Thursday, October 27, 2022

Writing, Loneliness, and the Fear Of Missing Out

This month, all my posts have been about community, so I thought it would be nice to wrap my guest appearance up by talking about loneliness. This comes on the heals of Lee's post two days ago, Talking #BookTok and the pressure to "perform" on social media.

Sometimes, even when we have a writing community to rely on, writing can be lonely. There are many reasons why we might feel isolated despite not being alone, including:

  • Feeling the need to guard our story concepts and manuscripts for fear of having our work stolen
  • Feeling like an imposter because we are not published, agented, an English major, or popular in writing circles
  • Struggling to "get a word in edgewise" on busy forums and social media discussions
The latter is the one that I personally struggle with the most. I try to participate in Twitter or Discord discussions about writing, but I often find it hard to navigate these forums and "keep up" with the conversation. As a result, I end up shrinking away and avoiding these spaces for a while.

You may be able to relate with this, or perhaps you relate to another item on the list. Maybe you want to participate in pitch parties (like today's #pbpitch), but you fear someone will see your pitch and duplicate its concept. Or perhaps you don't feel like you have much to contribute to a conversation about writing because other writers seem more advanced.

Sometimes, the loneliness can cause us to overcompensate. In order to make sure we don't miss anything, we attend every webinar we can find, and join every group we can afford. We stretch ourselves thin to the point of physical, intellectual, and creative exhaustion and forget why we did it all to begin with: to become better and/or more productive writers. And as the exhaustion sets in, we retreat, starting the cycle all over again.

Whatever the source of your creative loneliness, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to exist within or without the writing community in whatever way works for you. The right writing community will be waiting when you return if you need a break. They'll understand if you don't join in on every event. They'll fill you in when you feel a little left behind.

When the fear of missing out (FOMO) kicks in, remember that it is physically impossible for you to be everywhere and see everything. That's one of the great things about having a writing community: everyone has their own experiences to contribute. One person might be able to share some of the things they learned at the last conference. Another might have heard something cool on a writing podcast you haven't had time to catch up on. Another might have gained a new perspective on a book issue during a social media discussion.

The next time you feel lonely, but the idea of participating in x is a little overwhelming, remember it's okay to exist on the periphery of the writing community when and for however long you need to.

We're not going anywhere and we will provide you with a soft space to land whenever you decide to make your approach.

Jes Trudel a Canadian author, editor, and instructor based in Timmins, Ontario. She has written and presented for various outlets, including Children's Book Insider, SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and BoldFace. Jes founded

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Talking #BookTok and the pressure to "perform" on social media

Joanne O’Sullivan's recent piece in Publishers Weekly, YA Authors Talk #BookTok: Boon or Burden?, hits some of the highs, lows, and territory of the TikTok effect on book sales.

screen shot of Publishers Weekly article "YA Authors Talk #BookTok: Boon or Burden?" with the cover images for We Were Liars and They Both Die at the End

It's worth reading to get a sense of what some of our fellow kid lit content creators are thinking/feeling about the pressure to make a difference on #booktok, and how maybe making an impact isn't something you can really control.

Three stand out moments from the piece:

Jenny Elder-Moke says that much of the work of publicizing and marketing books has been “offloaded” to the writers. “Authors have to be available online somewhere, and social media can be a powerful tool for authors to keep interested readers updated. But it’s also not really what social media is for. Social media is to socialize, not to sell. The people who have learned to take advantage of these platforms for sales are dedicating their entire existence to it—like social media influencers—and that’s not who authors are.”


Even if making videos is fun, mixing it with commerce isn’t for many authors. “I don’t enjoy promoting my book on TikTok,” says Xiran Jay Zhao, whose sci-fi fantasy Iron Widow was a bestseller in 2021, with much of its success credited to their social media platforms. “I’d rather make TikToks that amuse myself. If you see me promoting my book, respect the hustle. It’s tough out here for a queer Chinese author writing very queer Chinese books. I feel like I get named as one of the prominent examples of ‘TikTok authors’ and used as a case study for why authors should put more effort into social media. But that is publishers learning all the wrong lessons from my case, and it frustrates me deeply. I happen to have the right skill set to do well on social media because of years in the cosplay and fandom communities. This skill set has nothing to do with my writing, and therefore most authors don’t have it. If they’re expected to lipsync to random sounds on TikTok for sales, that’s just cutting into their precious writing time. The real lesson from my case should’ve been, don’t be afraid to acquire a book just because it’s in a genre that hasn’t been selling well, even though your editors loved it.”


