Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category




THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour!!!!!

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Contests, Cover Art, Middle Grade, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love

Today I get to be a part of THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour!!! What is that, you ask?

It’s me getting to celebrate a fabulous book and it’s new publisher…


Here’s a little bit about THE SWEET SPOT…

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

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.


My review of THE SWEET SPOT…

This is an important book for girls and boys. In a world where two former female West Point graduates can kick butt in Ranger School, there is NO REASON why a girl who loves baseball and plays as well (or possibly better than the boys) shouldn’t be allowed–EXPECTED– to play. In Mozer’s novel, the sweet spot is that place on the baseball bat that’s just right–allowing the batter to hit it out of the park. But there’s also a sweet spot in life and it’s when EVERY PERSON is in the place where they get to be the best version of themselves. Mozer’s book isn’t an easy fix. It’s hard to figure out who and what you’re supposed to be with other people throwing around ignorant labels, sterotypes and abusive behavior. The Sweet Spot reminds us that even though it isn’t easy, one of the best ways to attack adversity is with determination and a positive attitude. I’m so delighted to know there are authors like Mozer out there making sure that all kids are represented on the shelves. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

As part of THE SWEET SPOT Blog Tour, I was luck enough to interview the fabulous author with questions about her wonderful book and her new publisher, Spellbound River Press.

Check it out…


Author Bio:

Stacy Barnett Mozer is a third grade teacher and a mom. She started writing books when a class of students told her that there was no way that a real author who wrote real books could possibly revise their work as much as she asked them to revise. She’s been revising her own work ever since.

1. How was The Sweet Spot reinvented by Spellbound River Press? Banner_cl The book has a snazzy new cover designed by illustrator Lois Bradley and the paperback has a fun new interior look (the boring chapter titles have been replaced by baseballs). I was also able to update the content since the Mets surprised us all and ended up in the World Series last year and former Mets player Mike Piazza, who is mentioned in the book, is now in The Baseball Hall of Fame. The only thing the Mets can do now to make the content outdated is to win the World Series – and that would be fine with me!

2. Tell us a little about this brand new press and how you were discovered by them.

Spellbound River Press is a new press for middle grade books. For their first list they sought out authors who had books that were either self-published and getting some attention or series that had been traditionally published but the next books in the series were not picked up. My book fell into that first category. I knew one of the authors whose book was picked up through the SCBWI. He suggested I submit my story. The press loved everything (except for the cover).

3. I’ve read The Sweet Spot and loved it – but for your up and coming readers, tell us a bit about the book.

The book is about a 13 yo girl named Sam who has always played baseball with the boys, but has now found that she is no longer accepted by everyone. Her coach feels she has an attitude about this and tells her that the only way he will recommend her for All Stars is to get a good report from baseball camp, but when she arrives they hadn’t been expecting a girl and it all goes downhill from there.

4. One of my writer friends was recently doing a school visit and she was using a football comparison to make her point to the students. On a whim my author friend used the pronoun SHE when talking about the football player. Eyes widened. Questions were asked. Several boys wanted to know WHO IS THIS FOOTBALL PLAYER WHO IS A GIRL??? I know you are actively involved with Sporty Girl Books. Can you tel us a little bit about why you write for sporty girls and what you are aiming to accomplish by writing non-traditonal books?

I will tell you that it was never my intention to write a book that was non-traditional. Sam is a baseball player because I was writing a story about a girl who goes camping and in one of the scenes I decided to have her surprise some boys by showing off her wicked baseball skills. As a lover of baseball (huge Mets fan), I thought it would be fun to have her be good at the sport. That one scene turned out to be everyone’s favorite and I developed a new plot line around it. When I was first proposing the change, my husband asked me whether or not it would even be an issue, for a girl to play baseball, in this day and age. So I researched it and found out that it is, indeed, a big issue. I also found out that there were very few books written about the topic. That lead me to talk to others about other sports that weren’t getting attention in books (football definitely being one of them) and that’s what lead me to start the blog. I am still surprised how difficult it is for girls to play male dominated sports. I’m also surprised how little media attention women’s sports receive. But that also doesn’t mean that I think all men think this way. Every now and then a reviewer calls me a bad person because my book suggests that all boys think girls should not play baseball. If they read my book, they would see that Sam has way more male supporters than those who stand in her way. I think that is true in the real world as well. I have been very happy to see that The Sweet Spot has had a wide range of supportive readers. Boys and girls. Those who love sports and those who have no interest in playing. The heart of the book isn’t about baseball, it’s about never letting anyone stop you from following your dreams. From finding your own personal sweet spot. I think everyone can relate to that.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book launch and the best way to get The Sweet Spot.

This is one of the last stops on The Sweet Spot blog tour. But you have a chance to win THE SWEET SPOT in a Goodreads giveaway. The book is also available on Amazon and you can request it at your favorite Indie bookstore. You can also buy it directly from And don’t forget to like it on Goodreads, rate it, and write an honest review once you’ve read it!

Social Media Links:


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sweet Spot by Stacy Barnett Mozer

The Sweet Spot

by Stacy Barnett Mozer

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


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The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing, Writing for Children

The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Part 2

I’m back…and I realized that in Tuesday’s SCBWI Conference Recap post, I forgot to tell you how cold it was outside when we woke up. Inside too, for that matter.


Why I may have blocked it from my memory…


This was the inside of my window on the 29th floor.



But it did look rather pretty once the sun came out.

But I should probably stop giving you the cold shoulder and start filling you in on the rest of the SCBWI conference. When I left you on Tuesday…


…a large crowd of Kid Lit SCBWI writers and illustrators were eating picnic style on the floor of the hotel lobby and Debbie Ohi couldn’t give away a piece of her black and white cookie. Yes, we are a strange group–just go with it.

