Need gift ideas for your critique partners? Your writing friends? Or a hint to sneak on a list for yourself?
Look no further!
Our wonderful guest bloggers (aka gift elves) have joined us to share their favorite writing, illustrating or book must-haves.
You’ll find serious and practical suggestions our guest bloggers use daily, as well as fun and whimsical items that bring joy and offer motivation.
Peruse and enjoy our 2021 Writer’s Holiday Wish List! (Then maybe forward it to your favorite shopping elf!)
Julie Rowan-Zoch is an author/illustrator. She followed her illustrator debut, Louis by Tom Lichtenheld (Clarion Books, 2020), with her author/illustrator debut of I'm A Hare, So There! (Clarion Books, 2021), and there are more projects coming. Learn more about Julie here.
Kristi Mahoney is a picture book writer whose work was featured in both the 2020 PBCHAT and 2021 PBParty picture book showcases. She’s a guest contributor for http://www.24carrotwriting.com/. Find out more at @kristi_mahoney.
Megan Litwin is the author of the upcoming Twinkle, Twinkle Winter Night (Clarion, 2022) and a guest contributor to 24 Carrot Writing. A former teacher (and a forever one at heart), her lifelong work is growing lifelong readers. Visit her at www.meganlitwinbooks.com.
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag is her debut picture book.
Find out more at https://www.amandadavisart.com/
Sarah Jane Abbott is an editor and ghostwriter, who has a passion for helping authors write the very best version of a story. To learn more about Sarah Jane and the services available at Sarah Jane Abbott Editorial visit her website here.
Kelly Carey is the co-founder of 24 Carrot Writing and the author of How Long Is Forever (Charlesbridge, 2020). Learn more about Kelly at www.kcareywrites.com.
Nancy Tupper Ling is an award-winning children’s author, poet, book seller, and librarian, who has great fun teaching poetry to all ages. Her picture books have received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and her newest anthology entitled For Every Little Thing (Eerdmans Publishing) hit the shelves in September 2021. Visit Nancy's website at www.nancytupperling.com/
Founder of the Writers’ Loft community, and developer of the Creatively WIN method for writers, Heather wears many hats. She is a professional mentor, publisher, editor, author, conference director, and Pokémon catcher. Her most recent project is a non-profit she co- launched with Kristen Wixted that aims to get books into the hands of vulnerable kids. To learn more about Little Book Locker, click here.
Find out more about Heather at www.heatherkellyauthor.com
Kristen's picture book, Miss Rita, Mystery Reader, which she wrote with her nephew Sam Donovan (who spent a lot of time sitting in the chair when they were revising) is coming out May, 2022 from MacMillan FSG Young Readers. When Kristen is not writing she's usually working on Little Book Locker which people can find out about at LittleBookLocker.org.
Her website is kristenwixted.com
Annie Cronin Romano is one of the co-founders of 24 Carrot Writing and is a published picture book author. In addition to her love of kidlit, she also writes adult fiction, works as a bookseller and library assistant, and is a literary associate with Olswanger Literary. Learn more about Annie at www.anniecroninromano.com.
Amanda Smith is a co-founder of 24 Carrot Writing. Her poems "Stingray" and "Cuttlefish" can be found in the Writers' Loft's newest illustrated anthology Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Learn more about Amanda at AmandaSmithWrites.
Bonus Gift Ideas:
Let's be honest. We don't always need more stuff. Often an experience or thoughtful donation to a bookish cause will warm the cockles of a writer's heart more than any physical object. Consider giving a yearly membership to a local writing organization or community such as the Writer's Loft, a craft related online course or workshop, or an SCBWI-membership. Or perhaps donate towards a worthy organization, such as Little Book Locker, in the name of the writer in your life, and let them know.
We've decided to shake things up this year for our annual writer's gift list. Instead of telling you what we like, we've asked our wonderful guest bloggers (aka gift elves) to share with you their illustrating and writing must haves. We are thankful for the excellent content these guests have provided to 24 Carrot Writing over the last three years. And they are doing it again - providing practical, fun, and sometimes frivolous ideas to add to your holiday gift list. At each author's favorite things, you will also find their newest books, because we all know books make the best gifts!
Kate Narita is the author of 100 Bugs! A Counting Book . When she's not out and about driving, teaching or cheering on her two teenage sons, Kate lives, writes, and hikes on a small mountain in central Massachusetts. Read more about Kate at www.katenarita.com.
Always on Sue Gallion's gift wish list are new fun or funky pencils. "That's the souvenir I get when I travel, too. A new or newly sharpened pencil can give me a tidbit of inspiration. Little notebooks to stash in my purse or around the house are always a favorite of mine, too."
And speaking of sharpening pencils, here's a one-of-a-kind gift for any writer or illustrator -- and yes, she has one on her desk. It was a gift she bought for herself a year ago.
