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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Harold Underdown, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 21 of 21
1. top 10 questions to ask an agent

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’re right. I sound presumptuous. But I want to be ready when I get “the call” from a literary agent.

Right again. The call could be a long way off. But being prepared is smart. And besides, I love list-making.

Here’s why I think this preparation is important: it’s easy to focus on what an agent may expect and need from you. But an agent/client relationship, at its best, is designed to be a true business partnership. As an equal partner, you need to think about what you want and need from an agent too. (I shall not digress into tales of wah from eager author wannabes who closed their eyes, asked no questions and became human ankle bracelets for the first agent who expressed interest. You are far to dear and sensitive for such horror stories.)

And so, here’s a list of questions for you to consider as you do your agent homework.

Disclaimer: Please think of this list as a guideline. You’ll want to customize it to suit your style and situation. That’s what I did. Some of these questions are my own, but I also adapted questions from a list used by my generous friend Kelly Barson (who found a wonderful agent!). Also, keep in mind, you may find the answers to some of these questions online (like the answer to question 6). This will give you room to ask other questions instead.

Get your question list ready. Then you’ll be ready when the agent pops the question: do you have any questions for me? (Whoa. I feel dizzy. I wrote myself into a circle there.)

1. If you work within a house, would I be considered your client or a client of the house? (In other words, if the agent moves on, are you connected to that house or will you move with him/her?)

2. Do you offer a representation contract or a verbal agreement? (Some writers might be uncomfortable with formal contracts, while others would feel too vulnerable with a verbal agreement. You need to ask for what’s best for you.)

3. You’re basing a decision to represent me on one work. What if you don’t love the next project? Do you refuse to send it out? Do you try to find it a home anyway? Do I have the latitude to branch into another genre (e.g., from MG novels to picture books)?

4. What will my working relationship with the you look like?

5. How far do you typically go editorially? Do you request in-depth rewrites? A little tweaking? None at all?

6. Are you a member of AAR? (The Association of Author Representatives member agencies agree to abide by a code of ethics.)

7. How much communication do you provide? And how will you typically provide it–email, phone, telepathy? (Some agents only talk to you when there’s a deal to discuss or if there’s a problem brewing. They leave you alone to write. Others are more hands-on determining the next project, checking in during the writing process, giving feedback, updating on submissions, etc. You need to decide how much autonomy you want or if hand holding through the initial stages is exactly what you need.)

8. Will I be dropped if my work doesn’t sell right away or are you committed, no matter how long it takes? Is there a time limit? At what point would you ask me to move on to something else (or to someone else)?

9. What are your greatest strengths as an agent? (If you’re feeling brave–ask about weaknesses too, but be prepared to answer the same question yourself!)

10. Could you describe your ideal client?


Not quite ready to begin your agent search? Here’s a fabulous opportunity to learn the fine art of revision. You’ll know how to make your work as polished as possible before you start your hunt.

Revision Retreat 2014 with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson

In this working retreat, Harold Underdown and editor Eileen Robinson will teach proven techniques for self-editing and revising and work with writers on their manuscripts. Mornings will be dedicated to revision techniques and afternoons to model critique groups, individual meetings, and writing time.

Hurry! Spaces are limited to allow for individualized attention.

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. ~ Harper Lee

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2. Editing Without an Editor Workshop

Do you have a manuscript—picture book, novel, or nonfiction—that needs work? Do you wish you could learn techniques that would help you revise not only this manuscript, but future ones?

Then come to the KBR “Editing without an Editor” workshop in Westport, CT. Learn how to revise like an editor by working with two experienced editors, who have distilled the methods they’ve used in editing manuscripts with individual clients and in the online Kid’s Book Revisions class. To create a framework, they’ll compare “reader response” theory and the lit. crit. approach, and explore ways to gain objectivity and to focus on different aspects of manuscripts. You will pick up and try out methods for making critique groups work better. After lunch, you will learn and try out a variety of techniques for self-editing, from big picture revision down to copy-editing, working on your own or with a partner.

Critiques are available for those that want them, but are not included in the standard package, to keep the price as low as possible. The workshop fee is $175 through May 21st, and $225 after that. A critique of up to 15 pages is $40; longer manuscripts can be critiqued by arrangement.

The workshop will run from 9 AM to 5 PM on  Sunday, June 30, at the workshop space, Write Yourself Free/The Editing Company, 252 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, (the little red schoolhouse).


In advance: Student preparation: You will need to bring copies of up to 5 pages of your manuscript for use in model critique groups and hands-on work. We will tell you how many copies are needed ahead of time.          If you want a critique, submit manuscript when you register but no later than two weeks before the workshop, to allow ER or HU time to review and comment. See details following the schedule.

  • Class “textbook”: Writing It Right!, Sandy Asher. We will give copies of this to all students.
  • Also useful: A Family of Readers, ed. by Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano. Find it at your local library.

9:00   Welcome, introductions, and review of schedule.

9:15   Introduction: Reader Response vs. Lit. Crit–different ways to respond to a manuscript and what you get from them.

