If you’re a picture book (PB) writer, new or seasoned, I recommend the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. Recently, one of my critique partners mentioned that they hadn’t joined because they’d assumed 12×12 was for writers of board books, so I wanted to do a post to fill other PB writers in on this great organization, resource, and opportunity.
I first heard about 12×12 from a friend from way before I was writing PBs. I saw her post on Facebook that she’d gotten an agent. I hadn’t even known she was a writer! So fun. We messaged back and forth a bit, and she raved about 12×12. I remembered seeing that in some people’s Twitter profiles, but my searches led to dollar signs, and I wasn’t looking to spend money.
It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that my training in how to write PBs was lacking. I was still operating off instinct and relative isolation from the PB world. After more research, I realized that 12×12 might be a combination of just what I needed: training in the craft, accountability for writing, community, and opportunities to swap work with other serious PB writers.
I was ready to dive in!
But I was a week too late. Registration for 2020 had just ended (it ends on February 28 each year). I decided I’d join in 2021.
Enter a global pandemic and a thoughtful head of 12×12 who decided to reopen membership for people who might suddenly have more opportunity to focus on their writing. For me, it was a collision of good timing in my own life, and I jumped at the opportunity to still join for 2020.
And now I’ve just signed on for my third year, so, yes, I’d say I find it’s worth it!
The core of 12×12 is a challenge to write 12 manuscripts between January and December. Everyone’s different, but for me, there was huge appeal in the challenge. Sure, I could make it my own challenge without joining 12×12. Anyone can set a goal and go after that goal. But purely from a challenge perspective, joining 12×12 worked for me for four reasons:
- Rhythm! I got into a rhythm of feeling the end of the month coming and making sure I had a new draft before it happened. I can’t tell you how many drafts I wrote on the 30th or 31st during that first year. And the monthly check-ins on the 12×12 blog helped solidify that rhythm.
- Community! When there are 1,000+ other people also looking to draft a manuscript each month, it creates a commraderie and boost to help get you over the finish line.
- Investment! I’ll admit, putting $ into something doesn’t always equate to me following through (which my 2004 Curves membership proved), but paying for a 12×12 membership did help me prioritize the challenge.
- Badges! Who doesn’t love a little reward, even if it’s just a half-inch web sticker that most of the world never sees? It was a fun little bonus to celebrate the small successes along the way. [There’s also a Winners Wall at the end of the year, which celebrates all the 12×12 members who completed the challenge!]
Complements to 12×12
As I shared about in my last post, there are tons of great resources in the PB community. Some of those align nicely with 12×12.
- Storystorm: This great challenge (generating 30 ideas in 31 days) is well underway (day 16, to be exact), but with it being in January, it provides a great pool of ideas from which to draw seeds for each 12×12 draft.
- PB Party Critique Train: The critique train gives a 24-hour period for writing a new draft. Then you get to take part of a critique train (critiquing the manuscript after you and having yours critiqued by the person ahead of you; you don’t have to use your new draft). It’s a great way to elevate your 12×12 challenge, drafting on a specific day of the month.
- First Draft Friday: #FirstDraftFriday is another great oppportunity to focus your first drafts on a day when lots of other PB writers are drafting (and have a chance to win a guest author critique).
But wait, there’s more (way more)!
12×12 is more than just the challenge itself.
- Webinars! 12×12 has AWESOME monthly webinars to help you improve your craft, to encourage you in areas you might be stuck, to expose you to what agents and editors prize, and to showcase insight from across the industry. You can attend them as they happen (and participate in Q&A) and/or watch the replays for a few weeks after the event. Many 12x12ers say the webinars themselves are worth the price of the membership.
- Forum! The forum is packed, and I mean packed, with Q&A, industry insight, ideas, and opportunities for critique. You can get your pitch, query, beginning, or full manuscript critiqued.
- Ninja Critique! Every 12×12 member is guaranteed one “ninja critique,” a published author who’s been vetted by 12×12 to provide super helpful feedback.
- Facebook group! Honestly, one of my favorite parts of 12×12 is the Facebook group, only for members. You can ask ANYTHING, from help brainstorming to insight on an agency to comp ideas to anything else! So many generous and knowledgable PB peers (published and pre-published) at the ready to swap ideas and insights. This is seriously SO valuable.
- Industry cred! What I mean is, having membership in 12×12 reflects well when agents and editors see in your query letter bio and/or on your website (via the participant badget) that you’re serious about the craft of PB writing and belong to 12×12.
- Other PB writers! There are lots of awesome places to connect with other PB writers, but I’ve found so many awesome critique partners (CPs) through 12×12. While there isn’t a specific “critique group” function, you can definitely connect with other members to form your own (and connect with each other over the forum as well).
- More! Every month, featured authors share about their journey, their books, and more. There are prizes raffled off for “checking in” for the month (if you’ve written a draft, revised a manuscript, and commented on the blog post).
Obviously, I recommend 12×12!
I think for every PB writer it’s worth trying it for a year to see if it works for you. There are scholarships usually available (though I think they’re set for 2022), so if money is the prohibiting factor, consider that for 2023! If you’re able to pay the membership fee, check it out for 2022. There’s still lots of time to join (through Feb. 28).
If you’re a 12×12 member, share a comment with your favorite part of 12×12! Or, if you’ve found another resource to be a great complement to 12×12, I’d love to hear about that too!
If you’re not a 12×12 member, share a question about 12×12 and I’ll do my best to answer it! Or, if you’ve found another resource to be equally valuable for writing PBs, I’d love to hear about that too!