StoryStorm 2019

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I’ll be joining many others for StoryStorm.  For those that don’t know, StoryStorm is a challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 31 days. Originally, it was called Picture Book Idea Month held in November, but creator Tara Lazar switched to to January a couple years ago to give everyone a fresh batch of story ideas to work with for the new year.

I first did StoryStorm back in 2015, when it was PiBoIdMo.  I have “won” the challenge each year, and some of those ideas have been turned into manuscripts. For the ideas that do not get turned into a manuscript, I keep them on file on my iPad, and also as a small booklet in my bag. 

I create a file on Scrivener for each year, with each idea following the same format:

Idea # 7


Characters:

Setting:

Problem:

Adventure:

Solved:

Notes:

I used to keep each as a separate notecard on scrivener, but putting them in one file is so much easier. From there, I just fill in the info that comes to mind when an idea slaps me on the back of the head.  The idea might just be a location, characters, or a problem.  I rarely end up with just one part filled in.  I usually get three of them filled in.  Many of my ideas come from Storybird.com For ideas that come from there, I write in the notes what pic it was.  On my account, I try to remember to favorite them so I can look back at them.  Sometimes I’ll e-mail myself a link for the pic.

 

Do you participate in StoryStorm?  Where do you get your ideas from?

My ‘To Do’ List For(ever) 2019

                        Dream To Do List

                        Dream To Do List

Well, I started to write this a while ago, and got the title, then got distracted by searching for memes for this post, on which I’d written nothing until now. 

I decided to go with a ‘To Do’ list this year instead of a list of goals for the new year. I feel like I write the same goals year after year, whether on here, or on the blogspot blog I kept for a while. So, rather than repeat the same things over and over, I’m going to create a specific list of things I want to do (hence the term ‘To Do’). I must say that I LOVE the To Do list I found.  I was going to cut it for the top, but the whole thing is fantastic!

So, back to my To Do List.

1. Write six or more picture book manuscripts. 

Overall, I’ve been able to do this each year, except for one. That year I had five.  Other years I’ve written more than a dozen, but I’m hoping for six this year. 

 

2. “Find” two more picture book manuscripts to edit to the “Done” level of being able to submit, or to have ready if an agent asks to see more work. 

So, I have two, and close to a third already.  I guess that ‘close to a third’ counts as one of the two I’d like to have ready, so I’m almost halfway done with this one! It feels like writing ‘Write to do list’ at the top of your to do list and checking it off right away. It’s not cheating, it’s an accomplishment. 

This will probably be the face I make when I read that early CB...

This will probably be the face I make when I read that early CB...

3. Edit my contemporary fantasy early chapter book.

This is one I’ve wanted to work on for a while.  I finally printed it out (two months ago) and have been working on (ignoring) it. I have a possible connection to trade similar manuscripts, but, I guess, me working on it should come first. 

4. Continue to plug away at agents with Steve. ..maybe...

Steve is my first done picture book manuscript that I was told I should start sending out.  Cow came next.  Steve has been getting a steady flow of unpersonalized rejections, Cow was sent to one agent, and I got a personalized rejection. Hence, the maybe.  Should I switch which one I’m sending? Should I send Cow to the same agents once a year has passed? That, I need to figure out. 

5. Write on this blog at least once a month.   

I think I’ve been doing this, but it feels like I haven’t. Ultimately, I’d like to do it twice a month, but once makes for an easy check on my to do list :) 

6. Read thirty plus books. 

                       This is totally true. 

                       This is totally true. 

This one is personal.  I love to read, and I fell off the wagon a bit this year.  I don’t think I’m going to even hit twenty, which isn’t too bad since I didn’t read much from April until July.  I have several books at home I haven’t read yet, and I bought a new Kindle after my old one refused to charge anymore. Fantasy is my favorite genre, though I do have a couple non-fiction book on WWI, and a couple WWI, and WWII fictional books, as well as a craft book on writing picture books that I’ll read after I finish The Skaar Invasion by Terry Brooks.

7. Keep chasing my dreams. 

I’m chasing my dreams, like Jason chases campers- slow and steady. 

