Creative Mindset: Do You Have December FOMO?

2019 Storyteller Academy Dinner in Los Angeles

Depending on your creative mindset, December FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) can be your friend or your enemy. So, let's talk about what to release, and what to hold tight, as we go into the last month of 2020. 

(If you go through this brief creative mindset exercise with me and share in the comments at the end, I'll give away one query critique to one random commenter, and one picture book critique to to another. Don't feel like you have to complete everything I suggest in the post to enter. Anyone who shares wins at the end can enter. )

1. Release the Negative

2020 has held disappointments and sorrow for most of us. Did you have goals or relationships that didn't work out the way you'd planned? Are you mourning loved ones or dreams you've had to put on hold?

Take some time here to grieve. What didn't go the way you wanted it to this year? If you're a list person, you might make a list. If you're a religious person, you might pray. Hitting or screaming into a pillow can help you release anger. You can journal about your grief and disappointment. It might take you five minutes, or it might take you hours, but it will help lift a weight. 

Personal Story:

If you have depression or anxiety, though, you may need more help releasing negativity than an exercise or two can provide. It's okay to get help with that. It's hard to have a creative mindset at all when you need help with your mental health.

2020 hasn't been a bad year for me. Yes, it's been hard in a lot of ways, but in a lot of other ways, I feel like my family has been fortunate.

On the other hand, 2018 was the worst year of my life, worse even than 2000 when my mom died unexpectedly. I spent most of 2018 wrestling with suicidal depression on my own. I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Out of self-preservation, I quit a leadership position with my church and a long-time job. I'd stayed in both of them because I worked with kids, and I loved that part. But there were some toxic adult components, and getting out was necessary.

That summer, I reached out to a friend who'd gone through suicidal depression, and we became texting buddies who went on monthly outings with each other. She reassured me that I was just going through my “dark night of the soul” and that my life would be better on the other side. I started out by reading books she recommended, repeating affirmations, and listening to TED Talks. One of the TED Talks that made an impact was Abria Joseph's “Removing Negative Self-Talk.”

I remember that I was in my bedroom, painting over the horrible wallpaper I'd been ignoring for 15 years with a lovely robin egg blue, when I stopped to write the three questions he asked. I still have them on my mirror.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Does it improve upon the silence?

I'm sharing it now, just in case any of you need it. And my friend was right about my dark night of the soul. It gave me the courage to make necessary changes in my life. If you're going through something like that, not only can you come through it, you can be stronger and happier on the other side. There's no shame in getting professional help. The world is more beautiful with you in it. And if you let yourself be happy, that happiness will spread to the people around you. Choose happiness. The pain you experience in metamorphosis will be worth it.

2. Share Your Personal Wins for 2020

Hopefully you've taken a moment to grieve your losses for the year (and if you needed to, put some negative self-talk in check). Let's move on now to celebrating our wins for the year. What went well for you? What did you work hard for? Were there any surprises that felt like gifts?

You don't have to limit these to your creative endeavors. I had some breakthroughs this year with my health because I was brave enough to go looking for answers. I'm proud of myself for going outside my comfort zone to make a class on querying agents, and to ask people I admire in the industry to make classes that students requested. I'm grateful for the good relationships I have, old and new. Some of those were unexpected and feel like gifts. And I'm pretty happy with the evolution that two of my picture books have taken over the course of 2020. 

Please share some of your wins with us in the comment section. Expressing gratitude for where you're at and where you're going will help you have a healthy creative mindset.

3. Harness Your December FOMO

FOMO is the anxiety that comes from feeling like you're missing out. It can come from seeing others succeed, or you might just feel happy for them. It doesn't have to be either/or. I think there's a special kind of FOMO at the end of the year that comes from people realizing they aren't where they wanted to be. Staying in the FOMO mindset isn't great for your creative mindset.

So, first, I want you to acknowledge that 2020 has pretty much been the weirdest year ever. You're living through a worldwide pandemic, and you still managed to score some wins. (If you haven't written those down, write them down.) Go, you! 

Second, I want you to write down the goals you most wish you'd accomplished this year. This might be painful, but only a little bit. Out of those goals, realistically, are there any you can still accomplish? We still have a month. Realistically now: be kind to yourself. No kicking of self (especially mentally) is allowed. This is where we harness your December FOMO for good, not evil. 

Are there a few things you can finish before the end of the year? Great! 

You can let the rest go for now. 2021 will be a better year.

Critique Giveaway

I'm giving away one query critique (any kind of book query) to a random commenter, and I'm also giving away a picture book critique to another commenter. To enter, please share a personal win from 2020, and let me know in the comments which critique you'd like. For extra entries, share the post on social media and let me know in a reply to your original comment. This giveaway will end on December 10 at midnight (PST).

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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121 thoughts on “Creative Mindset: Do You Get December FOMO?”

  1. Thank you for being so transparent; Myrna and sharing your story.

    A personal win for me is joining an illustrator critique group.


