It has been a while since I’ve gone question-fishing, but as we get into the fall, I want to make sure that I’m covering topics you’re interested in. This blog is about you, after all, and not just my blah blah blah. (Though there’s a lot of that, too! 😂)
Please leave your most pressing children’s writing and publishing questions in the comments, below, and I will pick some to answer in the coming months on the blog!
(If you’ve never commented before, your comment will go into my moderation queue. Don’t worry—it has been received and will be posted, even if you don’t see it right away.)
I’ve been alerted to the very alarming fact that someone is posting jobs for “Kidlit” as “Mary Kole” on school job boards. These are writing jobs that seem attractive. I’ve heard from several people emailing to confirm whether the job posting they saw was legitimate.
There has been an individual posing as me on university and other online job boards and providing the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. It is a classic “we will send you a check, you will deduct a certain amount, and send us back a money order” scam. Their check will bounce after a few days, then your bank will hold you liable for any funds you chose to send out. The FTC explains it here.
Any kind of scam that attempts to take advantage of writers sickens me, and I take it very seriously. There are, unfortunately, many bad actors out there who prey on writers who want the chance to practice their craft and don’t know better.
If you have corresponded with this individual, please forward your interactions to me for my legal team. Do not send your personal information to this person and do not accept any money from them. Certainly don’t send any money to them. Similarly, if you have seen one of these job postings in the wild, please report them as fraudulent to the job board where they appear and alert me at email@example.com to let me know what institution is running the listing.
Unfortunately, since this is an online impersonator using my name and business name without my permission, I’m not liable for any financial loss that you suffer due to interacting with this individual. My hope in posting this is to prevent anyone from getting scammed.
I’d love to have your thoughts on the topics you’re most interested in learning on this blog and in the other content I’m making. (If you haven’t yet, check out my YouTube videos about various topics!)
Please see the poll below to give me your feedback:
As many of you know, two years ago today, I gave birth to my daughter, Nora Pepper. We didn’t know it at the time, but she would come to us with a very rare brain disorder called Ohtahara Syndrome. It would be the reason for her death sixteen days later. In the two years since Nora lived and died, I’ve gone through what feels like an entire lifetime.
Losing Nora was the worst thing my husband, Todd, and I, have ever experienced. Our son, Theo, was 21 months at the time. We suddenly found ourselves reading a lot of picture books about death. An urn showed up in our living room. We went to an event put on by the Children’s Hospital bereavement department and released monarch butterflies. To this day, Theo says, “Sister Nora turned into a butterfly.”
It has been two years, today, since she was born.
Since then, Todd has started two restaurants, then left the traditional chef lifestyle. Now he works an honest-to-goodness 9-5 doing recipe development for a restaurant group in town. He cooks us dinner every night.
Theo is thriving at a Spanish immersion preschool. He’s so funny. Like, so funny. And wise. We read books to him every day. He got a bunk bed this week and ran around the house, squealing with pure glee.
My family is complicated. Three months after Nora died, my father passed away from, as Kurt Vonnegut called it, “cancer of the everything.” But it brought me back in touch with my stepmother and half-sister. Three weeks ago, my stepfather suffered a massive stroke, a life-changing, and potentially life-ending event. But it brought my mother and I—uneasily, tenderly—out of a long estrangement.
Finn is a joy. He’s approaching 10 months. He’s always smiling. He has a gleam in his eye. He’s pulling up to stand. To be perfectly honest, if things hadn’t taken the turn they did, Finny-Doodle probably wouldn’t have come into our family.
Now we can’t imagine our lives without him.
Every year, I like to turn Nora’s birthday into a force for life and positivity, since it was the most godawful thing I’ve ever experienced (even though there were surprisingly beautiful things about it). Nora never got the chance to create a measure of good in the world, so I work to keep her memory alive.
The year she died—2017—I asked for donations to the Children’s Hospital Foundation. We were powerless against Nora’s condition, but our family raised over $20,000 to allow Children’s to help other families. Last year—2018—I asked for donations in Nora’s memory to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an organization that allows families suffering infant loss or stillbirth to receive professional photographs of their brief time together. When they sent me the stack of cards with all the names of those who had donated in Nora’s memory, I shuffled through them all and wept.