After lunch I had my second Break-out/Workshop session of the day with Elizabeth Bicknell, EVP, Executive Editorial Directo & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press–WRITING PICTURE BOOK TEXT.


Elizabeth Bicknell


Some of the books she used to illustrate fabulous and successful picture books.

Good things to know…

*Candlewick only does children’s books.

*Don’t make your story about too many things.

*No Flashbacks.

*PB’s are like a little play.


Topics in PB’s shift over time but here are currently popular story lines.

Up next was a Fireside Chat between Lin Oliver and Rainbow Rowell


Lin and Rainbow are way too adorable together!

Here are my favorite take-aways…

*When you’re writing 1st person, you’re writing monologues.

*Good novelists have good memories.

*The best comedy comes at the moment of pathos. (The intersection of funny and sad)

*Like a dog returning to his own vomit–it’s a long and very funny story!

*Rainbow’s outlines are emails to her agent.

*Her plots are derived from characters. Using characters to fulfill a plot is very different than characters creating the plot.

*The shared texts we have now are pop culture–it’s no longer scripture etc…

*People find the references that are there for them.

*If I’d written girls when I was younger, I think I would have accepted more of what the world told me to.

*On writing in an Omaha Starbucks–Hey! Writing in a NYC Starbucks is a very different thing. They are like public restrooms that serve coffee! ROTFL!

*Not in the past, and maybe not in the future, but right now I am privileged to write full time.

*Publishing is a game of speculation. Everyone is guessing even though everything seems set in stone.

The next Keynote required no guessing at all to know it would be good. I’ve heard the fantabulous Kate Messner on numerous occasions and I’ve also heard nothing but wonderful things about Linda Urban and they were going to be talking about MUSIC, MOUNTAINS AND MOCHA LATTES: SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE.


Kate spoke first and talked about her own journey to reconnect with a manuscript by climbing mountains.

*Sometimes we need one small thing to keep going.

*If climbing one mountain was good for my writing, climbing 40+ would be amazing.

*Put your butt in your chair, but when you’re stuck, get up.


Then Linda Urban talked about how she’d rather have her finger nails pulled out than climb mountains, but how she found the same creative inspiration in a little red ukulele.

*Playing the ukulele causes a rush I wasn’t getting while I was stuck in my MS.

*The dopamine it provided and a long trail of small musical success restored my creative confidence.

*The negative voice in my head got bored while I was playing.

And then the lovely Linda sang for us <3


And as you might imagine, these two inspirational and creative authors were each other’s biggest fans. So, please remember, if you can’t find a creative outlet that will lead you back to your writing–find a friend to have a Mocha Latte–it will work every  time.

After all this inspiration there was a book signing with Rainbow Rowell, the Art Browse and the Gala dinner followed by multiple socials and of course my group of lobby rats hanging out in the lobby–sort of. Remember how cold it was? Well, that lobby was a wee bit drafty, so for the first time ever, the rats took to the underbelly of the hotel (like all good rats do) and moved out of the cold.


But as always–we stayed up talking way to long. Always one of my favorite parts of the SCBWI conference.

With not enough sleep under our belts, it was time for coffee, bagels and Day Three of the SCBWI conference. Once again our uber fantastic illustrators blew me out of the water with their gorgeous art and Jane Yolen got me all choked up giving out her SCBWI Mid-List Author Grants.


And it’s always our pleasure to thank the staff of the SCBWI for all they do to bring us together for these amazing conferences and to let them know how much we appreciate all they accomplish behind the scenes throughout the year.

Our first Keynote for Sunday was Rita Williams-Garcia and she talked about DO’S AND DON’TS IN CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING FROM A DEFINITE DON’T.


Here are some of my favorites from Rita–she was both moving and funny as she spoke.

*I loved telling stories–or as my mother called it–lying.

*Live in The Plan: I took every step possible in be coming what I envisioned. (She wrote 500 words every night as a child and rented out her sister’s typewriter to do it.)

*Don’t pick your major based on the hot guy with the afro–he doesn’t have any hair now!


Rita on really being faced with the prospect of editing a manuscript for the first time.

*Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long.

*Don’t isolate yourself–TRIBE!

*Don’t block out criticism.

*Don’t be a know it all.

*Don’t stop writing–live in The Plan.

*Live with gratitude–do what you’re doing–you’re here!



Jacquelyn was literary, funny, thoughtful and informative–so much good stuff to digest.

*People love the 19th Century greats because the ending is so clear.

*The last sentence of a books, for some writers, is the first sentence they know about.

*Most books really don’t echo the promises made in the first pages.

*The reader doesn’t want it to end, so how do you make it okay for the reader? It should do more than tie up loose ends–your job is to lead the reader back into the real world.

*Leave room for interpretation.

*Say what you’re going to do, do it, then get the hell out.


Since I don’t have a picture of the next panel, you should look at this one instead. This is what my hilarious friend, Scott Hammon, looks like after a Rocky-esque run up to the podium. He’s been waiting FIVE YEARS to win the SCBWI Conference joke contest!!! Watch out Jay Asher…Scott is very, very slowly creeping up after you. *grin*

Now back to the panel…

Moderator: RF-Ruben Pfeffer

AB: Alessandra BalzerVice President and Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray and imprint at HarperCollins

EB: Elizabeth Bicknell–EVP, Executive Editorial Director & Associate Publisher Candlewick Press

GC: Ginger ClarkAgent, Curtis Brown, LTD

SD: Sarah DaviesAgent, Greenhouse Literary

AL: Alvina LingVP and Editor-in-Chief, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

The last panel discussion of the SCBWI conference was ACQUISITIONS TODAY: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES. This was a crazy interesting panel because it mixed editors AND agents and the quips and candor flying back and forth was both informative and entertaining. Once again I’ll be honest and say I spent more time listening to the fast flying information than taking notes. There was lots of information on preempts, auctions, bidding, multiple submissions and of course, everyone’s option on the lot. Check the #NY16SCBWI thread and TEAM BLOG for more detailed information on the panel.


