Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category




LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

Filed under: Book Signings, Check-it-out, Conferences, Contests, Family, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children

I had the perfect flight lined up for #LA15SCBWI. (The 44th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference) I was leaving NY at 1pm which gave me enough time to get the dog and the boys where they needed to be and plenty of time to get settled in LA before the conference kicked off on Friday morning. That was the plan, anyway. After getting through security I realized I had an hour delay on my Virgin America flight, so I grabbed a sit down lunch. Then that one hour delay turned into a two hour delay.


So I read my magazines–standing up so I’d be ready for that 5+ hour flight.


And I also checked on the puppy. Riley is the 10 month old GSD in the middle. I am the spy LOL!

And of course I checked the #LA15SCBWI twitter feed, where I discovered that @alioop7 (Sky Pony Editor Alison Weiss) was on the same flight. Let’s just say we bonded by the time we arrived in LA–MUCH later than we’d planned. After the 2 hour mechanical delay, this is how it went down…


Everyone is loaded, but it’s starting to drizzle.


Hmmm doesn’t look like we’re getting off the runway. A big storm is rolling in.


The airport closes completely and we are stuck on the runway for over 3 hours. But…is that a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? Yeah–not so much. It’s back to the gate to fuel up and hear more potential bad news. Now I’ve got my fingers crossed we get off the ground some time tonight. And I’m grateful that I didn’t have my kids stuck on the plane for five hours prior to the five hour flight. All those kiddos were fabulous BTW! And eventually, as the sun was setting, we were finally heading out.



We arrived at the hotel at 11:37pm which was 2:37am EST. *yawn*

I’d like to tell you I went right to bed, but I was in a room with my favorite writing roommate–Jodi Moore and her baby dragon!!!!



I think we both fell asleep mid-sentence. Basically nothing unusual.

After coffee and breakfast and more coffee, the first order of business was finding my RA the fabulous Nancy Castaldo.


I was proud to be her one and only Eastern Upstate NY attendee. We need to at least quadruple that number next year–start your conference fund NOW!


And then we are in conference mode. Poor Lin Oliver, she was suffering with a horrible tooth ache, but you’d never know it. Such a trooper!

Every year the faculty lines up to introduce themselves and they are each responsible for shouting out one word that is representative of them at the LA conference. Here were some of my favorite words…





preparation (the H is silent)






flip flops


These words and my experiences over the conference always help me to come up with my own word or words as a takeaway. So watch for that in my last recap post.

And you can’t forget Lin’s Conference Stats. No Conference is complete without them…

*1173 Attendees

*437 Published

*736 Pre-published

*19 Countries in attendance

*48 States

          -This year we were missing West Virginia and New Hampshire.

There were also 225 different occupations listed on applications…


*car pool coordinator


*VP of transformation

*event planner


*opera singer

*bonsai artist

*incentives manager for Victoria’s Secret

and my personal favorite…

*International small arms dealer–mostly doll arms LOL! 

You’ve got to love us wacky children’s writers.

The first Keynote of the conference was with the legendary Mem Fox: INSIDE THE WRITER’S HEAD–THE WRITERLY THOUGHTS THAT LEAD TO SUCCESS. 



If her rich voice and hilarious expressions weren’t enough, Mem also shared tons of wonderful and inspirational information with us. Here were my favorite bits of advice and encouragement…

*Adults love soggy sentimentality that makes kids want to throw up.

*Timeless books arise from genuine events that touch the author, not necessarily sadness.

*When writing picture books she keeps four children in mind…

          -One on her lap

          -One on the couch

          -One in bed

          -And the rest in the classroom.

*Mem WANTS to write books that kids don’t completely understand. She’s not here to keep kids trapped in familiar language.

*I can kindle a love of language or I can kill it.

*Rhythm is in the marrow of your bones if you’re a picture book writer. Often books are written as if word choice doesn’t matter–rhythm matters.

*Without the right words, the death of a book is imminent, which gives new meaning to the end.

Next up was the Editor’s Panel.

AWAlison Weiss (Sky Pony Press)

SSSara Sargent (HarperCollins)

RMRotem Moscovich (Disney-Hyperion)

AJAllyn Johnston (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)

JSGJulie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton/Penguin-Random House)

JBJordan Brown (Balzer+Bray/Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins)

Moderator: WLWendy Loggia (Delacort/Penguin Random House)


I’ve heard MANY editor panels over my years of attending conferences, this one was very, very good. Lots of laughs, information, support and tough love. Here are the highlights…

WL–Dream Submissions?

SS–Fantasy–think escapism, swoony, transportive.

RM–Send me your awesome things.

AJ–Fresh take on universal themes. I want goosebumps. I want to read it again. Lots of room for illustrations.

JB–Character. We are doing our best work when we are expanding the reader’s capacity for empathy.

AW–Something that shakes up my own perspective.

JSG–Sense of humor.

Other bits of wisdom I jotted down…

JSG–I admire risk–even if it falls apart. I’m willing to work with that. It speaks to ambition.

JB–On the flip side, envy can be a powerful and useful emotion.


Time for our first Workshop of the conference. SMALL PRESSES: THOUGH THEY BE SMALL THEY BE FIERCE with Alison Weiss (Sky Pony Press), Rana DiOrio (Little Pickle Press) and Emma Dryden.

This was awesome new information for me. I haven’t had a ton of small press exposure. Here are some of the things I learned…

*Small presses are very collaborative and involved with their authors.

*Accessibility–you know who is touching your book.

*Small presses think outside the box with how they market.

*They are often very involved with unique collaborations that are very helpful for their books.


And now that I’m full, it’s back to work LOL!



And here is some of her random awesome…

*The hilarious writers say they get their ideas from Cleveland.

*A novel is a sort of concentrated version of who a person is. A bullion cube of sensibility.

*We want novels to feel like an approximation of life.

*If you know what preoccupies you, then you know what to write. Write what obsesses you.

*Self censorship is to be avoided–write as if everyone you know is dead.

*Write the book that reflects who you are when no one else is looking.

*The world will whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should.



LOVE THIS…There should be picture books for every age. It’s not a form that people should grow out of.


Next was another workshop with Wendy Loggia–FINDING YOUR YA VOICE

*I think it’s possible to hone a voice that’s authentic to you and captures your reader.

*Voice is the first thing I look for and it’s non-negotiable.

*I know I’m reading something good when I’m swept away and not thinking about the author.


Oh boy–sorry to interrupt this workshop with a critique. This was my first LA crit–I was looking for a little guidance on an unusual project I’ve been messing around with. Just so you know, Bonnie Bader was super awesome and helped me so much.


*Establishing multiple voices is HARD!

*What sets Delacorte apart? We do our own editing.


This was a GREAT panel!!!!