This year, I’m directing anybody who wants to do some good in Nora’s memory to the Good Story Grant. My vision is a monetary gift of $2,000 to one or more writers that the Good Story Company is offering for the first time in January/February 2020. The first grant is fully funded, but depending on donations, which have already started to come in, we may be able to offer it more than once a year. The grant is accepting applications now.
The grant’s objective is simple: My team and I will review pitches from writers about how the money will help them get to the next level on a writing project. As long as it has to do with creative writing and there’s some accountability in the form of a timeline, deliverables, and letters of recommendation, we want to hear about it. If you’d like to help me support one or more writers every year, you are welcome to donate here.
Thank you for your support throughout the years. I truly love you, my amazing Kidlit crew, and I can’t believe that you help me live my dream every single day. I’m very sad that Nora isn’t with us, but the last two years have been truly incredible, in no small part because of you, my dear reader.
I’m going to be honest with you guys. The situation I wrote about last week with an apology for a guest’s overly sales-focused behavior really got under my skin. In defending their actions, they wrote to me: “The reality is that there are always some people, especially writers, who are not used to webinars that sell product and think they are entitled to free content.”
Yes, writers do “think they are entitled to free content.” And they are! Imagine a writing teacher penalizing writers for trying to learn. Writers deserve help to get where they want to go. That has been my mantra for the last decade.
With all of this negativity swirling around, I decided to channel my frustration into something good. And so, I’m announcing the Good Story Grant! That’s right. I’ve been giving writers encouragement and knowledge for my entire career, now I’m straight-up giving money away. 💸💸💸
Good Story Grant
I’m giving away a cash prize of $2,000 to one eligible writer who has a project in mind where money would make a difference. What I want to know is:
what the project is
what the timeframe is
what the deliverable would be
Make your case with a personal essay and two letters of recommendation about you as a writer, or you as a motivated, creative person. Easy peasy. You don’t have to live in the US, but you must be able to accept funds in PayPal and be 18 years old as of the grant deadline.
I’m taking applications the end of January, and a winner will be announced on Valentine’s Day because all you need is love, right? (To all supporters of writers: I’m also accepting donations from any interested parties on the page linked above, if you want to help me flesh out this grant or make the Good Story Grant an ongoing—rather than annual—event.)
As the season of gratitude approaches, I have too many blessings to count. And one of my biggest blessings is you, dear Kidlit reader. You have been with me for over ten years, along for the ride on the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. You make what I do on the blog (and Good Story Company and YouTube and Good Story Podcast and on every other free avenue that you can find me) worthwhile.
If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that I provide content for writers. That’s my passion, and what I do best. You may also know that I don’t do a lot of selling. There has never been an ad on this blog, and the only things I sell are my own projects, whether that’s my book or a webinar or the Manuscript Submission Blueprint. That was a collaboration brought to me by Children’s Book Insider, and I sampled several of their classes before agreeing to make one. I loved it, and I poured my all into the class I created. I’m still very proud of it! I also think it’s offered at a kickass price point that gives a ton of value for your hard-earned dollar.
Keeping this type of integrity in a culture of “monetization” has been hard. I get advertising requests every single day for this blog because it has been around a long time, because a lot of people come to it, and because my email lists and social feeds have a lot of followers. Over and over, I say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Even my own mother keeps asking, “When are you gonna monetize that blog?”
Sorry, Mom! I will not “put the good stuff behind a paywall.” I will not launch a subscription model where I make a quick buck off of you when you forget to cancel for a few months. I feel very strongly about this, and always have. If you read my blog and have never given me one red cent, thank you! Welcome! I’m so happy to have you! My editorial practice is thriving and I’m having my best year ever, with a team of eight wonderful employees. (I know, right?!) Please enjoy the things I share with writers for free. I mean it.
Now. What’s the apology for? Well, a few months ago, a very prominent writing teacher approached me to do a collaboration. My response was in line with my values (the names have been redacted):
I was very grateful to have an opportunity to collaborate with a famous writing teacher. But my audience was and still is my first concern. So in the above response, I wanted to make sure that my writers would be respected, along with their valuable time.
