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1. scbwi conference 2015

Here's my favourite photo from this year's conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators in Winchester: debut author Kathryn Evans modeling her Seawig in front of seafaring costume judges Philip Reeve and Jonny Duddle.

Photo by Teri Terry

And check out the party costumes of organisers Dom Conlon (fish bones in the beard!) and George Kirk (giant squid, with Seawig!).

Photos by Philip Reeve, George Kirk & Candy Gourlay

The SCBWI Conference is a great chance for long-time friends and total newbies to meet up, celebrate their books, learn how to make and pitch new ones and generally muck about.

Photos by Candy Gourlay</a>

I've been to the conference before, but this was the first time I had a few hours to wander around Winchester, which looks sparkly and gorgeous in the run up to Christmas. Philip and I bought mulled wine at the Christmas market and I bought earmuffs; it was all very cosy.

Obligatory lovely Winchester Cathedral pics:

Actually, this was the view of the cathedral from my hotel room!

The cool thing about Winchester is that anyone who sleeps within a stone's throw of the cathedral gets two little elf-priests to sit at their feet all night. (Well, perhaps historically.)

SCBWI treated us to a nice dinner on the first night (and I wore my new Esther Marfo dress, love it love it).

Photo by George Kirk

We found out it was illustrator Clare Tovey's birthday so a bunch of us rallied to make her a cake.

Photo on left by George Kirk

Philip and I gave the opening keynote speech and George Kirk did an amazing job introducing us by playing a song she'd written for us on the ukulele. Wow!

Direct YouTube link

Thanks, George! Philip and I led everyone through a few of the activities we do with kids, to engage them in our books, including drawing, singing and creating and playing a giant board game.

Tweet (and pug) by @JoolsAWilson, photo by George Kirk

Then we got to listen to a talk by illustrator-write Jonny Duddle, who has a background in designing characters for computer games and who designed the pirates for the recent Aardman animated film. I loved hearing about his year at sea, when he got to crew an actual old-style pirate ship, which is sort of my dream; and how photos he took from that year became such valuable reference images for his later pirate picture books.

Despite posting those costume photos, I didn't actually get to go to the evening's fancy dress party. Philip was the Reeve & McIntyre ambassador while I kept a long-standing date with my husband Stuart back in London to go see the play Farinelli and the King. (Here's a picture of the glowing candle-lit Duke of York's Theatre.)

But it was great to see people being so creative! Well done on those costumes, guys, and it was fun popping in to see the conference illustrator exhibition!

Tweet by @SwapnaHaddow

One more photos of Nicky's Seawig; isn't she glorious? :D

Photos by Candy Gourlay

Huge thanks to George Kirk (here's her blog, Jan Carr, Dom Conlon, Candy Gourlay, Mo O'Hara, Suzie Wilde, Natascha Biebow, local P&G Wells booksellers and everyone on the team who helped to make the conference run so smoothly!

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2. The Fellowship of Writing

by Addy Farmer

Friends celebrate at the SCBWI conference!
A friend is a comrade, chum, compatriot, crony, advocate, ally, a confrere ( I like that word). The bond of friendship is forged by many and varied things - common opinions and values, humour, food, shared experience, even disagreement can bring us together as friends. Friendship can be lifelong or fleeting. We remember friends from when we were little - when everything was supposed to be a great deal less complicated but often was not. Then there's the primary playground where we fell in and out of love with our friends as quickly as the cloud moves across the sun. Then, in a teenage time of change we longed for or adored or hated our friends and most probably all at once.

And now? Well, I'll return to now at the end of this blog.

friend - noun
a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. orig. present participle of frēogan, cognate with Gothic frijōn to love
See how dark and gloomy the world looks when you're friendless.
Harry - in a place of isolation
The world can seem big and cold ...
Croc is looking for a friend at Christmas
 You might be lost and sad ...

I loved the brother sister friendship in I'll Give you the Sun, how it broke down, how each made new friends, before finding each other again. I also loved, as a child, the sibling friendship in Linnets and Valerians. Perhaps it has something to do with not having silblings that this type of friendship always catches me. Nicky Schmidt

Nobody understands you like a friends does ...
“Without friends, no one would want to live, even if he had all other good.' Aristotle
Wise words, Aristotle. In other words, you don't need stuff to make you happy. One of my favourite picture books about friendship is this one ...

Crispin has everything or does he?
Crispin has every expensive present he could possibly wish for at Christmas but he finds no joy in them until he has friends to play with as well. At the simplest level friendship makes us happy and the lack of it makes us sad. Friendship can be profound and it can be frivolous. It can make us laugh, it can make us cry, it can make us really cross, it can support us in our hour of need, it can save our lives. It is the stuff of stories.
I would not wish
Any companion in the world but you.
(The Tempest 3.1.60-1), Miranda to Ferdinand

For me, friends are the thrumming heart of stories. On her own, our hero is alone in the woods with only the wolves for company. She spends her time scrabbling for berries to eat and scurrying to the makeshift hut to escape being eaten. By the light of the makeshift fire, she knows that this is quite a boring and dodgy way to live. Eventually hunger drives her out of the woods (hers and the wolves) and she meets a small boy who gives her a three course meal. She discovers the joy of having a proper chat with someone who is not a tree and who also has the power to hypnotise wolves. Plus, he tells the best jokes. And we're off.

There are as many different types of friends as there are characters
I love the way Oliver Jeffers explores friendship in his boy and penguin books (Lost and Found, Up and Down etc). The misunderstandings and problem solving are handled beautifully .Katherine Lynas

A short-lived but bright-burning friendship between a pig and a spider

Max is called stupid and Freak is called Dwarf but together they are unstoppable
Pippa Wilson Flora And Ulysses is an absolutely brilliant one to look at.
A friend is somebody to understand you when nobody else seems to

In Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray's, 'The Unstoppable Maggie Magee', the friendship between Maggie and Sol is unusual in that Sol cannot speak and has limited communication but Maggie is his friend and they find their own way to communicate because it's important to them. Their friendship takes them to the places that they dream of. 

An important story of an unstoppable friendship
In Jeanne Willis', 'Dumb Creatures', Tom's got plenty to say but it's all caged up inside him. Then he meets Zanzi the gorilla who changes everything. Like Tom, she too can sign and it makes for an unusual and touching friendship.
Not so dumb creatures
In 'Siddharth and Rinki' when Siddharth moves to England he feels that the only friend who understands him is his toy elephant, Rinki. But slowly Siddharth understands that friendship can come through gestures and smiles and adventure.  

You don't have to speak the same language to make friends
School Friends - The first rule of children's books is Kill The Parents/Adults, that leaves your character only one option - make friends. It's a brilliant story arc that works everytime. New school, everyone hates me, make friends. I'm all alone with no one to help me, turn to another child for solidarity. I use this theme again and again. Oh! My secret is out! Jo Franklin 
Friendship can go beyond boundaries.

Wonderful, quirky friendships in a wonderful quirky world suggested by Pippa Wilson
Friendship does not recognise fences
Huckleberry Finn chose to be with friends with Tom Sawyer, "the best fighter and the smartest kid in town".He thought himself lucky to have such a friend and in 1884 America, such a friendship was also brave.

Stephanie Cuthbertson pointed out the friendship in Huck Finn as unconditional with no agenda and no prejudice.
Friendship can be stronger than death
Keith Gray has written a brilliantly unsentimental odyssey, Ostrich Boys. Three friends steal the ashes of their dead friend and set out to give him one last adventure.

"You know, yesterday and today have been amazing. All the stuff we've been through? And it's all been because of him. I'm telling you: we've got the best story ever. But he missed out. He's never gonna be able to tell it." His shoulders shook as he wept.

But they did it - Kenny, Sim and Blake. They braved authority and defied common sense for the sake of friendship. 

It's as good as picking up a sword. Remember Neville in Harry Potter?

Friends will go to the ends of the world to save you

Someone can overcome incredible odds to rescue their friend. In The Snow Queen, small, young, Gerda risks her life and soul to recover her friend, Kay from the Snow Queen.

A wonderful illustration by the illustrator Amy Chipping
"I can give her no greater power than she has already, said the woman; don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has ... If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her.”
Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen

In the end, friends will not give up on you

"To find out where Jonah had gone, he would have to go there too. One day it would come. He would hear something or see something, and he would know that this was the day. It might be only hours from now, it might be years. But he would know it when it came ... And then, he knew, he would find him."

When everyone else despairs of finding him, Joe never gives up on his best friend, Jonah

Story or real-life
A friend will fight for us
Rescue us
Stick up for us
Find us when we are lost
Support us when we are unsure
Tell us the truth
Or close their eyes to our faults ...
Pooh will keep you safe, Piglet!

Thanks to all our SCBWI friends who contributed to this blog. Catherine Friess also wrote a lovely post in Story Snug about fictional best friends - take a look for more ideas!

So back to the beginning and friend now; here are a few photos of friends or confrere at the conference!

Pirate Pals



Aye, aye, Cap'n!

Pirates have seldom looked better

Pirate lovelies


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3. Linda Boyden – Illustrator Interview

Linda Boyden was the second (and since there have been many more) person that I had gotten to know in the online kid lit community who invited me to stay before meeting me. It was in October of 2012 and … Continue reading

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4. Amy Huntingdon – Illustrator Interview

I came to Amy’s art through a recommendation, which isn’t rare for me as friends know of my love for picture book illustration despite ‘only’ being a writer. My friend, Emma Dryden suggested I check out Amy’s work earlier in … Continue reading

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5. While the Sun Shines

If you’re anywhere near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, look for me this weekend at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival. The celebration, October 9-11, features free programming for children, teens, and adults with 16 authors and illustrators presenting at three venues.