10:00   How Critique Groups Work and Don’t Work–introduction and discussion.

10:30   Critique Group Practice and Feedback. Break into critique groups to dive into “what lies underneath.” Focus on trying out a specific technique and getting peer critiques and editor feedback. (Eileen and Harold will lead and take part in a group.)

12:00   Lunch: Sign-up sheet available at lunchtime for impromptu critique groups or work with partners, etc., during 3:30 to 4:30 individual meeting time.

1:30   Big Picture Revising – Some techniques and what they do for you. Hands-on practice with your manuscript.

2:45   Sweating the Small Stuff – Yes, the details matter!  Again, techniques and what they do for you. Hands-on work.

3:30   Individual meeting with editors for those students who signed up for them. When not in meetings, students can write, revise, meet with a reading partner or impromptu crit. group, or do creativity exercises we provide.

4:30   Lessons Learned—what you’ve learned about yourself and your manuscript, and what do you do next? Discussion. Final questions.

Click link for more information, and registration details:http://www.kidsbookrevisions.com/editing-without-an-editor-2013.htm

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Conferences and Workshops, opportunity, Process Tagged: Editing Workshop, Eileen Robinson, harold Underdown

2 Comments on Editing Without an Editor Workshop, last added: 5/20/2013
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3. New England SCBWI Conference 2012

This year’s NE-SCBWI Conference (my sixth) was different for me. As the On-the-Spot Critique Coordinator, I was one of numerous volunteers responsible for making a successful conference. In my position, I felt deeply obligated to the attendees, wanting to facilitate proper connections to editors/agents, and I’d promised these same professionals that I’d do my best to secure them additional critiques. In truth, I was scared. Since becoming the On-the-Spot Critique Coordinator less than a month ago, I have secretly fretted, while my daily early-morning writing time turned into early-morning e-mail communication, chart-making, and teaching myself how to make a spreadsheet. (I am also a committee co-chair for the upcoming New Jersey SCBWI Conference.) My manuscripts lay untouched; my muse went on strike.

Preparing for the conference reminded me of my earlier years in the business of writing for children, when I was unsure and questioned my abilities. Self-doubt hinders your growth as an artist. So I stopped thinking about What Might Not Happen (that the on-the-spot critiques would be a failure) and I began to believe that I could, indeed, pull this off. But to do this, I had to call on my Inspired Frame-of-Mind, which is strong, determined, and follows the muse with much delight, like a kitten chasing an unraveling ball of red yarn. I write what my characters tell me, and on some level, believe they are the ones shaping their stories, not me. I continue to struggle with writing for my blog, for that voice comes from a different place, where self-criticism has rented a tiny room and ignores my weekly eviction notice.

So in my Inspired Frame-of-Mind, I faced the task of being a successful conference coordinator: I worked diligently and focused on being positive, while doing everything possible to sell these critiques. The bar to succeed is set high due to the tireless efforts of our region’s longtime coordinators, who have given so much of their time over the years: Marilyn Salerno, Joyce Shor Johnson, Kathryn Hulick, Melissa Hed. Valarie Giogas. Laura Pauling. Melissa Stewart. Casey Girard. Betty Brown. Sally Riley. Jean Woodbury. Linda Brennan. Jennifer Carson. Joannie Duris. Anna Boll. Jennifer O’Keefe. Greg Fishbone. Francine Puckly. Margo Lemieux. And Shirley Pearson, who I hope can one day step out from behind the registration table to pursue her own dreams. I apologize in advance for not listing every name, though my gratitude is intended for all. Thank you! The NE-SCBWI Conference reflects your efforts, selfless dedication, and enthusiasm for our wonderful community. A community filled

16 Comments on New England SCBWI Conference 2012, last added: 4/26/2012
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4. Conference Update

April 30th was the last day that you could switch things around on your conference registration. If you want to add anything to your registration, you will need to email Donna Taylor disneymusescbwi@aol.com and she will manually add it to your schedule. 

April 30th was also, the deadline to email in your manuscript submissions for the one-on-one critiques and consultations. If you signed up for a critique and haven’t sent it to the email address for the editor/agent/author you picked, you are late, so please email it – ASAP!

For those who have not registered or for those who want to add another critique. Here is an update on who is still available.

Editor Critiques

Rebecca Frazer – Two 15 minutes critique spots
Lionel Bender -Two 15 minute critique spots
Eileen Robinson – One 15 minute critique spots
Harold Underdown – Six 15 minute critiques spots

Agent Critiques

Liza Fleissig – Three 15 minute critique spots
Ginger Harris – Seven 15 minute critique spots
Marcy Posner – Two 15 minute critique spots
Melissa Sarver – Three 15 minute critique spots


Eileen Robinson – Two 30 minute consultations
Lionel Bender – Five 30 minute consultations
Tamson Weston – Three 30 minute consultations

Intensive Workshops

If you are registered for the conference you can go back to your confirmation and add an Intensive. You will be charged the standard cost.

