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12 X 12 December 2019 Featured Author – Dan Marvin

12 x 12 December 2019 Featured Author – Dan Marvin

In this post, I’ll be:

  • Sharing my experiences.
  • Plagiarizing Jerry Maguire.
  • Name-dropping a lot.
  • Humble-bragging a little.
  • Taking an inside joke of a song way too far.

Oh, 12×12 community. You complete me.

I wrote my first draft of a picture book when my kids (now 12 and 11) were toddlers. Reading those books to them, I was reminded just how much I loved children’s books. And my competitive spirit made me think I could do better than a lot of what we were reading.

Four years ago, my amazing wife convinced me to “do something with my writing.” I had joined SCBWI a few years before that. But my wife’s encouragement led to me discovering 12 x 12. More than any other group I’ve joined or any other action I’ve taken, being part of 12 x 12 is what has made me feel like an author.

Jane Yolen 12 x 12 DinnerFrom manuscript critiques on the forum to finding a critique group (hi Christina Gajda and Renee Kirchner) to publishing my first book to winning a critique from the dancing queen Marcie Colleen through a monthly check-in to finding my awesome agent Natascha Morris through my GOLD membership to writing a “How I Got My Agent” article about that experience to lucking into dinner with the legendary Jane Yolen and other 12 x 12ers (photo evidence included) to being the Featured Author and writing the run-on sentence you’re reading right now…12 x 12 had me at hello.

My first book BUT I DON’T EAT ANTS was published a little over two years ago. I got my agent over a year ago, and we’ve had two stories out on submission for about a year. We recently pulled those back and now have a new title out on submission that I’m really excited about. Meanwhile, I keep writing and trying not to think too hard about whether this one will sell or not. My critique group and other 12 x 12ers (looking at you, Gabe Jensen) help me with that.

Dan Marvin author visitIn my four years as a 12 x  12er, this is the first year that I won’t get to 12 drafts. Which bums me out a little. But I’ll be joining again in January and will do my best to hit 12 drafts next year. And I think that’s the only advice I’d impart – what we do is fun, so we might as well do our damnedest.

And now, a song that most of the world wouldn’t get.

“The 12 Months of 12xmas,” (pronounced “Twelve By-mas”) is in the key of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Unlike Christmas, 12xmas is a made-up holiday we can all celebrate. I’d like to think it’s as spectacular as it is secular. If you’re feeling like this article is already running long, here’s a tip: Skip to the last stanza. It’s got all the goodies without the repetition.

The 12 Months of 12xmas

On the first month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

A new draft about an MC.

 

On the second month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the third month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the fourth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the fifth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Five coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

Dan Marvin Reading BUT I DON'T EAT ANTSOn the sixth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Six webinars watched.
Five large coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the seventh month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five gallons of coffee drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the eighth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Eight agents queried.
Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five barrels of coffee drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the ninth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

Nine Ninja visits.
Eight agents queried.
Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five hundred coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the tenth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

10 pitches proposed.
Nine Ninja visits.
Eight agents queried.
Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five thousand coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the eleventh month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

11 elves a’helpin.
10 pitches proposed.
Nine Ninja visits.
Eight agents queried.
Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five million coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

On the twelfth month of 12xmas, my writing gave to me.

12 manuscripts written.
11 elves a’helpin’.
10 pitches proposed.
Nine Ninja visits.
Eight agents queried.
Seven stories submitted.
Six webinars watched.
Five billion coffees drank.
Four fab critiques.
Three stories simmerin’.
Two rad revisions.

And a new draft about an MC.

 

Dan Marvin is a children’s book writer who also works in advertising as a writer and creative director. He lives in Farmington Hills, MI, with his wife and daughter who are picky eaters and his son who definitely is not. Dan and his son will try almost anything, BUT THEY DON’T EAT ANTS! Connect with Dan on Twitter @dwmarvin or at facebook.com/ByDanMarvin

Dan is offering a signed copy of his book BUT I DON’T EAT ANTS and candy with real ants inside to the winner of the December check-in. So finish this year strong and enter the final check-in of the year! 

This Post Has 238 Comments
  1. I most enjoyed the run-on sentence which made me laugh, was loaded with information, took me for a ride, brought us along on your journey, explained the picture, honored your critique friends, introduced your agent, nicknamed Marcie Colleen, and ended up plagiarizing Jerry Maguire. Again. Well done!

    1. Genevieve – you’ve really masted this run-on sentence thing. Well done yourself! Thanks for the thoughtful note and all the commas for clarity. : )

  2. Dan,
    Congratulations on your book and I’m a picky eater too and no I don’t eat ants either so I’d love the book but please no candy with ants! Thanks for your honesty about your PB journey. I hope you get another book contract very soon!

