Finally, I got it. I watched this video (BELOW) by Ira Glass, “The Glass on Storytelling Part 3,” again. I read, updated, and wrote, sketching in a picture book story, one based on a Christmas song. (That’s how long I’ve kept the thought in my mind.)

A course offered by author/entrepreneur, Julie Hedlund, opened with the appropriate password. Finish this course and find the take-away was another goal.

A link prompted me to check out Chris and his book, THE $100 STARTUP. I stayed up later and later because the laundry did not speak to me. No one called or messaged me. My spouse slept, after folding clothes. There were no dishes in the sink. I concentrated on my goals for two hours without distraction.

Since my sister died a few months ago, I also read Chris Guillebeau’s blog on life/death/humanity, You Can’t Live as if You Only Had Three Months to Live. Chris wrote what many would do/say; such as,

  • I would give up my job.
  • I would give up my time with friends and start on my bucket list.
  • I would give up eating or eat special food.
  • I would give up spending or save more.

Chris and I agree on his surmise.

“Instead, ask: ‘How would I live if life stretched on endlessly?

When last I saw my sister, I had flown to stay with her for the weekend. She already had that six-month diagnosis. And she was giving away a few things to make more room for the necessary changes as she continued living in her home with added health services and her diminishing strength and mobility. Her simple life would stretch before her.

Prior to the diagnosis my sister had decided to create another chocolate wrapper poster. The first one was about 3ft. by 4ft. and created excitement and lots of conversation both during and afterwards. There were many unusual wrappers tucked under this and that on her kitchen table. I helped sort them and everything else in the piles so she could continue the project on a clean table.

We talked and read and laughed into the wee hours. We prayed Psalm 23. I helped her get ready for bed, which was a lift chair for her and a comfy bed for me. In the morning, necessities in the bath room took almost an hour. Then, I scrambled an egg with a dab of melted butter and a capful of milk and cooked it for one minute in her microwave, now moved to a kitchen chair so that she could wheel up and get it herself.

I knew my sister’s life was not long when I returned home, but the cancer moved at warp speed to her brain. Less than a month afterwards, she died in a hospice facility.

How do you live while dying? My sister watered her Lillies. She played her Elvis music. Her chocolate collage kept her hopeful. She had something to converse about with family and friends. She made them coffee; she gave love. She accepted help from her children; she accepted love. Her love danced in their eyes, as she lived on.

Get Over the Winter Writing Blues

Shake it off. My motto today drives me to the keyboard. Or, maybe you need a prompt – a favorite writing exercise to provide something to write about.

Pick a color (favorite, hated, one from a hat). Then write about it in terms of the 5 senses. List HEAR, SEE, TASTE, TEXTURE, FEELING across the top of your page. Set your timer for 3-5 minutes. In each column, list as many words as you can about your color. Example: Red is a bell ringing, a crown, a rich bon bon, a velvet skirt, and haughty. Now keep going . . .

. . . AND if you are wonderfing how to format your Picture Book manuscript, click this link provided by Julie Hedlund and the 12 x 12 Writing Challenge, 2015.


It began with a program: Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. There was a Bronze Level, Silver Level, and Golden Book Level. Not yet published as a children’s book author, and not yet written anything that was ready to publish, I chose the Silver Level, so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to submit to the programs featured agents. I had a lot to learn. That was my plan.

Then, I met writers like me, online. One illustrator was from my city. Some were authors already. It took a few weeks to get used to the forum technology, but I let folks read my first 250 words of a story and I read their words. I gave and received feedback. These were nice folks with a great attitude. They had written and/or published the best children’s books.

With new confidence, I had no problem volunteering to read my grandson’s favorite Rosemary Wells book as a guest of his kindergarten class. I’d like to make more visits.

I wanted to connect. I joined some of the writers in a private Facebook group. I met others in a Google launch and in Webinars. I joined Pinterest. I upgraded my Website and began to blog about my writing journey. (Thank you followers. Posting more often, a 2015 goal.)

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) because it was recommended as a continuing resource. The 12 x 12 member from my city is also a member of my local SCBWI group.

I attended the SCBWI day-long conference in Chicago. DID I MENTION IT WAS ON A YACHT? The food was fabulous. The speakers were, too. And author Liz Garton Scanlon (wrote Caldecott award winner, ALL THE WORLD) presented a short workshop on revising a manuscript. I bought her books, one to serve as my example of a concept book. I learned how to edit my work for brevity and cut the “darlings” that did nothing to move my story forward.

AND, now I could give a critique that might be valuable to the writer. Three ladies in 12 x 12 and I formed a Critique Group. We live in different states and countries, but we’re on a schedule and submit work weekly. They don’t always tell me what I’d like to hear, but they tell me what I need to know. I learned to trust their expertise and trust myself, when I have reason. I learned to revise, revise, and revise again, until a manuscript shines.

Before I attended a summer SCBWI weekend conference, I made business cards. I worked hard to take in all the wisdom of an agent, an editor, and author who were speakers. I participated in another critique group for the weekend.

The next month, on a short family excursion, my brain produced a story faster than I could write. Another came out in rhyme in the car.

In 12 x 12, an author from Australia gave me a free critique – a prize bomb. That meant I could submit my entire manuscript to her. I couldn’t believe someone would take their valuable time to pour over my story and add her brilliant thoughts.

I also enrolled in other programs. Each program had an area in which I needed to improve, if an editor or agent were to take me seriously; such as, How to Make Money as a Writer and The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions.

Could I complete a November program, PiBoIdMo? It’s presented every year by Tara Lazar, picture book author. I DID IT! I got 30 ideas in 30 days! Two manuscripts are already written.

One amazing program that I desperately needed was Video Idiot Boot Camp, a Katie Davis product. It proved to be too much to finish just yet. However, I succeeded in updating my technology at home. I made a Welcome video and posted it on YouTube and on . I can improve lots in this area, but I have made a place for an author’s work to be seen and grow. Most importantly, I have an account that is just for my business, because a writer is an entrepreneur.

While some of my journey was fun as well as pedagogical, I’ve developed a writing habit. I wrote 12 and one half manuscripts during 2014, posting 10 of them in 12 x 12. In 2015 I’ll return for another year of inspiration and support and try to give more than I have received.

Children’s books? At every opportunity, I’m looking at the latest, the funniest with telling illustration, the Best of 2014, the concepts and characters, because I am an entrepreneur and because I have young grandchildren who are learning to read. I’ve read over 100 picture books. My immediate goal, after posting this blog, is to update my list of 100. It will include my latest favorite, THE PICTURE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES by B.J. Novak. Although it seemed a gimmick, the author was brilliant because he simply wrote for kids to make them laugh and to want to read.

Please check out the video of B.J. Novak reading his book by searching for it on Amazon. It’s full of silly words that make children say, “Read it again.”

As a writer, I attended a Christmas party with my local group. Gosh, it was fun. Earlier, an agent had presented an amazing program for us. We were invited to submit a manuscript for critique. Mine has come back marked for revision. But we will talk again. And those professional comments make me very hopeful for my writing journey.

That’s my new plan: write, revise, talk with agents/editors. I’ve taken the first step.

Don’t forget to check out my Welcome Video and my 100 Best Children’s Picture Books List.