Wednesday, 21 January 2015

becoming Professional

All of my life I have enjoyed telling stories. When I was quite young I thought I would be a writer and write my stories. As the years flew by my dream of becoming a writer disappeared into the quagmire of my deep subconscious and sat there sulking. As my teens evaporated I toyed with being an artist and even earned money to live on as an artist after I left school. This did not last either. My family and peers at the time put a lot of pressure on me to get a real job that did not involve carting a toddler and baby and twenty five pots of paint, turps, brushes and drop clothes around the country in my little VW. It did not matter that painting made me happy and the kids were fine. So I got a real job in hospitality.

I never stopped telling stories.

Eighteen months ago, give or take a month, I decided it was time to actually tell stories for a living. To that end I left what was yet another in a long string of real jobs and set about becoming a professional writer as a means to being a full time story teller.

One of the most important aspects of being professional is ongoing learning. I have put a lot of time into ongoing learning. I have enrolled in a great many courses, short, long, day, night, trade, degree, diploma, online, offline, recorded and email, oh the ways a person can have courses delivered is only limited by the imagination but I digress, I have studied. I haven't finished all the courses I ever enrolled in but I did learn the content. Making it to the finish line was not always an easy task and that is a story for another day but suffice it to say I studied - a lot. I have various qualifications in hospitality, disability, child care, welfare, science, the arts and of course professional writing. I hold certificates in an incredible number of things from basic canoeing to suicide intervention, in fact the certificated fill two enormous folders bulging at the seams. I didn't make it to the end of any of my five degrees but that is no matter, what I did learn from that is what kind of learner I am. I like to learn in short intense bursts. I like clear outlines and unambiguous outcomes. I like the learning to be relevant to the purpose for which I am learning and I like a certificate at the end. Degrees take too long. If I had attended university as soon as I left high school I would probably have taken a different path in life. Instead life has taken me down many paths and I have learned something new every single day of it. All of that learning adds up to one incredibly full and interesting tool box of experiences to inform my writing.

So twelve-ish months ago I left the day job and began to write in earnest however I also began to make art in earnest and my art caught the interest of others more than the writing was. I became very productive. I made art daily, I wrote daily, I was showing up and doing, every day. I still am writing and making art every day. I did not realise until very recently that I still wasn't being professional.

I joined organisations. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the Fellowship of Australian Writers(FAW) and the Romance Writers of Australia(RWA) and I signed up for magazine subscriptions and paid very good money for more courses. I joined groups on social media sites and began to network. I engaged in competitions and challenges.

BUT I was still not being professional.

Why?

Because I was underutilising the opportunities at my fingertips.

One of the groups I joined was Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 forum. This cost me money. Good money which I can't afford to throw down the toilet.  I filled in my profile and looked around the forum and occasionally commented on something someone posted and uploaded a couple of story openings. Each month I completed a draft and earned my draft and revision badges but I DID NOT USE THE FORUM EFFICIENTLY. There was so much more I could have learned and done but failed to.

I was launching head first into my 6 figure writing career and everyone was supposed to fall instantly in love with my stories and... well I set myself up for a big splat nose to the floor kind of fall.

I have studied writing and art, I read widely, I have lots of life experience but I was not being professional enough. I needed to learn to network with people, take them from names on a list to people I know well enough to be more than acquaintances into possible friends and colleagues. I needed to open the magazines that came each month and actually read them. Gosh they are full of industry tips and information, craft polishing stuff. Wow who would have thought that those pieces of information from industry experts would actually benefit my own works? See - unprofessional amateur thinking in my corner. 

Yesterday I spent cleaning up and organising my desk and papers and took dozens of magazines out of their still sealed envelopes and put them in folders clearly marked and began to read them. I woke at 5am today and sat for the last two and a bit hours reading back issues of a children's writers magazine I have been paying for. This week I began to read and review the 133 books on my Kindle that have been gathering pixel dust. I have knocked over 10 from the list 123 to go.

There are hundreds if not thousands of articles and blog posts on how to be professional in any field. Most of these lists have commonalities such as turning up on time, learning the craft, ongoing learning and professional development, respect, good communication skills, subscribing to magazines and organisations pertinent to the profession, and so on but the bottom line is attitude. If I don't think like a professional I never will be one. I will always remain an amateur playing at a hobby.

So as any professional worth his or her pay cheque I am going to learn from my mistakes.
 
There are good things to tell about the last eighteen months and that too is Professional. Self evaluation is a vital part of the professional process. Eighteen months ago if I were asked what I do for a living I would make some vague response and link it to whatever real job I happened to be employed in. Now I quite clearly state that I am a writer and illustrator. It rolls off my tongue because I have embraced it, I own it, I believe it.  That has been my biggest shift in professionalism.

