New Year, New Writing Practice
Happy New Year, kidlit friends. I truly hope this holiday season - no matter where you were or how you celebrated/didn't celebrate - was peaceful and restful, and that you're now ready to launch yourself headfirst into 2021!
Well, maybe not. If you're like me and some years you have trouble finding momentum (or even rolling out of your nice, warm bed) at the start of January, please know you're not alone. I always feel like all this "new year, new you" stuff that is pushed onto us from day 1 is a bit much. It's certainly helpful to reflect on the past year and ring in the new, but some years I feel like the transition from December to January is just like any other month, except we have to get used to writing a new date.
Of course, this year many of us will be itching for 2020 to be over, so there's that need for closure and renewal. Here's hoping that 2021 will bring you all good things!
I've tried making resolutions, lists of goals, etc. at the start of new years' in the past. But with the 2020 we've just had, I realized that I can make all the lists I like but sometimes the universe has *other* plans. I cannot control the universe (who can? please give me that person's phone number), but what I can control is myself and my own writing practice.
And you can, too.
This month, while ads and influencers try to sell us thousands of different diet plans, or ways to brighten up our skin and hair, or detox/cleanse rituals, we can put ourselves on a new kind of plan: a writing plan. A writing plan is pretty much the only kind I was able to stick to last year, and it really helped me get through. And, if you're serious about writing children's books like I know you are, you'll be able to stick to this kind of plan and come out the other side with work that you're proud of.
Here's a round-up of some of the great kidlit writing resources at your fingertips:
Storystorm, created and run by children's book author Tara Lazar, is completely free and encourages you to come up with one picture book idea for each day in January. Those are ideas only, my friend - pretty easy to begin with, right? There are even prizes at the end and a badge for you to wear proudly on your social media account or blog. And the real prize is your 31 new ideas that you get to choose to take to the next level.
If you're the type of person who thrives having a running buddy and needs someone to hold you accountable, let me introduce you to London Writers' Salon, a community of writers of all different stripes. Their 3x daily Writers' Hour is a free Zoom-based event that's been going since March 2020. Over 100 people sign in to write together in silence for 50 minutes, bookended by a 5 minute check-in/inspirational quote and a 5 minute check-out. People come to do any writing they can and you can go to one, two, or all three sessions every day (I do one). They encourage morning pages and journaling. In fact, I wrote this blog post during one Writers' Hour. We love welcoming new people; it is a very friendly and supportive bunch. If you log on and see me there, please say hi in the chat!
If you want to take some of your picture book ideas to the next level, you can sign up for Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 Challenge, a group whose members intend to write 12 picture book manuscripts in the 12 months of the year. Those are first drafts, too, not fully-polished manuscripts that you have to show anyone at all, so this is another way to get yourself into an active writing practice with low risk/high reward. This is a paid subscription that offers a webinar series and an active community. There are different levels of membership, so you can check to see if this one is right for you. Julie also has some great free webinars that she notifies you regularly if you're signed up to her newsletter.
Another great resource that I just found is Storyteller Academy, run by children's book author and illustrator Arree Chung. This is a paid subscription offering courses and community, but you can also dip into their selection of many different online courses about the craft of storytelling and pay as you go there. I watched an amazing webinar about character development delivered by Ben Clanton, author/illustrator of the wildly popular Narwhal & Jelly series, when it was on sale for $19.99 USD.
I also launched a small selection of online courses on my own web site: Picture Book Basics, which is free, and Perfecting Your Picture Book. I'm currently planning one more for early 2021 called Knockout Kidlit Query Letters, all about pitching and writing a query letter. These courses were designed based on what I've noticed my author and illustrator clients need. Here are two tips that you'll find in these courses:
And if you've already got a solid writing practice (applause!) and are getting ready to pitch and submit your work, check out these Twitter pitch parties which give writers a chance to pitch their work to directly to agents and editors: #PBpitch, #DVpitch, and #PitMad.
Put these on your calendars!
One thing I do relish about January 1st is having an excuse to reflect on the past year and kick something new (or dormant) into gear. I'm reminded of this great quote I heard at a London Writers' Salon:
"We talk about courage as a society, but we forget that at its most basic level it’s really just taking action...Just because the conditions aren’t to your liking, or you don’t feel ready yet doesn’t mean you get a pass. If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started." – Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way (Chapter: Get Moving)
So, kidlit creators: let's get started. Happy new year and happy (new) writing practice!