If you didn’t register for the conference because you could not attend the conference on Saturday and Sunday, you can now sign up to attend one of the Intensives for the prices below. Note: Prices include box lunch with instructor.

Tamson Weston - One Spot for Crucial Steps To Revising Your Novel - (Friday Only) $175 – Attendees submit first 15 pages of their manuscript prior to Intensive. Conference attendees get first choice for this one spot. If you are not attending and are interested, please e-mail me about taking the spot.

Scott Treimel - Eight Spots for Power of Pose - (Friday Only) $175 – Attendees submit 2 pages prior to Intensive.

Daniel Nayeri - Eight Spots for Picture Books: Idea/Market/Skills & Revising – (Friday Only) $175

Lionel Bender - Three Spots for Working in Children’s Nonfiction - (Friday Only) $175 – Attendees submit a query letter, a 1-page proposal, a writing sample, and any questions about children’s non-fiction prior to Intensive.

Eileen Robinson - Three Spots for Pacing Your First Page - (Friday Only) $175 – Attendees submit the first 3 pages prior to Intensive.

Mimi Cross - Three Spots for Yoga Inspired Writing - (Friday Only) $125

Anita Nolan - Three Spots for Writing Children’s Books (Friday Only) $140

For those “Friday Only” attendees you can sign up for the Mix and Mingle, but you will have to pay the non-staying overnight price.  If you are a non-member, you might want to consider becoming a member.  Dues are only $70 for the year and the surcharge for non-members is $20 for both the Intensive and the Mix and Mingle.

Please Note:  There is a registra

5 Comments on Conference Update, last added: 5/1/2012
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5. Re-Imaging Your Picture Book

Re-Imagining Your Picture Book

Workshop by Harold Underdown

written by Jennie Chan

         Look under, down and deep, even into your character’s underwear.

If you need better advice than that, then you should invest in Harold Underdown’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.  To my surprise, although he had every opportunity to hawk his own book, Mr. Underdown started the workshop by encouraging us to get what he described as “The Bible”: Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.  If you can’t decide whether you’re approaching children’s book writing more as an idiot or zealot, then you should check out www.underdown.org for sample chapters and detailed reviews.  Or, you can read the rest of this article to get a sense of what Mr. Underdown personally offered at the June 2012 NJSCBWI conference.

As a former teacher, I was impressed by how Mr. Underdown ran the workshop.  Efficiently yet gently, with the highest form of technology being a hardcover picture book, Mr. Underdown guided us through a 5-step routine 5 times:  He read an excerpt.  Pointed out a perspective or strategy.  Asked questions to help us apply what we’d learned to our own picture books.  Gave us time to write.  And listened to us.

If you have a picture book manuscript that could use some re-imagining, here are the 5 writing exercises (in parentheses are the titles and writers of the books that Mr. Underdown read from—in addition to illustrating his points, they are recommendations for the best picture books):

1)      Character—Do you know your character?  Can you fill a page with your character’s likes and dislikes? What is character’s room like? What is character’s favorite ice cream and why? What is character’s favorite book and why? What interesting quirk does your character have?

(Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are)

2)      Underlying emotion—What is your character feeling? Does the feeling change? How does your reader know what your character is feeling? Can the feeling be intuited or is your text telling it? Are you telling a feeling because it’s easier or because of a better reason, such as a rhythmic refrain?

(Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day)

3)      Language and voice—How would your story change if you were to write it from a regional dialect? A jargon used by a particular group, such as parents or firefighters?  A style that has a different degree of formality than you’re used to?

Think of a voice you’d like to adopt and rewrite a couple of your manuscript’s sentences in this voice.  Even if the results don’t work for your story, developing this skill would be useful in broadening your appeal to a variety of markets.

(Cynthia Rylant’s The Relatives Came)

4)      Point of view—This is not just about a first, second or third person narrator; it can also be about revealing story and character through a different form, such as letters.

If you were to write a letter from your main character, which character inside or outside the story would it be addressed to? What would the letter focus on?

(Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener)

5)      Setting—How does the setting impact your story? What would happen if you changed the setting? What else would change?

(Vera B. Williams’ A Chair for My Mother)

If you want to try a “whole other workshop” on your own, here’s a sug

5 Comments on Re-Imaging Your Picture Book, last added: 6/26/2012
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6. The Writer’s Plot Writing Conference!

For all you folks who want a fabulous way to spend a hot July day… consider this: http://www.thewritersplot.com/ I’ve posted some of the info from their website below (hope that’s okay, Pam!) and I hope some of you can go. I want to hear Harold Underdown speak so badly! He is a fab presence on [...]

6 Comments on The Writer’s Plot Writing Conference!, last added: 7/9/2012
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State of the Union? How About the State of Children's Publishing?...

I hope you all got a change to watch history in the making today. Alas, I was at a meeting during the inauguration, but I'm planning to watch it later in the day with Murray (who will have his Air Force One made of Legos in tow).

