Monday, May 9, 2011

Reflections on NaPiBoWriWee and Meet Lisa Wheeler

Week of May 8, 2011—An Interview with Lisa Wheeler
Monday, May 9—Reflections on NaPiBoWriWee and Meet Lisa Wheeler

This past week I participated in NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) that was sponsored and hosted by the marvelous Paula Yoo ( The challenge was to draft seven new picture manuscripts in seven days. I originally turned down the challenge and then changed my mind at the last minute. I ended up with seven new drafts—three of them I’m really excited about. Of course, all need revision, revision, revision. The neat discovery I made during the process was that my voice really began to come out as the week went along . . . I found myself less perfectionistic and less concerned with what I thought others (e.g. editors and agents) might want. That freed me up to be myself.

As I first perused the NaPiBoWriWee site, whose pic did I see? None other than Lisa Wheeler. Lisa is one of my unofficial mentors. She never volunteered to be my mentor, I just adopted her as one. I never got over the collecting bug when I was a boy (rocks, marbles, books)—now I collect stellar mentors.

I first met Lisa when I attended her Picture Book Boot Camp. I was amazed at the reading list she sent for our pre-conference homework. That alone was worth the conference fee. Each participant also got to submit a manuscript for critique. The conference was lively and fun and full of work. Lisa told us that by the time the day was finished we would already have figured out what she had critiqued on our manuscripts. And she was right. As we went through the day of learning, I made discoveries that I knew were things I needed to do change in my own writing.

I refer back to my notes from that conference often. I also refer back to the list of ideas I made during that conference. The idea for Cowboy Christmas was formulated as I drove home from the boot camp! Lisa critiqued that manuscript (and others) a couple of times for me. She is always gracious in her critiques, but brutally honest. She’ll never let me slide by until everything is up to snuff.

Lisa is the author of more than 30 books. Her published work includes rhyming and non-rhyming picture books, fiction and non-fiction, poetry, and early readers. Lisa is a wife, mother, and animal lover. So you can begin to know Lisa, too, here’s a poem she wrote for NaPiBoWriWee back in 2009. Enjoy!

By Lisa Wheeler

Lisa wanted to write books.
Books about animals. Grrrrr.
Books about people. “Hello.”
Books with shiny covers . . .
and books kids would love the cover right off of.
Thin books and fat books.
Small books and tall books.
She wanted to write all books.

So she did.

Lisa wrote about a girl who blew a bubble so big
it exploded and coated the whole house. YUCK!
She wrote about a boy named Smelly who would not take a bath.  P.U!
She wrote about a Hippo who got stuck in a doorway,
a rabbit who was afraid to go up the stairs,
and a dog who needed a friend.
She wrote about lots of things…
that no one would ever read.

The problem was that every time Lisa sent her story to a publisher
she got a big fat NO THANK YOU.
Lisa started to count her NO THANK YOUS.
When she got to 100 she stopped.
She took all those nasty NO THANK YOUS and dumped them into the shredder.
“Bye-Bye,” Lisa said. “Out with the negative vibes!”
The next day, Lisa got NO THANK YOU number 101.
Lisa started counting again.

One day, Lisa was in an extremely good mood.  She went skipping to her mailbox. Tra-la-la!
Only to be greeted by four NO THANK YOUS.
“148, 149, 150, 151,” Lisa counted, as she slumped back home from the mailbox.
“That’s it!” she said to her husband. “I am done! I am finished! I quit! I will never be published. The end!”
The next day, Lisa got a new idea.
It was NO THANK YOU number 200.

Lisa started listening to people.
People said talking animals don’t sell.
Lisa stopped writing about talking animals.
People said rhyme doesn’t sell.
Lisa stopped writing in rhyme.
People said picture books don’t sell.
Lisa wrote a chapter book.
The chapter book got NO THANK YOUS numbered 205 through 210.

Lisa was very, very sad.
Then, one day, Lisa wrote a new book.
It was a picture book!
It was in rhyme!
It had talking animals!

It sold.

Finally, after 225 NO THANK YOUS, Lisa got a YES!

Lisa still wants to write books.
So she does.

It’s Your Turn!
1. Don’t miss even of this week’s posts as I interview Lisa Wheeler!


Hardygirl said...

Great poem!!

I got three sorta kinda okay drafts out of NaPiBoWriWee. And, yeah, they need a ton of work, but it's easy to make a sculpture when you've got a little bit of clay to work with, yes?


Leslie Gorin said...

I did NaNoPiBoWriWee for the first time this year, as well--mostly because I thought it would be good to loosen up and let 'er rip, knowing that the results would only matter to me. By the end, I had learned Two Important Things: 1) It's not that hard for me to generate raw PB ideas--but just a little harder to execute them :0, and 2) By the seventh one, I was on such a PB bender that I was laughing out loud half the time I was writing it, and can't get wait to start polishing it!


Rob Sanders said...

WOW! You both did fantastic! Remember--these are drafts so they're not supposed to be perfect! That will come later! And Leslie, may your bender continue!

Leslie Gorin said...

Thanks, Rob (hic!).