Featured Author Casey Robinson 2018

12 x 12 Member Casey W. RobinsonIn third grade, my teacher asked us to write a story that included directional language. She wanted us to describe how to get from one end of the classroom to the other. I wrote a harrowing tale about a determined bug that swung from shoelaces and narrowly escaped a falling spider plant to make it to the blackboard at last. My classmates took turns reading their stories aloud, and most of them were much less dramatic. Most of them, in other words, did exactly as our teacher asked. “First go left past the windows. Then take ten steps past the bulletin board . . . ” As my turn to share approached, I realized with panic and a racing heart that my story was wrong.

It wasn’t “wrong,” of course. Reluctantly, I read it aloud and two important things happened: (1) everyone wanted to know what happened next, and (2) my teacher took me aside and told me that was a story and I was a writer.

It still took me 40 years to find my way to writing picture books. But along the way I collected a few bits of wisdom from memorable characters and authors, which I will share with you now.

“Choose kind.” – Auggie Pullman in Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I spent most of college lamenting the fact that I was too painstaking a writer to be a prolific novelist. I was drawn to poetry over plot. More than once I got dinged for turning in papers that did not meet the minimum page requirement. But I wrote anyway (cause that’s what we writers do) even when I thought no one else would ever read what I wrote. Perhaps, because I believed no one else would ever read what I wrote.

Iver and Ellsworth by Casey W. Robinson

It turns out that “painstaking” is also “concise.” That plots can be created after you’ve fallen in love with a character. I wasted all that time beating myself up for flaws that turned out to be skills instinctive to writing picture books. And you know what? I’m writing a middle grade novel anyway. Certainly not at a Jack Kerouac pace, but writing it nonetheless.

Be you. And while you’re at it, be kind to you. The practice will make it easier to “send the elevator back down” as Lin Oliver says, to others who are just starting out once you’ve reached the upper floors of the success high-rise. This business depends on all of us doing our part to help each other succeed. Because when we do, more stories get into more hands and hearts and isn’t that the whole point?

“Flex your toes and isolate your objectives.” – Raymie Clarke in Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

After I realized I wanted to write picture books, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing it. Where did all the picture book writers hang out? I decided to start with a local SCBWI meet-up. When I got there, I texted my best friend: “Sitting in car, about to introduce myself for first time as writer. Terrified.” She texted back: “You’ve always been a writer. Claim it.”

Raymie Clarke flexes her toes to clear her head. Then she isolates her objectives. My objective was to figure out how to make my way as a children’s book author. So I marched inside and told the first person I met that I wrote picture books. Lucky me, that person was 12 x 12er Kirsti Call. “Me, too!” she exclaimed. “Do you know about 12 x 12?” I signed up the next day. And lo and behold this is where all the picture book writers hang out.

“When I’m really writing, I’m listening.”- Madeleine L’Engle

Soon after I joined 12 x 12, I read a Facebook post from member Jodi Moore, whose book When a Dragon Moves In, happened to be on my coffee table. She’d been unexpectedly moved to tears while working on a new manuscript, and shared the moment with our tribe. “I think this book has been in my heart for a long time,” she wrote. Yes! I thought. I understand! I was just beginning to access the stories housed in my heart.

Even though we are all alone with our laptops in kitchens and coffee shops, perhaps we are connected by our listening for the distant hoofbeats of an approaching story.

Casey Robinson and Jane Yolen

 

“BIC: butt in chair.” – Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen published her 365th and 366th books last month. (Can you imagine?!)

If you ask her how she did it, she’ll tell you “BIC.” Butt in chair. No matter how many great stories you have, they will not become books unless you write them. BIC.

“Seems I’m off to a new somewhere.” – Iver in Iver & Ellsworth by Casey W. Robinson

Trust your instincts, fellow picture book writers. Trust the characters who are in your heart and tapping on your shoulder—bring them to life. Let them show you how to get to the blackboard. You will surely dodge a few falling spider plants along the way, but the journey is exhilarating! And once you get there, your readers will want to know what happens next. So will you.

