In March, I held a contest for a free 1hr children's picture book Skype consultation on Julie Hedlund's 12x12x12 blog that went with a guest article on the 4 Ps of Publishing Children's Picture Books and asked folks to respond on which of the Ps they most needed help with to win the consultation with today being the deadline. I decided that I would wait and respond to all the comments at the end within the posting area which turned out to be a big mistake as the comments area is very limited. I wanted to respond and help each person in any way I could so I spent most of the day working on these. So now they're going in the main part. I hope this is OK with folks but here it is. The winners are at the end. And after that in the post below this is today's fabulous video picture book review in Monday's with Mira - First seduction then Deconstruction - The Pleasures of Picture Books.
Next time, I'm going to be more on top of things and respond to comments as they come in. Here they are...
Great post. For me, the hardest 'P' is persistence. I love to paint, I love to write, but I fall short on selling. I find it hard to send out my work and one rejection makes me want to give up.
March 5, 2012 6:57 AM
This is probably my greatest downfall too. I have a bunch of stories and a couple of dummies ready to go, but am I sending them out? Inspired by you am going to send out 2 dummies and cover letters today. Am thinking of doing a "Send it out Week" for picture book people in July with lots of support and suggestions for open houses to submit to and how to deal with rejection/strengthening letters etc. and maybe even a guest or 2 and prizes of course. What do you think?
Robyn C. said...
I read your post and I am P for patience or should I say lack thereof. I truly loved reading your advice in there. It is now in a folder, lest I forget, I can read it anytime. As to how I can address this bad P of mine eludes me. I was thinking that I can practice my patience on every draft that I know must be redone. (Even though to me, every draft I write is perfect. Ha haaa) I especially loved your timely advice on joining Lawyers for the Arts, if I have one in my area and seeing an intellectual property lawyer. Thank you for taking the time. : )
Ah, you are lovely Robyn. Meditation might be helpful or just seeing yourself as if you were your only child as Steven Levine says, where you talk yourself thru that this is all a learning process rather than being frustrated that it takes time and multiple revisions to do something really good. Hope this helps.
I'm a beginner, therefore ALL P's apply to me. Yet the one that resonated with me the deepest was, PRODUCT. I read and re-read this post. I want my work to be exceptional. Learning to do "...whatever it takes to have your work be the very best... whatever the characteristic" will be my mantra. I have much to learn and much to do. I thank you very much.
Pam - what a lovely response - thank you!
Thank you for all your advice Mira. I struggle with patience. I'm learning from my mistakes though.
Jennifer - see my response to Robyn. You are definitely not alone
Elizabeth Stevens Omlor said...
Mira! Teach me! I am learning to be more patient, however it is the P for product I struggle with the most. I love to write and read how to write and read what others write...I guess I am just waiting for my product to be ready and polished enough for the world to see!
Elizabeth, I have absolutely no doubt that you will get there. Your blog when you write is so funny and smart http://bananapeelin.blogspot.com/ just bring that to your kids books. Yes I totally want to be your teacher too but must read and respond to everyone else too to be fair
Wow...all the P's have their own struggles for me, but I would have to say Patience is the hardest. Not just with Picture Books, but in other areas of my life as well I hurry to get to the next level, next thing, next goal. Taking the time to wait and see, to take deep breaths and have faith over time is my biggest challenge. Thanks for the wonderful post!
Cindy, I hear you about always rushing, but slowing down can be really delicious too. What works for me is to go away for a few days and hunker down at a friends house and just work. It's wonderful focused time without the distractions of my regular life. Also for some bizarre reason, I do some of my best most creative writing when someone else is driving, doesn't mater if the radio is on, I'm able to just screen everything out and be with my project. Can be hard to read what I wrote later - good car suspension helps
Mira, I'm willing to live by the law of the 4 P's - dedicated, devoted, and dutiful - but the hardest by far is Product, since I'm terribly hard on myself (dare I say "perfectionist"?) I hope and dream that time and experience will help to address this little "P" - and continued attention to the "P" for Patience.
Thank you for the inspiration!
Melissa - this is great to read. There are places that perfectionism is good and this is one of them. You want your work to be the very best it can be. But you don't need to be hard on yourself with it. Hopefully you read the loving kindness thing earlier. Do take it to heart. I also want to tell you a story I heard a long time ago about how Persian carpet makers always pull a thread so that it's imperfect as the only thing that should be perfect is God. There's also a terrific book called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown that you might enjoy. Thank you for your comment.
Your 4 Ps are so interwoven it seems impossible for me to discriminate! The way you describe passion is what I would call an affliction and I can't function any other way! It is the driving force for the rest. I feel good about all four P's, but Product is what I would choose here. I cannot afford to attend a conference anytime soon, so I am reading everything I can to make up for it as best I can; I write every day, draw every day - I don't go anywhere without my sketchbook! Thanks Mira, for prompting me to really think about the 4 Ps.
