It seems everywhere I go someone tells me they have a great idea for a children’s book. Ideas are great, but for those ideas to become a book, you have to get something on paper. 
Fortunately for the hundreds of writers who call Birmingham home, there are numerous resources to keep the creative juices flowing and the deadlines and challenges coming. One motivation is the very group created by Javacia Bowers that is challenging me each day to do this blog challenge at #bloglikecrazy on twitter and See Jane Write. 
This year I vowed to delve into my writing and art, exploring and learning. I found a group online called SEE JANE WRITE and fell in love with Javacia’s spirit of sharing information. She hosted a SEE JANE TWEET that told us all about how to use that #hashtag (I still don’t really understand it fully but love to use it to “googlefy” topics on my twitter). She has since hosted a number of forums by local bloggers, publishers and writers. I began writing for publications such as Magic City Post dot com through some of these events. (My articles on Allen Iron Works (who happen to forge candelabras rentable for parties and weddings as well as fences and stair railings), Dog Days (an awesome doggy daycare with rooftop play area), Terrariums and Tablescapes (Sweet Peas Garden shop in Homewood and Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place) are in the archives at magiccitypost.com)
This month I began a class at Samford on writing the fiction novel. I also signed up for another Wiki12 conference (it is my third) put on by SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).  The group is one of the best in the country for providing its members with information on writing for children. Members from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia gather in Birmingham each year to hear from experts.  This past Saturday we picked the brains of Julie Ham, assoc. editor for Charlesbridge in Massachusetts; Kevin Lewis, executive editor for Disney/ Hyperion; Leila Sales, Assoc. Editor at Viking Children’s books; Marietta Zacker, agent for Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.  They shared numerous topics from how to publish, illustration, book awards, nuts and bolts of publishing, picture books, children’s and teen writing, non-fiction, magazine writing for children, library collections to how to get noticed at Disney.
I was drawn during this particular meeting to the illustrator portfolios and vowed to try to get an illustration “gig”.  I did.  My first illustration job for hire. (I have illustrated two of my own books, but this is different! I have now illustrated four characters for game cards in a sci-fi based novel and am working diligently on a cover design.)  I appreciate what these people do! It is so much easier to be an “artist” and let the brush follow the muse!
Guest speakers for the upcoming SPRINGMINGLE on February 22-24, 2013 in Atlanta, GA will include NIkki Grimes, New York Times bestselling author and Coretta Scott King Award; Jill Corcoran, Agent for Herman Agency; Dianne Hess, Exec. Director for Scholastic, Inc.; Chad Beckerman, Creative Director for Amulet Books; Katherine Jacobs with Roaring Book Press; and Beck McDowell, who has recently published with Penguin Group. 
For the aspiring author, there are no excuses if you are thinking there is nowhere to turn to figure out your craft.  Birmingham and the Southeast have a treasure for writers in every nook, cranny and bookstore.  You just might not be looking in the right places. NO excuses in 2013! Set a goal and go for it!
Other sources for INSPIRATION:

Alabama Writers Forum

Southern Magic Romance Writers of Alabama