 

Casey W. Robinson’s picture book, IVER & ELLSWORTH, illustrated by Melissa Larson, debuts this month from Ripple Grove Press. You can find her at www.CaseyWRobinson.com or follow her on Instagram (@cwrobinson) and Twitter (@CaseyWRobinson).

 

Casey will be offering one lucky 12 x 12 member a signed copy of her picture book Iver & Ellsworth.

 

This Post Has 116 Comments

  1. Hi Casey! I loved your watching your webinar and now reading your story. Thanks for sharing these bits of wisdom with us. I can’t wait to read your book. Now, back to BIC!

  2. Thank you, Casey, for this thoughtful post. I can hear your heart in it and it makes me want to keep going. I love Madeleine L’Engle’s quote. I’ve heard it before and it has often brought me back to writing what’s in my heart. I’ll be looking for your book.

  3. So glad you had a teacher who recognized and supported your writing ability. All budding authors need that validation, I think.
    I’m looking forward to reading IVER & ELLSWORTH; big congratulations!

  4. Enjoyed. your recent webinar about how the book came to be. Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to read it.

  5. Great post, Casey! Thanks so much. I can’t wait to read Iver and Ellsworth. It’s on hold at my library!

  6. Love the cover of your book. I want to know more! You have shared such salient points about writing. Thanks for sharing.

  7. At risk of sounding a bit gushy—this was a fantastic post! Thank you Casey. I immediately bought Iver & Ellsworth after seeing the 12×12 webinar. I am not sure how but I received it already from Amazon (before release date) and love it. The heart, the poignancy–so well done. Congratulations and thank you! After morning “to-dos” I am finally getting BIC and reading your post is a great way to kick start my writing time today. Thanks. 🙂

  8. Inspirational post. Thank you. I remember a high school teacher saying that I was very parsimonious with my writing. I had to look up what that meant. Fast or really slow forward, a lot of years, I guess it makes sense that I write poetry and picture books!

  9. Casey, your post hit me at the right time. I needed to hear exactly what you said in it and by using quotes from books and authors, you solidified that I am on the right track though I was ready to give it all up just two months ago.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I can’t wait to read your book!

  10. Thank you for sharing here and on the Webinar with Rob from Ripple Grove
    Press. I can identify with the struggle to own this writing process and admit
    That you write books. Thank you for your story.

  11. What a lovely post! So delighted to hear about your journey and to have these good reminders. We all need them. Congrats on the book! Enjoy this first publication of many!

  12. Thank you for sharing your insights and encouraging words. I’m glad you plucked up the courage to go to that first meet-up. Now I look forward to reading your book!

  13. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your writing journey with us. Kudos to your teacher! Can’t wait to read your book!

  14. I like what Iver has to say in your book. And I like the inspiration you have for the rest of us. Thank you for sharing.

  15. What a lovely and inspiring post! I think I will be returning to read it again and again when I need to be reminded to write more of what’s in my heart. I love the title and cover of your book — I will be looking for it!

  16. Oh my gosh! I love your story of your childhood writer experience! So cool. And I also love Ramie Nightingale! Great story! I can’t wait to read your new book about your sweet characters. Thanks for sharing!

  17. After I heard your talk on 12 x 12, I immediately ordered your book on Amazon. I was so happy that I didn’t have to wait for the official release date! I love it! You have such a beautiful outlook on life. It definitely shines through your writing. Thanks for a great blog!

  18. Very inspiring! I especially enjoyed the “Be you” and “be kind to you” advice. So important. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned as you’ve progressed on your journey!

  19. Love this post and your book! Your writing is so eloquent. Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom. I bought Iver and Ellsworth and decided to share it with my 6-year-old twins, too. Now that they’ve started reading on their own, they won’t let me read to them anymore 🙁. But they’ve let me read your book to them several times! 🙂

  20. What an amazing and inspirational piece. I truly feel empowered and encouraged. Thank you!!!!!! I could identify with so much of what you said and your background as a writer. I believe in the beauty of words and feel at times remiss that I have to cut my words for the illustrator to share their skill.

