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The Many Gifts of 12×12 in 2012

12x12partyHere we are in the middle of a gift-giving season, and it struck me recently what a gift the 12×12 in 2012 challenge has been for me this year. Here are just a few of the gifts I have received by participating in this challenge:

– A folder full of picture book manuscripts, in various stages of completion

– A new online critique group who have already proven their worth many times over

– An extended group of friendly colleagues who are all thinking and talking picture books along with me

– I won an amazing critique from author Jennifer Ward

– I won a book on revision from Sandy Asher which was EXACTLY what I had been looking for

– Introductions to many authors I’d never read from reading Julie’s blog, Susanna’s blog, and participating in Perfect Picture Book Friday – and even an actual book from a giveaway by the generous Carter Higgins

gifts

– Participation in an online conference with three literary agents, which I never would have found out about if not for 12×12

The biggest gift of all, though, is the deepening knowledge that I CAN DO THIS. I can write a picture book – not just once or twice, but many times. Every month, in fact. And THAT is a gift that will never get old. Thank you to Julie, to the generous authors who contributed, and all the 12×12 participants for all these gifts!

Now, no party is complete without a song, right? While I was thinking about the gifts of 12×12, I went back to Julie’s blog to read her monthly featured-author posts over the course of 2012. Their advice and encouragement during the year were little gifts in and of themselves, well worth re-reading and so I composed a little song (with links in case you want to go back and read the original posts, which I highly recommend!)

The 12 Months of 12×12

(sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas)

In the first month of 12×12 Tara Lazar said to us,

“Make sure you have a good ending.”

In the second month of 12×12 George Shannon said to us,

“Maintain a sense of play.”

In the third month of 12×12 Katie Davis gave great tips

For marketing ourselves and books

In the fourth month of 12×12 were four fab featured authors

Who shared their writing advice

In the fifth month of 12×12 Debbie Diesen gave to us

A primer on rhyme.

In the sixth month of 12×12 Emma Walton Hamilton gave to us

A guideline for “the mucky middle.”

In the seventh month of 12×12 Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen shared wisdom

On protocols, structures, and truth in character

In the eighth month of 12×12 Rebecca Kai Dotlich said to us

“Use poetic devices in picture books”

In the ninth month of 12×12 Julie Hedlund organized

A party full of writerly prizes

In the tenth month of 12×12 Dianne de las Casas invited us

To become picture book month ambassadors

In the eleventh month of 12×12 Linda Arms White told how

To make our stories timeless

In the twelfth month of 12×12 Eileen Spinelli gave us gifts

Of wisdom and encouragement

Are You a Last-Minute Lucy?

So here it is, the middle of the month, and a feeling of mild panic is starting to grow inside me. I know it well — it has happened every month for the last 8, and I’m sure it will continue to happen for the rest of the year.

I’ve been participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge: 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months in 2012. So far, I haven’t missed a month (yay!) but check out the dates in my folder of rough drafts:

The dreaded Blank Page

JANUARY – January 23

FEBRUARY – February 29 (lucky for me it was a leap year!)

MARCH – March 19

APRIL – April 30

MAY – May 25

JUNE – June 21

JULY – July 30

AUGUST – August 30

Notice a pattern?

Now, some of these last-minute manuscripts are complete gibberish. The February one, in particular, needs a few weeks in the ICU. But strangely enough, I’m actually pretty happy with some of these. And I started to wonder…is there something about a deadline that actually spurs creativity? I searched around on the Internet for an answer and, as often happens on the Internet, found equally compelling arguments on both sides. Some eminent scholars say that deadlines can hamper creative thinking because the time pressure prevents risk-taking. Others argue that a deadline spurs people to act and move forward in their creativity. In fact, about the only thing the eminent scholars agree on is that funding is needed for more research into the topic.

In the meantime, I will most-likely continue my last-minute ways for the foreseeable future. Fellow 12x12ers — join me here on September 30 for a last-minute panic party. (Just kidding. I’ll be too busy to throw a party.)

What about you? Does having a deadline ignite your creative spark, or stamp it out?