Sue Lowell Gallion writes for children because she is passionate about children, reading, and any combination of the two. Her picture books include Pug Meets Pig, illustrated by Joyce Wan and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat received. Her upcoming books are an early reader series, Tip and Tucker (March 2019), written with children’s author Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Brazilian illustrator Andre Ceolin. Read more at suegallion.com.
Kate Messner says, "For bullet journaling, I love the medium-sized Leuchtturm 1917 notebook with dotted pages. An index, numbered pages, and terrific feeling paper make me happy to check on monthly and daily goals.
I have a new favorite for everyday research, note taking, and brainstorming, too -- the F64 Expedient Notebook from Kyokuto. This one has reliable wire rings so it'll open flat on a desk along with a sturdy front and back cover so it's easy to hold in one hand while taking notes in the field.
Kate’s books have been New York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. Her newest novel, Breakout was inspired by a real-world prison break. Visit Kate's katemessner.com to learn more.
Matthew Cordell- "Probably the one big thing I've started using this year is a fountain pen for drawing. I used to think fountain pens were not able to use waterproof inks, and assumed they weren't of much use to me. I need my drawing inks to be waterproof, since I paint the finished drawings with watercolor paints. But thanks to several fountain pen-loving friends, I've found a bunch of waterproof inks that are safe for fountain pens, as well as certain pens that draw with a very irregular line, much like a dip pen nib. The pen I use almost daily is a 9018 Hero fountain pen with a Fude nib. I've been traveling a lot this year, and it's so nice to have a pen and drawing book that I can take out in the field. Traditional dip pens are not quite so travel friendly, and this had long been a obstacle for drawing out and about.
Matthew won the 2018 Caldecott Medal, as well as the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book, for Wolf in the Snow. Congratulations, Matthew! Go to matthewcordell.com to learn more. For truly special gifts for the art lover on your list visit Matthew's Etsy store: etsy.com/shop/MatthewCordellArt
Melissa Sweet has illustrated over 100 books as well as many toys, puzzles, and games for eeBoo. She has won several awards for both her writing and illustrating. Her most recent book is Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. Read more about Melissa at melissasweet.net.
Alison Goldberg is the author of the picture book I Love You for Miles and Miles, illustrated by Mike Yamada. The board book edition releases December 31, 2018. Her newest book, Bottle Tops: The Art of El Anatsui is set to release winter 2020. To learn more about Alison visit her website at alisongoldberg.com/
Tami Charles' list is short and sweet:
1. Ginger tea with honey
2. Four Seasons by Vivaldi
3. Large sticky-note chart paper for plotting
Former teacher and debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Her 2018 titles are Like Vanessa and Definitely Daphne, and her picture book, Freedom Soup, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019. Read more at tamiwrites.com
Nancy Tupper Ling draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly everyday. Read more at www.nancytupperling.com/
Allison Pottern Hoch is obsessed with all things by Obvious State. "I have several of their posters and they now have this gorgeous line of journals at a reasonable price and I pretty much want all of them.
I also got this mug set for my birthday. Swoon! "
Allison Pottern Hoch is a writer and event coach with over eight years of experience in marketing, publicity, sales, and event planning. She’s worked with veteran authors, celebrities, and debut authors. For more information on her workshops and coaching services, visit http://events.pottern.com
Pat Zietlow Miller:
"Item No. 1. Library socks from Out of Print.
You might ask how socks help my writing process. Well, they make my feet happy, and when my feet are happy, so is the rest of me, which leads to better writing. I own these socks in several colors and wear them several times a week."
"Item No. 2. The book On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
This is the writing book that makes me nod vigorously along as I read it. He get so much right about how to write well. The title says its for writing nonfiction, but I say it’s for anyone who writes anything."
Editor, Rob Broder reminds us of the greatest gift you can give the writer in your life: TIME. In the midst of all the holiday celebrations, writers still need time to figure out that plot point, listen to that character, and follow their muse. "I go for walks... or a run. And I think. I think on the story. Pushing all outside everyday life thoughts aside. And I think on the story. Play it over and over. What part isn't working. Why isn't it working and how do I get there, to make it work and make it flow. Think, think, think.... until something comes to me. Kind of like a mindful children's picture book walk."
Rob Broder is editor and co-founder of Ripple Grove Press. His debut picture book Paul and His Ukulele launched Fall 2018. To learn more about Rob, click here and here for more on Ripple Grove Press.
24 Carrot Writing co-founder, Annie launched her debut picture book Before you Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Gratitude this year in October. Her second book Night Train hits shelves Spring 2019. To learn more about Annie, anniecroninromano.com.
Last, but not least, are a few of our favorites:
Searching for the right way to express yourself? Francine loves these additions to your typical thesaurus, available at Writers Helping Writers.
Annie featured these dishes a few years ago, and we still love them. Don't miss the Open Book Dinnerware collection through the Library of Congress gift shop.