 

So, what’s on your ‘To Do’ list for 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Personalized Rejection

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A win!  Maybe. 

So, I just got a personalized rejection.  It was quite nice! “Unique idea” “Interesting concept” were very nice things to read.  I do feel like I’m knocking on the door, but I know I’m out quite there. I’m working on having a third picture book manuscript “ready” and hopefully that’ll be soon...you know, like 1-3 years :)  

Have a wonderful weekend! 

NaNoWriMo? StoryStorm?

NaNoWriMo, StoryStorm, 12x12, ReForReMo, etcetera.

All worthwhile contests and events.  Do you participate in any?

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NaNoWriMo is one I’ve ‘entered’ many times, but never completed.  Most of the time, I set a goal of poems, and picture book manuscripts, and, in the distant past, getting in 50,000 words for fantasy novels.  I once hit 35,000 words, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten to 50K. I never hit my goals for poems AND PB manuscripts, but have hit for one or the other.  I’ve had word goals for early chapter books, and for middle grade fantasy books, but never came close to reaching them.  For me, getting in those high numbers are not a goal I want to really do.  It leaves me feeling like I’m just practicing writing, rather than going for quality.  Yes, I do practice writing, often, but doing this much in one month is not for me (anymore!).

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StoryStorm, formally called PiBoIdMo, is about creating thirty (PB) ideas in a month.  This, I love.  I’ve gotten so much joy out of reading different authors posts for how they get ideas, to perusing art work on line for inspiration, as well as doing a favorite ast time of mine- people watching. I’ve hit over thirty ideas each time, and will do this event year after year. Most of the ideas I get are for PBs, though I’ve also gotten ideas for CBs, MG, and YA.

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12x12 is Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge. I did 12x12 for five years, but did not join last year. I may this year, but I’m not sure.  The goal is to write twelve picture book manuscripts in twelve months.  I’ve ‘won’ 12x12 four out of five years I was in it.  There are two levels of 12x12, with Gold being the highest.  A bonus of being a Gold level member, over the Silver level, is being able to submit to one of two featured agents each month, and having your PB being placed at the top of the slush pile.  A draw back is that I usually only get an actual rejection from about 60% of whomever I submit to.  I also have not submitted each month as both agents may not be for me when I research them.  It happens! 12x12 is also a cost for each of the levels, so that’s another consideration.  I didn’t join last year as I was saving money for a week long writing conference during the summer, and I may go there again. A plus of being a member is the AMAZING level of support you get from other writers as ALL levels from beginner to already published.

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ReForReMo is Reading For Research Month.  I signed up once, but I never completed it.  The idea is to read a book each day that can serve as a mentor text to help you with your own writing. There are daily posts all month long during the heat of the event, and weekly posts throughout the year.  It’s another great opportunity to help you learn to delve deeper into the craft of writing.

Did I miss any? Let me know!

What’s your favorite? Let us know!

REJECTED!

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Rejects. No. Pass. Whatever you call them, you’ll get lots.  That’s all part of being a writer.  Every writer has a file of their rejections. Well, at least I do.  I have a real one, for physical rejections, and a virtual one, for e-mail rejections.  Plus another one on Submittable.  I guess that’s a double up on the virtual rejections.

How do you handle them? That’s personal. Not as in, “I’m not telling you!” But as in how we handle the experience. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had three. Not just rejections, but three different reactions to the 1,256 MSs I’d sent out in early August. Hear they are, in order of preference:

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1. NO!  YOUR WORK SUCKS!  WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS ANYMORE!

I had this reaction after my mentor had recommended a small publishing house for my picture book manuscript, I sent it out, and got a rejection.  I’d even included the proper postage to get the MS back, and they didn’t send it back. Just the rejection form in an envelope with three stamps (I only used two to sent it out with the SASE).  This one hurt.  A lot. But you have to move on, and I did after some sulking and pondering why I’m even doing this.  Rationalizing it helped: they accept 40/20,000 titles a year. Odds are not in your favor. 

