Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category




The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 1 Friday

Filed under: Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Publishing, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

It’s Conference Recap time!!!! And yes, if you’re paying attention–this post was supposed to be up this morning. But I flew in last night and had as much fun reconnecting with my family as I did when I was reconnecting with my tribe. So now it was time for them to get my attention. I’m also not super timely with today’s post because I was so tired it felt as if I no longer had bones. It’s hard to type without bones. It’s much better to sit on the couch and become one with the cushions. And lastly I’m pokey because laundry doesn’t do itself *sigh* and neither do the dishes and all those other chores. Completely bummed that there wasn’t a shift in the domestic universe while I was gone. But I’m on it now, so here we go.


Jodi, Robin, Kim and Caroline



Thursday night, before the official 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference kick off, is time for meeting up with old friends and giving first time hugs to friends you know incredibly well online, but have never laid eyes on before. Such a treat to make those connections. Such an easy way to really kick your jet lag into high gear LOL!

OMG!!!!! Even though I was THAT tired and didn’t have to be up until about 7–I WAS UP AT 5:30 AM!!!!!!!! JET LAG!!!! But that’s okay–it’s early in the conference. It won’t happen again. It never happened to me before in LA. IT WON”T HAPPEN AGAIN. And I’m so pumped to get started and there’s coffee–lots of coffee!!!!  I am the master of my destiny. And I have my “jet lag” T-shirt on. LOL!

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So I’m ready and I know I’m going to be wide awake for Lin Oliver‘s State of the SCBWI Conference Statistics.


This year…

*1,235 attendees

*19 Countries + the USA

*We had four missing states this year and when Lin chastised South Dakota for never coming–BUSTED! One of them had tricked us and snuck in. YAY!!!! South Dakota in the house!!!!!! But not Arkansas, Montana and Mississippi. Boo. Get on that people.

*Half the room was published authors or as Lin said–630 authors understood that publishing is not the end game–there is so much more to learn on this journey <3

We also took a moment to remember the amazing Walter Dean Myers and sniffle because our beloved Tomie DePaola wasn’t going to make the conference or his birthday bash gala due to illness. :( But the good news was that he was going to be ok. (More on Tomie in future recaps)

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And then we’re off with…

*slurps more coffee*




As you know, my recap posts can’t possibly capture the complete amazingness of the conference and it’s speakers–and it shouldn’t–I’m trying to tempt you into coming next year and hanging out with me. But even if I could get it all down in it’s full bloggy splendor, it’s a no-no to post too much conference material that doesn’t belong to me. Completely understandable. But, get your pens out, because I am gong to give you some of my favorite bits of wisdom and inspiration, starting with Meg…

*Reading books gives you imagination and the ability to tell a story and those skills will make everyone better at everything–except Accountants and Politicians–it will put them in jail LOL!

*The most difficult problems in the universe are solved in the telling of stories.

*Adults have already formed their opinions about sexuality. Kids are discovering through books and tolerance is growing.

*Treasure your faults–they are an important kind of truth.

*Writing is bloody difficult.

*Imagination can be very dangerous–it can change the world and that’s why we write.



AB-Alessandra Balzer (Balzer + Bray–Harper Collin’s Children)

MLD-Mary Lee Donovan (Candlewick)

AJ-Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books–Simon & Schuster)

WL-Wendy Loggia (Delacort press/Random House Children’s Books)

LM-Lucia Monfried (Dial Books for Young Readers)

DS-Dinah Stevenson (Clarion Books-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

JSG- Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton Children’s Books–Penguin Young Readers)

Moderator: LO-Lin Oliver

LO–What is the most important thing you look for?


MLD-VOICE. You bring it automatically but you have to write it authentically.

AJ-SURPRISE I want the unexpected. Goosebumps. Spend less time working on your cover letter and more time worrying about your MS.

WL-VOICE You can’t hone your voice–it’s who you are. It’s immediate.

LM-ORIGINALITY It’s rare, but it’s what all editors look for.

DS-A BEGINNING an invitation that contains the seeds of the end.

JSG-A GOOD FIT sometimes a manuscript can be good, but there is a better home for it.

 LO-So, how do we find that perfect fit?

JSG-You can’t get it anywhere if you write to the general masses. It’s okay to be unique and different–you only need one. 

MLD-Research–take the time to find the connection.

LO-(answering part of her own question LOL!) The SCBWI has a web resource document called EDITED BY.


LO-Going to the dark side…what do you not want to see???

JSG-BORING–my best asset is a short attention span.

DS-Don’t want to see 100,000 words.

LM-Show instead of tell.

WL-Absent page numbers. I WANT PAGE NUMBERS ON YOUR MS!

AJ-Don’t be weird. Like sending your submission in a plastic green fish. *shudders*

MLD-The urge to teach/preach

AB-Too much packed into the beginning to get the editor’s attention. It can have the reverse effect.

LO-How do you know if you’re boring???? We all think we’re pretty great, right??? LOL!

Some additional bits of advice…

AJ–Write something with snappy humor.

WL-Show thoughtfulness behind your choices.

AJ-Confidence! Then I can relax and enjoy the story because I know I’m in good hands.

LM-Write your heart–ignore trends.

JSG-Word of mouth is what makes a book a success.

AB-Hook–it has to meet different people at different levels.

AJ-The final page turn can make or break picture book.

