The NY 2018 SCBWI Winter Conference

Filed under: Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, SCBWI, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Children

It’s that time of year again! #ny18scbwi This weekend was the NY SCBWI Winter Conference.

This year the SCBWI changed things up a little bit. Based on the feedback they’ve been receiving from it’s members, they wanted to try to create a conference that had a more intimate feel. The goal was to provide us with smaller, more craft based workshops. This meant the size of the conference was cut by roughly half. There were some other changes too and fun additions. So, strap on your seat belt and I’ll walk you through the event.

It was an exciting, shiny evening on Friday. The first ever, Golden Kite Awards were held and it was fabulous. We started the night with our golden girl, Lin Oliver introducing our keynote speaker, Chelsea Clinton.

Chelsea was intelligent and engaging and it was lovely to officially welcome her and her books into the our SCBWI family.

I was bummed I didn’t have my good camera with me. But the sting was lessen by checking out my signed copy of…

She Persisted

Chelsea brought enough books for every one to have one. It was so sweet. <3 And after she was done, we had the privilege of celebrating our fabulous peers who were selected to win the Golden Kite Award and the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor.

Every speaker was inspiring and their books all sounded amazing. And as always the people in my tribe inspired me and made me proud.

My roomie, Jodi chatting with the brave Elana K Arnold.

Me with Elana. I’m already reading WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF and it’s making me think and feel in powerfully important ways.

The Golden Kite for Middle Grade was Jack Cheng with SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS!

And Deborah Heiligman let me hold her golden kite for Vincent and Theo! A girl has to dream, right?

After that, there was strawberries and champagne and lots of catching up with friends. And then it was off to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s conference.

Kicking off Saturday morning was Lin Oliver giving us our stats for the conference…

*48 States were represented.

*Missing was Alabama and Arkansas. The Dakotas got it together this year.

*Participants also came from 13 nations.

*Our participants and their day jobs were also diverse. There was a composer, a natural gas marketer, a pediatrician, a psychic medium and a crime scene detective in the audience.

Lin suggested that since us nerdy artists weren’t the most socially out front people, a good ice breaker would be to go around and ask someone new…”are you the crime scene detective?”



Here are his best take aways…

*A great exercise is to tell a story about yourself. We can see greatness in others, but it’s in us too.

*It’s hard to judge your own work–listen to those who can help you and come to the conference like a blank slate, ready to take it all in.

*If you can look at your earlier work and cringe a little bit, you’ve improved.

*There is no such thing as paying your dues. You must work hard, but there is some randomness in the process.

*Find those who are unbiased and who will give you true and trusted advice.

*It’s important to know who you are and be inspired by the things you know and love.


Next up was the first of three Master Class Workshops: THE IMPORTANCE OF PACING with Phoebe Yeh

Here’s the information I’ll be working into my writing…

*Try doing a chapter breakdown of your novel. Chapters that are all about the same length keep the pace from being choppy.

*Often authors writing a series hold on to the big pay-off for a future book at the expense of writing the best book they can write now. Never save what you need in the moment.

*When things feel rushed, you may have to write transition or your characters might not be developed enough.

*It’s hard to have a flashback without slowing things down.


After lunch–Lobby Rat style on the lobby carpet, I attended my second Master Class Workshop of the Conference: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE MYSTERIES OF LINE EDITING by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson.

This Master Class had so much information in it, I’m going to recommend that if you ever get an opportunity to work with Harold and Eileen, you take advantage of it.

Here’s some of their best tips and tricks…

*Stages of editing…

–1. Developmental editing (big picture–problems with plot and characterization)

–2. Line editing (unnecessary material, clumsy phrasing, convoluted sentences and sequencing)

–3. Copy-editing (final polish–punctation, grammar, spelling and style)

*Line editing is typically learned via apprenticeship.

*It’s messy because it’s subjective, has multiple elements and every editor does it differently.

*Line editing has two core components–teachable elements and personal elements. And the hard part is doing them both at the same time.

*How are line edits done? By hand or with Track Changes.

*The best thing you can do for your writing is trust your reader.

*Line editing is learned by doing. Here are some of the recommended resources for learning more about this skill…

And if you want to learn more about where Harold and Eileen will be doing conference and online workshops or their independent editing, you can find out more about them here

With our Mater Classes over for the day, it was back to the ballroom for the editor panel: HOW I GET TO YES!


CD–Caitlyn Dloughy (vice president/editorial director of Caitlyn Dloughy Books-Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

JS–Jill Santopolo (editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)

TL–Tiffany Liao (editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

DN–Daniel Nayeri (publisher at a new imprint at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

What makes you say yes to a MS?

JS–Beautiful writing. I can help fix plot and character. I need to be able to see a vision for the book.

TL–Reading the MS is a transportive, immersive experience. The writer has a velcro voice that sticks with you. Can I push this MS to great? Does the writer have something to say–clarity of vision? Funny voices. Middle grade. No horses LOL!

CD–When I’m reading and I get nervous because it’s going so well and I don’t want the author to mess up. If it holds–I have to publish it.

DN–the stakes in a new imprint are high and I can lose my job with every bad acquisition. So I chose something that is undeniably worth loving despite it’s flaws.

When a MS is rejected, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Help us understand this.

JS–It might not be what the editor is looking for at the moment. JS likened it to buying a bridesmaid’s dress. If the bride is looking for a light blue, casual elegant book–they aren’t doing to want a bronze book.

CD–Sometimes I’ve just purchased a similar book. Sometimes it’s bad timing. I’ve written rejection letters while crying.

DN–Up front costs to make books are much larger than you might imagine. You can love someone else’s home, but that doesn’t mean you want to take out a mortgage and buy it.

TL–What’s worse than rejection is a very painful publishing process. Things can look great on paper but you need the X-factor in a project you take on.

After dinner and mingling with the infamous mashed potato bar, slider station and cupcake galore we headed to the portfolio showcase/illustrators social. This was awesome because I got a chance to view the portfolios of friends, lobby rats and new artists who tickled my artistic fancy. Here’s some of their work…

Art by: Stephanie Olivieri, dooleyglot, Milanka Reardon, Jessica Lanan, Jennifer M. Varn, Nick Fasnacht, Larry Daley, Amy Kenney, Kerry McQuaide, Justin Brancato and Stephanie Ruble. And Edna Cabcabin Moran’s card jumped out of my folder and walked away. Bad card!

And after that–as usual–the Lobby Rats (the ones who could stay awake) were hanging in the lobby <3

And then we were back up on Sunday and kicking off another busy day with the Awards Presentations followed by and unexpected pep talk by the illustrious Jane Yolen–WHAT THE OLD LADY HAS TO SAY: REVISING YOUR WRITING LIFE.

*Return to the compost pile of your own work–reinvention works!

*Try different styles and genres.

*Nature–it’s free for the taking. Three idea is the low end for eery walk. File them for later.

*Don’t let anyone tell you you’re JUST a writer.

*Have fun when you’re dreaming.




EM–Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy LiteraryAgency)

MoN–Molly O’Neill (Root Literary)

KH–Kirsten Hall (President of Catbird)

BS–Brooke Sherman (Janklow & Nesbit Associates)

MZ–Marietta Zacker (Gallt & Zacker)

The panel started with a brief overview of each panelist and then turned into a humorous challenge to discover who had taken the most circuitous root to becoming an agent. BS did law and at one point was in the Peace Corp. MoN was a traveling youth minister and MZ declared herself a winner as a MATH major in college. :o)

What’s coming? Trends?