2. Okay, I have it out with a few other agents I carefully research, this just wasn’t the right agent.

This is my reaction for most of my rejections.  I have two strong stories, one of which I’ve sent out to nine agents, and I have seven or eight others waiting to send it to if it gets passed on by all of them.  I’m still waiting to hear from six (I think...).

3. HAH!

I had this on Saturday.  I sent it out around 9:30 A.M., and got a form rejection around 7:30 P.M. ‘after careful consideration.’  Very careful. What could you do?  I laughed. We were definitely not meant to work together!

There are others, too.  A couple times I’ve gotten a non format rejection, and once I got a rewrite and submit.  And, one I haven’t gotten yet, which is an ‘I’d like to see more work’ or ‘I love your work, please call me!’ Yet.

Did I miss any? Let me know!

What Now? GOALS!

Did someone say goals?

Okay, it’s not a goal- it’s Alyssa Naeher, Team USA Keeper making a diving save- my daughter’s a Keeper, so this is in here for her! 

Okay, it’s not a goal- it’s Alyssa Naeher, Team USA Keeper making a diving save- my daughter’s a Keeper, so this is in here for her! 

So, what now? My break is over, I’m back at it- whatever it is.

I printed out a couple stories to edit, and have another story I’m working on for an anthology submission. But what are my priorities? Well, I guess those are my goals...

 1. Getting a third manuscript submission ready. That mean I have two! I used to send out stuff as soon as I wrote it and looked it over once or twice (YIKES!).  I thought my stuff was awesome!  Now, I cringe at the thought.  To think that I have two I know are ready to go is hard to fathom.  Hopefully, though, no one remembers my name from the stuff I used to send.

2. Wait. That’s the next goal. I have the manuscript out with seven agents (already got two no responses) and a list of nine other agents to go.  I will search for more agents to send to as well. So, I guess this ‘wait’ goal means to research more agents to send out to, while waiting.

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3. Write. What? Seriously? Isn’t that what I’ve been doing the past five years???? Ok, I guess. Write more.  I’ve got that file of ideas, so, why not look for the next story or two to write? Practice, practice, practice (Yes, A.I., I’m talkin’ ‘bout practice).

4. Wait.  Wait you just said that. I know and now you’re talking to yourself and people will think you’re nuts. I’m not nuts, you’re nuts! Fine, whatever. Just wait.  Fine.

So, I guess, outside of that bit of insanity, that’s my short and long list of goals, mixed with a lot of waiting. 

What’re your goals?

Break Over!

Time to get back to work! My break’s over.  I don’t feel like going a full month, I’ve spent enough time sittin’ on my butt playing video games and watching Netflix and Hulu. I guess I cheated a bit, too.  I did look over a couple stories, though I didn’t change anything major. Tomorrow, I’ll write a list of things I’d like to accomplish over the next couple weeks/ months and tackle that thing-and yes, the first thing on my list will be: 1. Write a to do list. Why? Cuz I can cross it right off since i accomplished it! Now get to work!

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Breaks

No, not the fun kind where you fall and break 17 bones because, like me, you’re old (no, that didn’t really happen).

I’m talking about the Creative Break, where you break all your pens, pencils, brushes, canvases, brains...no? Not that kind either?

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Well, what kind of break are you talking about?

I’m talking about the kind where you take a Break from your creative endeavors (okay, and maybe break a pen or two).

A couple years ago, I was listening to an episode of the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert.  In it, she helped a fellow author who was stuck.

 

You know stuck, right? Where you stare at a blank screen, a blank journal, a blank canvas, and you get a strong desire to smash it, quit, never do it again, but you don’t because you were told to just paint, write, create whatever comes to your mind because that’s what you’re supposed to do since everyone in the history of the world did that and it’s easy so why isn’t it easy for you.

So you decide you need to quit. 

Yeah, that kind of stuck. 

How did Elizabeth Gilbert help? Well, she told her to take ONE MONTH OFF. 

<gasp> 

NO!  You can’t!  You HAVE to stare at a blank space and create...something...eventually! 

