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12 X 12 September 2019 Featured Author – Lynne Marie

12 x 12 September 2019 Featured Author – Lynne Marie

12 x 12 member Lynne MarieI’m excited and honored to be a guest on the 12 x 12 blog. I was a 12 x 12 Member in the beginning before I got thrown off my path due to a divorce and relocation and have been a Member for many years since I got back on the path. It’s been a privilege to be a Critique Ninja (how cool is that title, I mean, really?) for two years and I look forward to continuing on.

I’d like to share a little bit about myself and my journey, with some takeaway value for those of you who are starting out, who haven’t yet broken through, or who are struggling to sell that second or third book. 

I write punny farm animal picture books. And subversive books. And metafiction books. There, I said it. 

If you look at my body of work, and, if you had an idea of my pending books, you would note that there are NO punny farm animal picture books on that list. Or subversive or metafiction books.

Books by Lynne Marie

I am not saying that punny farm animal books (or subversive or metafiction) can’t or won’t sell. But they weren’t selling for me. It’s only when I starting writing more from heart (something that is obviously not where I naturally lean), that I began to sell. 

My first book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (originally titled School Bus Buddies), sold when I noticed that Scholastic Book Clubs did not have a school bus book in their flyer. It wasn’t entirely easy to write one (think 26 drafts) as I don’t lean toward sentimental and sweet, but I drew on my child’s experiences (notice I said drew upon, not forced in)  and inserted something I love (a Hedgehog – pet I raised) and used its flaw (nervousness and spiking). Those plus market need = success. 

After that book, Scholastic wanted a sequel. I did my research, and they hadn’t had a new 100th day of school book. So the same formula – drawing on my child’s experience and something I loved, plus market need = success. 

Hedgehog's 100th Day of School by Lynne Marie

Keep in mind, I am not always that disciplined, and don’t always write in this way. There needs to be freedom to explore and create, as well. It’s all part of the process. Each story is a step on the path whether practice or publishable, and nothing is ever wasted. But I do believe I can inspire you to create a steadier path. Let’s look at my next success. 

Star of the Christma Play by Lynne Marie

The Star in the Christmas Play was a submission for the 1st Annual Sparkhouse Family Picture Book Contest. As you can predict, I could not draw upon my stash of punny farm animal, subversive, or metafiction stories, yet again. And it’s obvious that I would have to come up with something on the sweet side, with heart, yet again. So that’s what I did. I have discussed the origins of this story in other interviews so I won’t do so here, but I did draw upon (again, just draw upon and let the story flow naturally) personal experiences, my children’s personal experiences, and took inspiration from something that was dear to us (my daughter’s giraffe lovey Raffi) and used its flaw (being too tall). I didn’t win, because they preferred something not seasonal, but they did offer me a publication contract, so it was a win in my book!

At this point, I had three published books under my belt, and I really wanted to publish a fractured fairytale. But, I didn’t want to add another book to my long list of unpublished treasures. So I approached this next book from the angle of “What retelling can I take on that hasn’t been done in a particular way, that I can sell?” I made lists upon lists. Finally, I settled on Moldilocks and the Three Scares, partly because the rhyme just begged for it. Partly because “ The Walking Dead” was popular (but I don’t even watch it), so I thought Zombies might prove to be a hook. And I knew monsters are a perennial hook for kids, as well as fractured fairytales. From its first submission, Moldilocks got interest. The first editor left publishing after expressing interest  and the second editor bought it. 

Moldilocks and the Three Scares by Lynne Marie

I am not in a position to speak about pending projects, but my fifth and final project was a “what do you think about writing books about certain topics explored by children around the world?” I didn’t say, “well, I really wanted to write a punny farm animal story, etc.” I said, “Certainly!” BTW this is something I learned from Mary Lou Carney at my first Highlights Foundation Workshop at Chautauqua in 2001. And so, Let’s Eat: Mealtimes Around the World was born. And I love this book, even though it was something I never would have imagined doing. 

Let's Eat! Mealtimes Around the World by Lynne Marie

I am sure by now, you are noticing a trend. Rather than just writing what I want to write for reasons I want to write and when I want to write, I am doing what I am calling “informed writing,” or “writing with purpose.” 

The stories are still infused with my experiences and my passions, and my words. I have yet to sell any of my punny farm animal stories, my subversive stories, or my metafiction. But I can tell you that I have learned much on my journey so far, and am continuing to learn on my path here  beside all of you (yes, we are all on this path together), and I truly feel I am getting close to pulling it off. 