DS-Craft has a lot to do with making choices–we don’t always need to know the color of the dog’s collar.

JSG-Sub Plots: sometimes people throw them in to give their book additional engines to make it to the end. If you take the sub plot out, will the story still stand?

AB-Don’t put the cart before the horse. Work on the first steps. Establish relationships.

LM-There is no speeding up becoming a good writer. The better books are the ones that get published.

JSG-Once you are out of the gate–you can’t get back in. Be ready for it.



Next up was my first Workshop of the conference. Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF A SUCCESSFUL CAREER: FIRST BOOKS THROUGH IMPORTANT MILESTONES

Laura walked us through a case study of the fabulous Maggie Stiefvater and how they built her career together. Here are a couple powerful bits to share…

*The more distinct and individual the brand, the more powerful it is.

*Think about what is powerful and organic to you, but that can break out in a very full category of your peers.

*Growth is from book to book to book.

And Yum! It’s LUNCH TIME!!!!

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Look how quick that was. Now it’s time to go back after being in guacamole heaven. I seriously adore the green stuff and could eat it every day. And since I have a feeling that Skippy Jon Jones would love guacamole– it was obviously the perfect meal to eat before listening to a Keynote by Judy Schachner: THINKING IN PICTURES–MY STORYTELLING PROCESS


Judy’s fabulous and funny presentation was very visual–but come on–she’s an artist and illustrator. It’s supposed to be. But that makes it a bit hard to share some of her amazing information. But I think I’m going to have fun just giving you some of the bullets in my notes (completely out of context) and see how it works for you. *giggle*

Here we go…

*Creative procrastination.

*I worship at the alter of prairie dogs.

*Diagnosed ADHD by a boy at a school visit.

*Loves dead mice and collects hairballs.

*29ft Viking ship!

*Be a collector.

*Run for your lives–she’s got the rabies!!!!

Now, wasn’t that fun. Feel free to tell me what you think Judy was referring to in the comments :o)

Up next was another Keynote. This time with Stephen Chbosky (author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) HOW TO WRITE YOUR TIMELESS CLASSIC (OR DIE TRYING)


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I’m an über fan girl of Stephen and his book so these bits of wisdom are real gifts…

*The next person to write a classic could be in this room. 

BAM! He’s not even a sentence or two in and he has me. Because I believe that. I believe that not only can that be me–but that if I work hard enough–it will be me. And I like people who remind me that the smartest thing you can do is shoot for the stars and then figure out a way to get there.

*If you write–you are a writer. Take control of your own destiny.

*Find an idea. Share your ideas with the people you trust and see which one everyone gravitates towards. That’s the one. And it’s usually the one you think is too weird or too hard to make happen. 

*You are going to find that one beautiful book you are destined to write.

*The best writers know exactly who they are and what they are doing.

And then my favorite takeaway…

*Books change lives–save lives. That’s why we are here. We want to change the world. It only takes one.

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And maybe I was so blown away by talking to Stephen while he signed my book that I forgot to get a picture WITH him. But sometimes you don’t need that to remember the moment…

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I was already hard at work on the plane ride home. Thank you Stephen Chbosky for being made of awesome. I’ll keep my promise <3

*sigh* Workshop #2 Wasn’t quite a good fit for me. I came in a little late because I was Face Timing with my kids (3 hour time difference) and then the topic wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. So not a lot of notes for you so we’ll move along.

Next up was the Diversity Panel #weneeddiversebooks

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Here is who was on it…

AD-Adriana Dominguez

SF-Sharon Flake

LG-Lamar Giles

MM-Meg Medina

LSP-Linda Sue Park

Moderator SMW-Suzanne Morgan Williams

And here were some of the best takeaways

SMW-Why do kids need diverse books–especially if you did “okay” without them?

MM-When kids don’t have access to examples of themselves in books, it’ affects them. They become embarrassed by who they are.

-All of our journeys are universal, but we have to share our own stories.

LG-Positive imagery for everyone.

LSP-For young readers connections can happen at a really deep level.

SMW-Who writes diverse books?

LSP-Anyone can and should be able to write any one and any thing. But not everyone can do it well. If you do it, you need a passionate personal stake in what you’re writing or you may make things worse. Research can go a long way, but it has to be intensive and extensive. Immersion. At heart–writing multiculturally when this doesn’t happen is a lack of respect.

LG-It comes down to why you are doing it. People will call you with a passion if you mess up–even if your motives are honest.

SF-There are lots of submissions out there, but most of them reduce cultural diversity down to food, clothing and stereotypes. They lack depth.

LSP-Perpetuating stereo types are like ear worms that stick and that is a mistake. It makes people feel disrespected and does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do–enforcing negative energy.

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And then it was time for my very first PAL Book Sale & Wine and Cheese Party!!!! I got to sell TOUCHING THE SURFACE to my tribe members while eating cheese. Do you know how much I love cheese? And talking books with friends? Good times were had by all. <3 What an awesome Day 1

Now it’s time for the cliff hanger…

*Did Kim have jet lag again tomorrow?

*Was there enough coffee in the world to make it through day two after such a jam-packed, awesome day one?

*Did anyone figure out what Miss Judy Schachner was talking about? *grin*

If you want to know these and other questions, leave a comment and be sure to stop back over on Thursday for my PART 2 of the LA SCBWI Conference Recap!!!!







