Reflecting on an Exciting 2nd Year of Writing Picture Books

As 2019 – and with it the current decade – draws to an end, I’m looking back on an exciting second year of writing picture books and of immersing myself in the kidlit world. In my yearly review at the end of 2018 I was able to list many “firsts” such as creating my author website and joining SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). This time I’ve decided to do a month-by-month breakdown of the year’s main highlights, followed by a few general stats at the end. So here goes:

January
– I started 2019, and in fact ended 2018, by taking part in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers (registration is already open for this year and it’s free – I’d highly recommend it!)
– Throughout the month I took part in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, coming up with 41 new story ideas. I also won a Storystorm Grand Prize – a critique of 5 of these ideas by the lovely Victoria Selvaggio, Literary agent and Partner at Storm Literary Agency!

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– I entered Tara Luebbe’s Writing With the Stars mentorship contest.
– I signed up for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge, which I then benefited from immensely all year round. I’ve enjoyed 12 quality webinars and access to a forum where members can post manuscripts for critique, in addition to a wealth of information and the most friendly and helpful community imaginable (I’m definitely signing up again in 2020 and every year in the foreseeable future!!).

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February
– I joined a new (British) picture book critique group, Little Bookers, and have been able to critique some wonderful manuscripts as well as receiving excellent feedback on my stories in return.
– I took part in WriteOnCon, an online conference for kidlit writers.
– I entered Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Writing Contest and was awarded recognition for great kid appeal!
– I beta-tested Colleen Riordan’s fantastic online course Fan by Fan: The KidLit Guide to Book Marketing! via Wild Ink Marketing.

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March
I took part in:
– Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month)
– Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords Writing Contest (at that point I would never have believed that Vivian would later in the year become my mentor!)
– Michelle Hauck’s Picture Book Party
I applied for:
– An SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award
– The Ann Whitford Paul—Writer’s Digest Manuscript Award

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April
– I took a much-needed break, and was away for almost an entire month! I visited family in England, attended a schoolfriend’s wedding in Wales, then hubby and I flew off to Asia for 2 weeks for his 40th birthday. Which meant I got almost zero writing done, but I returned home to Austria at the end of the month refreshed, happy and ready to jump back into the kidlit world with vigour!

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May
– I spent most of the month catching up on critiques and 300+ emails that had built up throughout April!

June
– I applied for Justin Colón’s inaugural PBChat Mentorship program…

July
… I found out I’d won a PBChat mentorship with picture book author Vivian Kirkfield!!

PBChat Announcement

August
– I connected with Vivian and, despite being away in England and France the whole month, managed to get started on revising several manuscripts with her help.
– While in England I had the opportunity to meet up for the first time with all but one of the Little Bookers, my amazing British critique group (Sophia, we missed you!).

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September
– I entered Amy Sparke’s Picture Book Prize contest.
– I took part in Lauren Kerstein’s ReVISIONweek, picking up lots of great tips, and I also won a manuscript critique by Lauren herself.

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October
– I entered Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Writing Contest.
– My manuscript A Bee-ginner’s Guide to Humankeeping was awarded the top rating in Rate Your Story.
– I took part in Picture Book Summit – a fantastic online conference packed with talks by superstar speakers, agents and editors.

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November
– I attended my first SCBWI conference: The SCBWI British Isles Conference in Winchester, and had an absolutely amazing time attending inspirational talks and connecting with loads of talented and friendly fellow writers.

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December
– I took part in the PBChat Showcase, open to 2019 mentees of the PBChat Mentorship program, and received a request from an agent as well as interest from an editor at a publishing house.

And now, to bring things full circle, I’m looking forward to ending the year and starting the next one by participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers, which kicks off on 26th December!

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Finally, a few general stats for the year. In 2019, I…
… had 3628 views of my website by 2037 visitors (up from 2016 views by 1116 visitors in 2018).
… published 52 blog posts.
… participated in 22 webinars (including the 12 webinars that come with membership of the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge).
… attended 5 in-person meet-ups of Vienna Writers for Young Readers.
… gained 1229 new Twitter followers (bringing my current total to 2344).
… read 500 picture books (only half of the 1000 I read last year, but it brings my 2-year total up to 1500, which I’m happy with!).

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… took part in 7 Twitter pitch parties (4 x #PitMad, 3 x #Pbpitch), receiving 1 like from an agent, followed by a request to see more manuscripts.
… and most importantly (but hardest to put a figure on because of the rather chaotic way I work on various projects simultaneously!), I wrote several new manuscripts and continually revised older ones based on feedback from my lovely critique partners and my eternally helpful mentor, Vivian.

What were some of your writing highlights in 2019? Or what are your goals for 2020? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment on my blog posts this year. I wish you a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones!

14 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Helen. Congratulations to all your successes this past year. It was 1 year of writing for me in November. I’m hoping this next year to revise and polish some stories to start querying. Happy Holidays and good luck in 2020.

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  2. Holy cow this is such an amazing year (and the fact that you remember it all is super astounding too ha). I’m so proud of all you e accomplished and can’t wait to see what extra special things happen in 2020 from all your hard work and dedication

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I tend to throw myself into nearly every online picture book course, contest and challenge that comes my way (most of which just happen to be US-based). As a result, in 2019 I won a Storystorm Grand Prize, was chosen for a #PBChat Mentorship by the wonderful Vivian Kirkfield, received a rating of “1” for one of my manuscripts via Rate Your Story, and other cool things besides. (You can read my summary of 2019 here). […]

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