In between inauguration TV coverage, online news and Twitter updates, you can read Harold Underdown's rundown of what's happened in children's publishing over the last few months as well as his take on how the current recession will affect those working in the children's book industry.

4 Comments on , last added: 1/21/2009
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8. Marvelous Marketer: Harold Underdown (Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books)

Note: Alice Pope has been rescheduled for
next Monday! Be sure to come back and join us.

Today we have Harold Underdown, Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books

Hi Harold, before we pick your brain for your marketing wisdom, tell me a little about yourself.

I'm a children's book editor. At present, I work freelance and in educational publishing. I've worked as an in-house publisher for such publishers as Orchard and Charlesbridge, and hope to again, perhaps when the economy improves!

I am also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.

From a teaching side, I'm about to start teaching the third session of a children's book revision class with Eileen Robinson--information at http://www.kidsbookrevisions.com

Do you/your agency/your house have a website/blog ? When did you start it and who manages it ?

I started a web site, The Purple Crayon, in1996 and still manage it myself. I provide a variety of information on children's publishing, and speak and give workshops at conferences.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book ? (web sites, blogs, tours etc)

I don't think there are just three things that every author should and must do to promote their book, because different books need to be promoted in different ways!

My book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, has a niche audience, for example. What I've done to promote it is not what I would have done if I had written a picture book, and what I would have done for a PB is different from what I would have done if I had written a young adult novel.

But for all types of books, I do believe that there a few fundamental principles that should be kept in mind. You need to know your audience (or at least have a guess as to who your audience is), and then you need to figure out how you can most efficiently reach them. This is complicated for authors of children's books, since many aren't purchased by children, and since their audience is national but limited.

For my book, I had a clear niche market to reach, and it was one I knew pretty well already, since when I was signed up to do the first edition of my book I already had been working as an editor for several years, had my web site, and had years of conference speaking under my belt. (I had a "platform," in the current language, which I suspect was one reason the publisher approached me to do the book in the first place).

I have had limited time to promote my book and so I have made sure I focused on the best ways to reach my audience of aspiring writers and illustrators (and many published authors and illustrators too, but of course that's a smaller group).

For my book, my top 3 were:

  • To get reviews in writer's magazines and web sites. My publisher sent out some review copies and I've done some work on my own, down to making sure that there were reviews on Amazon.
  • To speak at conferences, mostly organized by SCBWI. From early 2008 to the end of 2009, I will have been to 8 weekend conferences and 2 retreats, not only to promote the book, but I made sure that I did at all of them.
  • And to utilize the web by having sample materials and blurbs on my web site as well as taking part in online discussion groups.
In your opinion, how important is social networking ? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, GoodReads etc.

This really depends on the book. For some books it can make a huge difference. For most books, it doesn't.

However, if your audience uses social networking heavily, this is an area to look at, but carefully--authors should keep in mind the principle of efficiency. It's possible to put a lot of time into social networking and have little in the way of results to show for it.

As an Editor, when you were evaluating whether to take on an author or book, did you ever Google them to see if they already had a web presence or platform ?

I didn't do this when I was at Charlesbridge, my most recent in-house job. I might do this today, though it would depend on the type of book. I doubt that I would for picture books or most kinds of fiction, for example. I might for YA or nonfiction for bookstores.

Having a platform is still a relatively new concept in children's books. Being able to support one's backlist through school visits and other ways of connecting with one's audience (such as a web site) are more common.

In your experience as as Editor, what things do Publishers offer in contracts in terms of Marketing ? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book ?

Publishers put as little as possible into the contract about marketing. There are certainly things that one can expect--being in the catalog, review copies being sent out, etc.--but unless one has considerable pull they won't be in the contract.

Did you think about marketing before your book was published ? Did you start prior to getting an agent or selling your book ? If so, when and what did you do ?

I thought about marketing before my book was published, but not before it was signed up, simply because I was solicited to write it, as I mentioned above. But I did have ideas in mind from the time I started writing--thought I don't think that his is necessary for all writers. Some books can be effectively and efficiently promoted by their authors, while others can't. Some authors aren't good promoters. There are times when writing is a better use of your time, and writers shouldn't feel guilty about that.

Now, if you could put on your author hat. For your book, do you have a formal marketing plan or is your marketing more random ? If not, why ? Would you like to ?

My plan wasn't written down, but I did have a pretty good idea of it all along. If I had had more time, I might have written up a plan, but I don't feel that the lack of a written plan has been a problem.

And lastly, what creative things have you done to promote a book?

I haven't been creative! I've done the obvious things and I've tried to do them well.

Thank you Harold for your time and knowledge!

Thanks Shelli!

23 Comments on Marvelous Marketer: Harold Underdown (Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books), last added: 4/6/2009
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9. Some good things . . .

I’m highlighting Andrea Beaty’s FIREFIGHTER TED book (see sidebar). What a hoot! When the principal’s pants catch on fire we see exactly why a caring bear has to do his best. Lots of heart and humor in this one! Way to go, Andrea.

A wonderful NY Times article about Jan Brett and the chickens she raises at her summer home can be found here.