I’ll be presenting a program for children on Saturday at 11:30 at Bookworm Gardens. I’ll read Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move, and we’ll do a milkweed seed activity and talk about monarch butterflies.  I can hardly wait!

On Sunday at 1:30 at the Mead Public Library, I’ll present a workshop for adults about writing lively nonfiction and share examples from exciting nonfiction books for kids. I found such wonderful resources!

The following weekend is our SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Conference, where I’ll present a breakout session on Activating Passive Language. I’m also doing critiques. Here, Im interviewed on the new SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog. You can read interviews with some of the other presenters here

Just in time for my conference planning, I finished revising a test passage for an educational publisher. Sometime before I take off for Sheboygan, I intend to send out a letter about a school visit. All this preparation can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s all fun stuff. After a pretty quiet summer, I’m happy to be busy! So when work is available, I always say "Yes!" if I can.

This week’s To-Do list demonstrates our current Teaching Authors topic: the variety of ways we try to make a living in addition to writing and marketing our books for children. Marti started us off with a post about her two articles in the 2016 Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market, including "Make a Living as a Writer." Last week Monday, Esther mentioned teaching, writing book reviews, and educational writing. On Wednesday, Laura Purdie Salas shared an exercise about writing on assignment. On Friday, April gave us three tips and a story. Mary Ann started this week with another story and her take on school visits and teaching. We all wear multiple hats!

When I’m busybusybusy, I have to remember to take breaks. Yesterday, I walked to the lake and saw this brief, tiny rainbow overhead.

Here’s a cloud-watching poem to go with the view:
Summer Job 
My favorite occupation
is to lie back and look at the sky.
If you find the right spot,
you can see quite a lot
in the shapes of the clouds rolling by. 
You can study the habits of insects.
You can see how they flutter and fly.
You’ll see birds on the wing.
You can hear how they sing
as they swoop and they soar through the sky. 
All in all, it’s a fabulous habit.
You really should give it a try.
There’s nothing to do
but consider the view.
As the day drifts away, so do I.
JoAnn Early Macken 
I hope to see some of you out and about! In the meantime, be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2016 Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market (courtesy of Writer’s Digest Books)! Saturday, October 10, is the last day to enter.

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

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6. KidLit Author Events Oct. 7-12

We only have one kidlit author/illustrator event this week (that isn’t sold out) but lots of workshop opportunities. Mark your calendars for next week, Wednesday, October 14. Lincoln Pierce, author/illustrator of BIG NATE will be at Blue Willow! The last time he was here, the place was packed with kids and they had a blast! When you purchase BIG NATE: WELCOME TO MY WORLD from Blue Willow Bookshop, you will get your place in the signing line. Don’t delay! Blue Willow Bookshop’s event with Rick Riordan is sold out!

NYT Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, who has authored many fantasy books for kids and teens, will be in town tonight at Murder By the Book discussing his newest fantasy for adults, SHADOWS OF SELF. He is always asked about AFTER THE ASHES by Sara K. Joinerhis writing process at these events, so go prepared for a fascinating and exhausting discussion. If you want to hear/see his lectures on writing fantasy, check out his videos on Write About Dragons.

Also, please mark your calendars for local author Sara Joiner’s launch for her debut MG novel, AFTER THE ASHES. Sara will be celebrating her book birthday at Blue Willow Bookshop on October 17. I had originally thought I wouldn’t be able to make it to this event, but happily, plans have changed! I love this book and I’m excited about joining Sara’s party.

My critique partner, Kathy Duval, has a new picture book out later this month from Random House, A BEAR’S YEAR. Look for it at bookstores everywhere. If you see it out there in the wild, please post a pic on twitter or facebook. Kathy’s twitter handle is @duval_kathy.

Here’s what’s going on this week:

OCTOBER 8, THURSDAY, 6:00-9:00 PM Writespace
How to Edit Your Own Story: An IndieFest Hands-on Workshop, with Elizabeth White-Olsen
COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Self-editing is a crucial skill for any and every writer, because self-editing can significantly decrease the cost of hiring an editor and significantly increase the likelihood that readers will pick up our stories. In this hands-on workshop, we will learn important editing techniques and apply them to our own work. Please bring a digital or hard-copy version of your work-in-progress and come prepared to edit and rewrite. The first three writers to send in the first three pages of their manuscripts will get to have their work critiqued and incorporated into the workshop’s discussions.

Houston Writing Mastery Workshop with David Farland
Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake
COST: $229

Learn to take your writing from “okay” to “powerful” and “mesmerizing.” Dave will identify some of the most common writing weaknesses that keep new authors from publishing successfully, then help you overcome them. This workshop is a sample of his Writing Mastery 1 and Writing Mastery 2 workshops and allows access to select videos of those courses. You will come to the class with finished assignments from those videos and get feedback from Dave.

South Shore Harbor Resort, League City, TX
Cost: Event prices vary from $10 to $250; Please see their website!

The First Houston Readers & Writers Roundup will take place at the South Shore Harbor Resort, a beautiful resort in League City, located between Houston and Galveston Island. Friday, October 9 will be a full day of seminars focused on how to get started in self-publishing and how to promote yourself and work. Join our featured authors and industry specialists to discuss everything from legal and business considerations to street teams and social media marketing. The Saturday agenda will feature an all day author signing and author showcases with over 80 traditional, hybrid and indie bestsellers. The evening will end with a Masquerade Ball. Sunday events include “Breakfast with Bloggers, Booksellers, and Librarians” plus “The Business of Self Publishing” seminar. Guest speakers include publishers, editors, literary agents, formatters, free-lance editors, proof readers, beta readers, street team leaders, cover designers, cover models/photographers, personal assistants (PA), marketing/PR professionals, reviewers, and bloggers.

SCBWI Brazos Valley
Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop
La Quinta Inn, College Station, TX
COST: Members $115, Non-members $155 (Extra’s not included)

Join us for a day-long workshop focused on the craft of novel writing. Featured speakers will be award-winning author, Kimberly Willis Holt; the Book Doctor, Robyn Conley; and Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) editor, Kelsey Murphy. See website for critique submission guidelines.Topics include:

  • “Develop Your Character”
  • “After the First Draft”
  • “Self-editing without Self-destructing”
  • “Cross Marketing Story Elements for Cross Selling”

Writers In the Schools
Houston Baptist University
Tuition: $125

Fall Writing Festival for Educators: a conference specifically for educators, grades K-12, who want to: Improve their own writing skills, explore creative brainstorming methods, support their students’ writing, and experience the WITS method of teaching. Participants will attend two workshops with professional writers, gain hands-on writing experiences, discuss classroom applications AND receive 6 hours of TAGT-approved G/T credit and 6 TEA approved CPE credit hours!

Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
James Dean, PB Author/Illustrator

Join author James Dean in the seating area upstairs as he discusses his newest book PETE THE CAT AND THE BEDTIME BLUES! Pete the Cat and his friends are having so much fun playing and surfing in the sun, they don’t want the day to end. Pete has an idea—how about a sleepover? Groovy! As the night gets later, it’s time for bed. This cool cat needs to catch some ZZZs, but Pete’s friends aren’t ready to go to sleep just yet. Then Pete has another idea. . . . Will it work?


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7. KidLit Author Events Sept. 29-Oct.6

My apologies for being late with this post, but it’s in time to catch all the events happening this week. I want to send a big THANK YOU to Kimberly Morris and SCBWI Houston for the wonderful workshop we had Saturday, and to Mary Wade for taking us on a tour of the beautiful Lanier Theological Library. What a gorgeous, inspiring place!

THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS BY CRYSTAL ALLENI want to remind everyone to sign up for the Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop at SCBWI Brazos Valley on October 10 in College Station. Featured speakers will be award-winning author, Kimberly Willis Holt; the Book Doctor, Robyn Conley; and Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) editor, Kelsey Murphy (By the way, Kelsey Murphy is editing Crystal Allen’s upcoming series, THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS!). Workshop topics include:

  • “Develop Your Character”
  • “After the First Draft”
  • “Self-editing without Self-destructing”
  • “Cross Marketing Story Elements for Cross Selling”



TWEENSREADThe big KidLit event happening this week is TWEENS READ! This one-day event is this Saturday, October 3, from 9:30–5:00 at South Houston High School, 3820 Shaver Street, South Houston, TX 77587. There are SO MANY AMAZING AUTHORS coming this year including SCBWI Houston’s own Crystal Allen, and SCBWI Austin’s Nikki Loftin! Grab a tween and get there!


Now for the rest of this week’s events:

OCTOBER 1, THURSDAY, 7:00-9:00 PMWritespace
Social Media Workshop for Writers with Rebecca Nolan

COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Social Media for People Who Don’t Like Social Media: A Hands-On Workshop
There are many reasons you might not like social media. Have you put off creating social media accounts because it all seems too overwhelming? Do you have a couple of social media accounts but they use a language and method foreign to you and you don’t have time to mess with it? Are you worried about strangers seeing what you’re up to? Bring your laptop and learn how to creatively make social media your own workhorse. Learn how to deal with time constraints and pick up tips and tricks that make social media less time-consuming. In this workshop we will discover how to make Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ work to your advantage.

Central Library, 500 McKinney

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Houston Public Library’s (HPL) 4th Annual Houston LibroFEST on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Featured presenters include author, activist, and television director Jesús Salvador Treviño, Viola Canles, and children’s author and illustrator Xavier Garza; as well as programs and activities connected to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center exhibit on display, Remembering World War II: Houston’s Latino Veterans. Also taking part in the festival: musicians, artists, and local literary organizations and vendors including Arte Público Press, Gulf Coast Literary Journal, Inprint, Writers in the Schools (WITS), and more.

