But WAIT! There’s more!

Work, connubial bliss, the holidays and creative work.  It’s all conspiring to eat up my time.  It keeps me away from blogging.  BUT never fear!  Jena IS here!

The good news: I have two more Simply 7 interviews lined up but … there will be a wait.  Sorry.  I’m waiting too.  Sometimes responses aren’t immediate.  BUT they will be worth the wait!  I promise!

Even better news: there is going to be a contest here!  YES!  I am going to be hosting a contest of my very own.  It will be for illustrators and doodlers (instead of writers this time).  It will be a daily drawing prompt for every day of December.  AM I CRAZY?!  No.  I promise.  I will explain.  BUT you will have to wait for that too.

And the really cool name.  I will premiere it all soon.  I promise.  Just wait for it…

Do NOT give up!

Sometimes after a conference, you will experience an emotional high or low.  Last weekend after one writing/illustrating conference, I had an emotional low.  This weekend (after another similar conference), I’m on a high.  What makes the difference?

There wasn’t anything in particular anyone said.  We heard and saw amazing things and yet everyone at the first conference was highly intimidated.  We saw amazing illustrations from successful illustrators that blew our mind and almost universally said “I wish I could do that.”  Which was quickly followed by “OMG I can’t do that!” and inevitably “my work is no good.”  I saw it repeatedly in the others around me and tried to encourage them.

There was a LOT of talent in that room, with artists of a LOT of different types: one was a water color artist, one a wood block printing artist, another a scientific illustrator, etc.  And THEY too were producing amazing things that I couldn’t hope to achieve.  But just as I told them, I cannot hope to be them; I can only be myself.  We each of us have different passions and talents that we bring to the table.

The work we saw was from an Art Director who was trying to show a variety of artists, a variety of styles, and why they succeeded to give us an idea of what is looked for in the illustration world.  And yet somehow, we were all overwhelmed in a negative way.

I kept telling others the message I took away from this was “do what YOU do, pursue it, and perfect it.  Find your schtick!  And it will be what is needed.”  And this helped to encourage some of them.  But by the time I got home, I was in a terrible funk myself.  I took that message home with me, but I didn’t take it to heart.  I simply felt like I’d let a perfect opportunity (an open door if you will) pass me by because I wasn’t prepared.  And to be frank, I wasn’t.

This was a busy summer.  Between falling madly in love, planning a wedding, then a move, then the start of the school year setting up my classroom with my new name, etc., I simply didn’t have time to devote to polishing up my Portfolio as much as I wanted to.  My first step out into the illustration world felt like I’d stumbled and then had a great big fall like Humpty Dumpty and couldn’t ever put myself together again. I even had thoughts of giving up.

My husband (love of my life that he is) found me crying at one point (as I’d tucked myself away in a back room for a bit of a pity party) and had to talk me back up from this ledge of “I don’t have what it takes, why am I even trying.”  How is it that I can encourage others with what I see, but I can’t do the same for myself.

Deciding to write picture books and learning that process didn’t happen overnight (in fact it’s still a work in progress).  WHY do I think learning the illustration process is going to be any different?  The funny thing is that I went in prepared for nothing to happen, but to just look at it as a learning process and yet … it’s still scary putting yourself and your work out there for others to see, isn’t it?

This weekend, I had the privilege of listening to one of my writing heroes, Jane Yolen, talk about rejection.  EVEN she fails!  And she has published umpteen books!  She talked about holding onto a rejected project for 20 years until the time was right.  And sometimes that’s all it is!  Timing.

I should know this better than anyone.  It took me 40 years of being single before I met my soulmate.  And when he came along, he wasn’t what I expected.  But oh my Lord how our souls do fit together!  Finding an agent, or a home for a manuscript, etc. is just like the search for a soulmate.  Last weekend Robert Dugoni said much the same thing: “All you need to find is that one!”  That one who believes in you, supports you, and is your biggest fan and encourager.