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Art Stimulates Art: Dancing with my Writer Sistahs

Filed under: Community, Conferences, Dancing, Pondering, SCBWI, Writing

Things I did besides finishing my packing for SCBWI LA…

-I got my hair done.

-Made homemade soup and zucchini crabbiless crab cakes for dinner.

-Read to the boys for an hour.

-And of course I caught up on the latest episode of SYTYCD where I saw an epic ton of dances that I’m over the moon about. But this one in particular reminded me of all my writer sistahs.

Whether it’s my critique partners, my SCBWI friends or the Binders–there always seems to be someone there for the highs and the lows. It’s a beautiful thing that rarely ceases to escape me. That dance illustrated the supportive group of women I’ve chosen to have in my life. It feels as if we are more invested in picking each other up than we are in stepping on one another. I love that. We aren’t perfect, but I always sense the desire to be more–be our best.



Knowing I get to see some of these amazing sistahs (and my guy buds too) has me super excited to head to LA TODAY!!!!! I’ll be tweeting about the conference, so if you want to be an arm chair attendee–follow along using the hashtag #LA14SCBWI  And of course I’ll start my usual conference recaps after I get back and un-fry my brain. LOL! I get so inspired after attending the event. Stay tuned more to come…

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The 2014 NY SCBWI Conference–Part 3

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

We are on the 2014 NY SCBWI conference recap homestretch!!!! But just like with attendance at a conference, even though you’re sad to have it come to an end, you should also be feeling those itchy fingers wanting to write and create now that you’ve been inspired.

One of the very best Keynotes of the Conference was by Kate Messner: The Spectacular Power of Failure



Everyone in the room was affected by the power of Kate’s words. Why? There were multiple reasons, but the biggest were that  Kate’s a dynamic speaker and the topic was relevant to everyone. Relatable and inspiring. Here are some of her best moments…

*Why do a talk on Failure? Because we share the shame we feel over the fear of failure.

*Be Brave. But it’s okay to be afraid. Of course you’re nervous–>if it weren’t , it wouldn’t be worth doing.

*Fight or Flight Fear is different than Fear of Failure, but it’s just as strong.

*On Art and Fear: You learn how to make your work by making your work.


I saved my chocolate fix for just the right spot…

*The act of sitting down to do the work brings on the idea fairy. (My idea fairy obviously likes chocolate-that’s why we get along so well.)

*Fail Fast, Fail Often: Sometimes losing can help you win.

*If we want to make art–failures are pretty good trail markers pointing us in the right direction.

*A problem that is insurmountable is manageable, when we talk to a friend. We are not afraid of our friend’s failures LOL!

*The only thing we can control is how we do our work. (Can I get an amen?)

*Failure let’s us be role models.

*High-stakes testing undermines divergent thinking. (I seriously LOVE this!)

Thank you, Kate–this pep-talk was exactly what I needed, right when I needed it. You’re the BEST! <3


Next up…Keynote Panel: The Art of the Picture Book

SS–Shandra Strickland

OJ–Oliver Jeffers

MF–Marla Frazee

RC–Raul Colon

PB–Peter Brown

Moderated by AL–Arthur Levine (If I have to tell you who he is–you haven’t done your homework well enough)


Just a few little tidbits that stuck to me…

*SS–When something isn’t working: sometimes you have to walk away to figure it out.

*MF–It’s hard to know when a piece is going downhill. I keep thinking I can fix it.

*SS–Turning down a project that doesn’t resonate is an ability that comes with maturity.

*RC–The illustrator doesn’t just want to illustrate the text–they are there to extend it.


Additionally Peter Brown got into a lively debate about authors and illustrators having more connection and collaboration in the picture book process. Everyone else on the panel felt strongly about giving the illustrator room to create without the influence of the author. Peter understood this, but felt there were advantages for authors to learn to think more spatially. I will tell you that he was getting a lot of cheers from the picture book writers in the audience LOL! In my humble opinion, both sides of the debate were fascinating and relevant.




I’m going to be honest–I was so bummed that Sharon Draper had to cancel due to a family emergency. I’d just finished reading OUT OF MY MIND with the boys and we are HUGE fans. But Nikki Grimes is such an eloquent speaker and writing royalty, I couldn’t stay disappointed. In fact, I could listen to her description of a girl’s first kiss all day long. Her voice. Her words. He perception and humor. It was amazing.

*I have been day dreaming for the better part of my life.

*It’s all right. Just keep writing. You’ll figure it out eventually.


Some other conference highlights as the big weekend comes to a close…


Tomie dePaola giving out the Tomie dePaola Award for Illustration


Jane Yolen giving out the Mid-list Author Grants (And it was her birthday!)


Hanging out with my roommie. It was Jeannie Intrieri‘s first national SCBWI conference. I think she’s hooked. <3


Getting more Kate Messner books for the boys and I to read. <3 We are uber fans!!!


The hustle, bustle and blur of everyone trying to meet their favorite authors and get their books signed.


And the moment you realize that it’s a l-o-n-g time until the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference in August. *le sigh*

I’ve done it! Another conference blog for the archives. Even though they are a lot of work to put together, I know I’m going to continue to look back at these memories and bits of wisdom and be so glad that I’ve journaled them. I also really enjoy how many people have told me how much they love the conference blogs. You guys rock!