  3. Dan, you are so right! 12×12 is such a supportive community. Your version of the 12 Days certainly hit many of the plusses of this wonderful group. Thank you for a timely reminder of all we have to be thankful for.

  4. Dan, thanks for sharing your journey. I adored the song! Hopefully the new manuscript will sell. Thanks for the post.

  5. Thanks for an amusing and heartfelt piece! Your enthusiasm is contagious. Congratulations on your book and good luck with your other submissions. 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Deborah. And thanks for the good luck wishes. Back atcha! Glad I was able to pass on some enthusiasm. It’s better than the other stuff going around this time of year. : )

  6. Great post, Dan! Thank you for giving us a peek at your publishing journey and for sharing your insights!! Love your version of the 12 Days!

    1. Thanks Laurie! Positivity is something we can control. Or fake. So I do both, depending on the moment. Best of luck to you in 2020!

  7. Dan, thanks for being so down-to-earth about writing and submitting. For those of us in the trenches with you it is a boost to know that there is still room for others in the publication field. Your song rendition is a hit, but maybe not in the top ten forever.

    1. Marjorie – I’m definitely in the trenches, and there’s definitely room for others. And I totally agree – the song is a one-hit wonder with one particular audience in mind. : ) I’m okay with that. Thanks for the note.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Dan, and for that fabulous Xmas song. I’m thinking about roasting some of my manuscripts on an open fire……but that’s another song, isn’t it? Good luck with your submissions!

    1. Haha! Oh, so many of my manuscripts belong on that open fire in place of chestnuts, but instead they’re taking up space on my MacBook. Thanks for the note.

    1. So much coffee, Diane. Because even if coffee doesn’t care, it’s delicious. And that’s enough. Thanks for reading the post!

  9. Fa…la…la..la..la. La…la..la…la! Dan, how fun to deck this page with a fun, 12 x 12 Christmas carol! I can certainly relate to the five billion cups of coffee! Yes, Julie Hedlund and her 12 x 12 troop of exceptionally gifted elves have truly provided wisdom and insight about the hard work of writing stellar picture books. I keep striving to write stories better than so many of the published books that fill a market niche but not the “magical” niche that children and adults long for. Sending you inspiration and energy for your writing journey….

    1. Inspiration and energy received, Marsha. Thank you. Julie and the 12×12 community really are amazing. Coffee is pretty damn good, too. Let’s find the magic this year!

  10. This is hilarious, Dan! Thanks for sharing your story (and sense of humor)! Hope to connect with you again in person soon!

    1. Thanks, Kari! I’m no longer living in Austin, but it has a very special place in my heart. As does our dinner with Jane. I wish you all the best and hope we’ll connect again in the future.

  11. Congratulations, Dan! And thank you for the inspiration! Also, I did skip to the end, but I love your 12xmas song! Happy Holidays! (I can’t help overusing the !!!’s)!

  12. I’m going to be humming the 12xmas song all day now … thanks for sharing and best of luck with the current submissions.

  13. It’s great to see how much 12×12 has blessed your journey. I am finishing up my first 12×12 and looking forward to my second!

  14. I just sung the whole song and am laughing hysterically at the coffee getting bigger each time. Thanks for the boost. Best of luck on your stories.

  15. I second all your comments about 12×12 and the amazing things that happen once you join 🙂
    It’s great to have a like minded community of fellow strivers.
    Congrats on your book. Love the title!

  16. Omigosh. I laughed myself into a coughing fit over this post! Can I get a refill?
    Ok, now that I’ve composed myself, this post also gave me such a sense of community. Like really, who else would get that song? Also added another book title to my reading list!

  17. Thank you Dan for your timely Christmas carol and your hard work to get an agent and published. So it can be done! I am so glad to see others succeeding. Looking forward to next year, too.

  18. Well, reading through these comments is fun – thank you all! I’m glad the post was appreciated and the silly song was enjoyed. May the new year bring lots of new stories for all of us! 

  19. Congratulations on your book! Pinning the last stanza of your song to my billboard. The items will be my motivation when my writing feels slow. Happy Holidays!

  20. Dan, thanks for a great post and the perfect song to end this year! I share your sentiments about 12×12…and not eating ants!

  21. Thank you Dan, for sharing your journey. It’s always so interesting to read how we each navigate our own path of turns. And it always comes back to ‘a village’ of encouragement along the way. P.S. I don’t eat ants either!

    1. Thanks Shelly! The little one next to me in those pictures is my daughter. She joins me on bookstore visits whenever possible, which I love.

  22. When I was in high school, my World Culture teacher served us chocolate-covered ants and other bugs. I’d love to win a copy of your book, I DON’T EAT ANTS. because, of, course, I won’t eat ants ever again.