And, after getting to meet editor Harold Underdown this past weekend at the Michigan SCBWI fall conference, I just want to remind folks what a wealth of information is at his website: The Purple Crayon. This is a great spot for beginning writers of children’s books to start. He covers all the basics of publishing and writing for children.




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10. No Names Needed

On every writer's networking list I am on, or have ever been part of, one of the recurring subjects is that of the names of editors at particular publishing houses. "Does anyone know the name of the editor at XYZ?" someone will ask, or "Is Josephine Bloggs still the submissions editor at ZXY?" Nine times out of ten someone on the list will know the answer and it is duly proferred and the askee

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11. Emma Dryden and Harold Underdown's PAL workshop: Social Media for Authors & Illustrators

Harold Underdown is the man behind The Purple Crayon website, one of the first online resources in children's literature. He posts great links and articles about things going on in this industry and also tweets.

Emma Dryden has a website describing her Drydenbks business, and is very active on twitter and facebook and she's even moving into google+ as well.

They are sharing a virtual handout with amazing resources to check out and a paper handout that reviews a large number of the social networks for readers that are out there.

The first thing they suggest to do is to get a website.

Think about your website as a living document - a forum for you as you grow, with new artwork, new sketches, but not everything - you want to give a sampling, a showcase of your writing, your illustration, your interests, your links, song lists, book titles. (But don't give away the store.)

Some great pieces of advice:

Think about who your audience is going to be. The audience for picture books are not going online. But if you write picture books, you could have resources for parents and teachers.

Don't put your unpublished manuscript on your website, but once it's published, put up a few chapters - people love to preview.

Do not post photos of your children: be careful of the presence that you have online - it's totally public. Keep your boundaries in mind from the very beginning.

Own your own domain name (and don't let it lapse.)

They're explaining and discussing the pros and pitfalls of facebook, twitter, and twitterchats, myspace, LinkedIn, and Google+, sharing strategies for how to manage the flow of information.

You can also have a blog as your website. Emma mentions the article Alice Pope wrote about starting a blog in the recent SCBWI Bulletin, and recommends it. You can also use your blog as your website. One way to take the pressure off is to be part of a group blog - a Glog - (like INK)

Some authors doing social media RIGHT that Emma and Harold suggest you look to as inspirations:

Ellen Hopkins

Laurie Halse Anderson

And another example of an author doing an excellent job with twitter is Maureen Johnson

There are even publishers and authors who are tweeting AS characters!

Of course, you can't do everything. (Emma likes twitterchats, Harold doesn't...)
"Social Media is not something you HAVE to do, but maybe you can find one part of it that does work for you." - Harold Underdown

And the attendees of this session are now armed with loads of practical information to help them figure that out!

0 Comments on Emma Dryden and Harold Underdown's PAL workshop: Social Media for Authors & Illustrators as of 1/1/1900
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12. Conference Book Fair Opportunity

This year the book fair we hold on Saturday June 9th at the conference, provides a new opportunity. Newbery Award winning author Kate DiCamillo will be signing books on June 10th, along with her Agent/Author Holly McGhee. Their books will be on sale on Saturday and Sunday, but having Kate sign on Sunday allows everyone more time with the other authors selling books on Saturday.

Some of those authors happen to be editors and agents. I have listed the books they will be signing at the bookfair, below. If you have a favorite book that you would like to have signed, please let me know and I will give the title to the bookstore and if you want to pre-pay, we will hold it for you.

See bottom of post for tips on how to make the most of your bookfair time.

Newbery Winning Author Kate DiCamillo

Our own Ame Dyckman’s debut picture book, illustrated by the famous Dan Yaccarino.

Two Great Books Written and Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.

Three Wonderful Books by Author/Agent Holly McGhee

Publishing Editor Margery Cuyler – Check back for other titles – Still working on list.

Two Well Reviewed New Books by Editor/Author Daniel Nayeri.<

2 Comments on Conference Book Fair Opportunity, last added: 3/21/2012
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13. Drawing a profile pic for Facebook

This week I got to tackle drawing a profile pic for facebook. No, not for me, for a friend.

If you're in the Kidlit world you may guess who it is.

Here's the first one.

It was too realistic and therefore wouldn't look well on the small profile on Facebook.

So I tried another technique, much freer with ink dipping pen.

I gave the last image grayscale washes in photoshop.

If you hadn't guessed the subject is Harold Underdown. You can see which image he finally used on his Facebook page at this link .... https://www.facebook.com/harold.underdown


On the Bedside Table:

'Second Sight' by Cheryl Klein

6 Comments on Drawing a profile pic for Facebook, last added: 3/26/2012
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14. New England SCBWI Conference 2012 - thanks for the votes!

What a great conference! SCBWI New England really pulled it out of the bag this time.

3 great days at Springfield, MA. Over 500 attended and the faculty line up was amazing! Highlights included Harry Bliss, Dan Yaccarino, Harold Underdown, Kate Messner, Jane Yolen, Cynthia Lord, Brian Lies, Heidi Stemple, Jo Knowles ... on and on ... you can check out just what the line up was at http://www.nescbwi.org/.