MoN–Lots of room in YA. Everyone is looking for the next Hunger Games but publishers are being more cautious than they have in the past. MG is thriving. Books that are marketed for education are finding their way onto award lists, best seller lists, into movies and into the cultural conversation. Lots of opportunity for author/illustrators and there are interesting things to be borrowed from the TV and Movie industry. PB’s are doing well also and we are seeing more and more innovative stuff being done.

KH–In PB we are seeing better representation of marginalized characters, PB biographies. And PB’s are effecting the demand for more illustrated chapter books. Readers want visuals attached to content.

BS–I think there is an absence of trends in the YA space right now and I’m happy about it. Originals instead of a knockoff of a knockoff. But that does’t mean publishers aren’t TRYING to find the next trend. It’s great to see marginalized voices but we should never focus on the author’s identity over the story.

Are we in a a corrective phase?

BS–We are having conversations we need to be having, but if we can introduce more nuance to the conversations we can find more common ground. I want to work with people who are willing to have uncomfortable conversations in order to make better books.

EM–Children’s Book Publishing had been a bright spot–generally robust. But last year was tough. Books were delayed because people couldn’t write. We were creatively stagnant and it feels like love is broken right now.

MZ–Give yourself permission to write your own story–that gives room for everyone to have a place.

EM–We are now telling stories that have never been told and these will be the new classics!

MZ–The only kid lit book on menstruation was ARE YOU THERE GOD IT’S ME, MARGARET? This is not a trend, it’s life. Half of our readers have periods!

EM–There are kids who NEED books about dealing with grief.

MoN–Older books were much more formulaic. Readers want to connect with our books by seeing themselves. And teens/tweens don’t want to be told what to think. They want to be respected for who they are.

Phew…that was a lot of highlights. But they had so much great stuff to share.


Then is was off to the final Master Class of the conference: Carmela Iaria–CONNECTING WITH THE GATEKEEPERS: HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK NOTICED BY TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS.

This Pro Workshop had a CRAZY amount of excellent information. Here was the big picture of what we covered…

1.Identify the Core Audience you’re trying to reach. (classroom teachers, school admin/curriculum developer, public librarians, school librarians or professors)

2. Decide the main pitch.

You have your pitch and positioning, what happens next? Look into…

3. Institutional Press and Reviews. (traditional book review coverage, blog review coverage, consumer coverage [goodreads, Amazon])

4. Promotional materials (discussion questions, curriculum guides, posters, bookmarks etc..)

5. Advertising (print and digital ads, traditional print ads, email blasts, e-newsletter , website display ads, social media ads)

6. Digital and online promotion (join the social conversation, follow influencers, create your own social media sites.

7. Apply for awards (national awards, state awards–>state reading lists)

8. Make author appearances. (local libraries, local schools, Skype, regional book festivals, regional/state conferences, national conferences)

And here is our fabulous faculty…

And then we ended with a power house…Angie Thomas, debut author of the NYTimes bestseller THE HATE U GIVE–HOW I BECAME A WRITER.

“I’m here to ask you to change the world.”

“It’s Rosa Park’s birthday, Black History Month and two weeks until Black Panther comes out, so I can say what I want. Publishing failed me.”

“I was never the hero in books. Rappers became my heroes. Hip hop was urban America’s CNN. It gave us our voice–at it’s root, hip hop is a VOICE. Tupac spoke about me, he saw me, he recognized who I was–books didn’t. I wanted to write the way rappers do–make things messy.”

“Activism is messy.”

“Diversity is NOT a trend. DO NOT make your MC a POC as a way in. We respect those we write for–they are not a meal ticket.”

“Put in the work and get a sensitivity reader. It’s not censorship–it’s a good editing habit.”

“We don’t deal with issue books, we write great books that deal with issues.”

“Show your readers who they can be and what if they are instilled with compassion because they read our books?”

“We do have the power to change the world.”

And just like that, my heart swelled, my mind cleared and my battery was fully recharged. All that was left was getting some fabulous books signed and saying my goodbyes.

Just pretend Angie and I aren’t making silly faces LOL!

And I got to hug one of my favorite people in Kidlit–Laurie Halse Anderson <3 How’s that for an awesome ending to a conference?


Hope you enjoyed the recap. And remember that next year I have a Lobby Rats button just for you. All you need to do it come. I’ve got my fingers crossed you’ll be there.





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Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat 2017

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Critique, Drafting, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, Revision, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

Hello dear readers! It’s been so long since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed you. But as we’ve discussed–I have no intention of filling up your inbox with random chatter. Although I am super capable of doing it.

Instead I’ve promised to only blog when I had something relevant to add to the conversation. And here I am with a brief recap of the 2017 Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat. I have to share this SCBWI event with you for a number of reasons–I met amazing people, learned fabulous things and I think you’d love to come to this event next year! So let me tempt you.

The weather was beautiful when I arrived at Silver Bay and I took advantage and walked around a bit. I was happy  that I’d brought my good camera.









After checking in and getting my bearings, it was time for dinner and our first round of workshops.

*WORKSHOP #1 Gestalt: or 1+1=More  Words and Pictures in Picturebooks by Rotem Moscovich (Executive Editor at Disney-Hyperion)

And if you look closely at Rotem’s display of fabulous picture books, in the middle of the bottom row you’ll see my forever friend and editor for TOUCHING THE SURFACE, Anica Rissi’s THE TEACHER’S PET. Rotem told everyone all about Anica’s art note perfection and the magic that ensued because of it. Interested in finding out more about The Teacher’s Pet? Have Anica come and visit your class and tell you the story herself <3

And I don’t want to forget to tell you some of Rotem’s best words of wisdom…

*Gestalt=more than the sum of it’s parts.

*The best picture books are composite texts that combine the text, the illustrations and the input of the reader.

A great example of this is ONE SPECIAL DAY by Lola M Schaefer and Jessica Meserve

*WORKSHOP #2 The Body Electric by Katherine Jacobs (Senior Editor, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

And here are Kate’s best bits…

*Characters are the best way to engage your reader. Follow the characters–>sing the body electric!

*Resist the urge to over describe your characters, but be sure to KNOW those characters.

*Flat characters vs Round Characters. Round characters are surprising, unique and multi-dimensional.

*Motivation: What does your character want?

*Conflict: you need a problem that can be solved.


And then it was back to the main building. Want to take a peek?


The inside is great too. 



And if you’r anything like me and thinking of heading here next year for the first time, you might like to know what the rooms look like. So, let’s head upstairs…




Yes, we had real keys and wooden doors. And the most adorable, clean and cozy rooms…



On Saturday, we spent the morning broken up into critique groups. I brought five pages of my current YA work in progress and my group was super helpful. I also want them to finish writing all their projects and get them published–so I can read them! In the afternoon we had our one-on-one critiques with our editor/agent mentor. I brought a chapter book project for that and got an insanely amazing amount of help from Grace Kendall. More from her later. <3

In between lunch, critiques, and dinner we had some glorious free time for writing, sharing, hiking or whatever else you wanted to do.

I planted my butt at that round table and got in several hours of work. It was fun to shove a pair of ear plugs in my ears and enjoy being “alone” around so many writers. And productive!

Then it was time for evening workshops. And my apologies–my pictures from these workshops went missing. *grrrr* WAIT!!!! I FOUND THEM> ADDING THEM IN BELOW.