Julie, thank you for your comment! Sketchbooks are an awesome way to keep track and work out your ideas on the go, and yes, reading/researching whatever you can find is a good alternative when you aren't able to make conferences.
Great advice, Mira. My P downfall is patience: Patience with myself when I'm frustrated feeling that I can't overcome whatever writing challenge I'm facing and Patience in waiting to here back from editors or agents, knowing that one person's work isn't right for all and that rejections are a part of the process. I have the Persistence to go on (after a little sniffling or cursing over a rejection). Have you considered adding PROCESS as another P? As in any profession, there is a process to learn and follow in order to master the craft. So many newbies (myself included sometimes) don't understand the process one needs to go through, first the writing/revision process, then the connection to agents/editors process, and finally the publishing process. It does truly require PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, and a good PRODUCT!
Hello Gail! I definitely feel you on the frustration in waiting to hear back from editors and agents, the key is to keep busy! If you draft something new and you're totally excited about it, the endorphins will carry over and make potential rejection a little less painful. I like the idea of Process being a total process gal myself, but kinda feel it's already woven in there. Hopefully my previous comments on patience will help
Thanks for the post. My hardest P is persistence. I am a beginning writer and a perfectionist, so needless to say I have an impossible time writing first drafts and most days I feel like my writing is mediocre at best. Luckily through SCBWI and the 12x12er's I have made a lot of friends that keep me chugging along. My other downside is I get nervous when talking to strangers. I dread the day I have to pitch my book to an agent or editor at a conference. Hopefully by then I will have confidence.
Darshana - Confidence comes with doing it. As the saying goes "the only way out is through" So glad you've made a bunch of friends to support you on your journey. Hope you read my earlier responses on patience and persistence earlier. And it is a journey - welcome to the wild ride.
Penny Klostermann said...
Wonderful post. The “P” I struggle with the most is patience. In particular, the revising. I want to get it right the first or second time, but have learned that revisiting is unbelievably productive. It continues to amaze me how I see things differently after I let my manuscript “simmer” a few days or weeks.
On a positive note, I want to mention the "P" that I feel is my strongest. That would be passion. I love picture books. I frequent the library and have 30-40 books checked out at all times. Some stay in my house longer so that I can reread and study the craft. I try not to bore others who aren't so interested in picture books, but really know in my heart that they are missing out on one of the joys of life. They sort of look at me funny when they are talking about their latest novel and I say I am reading picture books!!! I love novels, too. But my heart is taken by picture books.
Penny - I LOVE your passion. A great indicator for potential future success!
Cathy M said...
I do try to mind my P's and Q's - Product and Quality!
Passion, patience and persistence are my pals.
The last P is for Puzzle - putting all these Pieces together!
Thanks for a fun post!
Brought to you by the letter P! Very clever. Thank you Cathy
Kirsten L said...
I think the biggest challenge is patience for sure. Children's publishing seems to move at a snail's pace compared to industries I've worked in: PR, marketing, fundraising and business. I think just reminding myself of the tortoise and the hare could help. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
Love your attitude Kirsten. It will really help you. Maybe put a picture of the hare and the tortoise where you write to remind yourself. Ashley Wolff's Stella and Roy is a wonderful retelling with exquisite illustrations
Having patience is difficult for me. I live in fear of being a one-book-wonder. I TRY to be patient and look at each rejection as a stepping stone toward success, but aargh! It's tough.
Genevieve, what can I say? - the only way is through. You've done it once - you can absolutely do it again. The key word for you in persistence (to go along with patience). Don't give up!
Thank you, Mira, for sharing a simple way for picture book writers to assess themselves so they succeed. I think these four P's could apply to any goal we strive towards.
Passion: check! I've been passionate about picture books for over 60 years...cannot bear to leave a picture book at a yard sale...feel I have to rescue each one. Persistance: check! My husband says I am the most tenacious person he has ever met...and he has known me for almost 50 years. Patience: check! We are all given at least one great gift...I am patient with everyone and everything. Product: hmmmm. Yes, product is where I must concentrate my energies. Thanks to Julie. Susanna and the others in this amazing picture book community, I'm writing picture books again...can you see my beaming smile?
Oh Vivian - you know how to tug on a teacher's heart. It sounds like you've got what it takes, you just have to persist with your skill building. Attending conferences is also a brilliant way of learning lots and if you don't win the consult today - I'm going to be teaching an absolutely amazing picture book writing course in August that will teach you step by step in super innovative ways how to write a fantastic kids book.