Please note that, like all of you, I’m not perfect. I can’t always get myself to write as focused as I have for these books (and other pending ones). I can’t even always get myself to write. I am extremely busy with my Picture Book Mechanic Critique Service and my job as a Travel Agent, and most importantly, my job as a single mom. 

I guess the takeaway is that if you are busy, like me, when you have time to write, you need to make it count. So I leave everyone with this wish—write on and write with purpose! Wishing you much success. So happy to be on the path with you all! 


Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 10/16/2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019)  and her first non-fiction picture book, Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019) and more forthcoming. When she’s not cruising around the world, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. She’s represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. You can learn more about her at 

Lynn is offering a copy of Moldilocks and the 3 Scares to one lucky 12 x 12 at this month’s checkout. Get those drafts written!

This Post Has 63 Comments
  1. Thanks for this fantastic post, Lynne Marie! I love your thought – “write on and write with purpose!” You are an amazing presence in the KidLit community! Congratulations on all your wonderful books!

  2. Thanks Lynn Marie for an inspiring post! I love how you say to make your writing time count – this is something I am working on! Congratulations on all of your books!

  3. Thanks for this insightful and inspiring post. I just put in a request for my library to order Moldilocks. Looking forward to reading it!

  4. Wonderful post! I am glad I’ve crossed paths with you…I am now trying to write with purpose. =) And, I’ve already purchased/reviewed Moldilocks! Love it!! Congrats on all your successes!

  5. Great post, Lynne! Thank you for giving us a peek at your publishing journey and for sharing your insights on how important it is to write with purpose!!

    When my kids were little we would go to our local bookstore and they would decide which Christmas book to buy… they are grown and have moved away but I have continued the tradition and I enjoyed reading about Raffi in “The Star in the Christmas Play.”

    I have always loved fairy tales and based my degree on them at Norwich University… and today I am a collector of tales from around the world that aren’t your standard fair and can’t wait for “Moldilocks and the 3 Scares” to get here.

  6. You ninja critiqued a barnyard manuscript of mine and it was so incredibly helpful and insightful – I hope to one day read a barnyard book by you! 🙂

  7. Great advice. But I hope you do get to write what you want. I love farm animals and have written a few of those types of PBs myself. Congratulations on the contract from the contest. That’s a great way to get noticed. Sounds like you’ve got a great career going.

  8. Thank you for sharing your purposeful journey, Lynne Marie. Here’s to finding a purpose with your barnyard animal book with a heart tug. Lots to think about here.

  9. Wow! This post speaks to me in soooo many ways, especially in that way of writing in ways you never envisioned being “your thing. temporarily abandoning such projects in favor of other stories that you could also tell. I feel at a very similar crossroads and this is a nice wake up call, and reminder to keep going, knowing, that what you think you were born to write, and what you end up writing (and selling) can be two very different things, and that’s ok. Thanks!

  10. You certainly have put in a lot of work! I was out of breath just reading your post. Thank you for the great insights. These are really helpful and encouraging. I love your Hedgehog books. A pet hedgehog, huh?? I love it. I’m looking forward to your reading your new books.

  11. Lynne Marie, thank you so much for demonstrating that there is room to be creative within a framework provided by someone else’s purpose. It’s just a matter of time before one of your punny, metaphysical, or subversive books meets the world! And I hear you on not being naturally sweet; one big thing 12×12 has done for me is help bring out the “heart” in my stories.

  12. No matter what interview I read about you, Lynne, I continually learn something about writing. You tell what is helpful to writers in a way we can relate and understand. Thank you for all you do. And congrats on your success!

  13. Thanks so much for sharing this! I enjoyed reading about your journey and how you were able to blend market needs with writing from your own experiences and passions. Would love to see that punny farm animal book sometime!

  14. This was very interesting. I always thought one should write whatever one’s passion is (and I still think that), but I can see how writing to (some) market needs could also work–a piece of learning for me.

  15. Lynne Marie, it takes deep courage to “own” our journeys. I admire how you kept honoring your passion for writing and researched how to make that work successfully in the world of Kidlit. We write from heart and experiences, yet we are also creating a product that needs to “sell” in order to be shared. I applaud your discipline and determination. I hope one day you’ll be able to write and sell your “stash of punny farm animal, subversive, or metafiction stories” that are tucked away. You were my Critique Ninja for a “star” story that I had posted on Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Challenge and offered such worthwhile, in-depth suggestions. I copied and printed out your thoughts, reworked my story, and set it aside for now to “marinate” and “stew.” You’re spot on with your comments! We’re so fortunate that you’ve been willing to participate as a Critique Super-hero. I send you energy and inspiration for continued success and joy!