The teacher called me and reassured me over the phone that “the webinar is very content rich and only the last ten minutes are spent selling.” The product was a course from this writer. This teacher said “most people don’t even notice the sales pitch.” We had a great talk and I completely gave this teacher the benefit of the doubt.
But when the webinar rolled around, I’m afraid my expectations were not met. There was valuable content, indeed, and I learned a few things, but there was also a lot of selling. Blatant, in-your-face selling. There was even discussion of the finer points of a financing option. I watched on, very disappointed, but I had been taken off as a presenter for the duration of the webinar, so I literally couldn’t come back on the line. We were on this teacher’s webinar software, not mine. And would I want to interrupt and make a scene? I was in a very uncomfortable position. I felt that my trust had been broken and that I had been taken advantage of, but I was left not knowing how to handle it as it was happening.
The great news is, my readers are smart, tough, savvy, and honest. Almost immediately, I started hearing about how people did not appreciate this webinar. I reassured those who wrote to me directly, and this led to some really good conversations. I am so grateful that my readership trusts me enough to be honest with me, even when they need to tell me something tough. People wrote me some brave emails, and I’m so honored to have gotten to engage with my readers on that level. That means you guys care, and that level of engagement is so hard to find in today’s busy world.
Initially, the writing teacher expected me to send four follow-up emails, but after the content of the webinar, I decided that I didn’t want to engage further. I sent one email, reluctantly, after prodding from their team. But the backlash from my readers kept coming. Even now, almost two weeks later, I’m hearing about it. So I knew I had to take a tougher and more honest stand.
I wrote to Teacher and Co. and gave them a taste of the feedback. I expressed my disappointment and reminded them of our initial conversations about the balance of content and selling. Staying silent about it would’ve been perhaps more diplomatic. After all, I’m not here to start beef or make enemies. That’s why I’m not referring to the teacher or the event by name. The people who attended this webinar and were disappointed will know what I mean. But staying mostly silent while dealing with it behind the scenes did not feel right. It also allows this predatory marketing practice to continue.
So now I’m apologizing to you.
You, my dear reader. Your time, your attention, your support—these precious things mean everything to me. I am sorry to those who joined this webinar and were disappointed. You trusted me, and I steered you in the wrong direction. We all make mistakes sometimes, and all I can hope for is your forgiveness. I was operating on the best information I had at the time.
For those who took this webinar and happened to buy the class, I do want you to enjoy it. I do not want you to regret your decision after this post. I do hope that it’s a valuable resource because—again—I think this writing teacher has a lot of good things to say. I still think this teacher’s book is a valuable resource. (This teacher may not think I’m so hot after this, though!) I hope that the payoff in all of this is that you get some good tools for your toolbox. I can only hope that it has been created with integrity and attention to detail.
Safe to say, it will be a long, longtime before I entertain another collaboration.
The questions of whether or not to write this post, and write to the teacher, have been weighing on me for two weeks. I know I can’t feed my family “integrity” for dinner, but I feel a lot better to have been open and honest with you. In life, there’s the easy thing, and the right thing, and they’re often not the same. Thank you so much for hearing me out!
Full disclosure: I was offered a revenue sharing arrangement for this webinar, which is standard for this kind of collaboration. I have declined any royalties and have been paid absolutely nothing. In 2020, I do plan to launch a very specific paid course (for aspiring editors) and an ebook, both of which will be offered for sale. I will also offer a few one-off paid classes for a well-known online learning platform. But all of these are being produced by me—up to my high standards—to be as content-rich as humanly possible. I continue to offer a few paid webinars per year that include manuscript critique as a justification for the payment. Any links you see to content on Amazon or Manuscript Blueprints are affiliate links that give me a small royalty payment—at no additional cost to the reader. I shoulder over $100 of web hosting costs per month to keep several websites running, and this allows me to offset some of that investment. Other than that, I make my living as a freelance editor, by being paid for my services.