If you are hoping to write or illustrate for children - you can't do better than attend an SCBWI conference and New England is one of the best. In the three years I have been a member it's given me invaluable information, education, contacts and networking opportunities. And best of all - friends who relate to my goals and frustrations. So I say thank you to the organizers and volunteers!

I travelled with Russ Cox (friend and fellow illustrator) from Maine on Friday and it was straight into the deep end with a great 'meet and greet' with top-hole artists and writers at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. (My first visit and a beautiful venue.)

Before we knew it Sunday rolled around ... and it was time to say goodbye. Russ and I returned to Maine in triumph ... Russ swept the board with two first prizes and the emerging artist award read his take ont he conference and his success here ... and not to be left out I won second prize in the People's Choice category!! Yippee for 'Boy and World '.


Right now my drawing board is overflowing with projects so I had better get my *** in gear.

I'll leave you with a few photos from the weekend and hope to meet you at a conference soon!

 Back in the studio today.

 With a great group of illustrators.
 Signing Casey Girard's Sketchbook Project

 At the Eric Carle Museum

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15. Misunderstood Lands, Prairie Lands, and Dairy Lands: South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

So far we’ve gone 10,956 miles in 49 days, with only 6 days to go. As I type we’re whooshing down Route I-94 heading toward Michigan. Not too long ago we went into Indiana, a state we’re passing through for only a few minutes—but it still counts! :-) The grass and shrubs have definitely looked more shaggy since Illinois, but that’s new. For the past few days we’ve been in clean, manicured farm country.

Let’s catch up:

Wall Drug, SD and the Badlands

Wednesday, the day after we saw Mount Rushmore, was a long driving day (about 700 miles!), but Karen is never one to let a cool-sounding place pass by without calling out “Stop!” So that’s what we did in Wall Drug, South Dakota, where the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was in full swing. The entire town, which was originally built around a drug store, was filled with bikers, bikers, and more bikers. How could we pass up a chance to buy a Harley Davidson t-shirt in the biker heartland of America?


The badlands: Truly bad, or just misunderstood? Here’s Evan:

EVAN: The Badlands were covered with white rock and it seemed sort of like the moon. It was very hot and I liked it because in some places the rock was burned so badly that it made colors
(Mark’s note: actually, this was different levels of sediment—and way cool) and suddenly when you leave the Badlands it looks like you’re in the regular world again. There were a lot of motorcycle guys everywhere too.


So then we reached Minnesota. The photo above was the most difficult "entering a new state" photo we've taken. The sign was on the highway, and we had to climb up a hill, through some brambles, and then squeeze into a tiny area of dirt in the middle of some bushes. Note that Evan is parting a shrub with his arm so the state name can be seen.

In Minnesota we stayed Chaska, just outside of Minneapolis, with our friends Patricia Danielson, Vicki Boeddeker, and Mike Weinkauf. Patricia took a couple of days off work to show us around the Twin Cities. We saw first-hand the damaged remains of the collapsed bridge on I-35W—just awful. Five weeks and two days after crossing the Mississippi in the south (into Louisiana), we crossed it in the north. It’s a lot calmer in the north! We also saw the beautiful state capital building. Thanks Patricia, Vicki, and Mike!

A note from KAREN: Mark asked why I’ve only been writing about bad experiences. I don’t see it that way, I see them as different experiences than life in Wayland, MA. For example, my 2nd night in Vicki’s house. Here we are, comfy cozy, away from bears and rattlesnakes, what else could happen at night? My first big lightening storm on the prairies of Minnesota, that’s what!! Holy cow ! I got out of bed and was blinded by the flashing lightning, and then jumped out of my PJ’s when I heard the loud crack and kaboom of the lightning right outside the window! Did a tree fall down? Did we get hit by lightning? Another night of no sleeping because of fear!! The next morning, as usual, everyone including Mark said it was a normal storm, no big deal . WELL, we got an email from a friend in the area who said the storm blew out windows like a tornado and power was out for a few days. She asked if we were in the eye of the storm! See, I’m not crazy!!


Wild Rupus was wild indeed. An amazing independent bookstore in Minneapolis, the whole store was designed to look like it was transforming from an inside space to the outdoors. Helping to create the effect were a whole menagerie of animals, including chickens, ferrets, Australian flying squirrels, fish, tarantulas, rats and many more. The kids were in heaven. Here we are with Manager Kristin Bergsagel bookseller Josh Harrod, Poopsie the ferret, and a Japanese chicken named Elvis. Thanks, Wild Rumpus—you are terrific!


Like a matching bookend to Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, St. Paul is home to another amazing bookstore called The Red Balloon. Susan Hepburn
was a terrific host, serving up lemon drops and lemonade. The Red Balloon is another must-visit bookstore for anyone the St. Paul area!

