Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Unread - Interview with Julie Hedlund

It's been a long time since I've done any Unread interviews, but I enjoy them so much and have missed them! I mean hey, I love asking writers questions plus it's so fun to watch writers go from unread to read! Mike Jung, Ame Dyckman, and Tara Lazar will all be published this year. Woohoo! Now we can look back at their interviews and see what they thought way back when before they were published.

For the first interview in my Unread revival I am delighted to have Julie Hedlund as my guest. She is the creative host of the popular 12x12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge that has brought many wonderful picture book writers together and she's just back from what I'm certain was a fabulous trip to SCBWI Bologna! Even with all she has going on in her busy life, Julie was kind enough to take some time out and talk to me about her writing. But Julie is just nice like that!

So Julie, how did you come up with 12x12 in 2012?

After PiBoIdMo in 2010, I had 30 shiny new PB ideas, but I only wrote one manuscript based on those ideas (although I was still working on others). I decided I needed to dramatically increase my writing output. I am very deadline-driven, so I came up with 12 x 12 as a way to make sure I wrote at least one new story a month. Then I decided to invite others to join in for additional accountability.

Why do you think it’s important for unpublished writers to promote themselves?

I don’t think promotion is important so much as building a network and an online presence. It takes a while to learn the skills associated with all things social media – blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc. It’s better to experiment and move through your learning curve with a couple dozen followers versus hundreds.

In addition, you want to build a network organically and authentically, and that doesn’t happen overnight. So I think it’s best to start early so you have a strong foundation once your book is published.

Has anything amazing happened because of 12x12 so far?

Yes! The 12 x 12, and another post on my blog, caught Katie Davis’ attention. She invited me to come on her podcast at the beginning of the year and then to be a monthly contributor on the show.

I hope I’ll start hearing lots of 12 x 12 success stories from other participants as the challenge proceeds.

Why did you decide you focus on writing for children, and on picture books in particular?

I didn’t really decide. Like many mothers, I was inspired by my kids and the books I was reading to them. I found I had a lot of my own stories I wanted to tell. I fell in love with the picture book genre and the rest, as they say, is history. BUT, I do plan to write in other genres down the road.

What types of stories do you write?

I write primarily in rhyme, but I’ve been experimenting more with prose. I’ve written completely original stories, fractured fairy tales, and take-offs on common legends. I’d say one common theme to my stories is humor. I like funny and “punny” stories.

What do you think is the hardest part about writing? What’s the easiest?

The hardest part is deciding that something is “finished” and ready for submission. I’m not sure there is an easiest part – LOL! If I had to choose something I’d say writing a first draft because there is no pressure to make it great (yet).

Do you belong to a critique group? How has it helped you?

I belong to two critique groups – one online and one in-person. Getting critiques from other writers is essential for everyone. You simply cannot be as objective as you need to be about your own work.

You plan to write 12 complete picture book drafts this year as part of your 12x12 challenge. How is it going so far?

So far, so good. I’m writing this post in February, and I have 2 drafts completed. I hope by the time this interview goes live I’ll have my March draft finished too!

What do you do with your completed manuscripts? Do you have a submission strategy?

My goal this year is to submit a minimum of 5 queries a month for my picture books. I didn’t meet that goal in January, but I did in February. I’m sure I’m not alone in that I hate querying, but there’s no way to sell a book without sending queries!

With all that’s involved with holding an even like 12x12 in 2012, how are you managing to find the time to write and submit?

This year I set concrete writing and submission goals. I keep them open on my desktop and check them off. Even though the 12 x 12 challenge is a lot of work, it’s also a huge motivator. What would it look like if the organizer didn’t “win” her own challenge? :-)

You post some of your work on your blog. Have you ever gotten any interest that way?

Not yet, but a girl can hope! :-)

And the question I always want to know the answer to, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

Fun question! I guess I’d have to say Middle Earth because Aragorn is one of my biggest literary crushes. I would love to have been one of the members of the “Fellowship.”

You can learn lots more about Julie at her blog: Write Up My Life. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook where she's recently shared lots of great tips from her SCBWI Bologna trip!


  1. Oh my gosh, what a fabulous interview! YAY for you doing this feature again!

    Congrats to Julie on all this success and big thanks of the twelve by twelve. I am signed up and taking very silent part. So far have three new pb drafts! And-good, good idea on the five queries per month. Keep your work out there. All best and welcome back from Bologna!

  2. Great interview, Ladies. I'm clicking over to Julie's blog now to learn more.

  3. Heather, thanks so much for having me on your blog. It's such an honor to be one of THE UNREAD - LOL. As you know, my kids LOVE Bedtime Monster, so when I tell them that I am on the author's blog, they'll be so excited! :-)

  4. I really enjoyed the interview ladies. I'm very inspired by the five queries per month. I like that goal. Congrats on the monthly appearance on Katie Davis's podcast, that's terrific Julie!