The theme of this year’s LibroFEST is “heros.” LibroFEST coordinators are looking for Hispanic and Latino children’s and young adult book authors to read, sell their books, or participate on panels. Those interested should contact Carmen Abrego at Carmen.Abrego@houstontx.gov .”

Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America
2015 Lone Star Writers’ Conference
COST: $130 Members, $140 Non-members

“The Power of Subtext: Body Language, Dialogue Cues, and Visceral Responses” Master Class with Margie Lawson. Visceral responses can be more than roiling stomachs and pounding hearts. Dialogue cues can be more than predictable, carry-no-power, pin-the-cliched-tag-on-the-dialogue. Body language can be more than cookie-cutter expressions. More than one-descriptor smiles. More than over-used phrases that many readers skim. This power-packed workshop will teach writers how to how to add psychological power to body language, dialogue cues, and visceral responses. Participants are requested to bring five chapters (or more), printed, double-spaced, in a binder. They’ll have opportunities to review their chapters and rewrite or add the right amount of subtext in the right places. Also attending is Linda Scalissi, an agent with 3 Seas Literary Agency.

OCTOBER 3, SATURDAY, 2:00-5:00 PMWritespace
Writers’ Workshop: Easy E-book Creation with Scrivener, with D.L.Young

COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Does the idea of e-book formatting fill you with dread? Have you tried to create an e-book, but can’t get the darned thing to come out right? Are you new to e-book creation and looking for tips and shortcuts? When you are equipped with the right tools and techniques, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to create a professional-grade e-book. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll create our own e-books and learn how to set up an e-book friendly template for our novels and short stories—and even learn to create e-books with our signature on them! Please bring your laptop, and D.L. Young will take you through the process step-by-step.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Elizabeth White-Olsen: How to Empower Your Prose by Stealing the Super Power of Poets
Cost: FREE; All are welcome!

This monthly meeting of the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators features Elizabeth White-Olsen, Director of Writespace.

DUMPLIN' by Julie MurphyOCTOBER 6, TUESDAY, 7:00 PM
Blue Willow Bookshop
Julie Murphy and Cammie McGovern, YA Authors

Julie Murphy and Cammie McGovern will discuss and sign DUMPLIN’ and A STEP TOWARD FALLING, their new books for teens.

IN Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’, Willowdean, Dubbed Dumplin by her former beauty queen mom, has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . untilWill takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But sheissurprised when he seems to like her back.

A STEP TOWARD FALLING by Cammie McGovernInstead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself.So she sets out to take back her confidence by doingthe most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant along with several other unlikely candidates to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she ll shock the hell out of Clover City and maybe herself most of all.

Cammie McGovern’s A STEP TOWARD FALLING is about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

OCTOBER 6-NOVEMBER 10, TUESDAYS, 7:00-9:00 PMRice University
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies
Co-sponsors: Blue Willow Bookshop, Writespace
Writing Children’s and Young Adult Literature, with Elizabeth White-Olsen
COST: $265, For Rice alumni: $239

Children’s books have a power that resonates across time and generations. They connect us to our younger selves, to the children in our lives today and to the rich imaginative capacities that characterize childhood. This lively workshop invites aspiring and practicing writers to explore the craft of writing for children and young adults. The course will share guidelines specific to the main genres of children’s literature: picture books, middle-grade novels and young adult novels. Participants will also explore applications of fundamental writing topics to children’s literature such as characterization, plot, point-of-view, metaphor and voice. Engaging in-class writing exercises will provide multiple starting points to develop stories based on your imagination and life experiences.

OCTOBER 6, TUESDAY, 6:00-9:00 PM Writespace
Workshop: The First Six Months: Creating Your Own Book Launch Marketing Plan, with Pamela Fagan Hutchins
COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Whether you publish indie or traditional, the marketing and promotion of your book is up to you, and the launch is critical. Bestselling (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iTunes), nationally-distributed indie author Pamela Fagan Hutchins will lead a hands-on workshop as you create a launch timeline, budget, and marketing plan for “your” book. Pamela will pull from her experience as president of the Houston Writers Guild, her many indie workshop presentations, and the launch of her own six romantic mysteries and six nonfiction books, as captured in her USA Best Book award-winning how-to, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?  Bring your funny bone and a sharp #2 pencil (or laptop), as well as a book/manuscript (yours or someone else’s), with the blurb/description, genre, market, sales formats, a general budget, and price in mind.

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8. Fusenews: Saving the Second Penny

The problem with this Fusenews feature is that if I don’t do them regularly then the news out there builds up, builds up, builds up, until there’s so much of it out there that I’m almost embarrassed to do anything with it.  Such is the case today!  And, as per usual, I’ll say that I’m just going to type these pieces up very fast, when in truth it’s pretty much going to be the same kind of thing I always do.  Truth!  Let’s do it.

  • I highly recommend that each and every last one of you guys move to Illinois.  The people here are so freakishly nice it’s amazing!  Case in point, SCBWI-IL and The Center of Teaching Through Children’s Books are pairing up to have me talk to a whole bunch o’ folks on the evening of October 7th.  Isn’t that kind of them?  If you live in the area, please come by.  I like to blather and while doing it in my own head is fine, it’s much nicer when there’s a healthy number of other people out there to absorb the blow.


  • SoulOctopusIn case you missed it the National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature was released last week.  A very YA-centric list indeed with only two clear cut books for kids.  Yet look in other categories and you’ll find that children’s authors do not relegate themselves solely to the children’s category.  For example, in the adult nonfiction section you’ll see that our beloved Sy Montgomery has been nominated for The Soul of an Octopus.


  • New Blog Alert: Reading While White.  You might argue that that is the unspoken title of most children’s literature blogs, but in this case they’re acknowledging the fact freely and commenting on what that means all the while.  There are some fascinating pieces on there already, so if you’re anything like me you’re checking it daily.  Ooo, I just love folks that aren’t afraid to touch on potentially controversial topics for the sake of making the conversation at large a richer experience.


  • In a particularly unfunny move, The Roald Dahl Estate has closed down the beloved Roald Dahl Funny Prize that was the brainchild of Michael Rosen.  Why?  There are hems and haws to sort through here but I think the key lies in the part where they say that in conjunction with next year’s centenary celebration, “the estate would be focusing on a new children’s book prize to be launched in the US.”  So clearly they didn’t want two Roald Dahl prizes out there.  One wonders if this mysterious prize in the US will also be for humor.  I suspect not, but I’d be awfully interested if any of you have further details on the mater.


  • If you were once again faithfully checking your Iowa Review this season (ho ho) you might have seen three interesting things.  #1 – It contains a “portfolio” all about children’s books this month.  #2 – The cover is by Shaun Tan.  #3 – Phil Nel’s piece A Manifesto of Children’s Literature; or Reading Harold as a Teenager is free for viewing online.  I should note that the actual issue also has pieces by Jeanne Birdsall (yay!), Mr. Tan, and Kevin Brockmeier, so get thee to an academic library!  Stat!


  • I don’t do much in the way of Instagram myself, but even without knowing it I can acknowledge that this Buzzfeed piece on what would happen if Hogwarts characters had it was rather inspired.  Thanks to Travis Jonker for the link.


  • my-friend-rabbit-tattooYou ever hear the one about the bookseller who would get artists to draw their best beloved picture book characters on her arms and then she’d tattoo them there?  Yes?  Well, I hadn’t heard about her for a couple of years so I decided to check in.  And lo and behold, one of my new neighbors here in the Chicago area, Eric Rohmann, was the creator of her latest tat.


  • If someone asked you to suggest a children’s book that they hadn’t read but should, what would you choose?  It helps if the person asking is British and wasn’t practically required by law, like those of us here in the States, to read certain books in the U.S. kidlit cannon.  My suggestion was actually Half Magic by Edward Eager.  See some of the others here.


  • Wowzer. Children’s authors have power. Don’t believe me?  See what Marc Tyler Nobleman pulled off with DC Entertainment. Well done, sir!


  • Speaking of superheroes, two years ago Ingrid Sundberg drew a whole host of children’s and YA authors as spandex-wearing, high-flying, incredibles.  It’s still fun to look at today here.


  • Me Stuff (Part Deux): It’s a little old but I was interviewed by Joanna Marple not too long ago.  There’s some good stuff there, like shots of the dream office I aspire towards (hat tip to Junko Yokota, though).


  • I feel a bit sad that I never read Lois Lowry’s Anastasia books when I was a kid.  I think I would have related to them (or at least to her glasses which originally rivaled mine in terms of width and girth).  How I missed these books I’ll never know.  Now I’m reading all about the changes being made to the newly re-released series.  Some make sense but others (changing Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst to Anastasia Off Her Rocker) don’t make a lick of sense.  I get that “analyst” is not a common term these days. I care not.  The term “off your rocker” is, after all, no less dated.


  • Daily Image:

There are fans and then there are fans.  And best beloved is the author or illustrator who meets a fan who knows, really knows, how to quilt.  Ms. Sibby Elizabeth Falk showed this to Jane Yolen recently.  It’s Owl Moon like you’ve never seen it before:



9 Comments on Fusenews: Saving the Second Penny, last added: 9/30/2015
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9. KidLit Author/Illustrator Events Sept. 22-27

Autumn Equinox in Houston

Tomorrow may the the autumn equinox, but it still looks (and feels) very much like summer here! This will be a fun writing week. I’ve got critique tomorrow, lunch with writer friends on Friday and on Saturday, (drum roll please….) 

The Essential Workshop for Fiction Writers!

There may still be places left in this workshop, so scroll down to see more information!