Kelly grabbed a store logo tote when a new local indie bookstore opened. It was a perfect carrot – and she even asked the owner to sign it! This year she is planning to take it back to book signings at the store so she can ask visiting authors to add their autographed to her tote. The Silver Unicorn Bookstore tote is available on their website, but you can visit your own local bookstore and grab a tote!
And finally, a small gift from us: Melissa at Literary Book Gifts.com reached out to us in 2018 to tell us about her new line of literary gifts. We think you'll love the t-shirts and totes she has to offer. Enter the custom promo code 24carrotwriting20 at checkout and receive 20% off anything in the store, no minimum. The best gift of all? That code never expires!
Please remember to support your local independent book store or order online through Indiebound.
by Francine Puckly
In the past two or three weeks, I’ve come in contact with nearly a dozen writers and illustrators who are struggling. So this post is part blog, part book pick and suggested reading, and part battle cry for all of my creative friends who have hit the wall and are questioning the pursuit of publishing books.
We are living and operating as artists during a time when we are expected to project a lot of energy outwardly—connecting, marketing, networking. Through the conversations I’ve had with writers in the last month, several of them said they had lost their way, and in all of the cases their energy had been depleted by social media, conferences, and the revolving door of submissions and rejections. As another friend told me today, “I have become a professional student, chasing after classes to inspire me to write. I just need to sit down and write.” We featured Melissa Sweet for our illustrator month, and she spoke of the lessons she learned from E. B. White while writing and illustrating the exquisite book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. While E. B. White might have been eccentric in his need for nature, he can teach us about pulling back, sitting with an idea, and letting nature nurture us as our ideas are developed. Any man who spends a year studying spiders has something to teach me about pacing myself. We owe ourselves a break from the fast lane in order to reconnect to our writing. We can only spin like a top for so long before we lose steam, wobble, and topple over.
Instead I say, let’s embrace and find inspiration in life. If I stop and look around, I can find inspiration in all of my day-to-day surroundings. For starters, I am inspired by my daughter’s 99-year-old dance teacher, Georgia Deane, who continues to teach, dance and sing every day. (Here she is performing in Arizona last month.) And then there’s my critique group member who has spent years pulling together a family tome of photos, family trees and stories, poetry, and Ancestry.com details to pass along to her nieces and nephews. When she shared the book Monday night, we were speechless. The detail and care that had gone into creating it could rival any book written. Big publishing house project? Nope. But what a gift. Another friend faces a recurrence of cancer but remains upbeat and continues to draft her most riveting YA fantasy yet, and I can’t wait to read it! I’ve been on all sorts of adventures this summer with my son as he searches for a new home next year—at a university that will embrace all of his loves. It’s taking over a great deal of my “writing time” but I wouldn’t miss this journey for anything. The writing will have to wait.
This is life. We live it. We embrace it. We feel it. We will eventually create from it.
My friend and 24 Carrot co-founder Annie Cronin Romano said in one of our goals meetings last month that she was going to “throw it at the page.” Her wisdom hit me like a slap across the face. I have been struggling with a complete rewrite of a novel, but I was spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to control the direction of the writing. I had lost the love of sitting down with a cuppa, my favorite pens, and a pad and writing for the sheer joy of seeing something new—something never written before—on paper. It had been a long time since I had experienced that oneness with a snippet of a thought or story. Long overdue. So despite the fact that I have a meaningful and immediate deadline ahead, I am reeling myself in. I am going to dip in, splash it, mix it, repeat. I will trust that this is the only viable process if I’m going to deliver something fresh and engaging. I will probably miss my deadline but I'm determined to enjoy this process.
Autumn is here. Nature beckons, as do our creative souls. Go back to the basics. Do whatever you need to truly live and retrieve the joy you once knew when you sat down to draw or write. If you live in a place with seasons, take a hike, play in a pile of leaves, drink warm cider. If you live in a place without seasons, go to the beach or bask in the warmth in other ways! If rain drives you inside, buy a box of crayons or a set of watercolor paints (the kind with only eight colors and one brush). And listen to E. B. White’s wisdom. Explore The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims and The Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White. And definitely don’t miss out on Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet!
By Kelly Carey
We are abuzz at 24 Carrot Writing, as one of our founders, Annie Cronin Romano, prepares for the launch of her debut picture book, Before You Sleep, due out October 9, 2018 from Page Street Publishing.
I’d like to take this time to reflect on the integral part Annie has played in our writing group and on the way our group has supported Annie on her writing journey. My purpose is to highlight the benefits of joining a writing group, encourage you to become an active and fully engaged member of a writing tribe, and to point out the significant advantages, for all writers, regardless of where they are on the writing path of belonging to a writing community.
I’m Just Starting. What Could I Possible Offer?