MBMartha Brockenbrough

MCMike Curato

SLStacey Lee

LNLori Nichols

ASAnna Shinoda

Moderator LWLee Wind

Across the board, every single person on this panel was persistent, putting in years of effort and hard work to cross into success. My biggest take away was there are no short cuts. Here are some of their best bits of advice…

SL–On attending an SCBWI conference…I felt as if I owed it to my story to go.

MB–Family comes first, but you shouldn’t be making sandwiches when you can be making stories.

MB–There is always a moving target in publishing–what satisfies us are the meaningful relationships.

MB–Resistance makes you stronger.

LW–The pressure is making us diamonds! #sparkleandshine

MC–It should ultimately be a joyful process.

MB–Just finish the draft–it’s got to be finished.

After a full day of conference fun, there was the PAL bookstore where I adopted a whole bunch of baby dragons!!!


And–because I love you–I bought an extra signed copy of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN by Jodi Moore for a special giveaway.


Coming… September 1, 2015 from Flashlight Press

A dragon friend understands the ups and downs of becoming a big brother

Preparations are in full swing to welcome a new family member in this sequel to the award-winning When a Dragon Moves In. A young boy has become a big brother and he and his beloved dragon dedicate themselves to entertaining the little baby. But when the drooling, crying baby somehow charms the dragon and his attention, the boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business. Adult readers will see the dragon as the boy’s alter ego—eager to cuddle with the new baby before the boy himself feels quite ready, then as a conduit to the boy’s acceptance of the baby, and finally as kindred spirit with whom the boy can commiserate. Younger readers will love the boy’s wonderful, though perhaps invisible, dragon friend who helps him be a good big brother.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please spread the word about the contest if–I’d love to see this dragon find a wonderful new home. And watch for the rest of my conference recap blogs coming next week. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




The 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

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

I’m back with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Conference recap. You can find Part 1 HERE. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am extra tired because I stayed up too late talking to my fabulous roommate Jodi Moore talking about her newest dragon book!!!





An unexpected perk of the conference was a chance to get a sneak peek at Jodi’s new Dragon Baby–WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN


Illustration courtesy of Flashlight Press

It’s bad enough that the new baby takes up Mom’s lap and Dad’s time. But
when this tiny, drooly, stinky, crying newborn somehow charms the dragon, the
boy decides he’s had enough of this baby business. Is there room in the castle
for three? Find out When a Dragon Moves In Again.

Sequel to the award-winning When a Dragon Moves In

Can’t wait for the Fall to bring this Dragon home <3

Jodi and her Dragon weren’t the only people we were celebrating on Sunday morning. The day kicked off with the Awards Presentations…




Congrats to all the illustrators who won awards. Your work is gorgeous.

IMG_6489 IMG_6490

And Sana accepts the Mid-List Author award from Jane Yolen who credits her with being a force in bringing diversity to our children’s books.


We also got to sing Happy Birthday to Jane. <3


And celebrate with Caldecott winner Dan Santat even if he wasn’t in the room.

We’ll catch him in person in LA. But until then, here’s how proud we are of Dan…

And we can’t forget to thank the SCBWI staff that makes these conferences happen…


They are the BEST!

The first Keynote of the day was by another amazing author/illustrator…The Making of a Picture Book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger


I was blown away by her, her process and her books. Laura talked about having a notebook to capture your stream of consciousness. And she shared her notebooks with us. I loved this beginning…


Laura also reminded us that when making a concept book, there is always story–there is depth. She kick started so many ideas for me and she opened my eyes to how to see picture book writing in a completely different way. Take a look at her award winning book Green…


The next Keynote was James Dashner–Writing Commercial Fiction.


James was a funny guy. He started off his speech like Letterman with a top 10 List.



But between the jokes he had some serious and helpful stuff to share. He reminded us that even though he’s the author of The Maze Runner, which was recently made into a movie, it wasn’t so long ago that he was sitting where we were. He went to college to become an accountant and hated it. He struggled as a new author with a small press and a kinda weird cover. But you should never give up because…

*The Maze Runner was rejected the first time it went out.

*Sometimes it is about lucky breaks, but if you quit you won’t get the chance to enjoy them.

He also told us…

*He never takes his success for granted because he could have been stuck in a job he hated.

*And it might be helpful to use a title that guarantees success–like Harry Potter and the Divergent Games of Hunger. ROTFL!


And there is nothing else I can say that’s better than that. *grin* But what I can tell you about next is the Keynote Agent’s Panel: Charting Charting Your Career Path.


BG–Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)

JL–Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

TW–Tina Wexler (International Creative Management)

Moderated by BB–Brenda Bowen

Here’s some golden nuggets from the agents:

BG–On career: This is not a speed race. If everything goes right I get to be your agent for 30, 40, 50 years.

JL–Illustrators need to have a centrally located online portfolio.

BG–There is no call I fear more than the one when a client says they’ve quit their job. This is not a job you get into with the intention of supporting your family.

TW–If you are writing with your heart you are writing with your passion. You are not writing to pay the bills.

BG–Don’t query with a rhetorical question or in your characters voice.

BG–If you find yourself tracking your Amazon ranking more than five times a day, you have a problem.


The last Keynote of the conference was Kwame Alexander talking about Dancing Naked on the Floor: How to say Yes to the Writerly Life


Just this week Kwame won the Newbery!!!! After hearing him speak and then reading his work on the train home I know exactly why he won. He is amazing! Here is some of what he inspired us with…

*I didn’t have money, but what I did have was poetry.

*Children’s authors make our living on school visits. We don’t get paid too much by publishers.

*I wanted to write words that elevated, inspired, informed, and uplifted people.

*This writing life is not about sitting in a room with your pencil and paper. You’ve got to get out into the world.

*Need a community around you of truthtellers to keep you on track.

*CROSSOVER was rejected more than 20 times by publishers. Kwame Alexander almost self-published it. It just won the Newbery award.

*When the NO’s come they’re getting out of the way for the Yes’. You can’t let other people’s NO’s define your Yes’.

*You can’t have a dream come true if you don’t have a dream and you can’t write a book if you’re not writing.

*Sit on it.  WAIT–Kwame Alexander didn’t say that. The Fonz did!!!


WE got a surprise visit from the one and only Henry Winkler. He was adorable because he was as blown away as the rest of us by Kwame. But he did tell us that we must teach our children where they are great, not where we think they should go. And he also said he has a new mantra which is…I’m going to try. And I think everyone ended the conference inspired and with that very same mantra.

But before we left, we got to get our books signed…

IMG_0322 IMG_0332


This year’s Newbery winner, Kwame Alexander.


