Conference Challenge #1: FAILURE

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Happy Wednesday to you, too, Laura. But what’s up with this conference challenge thingy?

Awesome, I’m glad you asked! Okay. Let me explain. See, Larissa, Susan, Chiêu Urban, (our fabulous new co-blogger, more on that later,) and I would love to invoke more of an interactive, community feel to the blog. So to get the ball rolling, we came up with the Eight Week Writing & Illustrating Challenge that will end before the March 31st “Rx for Children’s Book Creators:  Getting Your Stories Right” Conference!

Once a week, we’re going to post a challenge for both writers and illustrators. Some will be silly. Some will be hard. Some will make you curse our names out loud. But all will (hopefully) take less than an hour to complete and maybe even help improve your writing, give you inspiration or push you out of your comfort zone.

Cool. Why should I do them?

Um . . . like I said, to help improve your writing, give you inspiration or push you out of your comfort zone.  

No. Really. Why should I do them?

Okay, okay. Those who complete the challenges will get raffle entries for a super awesome delectably stuffed goodie basket full of writing supplies and signed books, including a Beauty Shop for Rent hardback and Just Flirt arc by me! The winning ticket will be pulled at the March 31st conference.

– Completing FOUR of the EIGHT challenges will earn ONE entry.

– Completing SIX of the EIGHT challenges will earn TWO entries.

– Completing EIGHT of the EIGHT challenges will earn THREE entries, woo-HOO!  

Nice! So, what are the rules? And do I have to submit my work because I’m kind of shy.

No, shy person, because we love and trust you, we’re doing this strictly by the honor system. You don’t have to submit your work unless you’d like to share with the class. It’s completely up to you. You are required, however, to leave a comment in the challenge post saying you have completed the task for the entry to count.

But what if I’m only going to the July conference and not the March?

That’s cool. If your name is pulled on March 31st, we’ll bring it to the July conference. Just be sure to let us know beforehand. And if you’re not able to go to either, you can also make arrangements with a friend.

What if I’m too busy this week? Can I do two next week?

All that matters to us is that you do them honestly and completely. If that means playing catch-up, it’s fine with us! But you still must leave a comment in the original challenge post. (Links will be provided in each challenge.)

What if I’m a writer and illustrator, how many entries would I get if I did eight writing and eight illustrating challenges?

Dude. If you did that many, you totally rock and get six entries. (For you non-drawing writers like me, stick figures do not count! ;))

Okay, cool, so when are we going to start, already?

Right now!



Fact: In the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, he also led the American League in strikeouts.

Fact: Thomas Edison did more than 11,000 experiments before finally discovering the carbon-impregnated filament that led to the first electric light bulb.

Fact: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Fact: Oprah Winfrey lost one of her first jobs as a news anchor.

So, what do these examples of famous “failures” have to do with writing?


Because for some writers–hello, like me–we are often paralyzed with the Fear of Failure.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the following thoughts:

This book idea is stupid.

Why am I wasting time writing this horrible scene that will only be cut?

[Insert Name] is such a better writer than me.

This book will never sell.

What if I spend the next five years working on this story but it never sells and I become a crazy, insane person and my children petition for another mother and my fed-up husband leaves me for a Bob Evan’s waitress who won’t even give me a discount for their yummy banana bread?

Okay, maybe I’m the only one who’s had the last thought. 🙂

But when a writer allows these negative thoughts to take control, their creative process is hindered. They procrastinate. They spend their writing session staring blankly at the screen, drooling and pulling their hair out while pounding down peanut M&M’s, guzzling mass quantities of coffee, and using bathroom breaks as a way to hide from their computer.

(Again. Maybe that’s just me.)

So what’s the solution?

Accept your fear.  Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand that will *poof* make these negative thoughts disappear. Lord knows I’ve tried to make them go away, but they’re always there, lingering in the back of my mind, waiting for the opportunity to point out my every mistake, despite the fact that I’ve sold two books.

