by Sue Heavenrich
Writing can feel like a long and lonely enterprise. Fortunately, in the kid-lit community, other writers are often willing to share the journey. Sometimes they offer a place to hang-out, eat cake and talk about books. Sometimes they offer a series of MFA-worthy lessons on the craft. The only thing they ask in return is that you pay it forward.
Here, in no particular order, are a few of the groups and blogs that have helped me in my writing journey.
NF Fest is a “month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children” organized by the Nonfiction Chicks. Nonfiction writers and illustrators share their accumulated wisdom in blog posts about graphic nf books, back matter, resources for research, structure, and more. There are activities and challenges, and always suggested books to read. You get out if it what you put in. Last year I studied 25 expository nf picture books and 25 narrative nf picture books, jotting notes about each one. Not only did I learn a whole bunch, but now I have a useful bunch of mentor texts for future projects. What’s cool: posts are archived so you can refer to them any time.
StoryStorm is a month-long brainstorming event that happens every January. Tara Lazar created it back in 2009 as Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). Eight years later, she moved the event to January and changed the name to Storystorm – to reflect a broader scope. The event is open to any writer of any genre eager to brainstorm ideas. The basic idea: come up with/brainstorm 30 ideas for picture book stories (or novel chapters or essays or….) in 30 days. Each day there’s a post by a writer or illustrator sharing tips, thoughts about rhyme, how-to’s and more. What’s cool: There are prizes, and some lucky writers win opportunities for manuscript critiques, books, etc. Also, posts are archived.
12 Days of Christmas for Writers is a post-Solstice event that invites writers to welcome back the light, and bring light into the areas of our writing that are dark. Julie Hedlund started it a few years ago. There are no prizes and there aren’t any lessons, as such. Instead, you get inspiration and time to reflect. Participants get daily exercises to evaluate the previous writing year, tools to illuminate successes, resources, inspiration, and tips on how to go forward with our writing into the new year. It’s a nice bridge from one year to the next. You can sign up for the email notifications here and find the group on Facebook.
March On With Mentor Texts is a month of reading - and discussing - mentor texts. Mentor texts are books writers look to as excellent examples of story structure, or point of view, or narrative arc. Starting in March 2022, Rate Your Story has taken on hosting the event, so what used to be known as ReFoReMo (Research for Reading Month) has been given a new name and switched addresses. It continues to be free to all, and this first year they are taking “late registrations” for participants. I’ve learned a lot from reading the suggested books and the blogs, which touch on topics as diverse as back matter to how-to-hook a reader. You can find March On with Mentor Texts here. Also on the blog: Mentor Text Mondays. There are free Mentor Text Talks on Sundays as well - join the Group to stay updated on upcoming guests and other info.
There are so many info-packed websites and blogs that I could not mention them all. So I’ll mention a few of my favorites. Feel free to add your faves in the comments below.
Melissa Stewart has a wonderful blog that focuses on nonfiction. “Info-licious” offers Inspiration Celebrating Nonfiction Reading and Writing. She explains different types of nonfiction, story structures, shows her own process, and often features nonfiction authors who write about their books and most interesting research adventures.
Rosi Hollinbeck regularly reviews books for San Francisco and Manhattan Book Reviews, and posts reviews for middle-grade books at her blog. She also shares inspiration and information for writers, gleaned from a number of places, and often posts a comic or bit of writerly humor.
Kidlit 411 shines a spotlight on authors, curates and shares posts from other blogs, and has a vast library for writers seeking information about writing picture books, from formatting to character arcs. Another library for middle grade, one about mentor programs, and links to upcoming contests and awards.
Susanna Leonard Hill hosts Tuesday Debuts, where she interviews a newly published picture book author. She also hosts Would You Read It Wednesdays, where someone posts a pitch and other writers offer comments about what works and what could be improved. In addition to Friday book reviews, Susanna also hosts writing contests – her blog is like a coffeehouse where writers can gather, nosh on brownies, and chat about writing.
PB Crew 22 or STEAM Team books. Some authors review books, others share and retweet, others help find book bloggers, and even others create online book release parties. The idea is that two (or twenty) heads are better than one…
What can we do to help our fellow writers?
- We can be active in a critique group, offering constructive comments on other’s works-in-progress.
- We can be an accountability partner to another writer, checking in each week to encourage and support their journey.
- If we’re submitting our manuscripts, we can support others in their submission journey. Look for groups like the facebook group 100 Rejections are a Good Thing or Sub it Club
- We can actively participate in local gatherings of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators or other local writing groups.
- We can share good books we’ve read on social media, and share/retweet book release announcements for our friends.
- We can suggest books to our local libraries and school libraries.
- We can … (add your own ideas in the comments)
This post was edited March 19, 2022.