Anthony Horowitz

IMG_0335 IMG_0337

Laura Vaccaro Seeger


Herve Tullet


And James Dashner

And then it’s back home in time for a bit more snow…


Thanks so much for reliving the 2015 NY SCBWI Conference with me. If you attended, who was your favorite speaker and if you didn’t, who would you have most loved to meet? Hope to see you in NY next year–the Lobby Rats are looking for new friends.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




The 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference Part 1

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface

I dropped the boys at school.

I brought the puppy to Canine Kindergarten.

And then I made the great escape…

I was off to the 2015 SCBWI NY Winter Conference. I was giddy by the time I sat my butt on the train, because with the holidays, and the puppy and the boys and the snow, I was ready to get away. I needed a weekend where I focused on friends, writing and inspiration. Not to mention about 48 hours where the only person I have to clean up after was ME.

Settling into my seat on the train, I glanced out the window, saw a gorgeous American Bald Eagle in the tree, and then cracked open a book. You can all give a pleasurable sigh right along with me. *sigh* And then, as if good karma was touching me on the head with her magic finger, my hotel room was ready and I was off to meet my fabulous agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary for lunch. (In case you’re wondering, Michelle is currently opened to queries, but be sure to follow the guidelines on her website.)


My favorite picture of us <3

And here are some of the treats she brought for me…


Illusions of Fate by Kirsten White.


Two of The Maggie Malone Books by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans.


The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney.


And a coveted ARC of The Big Fix by Linda Grimes!!!!


And here’s the new cover in case you’re wondering. OMG! I love it.

*does a happy dance* I can not wait to read them all!!!

Toting my cache, warm from Michelle Wolfson hugs, it was back to the hotel in time to meet up with all my friends. Some had done the Intensives and some were just arriving in NYC.

*Drum roll please* because it’s time to get to the stuff you really want to hear about…


It isn’t a conference if we don’t have Lin Oliver‘s conference statistics:


* 1,032 attendees

* From 47 states. Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and North Dakota were missing–come on people–we need you there!

* There were people in attendance from 16 different countries *fist pump* With NY being the largest chunk of the pie followed by CA, MA and then NJ. Lin called the NJ folks out on their driving skills LOL!

* 32% of attendees are published and 375 folks were our talented illustrators.

* Start planning now so you can be in one of those seats next year!

The first Keynote of the conference was by Anthony Horowitz–Grabbing Young Readers From First Line to Last


Just so you know, Anthony had an amazing British accent, so if I’m going to be truthful, the whole audience would have let him read the phone book and still enjoyed his keynote LOL! But he WAS an amazing speaker. His rapid fire jokes and insights had everyone listening and laughing. Here are some highlights…

* He spent lots of time in the boarding school library because that was the only place he felt safe and secure.

*The end of a chapter should never be an excuse to stop reading.

*At one point in his career he was worried his grave stone would read BIG in Belgium LOL!

*Harry Potter changed EVERYTHING!

*Writers are arsonists–setting the world on fire is their natural default.

*Children don’t just read books–they devour them.

*The first line is the thing the kids will read in the store.

*Write up for kids.

*I am a camera-kids are bombarded with images, your words need to create strong images that keep their attention.

*Writing is telepathy-if you’re excited about what you’re writing, chances are that you’ll have readers excited too.


Next up was the Keynote Editor’s Panel: Children’s Books 2015–Report From the Front Lines

JC–Justin Chanda (VP and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

BH–Beverly Horowitz (VP and Publisher, Delacorte Press)

LG–Laura Goodwin (VP and Publisher, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)

SOL–Stephanie Owens Lurie (Associate Publisher, Disney-Hyperion)



Just some highlights from the discussion…

JC–Adult sales are flat and children’s are up! *fist pump* BUT…teen sales are up on a handful of authors, but not the majority. And FYI the movie industry has a lot to do with that.

Ummm anyone want to make a blockbuster movie about TOUCHING THE SURFACE?

JC–Contemporary is not the only thing kids want to read.

JC–The picture book is NOT dead!

JC–Continued upswing in MG.

JC–reminder that the business is cyclical.

JC–Common Core has not killed fiction.

JC–We write and publish good books and let everyone else, especially the media, take care of themselves.

BH–Write a great book and people will talk about it.

LG–There is an ongoing battle with piracy.

LG–Social media has allowed our mouths to reach more people and allowed authors to be advocates for each other’s books. <3

SOL–A Nielsen’s survey says kids prefer physical books.

SOL–Smaller books can easily get elbowed out.

SOL–It’s difficult to break out new authors.

SOL–The biggest disruption to a writer (trying to write) is from the fans seeking their time and attention on social media.

SOL–There is a correlation between and author’s tweets and sales (but that doesn’t mean annoying buy my book tweets. Talking about fan interaction style tweets)

SOL–Think about more than “how do I get my book published” and focus on “how I can get my work to an audience.”

JC–Social media is great, but you have nothing if you don’t have a strong story. Focus on that.

JC–YA and MG have very different social media.

JC–When you’re looking for a publisher, they should be a home–a partnership. They should be someone who shares your vision but isn’t telling you what your vision is.

JC–I don’t really like publishing books–I like publishing authors and illustrators. <3

Time for the AM Workshop! Writing Young Adult Fiction with Liz Tingue (Editor, Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers Group)


Some highlights from the Workshop…

*Read a lot and not just in YA.

*Have a social media presence that’s comfortable for you, but does not interfere with you getting your writing done.

*KNOW your characters inside and out.

*If you’re writing in 1st person it should come to you in a strong and organic way.

*Utilize maps and outlines for plot and  structure but don’t be afraid to stray from them.

*Get a supportive critique group and get comfortable with tough love.

*Persevere when the going gets tough, but don’t be afraid to walk away from a project if it’s just not working.

After a yummy break for lunch, it was time for my afternoon Workshop with Emily Clement (Associate Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic Inc.) Writing Literary Ficiton.


This was a fabulous workshop. Best I’ve been to for explaining what literary fiction really means. In truth it has different connotations for different people. If you think literary fiction is dense, slow and boring, you’re probably reading writing that is UNSUCCESSFULLY trying to be literary.

Literary fiction is not about content–it’s about quality. It’s entertaining, but it’s also something more.

*Literary fiction needs to be about something that readers want to talk about because it engages them on an intellectual and emotional level.

*Readers of literary fiction crave authentic and original voice.

*Good writing without a plot is BORING not literary.


*Literary books are stories that break the rules and do not fit neatly inside their genres.

Time for another Keynote. This one Beyond Language: Creating Picture Books That are Read and Played by Herve Tullet


I’m going to be honest–it’s hard to explain Herve Tullet. He is not your typical keynote speaker. His favorite word is HA! Which is the reaction he wants from his readers when they explore his books. He believes it’s the most exciting thing when he can illicit that word from someone else.

