By Emily Johnsen
One of the esteemed keynote speakers at this fall's North Texas SCBWI Conference will be children's book author and founder of the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, Julie Hedlund. I had the honor of e-chatting with Julie to find out a little bit more about how she so successfully and creatively made children's book writing into a lucrative business. With some out-of-the-box thinking, inspiration, and perseverance, you, too, can Make It Your Business. So without further ado, here's Julie:
1. What brought you to this career path?
I took the circuitous route. I was a huge reader, always, and loved writing as a child. I never expected I could be a "real" writer though, so I spent many years in the banking industry before returning to my love of literature in a serious way. I was inspired by the books I was reading to my children and, of course, by their own antics.
2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
All of my experience is self-generated. Meaning, I didn't study English in college or get an MFA. I did take many children's writing courses, joined organizations like SCBWI, and read hundreds (literally) of blog posts and other material about writing for children. I am proof that you don't need a degree or a lifetime of writing to be successful. You do need LOTS of patience and perseverance.
3. 12 X12 is a challenge to write 12 picture books in 12 months. What initially inspired you to create this challenge?
What initially inspired me to create 12 x 12 was MY need to generate more picture book drafts. Picture book authors need to be prolific in order to succeed, and let's just say I was not at all prolific before I created 12 x 12. I would write maybe one new draft a year, then spend a year revising. Not a recipe for success. For full disclosure, I have never written 12 drafts in a year. I am averaging between 5-7 though, and revising like crazy every month. I'm not only a much stronger writer, but in that time, I signed with an agent and have had multiple manuscripts go on submission (including two right now!).
4. I believe 12 X 12 is in its 6th year. How has it changed from your original vision? And how has that changed your life?
First, I could never have imagined how big it would become, or that it would turn into a family. I call it "The Greatest Writing Community on Earth" because the level of support and camaraderie we give each other makes all the difference in our careers. Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember all of my 12 x 12 members and how we're not only all in it together, but that I need to find the strength and energy to keep THEM going when they're down. If 12 x 12 disappeared (not likely since I run it – LOL), I'd probably have to give up writing picture books.
The original vision is still there – a place of support, encouragement, and accountability for writing. It's just gotten bigger to include more specific kinds of support and education, such as manuscript critiques, webinars, submission opportunities, book studies, etc.
5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
I always want to think I can come up with an original answer to this question, but the truth is, the recipe for success is the same for all children's book writers – new and established. Read, write, revise, repeat. And never, ever give up.
Thank you, Julie! I look forward to meeting you face-to-face in September!
Register now for the upcoming It’s Your Business: 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference!
Date(s) – 09/23/2017
8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Addison Conference & Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road – Addison, Texas 75001