Missouri Center For the Book

I am both honored & delighted to announce that I have been elected to the board of the Missouri Center of the Book. What is that? I’m glad you asked!

The Missouri Center for the Book was established in 1993 “to bring the words and ideas of books into the thoughts and lives of Missourians.” The Center is a statewide organization that promotes the importance of books and reading to Missouri residents, celebrates the state’s literary heritage, and recognizes the contributions of Missouri’s authors, book illustrators, booksellers, publishers, librarians, and others involved in the literary arts. The MCB is currently undergoing a major expansion, establishing regional chapters across the state in order to better serve all of Missouri’s residents. We are proud to announce our primary sponsor in this expansion is The Mercantile Library, the oldest library west of the Mississippi, housed on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. This exciting new chapter of the MCB’s history is being undertaken with the support and supervision of John Cole, the director of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.

The Missouri Center is an affiliate of the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which was established by law in 1977 to strengthen and celebrate the vital role of books, reading, and libraries in the cultural life of the nation.

The Center is governed by a board of directors composed of authors, publishers, librarians, editors, and community leaders. The board develops programs and plans activities that stimulate public interest in books and reading.

Here are just a few of the fabulous programs they support:

Letters about Literature: a competition which challenges young readers to write a personal letter of reflection to an author whose work somehow inspired them or changed their view of the world or themselves. The contest is sponsored nationally by the Library of Congress and locally by the Missouri Center for the Book and the Missouri State Library. The Missouri Center for the Book has sponsored the statewide contest since 1995, and in that time over 20,000 students in Missouri alone have participated in the program. There were 46,000 participants nationwide in 2013.

Entries are divided into three competition levels:
Level I (grades four through six)
Level II (grades seven and eight)
Level III (grades nine and ten)

First place, second place, and two honorable mention winners are awarded for each of the three competition levels in the state.

National Book Festival: the 13th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. This year’s festival will feature authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite poets and authors, get books signed, hear special entertainment, have photos taken with storybook characters and participate in a variety of activities. Check out this amazing line up of YA & Children authors:


Teens & Children


poster_enlargeFestival poster by Suzy Lee.

I am so proud to be a member of this board. In the words of president Larisa Cassell, “We are strong and poised to accomplish astonishingly marvelous things as we  become a true Missouri Center for the Book, representing all regions with enthusiasm and dignity.”

Altering Books

I recently held a workshop at Missouri State University for the Ozark Writing Project Summer Institute Fellows of 2013 on Altering Books.This type of Project-Based Learning is a comprehensive instructional approach to engage students in sustained, cooperative investigation (Bransford & Stein, 1993). Project-Based Learning differs from traditional inquiry by its emphasis on students’ own artifact construction to represent what is being learned (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).Altered books are versatile and applicable to any subject. They can be used in almost any classroom, for a wide variety of purposes: journaling, creating poetry & short stories, outlining, using math manipulation to create pockets, 3-dimensional pop outs and sculptural additions, scientific observations, etc.

Another reason to consider using Altered Books in the classrom: student motivation. In Arts, Neuroscience, and Learning an article by James Zull, Professor of Biology and Director of the University
Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University (New Horizons for Learning, 2005), Zull states that the researcher understands that the learner feels rewarded when creating new objects or actions. It is further discovered that due to creativity being based on the creator, the reward system kicks in when we are in control and making things that we have thought of ourselves. Freedom and ownership are part and parcel of the neurochemistry of the arts. James Zull goes on to share in his article that the importance of arts in school is strongly associated with motivation and interest.

Here are just a few of the products created by the SI Fellows during the workshop:


Workshops and Retreats

This month I was blessed to be able to attend not one, not two, but three different SCBWI events -all of which helped me fine tune my writing skills.

The first event was an SCBWI Kansas Master Class: The Anatomy of a Teacher Guide and Why You Need One. the class was led by Debbie Gonzales, an author, blogger, educator, and former Regional Advisor for SCBWI in Austin, Texas.