Ideally I would have videotaped Herve interacting with the audience, as he guided us through his brilliant books, the way he does when he meets with children. But that’s not allowed, so this is the best I can do to capture the magic.


You must go out and buy his books and share them with children. <3


The last Keynote of the day was Kami Garcia talking about The Truth About Writing.


Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of notes because I was so caught up in Kami’s speech.. Suffice it to say she’s a hard working, funny lady with a big heart. I adored how her and her writing partner Margaret Stohl filled a void, empowered girls, set a fabulous standard for boys and the whole time stayed super connected to the teens they were writing for. One of the most fascinating parts of the story was their journey to publication. Kami doubts they would have been brave enough to do it the same way if they’d been purposefully trying to publish. And it was also “good” to hear, that despite her incredible success, Kami gets as nervous and insecure as we do every time she’s writing something new.

Kami was also nice enough to sign a copy of her book and make a video message for my friend Jeannie who’s a HUGE fan and couldn’t make the conference. How cool is that?IMG_0299

The rest of the evening included an Art Browse, where everyone had a chance to check out the gorgeous portfolios of the illustrators attending the conference. This was followed by the Gala Dinner where you could find me in my favorite spot…

FullSizeRender 2


After the Gala there was also several socials for LGBTQ, illustrators, new members/first time conference attendees and international attendees. And of course there is always the unofficial group of “Lobby Rats” that hangs out and talks half the night away. This wasn’t all the rats, we’re a large and transitory group, but this pic captured a bunch of us.


The wonderful part of this is that some of the Lobby Rats have been doing this for years and some we just met for the first time that very evening.

If you’re thinking about coming to next year’s conference and you’re worried about not knowing anyone, know you can always contact me and we’ll make sure you have friends to eat with and buddies to hang out with. Worrying about being alone should NEVER be a reason not to come to the NY conference!!!  

I’m kind of thinking we should get Lobby Rats T-shirts. What do you think? SCBWI Lobby Rat? 


And we now have the unofficial and very weird NY SCBWI Lobby Rats mascot, which was dressed up as Harry Potter this year. The costume kind of make it less creepy–but not much ROTFL!


And some Lobby Rats are RA’s who have work to do and missed the photo. Love you, Stacy Mozer and thanks for all you do for the SCBWI. (((((hugs)))))

I’ll be back on Thursday with the second half of the 2015 NY SCBWI Winter Conference recap. But in the mean time, I desperately need to know your favorite toppings on your mashed potatoes. Mine are mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese and chives. *grin*

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




Security Creates Sleepy Hamsters, Fuel for Publishing Adventures and Friendships

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Check-it-out, Community, Family, Pondering, Publishing, SCBWI, The Class of 2k12, Wolfson Literary, Writing

In August as the end of the summer drifted away and the impending doom of school lay before my boys, I noticed my 11yo become increasingly more anxious. He’d had a rough time with an abrupt school transition at the end of last year. And now there seemed to be a residual fear haunting him. So, I caved and got him the hamster he’d wanted for the last year. Part distraction and part incentive to stay positive, it did the trick. Perhaps sometimes all you need in life is someone who understands your secrets and shares a few of their own. There is security in friendship.



But once the 9yo laid eyes on the 11yo’s Blueberry Dwarf Hamster, he started saving for one of his own. And because I loved little Fredrick so much, I said what the heck–we went to get the next little furry friend on Sunday. This hamster is keeping me on my toes. This tiny, big-eared, baby girl name Herbie is a handful and she’s made me very nervous.

photo 10

First she was so shy, burrowing and disappearing for hours and I was sure she wasn’t eating or drinking anything. And she was soooo tiny, I thought for sure she was still nursing or too young to take home. I called the pet store and they reassured me she was old enough. I kept trying all kinds of things to help her feel comfortable. Then we gave her a chunk of apple. It was if she awoke from a deep slumber. She started eating and running. Not just a few trips around the wheel. I’m talking about almost TWELVE hours of running. Herbie is certainly the Louie Zamperini of hamsters.  No wonder she’s so skinny LOL! But the more she ran, even during the day when she should be sleeping, the more I worried. Hamster with OCD? Run, Eat, Clean, Small Hamster Nap on the Wheel–Repeat. So, last night after the 9yo was loving on her–I “rescued” the little imp and while I was teaching my boy more about her, I held her in my hand while stroking her head. When I looked back down…

photo 11


She was sound asleep. And I realized something very important. Sometimes we all need to feel secure. Challenges and hardships are how we move forward. Change is how we arrive at the better new things we’re usually too afraid to venture out towards. But in the middle of change and challenge–sometimes we just need a few moments to feel secure. This is true with writing for publication. Returning to a manuscript again and again without knowing if it will ever find a home is a lot like running non-stop on a hamster wheel. Am I really gong somewhere? And if you really do “arrive”–I’m here to tell you that as happy as I was to be dropped in the Habitrail of Simon & Schuster, it was confusing and scary and at times immensely overwhelming. But there were people who made me feel secure along the way. I’m fortunate, there were many of them, but I am particularly grateful to my family, my agent Michelle Wolfson, my editor Anica Rissi, the SCBWI and my fellow debut authors from the Class of 2k12 and the Apocalypsies. They fed me small bits of advice and chocolate and smoothed my fears when my heart was racing. They talked me off the wheel when I was a little bit excitable and just couldn’t stop myself.

And then let’s talk about “internet security,” but with a twist. Lets face it, publishing success and horror stories are easily accessible online–only a google search away. And the truth is that sometimes the good stories can mess with your head just as much as the scary ones can. We tend to be creatures of comparison, jealousy and insecurity at the worst of times. Be careful what you expose yourself to. I encourage you to use those resources to be well informed and learn things that will make you a better writer. I want you to read books and articles and interviews that will allow you to be inspired daily. Having access to that is a gift. But watch what you take in and what it’s consumption does to you. It’s important to find the people and places that make you feel secure. Surround yourself with people who care. They might not always get everything right, but more often than not they do. You’re not always looking for the person who speaks hamster, but rather the one who cares enough to try and understand.

Lots of great things can happen for people who have enough moments of security in their lives. Those special moments fuel the tank for adventure, create friendships and allow uptight hamsters to take a little nap. But even more important, you just can’t begin to imagine where those moments of security will lead you.

photo 8

I hope you find my blog a small, hamster-sized space of security that helps you get through all your adventures. I know that when you show up here, it certainly makes me feel like I can close my eyes for just a little bit and dream easy. Thanks for being a friend and follower. <3

Tags: , , , ,




Why the SCBWI Works–It’s Not Head Count, It’s Heart Count

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Family, Pondering, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

I’ve been thinking a lot about the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) lately. Okay–I always think a lot about the SCBWI. Type #scbwi into my blog and you’ll find post after post about how this group has been an instrumental part of my growth and development as a writer. But you’ll also see posts describing how my tribe has given me a safe place to fall and supportive hands to push me forward when I’m weak and insecure. I love this group.