  5. Julie, I agree that goals are what make everything possible. I have my "to do" list too, but I think I need to be more aggressive on the querying side. I've only sent one out so far this year. Yikes! I think setting a "# of queries per month" goal is a great idea.

  6. Nice interview. I'm a 12 X 12er and so appreciate the work and organization you have put into this challenge Julie.

  7. Sending a big 'high five' to Julie and Heather for this terrific, fun interview!

  8. Terrific interview, Julie! I'm SO glad you started 12X12 in 2012 - it was the kick in the butt I needed!!

  9. Great interview, both of you!

    I'm delighted to be a part of 12 x 12, and am so inspired by all that Julie does. Wow -- five queries a month? That staggers my imaginstion.

    Thank you so much, Julie, for doing all that 12 x 12 entails, and thank you for this interview.

    To your success! (To quote someone else who inspires me very much, Emma Walton Hamilton.)

  10. I am pretty sure Julie Hedlund will go from Unread to Read! She is so talented and has helped so many people with 12 x 12!

    Fabulous interview!

  11. Great interview! Julie you will be in the READ category very soon!

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  13. Elizabeth Stevens Omlor said...
    Great post! I love the idea of The Unread! Julie is obviously going places! Although I am left feeling slightly verklempt to know that people query five times a month! Yeesh. :)

    March 27, 2012 10:11 AM

  14. Great interview. Thanks again Julie for setting up the 12x12. Hmm, so you would like to live in the Middle Kingdom. Yes Aragon did have some nice heroic qualities, if I remember.

  15. I'm so glad to hear you're all enjoying the interview! I loved doing it. And Julie! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my prying questions and for telling me again how your kids love Bedtime Monster. It just makes me smile a big, goofy smile!

    As for querying, I think five a month is a great and doable goal that can be accomplished. Writers, don't be afraid of querying. You can do it!

  16. Oh Julie! Five queries a month? You had us at 1 draft! The fame and admiration is already at hand, the books are surely close behind! Great interview - thank.

  17. Thanks you guys for all your lovely comments! As for the queries, well, now that I have 4 submission-ready manuscripts (at least in my mind - LOL), I realized that querying in a dribble every three months probably wasn't going to get me anywhere any time soon.

    It is terrifying to query. I hate it. I hate it because every time you hit "send" you are giving somebody the opportunity to reject you. So I found that my tendency was to send three queries maybe once a quarter (or truthfully, once every six months or even a year!).

    So it took realizing that sending those queries is also the only way anybody can "accept" you, to motivate me to set that goal. Maybe I'll write a blog post about it at some point... :-)

  18. Julie - Wonderful interview! I, for one, am really glad we met (on-line) and am thankful for your 12 x 12 challenge!

  19. Great interview! I have not completed a single draft in 2012, but I still love being part of the 12 x 12 Facebook group!

  20. Wonderful interview, Julie and Heather! I, too, hope you join the ranks of published authors very soon! Thanks for all you do for us, Julie!

  21. Just stumbled upon your blog thanks to Julie! I got to learn more about Julie's journey and got to meet knew people like you, Heather. Great interview!

    It's great to know that we are all in this together supporting each other.

  22. Great interview, ladies! Ah, Aragorn. My literary crush, too!

  23. Great interview from 2 of my favorite bloggers! Thanks :)

  24. Excellent interview! I loved reading. Yay 12 x 12!!!!!!!!!!

  25. What a great interview! I can't wait to read one of Ms. Hedlund's books :) I have learned a lot from 12x12 and all the interviews Ms. Hedlund has done!

  26. Wonderful interview! 12x12in2012 is the reason I am actually creating layouts and writing towards my PB dreams. Love Julie Hedlund and feeling I am part of something.

  27. Thanks so much for sharing Julie with us as part of the Unread interviews. I loved finding out more about her. I watch and learn from the 12x12 and follow along with my own stories. Great idea! :)

  28. Great interview, ladies! Thanks for sharing.

  29. Thanks for sharing, Julie! You are still many steps ahead of me towards publishing, and it's inspiring and encouraging to hear about your writing life and progress!! The best is yet to come!

  30. Great interview, ladies! I love the Unread (sadly, I haven't brought Heather's unpubbed to pubbed odds up yet but I'm still trying) and Julie's blog and, of course, the 12X12. You both are integral parts of my support system :) Thanks!

  31. Great interview! Thank you for the 12x12 Julie, it keeps me writing!