While it’s tempting to view the dazzling results some authors have seen through BookTok as a path to success, for now at least the platform remains primarily a spot for readers to share books they love outside the highly curated bounds of Instagram and the ad-driven sphere of YouTube.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, October 20, 2022

How to Squash Writer's Guilt

The writing community is great at keeping you accountable. Other writers encourage you, inspire you, check-in on you, and help you achieve your writing goals. The writing community is a great salve for the writing soul, but like any medicine, it comes with side effects.

Perhaps the most prevalent side effect is writer's guilt. It can seem sometimes like other writers are more productive than you, more successful than you, and (by extension) that they are better writers than you. So while you join a writing community to get the support you need so you *can* write, sometimes it makes you feel like you *should* write.

I used to experience writer's guilt daily. Thankfully, I knew deep down that my writing partners would support me 100% and never judge me for not writing, but sometimes my emotions got the better of me and I'd forget for a few minutes...or hours...or days.

The best treatment I found for writer's guilt was a shift in my mindset around writing. Whenever that familiar feeling crept up, I'd remind myself that writing is about much more than just sitting down at a keyboard. Many writing-adjacent activities play an important role in my writing journey, without which I would be floundering creatively. 

Here are just some of those activities: 

READING. When I immerse myself in a story, whether I'm using my eyes or my ears to do it, I'm developing my storytelling skills, learning what to do (and not to do) in my own writing, and raising my awareness of the book market. Even movies and TV can be considered writing-adjacent, though they don't give me the same insight into publishing and therefore are not as beneficial as reading.

LEARNING. Sometimes engaging in writing podcasts, courses, and Youtube videos feel like procrastination, but these outlets teach me important writing skills, and introduce me to hacks and productivity tools I might otherwise miss. Like anything, of course, moderation is key. I make sure I don't reach the point of diminishing returns, where the benefits I gain from doing something are outweighed by the time and money I've invested in it.

QUERYING. I don't give myself enough credit for the time I put into querying. It's a full-time job, especially given that I'm neurodivergent and struggle with the confusion and anxiety that comes with it. Between researching agents and publishers, writing pitches and query letters, researching comps titles, and actually sending the query packages, it's a lot. But this is part of my writing journey and I should not discount it.

DOWNTIME. This one is the biggest producers of writer's guilt, but it is often the most beneficial. Some of my best ideas come to me I'm driving, walking, or taking a long bath. This is because I'm engaged in an activity that doesn't require a lot of active thought, and thus my brain works on problem-solving in the background. Downtime is when I get my best creative breakthroughs.

CREATING. Other types of creating, like painting, photography, and graphic design (to name a few), are also writing-adjacent. They develop my storytelling skills, stretch my creative muscles, and can have a similar passive problem-solving effect as downtime (depending on how involved the activity is). Visual mediums also increase my understanding of composition, which translates to better use of white space and pacing in my writing. I'm not working at becoming a professional artist in another medium, but I find even doodling with no end goal has had positive results.

All of these writing-adjacent activities are vital to my growth and success as a writer. Changing my mindset about what constitutes writing has allowed me to not get bogged down with writer's guilt.

Remember to support and encourage yourself the way you do your own writer friends. Do you guilt-trip them if they don't get any writing done, or would you support them, give them credit for what they did do, and encourage them to keep going? 

I still struggle sometimes, but I've learned how to flip that switch and give myself more credit for what I do accomplish. If it feels like I *should* be writing, I ask myself, "Do I actually *want* to write right now?" If the answer is no, I do something else, resting easy in the knowledge that the time I log on these activities in the short-term will benefit my writing journey long-term.

Jes Trudel a Canadian author, editor, and instructor based in Timmins, Ontario. She has written and presented for various outlets, including Children's Book Insider, SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and BoldFace. Jes founded

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

So a Bestseller List is a List of the Books That Have Sold the Most, Right? Not So Fast...

