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12 X 12 April 2017 Featured Author – Heather Preusser

12 x 12 April 2017 Featured Author – Heather Preusser

Heather PreusserGrowing up, I spent my free time diving into books or into the deep end of the local pool. I loved flipping and twisting, twisting and flipping, and completed on diving teams throughout both high school and college. For eight months of the year, I hurled myself off the 1- and 3-meter springboard, aiming for perfection each and every time. The younger version of me – the one who could still touch her toes – never would have predicted the benefits my diving would have on my writing. Now that my debut picture book, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS, has been released, it seems appropriate to thank the pool gods and goddesses for teaching me the following lessons, lessons I hope you 12 x 12ers can learn from as well, as you strive to achieve your own perfect tens.

Perseverance Pays Off

As is the case with most sports, perseverance is key. I never nailed a new dive on the first attempt (and I probably wished rottenness to rain on those who did), but I do remember smacking on the water’s surface. A lot. Whenever I hit the water especially hard, there was only one solution: Get up and do it again. Not the next week or even the next day, but right away – sometimes before I even had the chance to dry myself off with that petri dish I called a shammy (okay, the time I pulled a Greg Louganis and hit the board I had to go to the ER first for a few stitches). But that steadfastness always paid off. I’m not saying I perfected every dive, but even the ones I attempted for fun in practice had a purpose, whether it was boosting my self-confidence, helping me overcome my fears, or encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. Attempting and mastering the more difficult dives made the easier ones, well, easier, but I only gained that perspective with courage, repetition, and perseverance. Lots of perseverance.Heather Preusser Front 1 1_2 Somersault Pike on 3 Meter

The same is true for writing. If you put in the time, you’ll get better. That’s why challenges like 12 x 12 are so instrumental: They encourage you to plunk your butt in that chair and write. A lot. And when you get the wind knocked out of you because you receive a rejection letter or a harsh critique or your main character throws in the towel, you pick yourself up and write again the next day. And the next. And the next.

Perfection Is Paramount

Perfection goes hand in hand with perseverance. I used to have a gymnastics coach who repeatedly told us that, in fact, the old saying “practice makes perfect” had it all wrong; it was “perfect practice makes perfect.” Sure, I simply went through the motions some days both in the gym and at the pool, but those weren’t the practices where I improved. Improvement came when I pushed myself to work harder, take risks, and focus on micro adjustments: The placement of my hands, shoulders, hips, or feet at any one point in a dive could mean the difference between a rip (no splash) or a failed dive (a lot of splash). The former often led to feeling satisfied and accomplished, while the latter resulted in having to try again.

In writing, particularly in writing picture books where there’s a 32-page format and a constantly diminishing word count, you also have to aim for flawlessness. It’s not enough to have a fabulous hook, or a quirky character; you also have to be a wordsmith. You have to play with words, tinker with sounds, and experiment with punctuation. One misplaced letter in an early draft, and all of a sudden your stubborn Swiss dairy cow has turned into a diary cow (embarrassing, but true).

A Symphony of Cowbells by Heather PreusserBe Patient

“Wait for it” was probably the number one tip my coach told me from the side of the pool, meaning I needed to wait for the board. It’s counterintuitive, but the harder the dive (the more rotations or twists you need to complete) the more patience is required, the more you have to wait for the board to kick you up into the air instead of out into the middle of the pool, which is where I liked to hang out, especially when practicing reverses.
I started drafting A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS when I first entered the kidlit community in the summer of 2011. The story, in which a Swiss dairy cow loses her bell and disrupts the harmony of the herd, evolved over the years, as did my writing, but I needed patience. Like a game of Whac-a-Mole, each draft offered a solution to one problem while simultaneously shedding light on another. After draft four I received a critique highlighting a problem with my main character: mainly, that it was an old, ornery cow (which was true – only later did it dawn on me I needed to make the young farm girl, Petra, the main character). After draft eight my insightful critique partner (waves at Julie) pointed out the ending didn’t “ring true” (I can’t take credit for that clever pun); it was too obvious, but not in a satisfying inevitable-but-predictable kind of way. Six drafts later I found a solution by introducing two large curious alpine crows. After draft eleven agent Stephen Fraser, as part of 12 x 12 that year, sent me a brief note encouraging me to pare down my 650-word manuscript “to make room.” He reminded me a “good picture book is almost like a poem: no extra words.” So what did I do? With the help of another critique partner (shout out to Carmela LaVigna Coyle), I put each word on trial for its life and trimmed 141 words. One. Word. At. A. Time. When I submitted it to Sarah (Miller) Rockett at the Rocky Mountain Chapter’s SCBWI fall conference in the fall of 2015, I was on draft 20, and we went through a handful of revision rounds after she acquired the manuscript.

 Trust Your Gut

I used to visualize my list of dives before meets; however, one dive (a back 1½ somersaults with 1½ twists off 3-meter) befuddled me; I could never “see” it properly. Even when I slowed my mind’s camera and attempted to isolate each movement, the picture became a tangled mess of flailing limbs. For that dive, I simply stood on the end of the board before my turn and reminded myself to trust my gut, to trust that my muscle memory would take over. And it did. Every time.