And I won’t lie. This finally Keynote is the one I waited the whole conference for. I cannot even begin to explain how much of a fan I am of Gary Schmidt. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at an LA SCBWI Conference and he blew me away. I’ve also had the chance to read his books with my boys. We very recently finished reading his newest novel, ORBITING JUPITER together. It is now my favorite Schmidt novel, which is saying something. And to more completely put this book in perspective, my 15, 12 and 10-year-olds asked that we put The 5th Wave on hold so we could read ORBITING JUPITER faster. I love my kids. <3


It would be madness for me to try and do anything other than write down what inspired and moved me as Gary spoke.

*Why is it that when a group of Kid Lit writers gets together, we get along? This doesn’t happen with adult writer, poets. It’s because we have the same mission–we do it for kids.

*”Nobody came because nobody ever does.” –Jude the Obscure   We are here to address this. We need to be the writers that show up.

*When an adult speaks to a child with honesty, they know that someone is telling them the truth and that despite the brokenness of the world–it is still worth living.

*We need to write for the kid sitting on the log who is waiting for someone to show up, because no one ever does.

          -Like Anthony during 9/11. He went outside to see if a plane was going to hit his building and when it didn’t, he was disappointed because it would have saved a lot of trouble. Is it any wonder that he’s serving a life sentence?

          -Like Jake, one year into his sentence. He loves the planets, especially Jupiter. When Gary sent him a book and a poster on the planets it was taken away. Once again, no one showed up.

          -Like Marlene, a high school student actively engaged in a writing activity with Gary. When two teen boys walk in (who don’t do anything wrong or intimidating) this girl shuts down completely. When they leave she reengages. What happened in her life, in this school that shuts her down like that?

*The deep heartfelt question that we must ask as authors is…what ails you? It is a question of human empathy.

*Story and art can reveal human empathy.

*Story insists on human complexity and multidimensionality.

*Watch what happens if you take the stance in life that EVERYTHING MATTERS.

*If you want to be a writer, you have to LOVE the world.

*The writer believes with her whole heart that we give the world more to be human with. There is a reason ISIS destroys art.

*We write to serve. We don’t tell the kids how to act, we sit down beside them on the log and we say the truth.

And that is why I love Gary Schmidt…

And that is why I rushed to his book signing table and proceeded to get all choked up as I tried to explain my heart, head and soul to a man who I’m pretty sure already knows it. Remember…he loves the world.



Then there was the pleasure of meeting the newly minted Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Pena. He’s the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature with his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE. Matt is a fabulous SCBWI success story and we are all so proud of him and his accomplishments.



I also had the pleasure of getting my books signed by Oscar winner William Joyce!


IMG_5266 2

And then I got to hang out and chat some more with Oprah Book Club author (DEEP END OF THE OCEAN) and editor-in-chief of Merit Press,  Jacquelyn Mitchard.


Yes, the talent and advice this year were incredible.


And I can’t wait to read MELT by SCBWI Spark Award winner Selene Castrovilla. We were able to hang out at the Gala and she is all kinds of fabulous and everyone is raving about this novel!

And then it’s over–or is it?

Not for me, because it was Valentines Day and my hubby met me in NYC and we got to see…




I was blown away. No seriously, it was incredible. I hope you all get the chance to see it–it’s a beautiful and timely book that is brought to life right in front of your eyes. It’s one of those plays that will change how you see the world and the people in it.

Once again, Kid Lit shows up and I’m so proud.

But even after dinner and a show…you’ll find your way home. Back to your family. Back to your writing. And back to your cat who really, really missed you.


Oh, wait–it was the dog who really, really missed you and the cat who hates it when you leave. And then you wake up in the morning and she’s sitting on top of you (really close) so you can completely understand what you’ve put her through. LOL!

I hope, whether you made the SCBWI conference or just read about it, that you’re all inspired and ready to show up for your writing life. I know I am. And now that these blogs are done, I’m ready to move forward on my WIP.

Did anything in the conference or the recap really connect with you? How is it effecting what you are working on? Have you wanted to write, but haven’t been sure how to start? The answer IS to show up. You must start some time. Why not begin today. The SCBWI will teach you everything you need to know. And I’d be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and see you next week.

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The 2016 New York SCBWI Winter Conference Recap Part 1

Filed under: Author Events, Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Freaky Friday, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)


It’s here, it’s here–it’s finally HERE! The #NY16SCBWI Winter Conference. And while we froze our writer and illustrator parts off this year–you know we still had a blast. Right along with the arctic blast. Here’s the highlights of the weekend…

I was thrilled to be able to head down bright and early–very, very early…


…for The Professional Author’s Forum Intensive. For all you PAL members of the SCBWI, this was such a lovely addition to the weekend. You should absolutely look for more of these PAL events in the future.

We started off the day with the fabulous and hysterical Lin Oliver and the chance to introduce ourselves and state our questions and goals. It immediately cemented us into a workshop style, intimate group instead of an audience in a lecture.


Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director


Half the room of the PAL Intensives

After the intros, we got down to business with the very informative Agent, Ruben Pfeffer talking about PUBLISHING WITH MULTIPLE HOUSES (INCLUDING WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR EDITOR LEAVES)

This was a very informative session, focusing on the reasons to publish or not publish with multiple houses. He hit upon the strategic, contractual, our preferences, economic need and circumstantial factors.