Yeah, take a month off. Then, use a timer and sit, and write for one hour.  When the timer goes off STOP! No matter what- okay, maybe finish that sentence, BUT THAT’S IT! 

That part of the podcast ended there, and she interviewed Neil Gaiman (MY WRITING IDOL!!!), then interviewed the author at the end of that month. 

At that point in my writing, I was stuck.  I didn’t want to write! I wanted to give up before I ever really got started. 

So, what did I do? 

I took September off. 

I’m a teacher, so I figured September would be a good month off.  I had plenty to do early on in the school year.  But, I still had to fill that time at night when I’d sit, and write.  Or stare at a blank screen. 

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It was hard, especially towards the end of the month, as I was chomping at the bit to write.  I had ideas flowing, things I wanted to edit.  The ideas I did write down (can’t lose them!), but I held off on EVERYTHING else until October 1st. 

Did it help?  Yes! Tons! That next calendar year was my most productive EVER.

I did it again in September of 2017, even though I didn’t feel I needed it, and had another productive year.

This year?  Well, I took off part of August already, and will take off the next two weeks, to complete a month, but I’m ready to go already. 

Do I feel like I want to quit? Nope! Did I feel frustrated when I started? A bit, but nothing major.  I’m just taking the month off to refresh. 

Try a break from creativity when you’ve hit a prolonged slump, you never know what might come of it. 

Have you ever taken a regular break from creativity? Let me know about it! 

Take that break, and come out swinging!

Take that break, and come out swinging!

Highlights Foundation Summer Camp

I really don’t know where to begin with this, so I’ll start with this sentence telling you I don’t know where to start.

Summer Camp at the Highlights Foundation is a week long mentorship at, well, Highlights Foundation in the Poconos, PA.  You get matched up with a mentor, to whom you mail your chosen manuscript to work on, and, during your time there, they rip it apart and and make you do it over, again, and again.  By the end, you love them, like some evil older brother or sister.  By the end, you see progress, maybe even a finished manuscript, a gem pulled from the rock pile you sent in. You do get to meet with your mentor one on one four times, for about a half hour each time.

There’s also a speaker or two each day for the whole group, and a couple breakout sessions a day, for each of the days there, every single one of which was FABULOUS!

Then, there’s the people.

Other authors, and future authors, like you, who have a piece they love, love so much they want it ripped apart, and gently molded back together. I think I ended up with 574 different versions of the same story.

They’re your people.

The relationships made will hopefully last a long time.  Maybe we’ll even catch up at another Highlights event.

For me, it was about a three hour drive, so getting there wasn’t that bad at all.  Others came from all over the country, as well as New Zealand and Australia.  So, that three hour drive really was a luxury. It sounded like some airport waits were that long...

I’d been to Highlights before.  Three times for the EPA SCBWI yearly gathering, and once for an Unworkshop.

As with those events, there’s food, food, and more food.  Everything is fresh made, sourced locally.  Three meals a day, and unlimited snacks and drinks.  Those snacks and drinks are out 24/7, too.  You got a cabin, or room all to yourself.  This way you can cry over your manuscript, and contemplate never writing again (But most of us still do).

But the people are the best part of it.  From George, the executive director, to Amanda, who, along with her amazing staff, cooked meals for us. Alison, who kept us all in line and going to do the things at the right times, and checked up on us to see how we were doing, to Shadra Strickland, my amazing mentor, and all the authors who mentored and presented (Shadra, Linda Sue Park, Mitali Perkins, Lamar Giles, Peter Jacoby, Anna-Marie McLemore, Jillian Sullivan, Lyndsay Barrett George- I hope I named them all!!).

Then there’s the other Mentees.  They were an incredible, dedicated, fun loving bunch!  There were definitely tears shed together, gallons of wine and been downed, tons of food and coffee eaten and drank together.  We edited together, commiserated together, and even read a story in front of everyone ‘together’.  I hope they had as much as a fabulous time as I did.

The Summer Camp was such an amazing experience,and I came away with so much, including finding my voice, that I will be going back next summer.

Here’s the amazing Summer Camp crew!

Here’s the amazing Summer Camp crew!