What other kinds of blog posts–here or on other sites–do you find the most useful/memorable?

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The 2014 NY SCBWI Conference–Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children


Part 2 of my SCBWI conference recap–let’s pick up where I left off. I’ve had a yummy lunch at the food court in Grand Central and I’ve dug into the chocolate stash in my bag. If you didn’t want to hang out with me before, you might once you know I bring enough for friends.

I also forgot to mention I did some live tweeting from the conference #NY14SCBWI. And my clown “shout out” even got tweeted. It DOES count for something. And here is my writer friend..Bee Bee the Clown <3



I made lots of new friends through tweeting and if you go back and search the #NY14SCBWI hashtag–you will find a wealth of information on sessions I didn’t attend and links to other bloggers recapping the conference.

Grrrr I took a picture at my next Breakout session. I know I did, because Sara Shandler (Senior Vice President, Editorial, Alloy Entertainment) wore the cutest outfit EVER! Guess you’re going to have to take my word for it LOL!

Breakout session #2 was Developing and Selling a Series

I picked this talk because it was an area in publishing that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about. After hearing Sara talk I have a few excellent tidbits to share with you…

*Have a clear, one sentence pitch/concept. You have a very limited time to capture someone’s attention.

*Each book must have it’s own story arc.

*Know your ending.

-where is the story going?

-is it a closed arc or can it be extended?

*Avoid following trends, know what’s out there and be unique.


The next Keynote Speaker was Elizabeth Wein: Bearing Witness: Authorial Responsibility


AGAIN I’m missing an action shot, so here she is signing my copy of ROSE UNDER FIRE!!!  I waffled for such a long time about whether to get Rose or CODE NAME VERITY. I finally decided to pick my favorite of the two, but it was soooooo close.

Things you should know…

*She’s a 20 year overnight success story.

*Everyone is at wildly different stages of the journey.

*We are responsible for putting ideas in people’s heads at the earliest of ages.



Next up was the Keynote Panel: Banning Books–Where Do We Stand?

JB – Joan Bertin (Executive Director, National Coalition against Censorship)

EH – Ellen Hopkins

SR – Susanna Reich (Chair, Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, Pen American Center)


I’m going to have a ton for you from Ellen Hopkins. She is brave and amazing and I hung on her every word…

*You make children stronger by giving them the truth.

*Pull the books out from under the covers and read them WITH your kids.

*Do you think that Harper Lee didn’t write To Kill A Mockingbird for a reason?

*If a thirteen year old girl is sexually abused, shouldn’t she have the right to read a book about it?

*Write bravely–speak the truth.

*I have a responsibility to my readers–not the censors. Speak the truth.



Appropriately wearing my I READ BANNED BOOKS bracelet and reading To Kill A Mockingbird with the boys.

And Susanna Reich noted…

*72 of the top 100 most challenged books in the past years have been children’s books.

*Librarians are on the front line of censorship.

*Multicultural books can speak to all kids, not just children of color.

*To create something you have to face your own fears.


THAT is an amazing note to end the day on…if the day were ending. Up next was the Gala Dinner where you will ALWAYS find me hanging out by the MASHED POTATO BAR!!!!!


The picture is a little blurry, but can you blame me if my hands were trembling in excitement? A MASHED POTATO BAR people!!!! Unfortunately, just looking at that picture puts me back into carb overload. I think I need to lay down on my couch and take a nap…

That’s right–I forgot to tell you. I FINALLY GOT MY COUCH!!!



Oh, happy day.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with the last conference recap. But while you’re waiting for some closure (hopefully on your cozy couch) tell me what your favorite banned book is.


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The 2014 NY SCBWI Winter Conference – Part 1

Filed under: Conferences, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing for Children

It’s time for your 2014 NY SCBWI Conference Recap!!! But I have to start with an apology–I wasn’t able to figure out where the heck I “packed” my good camera. *pulls out hair* It drove me crazy all weekend long. I love my iPhone but for some of those shots, I really needed my Canon. But since there is nothing I can do about it–we are just going to have to use our imaginations. Pretend all those pics are crystal clear and fabulous.



It’s not an international SCBWI conference without Lin Oliver giving the conference stats. I know I’m a dork, but I look forward to this every time I go.

*1,085 people in attendance

*867 women

*153 men

*65 people who refused to state what they were.

*We hailed from 47 states. What’s up with those two damn Dakotas? And yes, we’d all rather be in Hawaii too–so they get a pass this year. LOL!

*20 countries were represented–meaning 19 foreign countries and Canada. Love you, Canada!!!!!

*In addition to my local Shop Talk clown (which Lin stated I can not take credit for unless I AM the clown ROTFL!) We also had a Waldo Impersonator that no one ever found. Tricky little devil–where is that Waldo? And an Expert in No Particular Subject. I kid you not. It has become apparent that I need to get more creative with my registration packet.

*Because we writers are directionally impaired, this year there were extra staff at hand herding us in the right direction as we wandered around the hotel. The illustrators (with the amazing spatial awareness) were encouraged to go about their business as usual.

Then, as an inspirational treat, we got to listen to SCBWI success story and cancer ass-kicker Kristin Fulton. Go check out her website and read about her recent 2 book deal. *fist pump* photo


And besides Kristin being fabulous, the bonus we discovered when chatting, was a mutual friend–one of my fabulous critique partners. <3 Commence singing It’s a Small World.