Agent, Ruben Pfeffer (Ruben Pfeffer Content, LLC)

Next up was the I always get nervous around him even though he gives me no reason to, but come on he was the editor for the Harry Potter books, Arthur Levine chatting with Lin Oliver about LONGEVITY; HOW TO SUSTAIN YOUR CAREER.


Arthur Levine, Publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books and Lin Oliver

Here are some of my favorite bits from the conversation…

*What is essential about people doesn’t change despite our fears about publishing.

*Produce a BODY OF WORK–stop flogging just one thing.

*Find contemporary analogies to your book AFTER you’ve written it.

*When we get sucked into our anxieties, we lose track of what stories we can write and who wants to read them.

The next fabulous collaborator for the Intensive was Martha Brockenbrough, author and SCBWI TEAM BLOG talking about DEVELOPING A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM THAT’S APPROPRIATE FOR YOU.


I’m not kidding–I’d love to see Martha do a detailed, whole day intensive just on this topic alone. She is a wealth of information and there were more questions than time to hear all her answers.

Martha started off by reminding us of our tendency to believe that when it comes to social media–If we build it they will come…


That would be a NOPE.

But don’t worry, she gave everyone a wealth of advice on building relationships, finding your audience and focusing on platform, being positive, looking long term and being authentic. She was also able to compare and contrast FB, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Goodreads. And this was followed by tips on how to keep it all manageable. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Martha, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

After a quick and yummy lunch break, we were back in the saddle again hit the iconic kid lit author, Jane Yolen–ISSUES IN BEING A MID-LIST WRITER.


Among a plethora of informative and inspirational information, Jane reminded us that as Mid-list authors, we could be writing three kinds of books…

  1. A Head Book-The book you’ve been thinking about because research or experience had made you curious.
  2. A Heart Book-You don’t know why you have to write it, but you just do. It’s about you, but it’s also about the kids too.
  3. A Pocketbook Book-You know you can sell it $

She also reminded us to write the best book you can and don’t forget to nudge yourself in the path of luck.

Next up, was BRANDING YOURSELF: CHALLENGES IN WRITING MULTIPLE GENRES AND CATEGORIES with Linda Pratt Agent, Wernick and Pratt Literary and Jacquelyn Mitchard Author and Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press.


Linda Pratt


Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean–Oprah’s Book Club)

Here are some of the highlights…

*YA is not a genre, it’s a category.

*Being Branded means that you’ve gotten to the point where readers will buy your book in any category or genre because it is recognizably YOU!

*There’s nothing you want more than to be a habit.

*If you wanted to be careful, you should have been a dental hygienist ROTFL!

Bonnie Bader was up next and I forgot to take her picture! What? But you don’t need to see her to benefit from her talk on SUPPLEMENTING YOUR INCOME. Bonnie gave us valuable information on Packaging, Work for Hire, License work and Ghost Writing. But you can see Bonnie sitting next to Arthur Levine during our Summary, Conclusion and Questions time. And of course they had to kick us out after 5pm because there was so much to discuss with the faculty of the day. It was an amazing group.



And I’ll leave Friday behind with this great reminder from Arthur Levine…

“Our job is not to start trends, it’s to write books.”

After lots of meet up hugs with friends, a large group of us heading for dinner at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (picture to come when Zainab figures out how to send it LOL!) the typical behavior of Lobby Rats hanging out in the lobby and not enough sleep (I can’t help but talk to my roomie Jodi Moore for half the night) it’s time to OFFICIALLY kick off the conference.



This group is more than ready…

For Lin Oliver’s conference stats:

*1,151 Attendees

*337 Published authors and 815 pre-pubbed

*48 states were represented. Considering the weather in NY we excused Hawaii for ditching us. But we also decided that maybe the reason North Dakota was ditching us was that no one lived there. :o)

*19 Countries in attendance including the USA

*Our ranks included a micro biologist, coffee roaster, oil trader, ventriloquist and a psychic!



William immediately had us cracking up, telling the story of how he forgot why he’s picked that topic when he first agreed to be a conference speaker LOL! But he quickly found the original thread and sewed it all up for us.


*Books=Ice Cream Sandwiches–hard stuff on the outside and good stuff in the middle.

*When people put a book on an app or e-device they claim they are doing it because they want the story to be “interactive.” What the heck do these people think happens when you read a book? You interact with it *head thunk*–to call something interactive it has to be more than just reading it on a screen vs between a cover.

*On starting his own Multimedia company: “Don’t make anything crummy.”

*Strong and better realities of a start up: Having to tell new, young employees they had to pay taxes. LOL!

*I highly recommend winning an Oscar–it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my clothes.

Oscar Win – Moonbot Studios from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

*Doing THAT (see above video) with all those young kids–amazing!


And if you want to see something fantastic…check out the app IMAG-N-O-TRON:The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

But be sure to come back to this blog and keep reading because I’ve got a Panel Discussion up next. THE BIG PICTURE: CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING: NOW AND IN THE NEAR FUTURE.


MOD: Lin Oliver

MT: Megan Tingly–Executive Vice-President and Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

AP: Andrea Pappenheimer–Senior Vice-President, Director of Sales/Associate Publisher HarperCollins Publishers

ML: Mallory LoehrVice-President, Publishing Director, Random House/Golden/Doubleday Books for Young Readers

JF: Jean FeiwelSenior Vice-President and Director, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group

JA: Jon AndersonPresident and Publisher, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

I hate to tell you this–but this was such a good session that I listened without taking as many notes as I should have. I apologize but I’m pretty sure Team Blog will have some excellent tweets and recaps for you.

