Kid Lit Goals for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! 2017 has sailed away and the seas of a new year are now upon us. This means new resolutions to keep us moving forward with our life’s ambitions and the ladies of Pen-Ultimate are full of life ambitions. Here are our New Year’s Resolutions to keep us moving forward in 2018:

Sharon Langley

1) Increase my productivity to build a portfolio of manuscripts: In addition to brainstorming ideas, work more of my ideas and drafts to completion. Because I tend toward historical fiction, this usually means researching and mentor text reading, in addition to drafting, revising, and polishing. But doing the work will come in handy when someone says, “Do you have something else?”

2) Read for professional growth: This year, I’ve collected and started chiseling away at reading lists for best picture books of the year, picture books for girls, picture books for diversity, award winning picture books and the like. For me, reading note-worthy picture books helps shape my concept of what quality writing looks like; so much of what I learn about writing comes from reading. I’m already on a first-name basis with my local librarian: this year, I’ll continue working my way through these lists of picture book mentor texts.

3) Prepare to share: Most authors conduct book talks and school visits. This year, I’ll be working with students to read my pre-published manuscript and develop activities to facilitate interaction with the text. These activities will give me a chance to see how students respond to the story and help me work through the process.

Crystal Carter

1) Submit at least 50 query letters for my picture book dummy: I realized I wasn’t proactive enough in 2017 with submissions and know I need to change that if I want to find representation for this New Year.

2) Attend SCBWI’s LA Summer Conference for the first time: This has been something I’ve wanted to attend for several years now. But, I don't want to just attend the conference, I want to attend it prepared with a well worked portfolio and the confidence to network.

3) Finish the illustrations for OGDEN: OGDEN is a fun story inspired by true events about a sneaky octopus’s insatiable hunger for crabs. This picture book is written by Carolyn Kraft and is planning to be self-published. It’s exciting to know that Carolyn and I can have a printed book of Ogden by the end of the year without having to play the waiting game with traditional publishers.

Carolyn Kraft

1) Develop a daily writing practice: In 2017, my writing was very sporadic and inconsistent. The long stretches between writing made it even more difficult to focus when I did. My mind would wander and I would where was I...while staring at a draft I hadn't looked at in weeks. My goal is to build picture book writing into my daily routine to make the process a bigger part of my life. Even if it means that on crazy days I set the timer for five minutes and get as much done as I can. Ideally, I will be doing much more than that, but for me it's more about making the time and developing the practice.

2) Build a portfolio of manuscripts: I'm copying Sharon on this one, but it's a good one. Right now I have several picture book drafts in the early stages of development. By the end of the year I would like to have at least five solid drafts that are ready for submitting. 3) Identify agents to query: Since I have been more focused on self-publishing up to this point, I haven't spent time on researching agents. I want to dive into this and identify 30 agents to query. In general, I want to be prepared to query, but also be more aware of who is out there and what types of authors / books they are representing.

Kara Wilson

1) Create before I consume: I want to make an effort to create something each morning before I consume anything that might clutter my mind or derail my creative time. This means consciously choosing to avoid email, social media, and other distractions when I wake up. That way, I can get right to journaling, plotting, or revising without having to refocus my mind. Work emails and social posts will always be there. Creative inspiration is fleeting. In 2017, I got pretty good at carving out time early on weekday mornings to write, but when I’m really honest with myself, I know I tended to waste at least 20 minutes each morning consuming posts and emails that often impeded my process. More focused creative time means more creative growth in 2018.

2) Have two polished picture book manuscripts with at least 50 queries submitted by the end of the year: I started an idea journal in 2017 and I will continue to add to that and revise the manuscripts I’ve been working on, but I want to push myself to expand on those new ideas, build my portfolio, and submit to more agents this year. I know Pen Ultimate will continue to be a huge help in this regard, as will SCBWI events, and a children’s book writing class that I’ve already started where we study master texts and work on our manuscripts. But stating specific numeric goals will give me a clear target.

Christina Sian McMahon

1) Writing Ritual: Devote at least three mornings a week to writing, and begin each creative session with 10 minutes of mindset work (gratitude, visualization, affirmations, etc).

2) Heart Project: Pick up my beloved middle-grade novel again (Cat Tales from the Cape Verde Islands), complete at least half of the chapters, and outline the whole story arc. Get that much to my agent by June for feedback.

3) Big Picture: Sign a book deal for one of my picture book manuscripts by July 2018.

Here are 8 tips to help you pick resolutions you can stick with for 2018:

1) Only make 1-3 resolutions. More than 3 goals will typically overwhelm your battery. You’ll be feeling drained too early within the year to fully manage your all of your resolutions. Once one resolution fails the chances the others follow suit tend to increase.

2) Set process goals, not outcome goals. I think it’s perfectly fine to realize that your goal might be to become traditionally published or to gain an agent, but those goals aren’t 100% in your control. What you can control is the work you put in to get there. So knowing that you want to get an agent your resolution might be to submit to X number of agents a month and to write X number of new manuscripts that year. These process goals will help you towards the outcome goal and are something that is in your control. You have the power to make those process goals a reality.

If setting an outcome goal helps you better keep sight of your intended destination you can always create a mix of "process" goals and "outcome" goals like Christina did.

Process goals remind Christina of who she is, "I am a writer, and writers write – regularly, if I want to strengthen my creative muscles and improve my craft."

Outcome goals remind her of where she is going, "They keep me accountable for taking the action steps necessary to bring them to fruition in my life. When I set an outcome goal, I keep a loose hold on the reins. I know my dreams may not come to me on my timeline, and the journey there might look utterly different from how I am imagining it. If I keep it light, I can move toward my goal without anxiety, trusting the process and relishing the ride."

3) Give yourself small rewards for sticking to your goals. Short-term rewards can help keep the momentum going for your motivation to stay strong.

4) Be excited. I believe that the first step of accomplishing a goal is to really want it. You have to get your head and heart 100% on board or else it’ll be like pulling teeth for the whole year. When you’re doing something that is making you miserable and feels like a chore then you’re most likely going to let yourself derail from that goal early in the year.

5) Get support with an accountability buddy. Luckily for the Pen-Ultimates, we have a great support system with each other. Try to find your own group or partner that can help motivate you to stick to your resolutions.

6) Pick resolutions that are realistic. This doesn’t mean don’t dream big. Big dreams are fantastic, but if you’re dealing with a lofty goal try to break it down into smaller chunks and consider how manageable you consider the process to be accomplished within the year.

7) Write them down and put them somewhere you will see on a daily basis. Out of sight out of mind as that old saying goes. Don’t let this happen to your goals.

8) Fail Forward. We all fail, this is a part of life and learning. If we can accept this then instead of being continuously discouraged we can grow. We can learn from the experience and try again. I think this is especially important to keep in mind for the world of children’s literature. It’s filled with rejections, even for seasoned authors. If you get off course or stumble with your resolutions, it’s okay. Just jump right back in and examine what happened and determine how you can avoid that from happening again. Then be proud of yourself for making the choice to keep moving forward no matter how many falls you take.

Photos from Unsplash by

NordWood Themes

Saz B

Jennifer Pallian

Patrick Perkins