When our founding mother, Francine Puckly, first gathered our group of four together and suggested we start 24 Carrot Writing, I wondered what a group of barely published, novice writers, in the infancy of their writing careers could offer each other let alone a larger audience. Luckily, Francine drowned out those concerns with her dogged determination that we had big things to contribute both to each other and to the KidLit industry.
At the very beginning, we offered each other companionship as we set out on our writing voyage. And this has made all the difference in helping us persevere in the face of form rejections, harsh critiques, and self-doubt. Our shared goal, a desire to be successful KidLit writers, meant we brought a unique understanding of how it feels to struggle with plot, manage word count, construct a query letter, and suffer the pain of form rejections. We knew exactly how significant a completed first draft was, we celebrated a revision break through with appropriate verve, and we cheered raucously when publishing success found our group. Our non-writing friends and family were supportive, but our group of fellow writers offered a kinship only they could bring to the table.
That kinship is critical in a career that so often requires you to be alone with your laptop. If you are fortunate, your inner voice can help sustain you along your writing path. But, I would argue that the fresh and often kinder voices of trusted fellow writers are a necessary and crucial component to writing success.
Francine was right. No matter where you are on the path, or how new your journey is, if you want to write, if you are determined to become a KidLit author, then you have an impactful role to play in a group of like-minded writers.
We Can Cover More Ground Together
We could all agree that a single person cannot read every new KidLit book; devour every article in a trade journal; take every workshop; attend every book event; and connect with every single agent, editor, librarian, bookstore owner and KidLit author in our industry. But, if you commit to a group of writers, allow them to get to know your style, show them your manuscripts, talk openly about your writing strengths and weakness, then you will have a team helping you accomplish your goals.
Annie has recommended books that are great comp titles for Amanda’s PB. Francine has forwarded marketing articles to Annie, weeks after her contract was signed, because she knew Annie would benefit from the information. Just this week, Amanda sent me the names of two editors she felt might be a great match for a manuscript I have on submission. There is no doubt that our writing group is giving each of us extra writing focused eyes and ears to help us on our individual journeys.
We are looking out for each other, for our manuscripts, for our submissions, for our writing, and offering targeted advice and help. These informed knowledgeable connections that we bring to each other are only possible because we have freely and candidly opted to share our writing journey. You can certainly go it alone. But, a tribe will facilitate your path to success and you will reach your goal faster and with more joy along the way if you invite others on your trip.
The Friction of Give and Take Sparks Success
As Annie launches her book next month, our writing group will be out in force to help her set up her event, offer a knowing and encouraging wink, and ensure that this special moment goes off without a hitch. For months, we have acted as a sounding board as Annie worked through the steps of planning the arrival of her new book. We offered suggestions, forwarded marketing opportunities, shared Annie’s news on our personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, and helped make sure that Annie heard positive and encouraging voices when concerns or doubts surfaced.
In return, Annie has given us reason to celebrate. We are motivated by her success to send out queries with hopeful abandon. Sometimes the phrase “success breeds success” can have negative connotations, in the case of a solid writing group, I would argue that “success motivates success”. This is a rough rejection filled industry and feeling connected to Annie’s success has given each member of her writing tribe a burst of sunshine.
Having a front row seat to Annie’s success also means we have seen firsthand how a launch works. We may have been helping Annie with her book, but she has given us the opportunity to learn and prepare for our own launches. I know I am grateful that when my debut launches in 2020, I will have been a part of Annie’s journey and she will be a solid advisor who I will rely on.
Don’t Hike Alone
I love hiking because it offers the joy of communing with nature, the gorgeous vistas along the path, and the euphoric feeling of accomplishment when you summit at the end of the trail. But, I have never opted to hike alone. That seems scary and dangerous. So why would I ever choose to travel my writing path alone?
You could choose to hike into the woods, carrying everything you think you could possibly need in your own backpack. When you happen upon a stunning vista, I suppose it is glorious even if you have no one to share it with. But I would argue that the ability to share revelations, successes, and the burdens in your pack make the journey easier and more enjoyable. That is exactly what we did and why 24 Carrot Writing has become a growing and dynamic group.
The benefits of sharing your writing career are vast. Your writing tribe will keep you motivated, remind you to take advantage of workshops, greet you at conferences, buoy you when you hit writing walls, and celebrate your success.
If you are a part of 24 Carrot Writing – congratulations! You have recognized that you have something significant to offer a writing community, you have a team supporting your writing journey, and you will feel the success sparked by our collective energy. I’m so happy you decided not to hike alone!
Guest Blog by Meg Lysaght Thacher
Every year, over 700 writers, illustrators, agents, and editors converge on Springfield, MA, to meet and learn and talk about their favorite thing: children’s books. If you’re heading to Springfield next month, here’s how to make the most of your conference experience.
First, go read Francine Puckly’s Essential Conference Preparation Checklist.