During the revision process, I sometimes lose sight of a story’s premise, the nugget of inspiration that made me want to write it in the first place. When this happens I have to remind myself to revisit earlier drafts, trusting my gut that something about my initial idea needed to be told and shared. At other times, critique partners have suggested I “kill my darlings.” Whenever I have a defensive, knee-jerk reaction to a suggestion, I know there’s some truth to it. Perhaps the recommended solution isn’t the right one, but there’s clearly something I need to address. Typically, I let the feedback soak until it’s puckery and pruney and, in a few days, the perfect solution bobs to the surface. I just have to trust in the process.

It’s Okay to Be a Little Afraid

I was always more fearful of the 3-meter springboard than the 1-meter, but typically I performed better on the former. There was something about being a little afraid that made me push myself to do better. Yes, it’s masochistic, but there’s also something motivating about a challenge.

It takes courage to put yourself out there and show your writing to others. At times it feels like the equivalent of jumping off the 10-meter platform. But you know what? At every training camp I ever attended, everyone did it, and they did it together.

Whether diving or writing, perseverance, perfection, and patience pay off, one dive and one word at a time.




Heather Preusser graduated from Williams College where she was a three-time All-American, a two-time Second Team All-American, and a many-time belly flopper. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. When not writing about plucky characters struggling to pursue their passions, Heather teaches high school English, bikes the European countryside, and attempts to learn ridiculously long German words (Formfleischvorderschinken anyone?). She and her husband reside in Colorado.

Heather is offering a signed copy of A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS for our April 12 x 12 Check-In! Be sure to get your draft written so you have as many chances as possible to win!

This Post Has 330 Comments
  1. What an excellent post about how important the aspects of perseverance and patience tied to hard work can make the difference, but it’s not a process that can be shortcut or rushed. Thank you, Heather for great inspiration this month!

  2. What an excellent post about how important the aspects of perseverance and patience tied to hard work can make the difference, but it’s not a process that can be shortcut or rushed. Thank you, Heather for great inspiration this month!

  3. Wow! The power and connection of experience shared… Thank you, Heather, for sharing your journey! Using your experience as a diver as a sounding ‘board’ to relate perseverance, trust and fear as integral players in achievement, was accessible and lovely. Thank you!?

  4. Wow! The power and connection of experience shared… Thank you, Heather, for sharing your journey! Using your experience as a diver as a sounding ‘board’ to relate perseverance, trust and fear as integral players in achievement, was accessible and lovely. Thank you!?

  5. Wonderful reminder on the need for patience and perseverance. People always say picture books look so easy to write. Truly a case of looks can be deceiving. They take work. Hard work. Dedication. And lots of patience and perseverance. Can’t wait to read this book.

  6. Thank you, Heather for your wonderful insights! The “be patient” part definitely strikes a cord! And I guess hand in hand with that goes perseverance, an art not cultivated enough. I wish you good luck and many more of your books on bookshelves!

  7. Now having images of writing while in slow motion levitation off the high board spring. That’s what you did to the illustrator-side of my brain. All I ever did was a simple dive off, either for a swim class or to get my certificate for Jr Lifesaving… 50 years ago… but I can still feel the edge of terror in my body up there.
    Seriously, great advice in there, especially loving the visual of patience on that high board. Working with that.

    Congratulations on Cowbells!

  8. What a wonderful post! I am at the stage where perseverance is key, and it has been a little difficult to maintain the will to do so, lately. Thank you for the reminder. Now, off to jump in the pool, again.

    1. I love the comparison between writing and diving. I am classically trained in piano and the striving for perfection and bravery and courage it takes to perform for an audience are very relatable experiences for me. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  9. Having been a swimmer many years ago, I loved your comparison between learning how to dive and how to write. It makes perfect sense! If we can persevere in achieving one goal, then we can apply those same principles in pursuing other dreams. Thanks for your enlightening post, Heather. Congratulations on the publication of your new book!

  10. I love reading these posts. Your connection to sports is a great analogy! You must practice daily to get better. I will continue to miss lunch in the staff room and instead stay in my room in front of my computer with lunch in hand and stories on the screen. Thanks!

  11. Congratulations on your upcoming book! And thanks for sharing these thoughts. Perseverance is key, especially when I don’t feel like I can revise one more time.

  12. Heather, Thank you for your encouraging words and congrats on your new book! I am trying not to “belly flop” any more either, both in and out of the pool:>

  13. Than you for sharing your journey to your first picture book (the first of many, I hope!) I love what you said about persevering: “And when you get the wind knocked out of you because you receive a rejection letter or a harsh critique or your main character throws in the towel, you pick yourself up and write again the next day. And the next. And the next.” Very inspiring!

  14. I like the comparison between sports and writing and you’ve offered some great advice and inspiration. Thanks.

  15. Everything you say is so true. I am letting it all “soak” in! And I am very intrigued by your picture book and its great title. I’ll have to get a copy!

  16. Heather…I love that: put every word on trial for its life!
    That was the rationale behind my #50PreciousWords writing challenge last month…magic happens when you make every word count! And now I’m hosting #50PreciusWordsforKids next month….I’m so excited to see what they come up with.
    Congrats on your beautiful book…and I love the story that you shared!

  17. Heather, congratulations on the publication of your children’s book. I am intrigued by the title, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS, and look forward to sharing this book with my grandsons.
    Thank you for your encouragement to persevere in the writing process. I will remember the points you shared as I visualize diving, and as I see the value of hard work in the journey towards perfection.