*Workshop #3 Non-Fiction Proposal Writing with Hilary Van Dusen (Executive Editor, Candlewick Press)

Here are some of the things Hilary is looking for in a Non-Fiction Proposal…

*Demonstrates passion

*Proof that the author has done their research

*A summary


*Sample chapter or two

*A sense of the author–who they are and what they are about

Workshop #4 It’s Not A Race: How to Find and Build the Perfect Pacing for Your Manuscript with Grace Kendall (Editor, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillian)

Here’s what Grace thinks you need to know about pacing…

*What is pacing? Character + Plot + Purpose = Pacing

*Your sense of pacing is different for each purpose.

*Why is pacing a problem? Too slow = bored reader and too fast = reader loses empathy. Additionally, bad craft creates distrust in the reader.

*You can use pacing like any of your other creative tools. (character, voice, diction etc…)

*You can look at pacing at the book, scene, paragraph and sentence level.


And then it was time for the Big Falling Leaves Birthday Bash!!! It’s the 10th Anniversary of this retreat and we celebrated at the Boat House…

On the mantle are book covers of Falling Leaves success stories. <3 More are preparing for their book birthdays in 2018 and beyond…


Our fearless leader, Nancy Castaldo and her Left hand Lois, Lois Miner Huey and her Right hand man, Greg Matusic. Thanks for EVERYTHING guys!

And here is our fabulous faculty from left to right: Hilary, Rotem, Kendra, Grace, Kate and Jennifer

On Sunday morning we packed up our suitcases, but we still had a half day of awesomeness. We even get to have a toasty fire…

*Workshop #5 Be the Hero of Your Own Writing Process with Kendra Levin (Executive Editor at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Here’s some tips on how to be a hero…

*There is a universality to the creative process.

*The happiest people can find a way to extra meaning from anything that happens to them.

*Heroes: Protect, Serve and Make Sacrifices.

*Having a step-by-step plan and having goals is key to being a writer.

*Know your strengths and weaknesses. Actively address the areas where you need the most work.

*Writing for young people REALLY DOES MATTER!

Want to find out more about how to be the hero of your own writing process?


The Hero is You by Kendra Levin (Life Coach for Writers)

Next we jumped to the Editor/Agent Roundtable for an intimate Q & A Session before our last speaker of the conference.

*Workshop #6 Best Practices for Maximizing Your Books’ Success with Jennifer Laughran (Senior Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Bookseller)

What to do to increase your success…

*Website–think of it as your business card. (contact info, links to social media, blog if you have one)

*On your website have a pre-order page/book page (include ISBN, links to buy the book including Indie options, Skype/school visit info and curriculum guide if you have it.)

*Have a Press Kit on your website.

*Present yourself the way you want to be perceived.

*Never vent business or rant like a crazy person on line.

*Give to the writer community–don’t just be a taker.

*Introduce yourself to local booksellers.

*Figure out what your niche is and lean into it.

*Find out what about you is unique that you can share with readers. Find ways to add value to what you are doing.

*Publicists and Marketing: other people are more likely to help you if you are helping yourself.

Want more of this fabulous advice? Check out Jenn’s Podcast–the link is on her website.


And then it was time to go home–and work! I’m still so energized. Falling Leaves gave me so many new friends and an incredible amount of insight into my projects–particularly one I was very stuck on. Sometimes all it takes is a trust fall with your tribe. <3

Any questions about the retreat? I’ll happily answer what I can or point you in the right direction. And I have one more question before you go… This question is inspired by the book DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu. We used it as a learning text in Kate’s presentation.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver


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NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Pondering, Publishing, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

I’m back for Part 2 of my NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Recap!!!

And like these two guys, I’m a bit confused…

(Scott Hammon and Justin Brancato)

I can’t remember exactly when, during the conference a few of these pictures happened.

So–I’m gonna go with it and just kick off with them.

This is just a shot giving you an idea of how big the conference tribe is.

Some of our SCBWI Faculty getting ready to go on stage and take a bow!

And over in the corner was all our fabulous RA’s who volunteer their time and experience. <3

We love you RA’s!!! How did I not get my conference picture with my RA Nancy Castaldo?

And then it was officially the Sunday Morning Conference Kick-off…

I love the awards!!!

Student Illustrators

Art Portfolio Honors

Art Portfolio Winner

Then we had the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grants for talented Mid-List authors who have stalled in their publishing career. This is to remind them of their talent and how much we all still believe in them.

Only one of our Mid-List Author Grant Winners was in attendance. I think the weather kept many people from making it. But you can see what this kind of recognition from your peers can mean. <3

We were all choked up.

Next up was the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustrators. I’ve been watching talented artists receive this award since I’ve been coming to the NY SCBWI Conference and I was shocked to learn this was going to be the last time it’s given.

Moving forward, it will now become the Narrative Arts Award and it will still have “Assignments” <3

So, for this year’s winners–it must be extra special.

And there was another big announcement. On the horizon, the SCBWI will be doing a new project called BOOKS FOR READERS.

Two times a year, the tribe will come together to bring books to readers in need. The room was energized at the idea and now we are all waiting to hear more about the new project.

And then it was time to get down to the business of the day–The Current Landscape of Children’s Books

Moderator–LO–Lin Oliver

KG–Ken Geist (VP, Publisher, Orchard Books, Scholastic Press Picture Books, Cartwheel Books, Readers, Branches and Little Shepherd)

AH–Andrew Harwell (Senior Editor, Harper Collins)

CH–Carrie Howland (Senior agent, Empire Literary)

EK–Eileen Kreit (Vice President and Publisher, Puffin/Penguin Young Readers Group)

EN–Edward Nescarsulmer IV (Agent, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency)

Here’s the highlights…

AH–Yes, literally everything about children’s books is more important than ever.

EK–Pointed out the changes (cuts) occurring related to the NY Times Best Seller List are due to relocated resources needed to meet the current demand for political news. (I guess the politicians are getting us coming and going.)

KG–Authenticity matters. You can’t lift a flap on an ebook. Picture Books are here to stay.

AH–MG and YA readers are already discerning. Many of 2016’s award winners were already becoming best sellers before their win.

EN–Your brand is your name connected with excellence.

KG–Ha! We “actually” have a wrestling mat in Acquisitions. (On fighting for books you love)

EN–Mergers in publishing have happened for a reason–Penguin/Random–they were digging in. They were announcing to everyone–“we are here to stay.”

And, much to my delight, I found a friend of friend in the audience while waiting

for my next breakout session to start. His name is Hamlet <3

Next up was a Sunday Workshop–this was something we hadn’t done before and I really enjoyed having another fabulous break out session added to the conference.

This session was two pronged and packed in a HUGE amount of intense information.

Writing Within and Across Identity Elements with Cynthia Leitich Smith


How to Write About Difficult Subjects with Ellen Hopkins

Can brought her information at a fast and furious pace in order to give us as much knowledge as she could in a short time. Here are some of the things I was able to capture…


*51% of children today are people of color.

*We are all related.

*When writing, non-human characters are sometimes the ultimate diversity.

*Everything you write will be criticized. Be diligent–be brave.

*Books that feature diverse characters are not there just for a specific type of reader. And the diversity is not there just to teach you something.

Then Ellen mesmerized the audience with her personal stories, letters from readers and samples of her own writing…


*These are the kids we don’t wan to believe exist, but it’s true.

*Never self-censor–tell what needs to be told.


Sara and I signed in at the front desk right after the UPS delivery LOL!