  23. Thank you Dan for the great reminder of a writers struggle. And congratulations on your success. I love your book cover and your title. Was it hard to come up with that great title?
    See on 12×12 in 2020. Happy New Year.
    All the best, Joan Sloane

    1. Hi Joan – thank you so much. I don’t remember coming up with the title, but I remember getting all kinds of help with writing the story on the manuscript makeover forum. See you in 2020!

  24. Hey Dan:
    I’m a fellow creative director/kit lit writer. (The two forms have a lot in common.)
    Hope y/our children’s book writing propels you/us out of the ad game someday.
    Could happen. Ants are mighty strong…

    1. Hi Bill – thank you for the note. I’m familiar with Borders Perrin Norrander and some of the awesome ad work you’ve done over the years. Here’s hoping that whether we write our way out of the ad world or not, the kid lit world embraces our stories. 

  25. I love how the amount of coffee in that song keeps increasing more and more! Ha!

    In a lot of ways, your story is similar to mine, except that you’ve been doing this longer. I’m only on my second year of 12 x 12, but I too started writing picture books when my first child was a toddler, because reading them over and over again made me appreciate them more AND made me want to try to write my own.

    1. Hi Teresa – yeah, our stories are similar. Here’s to another great year of writing and the 12×12 community. And coffee!

  26. Thank you, Dan, for the 12 Days of Christmas parody. It’s delightful to hear about your journey and your successes. Happy New Year.

  27. So useful to hear about your submission experience. Thanks, Dan. Best wishes with the book that’s out to editors now.

  28. I am rather enthralled with the subject matter of your PB. I will have to get a copy. I attend a lot of the Farmington Hills SCBWI workshops at Heritage Park on the first Mondays of each month. I live in Saline, so I do not come if the weather is bad. I regularly attend the Ann Arbor SCBWI workshop that meets in the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor Public Library. We have a PB only sub-group that meets after the regular meeting. I wish you a happy and successful New year.

    1. Thanks Dave! I really need to take advantage of my SCBWI membership and make it out to more workshops. Hopefully I’ll see you at Heritage Park soon. And I love Ann Arbor, so I’ll make the effort to get out that way, too. Happy writing in the new year!

  29. Dan – Your enthusiasm for and sense of humor surrounding writing is clear…loved reading about your journey as well as the network of support that keeps you going. Inspirational for sure – thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Stephanie! (And you’re also welcome for the fact that I wrote the song, but spared you my singing.) Happy new year!

  30. What a great take off on the 12 days of Christmas. So many ways to get things done on a writing journey. This looks like a totally fun book!

  31. I always love coming across other Michiganders! I grew up in Livonia and now live in Grand Rapids. Congrats on your book, your agent and here’s to much success in the new year.

    1. Hello fellow Michigander! I know what you mean. Makes our small world feel even smaller. Happy writing in 2020, Cheryl!

  32. Best of luck in your new round of submissions & I, like many, adore your “12 Days” poem! Looking to read more from you in the next decade!

  33. Great song Dan & an inspiring post. It’s so easy to get wrapped into what isn’t working, rather than focus on the writing and what you can control. Best of luk with the new story.

  34. I’m intrigued by the fact that you didn’t sign with your agent until after your book was published. The story sounds like a lot of fun! I’m not so sure about the ant-containing candy, though …

    1. Hi Janet – I wasn’t querying agents yet at that point. I was just submitting to publishers, and got lucky that my story found a publisher who liked it. But that luck came partly from doing my research via The Book from SCBWI and making sure my query letter was properly personalized. Also, if you gave the ant candy a try, you might like it. : ) Happy writing!

  35. I have a story about ants in my computer. I’d love to win yours and see if it can help me push mine from my computer back into the editing/critiquing process.

  36. Appreciate your post Dan. It’s actually encouraging. as well as a delightful read.
    So glad for your success.
    Looking forward to reading your book. Hopefully the West Bloomfield Library has it.
    If not, it’ll be a MEL request. Are you open to meeting in person? We probably live within a few miles of each other.
    Best Wishes for a terrific 2020.

    1. Hello and thank you and yes – I’d definitely be open to meeting in person. I love our online community, but expanding our children’s book writing network in real life is a good idea, too.

  37. Thanks, Dan, for sharing your journey and your catchey song. Because coffee!! Congrats on your book, and here’s to your future success in 2020!

  38. Love the song! It’s good to hear how much 12 x 12 has influenced and enriched your writing life! Keep on writing!!

  39. Dan, thank you! That was funny and encouraging. Nice 12×12 love with which to end the year. I’ve been feeling like I’m in a pressure cooker lately–work stuff and writing stuff and too many deadlines and getting behind. I needed a little lightness. Needed to remember the FUN. And I need to read your book! I’m putting it on my list.

    1. Rhett – I can totally relate to the pressure-cooker feeling. Here’s to somehow finding time to do what we love. Thanks for the note!

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