    1. I love that, Mel! Watching students like you work hard and grow in your craft is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

      1. After taking the making comics mini I have a much better idea of how to present my script more professionally. Thanks for the post Myrna.

    2. I was selected to edit one of ten picture books for Room to Read’s Peace & Equality initiative this year and created a picture book in 4 weeks. Our team did a great job and produced a beautiful ebook that will launch on their website in February 2021. It was a truly unique and collaborative effort. I got to meet veterans of the publishing industry and mentor newbies with a passion for writing and illustrating. Also got to meet Julie Downing which was a pleasure.

  2. This is great, Myrna. Thanks.
    Becoming comfortable enough to be able to share my work with others is a huge win for me. The supportive community at SA (and a few dear friends) has been an enormous confidence builder this year. If chosen, the picture book critique, please! Thank you.

  3. Such a great and much needed post! And thank you for the opportunity to enter!

    My 2020 win is taking the leap to illustrate s finding a new hobby that brings me focus and peace.

    Giveaway preference: critique

  4. Thank you Myrna for this post! And for being willing to be vulnerable. This year I’ve struggled a lot with feeling trapped, but that has helped my motivation to do creative things. I completed 100 illustrations for the 100 day challenge and have written a bunch of stories. Now I’m working on a portfolio so I can start submitting as an author-illustrator next year! There have been many moments spent wondering if I was insane for trying this or believing that I might have a chance. I felt like giving up many times. But I’m most proud of letting myself create because I love it and I want to. I don’t have to “earn” the right to create by being good.
    Giveaway preference: PB critique

  5. Myrna, this is a heartfelt post that brought on a few tears. It’s been a “different” year, for sure. There’s been the sad here but fortunately, there’s been so much good that followed (the sad inside isn’t going anywhere soon). This is a beautiful post.

  6. Wow, Myrna, this is a very powerful post. TY for your transparency. and bravery. I struggle with depression and issues of self-worth, especially this year when I had to learn new things on the job. Sometimes I feel stupid. My wins include learning 3-4 different tech platforms, working for SA, being asked to blog w/ReFoReMo in 2021, and getting 3 mss ready for submission. I’d love a crit from you. Bless you and your work on writer and illustrators’ behalf.

    1. Kathy, I’ve been so impressed with how quickly you’ve learned how to do new things, especially all of the different tech platforms that we use. You’re a smart cookie, and you bring a lot of heart.

  7. In 2020 I was able to re-start my passion for writing. I hadn’t written since 2012, and now I am writing more than I ever have before!

  8. A win for me this year is getting involved in my new community after moving states during a pandemic and using this time to have creative focus.

    Giveaway: PB critique

  9. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal post. It’s hard for me to come up with wins this year, sometimes just getting out of bed is a win for the day. But I am grateful that I have a strong community and everyone is well and still here. That’s enough for now.

    P.S. The back of my head is in the photo above!

  10. With much respect to those with so many tragedies that have happened this year, 2020 has been my most productive year yet. I was able to enroll in a mentored critique opportunity with Jim Averbeck (which was invaluable!) as well as find an amazing critique group (we meet monthly).
    By day, I’m a working voice actor and I’ve signed with four additional talent agents for representation and I’ve booked voice work with national level companies like AT&T, Chevron, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. I was also a featured expert in The New York Times (in October) and on the Today’Show (last month)! I’m cramming as much into the downtime as I can this year and looking forward to 2021 being even better ❤️

  11. Hi Myrna!
    I’m glad you shared the TED Talk because I’ve been doing some serious self critique that is not helpful haha

    My personal win for 2020 is recognizing and facing the problems I’ve had (harsh self critique, low self confidence) and trying to improve it 🙂

    1. Hi Rachael! I’m glad the TED Talk was helpful. There are a lot of good TED Talks on practicing better mental hygiene and developing a growth mindset. Or if you’d prefer audiobooks, I can recommend some of those. Recognizing and facing the problems you mentioned is one of the most important “wins” you’ll ever have.

  12. 2020 really made me prioritize what was most important to me-which re-ignited my passion for writing.
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    I would love a story critique from you!
    Best of luck in 2021!

  13. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing that. My win this past year has been completing my first manuscript for kids and starting the second book manuscript, too.

  14. Pamela Courtney

    Myrna, I am so honored you shared your story with us. My critique groups have become so much closer this year. We’ve shared beneficial information that have afforded some members to get agents, or an editor on their side. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by such giving people. But then again, KidLit peeps are the best anyway.

  15. Hi! Myrna,
    Greetings from Greece! It is really amazing how your experience can give us food for thought in order to pursue our goals and don’t give up. Thank you, so much for the opportunity. I am trying to make this happen while teaching online many hours a day, so reading your words that come from your heart is the best way to accept that life is the way it is, but we can change it by realizing our long-term goals, no matter what happens.
    Giveaway Preference: PB critique

    1. You’re welcome, Agatha. Fitting your creativity in around a full-time job is hard, but you can do it. Just be patient with yourself.

