I am so grateful for Julie Hedlund – for who she is as a person, as well as for all she does for writers. She is funny, knowledgeable, supportive, wise. And she knows what writers need to help them SHINE!
I first got to know Julie through Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo 2011 (more about Tara next week). At the end of PiBoIdMo that year, Julie asked if anyone would like to join her in an accountability-type challenge in which we’d try to write 12 first drafts of picture books over the course of the coming year. She called it 12×12 in 2012 – 12 drafts in 12 months in 2012. As she says in this blog interview I did with her as the challenge progressed, “I initially envisioned the challenge as a personal one that I would do on my own. Then, toward the end of PiBoIdMo last year, I decided it would be nice to have company. I expected maybe 30-50 of my most faithful blog followers who were also picture book writers to join me. I NEVER could have imagined we’d end up 400 strong!”
That was then. Now there are 1000+ participants each year from all over the world, and 12×12 has become firmly lodged in the KidLit world as an excellent way to learn, to practice craft, to form community – even to have submission opportunities (at the Gold Level.)
There is a cost involved, but it is well worth every penny. But don’t take my word for it. Check out all the glowing testimonials on the 12×12 website (and while you’re there, learn more about the challenge.)
I was a member of 12×12 for the first three years, then, because my focus had changed to middle grade novels, I reluctantly gave up my membership. Still, I recommend it HIGHLY to anyone who writes picture books or is thinking of writing picture books. You will learn so much, in an incredibly supportive community.
Julie is also one of the founding members of the Picture Book Summit, an online one-day conference for picture book creators, which was online before online conferences were cool. Julie and the other founders, Emma Walton Hamilton, Katie Davis, and Laura Backes Bard, along with Jon Bard (founder and emcee) and Kelli Panique (fixer of all things) bring the picture book world an amazing learning experience each October (the first Saturday of October), with keynotes from preeminent people in the picture book world, workshops from founders and others, often an agents and editors panel – and submission opportunities. It is not to be missed.
Julie and Emma are the driving forces behind the Complete Picture Book Submission System, which has helped many writers hone their submissions so that agents take notice.
Somehow, Julie finds time to write, and recently her delightfully funny picture book, OVER, BEAR! UNDER, WHERE? was released. (I attended the online launch party, and the book is great fun.) It’s illustrated by Michael Slack, and is chock-full of puns and wordplay (a couple of my favorite things.) In 2023, Little Bee Books will release Julie’s picture book biography of the wonderful Julie Andrews, illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, and I can hardly wait!
And at this time of year… (drum roll worthy of the little drummer boy…) for the past several years, Julie has hosted the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS FOR WRITERS, an opportunity to look back at the past year, celebrate successes, own the non-successes, and build on these learnings for the new year. It is something I look forward to all year, often thinking “I can add that to my successes” or “what is the learning from this oops?” She hasn’t announced it yet for this year, but when she does, I will do a Heads Up post here on this blog.
Thanks, Julie! I appreciate so much all you do FOR WRITERS!