Persistence is where I fall short in my work. Ideas I jot down and don't pursue, sketches that never make it into finished pieces, half finished portfolio's. I am actively working on this aspect of my creative self. Your post on Julie's blog is wonderful.
Heather - thank you for this. Sometimes giving yourself a timer where you have to accomplish something in a specific amount of time can be really helpful. Perhaps breaking it down into timed incremental steps. I tend to do well with deadlines. Maybe you're the same? So glad that you are actively working on this.
Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us, Mira! I don't need a picture book whisperer, I need a picture book hollerer. I have the passion (or I must be tetched to keep at this) and the persistence. It's a combination of patience and product placement (a double P!) that resonates with me. I'm not an illustrator, so my words have to leap off the page, past the agents who only want author/illustrators, straight into an editor's heart. It's a big jump, and I know I have to train like an Olympian. Ready, set, go?!
Wendy - I think the "editors only wanting author/illustrators" is an incredible myth and not sure who's putting it out. It's incredibly difficult to have both skill sets at a high level. While it's much easier and time effective to work with someone who does both, publishing houses would go out of business if they relied on that, so don't let that stop you. Having said that - yes your words do need to leap off the page, be succinct, lyrical, and flow like a mighty river telling an brilliant story. Let go of anything that isn't absolutely needed or that the illustrator can show. If it's absolutely essential make a notation in brackets like this [show that special friend is a dog] but otherwise let your language do the showing. Love your metaphor. Metaphors and similes make writing sing
Stacy S. J. said...
Enjoyed the 4Ps post at Julie's. I need more patience in my writing and in many aspects fo my life. Thanks and now linking over to explore your ecourse.
Thank you Stacy and good luck finding patience. Of course now I want to write a kids story called Finding Patience about a little girl called ... Patience.... hmmm. Please do read the other comments where I wrote about ways of developing more calm and patience.
Patience is definitely the hardest for me...patience to persist, patience to know that my writing will improve over time and practice, and patience to know that simply because it isn't right now doesn't mean it won't be right after another revision (or at least closer to right).
Lisa - when I read this it made me think of the word "faith" more than patience. Faith and trust that you will persevere and that good things will come out of your efforts. Something that has helped me a lot with this is to breathe in faith and breathe out fear. It's very grounding and affirming. I have absolute faith that if you continue down the picture book path something good will come out of it. It may not be in the form or outcome that you want right now or expect or it might. But something good will come from spending time in these creative and tender places. I know it.
Tina C said...
Mira, Thanks for sharing your 4 P's. My struggle is with Patience, as I always want that first draft to be really good. To counter that, I'm studying the craft, taking classes, being a part of writing critique groups, reading blogs, and trying to soak up as much as I can!
Good on you Tina! If you don't win today, I hope to have you in the Picture Book Academy at some point to help you with a trade book (picture books come in 2 types of marketing formats - Educational and trade. Trade are more like books you find in book stores and tend to be more whimsical tho not always while educational are geared towards schools. If you can write a trade book that has educational appeal or curricular connections - that's the sweet spot). Tina - Looks like you'd be a stellar student.
Thanks for the post, Mira.
I'm not sure which is the hardest. They seem to take turns. Lately it's been persistence, because it can be frustrating to come close and never quite make it. That's when you've just got to enjoy the journey and move along.
Thank you Beth. Love your attitude. It will serve you well.
Thanks for the inspiring post, Mira! For me, it's passion. I love to read and write PBs, but, I don't take the time to enjoy them as often as I should. I am making an effort to visit our children's library each Friday to read picture books that are similar to my WIP. That way, I can compare and contrast them, gleaning good ideas for my own works.
Hi Jarm - Glad you are working on critical analysis and going to the library to feed your passion. Way to go! Do check out my Monday's with Mira blog posts here where I video tape reading wonderful books and then analyze what makes them so wonderful.
Tim McCanna said...
Patience with a capital P. I'm constantly reminding myself to relax and enjoy the journey. Thanks, Mira. Your post was helpful.
Tim - I went and checked out your website and blog. You are delightful. In your picture,you actually look like a picture book or cartoon character. Dang this judging thing is tough! Do I choose the best description or who looks like the most fun to work with? http://www.timmccanna.com/
Mira, I'd have the say my biggest "P" challenge is Product. I love words, books and children, and I have no shortage of ideas. I strive to elevate the quality of my writing and am very open to learning from the right teacher...maybe you?! Thanks for your interactive post! I'm so glad that I discovered you and Julie.
I'm so glad you found us too Belinda. Do keep checking back here on Mondays for weekly instruction and wait for the Picture Book Academy, which will teach you in ways that you cannot even begin to imagine!
Mira, thank you for your post. Persistence is my biggest "P" challenge. I have so many ideas and am interested in so many things, I feel I get sidetracked too easily.
