Tag Archives: writing

2018: A Year of Writing Success

Children’s author 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!

But before I share my list, I’d like to think back to this time last year. I rang out 2017 on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, celebrating with our new son-in-law’s family and friends.

Since the August 2017 wedding and reception (not far from our home), I had written almost nothing and barely kept up with my critique group and picture book reviews. Early in September, my husband had left his job at a boarding school to run a start-up. We had to move fairly quickly from school housing and from a too-small condo near NYC (2 separate moves!), and then consolidate/downsize in a new place, also in metro-New York. Moving coordination became a full-time pursuit! Midway through move #1, my 96-year-old mother peacefully passed away; between moves, one of my son’s best friends tragically left us all too soon. As 2018 began, I wondered if/whether I’d ever get my writing “career” back on track or even find my desk under the stacks of boxes that filled our new home.

With this background in mind, I’m amazed to realize that I did enjoy writing success in 2018 and to share these with you:

  1. I participated in Tara Lazar’s fabulous StoryStorm in January, discovered 30+ ideas in my muddled brain, and completed a new manuscript from one of those ideas.
  2. I rejoined 12×12 as a Gold member. I didn’t complete anywhere near 12 drafts (nor was it ever my intention to do so), BUT I completed 4 new manuscripts and polished up several others, attended several inspirational and helpful webinars, met new friends and critique partners via the forum and submitted to nine 12×12 agents.
  3. I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference in June and the NJ SCBWI Fall Craft Day. Although I’m an off-the-charts introvert, I socialized and volunteered at the June conference to facilitate networking.
  4. In October, I participated in Marcie Colleen’s fabulous Study Hall, where I critiqued the works of 5 fellow picture book writers and received critiques from them and Marcie on 4 of my manuscripts. I also discovered that I liked the discipline of setting aside specific set times daily to write, something I intend to carry forward into 2019.
  5. I submitted a manuscript to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference, and my submission was accepted. Not only was this a huge confidence builder, but I received helpful comments on my manuscript from an editor who kindly offered to look at a revised draft (he has that now).
  6. In addition to the 12×12 agents, I submitted to a handful of agents and editors I met at conferences or whom I learned were open to submissions. I also started tracking submissions and agents/publishers of interest better than I had in the past.
  7. Since early 2016, I’ve been reviewing picture books weekly as part of Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. I posted 50 reviews this year of picture books with a focus on international authors and illustrators, stories from around the world, and social justice themes, including immigration, In September, I expanded my focus and now post a “Perfect Pairing” of two additional picture books each Tuesday. As a result of this expansion and better social media efforts, blog readership has increased, as has my picture book reading. I even managed to score a few pre-publication review copies and meet a few authors and publishers.
  8. Trying to stretch myself further and give back to our kidlit community, I volunteered to be a Cybils judge. Although I generally read picture books only, I agreed to serve as a Round One judge in the poetry section: reading a total of 49 books ranging from picture book anthologies to YA novels in verse over the course of 2 months. I discovered that I truly enjoyed reading many of the YA and MG novels in verse and that writing in verse, especially using first-person point-of-view, is a wonderful way to tackle difficult subjects. I also became a well-known face at my local library and visited other libraries in the region.
  9. Sifting through a dusty moving box filled with grad school notes and papers, I stumbled upon research I had done 20+ years ago about people and events during the Progressive Era in America (late 19th century and early 20th century). Not only was I surprised to find several subjects worthy of picture book biographies, but I also realized I was excited to pursue writing a picture book biography. With that in mind, I’ve been busy reading as many picture book biographies as I can find and researching my subject further. To spur progress, I signed up for a Highlights non-fiction master class next summer. First draft here I come!
  10. I participated in Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words Contest last spring and Susanna Hill’s wonderful contests, including the recent holiday contest. Finishing the year with a tie for 4th in that contest was a further confidence booster, and I have plans to revise and expand that story.

As 2018 ends and a new year beckons, I’m excited to offer this glimpse into my writing journey. I look forward to looking back on this post next December and updating/expanding the writing successes!

Happy New Year! May you find success and happiness in whatever you pursue!

PPBF – Bookjoy Wordjoy

Before National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, I want to share a recently published book of poetry that bridges languages and celebrates the power of words to bring joy to all.

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Title: Bookjoy Wordjoy

Written By: Pat Mora

Illustrated By: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books Inc./2018

Suitable for Ages: 6-12 (or younger)

Themes/Topics: reading; writing; poetry; multicultural

Opening:

Books and Me

We belong/ together,/ books and me,/ like toast and jelly/ o queso y tortillas./ Delicious! ¡Delicioso!/ Like flowers and bees,/ birds and trees,/ books and me.

Brief Synopsis: In a series of 14 poems, Mora explores the joys of reading and writing.

Links to Resources:

  • Mora defines “bookjoy” as the “fun of reading” in her “Welcome” to Bookjoy Wordjoy; share a book you enjoy with a friend or family member;
  • Wordjoy is the “fun of listening to words, combining words, and playing with words – the fun of writing”, Mora explains in the “Welcome”. Think of the words you enjoy hearing or speaking aloud. Try to combine them in a fun, silly or serious poem;
  • Mora is a founder of a literacy initiative called “Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish, El día de los niños, el día de los libros, [which] is a year-long commitment to celebrating all our children and to motivating them and their families to be readers, essential in our democracy”; check out the Día resources;
  • Discover Mora’s tips to create a bookjoy family.

Why I Like this Book:

This is a fun book to read aloud and share in the home, library or classroom. As Mora reveals in an acrostic poem entitled “Wordjoy”, it’s “música” she hears when she reads and writes. And it’s her love of words, reading and writing that fill this book with the joy that leaps from each page.

In a poem entitled “Writing Secrets”, Mora shares tips to encourage children of all ages and abilities to think about their own unique experiences, write and revise what they’ve written, and then share their stories with “family and friends.” In “Jazzy Duet/Dueto de jazz”, she follows each English line with its Spanish translation, which, I think, will help English or Spanish speakers learn the other language and find beauty in it: Play/ Juega/ with sounds./ con sonidos.

Most of the poems appear opposite Colón’s full-page, watercolor and Prismacolor pencil illustrations that capture the exuberant joy of Mora’s poetry.

A Note about Craft:

Bookjoy Wordjoy is a compilation of 14 poems about the joys of reading and writing. I love how the poems differ but follow this theme. As readers and creators, I think it’s important to consider how reading and creating inform each other.

Mora is a Latina of Mexican heritage and Colón was born and lived as a child in Puerto Rico. From Spanish words sprinkled through the poetry to Colón’s inspiration from “the works of some Central American artists, including Rufino Tamayo”, Latinx heritage flows through the pages.

Visit Mora’s website to see more of her many books. Read a recent interview with Colón in Publishers Weekly and see a recent interview with Mora and Colón about Bookjoy Wordjoy.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!