  18. Wow! Thank you, Heather, for such an inspiring post. Sometimes it’s so hard to get back up on that 3-meter board, but it’s so important to dive right back in. Patience and perseverance are two of my favorite words. Congratulations on your success! A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS looks and sounds absolutely darling! Can’t wait to read it.

  19. So many visuals in your piece, Heather, that I know are going to pop back in my head during moments of need. Thank you.

  20. Thank you, Heather, for your inspired comparison of the writing process to pursuit of athletic improvement. I had never thought about writing that way before, but it makes great sense. I particularly like your reminder that practice must be perfect if it is to get anyone to perfection. Congrats on your delightful picture book!

  21. Inspiring article – especially the reminders about perseverance and not being afraid “to let yourself be afraid.” I’ve discovered that in the course of my life, too, and I’ve always performed better when I’ve got that little bit of electricity running through me. It tells me I’m invested in the result.

  22. What an inspiring post! I’ve always told my children that they can do anything as long as they have the Three P’s…practice, perseverance, and patience. It’s nice to see others with this philosophy! I look forward to reading A Symphony of Cowbells!

  23. Great post, Heather. We never know where our life experiences will land us. I am sure you are becoming a great writer because of the great lessons you have learned. And even better, you are able to mentor the rest of us at the same time.

  24. This was fantastic, thank you!! I love the “Three P’s” and how you’ve so adeptly related it to your diving experience. I can’t wait to read your book! It looks beyond charming.

  25. Thank you for the good advice after a two week life happens break from writing. I need to get back to revisions and writing again and stop worrying about everything else for at least one to two hours a day and
    more time when possible. I was encouraged to be brave enough to share on the 12 x 12 critique site. And it sounds like Heather showed her work to several groups including an agent to get valuable feedback.
    Thanks for this post.

  26. The part about not being able to visualize, to just trust your gut, struck a chord. I once read about a medical condition that prevents people from knowing that they know how to do something, but if you put the materials/instrument in their hands, they automatically begin using them/it the correct way (if they’ve already learned the skill). The brain works in mysterious ways. Thanks for this thoughtful post! And congrats on the debut!

  27. Wonderfully informative and encouraging post Heather. Thank you. I appreciated your examples and the challenge to be patient and to trust my gut. Both of these facets of revising at times get away from me. Congrats on your book.

  28. Congratulations on your debut picture book! Loved your post about your journey. I really liked perfect practice makes perfect, if you don’t push yourself for better words, or less words, or unique characters your manuscript doesn’t progress. Thanks for your post!

  29. I enjoyed a little insider’s view of your sport, Heather. The more I listen to and observe people at their work and play, the more I see lessons for achievement in writing. Thanks for making your arena’s lessons so clear.
    It was also interesting to see how much work your editor put into your book. I often see those Swiss cows so am looking forward to reading it.

  30. Perseverance, perfection, and patience. That about sums it up! Thank you for the wonderful post. Congratulations on your new book! Can’t wait to read!

  31. Heather –

    Thank you for your time to write so many encouraging words and you had so many good ones. I especially will keep “perfect practice makes perfect”.

    Thank you again….

  32. Thank you for this great post. I love the diving metaphor. It also helped to hear the number of drafts your book went through and how critiques helped along the way. The patience and perseverance message came through loud and clear!

  33. Heather, this was a super interesting post. Your journey in both arenas spoke to your perseverance, which is a diving skill, a life skill, and certainly a writing skill! Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  34. What a fantastic post. The focus on discipline and perseverance is great and though it’s hard to hear that perfection is required that is what we have to aim for. Congrats on publication!

  35. Excellent post, Heather. It was very inspiring. Congratulations on your book. I look forward to reading it.

  36. Heather, thank you for your insights and your comparisons of writing to swimming. I think it boils down to using what you have learned already to enhance your writing skills. Everyone has something they’re talented at. Take that talent and compare it to writing to find any similarities. It was a very useful analogy.

  37. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’ve been working very hard lately at getting better at “killing my darlings!”

  38. “If you put in the time, you’ll get better.” Thank you, Heather, for this inspiring post. Perseverance and keeping BIC sometimes crash for me when I receive those rejections. Your journey proves it can be done. Congrats on your book and I look forward to reading it.

  39. Love this post! You’re an inspiration, Heather. I hate killing my darlings–maybe it will get easier over time and with the perseverance you speak of.

  40. Congratulations on perfecting this dive, Heather! We met during an InkedVoices webinar, so it was a special treat to see your name and photo in Publishers Weekly and then as the 12 X 12 Featured Author. Thanks for sharing your experiences garnished from your impressive sports background. I love your analogies of playing Whac-A-Mole and waiting for the board. Your encouraging post offers a reminder that patience, perfection, and perseverance go hand-and-hand with smart timing. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that timing part. Pardon my diver-contrary pun, but I hope SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS makes a big splash!

  41. Heather, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It’s difficult sometimes to remember patience and perseverance are key to the “writing life.” Your insights will be extremely helpful to keep myself on track!

  42. Thank you so much for the terrific and insightful post! Persistence and perseverance certainly do pay in the long run. Congrats to you and good luck in your future writing.

  43. Wow! I am in awe of anyone who dives off of a board and you excel at it! You received great coaching and encouragement all of those years while competing which definitely paid off for you in this line of work as well as your teaching. Your analogy was perfect.
    Congratulations on the new book Heather! Looking forward to reading it.