I was so captivated by Jack Gantos I never took a picture of him speaking, but here he is signing books at the end of the conference. I think that Jack may now hold the title for the longest Keynote title. What do you think?

Keynote: How everything I learned about fiction and nonfiction in picture books, poetry, short stories, novellas, or, angst, dialog, a hundred drafts, and good luck all end up in the crown jewel of literature: THE NOVEL.

After Jack was done with his keynote, I leaned over to a friend (a first time NY SCBWI attendee) and whispered…”FYI–if you went home right now, you would have gotten your money’s worth.” And it’s the truth. I wish you’d been there to take it all in. It was amazing. Because I love you, here are some of my favorite highlights from Jack Ganto’s keynote…

*A great character will carry a weak plot, but a plot will not carry a weak character.

*The reader has to feel what the character feels…without empathy you don’t have a good book.

*There is not one good ending–there is always two. (the external ending and the emotional one)

*If you see it, you want the reader to see it too.

*The reason we read books is to change. As writers we have to infuse change into our writing so the reader feels it. “If that character does not change–I would be ashamed to write the book.”



Next up was the Keynote Panel: The Future of Authorship

PA–Paul Aiken (Executive Director, The Author’s Guild)

JF–Jean Feiwel (SVP Publishing Director Macmillan Children’s Books)

JFriJane Friedman (Web Editor, Virginia Quarterly Review)

AGAbbi Glines (Author)

TT–Timothy Travalini (Director of Children’s Acquisitions, Open Road Media)

Moderated by: LO–Lin Oliver


Here are their best bits of advice…

JFri–New tools and trends are driving the discovery of work in a noisy industry. Now that everyone  CAN publish, the DO publish.

PA–It has always taken persistence in this industry. What has changed? We’ve lost 60-70% of our shelf space. Picture Books need to be picked up and held to be discovered.

AG–I was turned down by agents 55 times, so I self published my first novel. It got really bad reviews because it was really bad LOL!

AG–Writing a book is like a muscle–it gets better with use.

AG–You want your followers (twitter) to be organic –they should want to hear what you are saying.

JFri-An author platform comes out of your body of work.

JFri–It isn’t going to take much more erosion for bookstores to be unsustainable.


AM Breakout Session with my FABULOUS editor Anica Rissi  <3 — Writing Contemporary Fiction

There is soooooo much good stuff!!! I couldn’t even write it all down–but THAT was no surprise to me because Anica is an amazing editor. Here’s her best…

*If you continuously find yourself to be the exception to all the rules–you might need to reevaluate.

*Be a brave soul.


*Revision is what makes you a publishable writer.

*Give the reader something to wonder about.

*We learn about people (characters) in context.

*Kids won’t wait around–write opening lines that engage

*Your story needs to have a plot arc and an emotional arc.

*Stories are universal–it’s your details that matter.

*You should be writing the story only you can tell.

*You can’t decide who your characters are and you can’t force it–teens will smell a fake a mile away.


I find myself at a natural pausing spot as I’m pouring over Anica’s advice and inspirational words all over again. Guess this means it’s time for all of us to stop here and savor what’s been shared. I know it’s already made a HUGE difference in what I’m currently working on.

What is the most recent piece of advice or inspiration that’s found it’s way into your process and informed your writing?





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Things on my To-Wacko-Do-List!

Filed under: Check-it-out, Dancing, Drafting, Family, Pondering, Reading, Running, SCBWI, Writing, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

It’s been awhile since I’ve been late posting my blog. But here I am, keeping it real. LOL! What is making me late today? In a nutshell, there are a mess of things on my To-Wacko-Do-List.



In not particular order…

*The hubby had a small surgery last Tuesday. He’s recovering nicely, but when he’s home I have the worst time keeping track of time.

*Switching over to fall/winter gear is time consuming. Where did I put the hats? No, you can’t wear shorts to school anymore!  And of course anything that no longer fits the 8 year old goes into the “For the Cousins Pile.” STUFF EVERYWHERE!!!!

*And I know I’ve been saying this forever, but we’re still moving. It’s not the house we’d originally planned on, that deal fell through, but we’ve found a wonderful new house and *crosses fingers and toes* we should be moving in some time before I die. I swear. This whole moving thing feels like an Indiana Jones movie. There are hurdles and traps around every corner. (But no snakes please) Moving is not easy, I didn’t expect it to be, but it’s harder than I thought it would be also. I can’t wait to get to the part where I can simply settle in and be excited. In the mean time, I’m in purge mode. It’s like fall clean up on steroids. I’m trying to do a little bit every day to make the process easier. I am FIGHTING my procrastinating nature and like I said, I want to get to the fun part of this adventure asap!  Anyway, more to come about the move craziness as it gets closer.

*And running–I want to be running as much as possible in this weather because it’s perfect. No further explanation needed, but I will say one thing. Crunchy leaves. <3

*And dancing–it’s recital time. Extra rehearsals. Costumes. Trying to remember my dances eek! Always so much fun.