As a nice surprise, we were lucky enough to meet Shelley Swanson Sateren, fellow SCBWI member and author of the middle-grade novel Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof. Here’s Evan’s review:

EVAN’S REVIEW: Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof is a fun book about a girl who is geeky who when her friend moves away from Paris she finds a new friend who is stylish and cool. It was an interesting story because it’s interesting to see how a girl with so much smarts can try and be cool and fit in with everyone else. You should read it.

It was great to meet you, Shelley!


Penelope’s rattling got kind of dubious so we stopped at the Honda dealer in Hopkins, MN. $560 later, (replaced ‘severely cracked’ exhaust manifold and gaskets, oil change, new battery) the minivan sounded a bit better—at least for the first twenty miles or so. After that, we’re pretty much back to the rattling we started out with. Oh well, it’s only money. :-)

Here’s Shane Beals, the Honda guy who washed Penelope—she badly needed it. Thanks, Shane!


Next we drove through Wisconsin, a land of beautiful manicured farms and more red barns than you can shake a cheddar wheel at. So lovely!

In Green Bay we stopped to see a surprisingly large athletic facility where a local team plays a sport that apparently involves feet and leather hats. I hear that the locals are rather enthusiastic about it.


Just south of Green Bay, in DePere, is Butterfly Books, a roomy and cheerful independent bookstore run by Barbara Wilson. Barbara and her friendly team of booksellers were very kind, staying open later than usual on a Saturday afternoon just so that we could visit. Here I am with Barbara and Samantha Parker, bookseller and saxophone player. Great to meet you!


In Milwaukee we stayed with our friends Posh (really Josh, but he’s yet another friend with a mysterious nickname given by Karen) and Boris. They showed us around Milwaukee, and took us for custard at Kopps, a Milwaukee thing-to-do. The custard was a lot like ice cream except a lot denser—it’s made with eggs and who-knows-what-else and it sneaks up on you. Thank god I only had a small cone—by bedtime I felt so full that I rolled around in pain clutching at my stomach. But honestly, it was so tasty it was worth it! :-)


As any fan of Laverne and Shirley can tell you, Milwaukee is home to many breweries, so how could we pass up the opportunity to tour the Miller factory?


In beautiful Cedarburg, WI, about twenty minutes north of Milwaukee, is the terrific Creekside Books. Owner Glen Switalski is a man with an amazing story: After his doctor told him he needed to lose weight, he lost well over 100 lbs by exercise, diet and sheer force of will. Today he can be seen riding his exercise bike in and around his store every day. The guy is an aerobic, bookselling powerhouse! Creekside Books is a great independent bookstore, and Gary is a truly an inspirational guy.

Here I am with Lindsay McLaughlin, a reader and artist who came to see me. She was fun to talk with, and very helpful in suggesting places we could go in the area. Great to meet you, Lindsay! :-)

Illinois: An All-Too-Short Trip Through the Land of Lincoln

Southward from Milwaukee...! Unfortunately, we had only a few hours in Illinois. Still, it counts as state number 31 on our trip! :-)


In Grayslake, Illinois, about forty minutes north of Chicago, is a magical bookstore called Under the Sycamore Tree. A new independent store, owner Jackie Harris opened up shop this past November. It’s a roomy, bright place with a big “sycamore tree” inside. The store has taken inspiration from Wild Rumpus (see Minnesota) and filled its space with wild animals. My kids were in their element. Zoe ran at me with a giant grin and a very big python named ‘Snakey’. Under the Sycamore Tree is yet another example of how independent bookstores tend to be run by smart, thoughtful, nice people. Jackie, it was a pleasure to meet you!

Here I am with Jackie and her daughter, Haley:

Because we’re meeting a friend in Michigan later today, we had only about an hour or so to see Chicago. I know, I know—not even close to scratching the surface. So on top of just driving around a little, we decided that with our limited time we’d stop by Lake Michigan. As far as my eyes could tell, the lake might as well have been an ocean. Way cool. Next time, we’ll plan to spend more time here!

Our Trip Through Indiana: Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It

If you thought our stop in Chicago was too short, Indiana is only about a half hour of highway to us. Still, it counts as state #32. :-)

Next stop, Michigan!

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)

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16. WOTD: Workshop

Today's word of the day is: Workshop

I'm back from Nashua, where the New England SCBWI conference was a huge success and my four-hour workshop on web design and blogging was well-attended and well-received. The grand finale was a live update of my website to include news about the presentation itself, thanks to a kind volunteer photographer in the audience.

That's my new website design in the background, and see how exhausted I looked by that point? Since I was presenting for both sessions on Sunday, I didn't get to attend the equally well-received workshops going on at the same time:
  • Toni Buzzeo on self-promotion;
  • Brian Lies and Lita Judge on illustration;
  • Sarah Aronson on point of view;
  • Harold Underdown on an overview of the basics;
  • Debra Garfinkle on humor writing;
  • Emily Herman and Anne Sibley O'Brien on writing tools;
  • Sarah Shumway on pitches; or
  • The Write Sisters (Janet Buell, Kathy Deady, Muriel Dubois, Diane Mayr, Andrea Murphy, Barbara Turner, and Sally Wilkins) on critique groups and collaboration
In fact, with all of those other workshops going on, I was amazed that anyone wanted to come to mine at all. We really did have a great group of authors and illustrators who peppered me with enough questions to last the entire time--and we probably could have gone for another four hours if I hadn't lost my voice by then. Thanks, everybody!