Your First Conference
About a third of conference attendees are first timers. (You can recognize them by the subtle “First Conference” labels on their badges.) If you are one, be sure to attend the conference orientation on Friday afternoon. You’ll get information and advice that’s even more useful than what you’ll read here, plus you’ll meet the conference coordinators and the New England SCBWI team.
Listen well. Take notes. Participate! Don’t sit in the back—this isn’t high school.
Go into your one-on-one agent/editor meeting with an open mind. No matter how many times you’ve polished your work, no matter how many critique partners have read it, an editor or agent will probably see something that needs improvement. You paid for this advice. You will get your money’s worth by listening.
Visit the critique prep and support room. There will be a moderator and other attendees who can give you an idea of what to expect in your meeting, or help unpack your 15 minutes of advice.
There will be talks by lots of famous authors. Do not miss Jane Yolen’s keynote address. Just trust me on this one. It will be short, sweet, inspiring, and you will finally learn what BIC* means.
Other events include panels, open mic, peer critiques, an interview with Patricia MacLachlan…um, I don’t think the 24Carrot folks have enough space for me to talk about it all. Read your conference schedule!
* Behave like a professional.
SCBWI has recently adopted anti-harassment guidelines for its conferences. Would you like to be a professional writer? Behave in a professional manner. The NESCBWI conference is a place to learn, network, and hang out with fellow writers. It is not a singles bar.
* Meet new people.
Sit down at a table with someone you don’t know at least once. When you meet someone new, tell them your name, age group you write for, genre(s), and current project. Don’t just read each others’ nametags.
* Do not pitch unless requested.
There are 600 people at the conference, and all of them have at least two projects they’re dying to pitch. We could all stand around pitching for the entire conference, and we would not have a single human conversation. That being said, it’s fine to pitch when someone asks you to.
* Treat the agents and editors like the human beings they are.
There’s plenty of time after the conference to send them your manuscript and perfectly polished query letter. Would you rather that query letter started with “Remember me? I’m the one who monopolized your time during the Friday night mixer!” or “I really enjoyed chatting with you about our favorite classic fantasy novels”?
This is an excellent way to get involved, feel like you belong, help the conference to run smoothly, and meet folks. Plus, there’s free food on Saturday night, and you get to learn the secret volunteer handshake.**
Take Care of Yourself
You can always tell the people who don’t get enough food or sleep at a conference. By the last day, they have glazed eyes, are speaking complete gibberish, and have probably introduced themselves to you three times. Don’t stretch yourself so thin that you can’t make a good impression. There are quiet spaces listed in the conference schedule. Use them if you need to decompress or regroup.
And drink plenty of water!
Beware of False Comparisons
At any given NESCBWI conference, about a quarter of attendees are published authors or illustrators. Everyone else is “pre-published.” We’re all here to improve our writing and learn. Comparing yourself to other people will get in the way of that. Embrace your you-ness.
After the conference
A major benefit of attending a conference is that you get a list of agents and editors who will accept your query for a few months after the conference. The list includes people who don’t normally accept unsolicited queries. Follow the directions on the list. Show them how easy you will be to work with. Make sure you submit only a polished manuscript. You’ll learn a lot at this conference. Apply it! And never share the list with non-attendees. You paid for this privilege. And we don’t want to swamp the faculty inboxes.
Approach your conference with a growth mindset. Everyone is there to learn—even the faculty. Even the editors and agents. And especially you. So learn!
Meg Thacher will be attending her eighth NESCBWI conference this April. She teaches astronomy at Smith College and writes nonfiction for Highlights and the Cricket Magazine group. This is her first blog post of any kind.
Find out more about Meg:
Twitter handle: @MegTWrites
2017 meeting stats courtesy of Shirley Pearson (who will remind you to fill out your post-conference evaluation). Thanks, Shirley!
*Nope. Not going to tell you. Listen to Jane.
**There is no secret volunteer handshake. Maybe we should make one up!
Guest Blog By Kate Narita
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all,
and then stands back to see if we can find them…
The often surprising results of that hunt--
that’s what I call Big Magic.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
24 Carrot Writers set one writing goal and one craft goal a month. In her January 4th post, Kelly Carey defines a craft goal as the following: “A craft goal needs to focus on the business side of writing.” People don’t often equate “the business side” of writing with magic, at least I never did. But as a result of 100 BOOK TRAILERS, that’s changed. I now realize that the journey of marketing can be as wonderful and as magical as writing.
After the euphoria of selling 100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK waned, reality set in. One of the things I had to do was create a marketing plan. Gulp! A marketing plan? I’m a teacher and a writer. I create lesson plans and stories, not marketing plans. I have an MFA, not an MBA. How do I create a marketing plan?