Then it was time for the day’s first break-out session or workshop. There were so many great sessions to choose from, but I picked CREATING TEEN CHARACTERS with Martha Brockenbrough and Rainbow Rowell.



For this session I pulled up some rug in order to stretch my legs. Here were some of my favorite take-aways…

*Art inspires art

*I didn’t experience the events that happened in my books, but music got me to those places.

*It’s fiction, you get to make it up. (Oh, wait–Dragons ARE fake!)

In order to balance out my recap posts, I’m going to save the rest of the conference for your Thursday reading pleasure. While you wait, you can get a good laugh at all of us eating picnic style in the lobby.


And remember–if you’re there at next year’s conference–Debbi Ohi will share her cookie with you. She couldn’t get anyone to split it with her!!! If she’d only showed up BEFORE I ate all that chocolate. *sigh*


See you on Thursday with the #NY16SCBWI Conference Recap Part 2! While your waiting, tell me what session was your favorite if you were there. Or which one you would have loved to attend.

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2015 A Bookish Year In Review

Filed under: Apocalypsies, Audiobooks, Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, In the Wild, Publishing, Reading, Stuff I Love, The Class of 2k12, The Ladies Noir, Wolf Pack, YA Books, YA Story Sisters, Young Adult (YA)

Here’s my 2015 Bookish Year In Review. Want to sign up for the 2016 challenge on Goodreads or learn more about the books I read in 2015…you can check it out HERE. One of my favorite part of this years reads is that the lion’s share were books by my peers. Represented were some of my closest writing buds, The YA Story Sisters, The Class of 2k12, The Apocalypsies and Michelle Wolfson’s Wolf Pack!!!! 

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.44.53 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.45.29 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.45.47 AM
Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.11 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.23 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.34 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.46.47 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.00 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.11 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.23 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.35 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.47 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.47.58 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.48.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.48.33 AMWere any of these on your 2015 book lists? Which ones did you miss that you want to read in 2016? Did you read as much as you wanted in 2015? What’s your goal for 2016?




The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Filed under: Book Reviews, Critique, Pondering, Publishing, Reading

I LOVE reading YA. But I’m also a fan of not limiting yourself to only one age group or even genre of books. There are things to be learned and pondered out there and they come in all kinds of packages.

For months my husband has been reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand and begging me to read it also so he’d have someone to discuss it with.


When it was first published in 1943, The Fountainhead – containing Ayn Rand’s daringly original literary vision with the seeds of her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism – won immediate worldwide acclaim.

This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him.

I decided to read the book (I’m attacking it on audiobook) since it’s a very lengthy tome. This way I can listen in the car, on a run or even in the shower LOL! I’m on Track 45/68 so do not spoil it for me. But I can’t contain myself any more. I want to talk to people about this book–the parts I love and the parts I hate. The things that have been illuminated and the things that have been muddied.  The hubby and I are a bit obsessed about discussing it and had a hell of a conversation after seeing the Steve Jobs movie. But I want more thoughts and opinions. This book has made me curious in so many ways.

Have you read it? What do you think? Do you want to read it? Do you love it? Do you hate it? What does it mean to you? Talk to me about it–just don’t spoil the ending for me or the book for anyone else.

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The YA Story Sisters-Back to School Giveaway

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Contests, Publishing, Reading, Stuff I Love, The Ladies Noir, Writing for Children, YA Books, YA Story Sisters, Young Adult (YA)

A couple weeks ago you may have heard me talking about The Ladies Noir, a group of YA writers who’ve banded together to help each other with the creation and marketing of our stories. Since then, the group realized The Ladies Noir wasn’t the right name to encompass the diverse writing styles of 30 different authors. So…drum roll please…we are now the YA Story Sisters (YASS) which I LOVE!


And to celebrate our, we are kicking off our new group with an epic back to school giveaway that includes 15 books from 11 of our authors…



You can enter the giveaway here…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are so excited to have you follow us on the new YA Story Sisters FB page. Remember…every author has her story.

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LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3

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

In case you’re wondering, by Day 3 of #LA15SCBWI I’m a little tired. But I’m not alone. You should have seen what happened when we had a coffee break and there was no coffee left! Kinda funny actually–is it still called a keg stand when you’re twisted upside down to get your mouth around the dregs of a coffee urn?

Anyway–now that I’ve fried your brain, it’s time to hear the Sunday morning special. Deborah Halverson and the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT. 


I never miss this keynote–Deborah goes to great lengths to keep us up-to-date on publishing and trends. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here’s a bit of what I captured…

*Last year’s children’s book sales were highly impacted by movies. Think The Fault in Our Stars, Insurgent etc… But even so, sales are not flat in the children’s market.

How to understand how what you’re already writing (no following trends please) fits in…

Picture Book

-short and bold

-character driven

-illustrations tell 1/2 the story. Ex-Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

-Non-fiction still of interest-particularly narrative non-fiction

-Common core related books seem to be settling down. There’s still room for growth, but not explosive growth.

-PB’s that have layers


-funny character driven that has series potential

-emotional depth/connection


-authentic experiences

Chapter Books

-there is room for new series

Early MG

-Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become a very popular format


-MG has perked up

-Everything goes in MG

-Slow and steady can sometimes break out as a hit. Ex–Wonder

-Editors are seeing a wide selection in their inboxes but still not enough diverse submissions.

-WANT: Books with a literary soul and commercial legs


-Editors are intensely selective

-Seeing a lot of contemporary in their inboxes. People are often too quick to writ to the “middle” and hit genre expectations.


-beyond a black and white view of the world

-deep personal experiences


-looking to diversify their lists so it’s not all contemporary when the pendulum swings

And in the internal world of publishing…

-our past sense of unbalance is stabilizing.

