How to Write Picture Books – AND STAY SANE!

06.17.2022

Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco

Going from this

“AAHHHH!”

to this

“Aaaah.”

I think there’s a lot that can be said for people who are on the picture book path and have been for a while. Navigating the picture book world is like travelling down a road of potholes, and signs pointing in every direction. There are a million different routes your can take. And it can be intimidating, overwhelming, scary, and tiring. Sometimes, it feels like we’re drowning in endless options and crippling self-doubt! Fortunately, we aren’t quitters!

Navigating the picture book world is like travelling down a road of potholes, and signs pointing in every direction!

How do I know this? Because the hurdles upon hurdles, the always-changing pace, the fickle as a pickle market, and the unpredictability of times haven’t deterred us from continuing down this road. Some say madness. I prefer passionate. And really, to be successful in the ways that count, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. What do I mean by successful in ways that count? Well, that really depends on how you view success. What does success mean to you? Money? Power? Freedom? Recognition? Whatever it is, you must have passion to reach it. And I’m convinced there isn’t a single picture book writer out there, who has been at this for years, that doesn’t have that passion. And guess what. Good news! Passion is KEY!

But, passion with no outlets can be exhausting. So, I ask you, how do you write picture books and stay sane? I think it’s imperative that when doing something that you love, at your full 100%, you must also be able to balance that with time to unwind. Because going at 100% nonstop, can be draining. Eventually, you will overload. And when that time comes, you must be willing to walk away. Because, just like a car’s engine needs to be parked and rested, so does your engine. But, what if you refuse to stop? Well… you might just end up like this car. Overheated!

Just like a car’s engine needs to be parked and rested, so does your engine.

But hopefully you won’t let things get this far. So, how can you avoid the overheating point? Well, a few things I find that help are setting boundaries and knowing my personal limits. These are both CRUCIAL for maintaining sanity- and avoiding overheating! (Oh, and caffeine. Did I mention that already?) But, seriously. Boundaries and limits!

BOUNDARIES

Set boundaries for yourself.

So, my writing boundaries. Firstly, I have a writing office. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you write in a basement, during free time at work, on lunch breaks. Maybe you write when your kids are asleep, when you’re husband is working, when your roommate is out of the house. Or maybe you write from a hammock. If you do, props to you; it sounds like you’re living your best life! Whatever the situation, having a space that is yours, and yours only, is a good boundary to have. If you don’t have a designated spot- find one. It could be a closet, outside under a tree, on a speedboat with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron- it doesn’t matter- but find one.

Have a space that is yours!

Having a space to your own is not to say that you can’t write elsewhere. What it does, however, is give you a designated area to create. Which can be increasingly helpful to your sanity. And next, making sure that you know your limits.

LIMITS

Know your limits!

What are your limits? What does that even mean? I’m not talking about speed limits. Although sometimes speed comes into play. But that’s a different topic. I’m talking about knowing yourself. If you’re pushing yourself to a point that you are no longer enjoying your work- that’s not working within your limits. Writing should never be a place of confined, mandatory restriction. It should be a happy place of creative freedom. If you are demanding too much out of yourself and pushing your limits to a point of frustration, not only are you going to be unhappy but guess what- your writing will suffer. Yeah. You heard me right. Your writing will suffer! There’s a scene in Toy Story 2 where Woody is getting fixed up by Geri, an antique cleaner. And if you haven’t already seen this and aren’t interested in watching the full movie, I highly recommend watching it HERE because it is just *chef’s kiss* GOLD.

“You can’t rush art!”

Geri is taking his time, situating himself with his tools that he’s about to use to clean and fix Woody.

Al says to Geri, “So, uh, how long is this going take?”

And Geri says, with a wag of the finger, “You can’t rush art!”

There’s a lot of truth in this statement. When you push yourself to write in an unnatural or uncomfortable state, the work is never your best. So, remember to be kind to yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to find your creative rhythm. And once your mojo kicks in, write, write, write!

But, what if you can’t write? You feel zero inspiration. You’re tired. You’re staring at the page, and nothing is coming to you. CHANGE THE SCENERY. Taking a walk, doing some light exercise, or getting lost in a favorite binge tv-show can help give your brain a break. Again- forcing yourself to be creative isn’t how it works. Creativity is a natural thing that comes at its own pace. But how can you encourage creativity?

Read, read, read. Reading stimulates our natural curiosity and encourages creative brain flow! Read books in your genre that are new in the market. Go to the library. Bring a notebook with you! Jot down ideas you like. Ask yourself, “Why do I like this? What about it stands out?” And brainstorm how you could implement things into your own writing. Ideas are contagious. When we let others in, it inspires our own.

So, what am I rambling about anyway? Well, this morning, I read a fellow writer’s new blog post and walked away saying, “Ah, that was encouraging.” And do you know what my next thought was? “I want to encourage someone!” IDEAS ARE CONTAGIOUS- INSPIRATION FOLLOWS. And that’s really what it’s all about.

Now, encouragement. Why do writer’s need encouragement? Well, everyone needs encouragement from time to time. It’s healthy and natural to both give and receive encouragement. But, why might a writer need encouragement more than some? Well, being in the writing business, unlike other jobs in an office where you’re surrounded by co-workers and smiling faces, for a writer, it can often be a solitary affair. So, encouragement comes in handy. Having your writing community in your corner, your supporters, your critique partners, your friends, your family, your “fans” can help you get by and make it to that next milestone.