Luckily, I’d taken an event planning class with Allison Pottern Hoch at The Writer’s Loft https://loftingsblog.com/2017/10/25/how-to-pitch-your-book-event/ during which many people had shared various marketing ideas. In addition, at the NESCBWI 2017 Conference, Janet Reynolds from The Blue Bunny Bookstore http://www.bluebunnybooks.com/ presented some extremely helpful marketing tips. Finally, Suzanne Kaufman, http://suzannekaufman.com/about/ the illustrator of 100 Bugs!, shared some of her past marketing plans with me. So, I had a small knowledge base. Now, I just had to move forward.
Here’s where the business side of the Big Magic began. It sounds silly, but the number 100 makes me giddy. Maybe it’s a result of teaching elementary school for over ten years. After all, as many kindergartners will tell you, the best holiday after Christmas and your birthday, is the 100th day of school. So, I started thinking about what I could do with the number 100. That’s how I took the first step, I invited the treasure in.
Well, it turns out I had just finished filming the book trailer for 100 BUGS!, which is another Big Magic story for another time. All of the book trailers I’d watched before filming mine, were scrolling through my head. Then, the Big Magic happened—a marketing idea sparked in my mind. Why not feature 100 book trailers, a different trailer for the first 100 days of 2018 and since BUGS has 100 in the title, release your book on the 100th day of the year? So, I proposed the idea in our marketing plan, and the 100 BUGS! team loved it. Great, right?
GULP! Now, I had to do it. All the negative self-talk began. It sounded something like this: “Are you crazy? Who is going to want to be featured on your no-name blog? Do you even know 100 authors? Have 100 people even visited your site?” and so on. But over the years, I’ve learned to turn down the volume on those soul-killing thoughts, and turn up the volume on what is the next small step I can take to reach my goal. Second, I had to uncover the treasure chest.
So, I shared my idea with my friend and mentor, April Jones Prince http://www.apriljonesprince.com/ . She liked the idea, but pushed me even further. “You need to tie those trailers into the classroom.” She was right once again. Featuring trailers wasn’t enough, I needed to create a resource for teachers to have at their fingertips. Useful activities educators could download without having to find time to read a teacher’s guide or sift through ineffective resources on the internet. Third, I had to find the time to crack the code.
Time. I’m a full-time fourth grade teacher, I have two teenage sons, and my husband sometimes like to have a conversation with me that doesn’t revolve around who is picking up who at what time and who is coming home for fifteen minutes in between work and providing Uber service to walk the dog. Oh, and I try to write and exercise as many days as possible. So how in the world was I going to find the time to do this? Gratefully, Melanie Linden Chan of Epic Eighteen https://epiceighteen.weebly.com/ took some time out of her schedule to share tips about how to schedule blog posts. Eureka! I didn’t have to write a blog post every day. I could write ten blog posts on the weekend, and schedule them to be released on a daily basis. The task began to feel manageable. Fourth, I had to open the treasure chest.
What treasures are in the kid lit world? So many. I reached out through social media, word of mouth, and personal connections to find them. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all.” https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/
There had to be people who wanted to shine a light on their jewels, right? Yes! There were. Finally, it’s time to treasure the beauty of each and every jewel:
Rubies: Celebrating the tremendous talent of the authors and illustrators in the kidlit
Opals: New books that I can enjoy and share with my students.
Sapphires: Meeting people I never would have met.
Emeralds: Lessons I never would have thought of that I can share with my class.
Topaz: Rejoicing in highlighting the success of people who have supported me over the
Pearls: Providing resources to teachers, the hardest working people I know.
Diamonds: Being showered with gratitude for simply shining a light on other people’s
Looking back, I should have known marketing could be Big Magic. After all, everything in life can be magical, or it can be mundane. It’s a choice we have. Want marketing magic? Follow these steps:
So print out those 24 Carrot Writing Goal Worksheets posted on January fourth by Kelly
Carey, and don’t look at the craft goal as some mundane task you have to complete in order to color in the carrot. No, write the craft goal, invite the treasure in and Big Magic will come your way. Keep your sparkly, orange gel pen nearby because you’ll feel sparkly when you color in that craft carrot!
Author of 100 Bugs! A Counting Book!
Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman coming June 12, 2018
Have you written or illustrated a book that’s easily accessed by elementary teachers and librarians through the public library system? If so, please go to www.katenarita.com and fill out her contact form so that she can feature your treasure. Please include the following information:
~ by Amanda Smith
Encore is a yearly event where some speakers from the NESCBWI Spring conference are invited to present their workshops. Two Encore events are offered to provide opportunity for more writers to learn from these excellent teachers. This year’s Encore II was held at Devens on Saturday, October 21. Because of the nature of Encore, the event is not themed, yet, somehow, every year, in the subtext of what the presenters are saying, a theme emerges. This year the common thread was PLAY.