And for the last Keynote of the conference we were privileged to hear from Sara Pennypacker. And I was even luckier than most, because Sara made a stop at my boy’s school before the conference and I got to see her in action during a school visit and got some quality time to hang out with her and my friend and Pop-up Engineer Courtney McCarthy who was the book fairy for all the magic that happened for Book Fair an Drop Everything and Read Week.

I wrote like a fiend, trying to capture the best of Sara–here it is…

*We are all doing the same thing–in our own way we are trying to make order out of chaos.

*People who are passionate about what they do (in any area of life) never fail to inspire me. Surround yourself with people who walk with light instead of darkness.

*Write a HELL, YES manuscript–one that makes the agent, editor, publisher and reader say HELL, YES–I must have this!

*Creation is a river and rivers become stagnant if blocked. The best thing a river does is flow. We are all part of the river.

*Story illuminates in a way facts never can.

*Children are the best audience–children are free of adult boundary issues.

*Kids build bonds through characters they love. If an author loves a character. And a kid loves a character. Then ergo–the kid loves the author. This is why Ellen Hopkins stays in the parking lot for 2 hours after school visits because those teens know she doesn’t judge her characters–that she loves them–meaning they can trust her because they will be safe with her. They find her in the parking lot. <3

*Writing Tip–leave room for the reader. Don’t do it all yourself, it’s not a monologue.

*Writing Tip–The story is the boss.

*It’s not about me–story serves the reader.

*No proselytizing!

     -Say it with Sara…”If I were God’s own spiritual advisor–I would understand it’s not my job to preach.”

     -Authors are not parents.

     -Our job is to allow children to safely experience things we don’t actually want them to experience.

*Kids need to hear stories.

*Sometimes the problem exposes the wound that is REALLY the problem.

*Story is a template for kids.

*Children need to tell their stories.

     -“There is an evil in the world because people aren’t allowed to tell their stories.” Carl Jung

     -I write for children because they can’t write their own stories for themselves. Now I write to give the child a template to use to say…THIS is my story.

     -All those people who allow children to to tell their stories may never know what a great and impactful thing they have done. (Thank you librarians and teachers and those who encourage voice)

*Join the SCBWI and then go out and persist!

*Go out and subtract a measurable amount of evil in the world. <3

And get your books signed by the authors and illustrators who have spent the conference teaching you and inspiring you…

Illustrator, Brian Floca and MOONSHOT

Love his art work in this book!

Totally, NOT BORED hanging out with my bud Debbie Ohi <3

Me and Sonya Sones

Signing for the readers at GUFS

The fierce and fabulous Ellen Hopkins!!!!

Lin Oliver

And Tomie DePaolo…an incredible picture book team

And as we were leaving the autograph room one of my friends pointed to the floor and said…

“this is where the magic happens.”

And my response was…

“then let’s be where the magic happens.” <3

Never be afraid to put yourself where the magic happens.

And that doesn’t change when the conference is over and you head back home…

Remember there will be snow on your windshield and a million other things that would like to keep you from your work.

But don’t let it stop you.

Every conference I attend, I realize that a word or a theme usually floats to the top of my conscious and reminds me what I need to know about myself, my writing and my process.

My take away from New York is PURPOSE AND PERSISTENCE!

I have a purpose in this writing world and I must work to fulfill that.

I believe that the myriad of obstacles that have been put in my path are not there to dissuade me from my work, but have rather been designed to ensure I do my BEST work.

I know I might never reach my own excellence if the world accepts my mediocrity.

This means my challenges are my gifts.

I believe I have a purpose and I will persist and my world will be a better place because of it.

In the comments, feel free to share your own writing manifesto.

Remember–your words have power and magic happened when you put them into the world.

And if you are able–come and join me in LA in July. There can never be too many Lobby Rats at a conference. <3

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NY 2017 SCBWI Conference Part 1

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Fun and Games, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Middle Grade, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Children

It’s time for the NY 2017 SCBWI Conference!!!!

I just got back and of course I wanted to share the awesomeness with you.

Just so you know, it wasn’t exactly easy to get there this year…

On Thursday we got hit with a winter storm. My house got just over 10 inches of snow–resulting in a very happy puppy.

With a day off of school, I was kind of lucky because I got some extra sleep and had plenty of time to pack for the next day.

But not everyone was so lucky. I know of several people who couldn’t get their flights sorted out and missed the conference all together. That was a huge disappointment.

I knew I was going to be running a little late for Friday’s Intensive, but my train schedule got pushed back even more due to the boys having 2hr delays. I decided not to stress and go with the flow.

Chilling out and day dreaming while looking out the train widow really paid off. I got to see 4 adult and 4 juvenile American Eagles! And I even captured one on my camera and that made me extra happy.

While I missed most of the morning portion of my Friday Intensive–WRITING THE VERSE NOVEL–but made it for the first half of the round table sessions. Despite being late, I still had an amazing experience and learned a ton. I’ve never attempted a novel in verse before, but I’m intrigued, I enjoy reading them and I always feel that learning new things brings depth and color to anything I’m working on. So it was a great opportunity. And the good news was that I was able to get the handouts and I have access to the notes.

The lovely Bonnie Bader facilitated the Intensive.

Listening to Sonya SonesThe Nuts and Bolts and Safety Pins of Writing the Novel in Verse

*Don’t write a poem that makes a teenager feel stupid. It must be accessible.

*Our goal is to move people with our words–create an emotional response.

*Teens are present tense human beings.

*Read your work out loud with ear plugs. It allows you to hear your own voice.

We also did some fun exercises with Ellen Hopkins‘ session Balancing Verse with Story

Do you want to get your creative descriptions flowing? Try asking yourself some interesting questions like…

What does anger smell like?

What does happiness taste like?

What does sorrow sound like?

What does boredom feel like?

What does love look like?

You should have heard all the interesting and varying responses in the room.

And after another session of round tables, there was even time for a Q & A session with the intensive faculty.

(Sonya Sones, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Ellen Hopkins and Emma Dryden)

Done for the day, it was time to meet up with my friends (old and new) and fellow Lobby Rats for a yummy Italian dinner and lots of catching up in the–you guessed it–lobby!

Then on Saturday morning–despite how comfortable my roomie and best bud, Jodi Moore and I were in our cozy beds at the Hyatt Grand–we rolled on downstairs for coffee, bagels and the kick-off of the conference.

Starting off the day was some birthday singing for the one and only Jane Yolen!

This was followed by Lin Oliver‘s famous SCBWI State of the Conference Address.

Here’s how it all went down…

*1,121 Attendees

*40% Published and 60% Pre-Published

*States not representing? North Dakota and Wyoming 🙁

*Attendees came from 61 different countries to include Hong Kong, Australia, Spain and Egypt.

*Some of this year’s interesting Professions/Day Jobs were…

     -Costume Shop Supervisor

     -Attorney/Voice Over Actor

     -Chairman of the Book Selection Committee (everyone was looking for this person LOL!)

     -Crime Scene Detective

     -Dog Groomer


The first Keynote of the day was the always moving and inspiring Bryan Collier

Here are some of the things you should know…

*When he was 4yo–he saw HIMSELF in the picture book Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He became obsessed with art and headed to NY–there was no plan B

*Be careful who you share your dreams with, even the people who love you will tell you to get a job.

*Your dreams should be so outrageous they scare you.

*Everything your awkward about is the very thing that makes you special. <3

*Creativity is not just a pond–it’s a river. We are moving!

