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The Artist’s Way

25 Mar

I’ve been a  “children’s writer” for over four years. While I have over 60 picture book manuscripts, a funtastic blog, contacts, critique groups, and a working knowledge of the industry, something is missing. Where are all of my rejections? If I’m not submitting, I can’t get rejected to later become published. I lack consistency, because I’ve lost my way. And now thanks to Julia Cameroon’s remarkable course within a book, I will find my way, “The Artist’s Way.”

“The Artist’s Way” is a 12 week course designed to help readers discover/rediscover the artist within. Each week consists of a motivational chapter, and a series of tasks. In addition, the emerging artist, regardless of discipline and medium, needs to handwrite three pages when they wake up (known as Morning Pages), and complete one artist date a week. The artist date is a 2 hour or more block a time where the artist spends time alone soaking in inspiration from the outside world. An artist date could consist of a trip to the zoo, checking out a movie, or bargaining at an estate sale. At the close of each week, the artist must then evaluate their journey with a “check-in.” Each week, I will be posting my “check-ins” here at CraveWriting in the hopes that more imaginators will take the plunge and re-emerge from the shadows as consistent, productive and confident artists.

I was turned on to this course through fellow writer and blogger Julie Hedlund. She in turn was inspired by a fellow blogger. This whole course has a “pay it forward” vibe written all over it. I’ve already secretly ordered a book for an artist friend. Instead of drowning you in related links, just google it yourself and see if Julia Cameroon’s “The Artist’s Way” is for you. If you’re not sold, just sit back and watch my progress.

Happy re-discovering imaginators!

Magazines: A Writer’s Oasis

22 Mar

“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”  William Knowlton Zinsser

All writers wish to see their name on a creation of their own imagination. It’s ego that drives the need, though current ‘supply and demand’ pummels our ego into fairy dust. Instead of brushing the remaining particles into the trash bin, we should instead sprinkle the fairy dust into the medium of magazaines.

Of course, we won’t see our name on the cover, will be limited in size/scope, and we won’t enjoy a  flow of royalties. But writing for magazines  provides a cushion of cash, while still reaching audiences with your creativity. Much like aspiring entrepreneurs, writers would rather have their ‘own business,’ than go to work for an existing enterprise. If anything, writers should see magazines as sports franchises. Become a fan of a few, and try out for the team. You never know, with enough practice, you may be under their spotlight.

The road to publication does not entirely center on the quality of your writing. Every book publisher takes a huge financial and professional risk on a new author, by providing a reel of magazine credits you prove that you’re level of writing and professional has been honed by the publishing experts. While an agent is a crucial piece of the puzzle, magazine writing credits may prove to be an equal weapon towards convincing an editor you’re a safe bet.

Having written over 60 picture book drafts, I’m now going back to see which ones don’t necessarily need 32 pages of pictures. Also, if your manuscript doesn’t lend itself to page-turning, you may also want to consider sending the manuscript to a magazine. In addition, you work doesn’t even need to be fiction. Magazines accept poems, puzzles, games, photos, and even recipes.

While I would love to provide a list of useful links, I’m so happy that others did their homework and are allowing us to cheat off of them. Please visit the two sites below for information regarding submissions for children’s magazines or consult Writer’s Digest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

Kid Magazine Writers: An epic resource of links and submisison guidelines for children’s magazines.

Children’s Magazines: Kathy Temean provies a helpful list at her blog “Writing and Illustrating” listing the average payouts for various children’s magazines.

Happy submitting imaginators!

Morning Ritual

10 Mar

“Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Writing is not a task; it’s a lifestyle. To climb the mountain of success, every imaginator must live the life of a productive writer each and every day. Just as breakfast is empowered as the ‘most important meal of the day,” what better time to swim in the currents of writing than morning?

Over the past few months I’ve developed and am ‘owning’ a morning ritual. It has nothing to do with push-ups, orange juice or tooth paste. Instead, this ritual is all reading, reading about writing. Monday through Friday when I arrive at work, I’ve conditioned myself with 4 tasks. Now keep in mind I have a desk job, meaning I literally (95% of the time) sit at a desk. I’m left to do whatever I desire, and take advantage by stocking my shelf with writer-friendly texts.

The first task is reading the daily entry from Eileen and Jerry Spinelli’s “Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself.” It’s short, simple and provides a motivational sting to start the day. The Spinellis use excerpts from children’s literature providing me with a crash-course in authors, titles, and quotable phrases. While this book was intended for youngsters, with 365 days, it gives me consistency, while instilling patience.

The second task is reading two entries from “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book.” This helpful resource furnishes readers with excerpts from children’s books, explanations by editor Anita Silvey, and comments from ‘famous’ people affected by the excerpted books. To avoid drowning in a sea of quotables, I’m purposefully reading this book slowly.