Here’s more of what’s happening this week in Houston:

Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
Two YA Authors, Rae Carson & Sophie Jordan

Join two popular teen authors, Rae Carson and her book WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER, and Sophie Jordan and her second book in the Uninvited Series, UNLEASHED. Signing will be upstairs in the seating area.

Rae Carson’s WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is the first in a new an epic saga in which a young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America. Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man UNLEASHED by Sophie Jordanwho wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

In Sophie Jordan’s UNLEASHED, the romantic, high-stakes sequel to UNINVITED, Davy has spent the last few months trying to come to terms with the fact that she tested positive for the kill gene HTS. She swore she would not let it change her, and that her DNA did not define her . . . but then she killed a man. Now on the run, Davy must decide whether she’ll be ruled by the kill gene or if she’ll follow her heart and fight for her right to live free. But with her own potential for violence lying right beneath the surface, Davy doesn’t even know if she can trust herself.

Blue Willow Bookshop
Carolyn Mackler, YA Author INFINITE IN BETWEEN by Carolyn Mackler

Join Printz Honor author Carolyn Mackler as she discusses her new novel, INFINITE IN BETWEEN, which chronicles the lives of five teenagers through the thrills, heartbreaks, and joys of their four years in high school.

Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor, and Whitney meet at freshman orientation. At the end of that first day, they make a promise to reunite after graduation. So much can happen in those in-between years .

Zoe feels like she will live forever in her famous mother’s shadow. Jake struggles to find the right connections in friendship and in love. Mia keeps trying on new identities, looking for one that actually fits. Gregor thought he wanted to be more than just a band geek. And Whitney seems to have it all, until it’s all falling apart around her.

SEPTEMBER 25-26, FRIDAY & SATURDAY Houston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 7611 Katy Fwy
Indiepalooza Conference
Kathy Murphy Mingle =  Members: $35, Nonmembers $45
Saturday Main Event = Members: $75, Nonmembers $85, Students $65
Two Day Pass for Only = Members: $100, Nonmembers: $125
Please see costing details on their website!

Join the Writers Guild for their first annual Indiepalooza conference.  The Guild will host great sessions on marketing and tools for the Indie author, as well as discussion panels on industry jargon and what it all means. Some of the topics include: Legal Issues for Indie Authors by entertainment attorney Andre Evans;  Adding Art to Your Work by Monica Shaughnessy; Secrets your Editor Won’t Tell you by Tina Winograd; E-books Made Simple by D.L. Young; Where to Sell Your Book Besides Bookstores by Rita Mills; Marketing Renegade Style by Alan Bourgeois of Texas Authors Association; Social Media for People Who Don’t Like Social Media by Rebecca Nolen; Using Poetic Elements to Improve All Writing by Deborah Frontiera; 50 Shades of Publishing by agent April Eberhardt and many more sessions.

Some of the panel breakout sessions are: The Small Press—Different Strokes for Different Folks with Fern Brady of Inklings Publishing, Pamela Fegan Hutchins of Skipjack Publishing, Jeff Hastings of Chart House Press, and Patricia Flaherty Pagan of Spider Road Press; Bringing Your Book to Readers with publicist Caitlin Hamilton and agent April Eberhardt; and Going Indie—Issues & Opportunities with Deborah Frontiera, RT Book Review Founder Kathryn Falk, Rita Mills, Enos Russell, Shawna Stringer of Barnes and Noble Pasedena, and other industry professionals.

Lanier Theological Library,  14130 Hargrave, Houston 

The Essential Workshop for Fiction Writers, with Kimberly Morris
COST: SCBWI members $40. Non-members $60
NOTE: To receive the SCBWI fee, please make sure to sign in as a member!

Is your manuscript sagging in the middle? Has it been rejected because of too much back story, slow pacing or one-dimensional characters? Is POV or story arc the problem? Kimberly Morris will present a workshop to help with common problems all writers face with every manuscript.

Kimberly Morris is the author of 60 books for children and young adults, many of them for popular series including Disney Fairies, That’s So Raven, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Animorphs, Sweet Valley, and Generation Girl. Her credits include read-aloud stories for the Muppets, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock, and animated television scripts for the classic ThunderCats. She will distill 25 years of professional writing experience into 4 hours of intuitive, entertaining, and easy-to-digest instruction that you can immediately apply to a new or stalled manuscript. This workshop is for writers of any genre of fiction; chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult.

SEPTEMBER 26, SATURDAY 2:00 PMHOUND DAWG by Patricia Vermillion, Illustrated by Cheryl Pilgrim
Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
Cheryl Pilgrim, Illustrator

Join children’s book Illustrator Cheryl Pilgrim as she signs her book HOUND DAWG at the front of the store! Cheryl will be in store from 2:00 to 4:00PM.

HOUND DAWG is a retelling of The Little Red Hen, southern style. Bessie, Calico, and Penny work their fingers to the bone down on the cotton farm. But Hound Dawg, he’s a couch potato… lazy, lazy, lazy. Hold on now… something has caught Hound Dawg’s eye… something that changes his life forever.

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10. KidLit Author Events Sept. 14-21

Lanier Library; Image copywrite held by A.E. ParkerTime is running out to sign up for The Essential Workshop for Fiction Writers with the Houston chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators! This one-day workshop with Kimberly Morris, author of over 60 novels for teen and middle grade audiences as well as screen writing credits for several television shows, will be held September 26 at the beautiful Lanier Theological Library. This workshop is for writers of any genre of fiction; chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult. Using over 25 years of professional writing experience, Kimberly will teach us the architecture and engineering of plot, a methodical and organized technique for sequencing events, and much, much more! Go here for more information and to register!

I hope to see you there!

Here’s this week’s events:

Bay Area RWA
Kirkmont MUD Building, 10102 Blackhawk Road
With author Christie Craig

Blue Willow Bookshop
Eoin Colfer & Jonathan Stroud, MG Authors

Blue Willow Bookshop welcomes two NYT bestselling authors of books for kids, Eoin Colfer and Jonathan Stroud, as they present their newest books. Please visit Blue Willow’s website for important information about this event!

Eoin Colfer: WARP 3: THE FOREVER MAN: Riley, an orphan boy living in Victorian London, has achieved his dream of becoming a renowned magician, the Great Savano. He owes much of his success to Chevie, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent who traveled from the future in a time pod and helped him defeat his murderous master, Albert Garrick. But it is difficult for Riley to enjoy his new life, for he has always believed that Garrick will someday, somehow, return to seek vengeance.

Chevie has assured Riley that Garrick was sucked into a temporal wormhole, never to emerge. The full nature of the wormhole has never been understood, however, and just as a human body will reject an unsuitable transplant, the wormhole eventually spat him out. By the time Garrick makes it back to Victorian London, he has been planning his revenge on Riley for centuries. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when the three are tossed once more into the wormhole, they end up in a highly paranoid Puritan village where everything is turned upside down. Chevie is accused of being a witch, Garrick is lauded as the town’s protector, and . . . is that a talking dog? Riley will need to rely on his reserve of magic tricks to save Chevie and destroy his former master once and for all.

THE HOLLOW BOY by Jonathan StroudJonathan Stroud: LOCKWOOD & CO., BOOK 3: THE HOLLOW BOY : As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.’s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

SEPTEMBER 19, SATURDAY, 9:00 AM-4:00 PMRWA-Logo-200
Bay Area RWA
South Shore Harbour Resort, League City
Starfish Writers Conference Featuring Sarah MacLean
Cost: Members $30, Nonmembers $50

Mastering the Art of Great Conflict. We know that the wallflower makes the perfect heroine for the rake; that the vampire makes the perfect hero for the vampire hunter; that the thief makes the perfect match for the detective. These matches work because of their innate initial conflict, but how do we keep conflict alive for an entire book?
Dialogue. Effective dialogue keeps your readers reading by keeping your characters talking.
Conquering High Concept. Sarah MacLean will be joined by bestselling author Sophie Jordan as they demystify the term “high concept” and provide concrete techniques, tips, and tricks to keep your stories big, your writing sharp, and your manuscripts selling.

Houston YA MG Writers
Cafe Express, Town & Country Village

YA/MG Write-In! Join other Houston area writers of children’s and young adult literature. Grab some breakfast to nourish your muse, then the silent writing sessions will start at 10:15. Come early, come late, but come ready to make words!

SEPTEMBER 19, Saturday, 11:00 AM FULL MOON AT THE NAPPING HOUSE by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood
Blue Willow Bookshop
Audrey Wood, PB Author, Don Wood, Illustrator

Please visit Blue Willow’s website for important information about his event!
Also appearing SEPTEMBER 20, Sunday,2:00 PM
Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands

Audrey and Don Wood will discuss and sign their new picture book, FULL MOON AT THE NAPPING HOUSE. In the wide-awake bed in the full-moon house, everyone is restless. The moonlight is pouring in and no one can get to sleep: not Granny, her grandchild, the dog, the cat, or even a mouse. It’s not until a tiny musical visitor offers up a soothing song does the menagerie settle down, and finally everyone is off to dreamland.

SEPTEMBER 19, SATURDAY, 1:00-4:00 PMWritespace
Writing Workshop with Cassandra Rose Clarke

COST: $75 Members, $95 Non-members

Nothing keeps a reader turning pages like tension! In this three-hour workshop, we’ll consider how writers can effectively build tension in their writing. Together, we’ll discuss the elements of tension, from cliff hangers to pacing, from character motivations to story stakes. We’ll dissect some high-tension examples from published stories and participate in several writing exercises in order to put these elements to work. Bring a laptop or pen and paper and be prepared to write, share, and try new things!

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11. KidLit Events & Happy Book Birthday!