*The world is waiting for you to dream.

*Sometimes our readers aren’t standing in the doorway. They are in a ditch–behind bars. And they are waiting for you.

Want to check out some of Bryan’s amazing work? Look for his illustrations in KNOCK KNOCK.

Next up was a Panel Discussion–Four Types of Picture Books: A Closer Look

Moderator LL-Laurent Linn

DS–Daniel Salmieri (Illustrator)

GP–Greg Pizzoli (Author/ Illustrator)

ADP–Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author/Editor)

AB–Andrea Beaty (Author)

There was so much great information offered by this panel, so I’ve picked my favorite pieces of advice and inspiration to share with you…

ADP–Bringing non-fiction to readers is like spinach. You have to keep serving it up until they get a taste for it.

ADP–I’m under the belief that if something excites you–it can excite the child.

DS–Don’t be afraid to draw ANYTHING–you’re in a constant state of getting better.

GP–Picture book advice 1. a picture book can be anything 2. it should be direct 3. keep it short.

LL–Ballet look so easy. Effortless. But those ballerina’s have bloody stumps for feet. Rhyme has to look equally effortless.

Next up was my first Break Out Session–World Building with Arianne Lewin

This was a fabulous workshop and very relevant to what I’m working on in my WIP. Here’s what you need to know…

*Creating a world that’s immersive will keep the reader reading.

*The world should unfold organically.

*World building applies to ALL books–it’s the anchor for your story.

*The world has to be believable and manageable.

*1st build atmosphere–it make the reader feel comfortable slipping in.

*If the character believes it–the reader will believe it. It’s in the details.

*Great examples of world building–The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Golden Compass.

*The world is revealed by what your character does–show it!

The Lobby Rats taking a lunch break

One for me and one for my roomie <3

Then it’s back to work…

After lunch it was back to another breakout session.

This one was Writing Middle Grade Fiction with Andrew Harwell, Senior Editor at Harper Collins

*MG readers ages 8-12 (grades 2-6)

*This means that the middle grade section in bookstores houses a WIDE variety of books in one area–Captain Underpants to The Golden Compass.

*MG readers are extremely sophisticated–but keep your eye on the main character–that is the story anchor.

*Never talk down to your readers.

*There is no one, right gold standard voice or style in MG. Do what works for you and your character.

*Plant seeds –details in the earlier part of your book that you can catch again at the end.

*If you have the details clear in YOUR head, you don’t have to over explain anything to the reader. It will make sense. Make your plotting masterfully done.

*Make sure you give your characters a breathing moment–hit different emotional registers.

*The specific details are anchored in the universal themes.

*Be prepared to use sensitivity readers.

The afternoon keynote by Tahereh Mafi is STILL giving me goose bumps.

Everything about this keynote was incredible. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t capture it all. It was her words, which flowed non-stop. It was her elegant demeanor. It was her power and resilience. It was her history and her goals for the future. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak–know you are in for an altering experience.

This is what I was able to capture…

*A thick skin will only insulate you from pain, and act good is a writer who doesn’t feel anything?

*Speaking of her mom, who had her skull fractured on the streets of Iran: grief was a luxury she was never able to afford.

*My thin skin helps me to exhale emotions onto the page.

*Those rejections keep you hungry.

*Not everyone will know our stories and back stories–our inspirations and aspirations–but SOMEONE will find it.

*Lean into your pain and let it shape you.

*If you don’t give up, you can’t fail.

*She wrote and queried FIVE novels before the one that sold.

This year, the walls between the ballroom and the bookstore were opened. I loved it! This is everyone rushing to get Tahereh’s book after her moving keynote.

Next up was the afternoon panel–Children’s Books and the Social Media World: A Panel of Influencers

Moderator by Martha Brockenbrough MB

TJ–Travis Jonker (blogger) @100scopenotes and @TheYarnPodcast

CLS–Cynthia Leitich Smith (author/blogger) @CynLeitichSmith and  www.cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

MW–Mathew Winner (librarian/podcast host/blogger) @MatthewWinner and @AlltheWonders

Here’s a sample of what we got to hear…

TJ–I love when a voice we love in a book carries over into the authors social media.

CLS–Calls out Debbie Ohi as someone who is doing it RIGHT! She has take aways for her audience, snippets of her art, a positive and friendly attitude.

CLS–Write your mission statement as an author.

CLS–Know when to step away from social media and write your book.

CLS–Author profiles with animals–especially quirky animals get more love.

Worth a try, right?

MW–I never set out to have an audience. I set out to share what I love.

MW–Being nice makes you cool!

Usually book signings are on Sunday, but every once in awhile we have a couple people who need to sign on Saturday.

My roomie, Jodi Moore talking to Andrea Davis Pinkney!!!! She was the sweetest to cast with and I’m constantly blown away by what an intelligent woman Andrea is. You must read her work–it’s incredible. I fell in love with this picture book and got a signed copy for my school library…

A Poem For Peter

And I also got to speak with Tahereh Mafi and tell her what an impact her keynote had on me. <3

And then it was time for the Gala with it’s the SCBWI MASHED POTATO BAR!!!

As if it was meant to be–I walked by and they opened this particular Mashed Potato Bar and I was the first one to use it ROTFL!


Hope you enjoyed my NY 2017 SCBWI Part 1 Recap. I’ll be sure to get you Part 2 as soon as I can.

Any questions about the conference? I’ll do what I can to answer them. Planning on going to the LA conference in July and want to be in the Lobby Rat know? Let me know and I’ll add you to the FB group. Or if you’re planning to attend a different SCBWI conference and would like to make sure the Lobby Rats are represented–let me know. We can arrange that <3

And if you want to play along in the comments and give Ellen Hopkins’ exercise a try, here’s your question…

What color was the NY conference and why?

You can answer this as an attendee or as an arm chair conference follower.

My conference was green like a leafy vine, because many of the ideas that were floating around in my head, were finally able to be connected because of what I learned and the people who were inspired me.

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Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Middle Grade, Publishing, Stuff I Love

Today I’m excited to celebrate the cover reveal for THE PERFECT TRIP by Stacy Barnett Mozer releasing March 24, 2017 from Spellbound River Press. Before we get to the cover, here’s a little about the book and the author:

About the book: Sam Barrette’s life is finally going in the right direction. She’s made the boys’ travel baseball team, her friendship with Mike is turning into something more, and she’s even connected with her stepmother. But a cross-country family camping trip filled with secrets and surprises challenges everything she thought she knew about what the future will hold. To save her dreams, Sam must find a way to fix her perfect trip.

About the author: Stacy Barnett Mozer is a middle grade author, a book blogger, and an elementary school teacher. Stacy started writing novels when one of her third grade classes told her there was no way a real author who wrote real books could possibly revise as much as she asked them to revise. She’s been revising her own novels every since. Stacy is an active SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) member and is an Assistant Regional Advisor for New England SCBWI, coordinating the region’s critique groups. She is also the founder of Sporty Girl Books, a blog for anyone who loves to watch, play, read, and write about women and girls in sports.

THE PERFECT TRIP is the companion novel to THE SWEET SPOT, which released from Spellbound River in March 2016.

About THE SWEET SPOT: When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

Finally, here is the cover of THE PERFECT TRIP, illustrated by Lois Bradley:




Like the cover? You can win an ARC of The Perfect Trip by signing in here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


And another bonus…


Check out this stocking stuffer event Spellbound River Stocking Stuffer Event on Thursday night. Here’s the link.