  44. Wow, what a fresh everyday-terms parallel you drew here, Heather! I feel all inspired n’ stuff. I don’t even have words because I’m still hanging on yours. Saving this link so I can reread when I’m like, “Wait… how did she relate that?” Can’t wait to read “A Symphony of Cowbells”!

  45. Heather,
    At times I have lost sight of a story’s premise and going back to earlier drafts has helped me get back on track, too. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Pictures books are not easy to write!

  46. Congrats, Heather! Thanks for sharing your story, and for the reminder to stick with it and take our time. Thank you!

  47. I’d be interested to know what your inspiration was for A Symphony of Cowbells.
    Congrats on your book, and thanks for sharing your story!

  48. Heather, what a perfect analogy. Your post was encouraging at just the right time for me. It’s been a rough couple weeks in writing. Thank you!

  49. Speechless. Just the boost I needed. I am in a very familiar boat. I have challenged myself and lit some fires to force myself to take risks. Recently decided to put a long time project away because it was holding me back. I have changed the story so many times trying to address issues. Once one problem is solved, another is created. SO TRUE. I need to get back to my original love of the idea. I need to drop it and wait for it to come back. OMG. I needed this. Thank you SO much

  50. Heather, thank you for reminding all of us that this journey is just that! I get so frustrated over the patience part sometimes, that it seems my goals are completely out of reach. When I get a great day on revising, I have hope again….but then a week or two later, I’m back to revising and feeling low about it. It’s a cycle. Can’t wait to read your story! Congratulations!

  51. I just loved the parallels between your diving career and writing career. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  52. What a great analogy. Writing is all about hard work and perseverance. I’m still working on the patient part. (it’s my worst thing!)

  53. Isn’t it curious how hard it is to see something that is later so obvious? (I keep wondering how I could be so dense.) Your comments are a great tribute to the value of critique groups and the benefits of getting help from other writers.

  54. What an inspiring post! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us! I just added your book to my reading list. 🙂

  55. Patience and perseverance remain my biggest challenges as a writer, but anything worth doing requires both. Your analogy from your diving competition years reminds us once more of how important both are. Thanks for the inspiration, and congratulations on the publication of your book, A Symphony of Cowbells–a delightful title!

  56. I love this theme: I remind myself constantly, preemptively, that perseverance is key. I’m sending out queries this week (my first big batch, since I’m semi-new to the formal kidlit community), and I’m steeling myself again the whirlwind of critiques and fire of scrutiny and pang of rejection that so many of us experience. I am so blessed to have hit the ground running at every turn, and to have nestled snuggly into the kidlit community…because I feel prepared and supported, and ready to persevere. This industry takes a loooooong time to bring gratification (by way of agency representation or publication), but I’m okay with that. I love writing, I love learning, I love developing my craft. I love the process.

    Your thoughts help all of us reflect on the beauty and grace of pushing through doubt or adversity. We all do it. We do it together. And it’s so worth it. I can feel it.

  57. Thanks for sharing your story. I liked your analogy with diving and it has a lot of parallels with writing.

  58. Wonderful post, Heather – thank you! Loved that your diving advice also clearly relates to writing as well! Patience, perseverance, trusting your gut … and also doing the hard work that’s required. Congratulations on your new book – can’t wait to read it!

  59. You articulated the need for persistence and patience so well. Maybe I just needed a sport analogy. The patience part is definitely the hardest part for me. Thank you for the wonderful reminder that it pays off.

  60. Heather, I really enjoyed the parallels you drew between writing and diving. I learned a lot from your specific examples of how you revised your ms. Congratulations!

  61. Your “p” words aren’t my strong point. but I’m working on them. And I love your suggestion to revisit my earlier drafts. I’m going to do that right away. And I’m going to work on my “knee jerk” reactions by looking at suggestions positively. Thank you.

  62. Thanks for sharing your journey to publication and with writing in general. It’s always motivating to hear how perseverance and patience pays off. If we could ever have coffee, I’d ask, “What was scarier, that first dive or submission?” 🙂 Congrats on your book. I’m sure many will follow.

  63. Thanks for the reminder about the 3Ps – Perseverance, Patient and Practice. And for encouraging us to take risks. I’m looking forward to reading A Symphony of Cows. Great title!

  64. I love hearing that you wrote twenty-plus drafts. Somehow I always assume that published writers start out with polished, almost-there early drafts.

  65. Thanks Heather, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. An inspiring reminder that perseverance and patience do eventually pay off. Your post particularly resonated with me, though I’m not a diver I do spend a lot of time in the pool, swimming 3-4 times a week. It’s therefore a place I regularly link with my writing… While I’m swimming lengths I often try and clear my mind and think through my latest ms ideas/revisions. Really appreciate you opening up and sharing your journey. Thanks and many congratulations on your well deserved success!!!

  66. What a great comparison, Heather! Thanks for sharing perseverance is so important in this endeavor and I needed to be reminded today.

  67. Congrats on your debut Heather and thanks for sharing your story. I have another “P” for you after reading your post – “Pep Squad”. It’s what instantly comes to mind since I’ve joined this amazing community.

  68. No doubt all that perseverance in your swimming career translated into your writing career! I keep hearing these stories about how many revisions people had to make to before their manuscripts were picked up and I’m impressed with how each of you have forged through that. Great post. Thank you for sharing your story. What a great comparison.

