Monday, August 30, 2010

How I Coaxed the Caterpillar Out of Its Cocoon

From February 2001, through December 2005, I wrote a monthly column, Advice from a Caterpillar at Writing The original column, which was geared for children’s writers, was my idea. It was based on the notion that, even though I’m one of those “authors you’ve never heard of”, I had been (in 2001) working as a professional writer and editor for 25 years, and knew a lot about the business. I also knew my way around the internet, so it was easy for me to access information. I took questions from writers (usually 3 per month) and found the answers.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love writing the column. I did. But after 4 years, the questions all seemed the same – “Can you help me get published?” I started repeating myself. During fall 2005, I discussed my feelings with Editor/Publisher Moira Allen. We both agreed it was time for me to move on.

I was a restless soul back then. I had just finished a major rewrite of my YA manuscript, “PFC Liberty Styrker", about the Iraq War, for my ‘then” agent. I thought I was headed in a completely different direction. But I’ll go into that whole story next time (9/20).

The point is, I let the Caterpillar slip into its cocoon.

I started my From the Styx blog about 6 weeks after I ended my Caterpillar columns. I also began work on a new YA manuscript, “Hurricane Katrina”, which I had discussed with my agent and he’d said, “I love it. Get to work on that right away.”

In the meantime my friend, Olgy Gary asked if she could publish my columns on her website, Children Come First.

“Of course,” I said.

For the next 18 months I immersed myself in my blog and the manuscript. During those months I received emails from dozens of writers who said they missed my Caterpillar column and my input in the writing world. This touched me deeply. I didn’t realize I had made a difference in people’s lives until they told me so. My frumpy, old Caterpillar had fans.

Was it time to bring it back?

If I hoped to coax the Caterpillar out of its cocoon there had to be some changes made. Writing a blog and writing a column are similar. With a blog format, I knew I would have to post weekly, not monthly like the column. Doing a blog also gave me the freedom to expand on the original column. I decided to use some of the questions from the old column but update my answers with more current information. I also take new questions. Just email me at:

Along with advice, I added reviews, markets, contests, and interviews, geared toward children’s writers but not exclusively children’s writers. Many of my column readers were young writers looking for advice and markets, so the blog contains a list of links to markets and websites for young writers.

The new and improved Advice from a Caterpillar emerged in October 2007. The Caterpillar’s fans found it again. And new readers have discovered my work.

My From the Styx blog appeals to different readers than my Advice from a Caterpillar blog. Likewise this YAAYNHO blog appeals to an even wider audience. Which brings me back to my original point about why I blog – to build readership.

Peggy Tibbetts

My books

My blogs:
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peggy,
    Good points. I sometimes wonder why I blog, and you've answered my question. To build readership and also to make friends. Meeting other writers, hearing their stories and how they work is fun and educational as well.
    Nice post.