I adored THE SWEET SPOT and THE PERFECT TRIP was the perfect companion. You are going to love this duo of books. Put THE SWEET SPOT under the tree for someone you love and then you won’t have to wait long for THE PERFECT TRIP!

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Filed under: Community, Pondering

Sometimes we forget it’s okay to do YOUR work, YOUR way.

A young boy and girl dressed as a superheroes stands on a rock with arms raised while on a California Beach. The surf and waves wash the sand around them and they are ready to work as a team to accomplish great things as they look out to sea. Image taken in Orange County, California, USA.

Everywhere I look there are people standing up.

They are using their super powers for good instead of evil.

And what I’m noticing is that no two heroes look alike.

There are those who are loud and brash–shouting from the roof tops. They stand up in front and demand to be seen and heard. They are a force of nature. They don’t only hold the line–they push it forward.

Some work quietly. They are industrious even though they are never in the spotlight. They work with slight of hand and relentless focus. You might never know they were there–but you would absolutely feel their loss if they didn’t show up.

We also have level headed mediators. Those who walk with one foot in two different worlds–breaching divides and listening for the opportunities to change a tide from the other side. They have cool heads, warm hearts and an almost endless capacity for empathy.

And then there are heroes that live in the places we fear the most and understand the least. They are pushed down relentlessly. Their power is waking up and doing life over and over again–despite the resistance. They lead by living.

There are so many of us.

And we are so different from each other.

But we are ALL needed.

Be careful in this electrically charged climate that we don’t alienate each other, believing there is only one way to fight for right.

No super hero should be made to feel as if they are less because their power isn’t the same as someone else’s.

There is no manual on how to fight evil and support love.

When we are fighting for equality for everyone–it seems silly to judge HOW someone uses their best self to create a better world. We are all unique and that is our true strength.

Today I’m taking a moment to remind myself that I bring something special to the moment and the movement. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what it is, but I know it’s there.

I’m reminding myself that I don’t need outside validation from other people to know my true heart and my true soul and my true intentions.

I know I won’t always get everything right, but it will not keep me from both trying and always reevaluating how I can do a better job and be a better person.

I’m taking a moment to remind YOU that in this time of great energy and emotion…

it’s okay to do YOUR work, YOUR way.

And I’m reminding myself not to judge what is unfamiliar. I believe no one should judge a person for helping in the way that feels the most organic to them.

We need ALL the people and ALL their super powers. And I don’t want you to think that what you have to offer isn’t important. If you love and you try and you care and you are doing the best that you can–then you are necessary. Don’t get discouraged.

“I am the one thing in life. I can control. I am inimitable. I am an original”

-Aaron Burr, Wait For It

Don’t give up–do YOUR work, YOUR way.

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NaNoWriMo with a Tini Twist

Filed under: Community, Drafting, NaNoWriMo, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Writing

NaNoWriMo with a Tini Twist

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. It’s been a conscious decision–one I’m happy with. Although I will tell you, I do miss blogging from time to time.

Where have I been?

I’ve been writing and growing. It’s that simple. I’ve come to realize that my blog (no matter how much I love it) takes time away from two very important components of life as a writer.

  1. Writing
  2. Improving craft

So, I made a new contract with myself when it came to my blog. I would only be spending time posting when I had a topic I was passionate about sharing. I would no longer be taking time from writing a manuscript and improving my craft, to cultivate a blog post. All posts would either be on the tip of my finger tips–straining to become a link in my blog chain–or they wouldn’t be written at all. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing that I have to blog about that so important the world will stop spinning if I don’t show up every Tuesday and Thursday. In fact–I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you haven’t even noticed I’d gone MIA. And that’s okay. I’m hoping you’ve been busy doing productive and inspiring things, too.

But today I do have the urge to check in and to share a bit of info with you. Guess what today is????


November 1st.

NaNoWriMo 2016

Others wise known at the kick off to National Novel Writing Month!

Just to be up front–I am not a die hard NaNo-er. I’ve attempted the challenge on a few occasions. And once I even completed it. Score!

But my inability to be a NaNo Winner–more than that once–was rooted in all kinds of complexities.

*Sometimes I wasn’t in the right spot in my WIP to participate. Bad timing.

*As a die hard PANTSTER I often wrote myself into a corner that I couldn’t dig my way out of if I’d been driving a back hoe. Depressing and a waste of time.

*And sometimes real life, company and obligations severely challenged my writing time. It is what it is.

But despite all these very legit speed bumps. And despite more failure than success in this venture, I still find myself fascinated and addicted to the frenetic group mentality. It’s exciting, supportive and motivating. And by golly, I want to be able to order the NaNoWriMo T-shirt at the end.

So, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Starting today.

But if I’m being honest with you–I’m doing it with a Tini Twist. (Play on words oh, so deliberate.)

*First–a confession. I am no longer a DIE HARD PANTSTER. And I will NEVER go back. I’m not judging you if you like to pants the hell out of everything you do. I’ve just had my own epiphany. And there are two books that have been instrumental in rocking my writer world…


SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder




These books were complete and utter game changers for me. I ADORE THEM. In fact, I could blog post for days about them both. But you’ll be better served by reading them than listening to me wax poetic. Just know they’ve made me a better writer. Which leads me to my next point…

*I’m going into this year’s NaNoWriMo Challenge with two months of foundational work on this project. SLICE was a twisted little scrap of an idea that flew down and inspired me over a year ago. It’s been sitting in my recesses, incubating and waiting to grow into something more. The moment I found STORY GENIUS–I figured out the tools I needed to put this story together. And with the support of SAVE THE CAT, I’ve found my way from PANTSTER to BOOKSTORMER. I’m not calling myself a PLOTTER deliberately. I feel like both of these methods offer so much more than just plotting. They are helping me to take my book, my writing, my story telling and my ideas by storm. So, I’m a BOOKSTORMER now. It’s my thing. And because of the books’ positive influences on me, I’ve been developing my own hybrid method of drafting, culled and pasted from these two great approaches. I’m finding what really works the best for me. And because of that, I have never been more ready to take on NaNoWriMo

*And lastly, I have adjusted my expectations for this year’s challenge. I’m confident I can write the 50,000 words after all the pre-planning I’ve done. In fact, I think I’m going to find it rather enjoyable to finally start this thing. But I’ve also wrapped my mind around the big picture for this project. This book storming process is a fluid one that requires me to write the draft from beginning to end, but it also demands that I’m constantly moving and planning with fluidity over the whole project. It requires creativity and flexibility as I move forward in my process.

And because of that, my mantra is…The Work Will Not Suffer. What does that mean to me? Basically, it’s an acknowledgement that I will benefit from the challenge, but I will not write less than my best work just to complete the challenge. I am using NaNoWriMo to my best advantage, but I will never forget my true goal and purpose and the real finish line for me is the one that creates the best book I can write.

But hopefully, my writing, even with it’s Tini Twists will make me a winner at NaNoWriMo and with the bigger picture.

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month? If yes, do you have any “Tini Twists” that you use to enhance your NaNo experience? Any NaNo tips you want to share? Have you read SAVE THE CAT or STORY GENIUS? I’d love to know what you think. And if you’re looking for a NaNoWriMo Buddy–you can find me at Kimmiepoppins. Let’s do this!