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17. Harold D. Underdown Guests This Week on Book Bites for Kids

Idiot's guideIf you have questions about writing and publishing for children, this week is your chance to get answers to those questions.

All this week, Harold D. Underdown will be the guest on Book Bites for Kids, every afternoon at 2:00 central time on blogtalkradio.com.

Underdown is a children’s book editor, working as a consulting editor at present. Previously, he was Vice President and Editorial Director at ipicturebooks. Before that, he was editorial director of the Charlesbridge trade program, and he has also worked at Orchard Books and Macmillan. Underdown is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, now in its third edition. He speaks at conferences, provides editorial services to publishers and authors, and maintains an informative web site about children’s publishing called The Purple Crayon.

Today (Tuesday) Underdown will talk to Book Bites for Kids host, Suzanne Lieurance, about who he is and what he does, plus he’ll give plenty of information about writing and publishing for children.

On Wednesday he’ll cover basic information any writer needs to know to get started as a children’s writer.

On Thursday, he’ll discuss what happens after a writer signs a contract with a publisher and what it is like working with a publisher.

On Friday, he’ll talk about what’s going on right now in the world of children’s publishing. All this, and much, much more!

Listen to the show at Blogtalkradio and call in during the LIVE show to ask your question or just make a comment at 1-646-716-9239.

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18. Harold D. Underdown Visits on Book Bites for Kids

This week Suzanne Lieurance (from THE NATIONAL WRITING CENTER FOR CHILDREN) is hosting Harold D. Underdown on Book Bites for Kids each afternoon (Tuesday to Friday) at 2:00 pm CST. Harold will be offering all types of advice and information for children's writers. Harold is probably best know for his phenomenal website, THE PURPLE CRAYON, a wealth of information for children's writers. And Harold has also written THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

You can call in LIVE and ask Harold a question: 1-646-716-9239. Or if you can't listen live, use the Book Bites link above where all the interviews are archived.

And when visiting THE PURPLE CRAYON, be sure to check out fellow Guardian Angel Publishing author, Margot Finke. She has featured tips there called, "Margot's Musings."

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19. Listen to Book Bites for Kids with Harold Underdown

If you have questions about writing and publishing for children, listen to Book Bites for Kids, LIVE on blogtalkradio.com every weekday afternoon at 3:00 Eastern time. Children's book editor, Harold Underdown, will be Suzanne Lieurance's guest today and every day for the rest of this week. He'll talk about all aspects of writing and publishing in today's children's markets.

Harold Underdown is a children's book editor, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition (Complete Idiot's Guide to), and runs the popular writer's website, The Purple Crayon.

Listen to the show here.

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20. ICL Guest Chat with Harold Underdown

Do you know about the chat rooms at The Institute of Children's Literature website? Join Jan Fields, web editor, one Thursday night a month for a two-hour live interview and discussion with guest writers and editors in the chat room auditorium.

At the next Guest Chat: this Thursday, May 22, 2008 listen to Harold Underdown chat about all the steps along the publishing path and how to walk it more smoothly. Currently an editorial consultant in New York, Harold Underdown has served as editorial director for Charlesbridge Publishing, as vice president of editorial for iPicturebooks, and as a children's book editor for Orchard and Macmillan. He is also a popular speaker at writer's conferences. And his website -- The Purple Crayon -- is a must see resource for writers. If you don't have it, pick up Harold's new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition (Complete Idiot's Guide to).

For help with the ICL chatroom software, check out this article.

Come and hear Harold:
Thursday evening, May 22, 2008
9-11 p.m. Atlantic
8-10 p.m. Eastern
7-9 p.m. Central
6-8 p.m. Mountain
5-7 p.m. Pacific

NOTE: All transcripts are archived! The archive contains more than six
years' worth of full-length interview transcripts on topics such as "Writing
Mysteries," "Writing Biographies for Young People," "Writing About Animals,"
"Sports Stories for Kids," "Creating Characters," "Turning Interviews into
Sales," "Creating Successful Critique Groups," "How to Get the Most out of
Your Writer's Conference," "How to Jump-Start Your Writing," "Writing Wild
and Wonderful Nonfiction," "Writing for Children in Many Genres" and much
other good advice and many tips for writers.

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The Latest Updates on The Purple Crayon...

Just saw a listserv post by The Purple Crayon's Harold Underdown. Here's what's new on his wonderfully useful website which include something like 300 articles and other materials providing information and guidance about writing, illustrating, agents, trends and more.

  • Who's Moving Where updates (editors moving houses, leaving the business, or starting new jobs).
You can always visits Harold's What's New Page to see what's been added to the Purple Crayon. (Why not bookmark it!)

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