  16. My family lives in Europe, and I’m in California, this pandemic had me worrying about them this entire time, trying to hold back a deep sense of frustration and guilt for being so far away in a moment like that.
    There is also a bright side in all of this situation: all my life I kept postponing things I wanted to learn, things I wanted to do (from home), things that I thought I couldn’t do before, but being stuck at home, gave me the right push in the right direction!
    I had video chatted with my brother (a chef in Germany) every other day to learn how to cook my favorite food…and now I can’t stop cooking all those dishes, and even more out of my comfort zone (YAY I have learned how to make tamales from scratch….so far from what I knew I could do!)! I video chatted with my mother more than usual, and we created an even stronger bond than before.
    I’ve started writing, and that is probably the biggest achievement of all. I had these stories stuck in my head for years and years…and now, they are all growing and changing and improving before my eyes.
    I am so excited for what’s to come and I can’t wait to learn more things, even when the pandemic will be over.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Roberta! I’m so glad you’ve been able to learn new things and strengthen your relationships this year.

  17. Thank you Myrna for sharing and being so vulnerable. Always love reading your blog post!

    My win was taking a step back to listen to myself and reflect on what brings me joy. I’ve written a story I feel proud of through this platform and I started exploring photography. It’s these two things (plus the thought of coffee) that have been getting me out of bed and I am truly grateful! Would love a picture book critique 🙂

  18. With this year being the year it has, I love being able to reflect on the positive. We all need to focus on the positive. This year, I have found a new passion in my writing and have pushed forward in my picture book writing. I entered a twitter writing contest, and was one of the winners. I am working with an amazing illustrator on one book currently. It has been a growth mindset kind of year!.

  19. I think my personal win for 2020 is just to believe in myself that I can write and write well with the proper training. I’ve always had a way with words, but to organize them in such a way to be compelling and interactive has and continues to be a personal goal for myself. I’m currently going to enter a writing contest and will be taking a colored pencil drawing class with my daughters. I’ve done some graphite pencil drawing in the past, but this is a new medium for me. I’ve appreciated all I have learned via Storyteller Academy and appreciate your transparency, Myrna, about challenging times. A story critique would be awesome!

  20. 2020, hmm; anger, upset, over a toxic relationship that has been in my life for decades brought me to the place of strength. I finally found the strength to say, enough! When people cause you bone-marrow anxiety it starts to erode your strength. Like water over rock your appearance begins to change because your spirit, your heart, is troubled and chained. So whether because of the added stress of the pandemic or something else, I cut that chain and pushed that toxic person out of my life. They are still in the background, but know their power has been completely removed and they can no longer manipulate me. Love does no harm.

    Not being able to travel has caused me depression. And I struggle with a roller-coaster of depression. For the most part I do okay, bu it’s always been a struggle.

    This year I came to the decision I was done with writing. I decided it was time to tell my wonderful critique partners that, I knew I was a useless critique partner and I was leaving the group. I’d also decided I was not attending STA for the next year. I’ve struggled so much and failed to bring even one story to completion. But right after I made those decisions I picked up a pen and wrote for hours. What I wrote was just silly fun stuff, but it made me realise I do have a voice. I just need to work out how best to bring it out.

    So, my wins for 2020, I’m still here and I’m still trying. And I’m still in, STA surrounded by so many wonderful peeps.

    1. Big hug, my friend! I’m so sorry you’ve had such a hard year. I’m proud of you for muting that toxic relationship and picking up your pen to write. For what it’s worth, I love you, and I’m glad you’re still here and trying.

  21. Thank you for such an honest and real blogpost! You help create authenticity and openness here (and I’m sure in other places you go too!)

    2020 has been a strange year for me. Good in some ways. I took Arree’s first class right after moving to Sweden, three years ago. And two months ago I finished illustrating a picture book for the Swedish market. My first ever. There were so many steps to get there. Learning a new language, learning how to illustrate, networking as an introvert in another language (a fate worse than root canals!). I am not being paid much and have a long way to go before I can call this my career, but I finished a thing. It was hard, and I finished. So that’s a win. As a next step, I’m hoping to set up my own little illustration sole proprietorship. Maybe I can get it done before the end of the year. Your blog post is a welcome nudge of encouragement amongst a morass of Christmas movies and carbs. I hope we can all encourage another to do one last little 2020 push.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Heidi! I want to know more about your Swedish illustration experience. I mean, “a fate worse that root canals” sounds bad, but it also sounds like a really cool opportunity.

  22. Great conversation and it’s a great way (nudge) to self-reflect. As a diagnosed narcoleptic, I struggle with getting things accomplished. I thought it was hard working 40hrs/week, but it’s just as hard staying home! After putting aside all things writing for over a month, I finally got back on the horse wagon, whatever…
    I asked a mentor to review my MS for #pbpitch and things didn’t go well – my *feelings were hurt. So I recently took Jim averbeck and his hierarchy of revision for a long walk and the lightbulb went off, finally!! This will definitely be one of my go-tos for moving forward. Thanks Myrna
    Random giveaway: picture book

  23. HI Myrna, thanks for your blogs and all the encouragement! This year’s been challenging. Besides all that, I have new insights on cancer, had the opportunity to host Nevada’s One Agent at a Time, received a service award from SCBWI connected with the LA Conference, and with Carter Higgin’s critique group, gained confidence to FINALLY submit stories to agents. See you soon.