SERPENTINE by Cindy PonHappy Birthday

today to

Cindy Pon

for her new YA novel



This book is getting awesome reviews from from the big reviewers and has been selected as a Junior Library Guild selection for Fall 2015. See what other YA fantasy authors have to say about it:

“Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.” Cinda Williams Chima, bestselling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels

Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling of the Graceling Realm Series

Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites

Hop over to Cindy’s website to find out more about it and get an eyeful of Cindy’s beautiful artwork!


The Essential Workshop for Fiction Writers

If you haven’t signed up for this workshop with Kimberly Morris yet, I think there are still a few spots available. This is a one-day workshop on Saturday, September 26. Join us for 25 years of Kimberly’s professional writing experience distilled into 4 hours of intuitive, entertaining, and easy-to-digest instruction that you can immediately apply to a new or stalled manuscript. This workshop is for writers of any genre of fiction; chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult. Go here for more information and to register!


Here’s this week’s Houston area events:


SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter Drive
Cost: FREE

A panel of local SCBWI members will discuss the topics covered in the recent annual SCBWI International Conference in Los Angeles. Also, this is the night local author Varsha Bajaj is presented with SCBWI’s Texas/Oklahoma Region Crystal Kite Award for her 2014 debut MG novel, ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD. The Crystal Kite is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.


Blue Willow Bookshop
Patricia Polacco, PB Author/Illustrator
Cost: FREE! In order to go through the signing line and meet Patricia Polacco, please purchase TUCKY JO AND LITTLE HEART from Blue Willow Bookshop. Please see Blue Willow’s event page for more information.

Patricia Polacco will share her new picture book for children, TUCKY JO AND LITTLE HEART. Tucky Jo was known as the “kid from Kentucky” when he enlisted in the army at age fifteen. Being the youngest recruit in the Pacific during World War II was tough. But he finds a friend in a little girl who helps him soothe his bug bites, and he gets to know her family and gives them some of his rations. Although the little girl doesn’t speak English, Tucky Jo and Little Heart share the language of kindness. Many years later, Tucky Jo and Little Heart meet again, and an act of kindness is returned when it’s needed the most in this touching picture book based on a true story.


SEPTEMBER 12, SATURDAY, 9:30 AM-5:00 PMChris Rogers, Author, Instructor
Novel Workshop with Chris Rogers
Cost: $75 Members, $95 Non-members

This workshop will take you quickly through the basics of novel structure and will equip you to create an intriguing plot, wonderful characters and page-turning suspense. Topics we will cover include: The 12-Step Story Plan; Dramatic & Reflective Structure; Plot, Point of View & Characterization; Suspense, Tension & Conflict; Subplot & Pacing; Emotional Connections

This workshop will meet you wherever you are in your novel writing process, so feel free to come with a completed novel draft, with a completed first chapter, or without a particular plan in mind, but open to new possibilities.


SEPTEMBER 13, SUNDAY, 2:00 PMFANCY NANCY SOCCER MANIA, Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser; Author: Jane O Connor
Blue Willow Bookshop
Robin Preiss Glasser, Illustrator
Cost: FREE! In order to go through the signing line and meet Robin Preiss Glasser for book personalization, please purchase NANCY CLANCY: SOCCER MANIA from Blue Willow Bookshop. See Blue Willow’s event page for more information.

Robin Preiss Glasser, illustrator of the wildly popular FANCY NACY series, will share her new book, NANCY CLANCY: SOCCER MANIA. Normally Nancy doesn t like dressing like everyone else. But wearing a soccer team uniform well, that’s different. Nancy adores being on the Green Goblins she loves cheering for her teammates, sharing refreshments, and painting her fingernails bright green before every game. If only she wasn t cursed with slow legs All Nancy wants is to be mediocre or maybe even a little better than average. Will she reach her goal? Here’s a brand-new chapter book with plenty of humor and sports action, written expressly for kids like Nancy who aren’t the star of their team.



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12. KidLit Author Events & Happy Book Birthday

Happy September! This is the month that always makes me want to buy boots and sweaters, even though in my part of Texas neither of those things is really necessary more than one or two weeks out of the year, and then not until January. Being the first of the month, I’ve added a slew of September book babies to the slider on my conference pages. Check it out to get a peek at all the delicious new reads!

Happy book Birthday!

Happy book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday

this week to

Linda Joy Singelton’s Cinderella-inspired YA, NEVER BEEN TEXTED,

to Dax Varley’s YA horror novel, BLEED,

and to Josh Funk’s LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST, illustrated by Brendan Kearney.


NEVER BEEN TEXTED by Linda Joy SingletonNEVER BEEN TEXTED: When Ashlee’s stepdad completely forgets her birthday she takes matters into her own hands to get the one thing she really wants: her own cell phone. But text messages start rolling in from a broken-hearted boy, and though Ashlee knows not all stories end happily, she’s determined to make hers the best it can be. Balancing a bit of magic, the love of a pet dog, the support of a well-meaning and meddling friend, and the dream of a sweet romance, Ashlee must decide whether or not to pursue a boy who’s been recently entangled with her high school’s most vicious girl.

BLEED by Dax VarleyBLEED: Life is a nightmare for Miranda Murphy. Without knowing when or why, blood oozes from her palms—an anomaly that makes her feel like a freak. But her abnormality is now the least of her worries. She’s just enrolled at “Suicide High.” Three deaths in three months—one occurring just days before her arrival. When she bumps into a cute boy named Jake, things don’t appear so glum. Especially since Jake’s a psychic who can predict the immediate future. But his gift of sight can’t prepare her for the horrors that await. Through Jake, Miranda meets three other extraordinary students: Topher, who can heal by touch; Sam, who eats the sins of the dead; and Xyan, who speaks and understands all languages. It’s then that Miranda learns the secret behind why she bleeds. When it becomes evident that supernatural forces are at play, the five determined friends team up. Now it’s up to them to destroy the evil infecting their school. Head over to Dax’s website to read an excerpt!

LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST: A thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest “food fight!” ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there’s ONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past the Orange Juice Fountain, skiing through Sauerkraut Peak, and reeling down the linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? And could working together be better than tearing each other apart? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee!

Now for this week’s Greater Houston Area events:

WritespaceSEPTEMBER 5, SATURDAY, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Writers’ Workshop with K.J. Russell
COST: $30 Members, $45 Non-members

Dialogue: Let Your Characters’ Words Bring Your Story to Life! Tell your exposition to take a break and let your characters do some of the talking for you! There’s no better tool to give your fiction and nonfiction a unique new voice and grounded perspective than well-crafted dialogue. Cut back on static narration and character description by letting the characters demonstrate themselves and the world around them. In this workshop, K.J. Russell will discuss the many uses of dialogue, what craft problems dialogue can solve, and how to execute it with a confidence that will lend your story the kind of life that readers are looking for.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter Drive
Cost: FREE

A panel of local SCBWI members will discuss the topics covered in the recent annual SCBWI International Conference in Los Angeles.


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13. Jo’s Journey 2015 and Welcome Back to the Fall Blog Schedule

“Traveling is never a matter of money, but of courage.”—Paulo Coelho Sometimes it’s financial security that holds us back, other times it’s emotional security, but it takes courage to step outside your front door and head out into the world. … Continue reading

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14. KidLit Author Events Aug. 25-Sept. 1

We have a quiet week to slip into the back to school routine, but there are a few things coming up that you may want to either mark on your calendars or go ahead and register. An event I am particularly excited about is a one-day workshop:

DISNEY FAIRIES: TINK, NORTH OF NEVERLANDThe Essentials Workshop for Fiction Writers

with Kimberly Morris

Kimberly Morris is the author of over 60 books for children and young adults, many of them for popular series including Disney Fairies, That’s So Raven, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Animorphs, Sweet Valley, and Generation Girl. Her credits include read-aloud stories for the Muppets, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock, and animated television scripts for the classic ThunderCats.


This workshop is for writers of any genre of fiction; chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult. You can read an interview with Kimberly about her writing career on the blog, 7 Magic Islands. This workshop is limited to 40 people, so don’t wait to register. I’ve already booked my spot! Go here for more information and to register.

Another event on the horizon is the Houston Writer’s Guild conference for self-publishing writers, INDIEPALOOZA. Registration is open! Registration is also open for the Houston Bay Area RWA Starfish Conference, and SCBWI Brazos Valley’s Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop.

And if you haven’t gotten your ticket to see Rick Riordan on his MAGNUS CHASE Tour, call Blue Willow Bookshop right away to get your book and secure your seat!

Here’s this week’s event in Houston:

AUGUST 25, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: Growing the Architectural Writer: Helping “Plotters” Breathe Life into their Plots
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

Writers tend to fall into one of two categories: gardeners and architects. The latter group is also called “plotters” for their meticulous plotting and careful structural setup. This workshop is for the second group, and will examine methods and techniques for helping these writers grow their characters into their plots so that they come to life and feel like more than pieces of the plot-machine.


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15. SCBWI Retreat 2015: Workshops with Grown-Ups (and FOOD!)

Last weekend I was away from home for 4 days in the historic village of Evesham, near Worcester, doing another of my dream jobs. It involved enormous amounts of eating (best rhubarb crumble I ever tasted), sketching in the sunshine, listening to stories, chatting into the night over glasses of wine... oh, and also delivering workshops and portfolio advice for members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

I knew the SCBWI retreat was to be held in a lovely old house with pretty grounds, but I was completely gob-smacked when my taxi stopped outside a long, Tudor house, all timbers and thatch. I was shown up a big, wooden staircase into a lovely old room, whose floorboards sloped down into one corner. I unpacked with a smile.