-eBook subscription packages are a thing.

-Indie sales are up due to the Buy Local movement, slower eBook growth and publishers rethinking their practice.




Poor Stephen, he ended up in the seat next to mine at breakfast one morning and we chatted. FYI he’s a tremendously pleasant guy to talk to as you’re shoving muffins in your mouth. But as the conference went on, Jodi and I (my breakfast buddy and roomie) kept bumping into him. Our fear was that he might think we were stalking him. But really, we just kept turning up in his path like pennies. Hopefully he feels richer for having met us. LOL!

But on to the fabulous keynote…

*MG readers are some of the most loyal readers in the book world. They are strong, willing attentive readers but they are also strong critics.

If we examine the classics and best sellers, what do we learn from them?

1. Charlotte’s Web–Carefully crafted writing

2. Stone Fox–Drama

3. The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles–Imagination

4. The Clockwork Three–Mix genres, don’t be afraid

5. Heart of a Samurai–Bring history to life

6. Holes–Use humor

7. James and the Giant Peach–Be unapologetic and have fun

8.  Junonia–Write to the emotional age of the child

9. Missing May–Place is character

10. Sarah Plain and Tall–Bring a visual quality to your work, make each word resonate

11. The Secret Garden–Let joy spill out

12. Harry Potter–Don’t worry about length

And that is your MG reading list for the fall. <3



The third keynote for the morning was Shannon Hale–Opening up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls and Genderless

Shannon was INCREDIBLE. There has been so much on the internet lately that has made me sad and discouraged about all things boy, girl, man, woman, feminine, masculine etc… Truth be told, I found myself shutting down because the heart of most of the rhetoric was about raising people up–even if we have to do it by knocking other people down so we can get a leg up. I found it spiritually discouraging. Shannon was different. She was honest. She was thoughtful. She was hopeful. She was generous. She was above all on Team Human. Here’s some of what moved me…

*You are not NO thing. You are something–with YOUR thing. (On writing in your own voice and style.)

*Shakespeare wasn’t afraid of writing interesting women. I don’t know what happened?

*Boys–why are you so afraid of Princesses???? I’m so sorry you have to live in such fear. ROTFL!

*Boys, who told you you can only do half the stuff? (On girls being told they can do or be anything.)

*It’s NOT an equal playing field for women authors or boy readers.

*Boys are taught to be ashamed if they want to read a book about a girl or a “girly book.” We have a lot of work to do.

*Quoting editor Jordan Brown when asked where the Judy Blume for boys is? “Judy Blume is the JUDY BLUME for boys!”

*It wasn’t until people read novels about people in other circumstances that they were able to empathize. Reading novels creates empathy.

*Can you dig it? I CAN DIG IT!


At this point in the conference I came up with not one conference word, but two. Here’s what came together for me as the conference was winding down…

tell them your story

MINE–I picked this word because one of the messages thumping me over the head over the weekend was that it will be my unique voice, heart and soul that will sell my books. Chasing trends and the success of others will only leave me in the shadow of others. I don’t want to be standing beneath or behind anyone else. I intend to shine my own light.

TOGETHER–This made me laugh because my words are so oppositional, but while my writing is mine and mine alone–publishing is so much harder to navigate if you are alone. My tribe is instrumental in me reaching to be a better writer. They help me keep my inner compass pointed in the right/write direction. They inspire me and remind me that this isn’t easy for anyone. They mean the world to me.


My first Workshop of the day was with Allyn Johnston and Mem Fox–LET’S TALK PICTURE BOOKS…Q&A AND SOME READ ALOUD FUN


Let’s just start off by saying I could listen to Mem read picture books for days. That voice! But in addition to captivating the audience with her fabulous PB’s. Here is what Allyn and Mem had to share…

*I’m inspired by emotional experiences.

*I don’t want 5 of your 20 manuscripts–I want the one you care about–the one that’s going to change the emotional temperament of the reader.

*You should have only enough words that you’re ready to turn the page when the child is done reading the pictures.

*Adults are so much more inept at reading and understanding the illustrations than children.

*Worry more about the soul of the story than the word count. <3

*Beautiful language doesn’t undercut illustration.

*Illustrator notes are outrageous.


And it’s time for the Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards presentation with a keynote by Dan Yaccarino

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SCBWI Member of the Year–Lee Wind!!!!!

“My tribe–my family.”

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For Picture Book Illustration–Melissa Sweet and THE RIGHT WORD

“I hope we all find the right word whenever we need it.”

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For Picture Book Text–Kristy Dempsey and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA’S DREAM

“By writers and illustrators, I mean friends and fellow dreamers.”

“Deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose.”

“I write to discover my own empathy–or to be honest–to work towards it.”

Kristy has been someone I’ve followed and admired on social media since I first started my journey as an author–it was amazing to see someone who has inspired me–have an impact on more of her peers. Her speech was incredible. <3

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For Non-fiction–Candace Fleming for THE FAMILY ROMANOV

When the universe kept raising the question…who is interested in that?

“You are.” <3

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For fiction–Deborah Wiles for REVOLUTION

“I am a product of my professional organizations. SCBWI.”

“Giving my heart away has been the secret to finding it.”

And the Sid Fleishman Award was given his son Paul Fleishman to…

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Michelle Knudsen for EVIL LIBRARIAN

And from Dan Yaccarino‘s Keynote…

*Good work is never perfect.

*Don’t forget the power of visualization. Take time to picture your dreams happening every day.

*Get addicted to the divine spark of inspiration–try to bring the divinity of that spirit into your stories.

