New Year, New Hopes & Dreams

A year ago, I got real on Facebook with this post:

The writing life.
Here on FB, those of us who write tend to share the yippee stuff and clam up regarding our failures. Who wants to admit those and feel like a loser? Bleh. But a comment somebody made a few months ago about my “constant success” really grabbed me by the throat. Because the writing life – mine and everybody else’s –is so NOT constant success, despite what we share on FB. It’s a roller coaster of ups and downs, sandwiched between many weeks that feel like we’re the only ones who give a hoot about what we’re doing. 

So, to get real, a full disclosure: In 2017, I didn’t sell a single dang book.
BUT. I did WRITE books. Quite a few, actually. Plus Nat Geo continues to assign me titles, for which I’m forever grateful. And I’m tweaking a chapter book that, whether it sells or not, still makes me laugh out loud. Counting that one as pure joy. 
There you have it. 
One thing I’ve learned in 20 years of writing: Without the downs, you can’t fully savor the Ups.

I think I got more comments on that post–217–than anything else I’ve ever posted. It hit home with SO MANY other writers, often people the rest of us think of as “successful” in the field. So remember, writer friends: We’re ALL constantly hustling, constantly striving to improve, constantly wondering and hoping and dreaming of what’s just around the corner. (And, whew, 2018 was much kinder to me, sales-wise.)

So putting a new calendar on the wall and cracking open a new planner never fails to get me fired up, because it’s a brand, spankin’ new OPPORTUNITY. You can never predict what this new year will bring. My goal this year is to write something as FUNNY as:





As SWEET as:


For starters. Best of luck to all of YOU as you launch into 2019!


PB writers! Need inspiration? You know about author Tara Lazar’s January picture-book-idea-a-day fun that is StoryStorm, right? If not, be sure to check it out, right here, right now. Reading the daily posts there is inspiring!

Also, some news that is




Well…for us, anyway. Picture Book Builders is now on Twitter!!! Follow us at @PicBkBuilders. We’ll follow you right back.

ALL BEST to you, loyal readers, in this new year!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Bird Girl - Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature With the World, Parrotfish Has a Superpower, Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Sea Turtle Swims, Kangaroo Hops, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, We Love Babies!, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2025: Polecat Has a Superpower!, It's Corn-Picking Time!, Giraffe Runs. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. Jill, Happy 2019 to you. I love this post and the books you chose! May 2019 be a productive, successful year for us all. Hugs, K

  2. SO true! I’m ready to throw in the towel on a regular basis. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the encouraging words. Cheers to writing success – however defined – in 2019!

  4. Love your post and your books, Jill! Thanks for putting your heart on the page.

  5. Yes, Jill, to everything you said! 2018 was a down year for me, so i’m plotting to make 2019 better. Rooting for you, too, and can’t wait to read what you come up with. 🙂

    • It’s tough admitting that, isn’t it? Ugh. 2019 WILL be better! If we just keep writing, things turn around eventually.

  6. I’m looking forward to another year of your posts! Happy New Year!

  7. Yes. Yes. Yes! Whatever point we are in our writing journey – it is so encouraging to know we all are on the same roller coaster of ups and downs. Thank you, Jill, for this inspiring post!!

  8. THANKS so much for this post…My debut PB comes out March 1 and my first review from Kirkus was CRUMMY (to put it mildly). but like you said, the “fail” is all part of the “winning” plan. i wish people would share the struggle more often, so i didn’t feel so lonely behind this laptop.

    Anyway, thanks again and here’s to whatever 2019 brings:)!

  9. Yes! Thanks for this, Jill! Because as we all know, we’ll never sell anything if we don’t write. My idea well is fairly full. Now I just have to put the hard work into writing those stories.

  10. *sigh** This was lovely. Perfect. THANK YOU. I’m with you all the way, Jill!

  11. GREAT post! And I shared on Twitter!

  12. I really appreciated that post and i know a lot of other writers did, too! While some may have seen it as discouraging, that even after many titles published, it doesn’t get any easier, others, like me, found it comforting to know that dry spells are normal. I appreciate your reality check! AND your encouragement to keep on writing!! Wishing everyone inspiration and magical words in 2019!