*Prepping for NaNoWriMo and my next WIP. This is a funny little book that’s coming together in my mind. *breathes a sigh of relief because it IS finally coming together* It’s just weird because it’s doing everything differently than my other books. It doesn’t give two figs about a playlist. Really? And it clearly has it’s own agenda. I may kick-off NaNo in the middle-ish of the book. Or maybe not. But I could. I still might. THIS BOOK!  And this WIP has weird demands about how it should be written stylistically. I don’t even know what it means, but I know I’m excited about it and I can’t wait to get started. In fact, if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo kicking off, I’d be typing like mad right now. But I need a timeline for this crazy manuscript. *head thunk*  Yup, I’ve never done that before either.  I guess I’ll plan, the way this book demands I should, until Nov. 1st!!!

*Oh, and Halloween. Because if you have three kids, Halloween takes up a huge chunk of your existence–for weeks. LOL!

*And don’t forget all the time I spent checking out the new SCBWI website!!!!! You must go check it out and while you’re over there, don’t forget to sign up for the NY SCBWI Conference in February. It is so much fun and we can hang out!!!!

*And reading!!!! Oh, I am reading like a fool. I’m reading for information and inspiration for the WIP. I’m reading Veronica Roth’s ALLEGIANT. I’ve followed the series and I’m hearing all kinds of rumblings and unrest about the ending. So curious!!!! I want to find out what the heck is going on. (Before someone hits me with a spoiler) I’m also reading WONDERBOOK an illustrated guide on creating imaginative fiction. I’m fascinated by this book and it’s speaking directly to me about what I’m about to attempt to write. I love perfect timing. I love it so much I’m carrying it everywhere with me. Plus I’m reading a bunch of other great books in addition to having a heavy line-up of books in the wings begging for my attention. I love books. <3

Alright, you get the point, I’ve been busy and it’s with mostly good stuff so I’m not complaining, just explaining. But now it’s time to hear what you’ve been doing. What’s on your To-Wacko-Do-List? What are you reading? What are you cleaning? Are you prepping for NaNoWriMo? Fill me in…

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TOUCHING THE SURFACE is out in Paperback TODAY! Enter to Win a Copy

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Author Events, Book Signings, Booksellers, Check-it-out, Class of 2k12, Community, Conferences, Contests, Dancing, Family, In the Wild, Publishing, SCBWI, The Class of 2k12, Touching the Surface, Wolfson Literary, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)





TOUCHING THE SURFACE is out in paperback TODAY!!!!!

Where you can find it:


*Barnes & Noble


Can you believe it’s been almost a year since I became an author? And even longer since I sold my first book and got an agent. Here’s a little walk down memory lane. Humor me–I’m nostalgic today. So in no particular order because that would add a layer of organization I’m not capable of, here’s just a few of my most fabulous moments between finding my agent and birthing a paperback…


Standing outside the Simon & Schuster offices.

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Apocalypsies at the LA SCBWI Conference!!!


Meeting my agent (Michelle Wolfson) and editor (Anica Rissi) for the first time. <3


The Class of 2k12!!!!!

The day I got my ARC of TOUCHING THE SURFACE!!!!

Came home from a run to find my ARC’s had finally arrived!!! Such a squee moment!!!

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The ARC!


Authors, Simon & Pulse friends and Writer Buds at the NY SCBWI Conference. <3

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Bookmarks!!! Thanks Jeff Fielder.


Bringing my book to the Golf Bag Holder (Eastern PA Poconos Mountain Retreat with Jodi Moore.)


First book I ever signed went to Laurie Halse Anderson. Love her.

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This made it feel so real.

YAmazing Race

Loved participating in the YAmazing Race with my Apocalypsies!!!


First author event, even before my book was out. LOL! With my buds from the Class of 2k12. <3


Making friends at BEA!!! Lisa and Kim.


First BEA was even sweeter because I got to spend time with my fabulous agent. <3


Blogger love <3  Finally got to meet Erica!!!!

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Joining YA Outside the Lines. 


It was a BEA Apocalypsie event of awesome.


Ummmm I got to hear JOHN GREEN!!!!!!!!!!!


Made amazing new blogger friends. Kim and Grace. <3


Hanging with Jay Asher at LA SCBWI–Dude, it was awesome.

Bookanistas Button FINAL

Joining the Bookanistas!

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Kimmiepoppins met Mary Poppins!!!! I met Julie Andrews!!!!


Signing my contract!!!!!! I AM GOING TO BE AN AUTHOR!!!


My book was at Bologna. Takes my breath away.




My Yanni dance girls wearing TOUCHING THE SURFACE T-shirts. <3


Signing books at my book launch.

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Good friends drove in from far away despite all the trouble with Hurricane Sandy.


Just an amazing experience.


Unable to thank my friends and family enough for their love and support on that special day.


More book launch at Oblong Books. I LOVE that bookstore and everyone in it. <3

Kim and Dad at Powell Point-Grand Canyon July 1998


Dad–there–even when he couldn’t be. The dedication.


On bookshelves in bookstores.


Kimmiepoppins finally gets a book launch in NYC after Hurricane Sandy delayed it. Mean Hurricane–awesome party.


Woo hoo!!! I got to speak at the NY Public Library.


I’m a fangirl–it’s A.S. King people!!!!!


I’m a fangirl–it’s Sharon Creech people!!!!


My first SCBWI faculty gig at the Eastern NY SCBWI Conference–where I got paid to talk with my hands about things I love.

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Connecting with teen readers and making hedgehogs. *grin*

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Loving on my writer mama, K.L. Going. <3 Wouldn’t be here without her.