  16. Thanks for the reality check. While your honesty makes me a bit uncomfortable because it strikes so close to home, ignoring reality doesn’t make it go away. Must think more about writing marketable stories.

  17. This makes so much sense and deserves repeating, until we FINALLY, like you, decide it’s the way to proceed!
    Your combined practical / creative approach suggests a good yardstick by which to measure our ideas.
    As you so aptly put it, we want to make our writing time count and this is the way to do it.
    Thanks for a great post!

  18. Thanks for the confirmation that we can make ourselves write stories other than the ones we’d prefer to write. I want what I want, but your journey shows that changing how to go about getting what I want might be necessary. Congrats on your writing and publishing successes!

  19. I read your books and watched you talk about picture books online for Manuscript Academy. I liked “Moldilocks” and your insight to just write and some things they will not be excited about everything you try to sell and show critique groups, editors, agents, etc. But I believe if I keep trying something will click. You are one busy writer, mother, travel consultant, and diversified story creator. Good luck with future projects.

  20. This was an eye-opening post for me and one that I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about. I love the practical approach you take to your writing and how open you are to taking on projects that are outside your norm. Thanks for sharing your experience and successes with us!

  21. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I love hearing about successful strategies for making writing and illustrating work with a busy life, how success happens, and straightforward, realistic approaches. Brava!

  22. Hi Lynne Marie! Thank you so much for sharing your insights on writing with purpose while journeying on this writing path. Your insight is valuable as each of us have our share of ups and downs and twists and turns upon that path. I appreciate how you describe infusing your own experiences and passions with informed writing strategies. You model seeing a niche and meeting a need. Also, I look forward to articles you contribute to in Children’s Book Insider each month. Thank you for making the picture book community richer with your informative contributions and heart!

  23. Thank you for your post! I was inspired not only by your process and in your sharing in the development as a writer but also your personal honesty. I have also recently separated and it has been difficult to stay on track with my writing (let alone feeling my passion). Slowly but surely I am beginning to feel myself getting on track. Small achievement: starting a document with a title and saving. At least I have that! Onward and forward however…as the only way is through! Thank you!
    ps; I have just ordered several of your books to take into class!

  24. Thank you for sharing your story and your advice. I love your perspective on keeping your own voice, experiences and interests in your writing, while being smart about what the market needs.

  25. This is so interesting to me. You’ve found a way to mix strategy with heart. I love the balance. Thank you for the inspiration!

  26. Lynn Marie,
    I love that you turn your child for inspirations and ideas. I noticed that in writing with a purpose it has come from somewhere other than your own self and ideas. You are turning to the needs of others and putting yours on the back burner. But maybe that is the way it should be. You practice writing in your own way and end up satisfying someone else. Maybe one day your writing will be someone’s purpose and you will already have a story to share.

  27. Lynne, this is such great advice. Writing with purpose and letting our experiences inform rather than drive is an intriguing way to approach the stories. You’ve given us a lot to think about. So glad I have you to help me get make this next step. Thank you!

  28. Lynn, I really enjoyed reading your post. I found it very interesting how you changed your approach to writing and found success. Write with a purpose!

  29. It’s fantastic to see you here, Lynne Marie! You have such a great approach to getting your work published, and I know we’ll be seeing a lot more books from you.

  30. Wow! This post really resonated with me! Thank you so much for this … I too think I need to start “writing with purpose” and not just writing what I want to write because I want to! 🙂

  31. Thank you, Lynne, for sharing your story and illustrating a strong and important point. Congratulations on all your current and future success! Hopefully that will include one of your punny stories.

  32. I can definitely relate to this. I feel like the books that I most enjoy reading are the ones that I want to publish: wry humor, subversive… But the biggest contender in my stack of stuff to query is a heartstrings piece. Go figure!

  33. I may be a little on the late side to catching up with this post, but it was worth the wait. I have been writing and writing the books I like to write, but nothing has quite grabbed an agent, despite some encouraging feedback of late. So, your journey and your success with “writing with purpose” is one I really take to heart. Thank you for sharing … and inspiring!

  34. Thanks so much for the reminder to make it count when I am writing. I do write a lot of different genres so it’s fun to see the diversity in your published work

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