It’s a new year, full of excitement and new possibilities. What better folks to chat with than those who have debut books coming out in 2020!
We’ve invited the Soaring ‘20s picture book debut group to share their thoughts on using goals to find publishing success and to share some of the goals they have set for 2020.
A big 24 Carrot Writing welcome to the high flying picture book debut authors and illustrators of The Soaring ‘20s.
My goal is, and will always be, to work on the craft of writing for children.
To that end, I signed up for critique groups and conferences and workshops. I also took all feedback to heart. That may sound like a an odd goal. However, it is easy, and natural, to defend your work. If you want to improve, though, which was my goal - you have to listen. You may not choose to integrate all the feedback into your revisions but if you do not receive it openly, then you are missing a huge opportunity. I firmly believe that it was this goal - of listening and learning - that helped me reach publication.
- Mary Waggley Copp, author of WHEREVER I GO, illus. Munir Muhammed ( Antheneum Books for Young Readers, April 21, 2020)
When I got serious about writing for children, my goal was to immerse myself in the world of picture books—publishing, community, and craft. I started a book club where we read about 25 picture books published by one publisher every month. Members learned to spot the differences in publishing houses and we kept up to date on what was getting published. I became more active in my local SCBWI chapter, signing up for workshops and meetings when I could and building lasting friendships. I took advantage of webinars from industry
- Colleen Paeff, author of THE GREAT STINK: HOW JOSEPH BAZALGETTE SOLVED LONDON'S POOP POLLUTION PROBLEM, illus. Nancy Carpenter, (Simon & Schuster/McElderry, March, 2021)
To stay on track with my writing goals, I protect my writing time with two key strategies.
First, I schedule a regular hour of writing time, and use an accountability partner to make sure I stick to it. We text each other at the beginning of the appointed hour with our goal for that writing session (which is for creative work only, no writing-related tasks), and check in at the end to see how we did.
During each writing session, I use my second strategy: exiting my email, turning off my cell phone ringer and notifications, and blocking myself from social media using StayFocusd browser extension. I’ve been amazed at how much I can accomplish towards my goals with just one focused hour a day.
— Kirsten W. Larson, author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, illus. Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, Feb. 25, 2020)
I’ll use this question as an example, since it falls under marketing, efforts right? :) I’ve opened up the document more times than I can count over the past couple of weeks. Although I am super excited about writing it and I’m a huge fan of the blog, I’m just honestly not quite as comfortable with marketing as I am with writing. But I know both are so important. And what makes marketing more palatable for me is when I think of it as a way to genuinely connect with readers.
For example, I recently donated a signed copy of THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE and some swag as a local auction item. The high bidder connected with me to say how excited she is to receive the book and have it personalized for her daughter, as inspiration for every vote making a difference. That re-invigorated the marketing side of my mind and reminded me how marketing, like writing, is just as much about putting my heart out there through my words.
Having said that, marketing efforts definitely feel like they come from a different section of my brain. Although blog writing, launch
-Elisa Boxer, author of THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE: How One Woman’s Words Made History, illus. Vivien Mildenberger, (Sleeping Bear Press, March 2020)
One of my writing goals for 2020 is to write a picture book biography. This is a goal that I had set in 2019, and also in 2018, but never actually accomplished. In fact, I barely started. So far, I’ve only written fiction picture books, so the idea of writing nonfiction is daunting.
There’s a saying that goes, “The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’m not going to be THAT hard on myself, but clearly I need to find a different, less vague way to define this goal or another year is going to go by without it happening. Or – far worse – someone ELSE will write a biography about this person, get tons of accolades, huge sales, and win the Newbery Medal, leaving me with nothing to do but whine to my critique group that I had that idea first.
Probably the thing to do is break the process up into smaller, more achievable goals and have some rewards along the way. Like this:
• read one page in research book
• eat one piece of chocolate
• read two pages
• eat two pieces of chocolate
• finish chapter
• time for hot chocolate
I think I can DO this!
- Carrie Finison, author of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, illus. Brianne Farley (Putnam, Summer 2020)
One of my writing goals for 2020 is to work on my middle grade novel that I’ve been ignoring for the past three years. I might simply revise it or make it a chapter book series. I’m setting this target because I love the two main characters – it’s a dual POV. I believe they have a strong voice, and their story needs to be told. Either that, or maybe they’ve been nagging me for too long!
- Joana Pastro, author of LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illus Jhon Ortiz (Kane Press, Fall 2020)
To improve as a writer, I think you must always be learning new things. I love attending writing retreats, conferences and taking webinars to hone my skills. But those things cost time and money and this year I’ve resolved to be more frugal with both.
Luckily, as a picture book writer, there is a wealth of craft learning one can do for free. I have a few biography ideas that I’ve been toying around with for a while and I’d like to commit to finishing at least one of them in 2020. To help me achieve this goal, my resolution is to read at least one picture book biography per week and make note of what makes it successful.
I like this goal for three reasons:
At the end of the year, I’ll have 52 new ideas to help inspire my own biography writing…and who knows? Maybe a finished biography too!
- Candy Wellins, author of SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, illus. by Charlie Eve Ryan, (Page Street Kids, August 11, 2020)