Refine your definition of “failure.” After all, it was Thomas Edison who said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

A boring, uneventful scene that will be cut is not a waste of time. It’s a compass that will help guide you to the true premise of the story. A badly cast character who you know is not the best fit for the story is not a mistake. They are simply a stand-in until the perfect character introduces themselves. A horrible rough draft that is so not laying out the way you imagined is not a failure. It’s the framework of a house that will later be turned into a beautiful home with brick, windows, paint, and love.

So. What does this have to do with today’s challenge?


We want you to fail.

And when we say fail, we mean FAIL EPICALLY. Epically, totally, and completely.

Write a short, picture book rough draft that is the epitome of your every fear. Cliche characters. Senseless plot. Ridiculous story line. Stuff that would make an editor absolutely cringe and share it with the rest of the office for a good giggle. Let your hair down. Embrace your fear of failure and run with it.

Go crazy. Get nuts. Don’t think!

And . . . you only have thirty minutes. Anything more than that and you’ll start thinking too much. You’ll over-anaylze. You’ll let those nagging fears in the back door.

For example, here’s the title of my Epically Horrible Picture Book:

The Epic Adventures of Ricky the Road Kill Rattlesnake.

(I know, awesome, right?)

And for you artsy folks, here’s your:


This is brought to you by the lovely Chiêu Urban, who is now an official co-blogger for As The Eraser Burns and will covering all sorts of great things for our regional illustrators, woo-HOO!!!

Chiêu’s challenge is this:

You have thirty minutes to draw Ricky The Road Kill Rattlesnake. 😉 Share if you dare and we’ll post it next week!

And finally, it seems very fitting to end this post with the moving speech given by JK Rowling, whose Harry Potter novel was rejected twelve times, at Harvard on the topic of failure.

In her words:  

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable.”

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter is just one of many examples of famous books that have been rejected. Here’s ten more!

Good luck with the challenge, and don’t forget to leave a comment in this post in order to qualify for the raffle!

Happy writing/illustrating, everyone! 🙂

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Writing & Drawing Exercises. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Conference Challenge #1: FAILURE

  1. Ron Smith says:

    This is fantastic. I hope these challenges draw some people out of hiding to start participating on this great blog, which is a great resource.

    I’m in!

  2. mary wirick says:

    did it…awful!

  3. Shirley Menendez says:

    This is so much fun. I’ve written such an awful story that it leaves me chuckling.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Awesome, don’t you just love it when your own writing gives you a giggle? Great job, Shirley, way to get your feet wet and I’m glad you had fun!

  4. Laura says:

    I’m new so I needed to do it and I did. This is why I joined, I need to come out of the closet even though I’m still afraid of the light.

    Thanks for this compelling challenge.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Woo-HOO!! It’s so fabulous to hear that you faced your fears and stepped into the sunshine. You’re the reason we’re doing this!

      Wonderful job, Laura, and I love your name. 😉

  5. I did the drawing, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t sell many books!

    I’m happy to share it, though.

  6. Pingback: Coffee & Conversation with Ann McCallum! « As the Eraser Burns

  7. Sue Poduska says:

    Well, that stinks more than I thought possible. Ewwww! Totally stole a title, used a subject no self-respecting PB reader would be caught dead near, forced rhymes throughout (especially if they didn’t make sense), and never explained what I was talking about. Only sorry I didn’t use more unexplained big words. Title: The Very Angry Exponent.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      LOVE it! And bonus for forced rhymes. Most of my first picture book attempts had them, too! Thanks for jumping in, Sue! 🙂

  8. Melanie Vickers says:

    I want to move from failure to success!