Simultaneously, I’ve also been pondering the state of the world around me. And one of the things I’m seeing is an increase in adult bullies. It’s in the news–countries bullying countries. Religious, racial and political terror grows like weeds. There are bullies in corporations, schools and neighborhoods. Sometimes it even comes from the people who are teaching our children how to be kind. Our supposed leaders. It makes my head spin.

But my personal response, to what I often consider an epic wave of ugliness, is to be the leader I want to see in the world. Some days I’m more successful than others. But even when I’m at my best, my world has a small footprint. And that is what has me thinking about why the SCBWI works so well and is so loved by it’s tribe members. It’s a safe place. As big as it’s grows, it remains a family like institution where we are encouraged to look after the person to our  left and the person to our right. When you allow yourself to be close to people and to care about them in a very personal way, your small footprint overlaps with their small footprint and a clear picture begins to emerge.


This TED talk is a little on the long side, but well worth a few extra moments of your time. It’s amazing–one of my favorites.


The SCBWI is a great institution because it has great leaders, but I feel it’s an amazing institution because those leaders encourage everyone to step into the circle of safety and add their footstep–to be a leader in their own way. We continue to grow, not because of our head count, but rather because of our heart count.

If you aren’t a member already, put your best foot forward and join our circle of safety.



Tags: , , , , , , , ,




Bonus Post for the 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Coming Home

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Dancing, SCBWI

I promised you a little Bonus Post to finish off my 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference recap.

#LA14SCBWI Part 1

#LA14SCBWI Part 2

#LA14SCBWI Part 3

Do you have your dancing shoes on? You’re going to need them. *grin*

There is always some “interesting” things happening on a fully booked flight from NY to LA or back again. This is especially true on the way home when you leave the hotel at 5:45 in the morning. I was tired enough to sleep the whole way home, but of course my jet lagged, hyped up on caffeine, inspired mind wouldn’t turn off–so I wrote and revised almost the whole time. But there was also another  little nugget of happiness that I discovered while getting ready for take off on Virgin America

LOVED this!!! Even found some of my SYTYCD favorites in the safety video. <3 A *fist pump* to Virgin America for being innovative and keeping my attention. Well done!

And while a quirky little video isn’t going to make the flight from LA to NY any quicker, it certainly put a smile on my face. Hope you enjoyed it too.

photo 36 photo 37 photo 38 photo 35


I’ll be back next week with some brand new posts. What have you been up to while I’ve been conferencing? What other companies or repetitive messages would you like to see be as creative as Virgin America? Were you dancing in your seat?

Tags: , , , , ,




The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 3 Sunday

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

And we are winding down to the last day of the 2014 LA SCBWI Conference. And the jet lag is starting to lose it’s steam, so of course I arrange for an early morning Class of 2k12 mini breakfast reunion with Suzanne Lazear (The Aether Chronicles) and Caroline Starr Rose (May B and Blue Birds). It was worth every yawn to have some quality time with my girls. <3 This is my public service announcement for the day: My class of 2k12 friends were indispensable to me for the last three years. If you are slotted for debut publication, seriously consider becoming part of the Class of’s Contact me if you need help finding contacts in the up and coming groups. I’ll help you figure it out.



The official morning started off with Deborah Halverson and her always helpful Market Report. Besides the who, what, when, where and why of the children’s book market being incredibly dynamic, she provided us with an amazing handout…


photo 30

Just another fabulous benefit of being an SCBWI member and attending these awesome conferences. *fist pump* Time to join people–this organization is fabulous and means the world to me. Here is what you should know…

*Up-swing in picture books

*Increased demand for highly illustrated early chapter books.

*In response to Common Core:

-Not a lot of acquisition changes. Same quality books–just might market them differently.

-Eye out for subject matter that touches multiple areas. The more hooks the better.

*Diversity projects are increasing but editors are looking for approaches that are not stereotypical or heavy handed.

*MG is finally coming into it’s own–promising place for single tittles.

*The bar is very high with books like WONDER but there are varying needs within this audience.

*MG is allows slow growth over several years. 2-3 year projections while YA is more likely to be evaluated in a quick splash.

*YA possibly over saturated. Editors being picky.

*Popular, established authors are getting sales.

*Trilogy is slowly dying.


*Contemporary realistic fiction getting a bump.

*YA lovers continue reading after aging out.


Next up was an amazing Keynote with Linda Sue Park–THE HOW OF IT: MAKING EVERY WORD COUNT


This presentation was the PERFECT combination of technically useful and emotionally inspirational. LSP is hard to beat, she is a master of craft and emotionally dedicated to her work. Here is what you should know…

*Don’t bore the editor–you want then to hang on your every word so make every word count.

*How? Use the tools of the writing craft–WORDS!

*Small changes make huge differences.

*ALWAYS put your finished MS away for several weeks before you send it out. Look at it again with fresh eyes.

*Use the word count function and whittle down your words slowly.

-Pick your best words and put them in the best order.

*Change your font, it will help you see your MS differently.

*Print your work out and read it in a different location–some place you don’t usually write.

*Read your work aloud from beginning to end or have someone read it to you.

*Words have become one of our cheapest currencies because of technology and social media, so it’s even more important that we value our words.

*An adult is never going to love and reread books the way they will when they fall in love with a book as a child–our books have to be worthy of being ready more than 62 times. (Daniel) <3



Our next Keynote was by Sharon Flake–WALKING WOUNDED: HOW TO KEEP WRITING AFTER YOU’VE HIT THE WALL. Her best take aways were…

*”Magic” can give you a false sense of confidence.

*Kids need to know that there is more than one way to be a human being.

*Remember it’s in you to make it through.

*I love writing so much that even when it didn’t feel good I kept going.

*It’s about being a connection.


My first Workshop of the day was with Bonnie Bader–LEVELED READERS AND TRANSITIONAL CHAPTER BOOKS.

As a mom and a former special education teacher I really wanted to make some sense of this area that always seems so inconsistent and confusing to me. I walked away with a very good understanding of how these books work or don’t work and how difficult they are to write. I feel like they are a sudoku puzzle for children’s writers LOL! I think when I get a little extra time on my hands I might play around with the sight word list a little bit and see if I’m any good at it. If you see me with chunks of my hair pull out, you’ll know what I was doing.

Time for the Golden Kite Luncheon!!!!!

photo 34


This is when we honor the outstanding members of our tribe. This year’s Member of the Year was Ellen Hopkins for her above and beyond service to the SCBWI and it’s tribe members. Love her! We also celebrated our Golden Kite winners.