PJ - Thank you for participating. Sounds like you have creative ADD. So here's what I'd suggest - Ritualize it. Sit down with a lit candle and a timer to work on a project for x amount of time. Before you do write a list of goals related to that project and be very realistic and specific about them in what you want to achieve during that session. Set your timer for a realistic amount of time to do all or most of them. Then do your best to honor that commitment. When you're done ie the timer goes off, congratulate yourself on however much you've managed to accomplished and then - this part is important - blow out your candle. I hope this helps. I know how hard it is to stay focused which is why I often go away to get work done in a concentrated way. See my earlier post if you can.
Your 4Ps post was spot on. I was having trouble figuring out which one is the most challenging for me so I decided to go in the opposite direction. I think patience is the least challenging for me. Om. :-) In fact I have a Michelle Obama quote taped on my wall that reads "The only thing that happens in an instant is destruction. Everything else requires time."
My Product is also improving. I started writing for children over ten years ago. Now, whenever I pull out those old drafts that I thought were so perfect and polished back then, I giggle at my naivete.
I don't feel like I'm passionate. But everything that you described that a passionate author does, I do. I research all the PBs getting buzz and put them on hold at the library (twenty at a time). Each trip to the library then feels like Christmas morning when the librarian hands me a stack of all the things I asked for.
So I guess that brings me to Persistence. While I do keep plugging at this dream of mine, I'm not doing it with all the gusto it deserves. I don't write everyday and I hate to admit it but there have been months, even seasons that have gone by without me bringing pen to pad. I think that's more of a confidence thing than anything else. But, I'm still here in the game and that's got to count for something.
And now for my shameless plea: any help from you would be a huge push for me and would be greatly appreciated.
Hope you are enjoying your weekend.
Wow Shai - you are hard to resist. And it sounds like you are pretty passionate to me. You are definitely going in the final contenders group but don't get disheartened if you don't win. You have some insanely tough competition. I'm definitely going to start the "Send it out Group" in my masses of free time for folks like you to get that final push. Do watch the Mondays with Mira book reviews here and maybe structure some regular writing time. Another thought is that sometimes we need to take breaks from our writing so we can return with fresh eyes so don't be too hard on yourself.
Product is biggest challenge for me...getting a manuscript from good to great. After a while is can be hard to tell if I'm making it better or just different. I use my trusted readers to help. I also will put a manuscript away for a while until I can look at it with fresh eyes.
Hi Erin - from good to great is exactly what it takes. Interestingly, I just wrote about the fresh eyes above. I'm glad you have readers helping you. Taking courses and classes and attending conferences can also be invaluable. Thank you so much for participating.
Wow - that was totally epic. I spent a lot of time with these and also looked folks up online wherever possible to get a sense of who you are beyond these short submissions. It was really hard. Ultimately I decided to give 3 free 1hr crits instead of 1 spread out over the year (because it was sooo hard). I ended up with 5 on my list and it was torturous to narrow it down even further but here are the winners and why. Please don't hate me if you didn't make it. Everyone deserved to win and I'm hoping that just by discovering this blog and the free series of instructional reviews that I'm creating every Monday you'll feel like a winner too.
so... drum roll please ...
I chose Elizabeth Stevens Omlor because I love her blog http://bananapeelin.blogspot.com/ because it's helpful for others and funny and because she just about always leaves comments on my blog and for different things that I do and has entered and not won other contests I've done plus I couldn't resist her "teach me" plea. I loved Shae's shameless plea too but because of this online connection and Elizabeth's incredible persistence and tenacity in reaching out. So lesson here - shameless pleas can work with some folks and so does commenting on others blogs and tenacity AKA persistence. Elizabeth scored.
#2 Penny Klostermann because of her incredible passion and because she reminds me so much of myself. Way to go Penny! Other folks were incredibly passionate too and I wish I could work for free with all of you but I just couldn't do it.
Then #3 Was Tim McCanna - not so much for his description, which was fine, but because of his website and blog and the fact that he looks like a cartoon character. What can I say? I couldn't resist? http://www.timmccanna.com/
Another rationale in my selection is that I'm in the business of helping people publish children's picture books, so I also looked for folks that really really looked dedicated and there were quite a few of you. So don't give up. Hang in there. There will be other contests that you might win if you keep persisting and showing up! Hopefully my rationale might be helpful for some of you in crafting future contest submissions
And lastly, do sign up for my mailing list so that you can get first notice on specials and priority enrollment when the Picture Book Academy launches. http://eepurl.com/cz7vE for Northern California and http://eepurl.com/hJCmQ for everywhere else in the world. (My infrequent newsletter also comes with 2 free gifts).