The third task is much like the latter, and I’m currently absorbing quotes from established children’s authors and illustrators in Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoof’s “The ABCs of Writing for Children.” This is a MUST own for any children’s writer. Though, reader beware. This book is so rich with insightful and inspiring words that if you take too big of a bite, you’ll end up with a toothache. I recommend choosing a section, such as ‘plot,’ ‘rhyme,’ or ‘book signings,’ and digesting its contents when best suited to your current stage of the writing process. For me, I simply choose one section a day and circle the sugary tidbits in pink. Previously, I used this slot in the morning to read “I Wish Someone Had Told Me That,” an e-book  from Children’s Book Insider with advice from a variety of children’s writers.

To complete the saga, I use the 4th task to read a chapter from a middle-grade or early chapter book. Previous selections include P.B. Kerr’s “Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure,” and Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler’s “Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?” At the moment, I’m playing in Neverland with Peter Pan. I’ve made it a personal goal to read all (most of) the classics. On deck is “Alice and Wonderland,” followed by “The Neverending Story.”

While some may argue that a writer should start their day writing, I do my best work at night. I’m more of a night owl than an early bird and therefore absorb in the morning, and create at night. More importantly, this ritual helps fill a void. Having not read as a child, and while currently living in Japan, I’m left out of children’s book society. But by ritualizing my mornings, each day I take a step towards the center of this joyous community.

Please comment below with some of your ‘writing-esque’ rituals.

Happy ritualizing imaginators!

Picture Book Marathon Checklist

31 Jan

Picture Book Marathon Checklist


To help visualize your progress during the Picture Book Marathon please print out a copy of this PDF checklist. Special thanks Jean Reagan, Lora Koehler, and Nathan Hale.


(Click to view/print, and right click to save)

Happy writing imaginators!

Download Now: PB Status Sheet

24 Jan

“Can you give us a status report, captain? – Sulu

Writing a book is no easy task. Editing, revising, and publishing is even harder. But imagine trying to organize a factory of dozens of books rolling off the assembly line. Welcome to my world.

I’ve recently earmarked 15 picture books to begin their launch towards prospective publishers. But are they ready? Nope. But they’re close.

To assist with me with keeping track of the progress of each ‘final’ manuscript, I created the ‘Picture Book Status Sheet.’ It’s just a simple 4-page PDF but when you paperclip it to your manuscript, it gives your story a professional feel, a realistic goal, and the allusion that it may actually get published.

The first page is a checklist for the draft, editing, revisions, genre, pitch, cover letter, publisher submission information.  The second is for prospective publisher leads/notes, with the third and fourth being reserved for general notes.

Imaginators, please download, print, and attach a status sheet to your ‘almost-ready’ manuscripts!

Click here to download: PictureBookStatusSheet

Picture Book Blueprint

21 Jan

“I write scripts in storyboard fashion using stick figures, and thought balloons and word balloons and captions. Then I’ll write descriptions of what scenes should look like and turn it over to the artist.” – Harvey Pekar

Once you’ve penned your picture book masterpiece, regardless if you’re the illustrator, it’s time to put on your editor glasses. I’m not referring to spelling, punctuation or gooey grammar. But rather how you need to look at your book in 3D (sort of).

Like an architect’s blueprint, a storyboard or dummy helps the author/illustrator visualize the physical layout of the story. Even without pictures this can be done at any stage of the book’s development. It’s essential to see how each page turn is elegantly teased yet surprisingly delivered.

From students to writers, everyone seems to get caught up with asking “how long does it have to be?” While each publisher differs in desired word counts, if all of the text naturally fits in a 32-page layout, you don’t have to worry. If there’s just too much text, you may be able to convince the publisher to move your words to a 40 page book.

To help with this storyboarding task, I’ve created a blank thumbnail overview and a black template to download, print and use at will.

To get a clearer picture on storyboards and dummies check out the following useful links:

Tara Lazar thoughtfully explains the storyboard concept.

Uri Shulevitz visually breaks down a storyboard from an illustrator’s perspective.

Sarah S. Brannen covers the process of making a picture book dummy.

Download: PiBoIdMo Checklist

3 Nov


As a professional procrastinator, I often focus on everything but the task at hand. So, instead of jotting down ideas, I decided to spend my afternoon whipping up a little check-list to monitor my progress during PiBoIdMo. Please download the above PDF and use it at your leisure. Simply click on the link and print, or right click to download it. I recommend printing it in color, cause it just looks that much sexier, but B&W will do just fine.

Happy “idea hunting” imaginators!