    1. I am so grateful to have you and your positivity in my life, Cindy. One of my epiphanies in 2018 was that I could choose the people in my life. I could get out of most situations where people didn’t value me, and doing that gave me more time with people like you.

  24. My daughter, Kate, stumbled upon a random post on Facebook a few months about this week-long class for children’s books’ writers. She sent it to me thinking I might be interested. I attended every single session that week and was so inspired, I signed up for Storyteller Academy immediately. The classes, the workshops, the camaraderie, the things I have learned, have been awesome. There is nothing about Storyteller Academy I don’t like. I am inspired, empowered, excited. I love my Story Weavers Critique Group. They are honest, caring, and fun to spend time with. It’s not that I don’t have my “OH MY GAWD, WHY DO I THINK I COULD BE PUBLISHED?!?!?!?” days — but when I do, I can go in and learn something and soon my doubts are gone and I am once again taking 1 step forward. It’s not the be-all and end-all – but my purpose is now well-defined and I have true goals – and I have SA to thank for that.

    P.S. This is not intended as a suck up. As one who is retired and wondered, what the hell am I going to do now? most of the time – you have no idea the joy purpose brings. I have turned a corner and am running down the street now!

    1. Thank you, Kerrie. When I’m stuck, critiques and classes help get things moving for me again. We all get stuck and have out “Why did I think I could do this?” moments. I’m glad we’re helping you through some of yours.

  25. A virtual hug to you, Myrna.
    I am sorry about your mom. 2020 was terrible for me and my staff but as you say it is almost over. Today, I’m setting up my Xmas tree to attract some warm joyful feelings for us.
    2020 took by beloved 12-year old GS (tears still come) but this sadness also started me on a writing and drawing journey I am finding quite interesting and amazing!
    P.S. Taking your course now. You are quite knowledgeable!

  26. You know, as strange as this year has been, I never would have learned about the Spanish Flu Epidemic, or discovered that I believe in Natural Selection. I feel anxious whenever my personal experience is at odds with the National Narrative, but I would not have studied Darwinism so deeply if the government mandates and restrictions hadn’t been put in place.
    Other Personal wins despite the shutdown include polishing up several picture book manuscripts and querying them to agents.

    I think I’d rather have a picture book critique, but I’ll have to decide which one if I get chosen… my kid noir mystery (with a high word count for picture book), my space creative nonfiction (exposition – needs a story?), or my “girls can” book (though I’m not sure I’ve nailed it)? Maybe I’ll have something new by then.

  27. I can’t thank you enough for sharing that TED talk, Myrna! Means a lot. Sometimes we need a deep,dark emotional cleanse in order to take on the gifts &
    opportunities awaiting us around the corner. And sharing a problem is definitely halving a problem!

    And if I’m somehow lucky enough to win anything, a PB critique would be fab. Thx for all that you & the SA do!! 🙂

  28. Thanks for these fabulous reminders and for sharing your story. It’s brave to share such a personal truth and helpful for others to hear we are not alone.

  29. Persephone Jayne

    Oh man, my biggest win of 2020 was finding Storyteller Academy. The community and focus it’s given me have taken my “pivot” back into picture books and catapulted it as if I’d never left. I feel SO prepared to move forward and excited about every step toward publication.

  30. Thanks for sharing your story. My younger son struggles with severe depression. It’s a terrible illness. NAMI is a great organization that can help.

    My writing wins were to complete several PB ms thanks to Storyteller Academy and the two critique groups I’m in. I took the leap to be more creative this year and I’m enjoying it. I’d love a PB critique. Thank you. Remember there are people who love and support you no matter how you feel. 🥰

  31. My personal win is that this year I was a finalist for a mentorship, and I got a revise & resubmit from an agent and a champagne rejection from an editor at a major trade publisher (via an SCBWI submission opportunity). I’d love a query critique.

  32. wins – maybe small, but incrementally feel like I’m moving forward.
    I finally got my new website set up albeit imperfectly, but letting go of the old one – no longer editable – is a relief. It feels like moving onto a new relationship.

    I came to accept this is a slow process for me, and I can’t most rush completion of most work without anxiety.

    On the other hand, I worked to a deadline for series for Joe Merkel’s illustration workshop and enjoyed creating like a focused meditation. First time to feel that fully in awhile.
    I allowed myself to feel the happiness of my successes, listen to critiques and give space to let them roll around in my brain before jumping to revise or reject, instead of dwelling on negatives… I met the deadline imperfectly for Joe’s critique session. I saw amazing work – but really everyone met the deadline with some imperfections. I loved seeing the other approaches, styles, concepts, and did not compare myself to them. I was thrilled that Joe loved my characters. I felt that I was no longer faking till making my joy at improving without perfection!