My afternoon Workshop was with Jordan Brown–FIVE PRINCIPLES OF REVISION

Just and FYI I will go to hear Jordan Brown talk about anything publishing related and quite a few things outside that topic too. He’s fabulous. I was taking notes like a boss because he had at least 45 principles I needed to remember. Here’s some of his best and most useful bits…

*Revision is hands down the most important part of the writing process.

*Your book should be about the most important story of your main character’s life.

*It’s hard to get perspective on your own work.

*You shouldn’t think of revision as an extension of the first draft.

*Revision is the opposite of drafting.

          -DRAFTING is peeling back layers.

          -REVISION is putting back layers that are more refined.

When revising…

           -Nothing is sacred.

           -Character drives plot.

           -Revision more often than not starts with cutting.

           -Surprise yourself–if it feels familiar to you, it’s probably familiar to the reader too.

           -Don’t be afraid to smart small–revision can be overwhelming.

*There are always things that are clearly important at the end of a book that weren’t at the beginning–go back and plant clues.


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The final keynote of the conference was by Kwame Alexander: #BasketballRules Kwame’s NEW #LA15SCBWI Keynote (Because Varian Johnson stole his other one Hahahaha!)

Rule #1–It might look like a long shot but you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Rule #2–Put in the work.

Rule #3–There’s no single formula for success, but you have to have a game plan.

Rule #4–A loss is inevitable.

Rule #5–When the game is on the line, don’t be afraid, grab the ball and take it to the hoop.

Rule #6–You’ve got to have teammates. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Look around…we are going to do great things.

And while that ends the formal part of the conference, you know I was in line half the afternoon to get my books signed and talk to all of these amazing authors and illustrators.

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Candace Fleming–yup–we both joined the SCBWI when we were 12 LOL!


I loved talking about writing with Anna Shinoda and Debra Wiles also, but we chatted so long I got hustled on my way and never got a picture with her LOL!


Meg Wolitzer!!!!!

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I was so stoked to finally get this book in my hands and to see Martha Brockenbrough have such an amazing moment. She has been a friend and an inspiration for such a long time. I consider myself so lucky to have her in my life.


And I finally met my online buddy, Varian Johnson.


Yup, I may have cried a little with Shannon Hale, but you can’t blame me–she moved me to tears. <3

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I’ve been getting books signed by Dan Santat for years. It put a smile on my face to see all his hard work come to his greatest success to date. I KNOW there will be so much more in store for him.


And then before I knew it, it was Monday and I was on my way to the airport, full of ideas, inspiration and determination…and too many books in my suitcase.


I had to pull out 13lbs of Baby Dragons and Beekles out of my suitcase to avoid a $50 luggage charge. But that’s okay–I always feel better when my signed treasures are close at hand.

If you missed the first two installments for the #LA15SCBWI Conference Recap, you can find them here…

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

I would love to see you there next year and if you have any questions about the conference, I’d be happy to answer them for you. It’s really a fabulous event, worth planning for if you’re able.

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LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Contests, Publishing, Reading, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Uncategorized, Wolf Pack, Wolfson Literary, Writing for Children

It’s Day 2 of #LA15SCBWI and I can’t imagine a more inspirational start then hearing Dan Santat speak. Dan was this year’s Caldecott winner with BEEKLE, but what really makes it this keynote special is that Dan “grew up” in the SCBWI. Like many of the speakers I’ve heard over the years, he got his start in this tribe and he made that very clear…ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE TASTE: STORIES OF HOW THE SCBWI HELPED ME AND HOW I GREW AS AN AUTHRO WHEN I WASN’T AT THE CONFERENCE



Over the course of Dan’s keynote, he made us laugh and he imparted tons of wisdom and inspiration. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place at the end of his speech. Here was my best take aways from Dan…

*Understand why YOU like–don’t be censored.

*If you have a closed mind, you’re going to miss out on the beauty of things.

*Comic books are soap operas for nerds.

*Learn from others. Ex. BREAKING BAD is a study in character development.

*Read Goodreads reviews with some common sense. You know when someone is giving you useful information that can help you grow. Also read the bad reviews of the classics to gain some perspective.

*Study the fundamentals–when you understand them, you then have the freedom to move around.

*Learn by imitation–don’t become a clone, use it to ADD to your fundamentals.

*If you do something hard once, you know you have it in you to do it again.

*Find your voice–stop imitating and start INNOVATING.

*Do what you love when the work will find you.

*Do it because you are passionate about what you do.

*If you put money in the equation, you’re never going to find it. It’s like chasing a shadow.

*Live and die by your own sword. If you put your faith in yourself you will tread water and survive.

*You don’t want to live with regrets. If I had quit I never would have had the Caldecott Medal. *cue sobs*




JRJodi Reamer (Writer’s House)

APAlexandra Penfold (Upstart Crow Literary)

KNKristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)

BGBarry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary)

BBBrenda Bowen (Greenberg Associates)

JBJenny Bent (The Bent Agency)


Here’s the advice and information that I took note of…

AP–You’re not acquiring a book, you’re taking on a life.

BG–Competition to get manuscripts read by editors is immense, so your MS needs to be in the best shape.

BG–9 to 5? WHAT IS THAT?

BG–You are the one in the driver’s seat. You get to choose.

JB–I don’t care who you are–there will be downtime in your career.

JB–Respect and honesty on both sides are key.

AP–Write the book that can get you above the noise.

BG–Editors should have the ability to take a flyer because a great smaller book can become a huge best seller. Ex–WONDER

JR–Social media should be natural. It should be you.

BG–We are colleagues. We’re not out to undercut each other. You’re not competing with anyone in this room.

AP–You never know where the connections are going to come from.

AP–If it makes me feel–I’ll follow you anywhere.

BG–We get jaded, but then we see something that knocks us off our seats and want to sell it!