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Will You Raise a Bully or an Original? I See What You’re Doing and It’s Not OK

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Pondering

Ran into a couple fabulous articles this morning that converged into an unexpected blog post. The first article was in relation to something I read in the book ORIGINALS by Adam Grant.


I loved this book for a million reason, but there was a particular concept that stuck with me and intrigued me. It also got me thinking about another article I saw this morning. But before I can build the connections, here is the back story…

Adam Grant talks about how to raise creative, original kids and how that might relate to the heroes who were Holocaust resisters–saving lives while putting their own at risk. This concept really stuck with me as I examined my own parenting, because who doesn’t want to raise the kind of kids who have enough moral fiber to be some body’s hero some day?

My friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt writes books and raises awareness about the impact every day heroes can have on every day lives…

BE SOMEONE’S HERO. NO CAPE REQUIRED ~~ Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things


Lynda also writes and talks about how…


I’m here to tell you that can be a beautiful thing. I know this concept (as Lynda is using it) is rooted in a subject close to me–dyslexia. But I also think it’s bigger than that. An important component of raising creative kids (according to this article by Jessica Stillman) is to reason with your kids–to create kids who think independently and don’t just follow the masses.

Laying down the law can be easier than explaining why the law is as it is, but if you’re interested in future creativity, you should take the time to reason with your little ones. Citing studies on the early lives of heroes who rescued people from the Holocaust and highly creative architects, Grant suggests parents “help children think about the consequences of their action for others,”

Not quite sure what Holocaust resisters (incredibly brave as they may have been) have to do with creativity? Morality and creativity are intertwined, Grant explains in another, illuminating TechCrunch interview. “Kids who evolve into creative adults tend to have a strong moral compass,” he says. “They’ve been nurtured by their parents, who’ve talked with them and modeled values of excellence for them that [seed ] concern for the consequences of their [kids’] actions on other people. At the same time, they’re given a lot of autonomy to figure out how they want to live with those values.”

But then the fireworks of connection really started firing in my head when I stumbled upon another article. It made me think about why we struggle to raise kids who are morally and creatively rich. There is a sad cycle holding us back.

Meet the Newest Bully on the Block: The Mean Mom by Mary Beth Sammons

Area of concern for parents in the digital age

Our children aren’t just battling their peers, who are also struggling to learn who they are and what they are about. Our kids are being terrorized by the very people who should be making them feel safe.

The good news, Saltz says, is that if you’re alert to the toxicity of bullying behavior, you can deflect it and send a strong message to your children, by example, that mocking, manipulating and swinging blows at other people is not okay. If you’re looking to stop a bully in her tracks, the best way to do so is to confront the bully directly. “Call it out,” Saltz says on TODAY. “Tell the bully, ‘I see what you’re doing, and it’s not OK. Let’s not do that.”

She adds that moms need to stand up to mom bullies to create a bully-free world. Parents have to teach by example


Here’s the thing, we all know that raising great kids and protecting children from bullying is a great thing to do. In the abstract–this is a no brainer. But we don’t always see the world from a place of perspective. We see it in relation to our own needs and interests and fears. I sympathize with that–it is human. But so is admitting we are sometimes wrong and  need to apologize.

So, I’m just going to lay it out there. If you’ve made a mistake–we can get through this–together.

But if you think bullying is a great way to go–we can’t be friends. It’s that simple. I don’t condone that behavior. This is me telling you…


Sometimes we get away from our better selves. It happens. It doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us people who need to be more original. We need to step away from the status quo and decide that it might be harder to own our behavior than to live in denial. But being brave enough to do it, might also make us exceptional.

Some days I look around me and realized it’s quite an uphill battle to teach our children to be original, moral, kind and brave.

We live in an environment where we don’t just worry about children being bullied by their day to day life–we have to fight this kind of ignorance on a cyber front. We live in a time that allows people to do and say things they wouldn’t have enough courage to stand up and say to someones face–in front of others. It’s a scary place out there, but it’s worse when bad behavior takes root and hides in the dark. We can’t let that happen.

What I’m asking of you today, is to stand up and be an original.

Behave better than the average person.

And use the internet to shed light, instead allowing bullies to hide in the dark behind cyber shadows.

You can repost this blog. Or you can share your own message.

But please find a way to be heard.

Will you be a bully or an original?

Will you raise a bully or an original?

Will you stand up and say…

I see what you’re doing and it’s not ok?

I’m counting on you…


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LA 2016 SCBWI Conference Part 3 (Sunday) #LA16SCBWI

Filed under: Awards, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children

It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.



Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!


Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today

VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)

GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)

KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)

BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)

ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)

TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)

MOD-Lin Oliver

Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…

KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.

TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”

ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.

TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?

KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.

BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.

GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!

KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!


Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!


The Mentorship Winners.


The Showcase Honors.


And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora


And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY



Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…

*I collect things.

*I’m inspired by my fellows.

*One must always pay attention.

*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.

*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.

*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.

*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.

*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.

*The gestation of a book may be the best part.

*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”

*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.

Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY


This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…

*There are no rules but the ones you make.

*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.


*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.

*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.

*Bring the reader in slowly.

*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.

*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.

*Master world building with shorter works.

*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.

*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.


*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.

*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.

*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.

After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.

I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?

Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.

*When judging the National Book Award in 2006

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 12.38.24 PM

*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.

*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.

*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.

*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.

*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.

*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.

*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.

Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT


Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…

*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.

*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)

*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books

*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books

*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.

*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.

*31 new imprints in the last four years.

Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace



-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE

-creativity in language and text

-dominated by younger PB’s

-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified

-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room

-character driven

-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later

-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity

-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world

-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections


-a great place to be

-agents say editors are asking

-open field–literary and commercial balance

-wants beautiful language, superb execution

-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper

-room for serious subject matter

-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns

-multi-author series are still strong

-stand alones embraced too

-risks that don’t feel gimmicky

-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected

-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment

-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction

-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue

-story trumps trends

-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial

-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone

-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway

-realistic fiction and fantasy

-still happening but market saturation

-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space

-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on

-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market

-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done

-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING


-layered female friendships*

-exploring grey areas*

-on twitter… #MSWL  (Manuscript Wish List)

The internal mood of publishing…

*We are in a good place.

*Not being lambasted by trends.

*Room for thinking creatively.

*Not relying on only one thing.

*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.

*An active author contract initiative underway

*Discovered we were doing it right all along.

Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE


Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…

*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.

*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.

*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.

And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3


*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*

*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.

*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.

*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?

*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.

*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.

*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.

*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot

And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.


Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award

If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…


Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.

I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.

Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.

Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.

The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”

When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.

I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.

In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.

In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”

It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.

In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.

It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.

On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.

After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.

My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing

And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.

Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.

And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.

I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.


I adore this guy! <3


Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising


Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.


Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman


I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!

Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!

Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!





Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???



And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.




And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!

And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.

Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.

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LA 2016 SCBWI Conference Part 2 (Saturday) #LA16SCBWI

Filed under: Check-it-out, Class of 2k12, Conferences, Kim Sabatini, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, The Class of 2k12, Writing for Children

I’m back! And ready for #LA16SCBWI Part 2–Saturday.

You can’t start your day wrong with Jon Klassen: FINDING YOURSELF IN THE WORK


In case you live under a rock, Jon is the fantabulous author/illustrator of the hat books and more.



And according to Lin, he’s also one of the two hottest Canadians on the planet.

And we have one of them with us at #LA16SCBWI! LOL!



NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the Catalyst Awards Dinner at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the Catalyst Awards Dinner at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)


The laughs never ended after that comment, but Jon also brought his depth to the table in addition to his humor…

*”The worst thing you can think about when you’re working is yourself.” Agnes Martin

*Don’t think about your style.

*Your style is mysterious and should be opened up–but not by you.

*Take care of the machine that makes the style.

*Write the stories your brain is able to produce then evolve with your instrument.

*Stop trying to be creative. Don’t try to get a butterfly, you’ll get a car. Embrace the car. Force vs. Flow


Next up was Marie Lu: THE CREATIVE LIFE


Marie was fabulous–I can not begin to tell you how professional, charming, sweet, honest and adorable she was. I was blown away by her work ethic and her ability to speak so eloquently about her experiences. Here’s some of her take aways…

*Was born in China and moved to the US when she was 5.

*New Orleans was VERY different than China LOL! Her first time out exploring was during Mardi Gras. ROTFL!

*Starting writing as a teen.

*Went to work at Disney and was surrounded by creatives for the first time in her life.

*Being published is NOT relevant to being a writer.

*Every writer proceeds at their own pace, in their own way. The process itself should be reward enough.

*Marie has received well over 500 rejections in her writer’s life so far.

*You can’t perfect something that doesn’t exist.

*With time and practice you will get there, but you have to finish something in order to progress.

*Rejection comes for all of us–don’t fear it. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will thicken your skin in preparation for the really tough criticism.

*Talent is over rated–most of what gets you there is passion, perseverance and hard work.

*Accepting criticism is the key to growth.

*If the critique isn’t “correct” it only means that something isn’t working.

*A high tide lifts all boats. It’s difficult to tame the envy monster but know that books lift books and writers lift writers. <3

*Be brave and listen–none of know everything or are always right.

*Never defend yourself–listen.

*It’s scary to be called out but remember no one goes out with bad intentions.

*As scary as it is to put yourself out there as a writer–think about how scary it often is to be the reader.

*Those readers are worth the work of being brave. <3

*We are all in this together.


Then this happened…


My Eastern NY SCBWI RA was chosen to give the keynote from last year’s crop of Crystal Kite winners!!!


Hahahaha! I took no notes during Nancy’s speech. I was in the audience cheering, smiling, preening and proud. It was an  excellent speech. It had dogs and writing inspiration. It was fabulous. You should book her for your next event.



Saturday’s first Break-Out session was with Justin Chanda: PRO-Track CAREER LONGEVITY



Justin is the Vice President and Publisher of the four flagship children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books, Atheneum, and the new Salaam Reads. AKA—BAMS! Here’s a look at publishing through the Chanda Filter. As always, I could listen to him talk for hours.

*Always keep communication lines open. Establish the chain of command.

*Communication from an assistant is coming from your editor. Treat them with respect.

*Never think of your agent as a tool.

*A good editor is there to challenge you–not rewrite your book.

*No one wants an unsuccessful book.

*Creative differences happen, but we are all on the same page.

*Always be realistic about achievable deadlines. Advance notice of realistic expectations is better than missed deadlines.

*Make sure your working on your book, not just working on marketing it. At the end of the day readers want books, not marketing.

*Advertising doesn’t work–especially with children’s books. And $10,000 doesn’t even move the needle.

*What does work? Word of Mouth.

*If you do book tours, it’s inevitable you’ll be at an event where no one shows up. Use it as an opportunity to be professional, make connections and be charming.

*School Visits–there is an entire other industry set up to support us.

*It takes time to get traction as a speaker at schools and conferences.

*Social Media–don’t get caught up in the echo chamber.

*Twitter is the best/worst thing to happen in Kidlit.

*Unforgivable Practices–Never air your grievances on social media.

*The most important thing you can do for self promotion is to get other people to talk about your work.

*Keeping the book alive after the first year–work on the next book. Your next book promotes your first book.


Even at #LA16SCBWI there’s time for Lunch!!!! But then we are back for Carole Boston Weatherford: THE POWER OF PREMISE


I’m so sorry–I don’t have a lot of notes from Carole–she had one of those keynotes you just sit and soak in. She had me at… A premise is a promise that your manuscript will deliver on…

Next up was a panel discussion: INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PICTURE BOOK


MOD-Laurent Lin–LL

JB–Jessixa Bagley (author/illustrator)

JP–John Parra (illustrator)

SR–Susan Rich (Editor–Little, Brown)

BS–Barney Saltzberg (Author)

DT–Don Tate (author/illustrator)



JB–the book has a completeness to it.

JP–magical feelings

SR–it has to stand up to weary parents and antsy toddlers.

BS–Rhythm of the page turn, element of surprise.

DT–Connection through emotions

SR–If we knew what the secret ingredient was we’d replicate it.

BS–Put Jon Klassen’s name on it. ROTFL!


SR–there are hooks (curricular and seasonal) that can make your books stand out–don’t start with that.

BS–You have to be careful who you share your work with and at what stage.

JP–it’s up to us to define ourselves–be unique.

BS–Take your ego and bury it in a box in the backyard. There is wisdom out there to be heard. Show up daily.


And I was waiting all day for this one…



Neal started with an “adorable” representation of his 3rd Grade Teacher…


I’ll let you use your imagination on how she influenced Neal. The good news is that he had a strong and persistent personality.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Neal also talked about the fallacies he believes surround the writing process.

*This is how you do it.

          -There isn’t one way. Do what works for you.

*Focus on your strengths.

           -If you want to be a writer you have to be well rounded and work on your weaknesses.

*Writer’s Block is real.

           -There’s no such thing. It’s writing when it’s hard and calling it that gives you permission to walk away. Being stuck it part of the process.

*If you build it, they will come.

          -They’ll be walking by on their phones *snicker* Keep building over and over.

*Never ask for feedback from someone you feed.

          -Family can be honest. My kids call me out.

*If traditional publishers won’t publish you, then e-pub.

          -I know this probably isn’t a popular view, but if e-pub was available  I never would have been traditionally published.

          -Gate keepers are there with there rejections for a reason. When I look back, my work deserved to be rejected,

           -traditional to e-pub is a little different.

*You must have your writing place

            -In high school I had that–it was called detention. Now I write everywhere and get inspired. Check it out…

Why Do We Write?

-It’s all about the reader.

-Deep down we have a belief we have something to say.

And a reminder…If we are doing it right, we are always terrified we aren’t doing it right.

And that was the end of the instructional part of the day, but it don’t worry–the day was far from over…


I got to hang out and chat with Marie Lu and she signed my book!

I also got to check out all our fabulous illustrators at the Portfolio Showcase.

There were also Happy Hour Hangouts with the agents and editors.

Followed by the Red Carpet Ball


Our costume goal for the costume contest was to pull out all the stops and glam it up Hollywood style. Nothing says glamorous Hollywood then Fred Astaire!


I even had my tap shoes on.


A class of 2k12 fancy meet up for me and Lynne Kelly or maybe Ginger?


And I wasn’t the only one dressed up. The fashion police were on the scene. Some body was getting ticketed.


There was also a long line of red carpets LOL!


There were loads of people on the dance floor.


And even the balconies were full.

And later when things wound down, it was lovely to take off your top hat and sit outside.


And when you think there are no surprises left in the day…


You come back to your room and wonder if you’re having some unexpected company LOL!

Hoping all this good advice resonates with you. Which bit of inspiration speaks the loudest for you?

And don’t forget to stay tuned for #LA16SCBWI coming soon.


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