Peter Brown–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Illustration



Pat Zietlow Miller–Golden Kite Winner for Picture Book Text



David Meissner–Golden Kite Winner for Non-fiction



Tim Federle–Golden Kite Winner for Fiction



And Bill Konigsberg–winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award

Each of these award winning tribe members gave amazing, funny and inspirational speeches. Best crop of award winners I’ve heard as a whole. I left lunch full, inspired and motivated. Can’t wait to read their books!!!!!


My afternoon Workshop was with Bruce Coville–NO BUT SERIOUSLY, THE ART AND CRAFT OF WRITING A SERIES

Sorry no picture–we got right down to business and there was a lot to learn. One of the great things for me at the conference was that I was able to take some very interesting classes on new topics I’d never explored before. As a regular conference attendee, this made me very happy.

Here are a few tips about series writing from Bruce who has 15 series under his belt…

*Show up at your desk–when you are doing your work you will maintain a certain level of competence in your writing and some times you will be lucky enough to rise above your own abilities.

*Two most important times of creativity are coming in and out of sleep–use them to your advantage.

*Always go for royalties because you are betting on yourself–the 1st Hardy Boys book (with a packager) the author made $150 Doh!

*Craft without inspiration is basket weaving. Inspiration without craft is modern art. *insert Bruce giggle here*

*An outline is not an impediment to creativity.

-Bruce’s tend to be front heavy

-They never end the way he planned and that’s ok

*If you want to explore a world or character with more depth than one book–a series is the way to go.

*Conclude a story but throw in an unresolved cord.

*Create your bible.

-prevents contradictions

-tells what the world is gong to be

-characters, side kicks and bad guys



-Show you are taking your work seriously

*Writing for a packager is a great way to hone your craft–you should always write a book better than what they are expecting.

*Problems with a series:

-consistent deadlines

-keeping it fresh

-keeping it consistent (BIBLE)

-getting important info to the people who haven’t read the previous books

-topping yourself

-knowing when to stop

*Our lives are series non-fiction <3


I told you I’d have more Tomie!!! We were still able to do his interview with Lin Oliver via Skype <3


IMG_6402 IMG_6403


His bits of wisdom and love…


*Being an artist is also the way you live your life.

*When you create your art–be prepared to be misunderstood.

And then after feeling like I had the biggest, warmest pep talk from my SCBWI Yoda/Grandpa–Judy Blume stepped onto the stage for an inspirational send off…

IMG_6416 IMG_6413 IMG_6410

* I was far from a courageous child–except in my head.

*I was brave in my writing the way I wasn’t in my life.

*Judy’s take away word from the conference is FOCUS.

*Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try–get angry not depressed!

*Determination is as important as talent.

*It doesn’t ever get easier–persist.

*Ideas come from everywhere and you never know when they will arrive.

*Kick the critic off of one shoulder and the sensor off the other. Sometimes you just have to write a book and not worry about who is going to read it.

As if this wasn’t enough, Judy shared with us the ups and downs of a project she’s currently working on and how she would also be leaving the conference inspired to go back to her work. Just like me–just like everyone else in that room who had the pleasure of hearing one of our greatest idols speak.

After a long and powerful standing ovation for Judy, Lin Oliver closed with this…

“We picked a very difficult and challenging road–it’s so much better that we walk down it together–hand in hand and arm and arm.”

My Tribe–I am grateful. <3

photo 31

Yes, I photo bombed Meg Medina LOL!


But then Jodi and I gave her hugs so she didn’t mind.


Chatting with Bruce Coville–he’s such a hoot! Always love his advice.


Me and Bruce Coville <3


Like Aaron Becker and Journey and Journey says…Don’t stop believing.


Fan girling over Maggie Stiefvater–helping me solve for X.


Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and Stink fame.


Love her–she’s fabulously hilarious.

photo 32

Judy Schachner or Miss Judy as my 9yo likes to call her–signing her newest, adorable Bits & Pieces.

photo 33

Judy talking picture books with Jodi Moore author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. I want a collaboration–when Skippy Joh Jones moves in with my favorite Dragon.

And then it was over. Dinner with friends while talking about three days worth of awesomeness. Hugs goodbye. Suitcases packed and the pull to find your way home to family and the page where you left off in your own writing…

photo 29


Hope you are as inspired as I still am over a week later. And my fingers are crossed that you enjoyed my conference recaps. See you on Thursday with a little conference bonus post before I put LA away until next year. <3


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




The 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference–Part 2 Saturday

Filed under: Community, Conferences, Dancing, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

And I’m back!!!! And the answer to yesterday’s 2014 LA SCBWI 43rd Annual Summer Conference cliff hanger is that jet lag won again!!!! I WAS BACK UP AT 5 FREAKING 30 IN THE MORNING!!!!! *head thunk* On a positive note, I spent my extra two hours brainstorming my WIP’s while lying in my cozy bed. But that meant I didn’t get out of my room any earlier and this time the Starbucks line was too long to wait on. With a low caffeine and food gauge, I headed to the breakfast kiosk in the lobby where they were out of breakfast sandwiches for the next 5-10 minutes. (Not my lucky morning) With my face half melting off, I glanced back over at the ever lengthening Starbucks line and decided to wait. #teamkiosk I figured I’d purchase my fruit, coffee and my slower than slow sandwich NOW–and then while I drank my coffee and munched on my nectarine, I’d wait patiently for my breakfast sandwich to arrive. Grab and go. No. I was told there would be no coffee until my sandwich arrived. That’s how they did things. What? Obviously that had never met the likes of me before. *snort* I smiled and explained how my method would be so much more efficient and friendly and yummy and caffeinated. And they marveled at my brilliance and my witty banter and I drank my coffee and waited for my yummy sandwich while making friends with all the other people lusting for breakfast sandwiches. We really bonded. It was fabulous. <3

And despite the wait, I was blessedly on time for the first Keynote of the day.



Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster) THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

He is an incredible speaker–funny, practical, informative, optimistic, realistic and just plain enjoyable to listen to. Here’s what you need to know…

*We are all in this together.

*Printed things on paper have not been eradicated…and drones are not delivering our books…yet. LOL!

*It’s a cyclical business.

*There is something BIG and NEW in YA–CRF (Contemporary Realistic Fiction) HaHa! It was just “discovered” in the last five years. #trends

*trends are unpredictable–undeniable– and you can not write to them.


*JC predicts YA is going to scale back, but ultimately this is a good thing because the market is saturated and the glut is preventing books from being marketed correctly.

*There is lots of room for books that speak to the true experience of middle graders.

*Great rise in gender neutral books.

*The market for PB’s seems to be strong.

