALLY long time to build up a data base by myself, so I threw it out into the blogosphere to see who might want to do it with me, thereby finding a terrific group of people who show up every week with great picture books to share. (I have to publicly confess, though, that keeping the list properly updated is a HUGE job and I have fallen woefully behind. I am working on catching up, but the data base always lags well behind the books that have been done! If anyone happens to be looking for an unpaid job, call me :))
Me: Hmmm . . . I might just be contacting you myself. What a great thing to be a part of!
Okay, okay, I’ve taken enough of your time, but I have to throw out a couple of fun ones. First, I have shared many a dessert with you on your blog. What, amongst all your offerings is your very favorite?
Susanna: Asking me to choose a favorite dessert is like asking me to choose a favorite child, Janet! How can you?! Let’s see… How about three favorites? 1. Gingerbread with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. 2. Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. 3. Chocolate mousse cake. Oh, and brownies with coffee ice cream. Okay. That’s it. Oh, except there’s nothing like a freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie! Okay. That’s really it. Oh, except fresh cider donuts, especially this time of year, which aren’t technically dessert, but really you can eat them any time! Okay. I’ll stop. But now I’m hungry. What have you got? It might be a new favorite 🙂
Me: Haha! I do ask the hard-hitting questions, don’t I? And yum. Now you have me drooling. Fresh cider donuts sound amazing right now! Alas, all I have to offer is a bucket or two of Halloween candy.
So, on to the most important question of all (I mean, this is ME, you had to know this was coming) what would your personalized license plate be? Or if you’d rather, you can tell us the personalized license plate for one of your characters. Punxatawny Phillis might have quite an interesting one. 🙂
Susanna: Oh gosh! This is a hard one! I’m not good at these. Maybe WRITRGRL? Or GHOGSRUL? Or LUVCHOCL8? 🙂 Maybe you’d better think one up for me!
Me: Oh dear. I’m afraid you’ve used too many letters in those plates. You are only allowed 7. 😉 Let me offer some suggestions: PBWRITR; GHOGPWR (Groundhog power); I ROCK; I WRITE or perhaps LVDSSRT (Love Dessert). What do you think?
Susanna, thanks again for stopping in! And I hope you all have a great day. 😀
Susanna Leonard Hill grew up in New York City with her mom and dad, one sister and two brothers, and an assortment of cats. Her first published book was The House That Mack Built, released by Little Simon in 2002. Since then, she has published six more books: Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House, 2005), Taxi! (Little Simon, 2005), No Sword Fighting In The House (Holiday House, 2007), Not Yet, Rose (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009), and Airplane Flight! and Freight Train Trip! (Little Simon, 2009.) Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, released Fall of 2010 (Walker Books), is illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, and Jeff Ebbeler is illustrating April Fools, Phyllis!, released in 2011 (Holiday House).
Last year, I didn’t set a goal for a specific number of books to read, but I did set a goal to keep track of what I read. I think I mostly succeeded. Though I might have missed one or two. Anyway, my total?
84 books read in 2011, and here’s the list:
Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch
The Janitor’s Boy by Andrew Clements
Song of the Lioness: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Alexie Sherman
Leaving Fishers by Margaret Petersen Haddix
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
Ivy’s Ever After by Dawn Lairamore
Judy Moody was in a mood by Megan McDonald
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar
The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
Crash by Jerry Spinelli
Judy Moody Gets Famous! by Megan McDonald
Judy Moody Saves the World by Megan McDonald
Judy Moody Predicts the Future by Megan McDonald
Crispin: The End of Time by Avi
Revenge of the Snob Squad by Jane Anne Peters
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Judy Moody Declares Independence by Megan McDonald
Children of the Lamp: The Five Fakirs of Faizabad by P.B. Kerr
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
The Thirty-nine Clues: Black Book of Buried Secrets by Rick Riordan et al.
Sabotaged by Margaret Petersen Haddix
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 ½ Days by Megan McDonald
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: The Glitter Girls and the Big Fake Out by Meg Cabot
Junie B. Jones and the Monkey Business by Barbara Park
Charlie Bones and the Red Knight by Jenna Nimmo
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck
Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake by Barbara Park
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past by Meg Cabot
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Stage Fright by Meg Cabot
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Tom Trueheart: The Land of Dark Stories by Ian Beck
In the Hand of the Godess by Tamora Pierce
The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
Possession by Elana Johnson
Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday by Barbara Park
The Thirty-nine Clues: Vesper Rising (book 11) by Rick Riordan et al.
Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under her Bed by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones Is a Party Animal by Barbara Park
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian by Lloyd Alexander
Wings by E.D. Baker
Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy by Barbara Park
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Chronicles of the Red King #1: The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo
The Thirty-nine Clues: Maze of Bones (book 1) by Rick Riordan
Much Ado About Grubstake by Jean Ferris
Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy by Barbara Park
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
The Missing, Book 4: Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Morpheus Road: The Black by D.J. MacHale
Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones is (almost) a Flower Girl by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket Warren by Barbara Park
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Junie B. Jones is Captain Field Day by Barbara Park
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at last!) by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones: Boss of Lunch by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones: Toothless Wonder by Barbara Park
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Matched by Ali Condie
Crossed by Ali Condie
What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb
Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Junie B. Jones: One-man Band by Barbara Park
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Fyi, I didn’t record any of the picture books I read. That would have tripled my list or something, but I DEFINITELY count them as books read.
Also, you might note a large portion of my list is from the Junie B. Jones series. I’d never read it, so I decided to rectify that. For research, of course. 😉
And I didn’t record any of the books I started and didn’t finish. There were a few of those. Still, this is a pretty good representation of my reading habit. Very MG-centric. Perhaps I should diversify a little more this coming year, no?
So how do our tastes compare? Any books you’d recommend for my 2012 reading habit?