My art still has a long way to go to be truly at a professional level but I practice every day. EVERY day. I am beginning to recognise what sorts the wheat from the chaff, what it is that makes a piece of art work professional and I can see that my art isn't there yet but it is becoming.

My writing makes people laugh and cry and I write every day. Some days I write a lot, as much as 11,000 words in a single day and sometimes I write a single sentence but I write every day. EVERY day.

I am becoming a Professional Writer and Illustrator. It is on my business card so it must be true. :)






Thursday, 15 January 2015

Happy Birthday

Today has been a joyful day.
It has been my birthday all day and it is almost midnight so I thought I would pop a happy birthday post in here. People from all over the world sent me birthday greetings and wishes and I have a huge smile on my face.  A little family came to visit me and brought balloons for my birthday. I do love balloons.
and my oldest son and his lovely wife gave me sunflowers. My daughter attempted to make a very elaborate cake without consulting me and downloaded a recipe from the internet which was not quite translatable but she did manage to produce a magnificent rafaello cake with butter cream, cream cheese filling and a topping of white chocolate ganache after a lot of tears and crashings about and a mountain of dishes. IT WAS DELICIOUS and simply looking at it I can feel the weight attaching itself to my body.
my youngest son hid Pfeffernuisse in spots around the house - whole packets that is- for me to find in a kind of treasure hunt because he knows I like them. I did not expect ten packets though.

and on my social media sites I had dozens of greetings and well wishes from all around the world. What a marvelous day. I feel very cared about. I now have three meal invitations so I will continue to celebrate for the next three days and I am going to see a play on Friday night. West Side Story performed by the Holiday Actors, a troupe of teenagers and young adults from Warrnambool. How extraordinarily loved I feel right now. I am so very grateful for all the wonderful people in my life, especially my children. Thank you all for making my day so wonderful.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Revising in ReviMo

http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com.au/p/revimo-2015.html
Revising is an important part of polishing any manuscript to readiness and this week we have the annual ReviMO. Yes another challenge with a funny name. Revising for a week in January for picture book writers predominantly, the week is organised and run by Meg Miller. She is a writer and artist and many other wonderful things and you can find out all about her on her blog by clicking the cute picture.

Meg has gathered a veritable treasure trove of blog guests to tell us all about the nitty gritty bits and bobs of revising and has filled the treasure chest with incredibly generous prizes for participants. 

Revising occurs anytime there is a manuscript at the end of its first draft and it might seem odd to gather for a week in January but cheering each other on is an amazing motivator. Networking and encouraging is a wonderful part of the kidlit world and ReviMo is just another example of the kind and generous people who  populate it.

 Writers from all around the world have joined for this intense week of revising and we have a facebook group to gather and support each other in.

If you are a children's writer and think a community and quality blog posts would help you polish your work then come and take a look at ReviMO.

I spent today ripping a manuscript to pieces, slicing it up, cutting out words, discussing it and piecing it back together. I think it might just be a much more marketable idea now but there is more writing to do. I like ReviMo for giving me a dedicated time to set aside everything else and just revise.

Thanks Meg Miller.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Kidlit 411 birthday bash day 3

Interview with Lori

Agent Spotlight

As the final day of Kidlit 411's Birthday Bash, the Kidlit 411 blog features Lori Kilkelly, an agent at Rodeen Literary Management.
Rodeen Literary Management represents children's writers and illustrators. 

If you have a completed PB or MG, be sure to enter into today's giveaway to bypass the slush pile and query Lori Kilkelly!


Come and read the post and see if Lori Kilkelly could be the right agent for you.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Kidlit Birthday Bash Day 2: All About Craft

http://www.kidlit411.com/2015/01/Kidlit411-Giveaway-Days-Craft-Courses.html
Welcome to Day 2 of the Kidlit411 Birthday Bash Giveaway! 

Today's prizes are all about improving our writing and illustration craft. This is the second of the three day giveaway:


  • TODAY, Jan. 6, ALL ABOUT CRAFT - giving away classes and critiques
  • TOMORROW, Jan. 7 Agent Spotlight - giving away a submission opportunity
You may enter into any and all of the giveaways. All giveaways end at noon, EST, Jan. 15, 2015.

Bonus for Facebook members: come and find out what they are.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

KidLit411

KIDLIT411If you are  writing a children's book  Kidlit 411 is the, go to, blog for  all of your favorite information sources in one place.

The People of 411 
 KIDLIT411 founder, Elaine Kiely Kearns is currently chasing the dream as a published author. Armed with a master's degree in Education and working from her home office, she spends her time perusing the internet for golden nuggets of information about children's writing and creating her own picture book and middle grade stories.


Sylvia Liu is the other half of KIDLIT411, keeping the site running, adding links, and overseeing the illustrations and Illustrator Spotlight. She is a writer and illustrator. She is the winner of the 2013 Lee and Low New Voices Award and her winning manuscript, A MORNING WITH GONG GONG, will be published as a picture book. 