  69. Greetings from another Coloradoan (well, a Jersey girl at heart, but a Coloradoan in spirit). Thank you for this tremendously helpful post. I love the analogies you made. They are so helpful! I particularly loved your advice about trusting the process and trusting muscle memory. “A Symphony of Cowbells” sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read it.

  70. What an insightful post, Heather! And so fun learning a bit more about you. I ran track throughout high school and college (which, of course, is not nearly as complicated as diving!) and remember how comforting it was to trust in muscle memory when I was nervous for a race. I’d tell myself, “all you have to do is run fast and turn left.” 🙂

  71. Hi Heather, thanks for sharing your insights on courage, repetition, and perseverance. It’s always good to be reminded that those traits are a must for those who want to be a published writer. I think we all have days of incredible optimism and others where everything seems wrong and out of place, that makes us wonder if it’s all a big waste of time, but then, as you said, “you pick yourself up and write again the next day. And the next. And the next.” I think it pays off everyday, even when we don’t feel that way. Thanks again!

  72. Hi Heather, thanks for sharing your stories both personal and picture book. The paragraph about trusting your gut really resonates with me. When I get off track with my writing, it is usually because I have lost sight of the story I really wanted to share. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of that initial inspiration. I look forward to reading A Symphony of Cowbells. Congratulations!

  73. As a former diver myself, this was such a fun pep talk! The degree of difficulty in this venture of writing for children is high…but I’m keeping my eye on that perfect-10 entrance one day! Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your success!

  74. “There was something about being a little afraid that made me push myself to do better.” This is so true! I think the payoff is more satisfying the more afraid you are too. Thank you so much for your insight!

  75. Lovely post! Thank you for sharing not only about your writing process, but also nuggets about your life. I salute your bravery in diving! Best wishes on your book 🙂

  76. It’s very comforting to read that you went through so many drafts of your story. I often find myself thinking that published authors must find it easy to write. Thanks for the reminder that there’s a lot of work on the way to a polished story.

  77. I enjoyed your article, and was amazed by how many times you revised your PB before it was accepted, and then afterwards. I’ll never complain again about revisions. Thank you.

  78. Congratulations on your debut picture book, Heather. You made some great connections on achieving your goal, in diving or writing. Thank you for the encouragement.

  79. Thank you for sharing your journey and insights, Heather. Congratulations on your debut picture book. Can’t wait to read it!

  80. I will have to remember “perfect practice makes perfect,” and to have patience. I have found myself discouraged after revealing new flaws in my manuscripts. But I can continue to learn and write, and work, and wait like you do (and did on the high dive).
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  81. Hi Heather! Congratulations on your book. I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for your words of inspiration and wisdom. It’s reassuring to know we have a like minded community for encouragement. Thanks again.

  82. Thank you Heather! I needed this! Just when I thought I was getting somewhere with my draft-I had a setback. I have to persevere. I have to start from square one. I have to redo the whole story- but that’s what writers do. We’re all n this together because we LOVE writing for children. Thank you for this very inspiring post.

  83. Congratulations on your debut picture book. It must mean even more to you because the story means so much to you.

  84. Congratulations on your debut picture book! I love how you persevered. And I love your diving ability. How awesome!

  85. I really enjoyed this post! Terrific advice and inspiration- Congratulations on all your success and I look forward to reading your book!

  86. Thank you so much for the inspiration and advice on writing. I really needed to hear this today. I’m holding “court” and putting every word on trial! Congratulations on the publication of A Symphony of Cowbells.

  87. Congratulations on A Symphony of Cowbells! Thank you for sharing the journey of your debut picture book. I look forward to reading it soon!

  88. Thanks for the inspiration and words of encouragement, Heather. You are a great example of how perfect practice does makes perfect!

  89. Diving always scared me but it’s wonderful to watch! Thanks for the inspiring post. Symphony of Cowbells sounds like a fun read!

  90. Thank you Heather, it’s always great to hear about parallels between writing and other steep learning curves. Your book sounds lovely too, what a great title.

  91. Thank you for your post. I especially enjoyed reading about patience and all your critique partners along the way.

  92. Congratulations on A Symphony of Cowbells! Thank you so much for encouraging us all to be patient and persevere.

  93. I love all the analogies you made here. And I love to see that perseverance really does pay off. Way to go! 🙂

  94. Thank you for your encouraging post! It’s so hard to be patient and to persevere sometimes, but it helps to know that others are struggling –and getting through the struggles–with me.

  95. I dove right into your post, splashed around in your awesome advice, and now my head is swimming with information. I have a pb bio about a person who, along with other talents, was an award-winning diver and I learned a lot just reading about her. I also have a dear friend whose granddaughter is an amazing young diver from Georgia. I can’t wait to read your book.

  96. I have perseverance down pretty well. Patience is an on going learning experience for me. Thank you for a great post Heather.

  97. I thought I was the only one who loved ridiculously long German words! They really have the best words for everything.

  98. Sometimes it is soooooo difficult to be patient. Thank you for the reminder. And your book reminds me of staying in a small Swiss village (near Gstaad) when the cows walked through town. They were gorgeous and melodious.

  99. I loved reading about your persistence in diving and then how you use those same skills in your writing. Also – I appreciate your suggestion of becoming a wordsmith and evaluating each and every word. Thanks for this inspiring post.

