Goodness me – where did those three years go? In 2017 Candice, Gabrielle, Sandra, Tina, Yvona and I met through Julie Hedland’s 12 Days of Christmas and started a picture book critique group. Nine months later we started The Wonder of Words blog. I can’t believe we’ve been writing here for over two and a half years. Crazy!
This week I asked everyone to reflect on how far they’d come in their writing and reading since we started the blog. Candice, Yvona and Gabrielle’s answers are in this post and I’ll post the rest of our answers next week. I hope you enjoy our reflections.
I asked everyone these questions:
- Compared to where you were two and a half years ago, how has your writing evolved?
- Compared to where you were two and a half years ago, how has your reading evolved?
- What is the biggest thing you have learned over the past two and a half years?
- Do you have any advice for readers and/or writers of children’s literature?
With the madness of 2020, I actually had to do math to calculate back two and a half years. And you know math isn’t my strong point, haha. So, we’re comparing now, March 2021, to September 2018. The six of us had been in our critique group for nine months at that point. We’d learned a lot about each other’s strengths, interests, and I know for me, I’d learned to rely heavily on y’all’s edit suggestions. And we were just starting this Wonder of Words blogging adventure together! Sandra and I had joined the Newin19 picture book debut group, though my book ended up getting pushed back to June 2021. Since then, I’ve sold another picture book, a YA Southern mystery (also coming out this June!) and signed with a new agent who has an MG and PB out on sub for me. I’ve given summer writing classes for kiddos, sold a story to Highlights Hello, work part-time at a local indie bookstore, and gotten more involved in SCBWI by becoming a Local Liaison.
Between the debut groups, our blog, and my bookseller job, I mainly read advanced copies now. I love being able to read books before they hit the market but it does have its drawback when I’m really excited to tell someone about a book I know they will absolutely love, and then have to be like, oh, oops, it’s not out yet…
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how good it feels to help someone on their writing journey. Much of the publishing industry is out of your control if you’re going the traditional route, so it feels awesome to share books you’re excited about with others. I’ve been a judge/prize donor in a few Twitter contests these past couple of years, and I love being able to give back. Also, I learned I use ‘it’ a lot. On a self-editing level, I’m learning to look for my ‘its’ and strengthen my writing by being more precise. (Can you guess how many ‘its’ I expounded on, just in this one answer?)
My piece of advice is to find your kidlit writing community! Obviously, your personality won’t mesh with everyone you “meet” on twitter, facebook groups, or SCBWI critiques, and that’s okay. You will find a community of like-minded writers.
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She has great advice and I highly recommend it to other writers. I’m still reading a lot of picture books – two recent ones I love are Green on Green and Blue on Blue both by Dianne White. My favorite authors keep changing. You can keep up with some of my reading on the My Reads page of my website: www.yvonafast.com.
I’m drawn to lyrical language and I love nature, and that is the direction my writing has taken. I have been writing more and more poetry. I’ve published 3 poetry chapbooks since 2017. I hope to have two new books coming out in 2021. I currently have six children’s books that I hope are submission-ready; another eight that are in the revision process; and five that are unfinished.
I have taken more classes too, but sometimes, between classes and critique groups, the writing time gets eaten up! I think from all the classes I have taken – and they were all good – I would most highly recommend Renee La Tulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab.
I’m in more critique groups now than I was then … perhaps too many. I’m learning to sift through the comments and advice I get, but also to trust my gut.
My advice for writers is – be patient. That is advice to myself too. I still believe it will come – if you keep writing, revising and submitting, you WILL have a book deal one day.
And be kind. Both to yourself and to others. Illness, caregiving, responsibilities will intrude on writing time, you just have to make peace with that.
After having three picture book manuscripts written to what I considered “polished” I sent them to a professional critiquer. I discovered one manuscript simply had no heart, so I pushed it back to the revision pile. About that time, I found an awesome mentoring group that has helped me get a first draft written and now I am in the revision mode. It has motivated me to concentrate on middle-grade for the moment.
Oh my gosh – how has my reading developed? I decided to embrace the illustrious words of one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, who said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Now I don’t just read whenever I can, I schedule reading as part of my writing day.
In terms of what I have learnt, there is so much information out there. In the beginning, I would sign up for everything but gradually, I realized I was on writer’s overload, so I scaled back to focus on one thing at a time. Right now I am concentrating on my middle-grade manuscript.
My advice is to figure out what works for you and don’t be afraid to ask for help in any area of your writing! And find a phenomenal critique group or partner. They are golden!