We kicked off about an hour later, with a brilliant getting-to-know-you exercise run by fellow author/illustrators, Loretta Schauer and Alexis Deacon. We paired up and had to draw or describe events from each other's past, stimulated by silly questions like: When have you injured yourself as a result of your own stupidity?

Then I ran my first session of the weekend: teaching people how to make concertina sketchbooks. 

SCBWI had provided a big pile of watercolour paper. We set to, cutting and sticking. We cut up old cardboard boxes for the covers - it worked a treat. Then we all filed into the dining room for the first feast of many.

After dinner, we had a book review cum storytelling session, where we each read a favourite picture book to the rest of the group. There were 30 of us, so it took a while, but was a lovely way to spend the evening.

Next morning was a workshop by Alexis. He taught us techniques for making narratives more interesting, looking at the potential for using dishonest characters with hidden motivations. We all tried to create a story, though mine ran out of steam half way through. After coffee and biccies, we had a bit of free time, so I took my newly-minted sketchbook into the grounds:

Then it was lunch (yum), followed by an interesting talk by Andrea MacDonald, Senior Editor at Random House, about what makes a good picture book:

I did a couple of one-to-one advice sessions next. I found a lovely little summer house tucked away at the foot of the garden, which was perfect for a cost chat. people had booked appointments with me and I did my best to be wise and helpful with first an illustrator, then an author:

My 2nd workshop used the sketchbooks we made earlier. I wanted to explore the idea of finding a narrative in a place, of capturing the essence of a particular period of time using words and pictures, but doing it through close observation, recording what we could see, hear and smell. This is of course something which I am very used to doing in my sketchbooks, and I thought it might make a good source of inspiration.

I sat under a big tree and rang a bell. People gathered from around the grounds. Some had been playing croquet on the lawn!

We had expected mostly illustrators to take up the challenge, but a few authors went for it too. I showed the work I'd done since I arrived, as an example, and talked through easy techniques for getting instant results with watercolour (it was a revelation to most people that you could paint with clear water first, to control the colour), then everyone dispersed for an hour or so of experimentation.

After dinner (yum), we gathered in the conference room and, in small groups, talked though our work-in-progress. Each group then chose the strongest 3 pieces of work for each person - a great idea, as your own favourite bits of work are not necessarily your best and a fresh perspective is very useful. All the work was then displayed for everyone to browse and the next thing I knew, it was midnight!

Sunday began with my main workshop (after breakfast of course - yum). I devised a technique for drawing a journey, one piece at a time, to build up the elements of a story. Only, to put a fly in the ointment and get people out of their comfort-zone, many of the components were chosen randomly, by a neighbour. For me, the challenge was making it work, when about a third of the delegates were not illustrators. Still, it seemed to go extremely well. After coffee (and biccies) people took it in turns to pin up their drawing and tell their story.

Some ideas were hilarious, some were quite dark, some narratives were in a bit of a tangle, which the group helped to sort out: the brainstorming of 30 creative minds, all focussed on progressing one story idea was fantastic to watch.

The 'house cat' decided he wanted to join in. He demanded to be let in from the rain through the French windows, jumped up on the tables, walked across people's work, then took at seat near the front to listen:

After this of course, it was time for lunch (yum). Then we had another talk, this time by Emily Lamm, once my editor at Gullane (who worked with me on Swap!), now working as Commissioning Editor at Hachette. She gave some excellent advice on what editors are looking for and things to try / avoid in your writing. I tried to capture her and highlights from what she was saying in the concertina sketchbook:

I had two more mentoring sessions during the afternoon, sadly in the house this time, as rain was still bouncing around outside. Then Alexis did a demo session, showing how he draws with ink, using different kinds of brushes (in various stages of decay): 

I had my final one-to-one session, then at 7pm the gong sounded and it was time for another glorious dinner. I was impressed with the fact that the veggie choice for every meal was just as adventurous and delicious as its meat counterpart. We were all so impressed as a group that we asked for the chef and kitchen staff to come out and gave them a huge round of applause.

After dinner, we took a group photo in the garden:

Then we were all given a postcard, onto which we had to write three achievable goals for the next 3 months. The illustrators decorated the front of their cards. We stuck stamps on and handed them back to Loretta, whose job it was to post them all back to us in three months time. Good idea, or what?

We stayed up chatting and drinking and taking photos of each other until late, a gradually dwindling group. Finally, at 1am, the last dregs gave up the ghost and headed for bed.

Next morning, I packed my suitcase then luxuriated over my final breakfast (yum):

Then gradually, a few at a time, people had to leave (cue hugging...). It had been such a rich weekend, we all felt rather sad to be on our way. I was so sad that I had to buy myself a present from the gift shop (a VERY funky necklace).

Thank you to Loretta and all the team at SCBWI for inviting me to take part. It was a joy. Thanks as well to Sue Eves and Paul Morton, for the photos.

It was lovely to meet everyone, including the rather amazing Alexis Deacon, who's head is just stuffed with crazy story-stuff. And you know the really good news? I get to do it all again next year, as it's a 2-year invitation!

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16. 3 things I've learned About Conferences & Me

Howdy, Campers--and happy Poetry Friday!
(See below for a poem about being a writer by Richard Wilbur and for today's PF host.)

We're in the middle of TeachingAuthors' series on Summer Learning Opportunities.

So far we've heard from JoAnn--who, through her own fascinating Summer Science Experiments, is learning more about hatching monarchs in her backyard; Esther--who's learning about authors from her own fair city (Chicago), discovered four "eye-openingly insightful" blogs, learned about the "3-paragraph query," and how to "attend" the National SCBWI conference if you can't be there in person. Carla shares what she's learned about the unexpected benefits from attending an SCBWI conference, and Mary Ann inspires us with her summer Young Writer's Camp.

As for me, I'm looking forward to being on the faculty of the National SCBWI Conference from July 31 through August 2nd (with intensive workshops available for an additional fee on Monday, August 3rd). Once again I'll be critiquing manuscripts submitted by conference attendees who've paid extra for written and face-to-face critiques.

My very smart friend, author and poet Greg Pincus (who blogs at GottaBook) posted the link to this fabulous blog post on attending an SCBWI conference by art director Giuseppe Castellano...and our own Esther has written what is by now a classic essay on attending an SCBWI conference.

Esther and I come at conferences from two very different perspectives. Basically, She jumps into the fray carrying a bunch of balloons; I get overwhelmed by more than 10 people at a party.

So, here are three things I've learned about conferences (how they affect me and how I cope) in the 24 years I've attended SCBWI in Los Angeles:

1) Be kind to yourself.  This conference can be overwhelming. No--I take that back: this conference is overwhelming. This summer 1000 people are attending from around the world.

A few of the attendees at this year's SCBWI Conference
(from morguefile.com)

We crowd into a posh hotel over a long summer weekend. The excited, anxious, ecstatic, frightened, enthusiastic, vibrating energy of 1000 friendly/shy/talkative/mute children's book professionals and pre-professionals (thanks for that term, Carla!) can be paralyzing.  The air in any hotel over that many days with that many people gets used up. And so do I.

2) Take breaks. I usually stand in the back because there's simply TOO MUCH SITTING!  That's one way I've learned to give my body a break. I've also learned (to my astonishment) that it's okay not to attend every single session. I can actually go outside and gulp fresh air...sit on the grass with my eyes closed for a few minutes. It's amazing how so simple an action as breathing can change my body chemistry.  Ahhhhhh....

No--not me.
(from morguefile.com)

3) And I've learned that some years I just need to be VELCRO®.

from morguefile.com

Although there have been many years I couldn't wait to sign up for the conference, couldn't wait to bond with new peeps, couldn't wait to find out what everyone was doing and share what I was up to, there have been other years, too.

Years when I couldn't figure out how to write that book--the one that was going to put me on the map, years when no one had invited me to submit a poem since the Ice Age, years when I was raw, raw, raw from rejection, Those are the years when I did NOT want to attend that stupid conference.  Nope.  Not gonna do it. And you can't make me.

It's about the shame, of course. I'm judging my insides against everyone else's outsides. It's like that false fog which hovers over FaceBook where I see those sparkling photos and know that every one of my FB friends are completely fulfilled, are always at goal weight, and have (just yesterday) signed a three-book deal.  (It's true--they have, you know.)

That's when I've learned I need to VELCRO® myself to real-life friends at the conference.  Hang with them. Go into the hall with them. Choose whatever breakout session they choose--it doesn't matter. They're my peeps. My buds. The ones who believe in me...and I believe in them. They save me from the darkness every time.

So, if you're coming to the SCBWI conference, please come up and say hello!We can VELCRO® together for awhile.

And Campers--if you are going to any gathering this summer that makes you a teensy bit uneasy, a little bit insecure, maybe the following quote will help. It's helped me.

Just for today, be open to the possibility
that there is nothing wrong with you.

Finally, here is a poem to inspire you:

by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
click here for the rest of this poem

The poetry gods and goddesses bring Poetry Friday to Keri Recommends today. Thanks for hosting, Keri!

posted live from the floor of SCBWI's National Conference in living color and with love by April Halprin Wayland

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17. Nowadays...

You may have been wondering why it's so quiet around here lately…

The answer is I've been hard at work! Above are my new postcards (created with my agents, ABLA). They're designed and printed in time for the SCBWI conference (aka #LA15scbwi), which kicks off tomorrow morning bright and early. It takes a good bit of preparation — new portfolio art, new postcards, new dummies or manuscripts.  New shoes!

Some people begin to prepare months in advance, but I couldn't. I have another project on the go, also demanding my 1000% attention. I'm working on my picture book for Nord Süd (North South Books): getting to know the characters ...

and playing around with the hero...
 ...with his eponymous green umbrella…

And above all, trying to get the visual narrative to work:
Here is the famous storyboard clothesline, with earlier versions of many of the spreads. Of course, by the time the book gets into print there will be more changes, revisions and endless effing tweaks.

