I’m not quite sure how it got to be MAY before hosting our first Tuesday 12 x 12 author of 2015, but better late than never. Tuesday 12 x 12 is a series where we celebrate and learn from the dedicated, talented, pre-published authors working toward achieving their dreams.
Lisa Connors exemplifies the hard-working 12 x 12 member dedicated to improving her writing craft and giving to our community. After reading her post, I can definitely say, “YES, you ARE an author even if you are not published.” So long as you keep working, you are an author. At its heart, that’s what 12 x 12 is all about. We’re lucky Lisa found her way to us. Please give her a warm welcome!
A 12 x 12 garden will bloom in no time. A 12 x 12 bathroom is easy to clean. But the 12 x 12 challenge to picture book writers is no walk in the park. Who would take that on? I would! As a pre-published author, I find it hard sometimes to explain what I do. Am I even an author if I’m not published? Those frustrations fade when I’m focused on 12 x 12. That’s because it’s not only a personal challenge to me to write a picture book every month, but because it’s also a community of peers whose ideas and questions help me and empower me to stay the course.
I love everything about children reading: the immersion into another place, the connections to the characters, the magic that seems real, the things they learn, the special bonds between the adult reader and child, the dreams they ponder and the words they soon learn to gobble on their own. I love reading to children and so I want to write for children.
My writing journey is only in its third year. I’ve published articles in my previous careers in science and teaching, but it’s a totally different ballgame to write a picture book, much less get it published. I needed time to immerse myself in all the parameters of the craft, not just the writing. So with my husband’s support, I left teaching and now call myself a quasi-homesteader and a writer. I blog about my nature encounters as I homestead (http://www.halcyonnature.com) and about favorite picture books and ways to use them in the classroom (https://lisaconnors.wordpress.com). But I must admit to many times in the last two years where I was still ‘too busy’ despite not teaching; it’s much easier to weed than to sit in a chair when I’m stuck. And I’m convinced that if Facebook didn’t exist, I’d have scads of manuscripts being fought over by publishers!
So what’s a wannabe with good intentions to do? Join 12 x 12. It helps to imagine the picture book community peering over my shoulder or looking at my agenda. Did you schedule time to write today? How’s that monthly draft coming? I find 12 x 12 provides me the right amount of extrinsic motivation to keep my intrinsic flame lit. Ideas have always come fairly easily to me. I love Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge and each of the two years I’ve participated, I’ve drafted about five of my ideas. But I had more than 30 each year! I need practice in developing my ideas and especially in ‘RE visioning’ my stories.
The 12 x 12 community introduced me to Carrie Charley Brown’s Read For Research Month, which was a huge help in how I read picture books and in their use as models for my own development of the craft. Every single manuscript I have out in slush piles will be cut up and spun on its head next time it’s rejected, instead of my usual method of just submitting to a different publisher. It’s all part of the process.
So I am doing much of what I’m told needs to be tackled to be successful as a children’s writer. I joined SCBWI and I’ve been to a few conferences. I met a fellow writer at a workshop who has become a fantastic critique partner and friend. I read picture books at my library every week and work on my manuscripts or draft new ones regularly. But in my small town, working at my desk, the isolation can be a blessing or a frustrating hindrance. Luckily, I’ve found the perfect online community to keep me buoyed. Thanks 12 x 12!
Lisa grew up in Pennsylvania and now calls Virginia home, except when getting to sabbatical with her family in Spain. She finds it embarrassing that she never discovered Dr. Seuss until reading to her own children because her mother did not approve of his silly rhyme. Deciding she was raised in a vacuum, she delighted in reading anything her kids wanted to hear, especially silly. She loves collecting story ideas and keeps an eye out for them anywhere, but seems to find most while mowing or walking. She also loves nature and has more pictures of caterpillars than of herself. When not writing, walking or mowing, she enjoys knitting, gardening, canning and traveling.