by Carrie Charley Brown
Writing allows me to turn my internal reflections into external expression at my own pace. That must be why I connect on a deeper level with my online writing friends. I get time to revise words in my head before speaking. From critique groups to swap partners to social media writing groups and class forums, our interactions are mostly written. How perfect.
Fear shouldn’t hold you back from joining online groups. The first online writing community I ever participated in was Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) group on Facebook. It allowed me to observe the way writers interacted and then slowly join in myself. From there, I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 picture book challenge which took the interaction to a whole new level. When you can actually see what people are working on and offer feedback on their work (as well as receive), you get to know a lot about a writer really fast. This is how I met my writing partner and fellow Rumpus writer, Kirsti Call. Now keep in mind that Kirsti lives in New England and I am in Texas. Our partnership extended into an online critique group with other New England area picture book writers, and fellow Rumpus writers Carol Gordon Ekster, Josh Funk, and Paul Czajak. I feel like I have a family in New England now! As time progressed, our family expanded and changed a little, and some of our members moved to new U.S. locations. Yet, we stayed in contact. And I bet you’ve already guessed how I came to be a Rumpus writer myself. One thing leads to another in online communities and it’s really a small world, even though it’s big.
As the New Year approaches, I hope you’ll consider challenging yourself. You know what they say… you never know until you try. The following list will start your ‘year in picture books’ off right. I can say first hand that I have tried each of these and grown.
Meg Miller’s Revise More Picture Books Challenge- One week of focused revision among other picture book writers. Features daily guest posts that inspire, encourage, and offer revision tips. All revision efforts are completed in the privacy of your own home. A Facebook group exists for discussion. Challenge: January 10th-16th. Registration: Now through January 12th. Monthly Petite ReviMo posts support revision motivation throughout the year.
Julie Hedlund’s 12 Picture Book Drafts in 12 Months Challenge- with the support of an online private forum, critique/submission opportunities, webinars and resources. Facebook group is open to registered participants. Challenge: Every year. Registration: Existing members-January 5th. Public-January 12. (Closes end of Feb.)
Carrie Charley Brown & Kirsti Call’s Reading for Research Month- Features daily educational posts that encourage a habit of reading picture books as mentor texts to learn more about great writing. Participants receive reading recommendations and aim to read 105 picture books in 3 weeks. (Note: Consistency is encouraged over quantity.) Private Facebook group is now open to all picture book writers & illustrators. Challenge: February 27-March 31. Registration: February 15-March 1. Weekly blog posts follow and offer monthly challenges and craft-focused posts about mentor texts year round.
Angie Karcher & Dawn Young’s Rhyming Picture Book Month- A month full of poetic advice and prompts from guest authors. Private RhyPiBoMo Facebook group is open to all who would like to infuse poetic techniques in their writing. Challenge: April. Registration: Mid March-Mid April.
Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week- Write a picture book draft a day for seven days. Private Facebook group to cheer each other on. Challenge: May 1-7. Registration early 2016.
This will get you through the first part of the year. Other great challenges, like KidLit Summer School and PiBoIdMo occupy the second half of the year. Perhaps you’ve already experienced the magic of these challenges and others. We welcome you to share your experience with us in the comments.