In the class, Debbie began by began by discussing and sharing examples of some of the different types of guides that could be created: discussion (a list of multi-faceted questions that span the Bloom’s Taxonomy levels which can be used at the end of the book), activity (contains things that children can manipulate like games, or make like recipes), teacher(written specifically with an instructor in mind, contain components of many of the other types- but with specific directives & examples on how to organize and present the material to students)  or cross curricular (contain pages with activities or information that relate to  multiple  genres such as science, history, & math , in addition to literature connections). She reminded us that in order to have both academic and mass market appeal, guides should be age appropriate, have snazzy graphics, make use of white space, include lesson objectives tied to State Standards and/or National Core Curriculum, contain a brief overview of theme, plot and character, and give a chapter by chapter analysis.

The list of additional items that could be added was endless: photos, recipes, links to You Tube videos or iTunes songs, rubrics, evaluations, arts & crafts ideas, puzzles, games, projects, and literary element activities such as discussion questions, graphic organizers, Reader’s Theatre writing prompts, research topics, and word study.

After Debbie gave a thorough overview of Common Core Standards, the real fun began! Participants used scissors, glue, markers, crayons, and templates provided by Debbie to create games based on their own novels or works in progress. Lastly, participants shared what they had created with the group.

This was a fabulous workshop. I am convinced that any author, whether their book is fiction or non-fiction, a picture book, Middle Grade or YA novel, will benefit by creating a guide. Check out Debbie’s website www.debbiegonzales.com  for examples and links.

The second event I attended was the SCBWI Missouri Advanced Writers’ Retreat at Elfindale Masion. Along with 20 other participants, I spent an intense weekend in critique groups hammering out issues pointed out by Maggie Lehrman, Senior Editor at Abrams, who had read and commented on our manuscripts prior to the retreat. In addition to meeting with each of us individually, Maggie also addressed the entire group several times on such topics as voice, trends, and  the history of Abrams Publishing. Everything about this retreat was fantastic: the food, the venue, and the people-I wish I could have kidnapped my entire critique group and brought them home with me, their feedback was so valuable!

Lastly, I attended another workshop, this one hosted by SCBWI Missouri: The Truth in Fiction, led by  Margaret Stohl, author of the ICONS Series, May 7th release date from Little, Brown and the New York Times # 1 Bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures Novels.  Margaret was fabulous and inspiring! She shared her author’s journey and then regaled us with anecdotes and helpful hints from both herself and other writers: Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, & Neil Gaiman, to name a few. My favorite  advice: “Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowl-curdling terror, as i contemplate the drivel on the screen before me…Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end.” Sarah Waters, and  from Margaret Stohl, “Finish. Have friends that will carry you. Be Cracked and allow your reader to see how Cracked you truly are. they will relate, because they’re Cracked too.  Jump or stay in the boat. But really, jump.” Be sure and take the time to visit this fantastic author if she is ever in your area.

So I’m off to apply all that I learned. Looking forward to fall when I plan on attending several more local area conferences!

Interview with Author Matt de la Pena

I first heard author Matt de la Pena speak in 2011 at the ALAN Conference in Chicago. When I became the ARA for SCBWI Missouri, I immediately began lobbying to bring him to  our fall conference and I’m thrilled to report that he will be joining us in November 2013-I believe all of you will enjoy his wit and outlook on life as much as I did. I recently e-mailed Matt and asked if he’d agree to answer a few questions for Mo Scribbles. He graciously agreed. Read on to learn a little more about this fantastic author.

Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I was a mediocre student all through middle school and high school. I definitely didn’t think of myself as a future writer. Basketball was my thing.I ended up going to college on a basketball scholarship, and it was there that I discovered literature and (eventually) my voice as a writer. My professors saw enough in my work to apply me — without my knowledge — to MFA programs increative writing. They asked to meet with me one day and explained that I’d been accepted by two of the five schools they sent my stories. I was ecstatic. I had no idea that you could “study” creative writing. The three
years I spent in grad school were amazing. I read everything in sight and watched my stories get stronger. One of the most important parts of the program, I think, was the chance to read and critique the work of others. I learned so much about craft listening to my classmates workshop a story that wasn’t mine. After grad school I started my first novel — what would become Ball Don’t Lie.

