New Year’s resolutions offer a fun way for me to dream and imagine an improved future. In the past I had trouble keeping resolutions, so a few years ago I decided to make step-by-step action plans for my resolutions and goals to check if that worked better for me. After all, John Wanamaker said, “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”
Several years ago, my resolution was to better succeed at reaching my goals. My professional goal was to be a published children’s author. This seemed like a mountain, and I needed a step by step climbing strategy. Some people are skilled at making drastic life changes, but for me personally, small, simple steps are easier to handle. Each month, I scheduled time to write, revise and get feedback on my writing. Once I got used to the new schedule and had an established writing habit, the next step was to become more prolific (and write more). So two years ago I set “write 12 new picture book stories a year” as my goal. For support, encouragement and accountability, I sought help from others. I joined a writing critique group and professional writing organizations (SCBWI & 12x12). Turning to others for help kept me committed.
My new step-by step approach worked! Highlights High Five published one of my poems in September 2017 and my debut picture book, TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, is slated for publication by Albert Whitman & Company in Fall 2018.
This year I have a new resolution – to enjoy the present more. However, I’m struggling to find a good action plan for this. So far, I have only written down one step: remind myself to breathe, appreciate the moment and believe that everything will work out by saying “breathe and believe.” This is particularly important when life feels hectic. For example, mornings with the kids can get crazy. Everyone’s running around, someone can’t find their shirt, someone else spills milk all over the place, and when everyone’s finally ready to head out the door, somebody has to use the bathroom. Often, I find myself feeling rushed and frustrated – but one day my kids will be grown and I’ll miss these moments together. I would like to enjoy these moments instead of feeling rushed.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to think of other steps for this resolution, so if anyone reading this blog post has some good ideas, please share!
The best method I’ve found for reaching goals and keeping resolutions is to create step-by-step action plans for them. Hopefully this year’s resolution is one I can keep too – once I’ve found the right steps.
I wish all of you the best of luck with keeping your resolutions & successfully reaching your goals this year. Perhaps a step-by-step method will work for you too. As Jeanne Marie Laskas said, “You plant a garden one flower at a time… you write a book one word at a time, clean a closet one shelf at a time, run a marathon one step at a time. If you feel defeated by some large task, get your spade, and dig the first hole.”
TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI by Viviane Elbee illustrated by Danni Gowdy
Albert Whitman & Company, Fall 2018
Read: Lots of picture books. The rhythm of the language, the pacing of the stories, the kinds of stories all trickle in and spark ideas for me. I like to reserve a bunch of titles at the library and then go pick them up, and I also like to lurk in my local indie bookstore for the newest titles. Although I love a lot of older picture books, it’s important to note which ones are current, so that my stories will fit with the needs of the present market (i.e., not too long, etc).
Copy out picture books: I do this with both manuscripts and storyboards! I find writing out a manuscript really helps me focus on the language and what it is doing. And I find doing a rough storyboard from a book really helps me focus on composition and pacing.
Making time for creation: It’s so easy to work on everything other than my next story! It’s really important for me to earmark a block of time (each day or week) to just focus on my project - whether that is writing, storyboarding, or painting. Sometimes this means getting a babysitter for my 10 month old, or making sure I don’t check email when I first sit at my desk – FIRST I draw or write.
Making time to learn: There are a bunch of online classes and resources out there for both writing and drawing craft. It’s important to keep growing. Last year I took some great classes at the Writer's Loft.
Making time to connect: I find community mostly in two ways: my critique partners and SCBWI! I try to go to at least one SCBWI conference every year because I always get so much out of it. SCBWI really changed my career, and I highly recommend it both for the things you can learn and the people you can meet. This is an isolating career, so it’s really important for me to periodically hang out with other authors and illustrators. And this year, I'm actually getting to present at my regional conference, NESCBWI, woot!
Don’t get discouraged: my first story, my first dummy, my first portfolio, were not the ones that got me a book deal. I need to remind myself to keep going – it takes time – and not everything I create will be a book. Even very established authors (like Jane Yolen) get rejected.
Have fun! Sometimes I need to just play and experiment and do something I love just for the love of it.
Jen Betton's debut picture book HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG will launch with Penguin on June 19 and is available for pre-order now. She also illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT, written by Holly Thompson, launching with Clarion March 20.
I woke up one morning in this new year with a very concrete thought in my mind:
Respect Your Creativity. Give it the Time it Deserves.
Isn’t that nice?
This year I am making more time for myself to do the things that fill me up: sketching, knitting, walking, inking, reading, painting, baking, writing, gardening, thinking…
My hope is that giving myself more time to be creative will result in many good things including, but not limited to, brand-new ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas.