It is with great excitement that I’m announcing several new things today for helping writers! This has been in the works for a while, so if I have seemed busy or stressed or looked tired, this is why! Without further ado, I present to you Good Story Company! Please take a second to watch this video and subscribe to my new YouTube channel (yes, I’m that guy now).
My new idea for a company helping writers craft a good story is, for now, threefold. First, we have GSC, the umbrella company that my team and I have put together.
Good Story Company
A content company providing services for helping writers. Most of them are free, for example, a blog, a podcast, workshops, and lots of inspiring and craft-focused content.
Good Story Learning is a membership community that collects all of our “deep dive” educational content, video courses, workshops, and webinars in one place for on demand viewing. Join for a month and binge. Stay longer and really work your way through the many classes we’ve taught over the years about querying, first pages, picture books, novels, self-editing, marketing, and more. You’ll find more than one hundred hours of content and fifty downloadable handouts and resources.
In addition to this wealth of information and curriculum, Good Story Learning provides that community housed on a Discord server (combining the functionalities of a forum and a chat room). Here, we have questions of the day, AMAs (“ask me anything” sessions with the faculty), and separate chat rooms for all of the main writing and publishing categories that our students are involved in. We’ve even had members host writing get-togethers, where they work in solidarity and companionable silence.
The Discord server represents a great opportunity to connect to other writers, get advice and close personal attention from the Good Story Company editors (myself included), and hold yourself accountable to learn and write. Give a little community, get a little community in a safe and supportive place.
Good Story Podcast
Finally, for now, I’d love to introduce you to the Good Story Podcast. People have been bugging me for years to do a podcast. And in the last year, I have done some awesome interviews in webinar format. But one thing I don’t like about the webinar format: only registered students get the content. I want to give this content to EVERYONE because I work hard to interview amazing writers and thought leaders.
So now I’ve launched a podcast called Good Story Podcast. Absolutely free, absolutely interesting, all about writing, revision, the craft, and the business. And to show you that I mean business, I’m kicking it off with my first interview: Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo and writing teacher. Have a listen here:
I’m working on getting the podcast listed everywhere that you get your podcasts. In the meantime, let me know what you think!
I’m so, so, so excited to present all of this to you. I have been talking to writers, teaching writers, and helping writers for over ten years now, and this is absolutely my life’s work and passion.
THANK YOU for all of your support over the years. I would be nowhere without you guys, my Kidlit readers, the original crew. We’ve been through so much over the years together, and I really wouldn’t be the person or the editor I am today without you. Yes, beautiful YOU!
I apologize for the repeat interruption! We will be back to the novel opening workshops on Monday, the 21st. Today, I have another survey. I’m hard at work crunching the data from the Published Author Poll, which I deployed over the summer, and I think you guys are going to love the findings.
Here, I have a slightly more targeted survey, aimed at writers who belong to any kind of writing forum or community online. Is that you? Please take three minutes to share some of your thoughts with me. Any input you have is going to be greatly appreciated.
I interrupt our workshop critique to put a call out: I’m looking for someone who can help me with audio and video. This would mean doing some light video and audio editing (adding some music, graphics, etc.) to standardize files to a house style and optimize them for several purposes.
I’m also looking for someone who rocks at making audio and video sound and look great, who knows how to compress it for online use, and excels all of the other stuff I’m not experienced or talented enough to do.
The work would be part time, you will be paid either on a flat fee per video or audio file, or hourly. Please send your compensation requirements. If you or anyone you know has experience with YouTube videos, podcasts, and all of the other things people are doing to create a professional audio and video presence online, send them my way!
I met up with the lovely Weronika Janczuk the other day and we got to talking about data. There isn’t really a lot of data from aspiring writers on how hard they actually work toward getting published. How many manuscripts have they written? How do they receive outside critique and support for their writing?
Since I have the eyeballs of many writers here on Kidlit, I decided to create a survey for published writers of all children’s book categories. Tell me about your journey. The survey is for my personal use only and your identifying information will not be shared. I do ask for words of wisdom and may post those on the blog, but otherwise, I’m just looking for raw data. (For a cool survey that’s a few years old and centers around middle grade, click here.)
That data (numbers only) will be turned into a handy dandy infographic.
Agented and published writers are welcome to take the poll below!