Dana Meachan Rau, author of over 300 books, including Robot, Go Bot! and books in the Who Was? series, presented a workshop about injecting emotion in characters to encourage empathy from readers. She led us through writing exercises where we played around with writing a character’s emotion through a setting or an object. When we play to explore emotions, we connect deeper with our character’s emotion. “First we feel, then they [the readers] feel,” she said.
Molly Burnham, author of the Teddy Mars series and 2016 Sid Fleishman Humor Award winner, talked to us about humor and writing funny. She implored us to play for a minute, to horse around with ideas, to do seemingly silly three-minute writing exercises, like matching different animals with human actions, and finding the funny in it. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the work of it all. The deadlines, the goals, the next chapter. Playing is freeing for the exact reason that it is not a work in progress. And yet, playing accesses a different part of our brains, which sometimes leads to breakthroughs in our current work. She said, “It’s great just to play, we are artists after all.”
Under the direction of sticky-note queen and author AC Gaughen (Scarlet, Lady Thief, and Lion Heart) we played around with character traits. We scribbled pieces of identity on sticky notes. She then urged us to discarding the go-to traits, the comfort zone, and go with the unexpected, which leads to the development of more interesting characters. AC also had us play around with our character’s central traits. Through play we discovered how changing what is central to our character changes the conflict.
Chris Tebbetts, whose books include the Middle School series and Public School Superhero with James Patterson, as well as the Stranded series with Jeff Probst, presented on Improv and Play. He reminded us that “purpose should not be more important than play” and encouraged us to sometimes throw out the rules and just write. Write without thinking, don’t get logical, and see where it leads. “Improv helps limber up one’s creativity.” He also challenged us to sometimes “play with a limited set of tools.” Setting our own rules and staying within those rules help us think outside the box. Play off-screen, with visual techniques such as story-boarding and maps.
Erin Dionne (Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking, Ollie and Science of Treasure Hunting and more) rounded the day off with quirky revision techniques. Revision lends itself to play, as not one technique works for every project. The revising writer needs to play around with a variety of hands-on techniques including story-boarding, spiderwebs, grids, calendars and maps, until they find what works for that particular project. “Problem solving is an act of creativity,” she said.
The presenters reminded us that every activity connected to our characters and story is considered work. So even when you are playing, you are still working. Playing is just more fun! We are writing for children after all.
By Annie Cronin Romano
Two weekends ago, I went on a writing retreat with three of the four members of my writing group. It had been 20 months since our last one, and planning this one had been a challenge. From nailing down a weekend when all four of us could go (obviously we didn’t succeed there) to finding an affordable, comfortable place to work distraction-free, there were several obstacles to overcome. But it was important to us, as a group, to do this. Why do this? You ask. Good question.
1. There are no “home life” distractions. No one feels compelled to do the laundry, or clean the bathrooms, or rake the yard. Your kids can’t suddenly ask for a ride to the movies. It’s just you and your writing.
2. There are no (or far fewer) time constraints. You don’t have to stop writing in fifteen minutes to prepare dinner for the family or do the grocery shopping. This unrestricted time can free up your creativity and get the ideas flowing.
3. You’re not alone. There’s a group mentality to help maintain focus. You’re all there together for one purpose. I’m a fairly disciplined person, but even I admit that I would be tempted to lounge around, sleep late, read a book, or surf the web if it was just me on a writing weekend. Sure, I’d write. Just maybe not as intensely as I do with others around me who are focused on their work. Having fellow writers with you creates an accountability you might not have if you’re alone.
4. Even the breaks are productive. When we get up to make tea, grab a snack, or just stretch for a few minutes, we often use that time to bounce ideas off each other. We ask each other questions about plot, word choice, and characterization. When writing alone, that’s not possible. But when you’re with fellow writers, you can tap into each other’s writing strengths and knowledge.
All the members of my writing group write fairly consistently at home. But we recognize that doing this intense write-in retreat really helps us get a significant amount of writing accomplished. A group writing retreat can rejuvenate your writing, whether you use it to brainstorm story ideas, plot a novel, revise a story, or free write to move your creativity into high gear. So round up some writing colleagues and organize a retreat of your own. And let 24 Carrot Writing know how it goes!
By Kelly Carey
I love to celebrate the successes of my fellow writers and here is why.
I could stand in an empty field in a thunderstorm and wait for lightening to strike. But that sounds lonely and scary. Instead, I’d rather connect with a vibrant group of writers and let the collective friction of our creative energy fire off a spark.
When that happens, I want to be connected – to the writer, to their creative process, and hopefully to their manuscript. After all, I don’t want that spark to have to jump very far.
Think of a circle of writers holding hands, or a football team huddled with their arms slung over each other’s backs – think how easily that electric spark will flow from one writer to the next when we are that connected.
So how do we connect?