    In Jim’s Mentor CG, I was able to see exactly what he meant, clarify my work, instead of feeling stupid for missing an important beat, and I felt able to give strong well-thought out critique to others. I really experienced how different people’s strengths in critiquing offer unique perspectives – and so lucky when more experienced critiquers get eyes on my work to help me get to my finish lines – but more importantly to help me learn to see more clearly for future stories. I can’t believe I used to work on my own… so isolating.

    And, I lost 4 people close to me since May. The first from Covid. And it sparked me writing about him, stories sparked from his life and light. It was the first time I saw I had to try many approaches to find the story path, not just the voice or metaphor. I feel I got closer to what I’m trying to do with this story faster than any before, and hope to complete it sooner than others… though I tend to work on multiple projects back and forth. It made me think also about foraging into other’s characters more for stories, instead of my usual coming from either my own internal feelings or imagined. Still requires some imaginings, but with stronger foundation beneath.

    And, of course, I’d always appreciate a PB critique.

  33. I signed a contract for a middle grade nonfiction book just before the WORLD SHUT DOWN in March. Then my publisher sent word that they were going to hold off on signing and sending my advance because WHO KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. I was a mess. So depressed. So unmotivated. It was months before the contract got signed and the advance was sent … and, no surprise here, my deadline did not budge. SO, rather than having eight months to finish my book and send it off, my procrastination meant I had three months to wrap it up.
    I worked my tail off and met my deadline and now I’m thrilled to see catalog copy and cover possibilities for my book. I’m elated to have turned a WOE IS ME into a WIN FOR ME.
    And, yes, I’d love a critique. I have projects that need polishing!

    1. I love this story, Mary! You had my heart sinking into my boots. I’m so glad you pulled through and gave yourself a happy ending.

  34. My biggest win this year was definitely having my first book published! It was such a positive experience! I think if I won I would probably go for the query eval! I have a very unique idea structurally, and I keep feeling like my pitch is just not doing an adequate job of explaining it, to the point that I haven’t sent it out. I’ve been sitting on what I think is a really fantastic concept for literally years because I don’t know how to convey to someone else how awesome it is! So I definitely need your help. 🙂

  35. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Myrna.
    My biggest win for 2020 was signing a book deal (!) with Kar-Ben publishing for my middle grade novel NOT SO SHY.
    PB critique would be great.
    Wishing us all a long list of wins in 2021.

  36. Congratulations on all of your personal and business success, Myrna.
    My goals this year were to implement more, fail harder and celebrate more. I did a ton of writing, including meeting my 90 hours in 9 weeks goal during an unexpectedly difficult Spring. I wrote my first MG piece and submitted it to a contest, as well as putting myself out there for countless critiques from peers and pros. And I’ve celebrated and taken time for myself, even when its just taking some me time at home.

  37. Myrna,
    I’m happy for you; you connected with someone and moved out from darkness to light in your life.

    I’m grateful 2020 gave me the time to focus on writing and keep learning the craft. I fine-turned three PBs and wrote another two. Woohoo!

  38. Stephanie Mena
    5:31 PM (0 minutes ago)
    to Myrna

    One thing that has gone well for me this year, is rediscovering the joy I experience when I write stories. I sent out my first query to Natascha Morris shortly after her, “ask me anything,” segment. Putting a face and hearing the voice of an agent welcomed me in to try. I just heard back from Natascha, sadiy it was a “No”. I’ve learned from Storyteller Academy that a, “No,” is not the end of a journey, but rather a suggestion to take another path. So, I’m re-visiting my story and even started the characters on a second adventure.
    🙂 Stephanie Mena

  39. For me, this year has been filled with books and webinars, starting in March with Reading for Research. I am a member of SCBWI, SCBWI Alaska, and Story Teller Academy. Awareness of various writing techniques, styles, and possibilities contribute to my writing skills and growth. Finding my niche, whether poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of picture books, I look forward to completing a manuscript in 2021.

  40. Thanks for spreading some positivity and offering up a critique. One thing this year has provided us all with is more time to ourselves. For me, that’s meant more time to write and educate myself. Professionally, it was a strange year, but I count myself lucky to have had a fair amount of wins. My virtual creative studio, Hart House Creative, is still getting referrals and I may even take on my first intern early next year! I self-published my second storybook, joined a writing critique group through SCBWI, and my new book, “Baxter Meets His Monster” was featured on Channel 8 as par to their “Pet Project.” The critique group has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. They are lovely people and aside from making my work better, I enjoy their friendship. Looking forward to more growth in 2021.

  41. Gina Wheeler Robertson

    A personal win for this year of 2020 has been a hard journey for me. Last year my husband deployed to Afghanistan and while he was gone I surprisingly gained over 48lbs. I was shocked and my health had plummeted so far from bad cholesterol to high blood sugar numbers. I made a goal to have a healthier lifestyle and to lose 20lbs in 2020 to put me back at a healthier BMI for my size. I have achieved that goal through dedication, exercise and just making good choices for me and my family I have lost 25lbs and love the way I look and feel. Still on my journey but I have a healthy BMI, weight and mind and as someone that has struggled with anxiety and depression this has helped my mind to focus on the stuff I can control. Mind over matter. I love me, again!