  100. Hi Heather,
    I love the title of your book. It creates such a great picture in my mind. Thanks for your encouraging words regarding putting yourself out there and having courage. I appreciate you sharing them.

  101. Perseverance, persistence, and trusting your gut. I don’t think I can hear these three words often enough. Even after I thought a manuscript had found its way, I’m just now embracing the importance of this last trait. I have dogged determination – but you’re right. You have to trust yourself and “wait for it.”

    Wise words. Thank you for writing them!

  102. Gotta love a good metaphor, and a mind that can create them. Thank you for this, Heather. I particularly identify with this line: “Like a game of Whac-a-Mole, each draft offered a solution to one problem while simultaneously shedding light on another.” It’s helpful to look at a manuscript as a problem-solving game. Less heavy! And a game always has an ending 🙂

  103. Flipping and twisting and all the things we do to make every word come out a winner. Thank you for this encouraging post.

  104. I especially liked your comments on trusting your gut. I have one story that I love the first time I wrote it, but after each critique and with different critique resources, I lost sight of why I wrote it in the first place. I have gone back to square one, and have fallen in love all over again with the premise behind the story.

  105. This is so timely! I am finally going back and revising the MG novel I wrote 18 months ago and my mantra has been, “finish what you start even if you started something you don’t know how to finish!” A little lesson on perseverance is just what the writing doctor ordered. Thank you!

  106. Patience and perseverance. Now if I can only apply them to my own writing. What a great article showing the similarities between practicing a sport and practicing writing.

  107. Thank you Heather. These are amazing insights, and I love the parallels with your diving career. I will take your advice and persevere.

  108. Heather, your post was fabulous! I love the intensection of your life experience with your writing, and I loved loved loved reading the “story” of how your story came about. This is one thing I’m learning about writing: Patience and Persistence are absolute musts. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, and congratulations on your lovely book, I can’t wait to read it!

  109. I thought I’d commented on this post ages ago, but – oops! – apparently not. So, I’ll dive right in (ar, ar!). Heather, thank you for your inspirational words about patience and persistence. Those two qualities appear absolutely essential to getting published, and I am working on them! I have definitely reached the stage of discouragement on a couple of manuscripts, and it’s great to be reminded that critiques from lots of different people can help point out flaws and plot holes and keep us moving in the right direction. I look forward to reading a Symphony of Cowbells. Thanks for posting!

  110. Thanks Heather for the inspiration!
    I especially like how you shared the process-the real work behind making it look so easy!

  111. Great advice. I’m a big fan of analogies for making things memorable. Can’t wait to read your book as I live on a farm among the cows. No cowbells, though.

  112. Congratulations! And thank you for sharing your journey with us. I loved the line– I put every word on trial.
    What a poetic way to phrase the revision process.
    Thank you!

  113. Hi Heather,
    I agree with you about perfection. I believe that excellence is a minimal criterion for picture books. It’s importance to have patience and to go on to additional manuscripts. You can see some of what I’m doing on my website. But, there are exceptions to every rule, and I think I just found one of them–when I polished my latest manuscript, Finding Love (thanks to everyone on 12×12 for your encouragement and comments) I distilled it to 148 words.

    Because it was so short, I showed the manuscript to advance readers on my phone, and I experienced a new reaction–virtually everyone wanted to know when it would be out. When I told them it would take one to two years, they were disappointed. After the tenth or twelfth time I received this reaction, I decided that I had one of those rare manuscripts that appeal equally to adults, teenager, tween and young children. What to do?

    My answer was to publish a Kindle and printable .pdf edition WITHOUT ILLUSTRATIONS.

    What makes this book different is that three fill-in-the-blanks spaces that allow each reader to personalize the book for their needs at that moment. See for a one-page description of this book, including me reading the book aloud.

    Today is the first day that the book is available. I haven’t “launched” it yet, but I’m aiming for 50,000 sales at $2.99 to $3.99. I could be way off, but I have other manuscripts that I’m submitting through the normal agent-publisher process.

    If I’m right, then I think an agent might just be able to use the sales to help me get two different illustrated versions–one for children (in my dummies, it fits perfectly on 13 spreads plus a single page) plus one for adults with completely different illustrations.

    Wish me luck, and if you get a chance, check it out.

    Best wishes for your continued success. I hope we have an opportunity to meet at a professional conference soon.


  114. Perseverance is definitely the key to following your dreams, no matter what they are, and how old you are, we can’t ever give up.

  115. Congrats on your debut! Hope you have many more to come:) I will continue to follow your motto: perfect practice makes perfect!!

  116. What an inspiring post. Diving takes courage and maybe writing is kind of the same. Putting yourself out there and waiting for the collision with the water and hoping it all goes smoothly. Same as putting your writing out there and hoping it makes a smooth transition into the world without a belly flop.

  117. What a wonderful post. So many people think writing a children’s picture book should be done in a few hours. I agree with you that it take perseverance to complete any writing goal. congratulations on your book.

  118. Such an inspiring post! Persistence is truly why gets you published. Never, never, never give up. I loved how you compared diving to writing!

  119. Heather,
    I loved your speaking from your own diving experience and your detailing your writing process. congratulations on your first book! I look forward to reading it.

  120. What a great post! I am printing this one to reread! Thank you, Heather. The cover of A Symphony of Cowbells is gorgeous! I can’t wait to read it.

