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Is it Time for PiBoIdMo Yet?

Is it time for PiBoIdMo yet? I sure hope so!!

I first heard about PiBoIdMo roughly a year ago during one of my local SCBWI meetings. My original thought was that it was an odd name… a complete give-away that I’m a newbie. I soon came to learn about NaNoWriMo, ChaBooCha, 12×12, SubSix, and other super groups with shortened names. I get it. I’m really a Melinda but I go by Mindy.

I found the group online, and, by the way, Tara Lazar is an incredible event host. I say this because her blog site is pretty much fabulous. Totally buttoned up. Also, she seems to be everywhere in the children’s literature world and would probably win Most Popular if this was high school. Seriously. I’m not being sarcastic. She’s awesome. I wish I had half of her focus and energy.

At first I was intimidated by the thought of developing 30 titles/concepts in as many days, but then Start The Year Off Write happened. Shannon Fimbel Abercrombie did a great job with that and I worked my tail off to participate in each day’s challenge. By the end of the month, I not only gained several new tips and tricks, I also filled up TWO months’ worth of ideas that I’ve been saving for PiBoIdMo. Literally chomping at the bit for more than half the year. That’s a long time to wait! Akin to Christmas if you have my personality.

So get here already, you silly month! For better or worse, I’m inspired by special events, guest speakers, and the success stories that pop up in my news feed. They create bursts of productivity and creativity that I try to maximize. Hopefully, I’ll develop some clever stories that can be shared up the publication grapevine and who knows, maybe one day appear on a shelf near you.


Not A Wash, But A Blur

Where did February go? Seriously, have you seen it? I have checked everywhere, in every nook and cranny, around every corner, under the carpets, behind furniture. Everywhere. The only conclusion I can reach is that it has vanished.

February, for all its shortfalls, not the least of which is the tiny number of days, was a big month. It included business travel, personal travel, an everlasting winter cold, a 3-year-old with a changing sleep cycle and a new big-girl bed. I experienced tremendous physical change, emotional turmoil and a whole lot of metacognition. I attended approximately one million board and committee meetings, discovered insomnia, and finally got back on my bike after finding the Global Cycling Network on YouTube and banished soda from my fridge.

Thank God that in my life there is, well, God. He’s not for everyone but He’s for me. Also, rock-solid family stability, and more relevant to this blog, good ol’ pen and paper.

For all the running around, tossing and turning, planning, preparing, and so forth, my mind continues to make room for literary adventures. My “I’d like to write this someday” list has breached 50 titles, mostly picture books but some articles, early readers, and chapter books, too. And… some progress, in the past month I’ve managed to pen three manuscripts that I’m absolutely wild about. Granted, they need serious time and devotion before I’ll let anyone else see them, but they are golden in my heart and that’s a great starting point since I write to fulfill my own needs.

But it’s not all about me. In fact, the more I stake my claim on being a writer (I SO love saying that I’m a writer) I’m ever more impressed with the likes of real go-getters like Alayne Kay Christian, Stacy Stenberg Jensen, Becky Fyfe, Shannon Fimbel Abercrombie, Tara Lazar, Mira Reisberg, Elaine Kiely Kearns, and Julie Foster Hedlund. These incredible people and their very familiar names keep popping up in my news feeds with posts and blogs and instructions and accomplishments and all the while, I’m like, HOW DO THEY DO IT?! I don’t think I had even one blog post this past month. Maybe one, early on, but maybe not. And I missed the deadline to list my two submissions in SUB SIX. Really? I couldn’t write two sentences? And in 12 x 12, which I LOOOOOOVE, I basically disappeared right there along with February.

Thankfully, it’s a new month, a longer month! A warmer month! The third month! Insert weird fun fact that I love the number three and all of its multiples. No idea why. And this month, I mean business! More submissions, more serious devotion to an agent search, more group participation, and maybe, maybe more sleep. Dare to dream.

Most Recent Steps:

*Developed a portfolio plan/path
*Purchased the new 2014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market
*Signed up for a regional SCBWI event

First Crush

Proximity has a lot to do with crushes. Maybe you’ve fallen for someone you went to school with, someone who lives nearby, someone who occupies a cubical just down the hall or happens to ride the same train at the same time as you each day. As for me, I’ve fallen for Jan Brett! Not in the biblical sense – but literally in the literal sense. Ha!

Because The Mitten was one of the first books recommended to me as a soon-to-be mom (I profusely thank my friend, Marcie), it became one of the ones I read the most. And after the first few dates, I was smitten. I originally fell for its looks, then, I realized I loved listening, really listening to all it had to say. And I admired its ability to reflect and, at the same time, dream about the future, while staying ever present.

At the time I was new in town and hadn’t yet secured my library card – but I can assure you I soon thereafter signed up and have since devoured every title of Jan’s they have, and I just HAVE to get Cinders. My GOSH have you seen that gorgeous cover?

But as much as I absolutely love Jan’s work, it made me realize just how much I need to play the field. I need to cozy up with as many authors and titles as possible to learn the craft, and the different crafts of the trade. Time and time again in only the past two months I’ve heard person after person say to exhaustive ends that Picture Books need to be written with less than 500 words…. That “Jan Brett” (or other well-known authors) get away with it because of who they are. But because I love to write, and by that I mean I love to write a lot of words, I sit here now, typing my vow that I will work hard to get to the point that I earn the right to be verbose because those picture books with a lot of works and amazing illustrations captivate both me, as a reader, and my daughter, as a dreamer.

