#illo52weeks – Week 1: Fairytale

Yes, it’s that time of the year again when you are up for new challenges. I cannot believe how quickly last years illustration challnge founded by Tania McCartney went. And I still cannot believe I am going to join up again! Will I have the time? The energy? The inspiration? I hope so and I will try my hardest to participate each week no matter how busy or uninspired I may find myself.

I will submit an illustration each week no matter how I feel about it. And we can be our own worse enemies where judging our own work is concerned.

So here is the first illustration of this years 52 Week Illustration Challenge for 2015 is:

Week 1: Fairytale (copic markers & coloured pencils)
Week 1: Fairytale (copic markers & coloured pencils)

Drawing anthropomorphic characters is incredibly difficult for me. I want to develop my skill in this area, to simplify my drawing and be consistent in style.

This week I am also participating in ReviMo2015 founded by Meg Miller – this challenge encourages you to revise a manuscript for each day (if possible) from the 11th January to 17th January.

So far I have managed to complete day 1 and tonight I will meet up with my critique group to see what they think of my revisions!

ReviMo – Day 3 and 4

Phew! The days are whizzing by! I am busy with kids on their holidays, a birthday boy, joining in #illo52weeks and ReviMo – so yesterday even though I participated in Day 3 of ReviMo, I didn’t get time write a post about it. So I am doing 2 in one today.

Day 3 Revisions

  • I revisited a relatively new manuscript which was begun during last years PiBoIdMo 2013 writing challenge
  • This story came about because of a few nick nacks I found whilst on one of my weekly walks (there is a lot of sitting down with writing and illustrating)
  • It has been critiqued once, and rewritten twice. Yesterday was the third time I rewrote the beginning and therefore changed the rest to make it flow to the end.
  • it’s starting to feel more solid and believable as a story
  • word count: 499 🙂

Day 4 Revisions

  • Today I revisited a new favourite, written in the depths of a sustainable farm in Dunedin, New Zealand whilst staying with family.
  • It’s a sentimental story of family, growth, sustaining resources, new life ad a good life!
  • wrd count: 481

These challenges have made me look at and work on manuscripts that otherwise would be left alone until the kids were back at school.

I look forward to my critique group’s feedback! 🙂

Join a critique group

notes written on my manuscript by fellow members of my briliiant critique group
notes written on my manuscript by fellow members of my briliiant critique group

If you want to be a writer, whether it be for picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult or adult novels, whatever the age or genre the best thing you can do for yourself and your craft is to join a critique group. I have been in my critique group for nearly three years now and not only has my own writing changed and improved with time  but it has also been a joy to watch the everyone else improve their writing too.


It will always amaze me at how differently everyone sees your own work. How useful it is when errors are spotted that you had not noticed because you have got too close to your work. Putting your manuscript down for a few days, weeks or months can sometimes really help you see your own work with fresh eyes. Sometimes you think you have written the obvious and the bonus of a critique group is that you will get a very good idea as to whether or not you have got your story across clearly.


Critiquing is quite a specific skill and doesn’t necessarily come easily so it is worth reading up a few books or writing blogs about how to do it correctly and most importantly without hurting someone’s feelings.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • always start with something positive first – no matter how you feel about the story. It may be the concept, the title, the rhyme, the characters, etc. Find something you liked about it.
  • does the title suit the story and give you a clue as to what the story is about – would it make you want to pick the book up from the book shelves?
  • is the story a unique idea or an old idea done in a new fresh way?
  • does the beginning of the story grab you – do you want to read on?
  • can you get a good sense of who the main character is or are there too many main characters and you are getting confused?
  • is there an obstacle/problem in the story and is this apparent early on in the storyline (preferably within the first few pages)
  • Does the problem get resolved?
  • Is the ending satisfying – does it have a surprise twist or does it have an ‘ahh, that’s lovely’ feeling about it?
  • is the language used within the manuscript appropriate for the age range that the book is written for?

and the biggest question of all is: would a child ask for your book to be read to them again and again and again, because that is the ultimate compliment and sign of success!

If you would like to join a critique group then contact your nearest Writers Centre or start one of your own!

Here are some links to help you with critiquing your own work or others:


writing on the sidewalk

writing and illustrating




New Year – New Goals

My new note book!

This year I am going to really go for it and work my hardest to make my dream come true. To achieve this, there were a few things I had to do. The list below includes some of the things I have already put into action:


  • Join SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators)
  • Participate in e-mail critiques as well as face-to-face ones with my critique group (which I recommend to anyone embarking on a similar journey)
  • Buy/borrow ‘Writing Picture Books’ by Ann Whitford Paul (coming in the post any day now)


And I am sure there will be more that I will think of as the year progresses. Goodluck with your writing goals too!