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Why do you think it’s important for unpublished writers to promote themselves?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