So that's where I have been lately. This blog will probably stay quiet for a little while longer, but nowadays I can also be found on Instagram and even tweeting on Twitter.

See you all later — enjoy the summer!

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18. KidLit Author Events July 28-August 4, 2015

Right now, high school juniors all over the world are battling their way through college application essays. Some view this as a great way to ruin a good summer, but for others, it’s the excuse they’ve been waiting for to spend days curled around their laptops or notebooks, pouring their hearts onto the page. For these young writers, there are some exciting opportunities to delve deeper into their passion. If you are one of these writers, or if you know a teen who is passionate about writing, take a look at the events coming up this fall and in 2016 and mark your calendars!

Aside from the longer events in the link above, many communities have short writing workshops for teens through libraries, schools, or local writers’ organizations. Here in Houston, we have many such events. One organization here that offers the most classes for teens is Writespace. For instance, on August 6 & 13 from 12:30-3:00 PM, Writespace will be offering a class in two parts: Young Writers Fiction Workshop (Ages 14-19) with Sara Rolater.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve added a new section to my website to highlight writing conferences and camps for teens. While researching this, I came across a website devoted to teen writers, Teens Can Write, Too. These innovative young writers have teamed up with Chapter One to host their own one-day conference in Illinois. I won’t usually be posting one-day events that occur outside the Houston area; there are just too many! But I had to share this one. Here’s the deets:

ECHOES OF US by Kat ZhangAugust 8: The Chapter One Young Writers Conference 2015, Arlington Heights, IL
Currently, the cost of admission is $49.99, but beginning August 1, the cost will rise to $74.99.

Keynote Address: Kat Zhang, author of the YA series THE HYBRID CHRONICLES (HarperCollins). She started writing the first book in the series, WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, during her senior year of high school and sold the trilogy when she was nineteen. Workshop Leaders will be Taryn Albright and Karen Bao. Read more…

Soon, I will be adding another page to my website that focuses on writing workshops for younger kids. Meanwhile, I will be adding local events of this sort to my regular Tuesday events post. And we have one this week!

August 1, Saturday, 10:30-11:30 AMWriters In The Schools
Writers In the Schools
Houston Public Library Express Library at Discovery Green Park
WITS Childrens’ Writing Workshop for Students Grade 2-8
Cost: FREE; No registration required

In partnership with the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Houston Public Libraries, WITS offers the Discovery Green Workshops—For one hour WITS writers explore imaginative writing exercises. WITS provides all necessary materials. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome.

And for adult writers  this week:

JULY 29, AUGUST 5 & 12, WEDNESDAYS, 6:00-9:00 PMWritespace
Cassandra Rose Clarke: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Cost: $120-$155

Do you take your fiction with a side of aliens, superheroes, dragons, or witches? Then this is the workshop for you! This course will provide an overview of the SFF genre. Together we will consider those elements of writing which are crucial to crafting compelling speculative stories, such as building our own worlds, extrapolating the fantastic from reality, and creating compelling non-human characters. In addition to discussing classic and contemporary SFF works, you will participate in writing exercises and bring in your own work for critique. Come to class prepared to write and discuss, and by the end of the four weeks, you will have completed at least one SFF short story.

JULY 28, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: World Building Beyond Genre: Your Characters and the World Around Them
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

World Building is often classified as something exclusive to authors of speculative fiction but the truth is that every time a work of fiction is crafted, an entire world is written into being. While writers of fantasy and science fiction will also benefit from this workshop, writers of any genre stand to gain from examining the world in which their characters live and how they interact with it. Futurists look to tomorrow by examining society, technology, economics, environment, and politics, and in this workshop we shall look at the relationship between these topics as they relate to your plot and characters.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Kate Pentecost discusses “Using the Uncanny: Creating Horror that Packs a Punch”.
Cost: FREE; All are welcome!

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19. KidLit Author Events June 30-July 6 (And PUPPY!)


This has been such an exciting week around my house! Because this happened:

Puppy Coming Home Puppy SofaPuppy lge









She’s a 3 month old, German Shepherd/Husky (Gerberian Shepsky) mix. I saw her at Ace Hardware last weekend, and was bewitched by her sweet little face. I resisted the urge to take her home with me, because I still had some sanity left. But she stayed in my thoughts all week, so Saturday morning when my husband and son said they had to go to the hardware store, I chirped up that I wanted to go, too. Now, this isn’t unusual; I love hardware stores. But something in my tone of voice immediately tipped off my husband that something was up. I admitted it; I wanted to see if the beautiful little black dog had been adopted. She hadn’t, but now she has! We haven’t reached a decision on her name yet, so I’ll add that here next time.

Last week I introduced a new page on this blog, Houston Writer & Illustrator Events. This week, I’m introducing another new page, Workshops: Young Writers. There are many writing workshops for teens that range from an hour to a full day, but for young people who are serious about writing, that isn’t enough. This list will help serious young writers find events in time to meet the often rigorous application requirements and early registration dates. If you know a teen (and occasionally younger kids) who has a keen interest in writing, please share this list with them. Like all my other conference lists, I will update this page on a weekly basis, so check back often!

Also, tomorrow is the first full month of my new website theme, and so will be the first full month to feature books launching in July. These children’s and young adult books will be shown on the sidebar on all the conference pages. Clicking on these images will open a page about that book. Throughout July, please take a moment to visit these books and spread the word!

We have another quiet week for author bookstore events, but we have two writers’ events this week:

JUNE 30, TUESDAY, 6:30-8:30 PMHouston Writers Guild
The Houston Writers’ Guild
Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.
Julian Kindred: Finishing Your Novel: Bringing Your Ideas to Fruition
Cost:$10 Members; $20 Nonmembers; $5 Students w/ID.

Staying the course once you’ve started writing your novel is difficult. How do you manage the distractions of daily life or the temptation to quit and chase the next new idea? And once the manuscript is complete, then what? This workshop will examine methods for holding yourself accountable for writing your novel and examine when it is time to start, or finally finish, revisions, as well as what you should be doing in the meantime.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Holly Walrath: Writing Culturally Relevant YA: War, Politics, Violence and Gender
Cost: FREE! All are welcome!

Children’s literature is entering a new era – one that embraces the dark lens of postmodern literature. Picture books deal with increasingly more disturbing topics from abortion to personal violence. Four themes have emerged in Children’s Literature that reflect these changes: War, Politics, Violence, and Gender. In discussing these themes, we’ll look at new trends in children’s literature and what they might mean for us as writers. We’ll explore how to approach these themes in our writing. We’ll discuss how children view these events and how they affect children’s personal lives.


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20. Martha Brockenbrough Summer Bulletin

As writers and illustrators of children’s books, we have the cutest fantasies. Who else dreams that their work will someday be decorated by a sticker?

And then there’s the conference fantasy, where the agent or editor of your dreams holds your manuscript overhead and says, “This is brilliant!” and she just happens to have a contract in her pocket, which you sign on the spot. It’s almost better than the sticker.

But here’s the thing. People are sometimes asked to send off stories or art, and there are similarly wonderful career-transforming moments. Usually, though, nothing quite so dramatic happens.

And yet… conferences are magic. Truly. Every picture book I’ve ever sold has come directly from my time at an SCBWI conference, specifically the one in Los Angeles. I’ve sold four picture books and have interest in a fifth; each one sprang from an idea or conversation I had at that summer conference, starting with my first one in 2008.

My future editor, Arthur A. Levine, had been in Seattle that spring for a conference, and through a happy accident of seating, we’d chatted through the evening, and he invited me to submit something to him someday. At the time, I was writing an epic novel about a pirate in part because I’d given up on picture books, and in part because, well, I can’t really remember why, which was ultimately the problem with that novel.

At our local spring conference, Arthur had offered sage advice from his then four-year-old son. “When in doubt, write about dinosaurs.” At the time, this didn’t strike me as anything other than adorable. (Who was I to write about dinosaurs, anyway? At the time, I was merely thirty-seven.)

When registration opened for the summer conference in Los Angeles, I really wanted to go. But I couldn’t. We had a family reunion that weekend. And what kind of jerk puts anything in front of family? As it turns out, I am that kind of jerk.

In Los Angeles, Arthur reassured us about the picture book market, which at the time was feeling kind of battered. On the flight home, I resolved to send him a thank-you note for being so encouraging. I looked out the window, and I thought about dinosaurs, and specifically their teeth, and even more fantastically, about who might love their teeth most of all.

Arthur ended up publishing the answer to that question—The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy—five years later. A year or two after I sold The DTF, I mentioned to Arthur at another Los Angeles conference a letter I’d written to my daughter when she asked for the truth about Santa. He said he thought it sounded like a picture book as well. A dear friend I’d met at the Los Angeles conference, Samantha Berger, gave me an idea for how it might be done. I wrote it. Arthur bought it.

Last summer, Samantha and I came up with an idea at the conference while we were eating pizza poolside. So far that has turned into a two picture book deal with Arthur.

These aren’t the sort of things you can predict when you’re thinking about going to a conference. The standard fantasy—that someone might love your work and buy it on the spot—pales in comparison to what really can happen. You go to these conferences and meet people who inspire you. You make friends. You hear words you didn’t know you needed to hear, things that make you laugh and cry, things that feed your mind in ways your everyday routine might not. All of this becomes the fuel of story.

I’d never thought to dream about what comes from inspiration and connection and friendship. And yet this combination is so much better than any contract, and why I’ll go to every SCBWI conference I can.

Fantasies are great and all. But real life? It’s better.