    • Laura Bowers says:

      “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” – Dale Carnegie

      Thanks for jumping in, Melanie!! 🙂

  9. Laura says:

    Ok, I’m a little brave tonight, so hear is my submission:
    Honey Dust
    One morning as two girls were eating their Cheerios cereal for breakfast, one said to the other “what would happen if I blew the crumbs of the cereal and you turned into a frog?” The sister turned and said “are you kidding? That stuff only happens in fairy tale stories.” So her sister blew the crumbs into her face and guesses what? The disbelieving sister turned into a frog! She hopped onto the kitchen table and yelled at her sister, “Look what you’ve done to me!”
    “Gosh, I was just kidding said Grace. I’m so sorry Elizabeth.” “Well, what am I supposed to do now say Grace?” “I don’t know said Elizabeth let’s think, who can help us out?” “I know said Elizabeth, let’s go see Dr. Tatiana maybe she’ll know how to change you back into a little girl.” Off the girls went to visit Dr. Tatiana at her home.
    As the girls arrived at Dr. Tatiana’s house, they noticed a strange smell coming from inside of the house. Hmm, I wonder what that strange smell is the girls said. They knocked on the door of Dr. Tatiana’s house; they could hear strange noises as she approached. “Yes, Dr. Tatiana said,” “hi Dr. Tatiana, its Grace and Elizabeth we have a problem may we come in?” Certainly she said. Dr. Tatiana opened the door and to the girl’s surprise Dr. Tatiana did not look like herself, she looked like a witch!
    “Oh sorry girls, I was just working on a new medicine. What happened to you Dr.Tatiana? Well the strangest thing happened when I was eating my Cheerios cereal for breakfast this morning. I sneezed and accidently blew the cereal crumbs all over me and I turned into a witch! Wow, said Elizabeth, you’ll never believe what happened to Grace this morning. Then Elizabeth opened her bag and out jumped Grace. Oh my word said Dr. Tatiana, what happened to Grace? Well, we were eating Cheerios for breakfast this morning and I accidently blew the crumbs from Cheerios cereal on Grace and well here she is a frog! We came to see if you can help Grace turn back into herself. Dr. Tatiana looked at Grace, I’m so sorry Grace. Ok, I think I have an idea.
    So the three went off to see Dr. Todd, he will surely know how to change us back to ourselves. Dr. Todd helps patients with all kinds of diseases; surely he will have the answer. Elizabeth gently put Grace back into her bag, Dr. Tatiana put on a hat, sunglasses, and some make-up to hide her ugly appearance.
    They arrived at Dr. Todd’s house, they knocked on his door, I’m coming they heard from the other side of the door. Dr. Todd opened the door, “oh my word!” said Dr. Tatiana. The three were shocked to see others waiting in Dr. Todd’s office. There were frogs, ogres, witches, and other creatures they had never seen before. Dr. Tatiana said, “What is going on Dr. Todd?” Well, it seems like the Cheerios cereal crumbs or honey dust is magical.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      AWESOME, Laura, and major, major kudos for your bravery! And I love this because my kids always leaving near-empty cereal boxes in our pantry because they don’t want the dust is always an issue in our house!

      Thanks so much for participating, Laura, and for bodly sharing your work. You did a GREAT SUPER FANTASTIC job! 🙂

  10. Alright, I’m definitely not going to submit this PB for a critique. But, it was a fun exercise. I’m still working on the illustrations-which totally qualify as epic failures.

  11. This was way more fun than I thought it would be. By trying to fail, I could just let myself go. Loved the thirty minute time limit, too. Thanks, Laura!