  42. This year, I joined Storyteller Academy and learned rhyming meter! I’d been trying to understand it for the longest time and it finally clicked in Carter’s class.

    I’m interested in the picture book critique (but I’ll take the query critique too)! Thanks!!

  43. Great article!
    One thing is going well for me is, I finally decided to put my doubt to the side and start an ecommerce store. Still working on it but it’s going, every time I have a negative thought about it, I tell myself, – you can do this, your work is good! 🙂 some days it works better than others but it’s going well so far!

  44. This blog post met me where I currently stand. This has been a weird year, but I’ve experienced so much good: Storyteller Academy and the ladies in my critique group; the opportunity to learn from both. New friendships, a yoga class and so much more. Although several scheduled events were canceled in 2020 that caused me to lose revenue, what the new relationships I’ve gained provide way more than money can buy.

  45. I haven’t written anything, but medical protocols, since I was in High School and I am enjoying the thrill of pen on paper again. Joining Storyteller Academy has connected me with others who share that excitement. As the world is in such turmoil it is good to have a platform to help to clarify, educate and help make things better.

  46. Nazanin A Razavian

    Thank you Myrna for sharing your story. After the pandemic, I lost most of my classes that I was teaching, I was lost. My win this year was signing up with Storyteller Academy. I always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. This year I took the first step toward my dream.

  47. Kristi Bartholomew

    Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable, Myrna. I will share that a painful divorce led me to join SCBWI and I am finally focusing on my picture book dream- four years later! 2020 has been gritty, but a job loss and social distancing gave me the time and space to recharge and commit myself to full time author-illustrator goals. In August I joined S.A. and completed four classes and a mentored critique group. My win is creating an illustrator CG in SA- we are all so motivated and the energy is fueling my portfolio prep! I love the momentum SA has given me and am focused on getting my portfolio and website ready!

    I would love a query critique!


  48. My word for the year was Patience. I create challenges for myself each week to work toward my goals. The joy I take in painting drawing and writing make me thankful to have these gifts.

  49. My personal win is getting my website up and going and starting a blog. The blog is called STEAM stories because I mostly write about STEAM topics and love to share STEAM stories. I have also gotten nice feedback on several picture book manuscripts I have been working on.

  50. Dearest Myrna, what a powerfully open and vulnerable post!
    As I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve grown to accept the ebbs and flows of life with more grace.
    Yes, the sadness comes, but thank God, it also goes, and at times there’s even delight in living.
    During my short time with the Storyteller Academy I’ve been deeply impressed with the quality and dedication of many of the people I’ve met, not the least of which are the wonderful critique partners you chose for me!
    Thank you for your generosity of spirit, Myrna, and know that you’re truly making a difference in so many people’s lives.
    If I’m fortunate enough to be chosen, I’d really appreciate your input on one of my picture book manuscripts.
    In empathetic solidarity and thanks,

  51. Myrna, your strength inspires us to keep going!
    I have a lot to be thankful for, despite the pandemic. I’ve actually written more stories this year than ever in a single year. I’ve seen improvement in my drawing and I’ve had some amazing critiques on my work. Yesterday I was offered a contract on my board book (contract will arrive next week), which is totally exciting!! And… My amazing grandson was born 15 days ago!!

  52. Myrna, thank you for the email that prompted me to stop my busy life and read with the intention of finally begin to know you. Your story pierced my heart. My win was to journey with my family member through a late diagnosis of Mental Health Illness. I have recently joined NAMI. My newest passion will be to write a story about moments of resilience, joy, and humor in the midst of this challenging illness, for families and friends with shared experiences.

  53. My personal win was finding this Storyteller Academy and going back to the drawing board and deciding to make my picture book a reality. I gave birth to my son during covid and that has been the most challenging experience- trying to juggle making my dream of publishing a picture book with the demands of being a mom has been quite tough. But even if I get a minute to work on my book, I’m so happy because I feel it is my life’s calling to write and illustrate for kids. It might take me longer to get there now, but I know eventually I will.

    I’m sharing this on Facebook and Twitter & I would LOVE a picture book critique. Thank you! Xx

  54. A personal win for me this year was submitting my work over 25 times. More than I ever have before.

    I would love to get a picture book critique.