We connect at conferences when we chat about craft. We build deeper connections when we form a critique group or take a workshop together. These moments offer opportunities not only to nurture our own writing journey, but to nurture the process of another writer. And to really and truly connect, you have to really and truly nurture. That means that when you hear a writer doubting their work after a harsh critique, you offer encouragement. When you read about a new agent looking for a project that describes a manuscript a writing partner shared, you shoot them an email. When you have taken a workshop that was helpful, you spread the word. When your critique partner asks you to read a manuscript, you offer your best and most complete feedback.
Your job is to propel every manuscript you touch forward on the road to publication. Yes, I said every manuscript. If you read it – you own it. Give your best feedback, your best advice, and then encourage the revisions and the submissions. Keep that writer on the path. If you bump into them and they have stalled in the process, fire them up again. Challenge them to set writing goals, and help them stick to them. Tell them to join the 24 Carrot Writing Facebook group (shameless self-promotion).
When you have done this, then you get to celebrate the success of fellow writers. If you have encouraged them in a moment of doubt, given them a pep talk after a harsh rejection, offered constructive feedback on a manuscript, then you have been a part of their success and you will look forward to the day that they are a part of yours.
So, when we hear that a writing friend sold a manuscript – we jump for collective joy!
by Kelly Carey
I've been a part of book club with a group of friends for years. I’m sure many of you have too. You gather and chat about a book you have all read. It’s fun and social, and you end up reading some books you might not have picked up otherwise. But, we always read adult books. Recently, I joined a new type of book club, and I want to encourage my children’s writing friends to do the same.
The wonderful Julie Reich at The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA started a KidLit Book Group. This group of writers gets together monthly and discusses a YA or MG novel. We look at the book not as readers, but rather as writers, looking for techniques of craft that we can apply to our own work.
There are many things that can be learned by examining a YA or MG novel with other YA and MG authors. First, you may be startled to find that we can be tough on the writing of successfully published, acclaimed writers. Hearing someone offer a negative critique of character development, or point out plot holes, or question different literary devices used in telling a story – of a published author – makes me think a bit more cautiously about how I interpret criticism of my own work. For every book clubber who liked a book, there seems to be an equal number who dislike the book. This will be true of your own manuscript. So take heart. Don’t rush to your manuscript and make immediate changes after every bit of advice. Instead, listen to the feedback, look for trends and consistency across critiques and then apply your own writing sensibility to the information before you make changes. Hearing folks offer feedback on a published novel in your KidLit book group will give you the courage to defend your own work.
While being in a KidLit book group can help you become less sensitive to critiques of your own manuscript, it can also allow you to really understand the feedback your manuscript is getting. When your KidLit book group is talking about character or dialogue, you will hear how the comments are framed. What do people say when they like a character or feel engaged in a story? You will have lightbulb flashing moments when you recognize that similar comments were made about your own manuscript. You will hear a book group member say why they liked or disliked a scene, and you will recall the same phrasing used to offer feedback on your own work. Being able to examine the feedback directed at someone else’s writing will give you a comfortable distance before you then consider the ramification for your own work. It’s a nice, easy stroll to the heart of a problem that your own writing may suffer from when you hear it discussed in someone else’s writing.
This is not to say that a KidLit book group is all about the negative. It's not! The most inspiring, I-can’t-wait-to-get-my-fingers-typing moments are when you feel emboldened to write because you have been uplifted by the talents of other writers. When the group gets excited about a book, and gleefully discusses the expert use of sentence structure to control pacing, or the introduction of a subplot to add tension, you start to feel your hands itch. I imagine this is how a painter feels when presented with jars of wet paint and fresh brushes. You will be inspired by the creativity in front of you. When you look at the tools another author has used, you will want to reach out and grab them and try those techniques for yourself.
Finally, so much of writing can be a solitary business, including reading in our genre (something universally recommended in the KidLit industry). A KidLit Book Group is a way to take a lonely component of your writing world and make it a social group activity. You will be gathering with other writers to look at books--folks with a similar passion, discussing from a unique perspective the books we love. It's a wonderful way to get to know each other, understand our reading and writing likes and dislikes, and even find new critique partners.
For the nuts and bolt of how it works, I can only share how my KidLit Book Club functions:
* We pick a host for every month. The host is responsible for selecting three options of MG or YA books for the group to read.
* The group then votes (you will like this type of voting – every option will be a good one!) and picks the book for the following month.
* We meet for two hours and the host provides the refreshments.
* As a way of starting our discussion, we go around the table and allow everyone to give their overall impression of the book and what they liked or disliked about the writing. This is really all you need to get going. The points folks will bring up in their share time will spur on other discussions and questions and before you know it a two hour book group will have passed and you will have spent it in a productive and completely enjoyable way.
Find a coffee shop, a café at your independent book seller, or a room at your local library and invite MG and YA published and pre-published authors in your area to join your KidLit Book Group. It could be the start of a wonderful new endeavor.
Peruse blogs for advice and tips from KidLit creatives.
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