  21. I was fascinated by your third grade story idea. I would have been one of those doing the literal interpretation rather than the imaginative one. Proves you had the creative mind early on!! Thanks for the post and all the good tips.

  22. Casey, I want to know what happened to the poor bug. I hope your mom saved the story! Great post and I am looking forward to reading this book. I loved Lin Oliver’s statement-“send the elevator back down,” this is so important. Thanks.

  23. Thanks for this wonderful post. Makes me so thankful to be a part of this 12 x 12 community.
    I’ve written out the quotes you shared and tacked them to the bulletin board above my computer. I’m looking forward to reading Iver & Ellsworth.

  24. Very inspirational post. We all need to remember being kind to others is wonderful but being kind to ourselves is paramount. Thank you for the post and congratulations on your book.

  25. Your post touched my heart. Our career paths as writer’s have been very similar. I also wrote as a child. Poetry, succinct and sweet, was my first love. I am encouraged to read that I can love a character first and then find the plot. Thank you for sharing your journey and sending the elevator back down.

  26. This was inspiring and beautiful – thank you! I look forward to reading your book. Congratulations!

  27. Thank you for such a heartfelt and encouraging post. I hope every child has a teacher like yours who encourages them in something. It can make all the difference.

  28. Thank you for the reminder to trust our instincts and listen to the stories and characters knocking at our hearts. Can’t wait to read Iver and Ellsworth! Congratulations!

  29. A great post and kudos on Iver and Ellsworth. What a beautiful book and wonderful story.
    Thanks for sharing it all with us.

  30. Hi Casey. Thank you for this encouraging and heartfelt post, full of so many significant, brave moments in your writing life. I happened to really need it just now. (Not feeling brave today. But hopefully I will tomorrow!) I bought “Iver and Ellsworth” as soon as I finished watching your webinar with Julie and Rob last month. It’s lovely! Exactly the type of story I admire and value. Thank you for writing!

  31. Thank you for the wise words in your post Casey. I really loved “listening for the distant hoofbeats of an approaching story”, and I really related to that first SCBWI meeting where you don’t know what you are heading into, but find yourself i the midst of an inspiring and supportive group of people who just “get it”. Right then, got my BIC and am straining my ears for those hoofbeats!

  32. Casey! I’m so excited that Iver & Ellsworth is out into the world. Fabulous advice and I loved hearing your story. Hope we can meet again IRL (and secretly hoping you are heading this way for a book event).

  33. Hi, Casey, your post is inspiring and encouraging. I love the mentor quotes. Can’t wait to read your book. Congrats!

  34. Just what I needed to hear today! My life has been so busy lately and my writing is suffering. Feeling a lot of doubts but your post really put things in perspective for me. Thank you.

  35. Casey, these are great nuggets. My favorite is “Be Kind.” So true. Congratulations on Iver & Ellsworth – can’t wait to see it.

  36. I remember my excitement when I wrote stories in grade school. What made me stop for so long? Is is internal censorship or the competition from other activities? I’m glad that you got the early encouragement and are telling stories again. Congratulations on your beautiful book!

  37. “Trust the characters who are in your heart and tapping on your shoulder—bring them to life.” Beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration, Casey 🙂

  38. Thanks for sharing your journey. Congratulations! I’m in love with the polar bear already and can’t wait to see what is next when I read your book. BIC and Yolen. She’s the Cal Ripken of children’s books. One down for you and I am BIC so I can catch up.

  39. Thanks for your words of wisdom and kindness. Kindness was my theme in my early childhood classroom this year–and is the theme I’m carrying in my life right now. Sometimes being kind to myself is the hardest part–but I’m getting better!
    Good luck with your book–it looks lovely.

  40. What an inspiring commentary — great reminder to trust our characters, but also to trust ourselves as writers who inspire each other! Thanks, Casey.

  41. I LOVE THIS POST!!!!! So inspiriting and honest. Thank you for sending the elevator down for us! Can’t wait to read your book!