Yesterday I also got to see the first draft of a Newberry award winning manuscript that the author so bravely decided to share with us.  I was blown away by this.  Not only because of how humble he made himself in doing so, but because he was willing to show his own struggles in the beginning to where he got with his final product.  We all have to start somewhere my friends.  This is a journey, not a destination.

Is there ever a day where we reach a point of being perfect at writing?  At being perfect in producing our art?  NO!  Not even Jane Yolen is there!  She writes sticky note revelations that she sometimes has to trash!  She has a critique group to help her polish her work and point out when her endings are endings at all!  Bless her!  I’m so glad to hear that even those who are successful struggle.  And trust me, the struggle is REAL!

It can tear all of us down.  The difference between those of us who quit and those of us who are successful is only a matter of who of us will brush ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and keep pushing forward.  Because we must.  Because we have to.  We can’t stop trying and producing books and art because it’s our passion.  We can’t let our own self doubts beat us up.  We can’t!

Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best, so I will end this particular musing of mine with his words of inspiration for us all  (listen to it as a writer or an illustrator and it carries new power): Never Give up

Disappointment and the everlasting bloom of HOPE

Yesterday I participated in my first ever #PBPitch on Twitter (a pitch day just for picture books).  I pitched a manuscript I’m very excited about (I think it has a ton of potential) to agents and editors reading these posts in great hope of its success.  To say I was anxious all day is an understatement.  To say I was disappointed when I didn’t get even a single nibble is yet another understatement.  I had to drop my plans for the day and get out of the house because I was driving myself crazy.  I met up with a friend and talked for a bit (which helped a lot).  Then I went to Barnes and Noble to read picture books.  Continue reading

Big Magic and Rejection

Rejection takes many forms, and it stings in whatever form it takes.  An agent can reject you and it stings.  A lack of response to a set of interview questions for a magazine article (although the initial response was warm) can also sting.  Maybe my questions weren’t good enough?  Did they somehow seem unprofessional?  I have no way of knowing, but now the other side of rejection has kicked in: the self doubt.  Continue reading

Simply Seven

I think I found my “thing.”  Maybe not the only thing I end up doing, but I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use my Journalism skills in the pursuit of my picture book passion.  I read a ton of picture books (new and old) all the time.  I read a ton of blogs by authors and interviews with authors about this amazing picture book process.  I only recently interviewed a fellow picture book author for an upcoming blog about his soon-to-be-released book and it occurred to me: I can do this!  I can make it a thing!

SO I’m putting myself out there as a picture book author interviewer in ONLY 7 questions. I will call it “Simply Seven.”  I will help publicize your books (which are already a passion of mine) and you, my fellow picture book writers and enthusiasts.   I tailor each 7 question interview to you and your upcoming (or recently released) book.  How hard can 7 questions be?  I’m excited to see where this goes.

My mermaid obsessions: seahorse

School got out on the 20th.  BUT wouldn’t you know I got sick right after wrapping up my classroom.  AND last week was a week long Picture Writing class I took to help me teach writing to my kids next year.  It is a passionate topic of mine, but I have struggling students in this area.  SO I’ve been searching to find the perfect solution to get my kids engaged and involved in writing (in the hopes that they might be as passionate about it as I am).  I believe this class is the key.  Continue reading

RhyPiBoMo and other acronyms

f I haven’t mentioned it before, then let me say it here: this is the year of doing all the picture book things.  Last month was ReFoReMo (http://www.reforemo.com/), aka Reading For Research Month, where all who registered (like me) read 5 picture books a day as mentor texts to help improve our writing of our own picture books.  That was a challenge to accomplish, especially as a teacher.  Continue reading

The Nonfiction Picture Book Debate

Writing a picture book is no easy task.  It requires skill and art.  It is the world’s trickiest balancing act.

To make it further complicated, nonfiction picture books have begun to mutate.  No longer are they books full of facts, but they are beginning to flourish with stories.  HOW can nonfiction have stories?  Well, it’s called “creative nonfiction” based on real information (where most of the “fact” is put into the back matter).  Continue reading