2018 is the year I debut as author and illustrator, the year I am going to finish the scarf I started knitting last July, and the year I am going to truly give my creativity the time it deserves.
Nina Victor Crittenden
THE THREE LITTLE PUGS
little bee books, March 6, 2018
Each new year I make my List of Goals with this funny idea I can accomplish every. single one. However, I do believe it's in the striving that something is learned. And, for me, the very act of writing these goals down puts them in the forefront of my mind and gets me part of the way there (or stresses me out more, but I digress).
And so, taking pen to paper, the goal I have as a pre-pubbed author is…
More specifically…talk about my book with booksellers and librarians!
It took some nerves and time to finally start talking about my book with my kids' school librarian. This may be influenced by a previous school's librarian seeming so wholly unimpressed when I told her about signing with an agent. I walked away from that experience thinking, "Oh, maybe this isn't a big deal." My new school's librarian has embraced me and my news more, for which I am grateful. And so, I feel like I've tackled the school librarian part of the equation. (But I didn’t actually tackle the school librarian because that would be mean. She probably wouldn't buy my book.)
What I DO need to work on is talking to the librarian at my city library. I often have four kids in tow, and it never feels like a good time. But as the queen of excuse-making I know I can make the time. Or bribe my kids with sugar and threats of taking away all video games if they interrupt mommy while she talks to the nice librarian. Yeah, there's that, too.
Other authors in my debut group have shared their experiences speaking with booksellers, and I have so little to show on that front. I spoke with a B&N cashier about my book—who didn't seem very knowledgeable about my genre—but gave me the name of the Community Resource Manager. I have the CRM's name on a B&N card in my forever-stack-of-papers that sits next to Alexa. (Alexa the House Mind is NOT impressed with my clutter.) I keep telling myself I'll call her when I have a website up and running. (Procrastination is truly the biggest killer of New Year's Resolutions. I'm sure there is a statistic somewhere that proves this.)
I have yet to grace the independent bookstore in my city. I'd like to get to know the booksellers there, but the idea of actually mentioning my book and talking to them about it kind of terrifies me. What if they aren't impressed? (Says my better side: "Who cares? It's impressive that you have a book. You know it. I know it." Says me: "How can you know it and I know it? Aren't we the same person?")
Yeah, I just have to do it.
Talk to the booksellers!
Talk to my city librarians!
Get over myself and share my book!
Lose the last of my baby weight. (Oh, how did that sneak in there?)
2018 is going to be a good year.
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
August 28, 2018
I stopped doing resolutions for the new year a long time ago. I could never keep them! I would certainly *think* about doing said promised resolution, and then I would find a reason why I didn’t need to do it. And then I would feel all bent out of shape and shameful for not following through with it. I suppose the key factor is having a desire to do the resolution in the first place!
2017 was blissfully chaotic for me. A new home, a new baby, and a book deadline! Don’t ask me how I did it, because I’m not entirely sure myself. I accomplished so much, and yet there is still so much that got left behind in all the hullaballoo that involves a newborn baby, a dining room-turned studio, and a half unboxed home.
So throughout this past year, I keep finding myself in this overwhelmed state, where all I crave is just a small bit of peace, quiet, and my own creative time to do what I want. Everyone keeps saying, “The best way to sell your book is to make more books!” and “Always be working on the next project!” and “Keep those submissions going out!” That is all very sage advice, and probably exactly what I should be doing.
But what I really, really want to do, is have some selfish, creative, me time.
I want to pull out all my paints, my inks, and my barely touched pastels, and draw (...or even trace! Gasp! The horror!) some silly fan art of a favorite Disney character, and just BE in the art. It has been too long since my college days, when I’d come home with paint all over my pants, or in my hair. There is too much pressure to create something perfect... to create the next big thing. I just want to play with the materials like I did when I was little. I want to delve in and explore, and see things with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
I know I ought to plan a regular time to do it. (Once a week! Twice a month! Butt in chair!) I also know myself and my domestic responsibilities, and that it isn’t going to happen that way. What is going to happen, is this little ember of creativity that is glowing will one day start to burn brighter, and then all of a sudden it will ignite and burst into a flame. And at that moment, I will take hold of my little creative fire and run it to the currently unfinished basement I now call my studio, and I will put that fire into something wonderful.
So, I guess that’s it! That’s my resolution: to play like a kid again.
To be spontaneous. To be creative. To keep that creative soul burning bright.
I think, for once, I’ll be able to keep this resolution.
I’ve got a good feeling about this one.
Melanie Linden Chan
MOTH AND WASP, SOIL AND OCEAN: REMEMBERING CHINESE SCIENTIST PU ZHELONG by Sigrid Schmalzer; illustrated by Melanie Linden Chan
Tilbury House Publishers, February 6, 2018
Available for Pre-order now!