Who is your agent? How did he/she become your agent and what was your querying process like?
I was so ignorant about this process. Have to say, my MFA program didn’t prepare us at all for the practical part of getting a book published. I went into one of those “guide to literary agents” books, found five agents (all of them lived in LA, where I was living at the time) and sent out some incredibly unprofessional query letters (someone please ask me about theseletters while I’m in MO). The first agent I signed with passed away a few months after he sold my first book. I’m now represented by Steve Malk — who is one of my favorite parts of my career.

What steps did you take after you got your first book deal? What are the essential marketing things you recommend authors do from signing the book deal contract
to the release of the book?
Oh, man. I had no idea what I was doing. I assumed I was going to become instantly famous and start dating Angelina Jolie. But she never called. Which I still think is weird. The best advice I can give is to stay focused on the work. It’s great to network through social media and to be open to all events the publisher may ask you to do, but at the end of the day a writer should be focused on writing. My first agent once told me, “Don’t cross your fingers while I’m out trying to sell this. Makes it hard to type.” Find a balance. Be a good person. Be generous and humble. Don’t only tweet out praise for you and your book (guys like me will be tempted to key your car). Be good to the people who work to edit and promote your work. And always be thinking about the next story you want to tell.

In January 2012, it became illegal to teach your novel Mexican White Boy in Tucson classrooms. Can you tell us your reaction to that?

I always wanted to get banned. I really did. How cool would it be say, “Man, my books are so raw people can’t even read ‘em.” But when the Arizona thing happened, I was deeply saddened by the reality of the situation – my book Mexican WhiteBoy was essentially taken away from the readers who most identify with the world. That’s when I realized the incredible travesty of censorship. The decision makers in Arizona are keeping Mexican-American readers away from Mexican-American storytellers. It quickly became clear to me that the decision was motivated by political fear of a growing population. Those in power wanted to keep their power, and one of their strategies was to limit the amount of information the feared group would be exposed to — especially if it might
collectively motivate them. Truthfully, AZ decision makers are okay with the growing population of Mexican-Americans as long as they’re “good” Mexican-Americans. Really dangerous stuff. However, the strategy is backfiring. What they’ve ultimately done is create a generation of activists. I met some incredibly motivated students at Tucson High who feel they’ve been given a cause. And they’re hungrier than ever for information. The worst part is, they probably “boxed” my book based on the title alone. There’s absolutely nothing in the book that incites “racial resentment.” The character is as white as he is Mexican. If you want more information about what happened in Tucson, here’s a NY Times article about my visit to Tucson High:


You’ve published a wide variety of material: YA novels, picture books, short fiction, articles, and essays. Do you prefer one type over the other? Why?
My YA novels are my heart. I’ve had a lot of fun doing the picture books and the articles and essays, but I love writing novels. I love following a character around for three hundred pages.

You teach creative writing at NYU & Vermont College. Tell us about your writing schedule and how you stay productive while juggling teaching, your travel schedule, and writing deadlines.
When I’m in Brooklyn, I treat writing like a traditional job. I clock in at 7:30 and I write until 3:00 or so. When I’m on the road I have to be a little more creative. I have to write on planes and in hotels after school visits. I just try to work my butt off. There are definitely some brilliant writers out there who can sit down and bust out a beautiful draft of a novel in three months, but I’m not one of them. I have to work really, really hard.

Do you have a story about a favorite place you’ve visited as a writer? Or any perks/pitfalls you’d like to share as someone who has succeeded?

The talk I did at Tucson High (where Mexican WhiteBoy was boxed) was probably my all-time favorite visit. I love it when literature becomes bigger than itself. I’ve also had really great experiences in smaller towns like Pleasanton, Texas and Madras, Oregon and Lincoln, New Hampshire. Big cities are fun, but there’s something really special about visiting small towns and meeting kids with big dreams.

Tell us about your latest project.