    The Leprechaun’s Surprise
    O’Rourke the Leprechaun was one of the first settlers to the United States of America, but then, it wasn’t called that. He simply lived in “The Colonies.”
    He remembered the first day he saw a beautiful horse as it clopped off the boat landing ashore and thought, “I need to get me one of these beasts.”
    So, O’Rourke waited until the horse was bed down in his stable and all the men who tended to him left for the night.
    O’Rourke hopped up on a stool, jumped for the stall door, clung on for dear life, and raised himself up to peer into the stall, finding himself eye-to-eye with blaring nostrils.
    “What on Earth are you, little man, and what are you doing here?” Whinnied the strong black thoroughbred, whose head was the size of O’Rourke’s body.
    “Well, I’m a Leprechaun, and I’m here to find out how I can get one of you to keep for my very own,” he proudly announced, happy he could speak with this species.
    “Hmmm…I’ve never met one of you, but I’m not happy where I am, so I suppose I have to trust you. I’m King, but I feel like a prisoner right now.”
    “I’m sorry, King, but at least you are off that bloody, ship, eh? That’s a heck of a ride over the sea, and I can’t imagine it on four legs.”
    “Yes, I don’t think horses were made for wooden ships, and we still don’t understand why we’re here. But we didn’t have any say about it.”
    King sadly shook his head, looked down, and stomped at the ground. O’Rourke realized he was about to see the first horse he’d ever seen cry.
    “There, there, now, King, maybe I can help out here. Let’s say I swing down, stand on the stool again, and open the latch. Then you’ll be free again!”
    O’Rourke thought, “AND MINE!” The Leprechaun daydreamed of himself galloping at high speed holding onto that silky black mane rambling into the countryside.
    “But,” King interrupted his thoughts, “I have a dear friend who I can’t leave behind. I think you would really like her. Can you help her, too?
    “Well of course I can!” O’Rourke couldn’t believe his Irish luck! Now he would have not only one, but two of these glorious animals all to himself!
    “Let’s get on with it then, before those awful people who brought us here come back from the pub and bed down for the night,” King whispered.
    The Leprechaun hopped down to the stool outside the stable door, stretched up on his tippy-toes, and unhooked the latch to the door.
    King pushed the door open with his nose, peering out both ways, to make sure no one was watching. “Follow me,” he directed and headed to the right.
    O’Rourke scurried on his little legs as fast as he could trying to keep up with the massive horse and his giant clip clop footsteps which he tried to keep quiet.
    Four stalls down, King stopped, and O’Rourke hurried up behind him, panting breathlessly and very glad he could finally rest.
    “But I don’t see a horse in there,” O’Rourke exclaimed. “Why did you bring me to an empty stall? Is this a trick, because if it is….”
    The Leprechaun’s face got red and he shook his fist, imagining that King now would run off into the distance, and he would lose his horse because he had trusted him.
    “No, it’s not a trick. Why would I be mean to the only person who has been kind to me in months?” King said softly, and with meaning.
    “Just open the door please, like you did mine.” And so O’Rourke did. King helped nudge the door open with his large nose, so they could both peak inside.
    O’Rourke saw what he thought was the most beautiful creature he’d ever laid eyes on. Their eyes met, and he knew this was the horse for him.
    “O’Rourke, meet my friend, Olivia. She’s a Sicilian miniature donkey. I’m sure you now understand why I couldn’t leave her behind.”
    “Yes, dear King, I most certainly do. And I think if we’re going to make it out of here on best time, it’s best if I travel along on her back.”
    “Oh, please, hop aboard, little man, I would love to take you away from here wherever we are going. And I’m so lucky that you are just my size!”
    With that, the three snuck away, and then galloped off into the countryside as lifetime friends, while the full moon above smiled upon them.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Awesome, Valerie, you did a FANTASTIC job! And I’m so happy that this exercise allowed you to just cut lose and have some fun. After all, isn’t writing supposed to be fun? Sure doesn’t seem like it at times. 😉

      Thanks for participating! 🙂

  12. Thanks so much! I had a ton of fun with this challenge, and I really needed it today. I even worked up the nerve to post my 30-minute picture book failure on my blog for all the world to see:

    • Laura Bowers says:

      I absolutely loved your blog post, Veronica!! (Tried to comment, but after fighting with my yahoo log-in about twenty times, I had to give up. :()

      But your trophy wife costume was absolutely hilarious, and I adore your daughter’s pink bed! Love the “Disqualified” chili rebellion, and I mostly love how you embraced this challenge and really went for it!