Over at Public Books they're running a series called ‘Hacking the Culture Industries’. In this article, What Counts as a Bestseller?, Jordan Pruett uses data to break down how the New York Times Bestseller lists are not as straightforward as they might sound.

screen shot of the "What Counts as a Bestseller" article at Public Books, the photo a jumble of books

As Jordan puts it, 

“there are all sorts of weird historical factors and counting choices that affect whether a book might make the cut. Given the influence of the Times list, it’s worth examining the effects of the choices made when assembling it, and what they can tell us about the kinds of information about books we consider valuable.” —Jordan Pruett

It's fascinating to read, and even more to consider how these lists (and by extension, most 'bestseller' lists) may skew to a very specific kind of book sold in a very specific way... and how that can help raise up or hold back certain titles and creators.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Friday, October 14, 2022

How I Started My Local Writer's Group

Back in 2015, I was sitting at home wondering what local writers did to learn about writing. As far as I could tell, there was no local writer's group, and there didn't seem to be many (if any) creative writing classes either.

As a freelance writer and editor, I had some knowledge to share. I had taught a few workshops and delivered several presentations through organizations that had used their own clout to gets butts in seats, so I felt comfortable with the idea of being in a leadership role. But I have an abiding fear that no one will show up when I plan any kind of get-together, personal or professional. So the thought of organizing a local writing workshop or writers group on my own was terrifying.

I decided, for the sake of my own sanity as well as my bank account, I would start small. I planned a series of micro sessions called "Writer's Workshop Wednesday." In each workshop, I would cover one small aspect of writing. For example, one week I would talk about speech tags in dialogue. In another, I would talk about literary genres.

In order to reduce the likelihood of no one showing up, but still offset my own costs, I would ask for a $5 donation from each participant. If anyone wanted to attend but couldn't afford it, no problem. I wouldn't ask for the money, they could just hand it over (or not) at the beginning or end of the workshop.

Sign with balloons that says writer's workshop today

To keep costs as low as possible, I found an inexpensive location in a basement office downtown. It was a communal space designed for just this type of community event. My marketing was minimal: a post on Facebook and a pathetic looking sign made out of an old bulletin board leaning against the wall outside the door. I got some notebooks and pens from the dollar store, laid out on a table, and nervously waited to see who would come.
Small table with notebooks, pens, and cups.

Only one person came the first night. It would have been mortified by this perceived rejection, except that there was something else to be even more mortified about: I hadn't considered the accessibility of the space. The wonderful woman who showed up was in a wheelchair, and the basement space didn't have a ramp or a lift. In a way, I had turned my fear into a self-fulfilled prophecy by making it impossible for the one person who did want to come to be able to do so. 

The following week, I moved the session to the local library, a fully accessible building. They said I could use the open space in the library at no cost as long as the group was small and relatively quiet, and that I continued to use the donation based model of payment. 

Thankfully, the same lady came (she was so forgiving and understanding) and we had a one-on-one session. The following week, there were two people. The week after that four. Week after week, the group grew and transformed, usually hovering around 8 to 10 people per evening, with who came each week changing based on people's schedules.

After about a year of running these weekly sessions, I asked the group what they thought about formalizing our group into some kind of writers guild. They agreed. We eventually established a Board of Directors, ran contests and events, and published a couple of books to raise funds.

I started to get calls from writers in other small towns in our area. They wanted to know if I knew of any writing groups in their community, or if they could join ours even though they were from a hour or more away. This made me realize there were writers in pockets all over the region who felt isolated and unsupported. After that, we helped open chapters of our guild in other communities.

I never could have imagined when I'd started, petrified that no one would come, that it would turn into this. I could have given up after that first session and let my mortification swallow me whole, but instead I decided to make it right and keep going.

So if you're sitting at home wishing you had a local writing group, know that there are likely others in your community wishing for the same thing. Will you be the person who steps up to start it? Will you be the one who pushes through your fear and makes it happen?

I'm so glad I got to be that person. I have so many writers (and friends) in my life that I never would have met had I not taken that step outside of my comfort zone.