My next YA novel, The Living, comes out November 12. Shy is spending the summer working on a luxury cruise liner (I had to go on a cruise for research!), but while he’s out on his second voyage the “big one” rocks the west coast of America. He has no idea if his family back home is dead or alive. Worse yet, the earthquakes cause a tsunami that sinks the cruise ship. Shy finds himself adrift in the ocean, alone, in a busted-up lifeboat. It’s a disaster novel from the POV of my usual working-class characters. I’m currently working on the sequel which is titled The Forgotten. If I’m not finished by the conference, I’m going to be in big trouble!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
To steal a phrase from the hoop world: Don’t talk about, be about it. We all have dreams and ambitions and inspired story ideas. But the only thing that matters is what ends up on the page. Writing groups can be incredibly helpful. SCBWI is an invaluable experience. But try and keep your WIP a little close to the vest. Sometimes the passion it takes to verbally describe a great new idea will zap the energy you need to actually write it.

A Different Kind of March Madness

While everyone else is glued to the TV, I’m up to my eyeballs in registration forms for the 5th Annual Ozark Writing Project Middle Grade Conference. The conference is May 10, 2013 and will be held at Missouri State University. We are expecting 600-700 students and their teachers to attend. This year we are offering twenty three different writing sessions, taught by authors, writing project TCs & MSU students:Comic Books & Story Telling, Altered Books & Found Poems, Telling True Stories, Getting Wild With Writing, SLAM Poetry, Creative Writing in Digital Space, Whose Line is it Anyway?, Immersed in Verse, Mapping Your Setting, Appeal of Zany Inventions, Writing Though the Senses, TeamUp.WriteUp.CrackUp., Mapping the Past, Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude, A World of My Own, Discover Your  Writing Personality, Weaving Music Into Your Story, It’s All About the Slant, Reality On Sale Today, Toils & Troubles & Twists…Oh My!, Creating Imaginative Worlds, Play Detective, and Write a Spooky Story.
Needless to say-putting on an event this large is time consuming and requires a lot of work! Recently, I was reminded why it’s all worth it. Branson, one of the schools that attends the OWP Youth Conference asks the students who wish to attend to write  letters explaining why.  One of the teachers passed a few of them on-they are precious!
Here are a few excerpts:
I love to write…Wait, I don’t just love to write writing is my life. I write at school, at home, in the car and at any restaurant that allows pen and paper. I will write …about anything.

I think the Young Authors Conference is an excellent opportunity to learn about many different types of writing and skills that authors use. I think I would be a good young author to bring on the trip to Missouri State University because I love writing and I am very eager to learn new writing skills and forms of writing. I also want to be an author when I grow up and I want to start learning how to become a better one now.

I would love to go to the Young Writers Conference at Missouri State University because, well,I’ve always loved tp write. I think its really fun to sit down at your desk with a pencil and just put all of my thoughts onto paper. A pencil and paper is all you need to take you on a journey to somewhere…I really like how you can just go into your own little world while writing, explore new things that you’ve never bothered to before. Be yourself. Express your thoughts, feelings, and, well, you.

And so I’ll continue to toil. Who knows, we may be inspiring a future J.K. Rowling!



Networking at Art of the Book Workshop

I spent a delightful day at the MSU Brick City building. Many of the workshop participants were friends & acquaintances from the OWP  and it was nice to catch up on what they’ve been doing. In addition, I had a chance to chat with James Baumlin, a professor at MSU and editor at Moon City Press. I look forward to partnering with him on future ventures, possibly a project involving The Big Read.  I was also impressed with Judith Fowler. I am hoping she’ll be able to present at the OWP Youth Conference and she may prove to be a valuable contact for the SCBWI illustrators.

The conference opened with Prof. Richards discussing the history of literacy. Did you know that one of the first fiction stories ever recorded was about the pharoh’s wife losing her wig?

He also shared facsimiles of old books.

Then Judith Fowler led a workshop on various techniques for book making.



After lunch, participants learned how to make several other foldables and reflected on how to implement using book making in the classroom. Prof Baumlin shared materials on Poe he will be publishing soon for The Big Read. After a quick tour of the gallery and collecting $50 gift certificates to use towards supplies for book making in the classroom, we dispersed.  I’d like to thank Dr. Keri Franklin for the opportunity to speak at this event-as always, my association with the  Ozark Writing Project continues to expand my horizons!