  121. Thanks for all the insights and inspiration, Heather! I enjoyed how you tied your writing career to your diving career…lessons to be learned from both pursuits, especially regarding perseverance and patience. I really look forward to reading your debut book…love the title!

  122. I can’t wait to read “Symphony of Cowbells” – the title is delightful. Something tells me this book is going to be a perfect “10”! Thanks for sharing how your perseverance and hard work paid off.

  123. Thank you for the great use of your real life experiences to put it out there about perseverance, patience, and work ethic. Inspiring piece.

  124. Thanks Heather, Beautifully written. And very inspiring to people (like me) who are in the middle of wrangling manuscripts. If there is one thing I have learnt from writing groups and published authors it is that the writers ability to really understand and accept feedback is probably more important than raw talent. You show that editing isn’t easy and needs both humility and confidence to persevere

  125. Practice and determination. Never giving up if it’s what you truly want. Thanks, Heather. And congratulations. You book looks great.

  126. Yes! I agree that 12×12 and critiquing has been so wonderfully helpful and motivating. I might not always agree with the specific suggestions, but they always turn me onto something, and sometimes the act of revising one way, gives me a new insight that steers me back to an earlier draft and helps me revise in another, better way. Every revision, every comment has merit, because it helps me delve deeper into the story, and to understand the character–and my own intention–more. Thank you for sharing such wonderful thoughts!

  127. Thank you! Reading author posts is like going to church sometimes – always need the reminder of the path to true writing!

  128. Inspiration jumps off the page of this post. Revisions, re-visiting your original vision, “perfect practice,” perseverance and patience – all great insights! Now I’m curious to see the result of all your hard work, Heather. Can’t wait to “dive into” your new book! Cheers!

  129. Heather, Wow! perseverance, perfectionism, sit your butt down, revise and tweak. So good to be reminded of the very things we need to do each day. From your lips to God’s ears, we will be rewarded. Wait for it, is my new Mantra. Thank You for your inspiring post. Joan

  130. Yes. We always need to consider our audience. We are writing for children. They are interested in other children. Watch when two babies pass each other in strollers. They are interested in the other child not adults. They are boring. So for sure it makes sense to change your protagonist to a child.

  131. I love Heather’s article. So much of what was stated I can relate to. Patience through revision after revision. Perseverance – I am so determined to stick it out. Thank you Heather for offering hope in this crazy, competitive, addictive world of children’s book writing.

  132. So fascinating to see how this seemingly completely different activity/passion helped you with your writing. Congrats on your book!

  133. Great reminder of just how important perseverance and patience– not just in our writing journey but in our life’s journey. Thanks for the reminder Heather and congratulations on your book. Catchy title for sure.

  134. Heather thank you for your message of perseverance. I enjoyed hearing your story and look forward to reading your book. Best wishes.

  135. Your perseverance and perfectionism in diving and writing certainly has paid off. Well done!

  136. Heather, thanks for sharing your story of focus and perseverance . . . the qualities we need to take and keep taking our “dives.” Putting ourselves and our writing out there does take courage, and being willing to follow what a story may call for or the suggestions of a critique take the kind of humility and perceptiveness you describe.

  137. Congratulations on your debut picture book! Inspiration abound in your 3Ps…definitely going to be a sticky note on my monitor!


  138. Thank you for sharing your writing journey. Your post was heartfelt and insightful. Always so motivational to hear how a writer’s hard work ended in publication.

  139. Great post, thank you for sharing your journey. It does seem hard to keep going and I love your analogy to diving and practicing.

  140. Heather, thanks for sharing your story of focus and perseverance. And likening our risk and courage in putting ourselves and our work out there to diving off the board. For the first time in my life, I can think of myself an athlete!

  141. Your post really hit home for me in many ways. My oldest daughter is a varsity swimmer and your story of perseverance brought tears to my eyes. Unless you are a swimmer or family member of a swimmer, there is nothing like the sights, sounds, smells (chlorine), and emotions during a swim meet. I can see how you transferred your determination and success to the writing world. Thank you for sharing.

  142. Thanks for the blog and encouragement through your own writing (and diving) journey! Perseverance is key, thanks for the reminder.

  143. Very inspiring post. Thanks, Heather. I enjoyed reading about your diving experience and how it relates to writing.

  144. Thank you for this interesting post and congratulations on your debut picture book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  145. Great post, Heather! Love the comparisons to your diving career. Especially that being a little afraid can lead to a better performance. Thank you!

  146. Thank you for sharing these wonderful posts. Heather, your journey is always just the thing we writer’s need to read about to inspire and encourage us to keep trudging through the trenches until we are strong enough to climb our way out and reach our goals. Thanks for being my inspiration this month!

  147. Thank you so much Heather for your inspirational blog. I laugh at new writers who say they are going to write a picture book because it is so easy. Your blog shows just how hard that process is. I have been struggling for years with a couple of PB manuscripts. Thank you for reminding me that giving up is not an option. It is encouraging to see someone who struggled to get it perfect finally succeeded.

  148. Ah…perseverance. And focus. and practice. I’m on draft 21 over here (and it’s really more than that — that’s just since I started numbering…), so this post really rings true for me!

  149. Ahhh, Heather. Thank you so much for the wonderful reminder to hang in with “perfect practice making something perfect.” It’s always been my life’s motto, too, one I’ve tried to instill in the students I’ve taught and coached over the years as a dance team director. Congratulations on your beautiful story and may God continue to bless you to be a blessing to the children of the world.

