Stay Grounded with Caroline Starr Rose's "Writer's Manifesto"

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ―Aristotle

The Handsprings Conference, presented by the New Mexico regional chapter of SCBWI, which took place Oct. 26-27, 2018, at the Bosque Conference and Retreat Center, Albuquerque, NM, offered something for everyone. Faculty included such distinguished professionals as Patrick Collins, Creative Director, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Sara Sargent, Executive Editor, Harper Collins Children’s Books, and Caroline Starr Rose, author of award-winning children’s books, including Ride On, Will Cody!Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine; and two books coming out in 2019 and 2020, respectively, A Race Around the World and Miraculous.

Breakout Session with Caroline Starr Rose
Caroline offered sage advice on writing for children, and for that matter, any kind of writing, in her “Writer’s Manifesto.” For at some point, writers need to “put their writing out there,” which, moving out of the cocoon of our office to meeting the public, can be a scary experience indeed. She remembers a time when she struggled. That’s when she took the time to think about what she needed and came up with The Writer’s Manifesto.

She suggests going back to the basics. Laying groundwork for yourself to refer back to again and again in your writing journey. First ask: Why do you write? Curiosity? Love of children? Love of the subject matter? Remembering why helps.

Caroline said she writes for her fifth-grade self—middle grade; picture books for children and parents. Why she writes? To make beautiful works of enduring value. She added, “I want my words to honor childhood and to extend dignity to children.”

Then there’s the slithery slope of success. For down at the bottom is the deep, dark hole of failure. The path to success is a moving target, as Caroline pointed out, with plenty of room for disappointment. Somehow, you need to find a way to survive these ups and downs, for there will be both, successes and failures. Second: What is your definition of success?

By creating sustainable definitions of why you write and what success means to you, you will have laid the foundation you will need in order to stay grounded. First and foremost, these two definitions will help keep your mindset in your control, and no one else’s. There will be no room for doubt.
In addition to keeping your mindset in your control, Caroline’s Writer’s Manifesto offers additional ways to stay grounded. Here are the two that come up frequently.

You have become a success. You have multiple published works with traditional publishers that are selling well, even winning awards. The Writer’s Manifesto says, “Hold success loosely.” Remember: Success is a gift, not a given. It’s a gift when someone likes your book. When you receive praise and are treated as someone special, hold it loosely. Don’t think you’re more important than anyone else. Stay grounded: Remember why you write and how you define success.
You are rubbing elbows with authors and illustrators who have garnered success. You can’t help it. You find yourself comparing yourself to them and feeling envious. And what’s worse, your peers don’t even notice you. At times like this, take the long view. Stay generous. Another person’s success doesn’t mean there is less opportunity for you. Acknowledge that you’re envious. Use your envy as a map. Follow this map to where you want to go. These successful artists are your inspiration. View them that way. Stay grounded: Remember why you write and how you define success.

Caroline’s Writer’s Manifesto can be your anchor. It can be your guide, leading your thoughts and opinions to the highest place they can go. Creating a manifesto of your own can save you a lot of time and effort, so you can re-focus your energies on what matters: your works.

Here are the questions on a handout, “A Writer’s Manifesto: Who You Are, What You Value, and Why It Matters,” which Caroline gave to each participant:
Why do you write?
What is your sustainable definition of success?
How can you deal with comparison and envy?
Creating your Own Manifesto:
*What ideals do you want to hold to?
*What truths do you want to guide you?
*What do you want to stand for?
*What do you want to avoid?

In parting, Caroline urged us: READ THIS!!!

Visit Caroline's website at and her blog for helpful writing information and tips. Caroline is an active member of our SCBWI regional chapter. She lends her expertise and help in our activities throughout the year. She is a delight to know and we are grateful for her participation and support.
Clipart courtesy of:
Some of my writing partners
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. Her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be available soon. Currently, she is hard at work on The Ghost of Janey Brown, Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at

1 comment:

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, what great advice on staying grounded as an author. And, thanks for sharing the things you learn at the writing workshops!

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