Jes Trudel a Canadian author, editor, and instructor based in Timmins, Ontario. She has written and presented for various outlets, including Children's Book Insider, SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and BoldFace. Jes founded

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

SCBWI Rebrands with a New Logo!

In this 20 minute interview, SCBWI's TeMika Grooms chats with designer Ben Loiz about the design process behind SCBWI's new logo:

scbwi's new logo, unveiled in October 2022

The journey included creating a design brief, hundreds of sketches, narrowing it down to one direction, working in Adobe Illustrator, learning more about owls and what they mean, all to "really discover what this new identity can be."

It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes discussion. One of Ben's points:

"One of the things we wanted to express is the diversity, world-wide, of the organization." and Ben further explains that there are so many kinds of owls, and that "there is an owl on every habitable continent." 

Do you see the shape of the pen nib in the design? Watch for the full explanation.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Right Writing Community

I probably don't need to tell you that having critique partners is invaluable for improving your writing. I also likely don't need to tell you that regularly scheduled meetings with other writers are great for accountability. The benefits of having *a* writing community have been extolled countless times, so I will save you the reminder. 

What you might not hear as often is the importance of finding the *right* writing community. Meeting with any group of writers, even the not-quite-right ones, will often still result in at least some of the benefits you've read about, but the right writing community will lift you up in a way that I can't even properly put into words (but I'm going to try). 

The right writing community is one that:

  1. Provides mutually beneficial feedback, advice, and accountability
  2. Is safe, supportive, and encouraging
  3. Leaves you feeling energized and inspired

I belong to a local writers group. It is a mash-up of all types of writers: beginners and experienced, published and unpublished, fiction and nonfiction, and so on. These writers bring all kinds of perspectives to the group, and they provide me with accountability. I'm driven each week to get something writing-related done before the next meeting. It's a great motivator!

But most writers in the group don't have a lot of insight into the world of children's literature. Sometimes (though not always), they aren't able to fulfill all of #1. 

That's why I branched out and joined SCBWI, the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and a couple of kidlit Discord groups. These communities allowed me to connect with peers who not only provide accountability, but also provide informed advice and lived experience on creating stories for children. In some cases, such as with the Queer Kidlit Discord, I was able to get advice and support from peers who understood the specific challenges of writing while queer.

Which brings me to #2. The right community is going to be not just a creative outlet but an emotional one as well. The "not-quite-right-is-better-than-nothing" rule only applies when you're safe and supported. If you're part of a marginalized community especially, it's important to find a community where you are safe, supported, and understood. If you are in a group that is toxic or otherwise dangerous, move on...unapologetically.

I recently had to leave a critique group that I loved. Everyone in the group was wonderful and kind and provided insightful feedback. Everyone was supportive and encouraging. It was a safe community. They were all writers and/or illustrators of children's literature. So what happened?

It fell apart at #3. We'd been together for several years. Members of the group had reached exciting new personal and professional milestones that were keeping them busy. And it was starting to feel like hard work getting everyone on the same page at the same time. Instead of feeling inspired, I was feeling bogged down. It became clear that it was time to move on. I was sad, but I also knew that it was the right move.

I'm still part of several writing communities. Some are the perfect fit; others are a little baggy. But they all tick the three boxes in their own way. 

Do your current writing communities check all the boxes?

Jes Trudel a Canadian author, editor, and instructor based in Timmins, Ontario. She has written and presented for various outlets, including Children's Book Insider, SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and BoldFace. Jes founded

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Linda Sue Park on the Scarcity Myth

The brilliant Linda Sue Park walks us through the numbers, and in under five minutes mic-drops on the Scarcity Myth. Watch the video here.

The myth is summed up pretty well with the slide shown, that reads:

Linda Sue Park, presenting a slide that reads: The Scarcity Myth: "These days, editors and agents just want to sign up #ownvoices stories, and stories by people from marginalized communities. I'm a white author. My stories are about white characters. I don't stand a chance these days."

Using statistics from the Cooperative Children's Book Center on what traditional publishers of children's and teen books are putting out in the USA, Linda Sue breaks it down!

Gratitude to Linda Sue - check out her author website here.

And thanks as well to Federico Erebia for the heads-up on this!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,