January is a time of new beginnings. We make promises and resolutions to ourselves that are often broken within the first two weeks. My personal resolution for the 2020 year is to write more often. Or if I am not writing then I must be reading someone else’s writing or studying the business of writing. So, with my resolution in mind and trying to at least keep it for two weeks, I attended the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI) Picture Book from A to Sea Beach Retreat in San Simeon from January 10-12.
The picture book boot camp was directed by a great crew including Rebecca Langston-George, Barbara Bietz and April Halprin Wayland. Like summer camp you arrive with apprehension: who will be there, what will we do and how will I fit in. At least at this camp if I am unhappy I can drive myself home. The opposite would prove to be true. Each of the hosts provided outstanding information about writing in general and writing for children’s books in particular. Our schedule of events started on Friday night at the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. We received the usual welcome and made introductions; this would be the only perfunctory event of the weekend.
The rest of the schedule included a packed itinerary of mentoring round tables, critique groups and workshops on using social media, editing your manuscript, writing query letters and submitting to publishers. The food was outstanding and the company of children’s book authors was delightful. I fit in very well and made new friends like you are suppose to at camp, we just call it networking now that we are all over 14 years old.
Participating in the writing retreat was a great way to jump start my 2020 Year of Writing. Since the retreat I have continued to keep my resolution by trying to be very attentive to why I made it in the first place. The more you write and engage in your craft the better you get at doing it. You make your own luck after all. And after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant on January 26, I decided to adopt the Mamba Mentality as a road map on how to spend more time writing. Kobe was the first to arrive and the last to leave practices, we can all learn from that behavior and dedication.
During the beginning of February, I listened to Stephen King’s book On Writing while driving to work. Hearing the ultimate coach giving a pep talk about how to dedicate more time to writing was a helpful way to stay on track. Throughout the month of February I wrote in my journal about my progress which included studying the children’s book writing market, attending Independent Writers of Southern California meetings, buying a subscription for Publishers Weekly Magazine and editing my second book.
I have now completed my second book. My book started the new year with a total 1400 words. I recognized after the Beach Retreat that was too many words and I needed to really reconsider what I had produced. After many hours of working on drafts, I am submitting my 1000 word manuscript. I have found that this amount of words is a cutoff for many publishers accepting nonfiction children’s picture book manuscripts for children between 4-7 years of age. I feel much better about my book now and hopefully that translates to an offer.
Another thing I learned from the beautiful weekend in San Simeon is that we are all working writers if we are submitting our manuscripts. I am grateful for the guidance I received during the SCBWI Beach Retreat. Rebecca Langston-George, Barbara Bietz and April Halprin Wayland are great cheerleaders who provided a lot of motivational talks and excellent information about writing children’s books. Mamba Forever! RIP Kobe and Gianna.