The Art of The Book Workshop & More…

I’m so thrilled to be a part of the NWP.  Those folks have their fingers in a lotta pies! As the OWP Youth Coordinator, I recently met with our site team at MSU to begin planning the 5th annual MG Youth Conference, which I expect to draw 750 students and teachers, on Friday, May 10. I’m honored to be flying to the Spring meeting in DC on behalf of our site in March. Members from across the country will be  lobbying for the return of federal funding for the NWP. I also happily agreed to present at Dinner & Demo in April- an event where teachers can get together , have a bite to eat and share best practices.  Next, I set a tentative date for a Writing Marathon in July, and when Dr. Keri Franklin, our site director, mentioned a Weekend Writing Retreat might be fun, I actively began the search for a site.  Think I’ll shoot for October for that one! But first things first-I’m pleased to be a part of The Book Workshop Team. Hope those of you in the area will come & join us! See details below.

“The Art of the Book”

9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Saturday, February 9, in Room 102 of Brick City Art Building (MSU downtown campus)

One hour of graduate credit at a 50% reduction

Save your seat today! http://bit.ly/11nDiE4

Workshop Description and Aims

This daylong teacher-training workshop contributes to a statewide NEA-funded project that is being administered by the Missouri Center for the Book (MCB, of which Dr. Baumlin is a board member); the MCB is a state affiliate of the national Library of Congress and housed in the State Library in Jefferson City. This statewide project, “Celebrating the Art of the Book,” promotes literacy in the schools by providing hands-on workshops to students (primarily in middle school grades) on “book arts.” Using the National Writing Project model, the focus in southwest Missouri is provide hands-on workshops to teachers to help them find ideas for celebrating the art of the book in their classrooms with students. The immediate aim of this teacher-training workshop is to provide a pedagogic model for as many as twenty K-12  teachers in the Ozarks region. Drawn from among area teachers in all disciplines, participants will be expected to replicate the workshop’s four omponents in their own classrooms, for their own students.  These components include:

(1) a brief discussion of the history of the book and demonstration of the traditional manuscript- and print-based technologies pertaining to the codex format;

(2) a composition component, when students produce their own verbal/visual texts;

(3) a component in book layout/design, when students will learn ways to arrange their texts/illustrations in page formats;

(4) a component in techniques for folding, binding, and cutting pages, when students will put finishing touches on books of their own creation.

One immediate outcome of these workshops will be the students’ own books which, under their teachers’ guidance, they will have made for themselves.  A second outcome will be the students’ heightened understanding of and appreciation for the historical, technological, literary, and esthetic elements of the traditional codex-book—in sum, for what a book is and how it is produced. (This
second outcome addresses the cultural “shift” from print- to web-based communication; it is a reminder to students that “book arts” matter.) A third and most important outcome is to raise the students’ verbal/visual literacy skills by immersing students in activities of reading/writing and technical/esthetic judgment. Having made a book of their own, students will be inspired to read and appreciate the books of others.

Note that a precondition for participation is that teachers commit to replicating the aims/techniques taught in this workshop in their own classrooms. By this means, the “Teacher-Training Workshop in ‘The Art of the Book’” can reach and impact 1,000+ students across the Ozarks.

NEA funds ($3,000) will be used primarily to provide complementary books and modest stipend-incentives to school teachers who attend and to cover workshop costs of the workshop, e.g. beverages and lunch. The complementary book will be Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe: An Enriched Edition. This book has been selected for the April 2013 “Big Read,” a local literacy initiative sponsored by the Springfield-Green County Public Library System, to which our proposed teacher-training workshop gives support. This is a book that some teachers (and/or their students) may want to pattern their own “book arts” workshop upon.

Additional resources (paper and art supplies, promotional/organizational oversight, correspondence with participants, etc.) will be supplied by the art education program and “Arts on heels” program (Dir. Judith Fowler) of the MSU Department of Art and Design and by the Ozarks Writing Project (Dr. Keri Franklin), which has assumed an institutional leadership role in this teacher-training workshop. As a further incentive for workshop participants, Dr. Franklin of the OWP has formally requested that the University offer one hour reduced credit fee and waive student fees for ENG 665.001: Literature and Language. Participants who wish to receive graduate credit for this teacher-training workshop may enroll in ENG 665 for the spring 2013 semester. Please fill out this form to enroll in the course: http://outreach.missouristate.edu/assets/outreach/Spring2013CourseEnroll.pdf.