  55. Thank you for sharing your story Myrna, I think a lot of us recognize something in it. It was indeed a year I won’t forget! Right after I told my boss I’d quit my job I got a burn-out. In the same week Corona cought up with us. It took some time to recover from my burnout, but it also gave me new ideas and opportunities. And because of COVID-19 I didn’t need to rush anymore. I’ve started as a freelance illustrator, designed four birth cards and got paid for it and my dream came true: I’ve been asked to illustrate a children’s book by Clavis Publishing! The biggest thing this year has taught me is being grateful for everything I have and everything I am. Still crying sometimes but letting my tears flow and be thankful for them. They take some pain away and make room for happy thoughts. I hope you’ll all do well in the future and find your own happiness <3

  56. Hi Myrna,
    A personal win for me in 2020 was using the solitude and isolation of Covid-19 to tap deeper into myself where I found so many
    stories waiting to share their voice. I completed a few PB’s but have not yet submitted. So I would love to win a PB critique.
    Thank you for this opportunity.
    Best of luck to whoever will be the happy winner.
    Kind regards,
    Veronica Jorge

  57. A personal win for me this year is learning to live in each and every moment. Often times I miss moments.

    I am also excited to have started pitching my story ideas.

    I truly appreciate these shared moments and would love to win a critique of a story I am working on.

    Blessings everyone!

  58. One of the more positives to come out of 2020 has been Remote Learning, which 4 months ago was the very reason I was about to end my 32 year career with a school system and school I love. Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of needing to learn all the new and necessary technology and too embarrassed to tell someone that I didn’t know how to operate even the simplest of computer tasks – I was a mess.
    With 10 days to overcome my fear — I cried and complained, whined and doubted, every day.
    My grade level team and friends all pitched in to show me techniques, answer questions, and set me up with a document camera, monitor, new Mac, and headset. They offered me shoulders to lean on, smiles and comforting words.
    Now, although I’m not the most savvy at knowing everything…I CAN deliver a full day’s Remote Learning to my 3rd graders with assurance and quality.
    My students may never know just how close their teacher came to quitting on that first day of school but they have heard the true-life story of Mrs Benoit who didn’t even know how to “Zoom.”
    Thank goodness for courage, commitment, and caring people.

    1. In case no one has told you this week, you are doing a great job teaching online! I am a teacher too, and now teaching online. One thing I learned is that kids are so flexible and forgiving. They don’t care if the technology works or not. They just want to see you and hear your voice. A good read aloud over a zoom/google meet is the best medicine sometimes. Good Luck on the rest of your year 🙂

  59. Lovely discussion, and the phrase “dark night of the soul” goes through my head a lot, often at 3 a.m. My win for this year is that, although I can’t visit my elderly mother in person, we’ve been spending oodles of time on the phone. It’s helping me create a MG novel based on her childhood in WWII Europe. Like most kids, I’d never asked the right questions until it was almost too late, and there’s so much to know about family history (and trauma).

  60. Thank you for doing this. I appreciate the reminders to think positively and see my growth from this year.
    This year I’ve been able to hear God more. I like this growth, but I still don’t always listen. I act too fast sometimes so I need to work on this. But, to try to keep my connection with God and show him I am thankful, I’ve been trying to write to him before I go to bed every night or at least often in the week/month. I also started writing my to-do lists for the day, to hold myself accountable. But, I didn’t want to pressure myself to feel everything has to get done, so I’ve been working on telling myself if I at least completed one task off the list, then that’s good. I at least did something. I have been trying to figure out my inner self and work on my mindset this year.
    Some wins have been joining Storyteller Academy, which pushed me to learn so much about myself and what I want for my picture books. Which, led me to research a lot on Youtube and Google and learn about publishing and what I want to do. This excites me. Plus, I’ve been figuring out why the stories I create matter and what message I want to share. I feel I’ve grown as a creator. I also feel I’ve learned what my needs are to better my life. I’m just trying to balance my passions, my job, my family, and myself while remembering God is also guiding me.

  61. This year I am reminded that children learn from what they see.
    My 7 year old is now writing and illustration his own books.
    I would love a picture book critique.

  62. Hi Myrna and thanks for this opportunity. A personal win for me in 2020 despite COVID and being off of my teaching job is having the time to start and establish my candle business which you can find at I love candles and enjoy reading about them so I made sure I took this time off of work to do something else I love.

  63. My 2020 personal win is keeping my kids happy, they are 3 and although they’ve been wearing masks, they have no idea of what’s going on right now.

  64. Hi Myrna. An unexpected win for me is being 1 of the 2 recipients of the first 2020 SCBWI Tomie dePaola Professional Development Award. I am truly humbled. I have a pb dummy to revise so a critique would be helpful. Best of luck to all of us in 2021.

    1. I follow you on social media, Lynnor, and your work is beautiful. I’m so glad you received the Professional Development Award.

  65. I agree – this as been the weirdest of years! But starting Storyteller Academy has definitely been a bright spot for me. My Wins:
    * I am gaining new skills and although I see improvement, the more I learn, the more I can see, I still have much more to learn! I’m signed-up and excited for 2021!
    * I am starting to draw again. I drew in high school and college, but stopped for so many years that I quit seeing and lost line quality. I wasn’t sure I’d ever pick it up again. But with in class encouragement, from Alex and other students, drawing again brings me joy.
    * I paid for a one on one with Carter and had such a great and encouraging time, (Thanks again Carter!) I want to write better and more!
    * I have gained a set of friends in my critique group. We may be states and time zones apart but we are together in purpose and spirit. And that is just what I have needed this year.
    Myrna, thanks for your posts. I learn something from them each time too.