      Major kudos, Veronica. Today, your initials stand for Very Brave! 🙂

  13. Karen Kane says:

    I did it! My story had a dual title: ” A Meat-lover’s Tale” or “Tofu Does Have It’s Uses”. I have no idea where this story came from, but that is why it was so fun to write. I just wrote it and didn’t care that it got sillier and stupider!

    Love the challenges- am moving on to my pitch. Thanks for doing this!


  14. Pingback: Your Illustrators’ Challenge Weekend Update « As the Eraser Burns

  15. Lona Queen says:

    I made a stab at drawing Ricky but I don’t know how to upload him here. My Ricky eats roadkill. That’s how he got his name. He was fun to draw.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Lona! Your Ricky eats roadkill? That’s so wrong . . . and hilarious! I can imagine Will Ferrell doing the voice for that animated movie . . . 🙂

  16. Lona Queen says:

    Okay, since others were brave, I will be, too. Here’s my totally inappropriate picture book.

    Biting Affection

    Praylene, the praying mantis, looked across the bush, “Oh, look! There’s Brad. Isn’t he the cutest. I could just bite his head off.” She raised her hand and waved at him. Brad waved back.
    Pat, Praylene’s twin brother, frowned at his sister. “I wish you wouldn’t talk about my best friend that way. Don’t you girls ever think of anything else?”
    “Don’t get your wings in a jumble. I wasn’t being literal. You know that’s just an old wives’ tale to make sure we keep our abstinence pledges. Besides, I’ve seen the way you flirt with Charlene.”
    “If it’s just an old wives’ tale, then how come there are no old husbands around?”
    Praylene frowned. Pat was right. In her entire life, she had never met an adult male praying mantis. Mom had said that they had all been killed in a war with the spiders, and the Black Widow Spider, two bushes over had confirmed it, pointing out the lack of adult male spiders of her species. It had to be true. There was no way it could just be a coincidence, was there?

    Later that night Praylene went out on a date with Brad. He is really cute, she thought, as she curled up beside him and kissed his neck. The crickets were singing and the stars were putting on a show for them. She nibbled under his ear, and Brad pulled away from her, so he could look into her eyes.
    “Cut that out! You haven’t forgotten your promise of abstinence, have you?
    “Of course not,” she answered. “But a girl has urges. Can’t we just fool around a little. I promise I don’t bite.” She smiled up at him with love in her eyes. She really did like him very, very, very much. Just then she saw Pat and Charlene passing by. “Let’s go under the leaves where it’s a little more private,” she suggested.
    Brad agreed, and they disappeared under the leaves.

    The next day she ran into Charlene.
    “Hey,” Charlene said. “I saw you out with Brad last night. Where is he today?”
    “Well, he kinda lost his head over me last night.” Praylene watched her friend, not sure how much she wanted to confide in her about what had really happened.
    Charlene smiled at her. “I had a wonderful time with your bother Pat last night. He was perfectly yummy.”
    So much for old wives’ tales, Praylene thought.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Oh my gosh, Lona, I laughed so loud from this that Bob asked me what in the world I was reading. 😉 Again. So wrong in SO many ways, but also totally hilarous! I’m so glad you had fun with this challenge.

  17. Miranda McClain says:

    Well, better late than never. I love this challenge and just wrote a terrible rhyming potty book. Thanks for the inspiration:o)

  18. Pingback: Conference Challenge Wrap Up! « As the Eraser Burns

  19. Ann McCallum says:

    Ahh– so, I didn’t read the fine print. I’ve done the challenges, but didn’t leave the requisite comments. Oops. Now, weeks later, and at the 11:00 hour (nearly), here’s my comment to confirm that I did complete a gawd-awful assignment.

  20. Beth Blevins says:

    I just wrote “The Snuggle Bunny and Slurpy Slug Have an Adventure” — worst-book-ever.

  21. Pingback: Conference Writing/Illustrating Challenge #2 : What’s your pitch? « As the Eraser Burns

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