Martha Brockenbrough is the author of the YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention, and The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, a picture book. Both are with Arthur A. Levine at Scholastic, as is her forthcoming picture book, Love, Santa, as well as two Bigfoot picture books written jointly with Samantha Berger. Martha also wrote the nonfiction middle grade Finding Bigfoot for Feiwel & Friends. In addition to her work on SCBWI's Team Blog, she is the founder of National Grammar Day and author of Things That Make Us [Sic]. Visit www.marthabrockenbrough.squarespace.com and on Twitter @mbrockenbrough.

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21. Gratitude Post: David Diaz, mentoring, found object art inspiration

Many thanks to my friend David Diaz for his friendship and mentorship. I got to know David through the SCBWI, when I was chosen for the SCBWI-LA Illustration Mentorship program in 2010. David has been recently touching base with many of the Mentees, past and present, to find out how they're doing...he is doing this on his own time and volition, not because it's an official part of the program. He and I chatted yesterday, and I had the chance to thank him again for his early advice. I also told him how my venture into found object doodles started because of HIM, at one of his Lost Weekends.

You can find out more about David on Wikipedia, Facebook and an Illustrator Spotlight via Kidlit411.

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22. some updates

I've just been updating my website Events page (do have a peek!), and SCBWI have just announced that Philip Reeve and I will be keynote speakers at November's conference!

In fact, there will be four keynote speakers, including Jonny Duddle and David Fickling, and there are about twenty other people speaking (some more famous than us) who could easily have stepped in!

SCBWI Conference is such a great opportunity for anyone who's starting out in children's books and wants to find out how to get in deeper, or who's been in the business for awhile and fancies mixing with company, learning some new things and sharing experiences. Here's the programme. The cost of a packed weekend is £220 for SCBWI members, £250 for non-members and you can book here. I've been to several of these conferences and they're a big part of how I got into the business.

Sometimes my books with Philip are called 'middle grade' and Philip hates that term, for good reason. So he's written a new blog post about it, and you can leave comments or tweet your thoughts to him on the subject at @philipreeve1 or leave a comment on our Reeve & McIntyre Facebook page.

Keep reading...

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23. One Writer's Nuggets from Her Summer...So Far

Chicago’s June through July rains and cold temps marked Summer as it’s supposed to be a Very Late Arrival.
Still, I found sunshine aplenty to keep me on task in the golden opportunities that kept me writing, reading and connecting.
So first, the writing.
I was honored to be invited to contribute 3 blog posts to the Newsletter of the American Writers Museum – a national museum celebrating American writers, opening in Chicago in 2016.
Early word about this museum quickly captured my attention.  You can read all about it here.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the home page so you can subscribe to the Newsletter and learn about its soon-to-be-announced location.
I chose to focus my blogs on Chicago children’s book authors.
My first, titled “Somewhere, Over Lake Michigan,” shares L. Frank Baum’s Chicago connection to THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ.
Few know the author wrote the book while living on the northwest side of Chicago – and – that his visits in 1893 to the Columbian Exposition’s White City led to his imagining the Emerald City.
Next on deck:  a blog about Chicago-born Shel Silverstein’s sidewalks and attics.

As for my reading,
this summer, thanks to my Newberry Library’s “Write Place” workshop students, I’ve been checking out all sorts of early chapter books and all sorts of relevant Kidlitosphere blogs, especially those that present diverse cultures.
Here are 4 blogs I found eye-openingly insightful:
As always, my best connecting opportunities arrived courtesy of SCBWI, THE Connection Vehicle for children’s book creators.  

In June I was lucky enough to hear Andrea Brown Literary Agent Kelly Sonnack present to the Illinois SCBWI Chapter’s City Network on How to Write a Query Letter.
Kelly recommends a 3-paragraph query: the first paragraph is personal, sharing why the writer seeks representation from the particular agent and the second paragraph offers an overview of the story, comparisons to similar titles and never gives away the ending. It was Kelly’s suggestion for the third paragraph that struck me as brilliant: the inspiration for the writer’s work!  Just how and why did this book come to be?
What a clever way to get a true sense of the writer.
Kelly represents illustrators and writers for all age groups within children’s literature, though she is currently not accepting queries.
Alas, I’m unable to attend the July 31-August 3 44th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, at least in Real Time.
I do plan to attend vicariouslyvia SCBWI's Team Blog.
Click here now to read the pre-conference interviews and learn  about the 25 editors and agents, the Golden Kite Winners and a host of authors who’ll be presenting workshops. 
Of course, besides writing, reading and connecting, writers dream.
This summer, I began each workshop session with the inspirational words of ALA-award-winning authors.
My students took heart and hope from Sid Fleishman, Christopher Paul Curtis, Greg Pizzoli and John Green via their past acceptance speeches. 
They were also able to do the same via the June, 2015 acceptance speeches of Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander, Coretta Scott King medalist Jaclyn Woodson and Pura Belpre medalist Marjorie Algosin.
FYI: The Horn Book Magazine publishes a special July/August 2015 Special Awards issue that includes the above speeches in print.

Confidentially, I love getting lost in these speechifying moments. 
Whenever despair descended upon my very first Writer’s Group, we’d take turns sharing what we planned to wear when we accepted our particular awards, be they Newbery, Dr. Gesell, Prinz or Siburt.
I’m not so sure now about that navy blue gab pencil skirt with the front slit, or even the white silk blouse, long-sleeved, Georgette neckline.  My ankle-strapped heels are still in the running, though. J

Here’s hoping the golden nuggets I shared from my Summer so far will keep you writing, reading, connecting and dreaming.

Esther Hershenhorn

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24. What Writing Conferences Can Do For You

The topic of a few TA blog posts this summer will deal with conferences and other types of summer learning experiences.  JoAnn Early Macken has a fascinating post about tending monarch butterflies in her garden, Summer Science Experiments.  Since I live in an area through which monarchs migrate, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe JoAnn’s butterflies will flutter by my house and land on the blooms in my flower bed.   

Esther Hershenhorn detailed some of the great blog posts she is working on this summer in One Writer’s Nuggets from Her Summer… So Far.  Not only does she give lots of wonderful details about Chicago, Esther also talks about SCBWI conferences.   

I attended several national conferences while I was a SCBWI Regional Advisor.  They are an exciting adventure.  It’s great to meet the authors whose books you admire, hear them speak, and buy an autographed copy.   Conferences give writers the opportunity to meet others who share their passion of writing for young readers.   The world of children’s book authors is a friendly place and conferences give you the chance to get to know people from all over the county and the world.  Writers find themselves in the midst of a crowd of people who understand the joy and the rejection of writing to publish. 

Nearly every pre published writer at an SCBWI conference hopes they will make a connection with an editor who will publish their book.  And that is always possible.  But when I look back to my early years as a writer, I see now that the most important lessons I learned at SCBWI conferences did not result in a published book.   One clear benefit is the wonderful friends I made, including Esther Hershenhorn.  For me, another benefit was that I began to see how the creative side of writing must coexists with the business of publishing.   

Conferences teach writers about the craft and the business of writing.  What can be learned at SCBWI conferences can speed up the process of both sides.   Like Joann’s butterflies, change happens and pre published writers change into published authors.   

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25. Tips for SCBWI-LA conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

(Updated version of a post I made earlier this year before the SCBWI-NYC conference)

I'm leaving this week for the SCBWI Summer Conference! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....the conference is sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA15SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

Here's my updated SCBWI Conference Advice post for first-timers (as well as a challenge for the many-timers):

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Having attended many times now, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

As Lee Wind points out in his helpful SCBWI blog post, having your name badge visible even at dinner or drinks afterward is an obvious visual clue to others that you're part of the tribe, and helps them remember your name as well. You can stash a few business cards in the back so they're handy.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Be sociable. Don't just attend the keynotes and scheduled workshops. Check out the informal activities listed in your program, like Yoga with Lori Snyder, the LGBTQ Q&A, the Illustrator Social, Nonfiction Social, International Member Social, Peer Group Critiques with Jim Averbeck, and Saturday night "Sparkle & Shine" gala. Also keep an eye on conference Twitter chat, where some meetup planning might happen ("Hey, who wants to chat? I'm in the lobby").

4. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference. Instead, set achievable goals. These can be as specific as "I'm going to introduce myself to agent xxxx sometime during the weekend" or as vague as "I'm looking for inspiration to get back on track with my book" or even just "To try having some fun at the conference and then see what happens." I think of this type of event as planting seeds. There's no guaranteed outcome, but you never know what might come out of all those seeds you're planting as you meet people, attend talks, watching and listening and chatting. 

My own conference seeds have blossomed, directly or indirectly, into: friendships, invitations to speak at events, book contracts, publishing industry info that helped guide my career decisions, learning about new techniques and tools, helping others get published, and SO much more. I continue to plant seeds, because I want to keep growing as a writer and illustrator, plus I'm also well aware how quickly the industry can change.

5. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

6. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 


Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.


Are You Entering The SCBWI-LA Illustration Portfolio Showcase? Here Are Tips For Before And During The Conference: my post on KidLitArtists.com last month

On SCBWI, Advice For Authors and Illustrators: from art director, Giuseppe Castellano.

Your Conference THRIVE-al Guide: A Dozen Tips For Four Days Made Of Awesome: by Lee Wind, on the SCBWI blog. 

Tips For Attending A Writing Conference: from YA writer, Valerie Lawson.

SCBWI Conference Tips For Newbies: from children's book illustrator, Heather Powers

Surviving Your First SCBWI Conference - by A.J. Cosmo

Tips For First-Time Conference-Goers: Children's Writers Edition: from McIntosh and Otis agent, Christa Heschke.


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