  66. Christine Graham

    My critique group switched to Zoom, like everything else, and it was awkward at first, but it has also been really productive. We are meeting more often and supporting each other at least as much as we did in .

  67. Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing your story. That is the one thing I am working on this year – being more vulnerable and visible. My big win this year is joining the academy and learning all about writing a good picture book and taking classes in the academy as well as outside the academy to learn all about art, illustrations and developing my own creative style. I would love to have a picture critique.

  68. I started writing Picture Books this year, it really helped me deal with the long and difficult lockdown. And I found so much happiness in it. If I am chosen I would love a PB Critique. Thank you very much!

  69. Thank you for sharing this. In spending more quality time at home with my loved ones this year, I have learned how to quiet my mind better. This year has been full of high anxiety for most of the world, me included, and I have been practicing being mindful and being thankful for the present moment. 🙂

  70. Hi Myrna! Thanks for sharing your story. Personal care is so important this year more than ever. 2020 has been a strange year, and a year where we have to adapt and change, not by choice. Like you, 2020 has not been the worst year of my life either. Going through depression once after family sickness and death, has made me a more empathetic and grateful person today. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me I have something else to be grateful for today. My 2020 win is that my critique group kept meeting through all of 2020, and I never missed a meeting. Sometimes none of us had a lot to share, but we met and talked, and encouraged each other. My writing keeps getting stronger, and although not a win I can pin point, it is a slow win over time. You are so generous to offer your time to help others with a critique. Take Care, and Self Care often 🙂

  71. Katie Gigliotti

    I’m so glad to hear that someone else feels similar to how I do. Every time someone says how terrible 2020 has been, I have to bite my tongue to keep from sharing my own thoughts. Yes, there have been terrible things, but it’s actually been a pretty productive year for me, and not nearly as devastating as 2016! One personal win for me was discovering writing again, and really pouring myself into it. I’ve learned so much valuable information.
    I would absolutely love a story critique from you!
    Here’s to hoping that 2021 is amazing.

  72. Thank you for the inspiration. My win: getting published in a children’s magazine (one with high circulation) in the midst of Covid 19 and my husband’s brain cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t always “on the track” but I didn’t go off rails completely and the articles helped me stay with my writing.

  73. My critique group has been great. One of them suggested I might be stuck in my stories because I didn’t know my characters well enough. BAM! Instant improvement. I now ask a million questions about them- especially “What if…”

  74. Melissa Abraham

    A personal win for me this year is becoming more involved with the writing community on Twitter – the support offered to me during my first #pitmad was amazing! If I win I’d love a picture book critique.

  75. Hi Myrna,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you also for all your help at Storyteller.
    I am finding it hard to find wins but…I did
    a friend is moving closer to family and that ends up being closer to me
    I started playing sports again (unfortunately it’s been stopped because of restrictions)
    the amazing Black friday deal at Storyteller Academy
    and my critique group (Nakenya, Merry, Cyra and Kate are the best!!)

  76. Thank you for your story! A win for me is that, thanks to lockdown, I was able to focus on writing and engaging with the kidlit community! I have connected with all sorts of amazing, supportive fellow creators, have learned an enormous amount, and have completed an MG novel started years ago! There is an upside to staying home!

  77. Wow! What a year of various opportunities to become more introspective about my life!
    Several of my passions sailing and tango left me without partners to enjoy. Yet challenge is the mother of invention so I became content in dancing by myself in the kitchen , in nature in my imagination! I pulled up my big girl boots began building my solo skills onboard my 34’ sailboat including replacing my boat head(toilet) by myself! Lol! One of the greatest joys has been to have my daughter home. Her job made it possible to work remotely so she challenged herself and bought an old school bus, drive it from Arizona to Washington state and with her father has been transforming it into an amazing home for herself and her rescue dog Mako! Covid has presented challenges but if one embraces these and thinks creatively it is possible to experience new perspectives and opportunities for growth! I built confidence in my writing snd signed up for a full year of Storyteller Academy! So excited for today and all my today’s going forward!

  78. Hi Myrna,

    Thank you for sharing your story! ❤

    My 2020 has been a bit of a contradiction. Covid has been devastating to so many people on so many levels but in spite of it all, I have had a big win in my writing career, signing a contract for a picture book! But really my biggest win is that my family is safe and healthy. ❤

    I do look forward to 2021 though, to the release of my book, to finding an agent, to becoming a better writer.

    Thank you for this opportunity. I’d love a PB critique!

  79. Thank you for sharing! While there were a lot of negatives in 2020, I was able to get really clear on my goals and start working towards them in a big way. I realized that I want to write and be a coach for my career. Everything else would leave me unsatisfied. I’m glad to have started making the shifts to begin my new career. I would like a critique. I have a YA Fantasy novel.

  80. I struggle with FOMO all the time, not just in December, but I’m working on it! I’m thankful for you, Myrna, and SA, and all of my critique partners. The best!!!

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