Most Recent Steps:

*Submitted three different “First 250 Words” for feedback through the 12 x 12 forum
*Earned ratings of 4 and 5 on my two submissions to Rate Your Story
*Downloaded the book; 2014 Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market
*Spent time writing every day
*Checked out six of the first 100 books to read from the NYPL’s 2013 Top Books list
*Logged a list of book titles (a mile long) to keep me busy with a pen

Finding My Voice

During the past year, I’ve found and joined groups, made connections, and gained insight to the process of, at least, becoming a writer. Dare I say in casual conversations I’ve even let it slip out that I AM a writer, a very bold statement of commitment. I get a little giddy every time it slips out, too. Funny, I also feel guilty if I say I’m a writer and yet, at that exact moment, am not writing. Is that weird or what? But thank goodness for the start of this year, and for resolutions and goals. And thank goodness for some amazing community heavy’s who warmly poke and prod at me every single day to get up and write something. Specifically, the women behind Start The Year Off Write, 12 x 12 and Sub Six. These groups/clubs have sparked a fire in me, and I’ve literally written something every day of this year. I realize it has only been 16 days, but it’s a start.

I also found my voice through these groups. I’ve begun speaking up and commenting, at first with a simple “I agree!” or “Great job!” but it’s something. And until now, I’ve been tremendously timid about letting anyone else read my work for fear they might burst my “I love it so much” bubble. However, after participating, and commenting on other community members’ First 250 Words and query letters, I realize it’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a GREAT thing and I cannot wait to submit my first 250. As far as I can see from other shared feedback, I only stand to learn and to make new friends and acquaintances.

So today, even in the wee, wee morning hours in Billund, Denmark, where I am visiting on business, I’m writing this latest blog post after already having mapped a brainstorm session around a chicken-centric story, and added new details to a BBQ-basted (haha) story, I’m ready for the day. Actually, I’m ready for nightfall, when I get to elaborate on my ideas and jump back into various writers’ forums where I can continue to learn this craft of writing, and speaking up.


Most Recent Steps:

*Submit stories to Rate Your Story for a general score – first score returned… 5. It’s a start.
*Enter seasonal and monthly writing contests through the Institute of Children’s Literature, Highlights, and RYS
*Actively participate in 12 x 12 by reading and sharing thoughts on stories and queries.
*Write, brainstorm, formulate, write, revise, get ready to share.

Group Mentality

Continuing on my journey to the world of all things Children’s Literature, I realize I need to be connected. I have a stack of books, actually, more like stacks upon stacks of books in my library about inspiration, publication, magazine markets, book markets, and so on. I also have the trusty pen and paper and laptop but I’m not REALLY immersed in the writing world.

Lucky for me, a kind-hearted and supremely knowledgeable peer in my local SCBWI chapter took me under her wing with one piece of advice. She said, “Sub Six is a group of gentle souls and trust is important. See you there….” and I was off! Off and writing! If you’re reading this then you likely know that Sub Six is a picture book submission support group… and the members are indeed great.

From this starting point on the Sub Six FaceBook group site, I went on to find additional groups such as the Chapter Book Challenge, Picture Book Idea Month, Start The Year Off Write, Children’s Book Creatives, and KidLit411. I also joined a critique group and signed up for memberships in Rate Your Story and the 12 x 12 challenge.  

Suddenly I’m connected to blogs and articles and mailing lists, and I’ve reached out to find some of the most vocal FB group members on Twitter as well. This chain reaction caused me to update my own Twitter page, update some of my information to be a more consistent and a solid “character” on all of my social media sites, and… start this blog. Now, I am really, really excited and I believe the potential to reach the next milestone is more visible than ever. Let’s see what happens!

Most Recent Steps:

*Joined relevant FaceBook groups for Children’s Writers
*Joined a critique group and
*Invested in programs with systematic check-in’s to keep me on track
*Began following industry leaders and vocal participants on Twitter
*Updated (and activated) my blog site

A Start At The Very Beginning

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi,” …and when you write you begin with S-C-B-W-I. That is, if you’re writing for a youthful audience!

My first step in getting serious about writing happened about a year ago when I decided to join the Ithaca chapter of the SCBWI. Until then, I’d been writing casually for most of my adult life and creating picture books for my family through Shutterfly. When the apple dropped at midnight, ringing in 2013, “doing something” about my special interest was tops on my resolution list. So, here I am.

I’ve made new friends within SCBWI, I’ve started and completed the course at the Institute of Children’s Literature, learned how to take constructive input, and have submitted a handful of stories to various children’s magazines. This was a good start and a terrific introduction to the writing world. As far as I can tell, it was a matter of getting my feet wet.

Now 2014 has arrived and I have a new set of resolutions; dedication, involvement, effort, time, and networking. Through my peers at the Ithaca SCBWI, I have found my way into enthusiast’s groups I didn’t even think to look for and my eyes are open to the path ahead. This blog is about my journey; the steps I take, the information I learn, the books I read, the people I meet. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Most Recent Steps:
*Sign-up for (and complete) the Institute of Children’s Literature course.
*Join the local chapter for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
*Write – Write – Write