AP–If you have a rich reading life, you will have a rich writing life.

BB–Best promo for a book is the next one. Keep writing.

JB–Be a mensch–Be kind. Be helpful. Be generous.

JB–I see social media as an opportunity to be kind to people and share.


Next up was my first Workshop of the Day. BONNIE BADER–CHAPTER BOOKS: WHAT’S WORKING AND WHAT’S NOT


Some things that make a book–a chapter book…

-a milestone event

-a protagonist around the age of the reader (7-10 year olds)

-Roughly 80-120 pages

-size of type, density of illustrations

-expand the details of your character to make them unique.

-use a universal theme with a twist


What kinds of chapter books that are successful…

Magic Tree House

Junie B Jones

Princess in Black

George Brown, Class Clown

The Dory Books (Dory Fantasmagory)

Captain Awesome




The next keynote of the day was Jane O’Connor–BORROWING FROM LIFE: CREATING A CHARACTER

Here were some Fancy Nancy style tips to remember…

*Leave out all the stuff that’s boring.

*Eavesdropping is crucial to writing.

*Middles are a bitch.


Jane was followed by Varian Johnson–IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT

Varian was open and honest and so touching with his ability to share his hard publishing moments with the audience. He had so much inspiration to share…

*The hard is what makes it great.

*We make the time.

*We all deserve to be part of the conversation, but we have to do the work.

*My job is to put words on paper. If the muse shows up that day–BONUS.

*Writing is a job that deserves to be treated as such. Set up a schedule.

*Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

*And while I’m not looking forward to my next failure…I know it’s coming.



My second Workshop of the day was with the lovely Wendy Loggia–FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

Ia addition to hearing Wendy rave about my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary and my Wolf Pack Sistah Kiersten White


…I loved learning a little bit more about Delacorte Press. Did you know…

*Delacorte plans their books out way in advance to give them the best marketing attention they can give. If you were to sell a book to Delacorte today (8/15) It would not be slotted for publication until Spring of 2017.

*Delacorte does not have a acquisitions board. Editors can acquire what they choose.

*Delacorte does not compete with other imprints at Random House

*Wendy does all her own editorial reading.

*Why Wendy purchases a manuscript?

-emotional connection

-loves the voice

-thinks it deserves to be published



Sorry–was having an afternoon brain fart or a caffeine low and missed getting a picture of Molly. Just imagine a highly energetic creative teaching us how to use theater to create stronger writing and illustration on the page.

Ummm no pictures here either. I swear I wasn’t sleeping LOL! This was a great panel on DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS


NYNicola Yoon

VJVarian Johnson

BCBrandy Colbert

JCJoe Cepeda

IWGIW Gregorio (didn’t attend due to illness)

This may have been my favorite diversity panel I’ve heard yet. Here are some bits from my notes…

VJ–You don’t need permission to write diversely, but you do need to do your due diligence. And remember you aren’t trying to write the experience of ALL the people–just the one that’s your character. Your research is not different than any other research for a character.

JC–I try not to overthink the issue too much.

VJ–I’m not a fan of the term, CASUAL DIVERSITY, but it’s when the characters featured are diverse, but the diversity isn’t the issue. Ex-Lando in Star Wars

NY–I’ve never been sassy a day in my life! (on sassy diverse sidekicks)

JC–Write and illustrate without fear and if you have fear, pretend you don’t.



And then it was time for the Saturday Gala! This year’s theme was Sparkle and Shine. And FYI the sugar cookies were amazing–I ate them before I could get a picture LOL!





I hope all this fabulous information is helping your writing to sparkle and shine. You can catch me first conference blog installment here…LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1 At the end of that blog, you’ll see that I’m still running a contest to win a signed copy of…




So don’t forget to head over there and take advantage of the opportunity. I’ll be back on Thursday with LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3!!!


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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. 

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Critique Partners, The Ladies Noir and PIXILATED by L.S. Murphy

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Critique, Publishing, Stuff I Love, The Ladies Noir, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I LOVE my critique partners. I have a very small group of friends who I’ve been working with for a very long time and they are amazing. I also have lots of critique support through my local Shop Talk. They never let me down. And then there’s my amazing buddies from the Class of 2k12 and the Apocs that I can ALWAYS call upon. But recently I’ve joined a new critique group I’m very excited about. We call ourselves The Ladies Noir and we’re a group of 30 YA authors supporting each other with critique and promo. I’m loving this diverse group already and I’m happy to begin sharing one of these great YA authors with you. PIXILATED by L.S Murphy is on TBR list but I wanted to be a part of her Book Blitz, so I’ll tell you about how awesome it was later. For now, here’s what you need to know to be excited…



by L.S. Murphy

Release Date: 06/30/15

Bloomsbury Spark


Summary from Goodreads:

Senior Year. 

Middle of nowhere. 

What’s the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields. 

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they have to be together. 

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, ’cause Les is about to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color. 

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:


 Praise for Pixelated:
“In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of secrets and lies with a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance that kept me turning pages and holding my breath!” ~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

“Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion and complex characters, Pixelated will tug at all your heartstrings. I easily lost myself in the world L.S. Murphy created and couldn’t stop reading because I needed to see how the story ended.” ~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

“L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader with Pixelated: romance, secrets, mystery, and a main character torn between two choices. Murphy’s writing is sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers from the first sentence to the last.” ~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of Magpies 


About the Author
L.S. Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite authors, and watches every episode of Doctor Who like it’s the first time. When she’s not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults.

Author Links:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by:


YA Bound Book Tours

I’m completely intrigued by a girl wanting her work to grace the cover of a National Geographic–what intrigues you the most about PIXILATED???

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