-not enough shelf space for a HUGE resurgence

-PB’s are 1% of book sales

-focus is on 5-6 year olds

-humor is doing well

-strong identifiable characters resonate

*APPS are not books.

*On Common Core: When the next wave of educational stuff comes along we’ll still be buying good books because good books hit the mark without trying.

*No one goes into publishing to get rich–we are here for bigger things.

*We are experts at bringing books and stories to kids. The book comes first.

*We are writers–we need to write–social media and marketing is important but it doesn’t trump story telling.

*There are always readers outside of trends.

See…I told you he was fabulous.



Next up was the Agent’s Panel: WHAT HOOKS ME

SD-Sarah Davies (Greenhouse)

SM-Steve Malk (Writer’s House)

EM-Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Lit)

AP-Alexandra Penfold (upstart)

RP-Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeeffer Content)

LP-Linda Pratt (Warnick & Pratt)

LR-Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown)



LO–What hooks you?

AP-I want books that make me feel. Books that are as smart as the kids who read them.

EM-AUTHENTICITY. I don’t want to feel the hand of the author pushing.

SM-Reinventing and layering a fresh point of view over a classic.

SD-AMBITION. Not for money. But someone who works hard and has big ideas. They want to be the master of their craft.

RP-POTENTIAL. I want to make contact with a character that can bring me into their world . Details can be fixed later.

LR-Characrter drive, page turning, emotionally powerful. The exploration of universals in unique ways.

PL-INTRIGUE. Make me feel like THIS character should exist.

     -Also wants a professional cover letter.

LO-Tell us about cover letters?  

LP-A line or two that verifies you’ve done your homework. Followed by a brief summary of what your work is about. Add credentials at the end but leave out the “my kids love it.”

-Avoid comparisons to books that are too big. Comp titles are good to have but use them wisely.

SM-They bring the professionalism. Take it seriously and don’t sell yourself short. Proves your investment

EM-It helps the agent get the bigger picture of you and your potential career.

LR-Reading for a sense of the person behind the story. But remember the process of querying is like dating so don’t over share your scary stuff on the first date. :o)

AP-Don’t over promise and under deliver. Did you say what you meant to say.

SD-Calm down–it’s okay–it points the way to the writing. And writing a pitch is an art–so practice.

LO-How do you see your role when you take on a new client?

RP-I wear many hats–particularly what the client will benefit from the most.

EM-I’ll ask you to revise because it’s a skill and if you don’t have the skill, I can’t talk you up to editors.

SD-Revision–if the bar can be raised–it’s better for the sale.

 -I want to guarantee at the point of submission that we took that MS out as strong as we could make it.

RP-The potential of the brand

AP-Helping to hone their attention towards the second book.

SM-(Cutting in) Brand is a tricky word. Your brand is simply who YOU are.

LO-What makes you cringe?

EM-Submisions from prison. *cue whole ballroom cracking up*

LR-Something that feels formulaic.

LP-Dropped in the middle of ungrounded action. Wants to be vested in the character.

RP-Too much or not enough opening information.

AP-Lot’s of bad rhyme in PB’s–changing the trajectory of the story to meet the rhyme.

EM-Envisioning yourself as a celebrity instead of focusing on the writing.

SM-Making big mistakes that indicate you’re not that serious about what you are doing.

SD-Prologues with car accidents

-Same beginnings all the time.

-Prologue that’s different than the first chapter.

-Wakes up, gets our of bed and looks in the mirror.

*The beginning doesn’t have to be the beginning–fresh language that gets you into the story at a different place.


Even though the morning proved to be off to an amazing start–you can’t stop believing that there’s more. The next Keynote was from Aaron Becker–SOME ADJUSTMENTS WERE MADE ALONG THE WAY: ONE ARTIST’S JOURNEY.

Aaron started us off by getting the whole room to help him sing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. You appreciate that transition now, don’t you? LOL! 


Anyway–if I’ve got you mystified and you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about–you might not realize that the Aaron is the gifted author/illustrator of the 2014 Caldecott Honor book JOURNEY.

photo 22


Love, love love this wordless picture book. You can’t even begin to imagine how much story is hidden between it’s gorgeous, sweet, humorous, creative, magical illustrations. But it all made sense when Aaron talked about how stories are how we understands our lives. That is something that resonates with me down to my core. I also wanted to add that I have two young artist/illustrators at home and I took this shot of one of Aaron’s early masterpieces to show them how we grow as we practice our craft.


It left them with their jaws hanging open and it reminded me that we continually have to work at our practice to reach the vision we have of ourselves in our mind. Time to get out my “red crayon” and make some magic happen on my pages. <3



Mary Lee and Megan

I know my recaps can be a bit lengthy at times, but don’t get moody–get Judy Moody!!!! Next up was my first Workshop of the day with Megan McDonald and Mary Lee Donovan JUDY: FOREVER 8–CREATING AND SUSTAINING A SERIES.

Both Megan (the author of Judy Moody) and Mary Lee (Judy Moody editor-Candlewick) were amazing, funny and informative. The thrust of the presentation was about the unique choices that were made all along the course of Judy Moody’s development. The creativity in writing and marketing led to the launch of a beloved early chapter book series that has become a huge hit. Here are some of the takeaways…

*Megan made “me collage’s” to help her brainstorm and get to know her characters and her world.

*They avoided formulaic packaging. It’s uniqueness helped it to stand out.

*Judy Moody is a 3rd grader but her first book was 150 pages long. This was a little unique for 7-10 year olds. But they liked having a thick book to carry around.

*The book had short, episodic chapters targeting 7-10 year olds.

*The print was large with a lot of white space and frequent illustrations.

*At the time, bright colors were competing on the shelf so the craft paper design and unique shape caught people’s attention.

*Judy Moody was positioned as a new cast of characters that everyone needed to meet.

*Marketing was directed to a kid audience and a teacher audience. Word of mouth then helped Judy Moody reinvent the 3rd grade novel. <3


Next up I grabbed lunch on the go and headed over to my regional get together. I didn’t have time to take pics but there were french fries in my Big Fat Gyro and there was some debate about the authenticity of that. My RA was served in the same way in Greece. So anyone have any thoughts on this? It was a first for me. Very yummy, too.


Next up was a Keynote by Maggie Stiefvater A THEIF AND AN ARTIST STEALING STORIES FROM LIFE.

IMG_6353 IMG_6352 IMG_6351 IMG_6350 IMG_6349

Maggie is an amazing storyteller–as you might imagine from that series of pics. She’s just too animated to pin down LOL! But after listening to Maggie, I also began to think of her as a modern day renaissance woman. Very intelligent and loaded with all kinds of artistic ability in so many areas–writing, sketching and music. I was relieved that she wasn’t very good in the kitchen because I was starting to get a little intimidated and jealous. But considering how much amazing advice she shared and how it impacted my own thoughts on writing, I’m a fan-girl for sure. Some of Maggie’s best take aways…

*I am rarely creating things form scratch. I steal the soul of someone else and then as an artist I stitch it back together.