And because you made it to the end of my reminiscing…you shall be rewarded with a chance to win a signed copy of the brand spanking new TOUCHING THE SURFACE paperback!!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Eastern NY SCBWI Conference 2013–Sail Into Inspiration

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

Just this past weekend (September 21-22) I got the chance to sail into inspiration at the Eastern NY SCBWI Regional Conference. It was a fabulous event for multiple reasons…

*This is my local conference and I love supporting my local SCBWI in anyway I can. This was the very first SCBWI conference I ever attended (back in June of 2007) and it was a life changer for me. I am here to tell you I would not be a published author if it were not for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)

*Because this was a local conference, I had the good fortune of have more of my Eastern NY buddies able to attend than I do at most conferences. I seriously love this group of writers and I never get to spend as much time with them as I would like. This was a treat.

*The Faculty was INCREDIBLE! And no, I’m not just saying that because this was my first time as conference faculty. LOL! Although, it was an awesome experience.  I’m saying that because it was an incredible line up with speakers who have or who need to grace the SCBWI international stage. But just so you know, this is absolutely an area where I’d like to see some personal growth on my part. I have proposals developed for future SCBWI events so keep your fingers crossed that I get selected.



So, let’s get to the conference recap…

After registration and a warm welcome from the ship’s captain (RA Nancy Castaldo) We had the honor of listening to a Children’s Literature legend–Jerry Pinkney. Seriously, I could stare at his art and listen to his thoughtful stories all day.



Here are some of Jerry’s best thoughts during his Keynote Speech about ENVIRONMENT, TOOLS AND PROCESS

*His mom read him Hans Christian Anderson and it informed his work.

*His parents supported his artistry–in fact he drew on his bedroom walls and when they became full, his dad would repaint them white.

*He uses poetry to interpret our history and to help bring to light the roll people of color played in our past.

*Jerry Pinkney is dyslexic and to compensate, he is very organized with his art.  *fist pump* A big HUG going out to another awesome dyslexic!!!! Yes, you know I hugged him–I do that.


Session #1–An Editor and An Agent Discuss Acquisition (Jennifer Laughran-Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Elise Howard-Editor and Publisher of Algonquin Young Readers)



Here are some of the best take aways from this session…

*When you write a good query/pitch, it will get used in the publishing process.

*In most cases, titles change.

*When submitting a PB manuscript, use illustrator notes sparingly (to explain a visual joke that can not be understood through the text)

*It’s okay to break the querying rules if and only if your manuscript is so fantastic I’m obsessed with it. If it’s that good I’ll read it scribbled on a cocktail napkin. (But yours is not that good.) LOL! Jennifer Laughran


Session #2–PUBLISHING NUTS AND BOLTS with Harold Underdown



I’m a huge fan of Harold to start with. I’ve seen him speak before and he’s written The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book PublishingHe’s a fabulous source of information on a broad swath of children’s literature topics and you can’t get better than picking his brain. Here are some great take-aways from his Saturday session…

*Platform: in children’s writing it is not a necessity to come with one–it will develop over time.

*Picture Book writers are going to have a hard time finding an agent. Kids commercial fiction needs an agent.

*Kids have different developmental needs and have diverse tastes. This is a wonderful thing but it makes writing for them challenging.

*Picture Books are not just ONE thing.

*Study what’s on the shelves now, not what is on your shelves–Books are always evolving.

*Study the books on award lists.

*On formatting a manuscript–ALWYAS FOLLOW THE RULES.


Lunch was YUMMY! I have no pictures, I was too busy inhaling it. There was soup and salad with chicken or beef. The rolls were warm and toasty and the cookies were scrumptious. In fact, they were so good, I wasn’t even focused on the DEBUT AUTHOR PANEL right after lunch!!!!!

Ummmm I have no notes for you LOL! I was doing double duty being moderator and panelist along with Lizzie Foley (REMARKABLE) and Lisa Amowitz (BREAKING GLASS) But I do have pictures (Thank you to everyone who shared them with me!!!!!)




1239825_10151883761112402_1809836222_nYeah, I talk with my hands a lot. *giggle*


Next up was an Agent Panel–REPRESENTING OUT WORK with Amy Boggs (Donald Mass), Melissa Turk (Melissa Turk & the Artist Network) and Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown)


All three agents gave a ton of insight into how they operate, what they’re looking for and the general ins and outs of working with an agent. Here are some of the highlights…

*Your query should leave out the “it’s a fast paced …” part of the cover flap. (AB)

*Don’t hand any paper (synopsis) to an agent at a conference. It will burn their hand. LOL! Follow submission guidelines and reference the conference. (JL)

*On contracts: Every little word id there because it happened to somebody. (AB)

*Good questions to ask an agent in an interview: What books do you like that you don’t represent? What books do you dislike? (JL)

*PB Writers or Author/Illustrators should query one MS but have 3 or 4 fleshed out MS’s in the wings.


Next there was a book signing!!!!!! I LOVE getting a chance to share TOUCHING THE SURFACE with new people and talking about their projects and aspirations. I made so many new friends this weekend.



