What Success, 2015?

As part of Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas program, I am looking back before moving into the new year. Below is how this year went for me.

In retrospect, the year was more about listening, learning, and appreciating authors, agents, publishers, and writers who were recently published and writers still trying to put books in the hands of children and the adults who read to them. I am most grateful for those who have taught me and pushed me along my writing journey, especially to my writing critique group.

  1. Beginning Jan. 5, grandchildren visited. They are my exercise, both physical and mental, and often my inspiration for kid words, kid interactions, and a Picture Book manuscript.
  2. Similarly, Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge added many exciting and informative Webinars this year. I wrote notes, recommendations, and jotted down recent publishers to find online. As a GOLD member this year, I submitted three times to agents, and wrote query letters. Two agents returned rejections. One so nice that it could have read “Dearest Pamela.” Who knew agents could be so nice? The fear was gone.
  3. Something on my to-do list was finalized this year. The attorney did most of the writing, but the objectives were noted on my list that prepared a Will, a Living Will, Power of Attorney for property and health. It takes a bit of searching to find necessary records and research legal terms online. But sitting with your attorney and asking questions, immediately answered, will provide comfort and a legal document that no one can alter or question. It’s done. And one’s successors will not have to argue over the unknown but simply collect anything left to them.
  4. Writing makes one a clear communicator. If ever that will come in handy, it is during times of family stress. I certainly wanted to consider my feelings and those of my family when my sister died May 17, 2015, less than a month after I last sat with her and after flying to her home in Arizona. E-mails seemed to fly back and forth as her condition was updated. Her oldest daughter was most dedicated and responsible. I shared a poem with her that I wrote after my father died. For her mother’s service, she shared her poem with me. I wrote to thank her and posted to my sister’s obituary.
  5. Professor, Emma Walton Hamilton (I shamelessly name drop.) is the accomplished daughter of Julie Andrews, famous actress, singer of –duh –the world. Emma teaches “Just Write for Kids!” Her course was professional, college-level, and upgraded my writing. In completing the course, I learned to dissect a Picture Book. I used Emma’s choice of five classic titles: Whistle for Willie, Where the Wild Things Are, Olivia, Knuffle Bunny, and Owen.
  6. I continued through 2015 by mapping these Picture Books: One Big Pair of Underwear, Laura Gehl; Snowmen at Night, Carolyn Buehner; When a Dragon Moves In, Jodie Moore; Little Red Gliding Hood, Tara Lazar; and What If . . .? by Anthony Browne. I paid close attention to theme, plot, point of view, the story arc and the story question.
  7. And, of course, I mapped my own manuscripts to see if they were close to submission status.
  8. I wrote and updated a guest list for a 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner that our daughter planned for me and spouse, Jim, and a total of 51 people. I wrote thank you notes.
  9. I wrote and rewrote manuscripts. I now have 18 total (in various stages).
  10. I submitted one manuscript to a publisher. I won’t hear back for another two months.
  11. I completed PiBoIdMo a Winner in November. Two additional manuscript in the making and ideas circled on every page of my 30-day journal. I’m thankful that Tara Lazar has organized this challenge. It’s a needed shove into a new year at the very least, and so much more.
  12. I attended an SCBWI luncheon/workshop for Fraidy Cats. Signed up to Tweet, Link in, and created a Facebook author page with their guidance. Still working on the goals of fully understanding social media, but I’m connected. That was the promise. I became aware of the workshop because
  13. I printed and actually read the entire SCBWI Bulletin!
  14. Used my Pay Pal and Amazon Prime for business and to reward myself, on occasion, with another wonderful Picture Book to read to my children.
  15. Purchased an excellent reference/motivational book by author/entrepreneur, Katie Davis, HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK.
  16. I got up in the middle of the night to write. Driven by a solitary word that kids might need to learn, I wrote a page. Then I slept ‘til morning.

HAPPY NEW YEAR dear reader!



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 http://pammmiller.com . 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.