  13. Jill, thank you for your honesty, encouragement, and good karma. I need a different calendar I think, to feel that sense of excitement. Mine is currently filled with kid and Vet dr. appts and a volunteer schedule (which I actually do enjoy, though not creative) I think I will try also using a “creative calendar.” Much success and satisfaction to us all in 2019.✌?????????

    • Nothing makes me happier than waking up to a BLANK square on my calendar, Annie! 🙂 (Doesn’t happen very often here, either.) BEST to you in 2019!

  14. You are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this post.

  15. Thanks, Jill, for your honesty and inspiration!

    May this be a fruitful year of both writing and selling for you!

    Many hugs!!




  17. Great post! I need to hear about other authors’ struggles. . . And I’m glad you’re on Twitter.

  18. Thanks for this honest post, Jill. As you know…I needed it! I feel fired up at the beginning a new year, too. I hope to keep that feeling with me as the months move along! Reading each Storystorm post certainly adds a nice dose of inspiration. to my day and is a great way to kick off a new year of writing. Wishing you the best!

  19. I really loved this post, Jill. Thank you!!!

  20. Great post, Jill.
    And I would love to write something as out there and clever as P is for Pterodactyl.

  21. Thanks for the reminder to hang in there and take one hurdle at a time. Hoping 2019 is as positive, productive and profitable as 2018!

  22. Bonnie J. Lawhorn

    So enjoyed your post. You’re right, no one likes to talk about the struggle or pause in their writing. I just admire that you continue and come out with endearing books.

  23. Thank you, Jill! This was simply wonderful to read. As a writer on “the other side” (not published) it’s great to hear about the ups and downs and that the journey continues. I think that completely bursts the false narrative that once you publish a books you’ve “made it” and people like me need constant reminders to keep the hustle going and that it will continue on after “success” happens. In think in those moments of failure it’s absolutely imperative to constantly revaluate what our expectations are for success–and to evaluate whether or not it’s realistic. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into that! No shame whatsoever. I think the more honest and raw authors are about the down moments, the more it lifts everyone else up. Mad props to anyone who can be vulnerable and share the full spectrum of what success means. In 2019 I want to celebrate my failure. We all should. If you’re not failing at something, you’re not trying hard enough!

    • Exactly! Bet I got … 30-35 rejections last year, Brian. Maybe more. But I managed to sell some too. Just keep plugging away, and you’ll get there!!!

  24. Thank you, Jill, for telling it like it is. I’ll admit, I often click away from good news on FB. I’m happy for everyone’s successes but it can also be depressing if I let it. With the hours I work at my “paying” job, there are days when a single paragraph is my success. So here’s to 2019 and many more paragraphs for us all!

    • You’re very welcome, Dale. It is sometimes tough seeing nothing but other people’s great book news on FB. I try to remember that the reason people shout their good news is that it doesn’t come along very often. 🙂 Nice when we can honestly celebrate one another. Hoping for a positive 2019 for you!

  25. Happy 2019, Jill. I’m glad we met a few years ago because I can “see” you as I read your (our) truths! Here’s to a positive, productive, publishing kind of year to all of us!!!

  26. Thanks Jill- very inspirational!!
    And I love the books you highlighted.

  27. Love this post Jill! ? I certainly relate to your experiences. Being an author is a very bumpy journey. Glad I have wonderful “book” friends like you to share it with!

  28. What a heartfelt post, Jill. And I love all of the books you chose to post! I wish all of us success in 2019!

  29. Hi Jill. I enjoyed this post and your encouraging words. I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I follow a lot of writing blogs but yours is one I make sure and read no matter what. I always get helpful information, inspiration and guidance.

  30. Wanted to add to my previous post. I love all the writers that are part of Picture Book Builders. It is the blog I always make sure to read. Didn’t mean to leave the others out.

  31. This makes my day, Angela, and I know the rest of our crew will get a lift from it, too. There are SO MANY blogs clamoring for our attention, so I really REALLY appreciate your taking the time for this comment.

  32. Thanks for sharing the realistic side of writing.

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