Tentative “Workshop Schedule

“Teacher-Training Workshop in ‘The Art of the Book’” is scheduled for February 9, 2013 in Room 102 of the Department of Art and Design’s Brick City Building in the MSU downtown Springfield campus. This workshop will be an opportunity for the art education program to show off its newly-refurbished downtown facility. A schedule follows.

9:00 a.m. Coffee and welcoming remarks by Dr. Rachelle Darabi, MSU Associate Provost for Student Development and Public Affairs.

9:10-10:00 Presentation by Prof. Richards on the history and technologies of literacy (confirmed), with a break for questions. (Mr. Richards will show artifacts/facsimiles demonstrating
the evolution of writing and its preservation in written/printed texts.)

10:10-12:00 and 1:00-3:00: Presentation by Dr. Franklin and Professor Fowler will present on creating books and illustrations and incorporating writing. (Participants will be led through writing exercises applicable to K-12 audiences in order to generate texts.) Simultaneously, Prof. Fowler will work with individuals/small groups to discuss options in formatting. Presentation by Dr.
Fowler on book illustration and various techniques of folding papers and making bindings/book covers. A brief break follows.

12:10 p.m.-1:00 Lunch with Ms. Piddington, who will describe her work as a children’s author and literacy advocate.

3:10-4:00 A post-workshop talk-back facilitated by Dr. Baumlin on the materials covered and ways that participants plan to use these materials in their own classrooms.

Co-sponsoring partners (campus, community, state, and national):

Missouri State University Department of English

Missouri State University Department of Art and Design

Ozarks Writing Project
(OWP, Dir. Dr. Keri Franklin)

MSU “Arts on Wheels” Program
(Dir. Judith Fowler)

Springfield-Greene County Public Library System (SGCPLS)

Various Greene County Public School Systems

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Missouri Center for the Book (MCB)

Project Organizer (for MCB, on behalf of NEA):   Dr. James S. Baumlin, MSU Department of English

Workshop Presenters: Dr. Keri Franklin, MSU Department of English and Director, Ozarks Writing Project ,   Ms. Judith Fowler, MSU Professor, Department of Art and Design,    Ms. Kim
children’s novelist and OWP Co-Director for Youth Programs, Mr. David Richards, MSU Professor of Library Science and Head of Archives and Special Collections.

2012 SCBWI Missouri Fall Conference

Since I am the ARA for SCBWI Missouri, I may be a bit prejudiced, but I think our Fall Conference was a huge success. The facilities and food at Linwood University were top notch. The Italian buffet was delicious! However, it was the faculty that really stole the show. We had insightful keynote addresses from author David Harrison (The Writer at Work), editor Emma Dryden (Driving Through the Digital Landscape: Fasten Your Seatbelts and Don’t Close Your Eyes),  illustrator Will Terry(Changing Tides), and author Ellen Hopkins (Writing Bravely).  Breakout sessions proved productive. Attendees chose between sessions led by Terry for illustrators, Hopkins for advanced writers,  Harrison for authors, and a “combo” session led by Polette, Harness, & Igalls that focused on Nonfiction,Education Markets, and School Visits.  During lunch, attendees were  treated to a visit from a panel of authors Jody Feldman, Beth Fehlbaum, Jo Knowles, Deborah Heiligman, Selene Castrovilla, and Shannon Delany, who were in town for YALSA. Lastly, critiques were available for both illustrators and authors from either Terry, Dryden, or several editors from Harper Collins. Agent Regina Brooks was slated to attend, however the recent disaster on the East Coast derailed her. She will be e-mailing her critiques to participants at a later date.

On a personal note, Friday night, I enjoyed dinner with Emma Dryden who is personable, knowledgeable, and a true professional!  The conference presented an opportunity to reconnect with authors that I’ve met at previous events and whose company I really enjoy. Saturday evening, sharing cocktails and dinner with Ellen Hopkins was a perfect way to end the day. A weekend in St. Charles would not be complete without a short shopping trip to the historic district -where I picked up multiple bottles of Red Ghost hot sauce for my husband. And we took the scenic route home, stopping for lunch in wine country.