*The only way to get better at something is to practice.

*Shallow Thievery vs. Deep Artistry

-Learn to solve for X–things are not what is on the surface.

-It’s not about the punch, it’s about why he threw it and more importantly why he’d never thrown it before.

*It’s not write what you know (we don’t personally know that much to be interesting) It’s about WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW THE ESSENCE OF.

Love that!

And I get to hear the hilarious Megan McDonald talk again at her Keynote WRITER, WRESTLER, STUTTERER, SPY: FINDING YOUR VOICE AS A WRITER.


The really cool thing about Megan’s keynote was that it was completely different than the info I’d heard in the morning. *fist pump* Most of her stuff was side split tingly hilarious stories that I couldn’t even begin to recount here, but I did pull this out and write it in my notes…

*If you want to write–find your splinter–the thing that is embedded, still sharp and hurting you. Write about that.

Day two of the conference seemed to be about repeat speakers, which was completely okay with me because I really enjoyed them just as much the second time around. My afternoon Workshop was with Justin Chanda–YOU HAVE YOUR 1ST (2ND, 3RD) CONTRACT(S) HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP AND HURT YOURSELF. 

photo 23

A seriously helpful workshop and one of the best PRO sessions I’ve taken. Right up there with those done by Ruta Sepetys. My only complaint was that it was too short. Would love to see the same workshop offered as an AM/PM two part workshop. Justin talked about some of the best and worst practices that could help or hurt an author after they’ve gotten a contract.

*The starting point for everything is your editor.

*Most important people on staff are the assistants–treat them that way.

*Do not say one thing to your editor and another to your agent and leave your agent to solve it. (ex. Editor: Can you have it to me in 4 weeks. Author: Sure, No problem. Author talking to Agent: There is no way I can do that in four weeks—please fix it. *weeps*)

-Run around becomes tedious for everyone

-We are all in this together.

-Always better to be honest.

*You have to stand up for yourself–it is your book.

*A good editor will never rewrite your book, they will help you make your vision clearer. “I will never win that argument if it’s not meant to be won.”

*Everyone is always working towards the same goal.

*Try not to send multiple emails in one week with different subjects.

*Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we love to talk about what we do.

*Remember to work on your book–consumers want books not marketing. You’re first job is to WRITE!!!!

*100’s of people touch your book along the process of publication.

*Everyone wants your book to work–no one is sitting in the back room trying to figure out how to screw you over.

*80% of tanked covers have been at the author’s insistence. Speak your mind but trust your team.

*80% of the books Justin publishes lose money. The top 20% is carrying the 80%

*Good marketing departments need to be nimble.

*There is a finite amount of marketing resources. And it’s usually unpredictable.

*Do not compare your publication plans with anyone else’s.

*Don’t spend your own money in a vacuum. Coordinate with your team to get the best for your money.

*Publication grows with you throughout your career.

*Highly recommends school visits as the best way to self promote. WORD OF MOUTH!

*Social media is the greatest and worst thing to happen to publishing.



*And like Debbi Oh always says…Another writer’s success doesn’t diminish your chance of success–cheer on other writers. <3

Phew!!!! I’m getting really tired. This may be one of the longest conference recaps I’ve ever had. It’s all because there was so much great information and inspiration. Like this next panel…




These ladies were fire crackers. This was hands down the best sales/marketing/publicity class I’ve been exposed to at a conference. Entertaining and informative–I wanted to hang out with this smart and charismatic ladies. Here’s my best takeaway from each of them…


*We are so lucky–we have a replenishing source of kids EVERY YEAR! ROTFL!!!


*Our business is a recommendation based business.


*You have to see, hear or read about a book at least 5 times before you make a purchase.

As pumped as I was, my perky personality was getting hungry and starting to wilt. The final Keynote of the evening was Cynthia Kadohata MY LIFE: REAL AND IMAGINED.And yes, I forgot to take another picture. But here is my favorite takeaway…

*No matter what writing problem you have the answer is always somewhere in your life.

There–I did it. I made it through day 2. *nods off* BUT WAIT—It’s time for the 2014 Poolside Gala!!!!!!! It was Tomie Depaola’s 80th Birthday Bash: A Night in Old Italy. Since Tomie couldn’t be there, we did serenade him with a flash mob to That’s Amore. <3 A copy of that is floating around Youtube somewhere. Here’s a snap shot of the rest of the evening…

photo 24

The party was getting started. The view from my room.


I was having trouble coming up with a costume and a friend suggested being an “old” tourist in Italy.

I immediately started channeling my Dad LOL!


Nancy my RA stomping some grapes with me.

photo 25

Hanging out with my Shop Talk buddy Imogene–New York to LA!!!

photo 26

My Dad would have absolutely hung out with the Pope ROTFL!

photo 27

Lots of laughs all night.

photo 28

Jodi and Howard–dancing buddies <3

And then I fell asleep. Lies. Then I hung out in the lobby and talked with friends. And then I fell asleep. More Lies. Then I got in my PJ’s and talked with Jodi some more. ROTFL! But then I finally did fall asleep–and it was great until I …

Well, that’s a story for my finally recap post next Tuesday. We don’t want to overwhelm you–I don’t think this lengthy post can take one more word. Hope it was helpful and didn’t make your eyes bleed. In fact–as encouragement to write the last post recap, why don’t you let me know in the comments which bit of posted wisdom or inspiration resonates with you the most. And don’t forget my fries and gyro conundrum. See you next week.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




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!

photo 12

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)

photo 16

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!!!!

photo 13


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)


photo 17

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.

photo 19

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…

photo 20

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

photo 18

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.

photo 15

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!!!!







Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,




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…

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  1. Now Available

    Touching the Surface
  1. Follow Kimberly


  1. Archives



    agent Anica Rissi Apocalypsies blogging Bookanistas Book Launch Book Review Class of 2k12 Conferences Contest Dad drafting Drafting Series giveaway Jodi Moore John Green Kimberly Sabatini Kimmiepoppins Kim Sabatini LA11SCBWI Lin Oliver Michelle Wolfson NaNoWriMo Oblong Books reading revision running SCBWI Simon and Schuster Simon Pulse SYTYCD The Class of 2k12 The Opposite of Gravity Touching the Surface WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore Wolf Pack Wolfson Literary writing writing style YA Author YA Book YA Books YA Novel YA Outside the Lines YA Writer
  1. Links

  1. The Apocalypsies
    The Class of 2K12