Speaking of milestones, here we go.

What are your goals?

What milestones do you hope to achieve?

And have you been able to?

If so, congratulations! If not, don’t fret. Just continue down the road until you get there, and sooner or later, I have faith you will. I believe in you- you should too! And sometimes, it can be tough. The waiting. The pushing. The hope. The letdowns. When I find myself losing courage, I like to think of Jane Eyre.

“Renewing then my courage, and gathering my feeble remains of strength, I pushed on.” -Charlotte Bronte

Remember,

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” – Albert Einstein

And another one of my favorites…

“You never fail until you stop trying.”

Cliché, perhaps. But that doesn’t make the statements any less true! There is, after all, a reason that clichés exist! So, this is my brief cheerleader speech for today. If you’re writing picture books, or NOT pictures books- it could be anything- DON’T GIVE UP!

So, in conclusion to my ramble, I just want to remind you that you are loved, and awesome, and incredible, and most likely a total 10, the whole shebang, the greatest thing since sliced bread, the apple of someone’s eye, all that and a bag of chips. Remember, to stay sane in the writing world, 1. Give yourself boundaries. And 2. Know your limits!

Love you all!

XO,

CHELSEA RADOJCIC-DICICCO

Mental Health Matters, September 18th 2021, Gallatin Public Library Event for children, family, and community.

The Mental Health Matters Event inside of Gallatin Public Library was featured this afternoon on Special Needs TV, hosted by Bridgetti Lim Banda, and was streamed live from Cape Town, South Africa. Bridgetti interviewed participants of the event, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, (Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco) Chelsea’s World of Books, and Jason Scruggs, on who they are and why they came out today.

The presenters’ common goal in joining together today was to provide mental health aid and support to the community, families, children, and educators. Despite the heavy rains, the group was able to band together and find creative ways to reach their audiences at home. Thanks to Mary’s quick thinking and resourcefulness, she was able to get ahold of her co-host of her Special Needs TV show, and Bridgetti, the show producer, was gracious enough to bring us on live to share our message with viewers.

The rainclouds were filled with silver linings today! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the effort, and if you weren’t able to make it out, you can see our our interviews on Facebook > Special Needs TV > Mental Health Awareness EXPO > posted 09/18/2021.

Thank you for visiting! 🙂

Awareness & Support Expo May 8th 2021

Saturday morning, faces shined as we gathered into the Hendersonville Public Library of Sumner county for a special event: The Awareness and Support Expo “for families and friends caring for individuals with special concerns.” To mention a few among the groups that joined were The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Borderless Arts Tennessee, Rainbow Mosho, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, Susan Bailey Moss, and myself, Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco.

Families and children cozied up in the warmth of this charming library while the piano played in the background. Also hosted on May 8th was a book sale. Usually this is held semi-annually, however, due to covid precautions and safety guidelines for the state and protection of patrons, the library had held off on hosting over the past year. Both events were put together by the Director of the Library, Diane Johnson, as well as the rest of the Library staff members.

ABOUT THE ATTENDEES

Borderless Arts Tennessee is a non-profit organization run by the state of Tennessee, committed to presenting programs for individuals with disabilities. Through the aids it provides, it adds to the enjoyment and empowerment of the community. For more information, visit their website here.

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has a Facebook page, hosted by the DIDD Communications Department. Their mission is to support all people statewide in “living the lives they envision for themselves.” Their page aims to promote an informative and community-focused online experience. 

Mary Elizabeth Jackson is an author and advocate for Autism TN. She co-hosted the interview conducted on Amazon Live with Bridgetti Lim Banda, May 8th 2021, on Autism and special needs.

Rainbow Mosho is a twelve-year-old artist and author with Autism, working her way towards empowering other children and families with special needs through her inspirational work. Her goal is to “give hope to all the kids in the world” with her book and words.

Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco is a local children’s author living just outside of Nashville TN, currently seeking representation. Her memoir, ADHD and Me, was inspired by events in her own childhood and deals with the day-to-day challenges and triumphs as seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old little girl named Malory.

Throughout the story, “Malory” expresses her feelings and observations towards others around her and describes the challenges presented not only for herself, but for her parents and teachers as they strive to best care for her needs. The story lightly touches on real life topics such as trips to the Principal’s office as well as the decision whether or not to take medication. Malory identifies her support system, consisting of her family and one particularly gifted art teacher by the name of Ms. Julie. Ms. Julie, diagnosed with Autism at a young age, “understands what it’s like to do things a little bit differently,” and now uses art to help guide children like Malory to find their own inner calm. The story ends on a positive note of hope that “maybe one day” her story will be read by someone else who struggles with something and it will “help them and remind them that they too are beautiful and loved.” The closing line reads, “Your differences are precious gifts… embrace them.” ADHD and Me is a beautiful celebration of neurodiverse learning. It is currently being hosted for free download on NetGalley. For more about the author, please check out the ABOUT THE AUTHOR tab of this website.

Purchase links: paperback, hardcover, audiobook.

Purchase links: here and here. For more about Mary Jackson, press here to visit her website.

Purchase links here and here. For more information on the author/artist, press here to visit her website.

CLICK HERE to watch live interviews with the authors recorded on May 8th 2021.