If you are a children’s author or illustrator-I urge you to join SCBWI and start taking advantage of all the wonderful opportunities the organization offers.

Lunch in wine country.

My daughter, Kelsey, with author, Ellen Hopkins.

Springfield Writers’ Guild Meeting

Today I had the pleasure of attending the SWG monthly meeting at Heritage Cafe.  During mentor hour, we critiqued work by several authors, mostly picture book manuscripts. I always enjoy reading the work of others, and these manuscripts were engaging: its hard to go wrong with characters like Jerky James, plots that include monsters under the bed, and  humorous musing about thin lipped chickens. Here’s hoping we see all of these in our local book store soon.

The keynote speaker was Brian Katcher, author of Almost Perfect, the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award, and Playing With Matches, winner of the 2010-2011 North Carolina Young Adult Book Award and a Show Me Award nominee. Mr. Katcher offered hopeful authors the following tips:

1. Finish the book.

2. Join a writers’ group to help you spot problems in your manuscript.

3. Try entering contests-he got his break this way. Even if you don’t win, your manuscript may catch the eye of an editor or agent.

4. Don’t get dejected by rejections, keep sending your manuscript out.

5. Be ready to rewrite again, and again, and again.

6. Check sites like Writer’s Beware and Editor’s and Predators before signing a contract with an agent or publishing house.

Mr. Katcher was humorous and gave a realistic picture of what it’s like to get your big break. He cautioned authors to remember that you’re only as good as your last novel.  He will be speaking Nov.2-4 at the YA Literature Symposium, Hyatt Regency, St. Louis, and if you are in the area, I recommend you check him out.


41st Annual SCBWI Summer Conference

From the moment SCBWI founder Lin Oliver lit the opening match to start the parade of faculty; to the last keynote given by author Gary Schmidt, the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference was magic.

There was almost too much to see and do. Inspiring keynotes. Agent panels. Editor panels. Picture Book panels. Intensives. Critiques. Parties and socials. Workshops and signings and award banquets, oh my!

Here is a list of my top ten moments:

10. The presentation of quilts with squares done by SCBWI illustrators (Tomie de Paola, Paul Zelinsky, & E.B. Lewis to name just a few) to Chelsea and Sarah at their baby shower. The quilts are true works of art. Museum worthy. Really. Another exciting party moment: the flash mob dance to Age of Aquarius at the Hippie Hop. Enough said.

9. The daily Olympic/Literary jokes. A few of my favorites: Big Bad Wolf blows lead. Phelps diet plan revealed; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Bittersweet ending for Willy Wonka.

8. The faculty introducing themselves with a single word. One of my favorites was Matthew Kirby. His word, commit. Fiction not crime. This made me giggle before I’d even had coffee.

7. Keynote speaker Tony Diterlizzi. Funny, funny, funny.

6. Editor Ari Lewin’s workshop on writing fantasy. Her advice: tease the reader, use character & world building, not explanations or magic, in the opening scenes.

5. Keynote speaker Patricia Maclachlan. She says, “Children learn how to speak so they can tell us the stories that are already in their heads.”

4. Editor Elise Howard’s workshop on the realistic fiction market. Her advice: it all starts with intriguing characters.

3. Keynote speaker Karen Cushman, who said the following, “Seek surprise. Write with passion, dream big, and trust yourself. And remember, sometimes it’s necessary to write and sometimes it’s necessary to pull weeds.” A woman after my own heart.

2. Keynote by Gary Schmidt. He made me laugh. He made me cry. Then he made me laugh again. What a spectacular story teller.

1. Deborah Halverson’s intensive class titled Writing for Teens? Then Think Like One. She said to sound authentic your teen
characters need to ditch self awareness and stop analyzing others. She advises authors to: embrace their inner drama queen. Think big and push hard. Show, don’t preach. And finally, become italics unfriendly.  What I wouldn’t give to have this woman edit
my manuscript!

Like most attendees, I’ve returned home from the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference with my creative spirit renewed and new tools for my writer’s toolbox.



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