  42. Casey – Sounds like you had a wonderful third grade teacher! It was a pleasure to read about your journey to picture books, and I look forward to reading IVER AND ELLSWORTH.

  43. Thanks, Casey for your post; it sounds so similar to my own journey. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Back to BIC.

  44. Fantastic post, Casey! I especially love your description of your third grade directional story. So clever, just like your writing today. Congrats on your success!

  45. Casey, thank you so much for sharing your picture book journey. And how lovely to see a photo of the incredible Jane Yolen so soon after NESCBWI! Congratulations on Iver & Ellsworth – I cannot wait to see it out in the world!

  46. What a wonderful story! “…where all the picture book writers hang out…” An awesome visual of us all doing our thing! Thanks for a great post!

  47. I loved the heart of your post, Casey, because it’s the heart in all of us. It’s the community that we share, and the sincerity that we all bear, every day that we write.

  48. Casey, thank you for such a beautiful post and sharing your publishing journey. I especially love this, “perhaps we are connected by our listening for the distant hoofbeats of an approaching story.”

    Congrats on your first story coming out for all to love. May you capture many many more!

  49. Hi Casey, Thank you so much for sharing. Congratulations on your story! Several of your comments really hit home with me including: Be you, be kind to each other in this community of writers, put your BIC!

  50. Thanks for the motivational post. It is an exciting journey, isn’t it. However, is truly is all about BIC. Thanks!

  51. Thanks, Casey. I loved reading about your writing journey! I need nudges like this to keep me going. 🙂

  52. It’s funny how a character can pop into your head and never leave–even if it takes years to get their story down. Love your quotes. Looking forward to meeting Iver and watching the replay of your webinar. 🙂

  53. Casey,
    I am recommending 12×12 to a writing friend and will share your post. Yes BIC. I’m off to edit poems. Thanks for your post.
    Sue

  54. Casey, your post touched my heart in many ways. As a retired teacher, I could vividly picture you standing in front of your third grade peers sharing your story and I could see your precious face when your teacher encouraged you with her words. What a beautiful moment! Thank you for sharing that memory. Words are powerful!
    I also was touched by your closing sentence about helping each other succeed. “Because when we do, more stories get into more hands and hearts and isn’t that the whole point?”
    Thank you for writing this very helpful encouraging post and for sharing your publishing journey in the recent 12×12 webinar with Rob from Ripple Grove Press. You have given us all a gift.

  55. Oh, Casey, I love your third grade story, and I’m so glad your teacher told you what’s what! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us all, and for being a shining example of the kindness you talk about.

  56. Thank you, Casey, for sharing your writing journey and your insightful — and kind — advice. I especially appreciate this: “Trust your instincts, fellow picture book writers. Trust the characters who are in your heart ….” And I can’t wait to read Iver & Ellsworth!

  57. Thank you Casey! I love this post. I love your journey and how you share it with us. I cannot wait to read your book! Congratulations!

  58. Thank you for sharing those wise words with us. Congratulations on “Iver and Ellsworth” – it looks adorable. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    I want to hear that third grade story! I’ll bet your teacher was really proud of you.

  59. Thanks for sharing your story, thoughts and advice, Casey. The distant hoofbeats are clamoring and we must answer the call with our BIC.

  60. Thanks Casey! I love this blog post and the way you shared your journey. Wishing you many more floors of success in the high-rise. Thanks for doing the webinar last month too. It was wonderful!

  61. Thanks for your inspiration and advice! Congratulations on all your success and I can’t wait to read your book!

  62. I love the encouraging words of your teacher… and your best friend. Great reminders that our words, both written and spoken, matter.

  63. I really enjoyed your post, Casey! Thank you for the great advice and inspiration. I always found it difficult to meet those minimum word requirements too! In fact, one of my college professors once said my writing was “succinct… almost too succinct.” But I never understood why I needed to write a 15 page paper when I could say it in 5. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your story and words of encouragement with us!

  64. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your story and wonderful advice! Congratulations on your new book!

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