Autographing was followed by dinner and then…

A DESSERT CAFE WITH ELIZABETH BIRD (Youth Materials Specialist for the New York Public Library)

Let me just tell you, I was blown away by Betsy’s Keynote and the dessert selection was the bonus!!! YUM!!! But I would have adored her talk even without a HUGE side of chocolate yumminess. But since it was there…BONUS!!!! I apologize because I didn’t take a lot of notes or tweet–I was simply a captive listener. But if you’d like a taste of what Betsy has to offer, I highly encourage you to check out her blog–Fuse #8. It’s amazing!


Kim Sabatini, Betsy Bird, Harold Underdown, Lois Miner-Huey and Nancy Castaldo

On a side note–Betsy incorporated Lois’ fabulous book Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History into her presentation and raved about it, not remembering that Lois would be in the audience. How cool is that??? All my teacher buds, be sure to check this one out because it’s got librarians cheering.


 After such a fabulous day, I  went home completely pumped, totally exhausted and full of too much chocolate. But I needed to get over it quickly because I still had the SUNDAY INTENSIVES!!!!!

There were three choices for the Sunday event…



*Semadar Megged (Art Director, Philomel) PORTFOLIO EXAMINATION AND DISCUSSION


They all sound great, don’t they? I picked the session with Harold. It was a small intimate group and I learned a metric ton of stuff. I didn’t tweet or take pics because I was interactively engaged and that is a great thing. After two hours of intensive we finished off the conference with an amazing presentation from Steve Sheinkin, author of BOMB. Steve is a former text book writer with a passion for history and a drive to turn our past into really honest and interesting stories so that kids can remember and enjoy them. I was also very impressed with the idea that most of out history lives in gray area. The text book writers and those who influence them have created a world of black and white. Steve pointed out that no one wants to hear there is good and bad in everyone, particularly their heroes.But maybe that narrow way of thinking is in the past–because with the accolades that Steve is getting for his writing and research, I think history books are changing for the better.



Let’s face it, no matter how long an SCBWI conference is, it ends too soon. So, before I go, some candids proving how much everyone was enjoying it…



Kim and Linda–your neighborhood Shop Talk Coordinators!!


Jeannie and I met because she almost knows my brother LOL!


Some of our Shop Talkers doing a pile on. <3


I love being a mentor for talented young writers. Kim and Danielle. ((((hugs))))



Kim and Linda hugging on our awesome RA!!!! Thanks for everything, Nancy. <3

And that’s a wrap. Any questions about the conference? Want to know more about our Hudson Valley Shop Talk? We want YOU!!!! Anyone take notes for the debut author panel. I’d love it if you threw a highlight or two from the presentation in the comments. What conference are you planning on doing next? Want more info on the SCBWI??? Just let me know what you need to know. And plan on coming to #EastNYSCBWI next time. <3

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Writerly Gadgets, Gizmos and Must-Haves

Filed under: Check-it-out, SCBWI, Writing

Thought I’d share some of the writerly gadgets, gizmos and must haves. In no particular order…

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The rolling cart I use for school visits and presentations. I have lots of props and this lets me move them around so much easier than hauling heavy bags on both shoulders..

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This is a two for one. I absolutely could not function without my Macbook Pro. It travels with me all over the house and everywhere else I write. (With three boys that could be just about anywhere.) I also love the decals I found on Etsy to personalize the back of the screen. (I sometimes joke that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) LOL! The tree and leaves sit underneath a clear Invisishield skin and I still can believe I installed myself. *fist pump*

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Of course if you love your laptop as much as I do, you want the perfect bag to tote it around it. This Osprey is the best laptop bag I’ve ever had. LOVE it!

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My whiteboard calendar is a must. I only use it for my writing related stuff, but that’s okay, the family calendar is in the kitchen. (I actually have two so I can see the upcoming month also.)



My writing magazines inspire me daily and I learn sooooooo much from reading them. It’s like an at-home, mini-conference in my kitchen.

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And of course the SCBWI!!! It could be the Bulletin, a Shop Talk meeting, writer friends online or a conference. It doesn’t matter–it’s all good.

Okay–time to share your writerly gadgets, gizmos and must-haves.

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The Truth About Sleep Away Camp and How to Find Me Quicker than a Little Unidog

Filed under: Author Events, Blogging, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Contests, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, YA Books, YA Outside the LInes, Young Adult (YA)

Today I’m cross-posting over at YA Outside the Lines and talking about The Truth About Sleep Away Camp. There may be 80’s permed hair for your amusement!

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Just a reminder, you still have time to enter my write a review contest!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I also have some up and coming events…

*I’ll be at Oblong Books and Musics HVYAS Birthday Party!! More info HERE!

*Children’s Writer or Illustrator and located in the Hudson Valley? Join us for our local SCBWI Shop Talk Meeting in August. For more information, feel free to contact me directly.

*I’ll also be faculty at my very first conference, which is also the very same conference I first attended as a newbie. Yea, pretty WOW! Registration is still open for the SCBWI Eastern NY Conference on September 21-22nd. Lots of amazing speakers and opportunities.

*September 28th I’ll be part of a fantastic line-up at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival. Details Here

*October 17th I’m thrilled to be a part of the Ulster BOCES FALL INTO BOOKS CHILDREN’S & TEEN LITERATURE CONFERENCE in Kingston NY. I adore hanging out with librarians!!!


And good news…finding me is not nearly as hard as finding a little unidog. So, come hang out and we’ll squee and hug and talk about books and maybe eat some chocolate. I usually have some stored in a bag or pocket somewhere.

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