KIDLIT411 links are also contributed by their critique group buddies, Alayne Kay ChristianRenee LaTulippeYvonne MesTeresa Robeson and VICTORIA RICHARDSON WARNECK.


Goals of 411

Their goal is to organise relevant information about writing and illustrating for children in one handy spot, right here. The site includes:

  • Topical Pages - links to articles and resources organized by topics. 
  • Author & Illustrator Spotlights - each week, they feature an author and an illustrator (or an author-illustrator), who share their experience with you.
  • The Weekly 411 - each week, they compile the new links that were added during the week in an update post. You can receive this by email by subscribing to email updates (in the left hand sidebar).

So spend some time, browse, click, connect as they welcome you to the world of kid lit writers and illustrators!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy and well organised New Year

so Happy New Year for the first of many New Year celebrations that occur throughout the first six or eight months of any given year just ask Aunty Google. We humans are an interesting lot.
My New Year started out in the middle of a week of professional development. A great way to begin I am thinking. I have learned a whole host of technical things that I should have known a long time ago but somehow didn't. I now know how to put the meta data in my documents and how to go about watermarking my scanned art. I also have a working calendar on my computer which will help me keep track of all the things going on in my life and I have organised the new folders for the new art in the new year. To my friend Mica


There are many people who have made my life easier because they have been part of my journey. Nearby I have Helen, Ronda and Glenda  as well as Laura and Judith and the whole family headed by Janet who have all played a big role in keeping me sane and filled with enough tea and tucker to weather the weather. My sister Mim further afield and a whole host of others who play their part in the great jigsaw puzzle of my life. Each one no matter how large or small is part of the beauty of the whole picture and I thank you all. 


I finished off last year doing the kind of things that make me smile. I visited friends and went to a movie, ate good food in good company and helped with some jigsaw puzzles. I saw the final installment of the Hobbit movies which left me pondering. The pondering led me to think on series which go flat on the second or last book because the writer has run out of oomph. I felt a touch of that with this final movie. Still the same good actors and the visual beauty of the scenery but it felt to me like someone had fallen asleep at the wheel five hundred metres from the front gate. There were funny moments to break up the long serious bits but there was no time and space to grieve the deaths or even feel grief at the deaths. I was expecting to need two boxes of tissues at the demise of the house of Durin and instead found myself discussing the weather as I left the cinema. After the last two movies I spent hours, days, and months dissecting scenes with my offspring, quoting lines, drooling over the heroics, waxing lyrical over the scenery and arguing over how much leeway Peter Jackson had taken with the original material and I purchased merchandise. This time it was, okay I saw a movie what's for dinner? It was pleasant and I did laugh at one scene and it ties up the loose ends and is a neat finish for the franchise but...

On to other things. During my PD week I revamped my blog. Did you notice? I don't notice things like that either unless they are blatantly obvious and I can't avoid noticing. I do like the changes and I am learning more things along the way such as how to put in tabs so I can have art in one and stories in another and my book covers in yet another. I have to take a notch up in my skill base to push forward with this career path I have chosen.


So I wish to do a little round up of my last year to celebrate my achievements.
I had stories published in eight anthologies

I won a grand prize for 14:14 back in February which included a professional critique, books and a pep talk
I won some smaller prizes too...

I recieved art from two professional artists

I participated in(I bet I forget some)
  • Start the Year Off Write
  • Revision Month (Revimo) plus mini Revisions each month
  • 14:14
  • PB Marathon
  • Rhyming Picture Book Month
  • Chapter Book Challenge
  • A to Z blog hop
  • CampNaNoWriMo  twice
  • NaNoWriMo
  • Sub Six
  • 52 week illustration challenge
  • PiBoIdMo
  • SkaDaMo
  • HoHoDooDa
  • Doodle Day
I also submitted to several of Susanna Leonard Hill's competitions both art and short stories. I submitted to several other short story competitions and have had my fifth story accepted for AntipodeanSF.
I submitted each month to Rate Your Story on their free days and have finally joined as a member.
I polished and edited and sent out two novels which I began writing in NaNoWriMo in 2013.
I started a rejections folder which now contains 13 letters/emails.
I have begun five more novels and completed 12 picture book drafts for 12x12 of which I have been a member at silver level all year.

I also participated in critique groups and became a member of a local writing group.

I have created about 700 pieces of art and attended art classes on and offline. Some of my art has been published in anthologies and I have created art for specific purposes for other writers.

 I attend a public speaking club where I occasionally act as coach.

Oh and I still keep my family fed and hugged, have cuppas with my friends close by and keep in touch with extendeds through social media.

Not a bad tally for the year.

Did I mention I became a grandmother twice over which took no effort whatsoever and boosted my joy level into infinity.

Just for fun a friend changed a meme for me and I am suspecting it may be worth thinking on.