  150. Thank you for sharing your personal journey and inspiration, Heather. Congrats to your well deserved success!

  151. Ahhh, Heather. Thank you so much for the wonderful reminder to hang in with “perfect practice making something perfect.” It’s always been my life’s motto, too, one I’ve tried to instill in the students I’ve taught and coached over the years as a dance team director. Congratulations on your beautiful story, A symphony of Cowbells, and may God continue to bless you to be a blessing to the children of the world.

  152. Heather, great post, great metaphors for writing. Congratulations on the payoff (first of many, no doubt) for your perseverance. Thanks for the macro and micro insights.

  153. Wow, that was a great post. You covered a lot of ground, ground that definitely can help us improve.

  154. Thank you for your post. I totally resonate with “trusting your gut” and “it’s okay to be afraid.” Sometimes our first instincts are the best ideas and living a creative life is not always easy! Congratulations on your new book!

  155. I always tell my kids that you can’t be brave unless you are at least a little afraid. So nice to have this reminder for me in my writing too. I’m going to be brave… and hopefully make a splash (of the non-bellyflop variety!). Thanks for this and CONGRATULATIONS!!

  156. Love the line about her dairy cow being a “diary” cow. I totally agree that you need to be careful about every little thing while channeling your inner wordsmith.

  157. This is such an inspiring post… love your diving metaphor and hope you’ll do a diving picture book someday! Thank you:)

  158. Congratulations Heather! What a great post. Love the comparison of writing to diving. And love the It is a great reminder to keep writing every day as you never know when the words you piece together one by one (like a puzzle) are going to turn into something great!

  159. Your 3 P’s paid off. Congratulations on your picture book debut! Hearing you were on draft 20 and that there were more revisions after that encourages me to keep on trying. Thanks for sharing.

  160. Not only the perseverance needed to reach a great manuscript reached the mark with me, but, also, trusting my gut and putting my manuscripts out there because others can see wha I can’t .

  161. Love the comparison of writing to diving! I come from a classical music background myself so I completely relate to the practice aspect — and the right kind of practice. Thank you for sharing this post. I love the title o the book and can’t wait to read it!

  162. Hearing your story is very encouraging. You are a true testimony to hard work and perseverance.

  163. Congratulations on your book and thank you for your inspiring words!! I love the idea of putting words on trial!!

  164. While the thought of standing atop a 3 meter, or even a 1 meter, diving board terrifies me, this was a terrific analogy that resonates – how better to overcome your fear than to climb back up (or sit back down at the computer) & practice, practice, practice (revise, revise, revise) until many attempts (or drafts or years) later, you nail it (it all comes together). Thank you, Heather! And I LOVE A Symphony of Cowbells (I purchased it at NESCBWI 17 for my cow-loving, german-speaking, 29 year-old daughter).

  165. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Really helpful to hear how the iterative process went for you. Congrats!

  166. I really appreciated hearing how many times you revised your manuscript and over how many years. I think many times we can lose hope in a manuscript as time passes, feeling we missed our opportunity. But perhaps it is just that our manuscripts haven’t matured yet. Your remarks on how each revision brought a new solution while pointing out a new problem (which you then tackled in the next revision) highlighted just how much a manuscript can change – and the benefits to letting it change. And a good reminder to go back and revisit older versions of the manuscript if you feel you’ve lost that initial seed of inspiration. Persistence and patience – I will keep practicing these! Thanks!

  167. Thank you for that excellent post. You write about the writing process very well and I am going to follow your example and keep revising.

  168. Thank you for sharing your journey Heather and I cannot wait to read your book! Your encouragement to “trust your gut” spoke to me deeply as I too often lose sight of my original inspiration during a long revision process (or I just paralyze myself with worry that if I get too far from the original inspiration I won’t be able to get it back again or see it through to the final draft). You’re an excellent example of how all life’s endeavors, even athletics, impact our writing. Thank you!

  169. You’ve captured the journey we’re all on so well. I especially appreciate that practicing alone won’t get us there. I’m also glad that this journey won’t require stitches. Congratulations on your debut book. Looking forward to reading it.

  170. Congratulations, Heather, on your hard-earned PB release! You’re a great example of how patience and practice pay off. And thank you for the encouraging post and great analogy!


  171. Thanks for the great post, Heather! I love the part about trying new and harder things to gain perspective.

  172. Fantastic post Heather!
    Maybe you can send a copy to Will Ferrell (in case he “needs more cowbell” :).

  173. Thank you for sharing this. Just goes to show we all must put in the work regardless of “bad” writing days or “good” writing days.

  174. Thanks for the reminders about perseverance, perfection and patience, Heather. I dated a diver in college, so your illustrations from the realm of diving were fun to read!

  175. Thanks for sharing your awesome experience as a diver, and how it relates to the perseverance we need as writers. Congrats on your new book!

  176. Thanks Heather for sharing your journey and insights! I really related to the revision process,
    where one needs to strike a delicate balance between being open to outside feedback,
    and at once trusting their gut and staying true to their voice and story. Looking forward to reading you book!

  177. Hello Heather, I read this on April 1st and as I revisit it now (somehow the system doesn’t recognize that I commented), I appreciate one more time your thoughts on perseverence. Thank you and good luck!

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