Archive for the ‘Writing for Children’ Category




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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Speak Up–The Children Will Listen

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

I’ve stepped away from social media quite a bit lately. The trolls and the drama of petty and cruel things has discouraged me. But I’ve always known the limit to my silence. A time would come when it would be impossible for me not to step forward and speak up. My fear of swallowing my words would be bigger than any terror I might feel in my exposure.


“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

— Robert Frost

On Tuesday I wrote a FB post in response to an article called Powerful Images Showing Where Young Syrian Refugees Sleep by Mangus Wennman. I felt the audience for my words was too limited, so I’d like to place that original post here.

I understand the legitimate fear of terrorist sneaking into our country on the backs of the Syrian refugee children and families in need of our help. But who ever said that doing the right thing–being a leader was easy? I believe more terror will be stopped by our kindness than will ever be stopped by our fear. When I think back at my personal heroes–the people I admire for their courage, intelligence and kindness–I know the kind of behavior I expect from myself.

If you watch a movie like Schindler’s list and walk out of the theater feeling good about yourself, you have to know that being someone’s hero must be earned–that it can never be without personal risk. I’m reading the book I AM MALALA right now and there is a quote from WWII that Malala references and it really stuck with me…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

At my core I know what I would want someone to do for my children if this is what they looked like when they tried to go to sleep at night. How do you look these children in the eyes and turn them away? The day your fear becomes bigger than your humanity–there’s a good chance you don’t have anything worth defending anyway.

‪#‎realfirstworldproblems‬ ‪#‎bethechange‬

There were a range of thoughtful responses to my post. And those that saw things in a different way than I did, were in truth, just asking important questions. The biggest–how do we protect ourselves and our children from becoming victims too? I understand this. I have children. I wear the responsibility of their lives like an unprotected heart outside my chest. Some days it paralyzes me. But I have a truth I can’t deny. The finest and most satisfying moments in my life have been the ones where I’ve found my courage. I have never been as alive as when I’ve dared to be more–tried to be someone better. And as hard as it might be to put into practice, I don’t think I have a right to prevent my children from experiencing that depth of living. I wouldn’t want someone to take that away from me. When my boys were born and placed into my arms–I never once had visions of what they might one day lack in their lives. Instead, in an instant, their whole lives as extraordinary men played out before me. I could imagine who they would become and how that might change the world for the better. That was their gift.

I also mentioned in that FB post that I’m reading the book I AM MALALA. As every word of this young girls life slips into my ears and moves me deeply, I realize that her parents are the unsung heroes in her story. They never stopped their daughter from being the person they knew her to be in that moment she was first laid in their arms. As scary as it might be, they gave her the opportunity to be her best self. As a parent, may I always be that brave. #withMalala

“There is a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”

Today I choose not to be silent. I do this–not despite the safety of my children–but for their protection. I do not want them living in a world where girls are beaten for going to school, where refugee children sleep in the gutter, where everyone waits for the next shooter or bomb to strike. I do not want my children to live in a world where the voice of terror is louder than the voice of love. I can not bear to have my children believe they are incapable of being the change they wish to see in the world. Living life to it’s fullest is not an absence of adversity. Living is the triumph of the human spirit no matter what obstacles are in the way.

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

–Into the Woods

“You may only be someone in the world, but to someone else, you may be the world.”

— Unknown Author

Please speak up. The children will listen if we give them a chance.

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In JK Rowling’s Imagination

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, Stuff I Love, Vacation Madness, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

This past week, my husband and kids spent two days laughing at me. Or rather, my childish delight at being in Universal’s Harry Potter Theme Park of Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Gringotts. But they were pretty blown away by the awesomeness of the experience too.

We’re all HP fans. <3

But the thing that stuck with me the most was my husband wandering around, continually repeating how amazing it was to get to walk around in someone else’s imagination.

I can’t possibly agree more.

I wish you’d all been there with me too. Maybe we can have an SCBWI event there sometime, right??

But in the meantime, here’s a picture tour of JK Rowling’s imagination come to life…


The Hogwarts Express

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Hogsmeade at night






Honey Dukes for Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans


The Sorting Hat


Olivander’s Wand Shop…where the wand picks the Wizard.



I unexpectedly rounded a corner into Diagon Alley. My 12yo is still laughing about the squeal he heard me make before he got inside. <3




The Weasley Twin’s joke shop–Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes



And a fire breathing dragon atop of Gringotts



I applied for an account!


More butterbeer–because I could!


Even the toilets were just right!


There was also the Leaky Caldron


And Flourish & Blotts for school books too.


And there was so much more…

small diagon

It’s a tiny picture , but it’s all I could upload with a panoramic.


And don’t forget the Knight Bus…


For getting around on the Muggle streets of London LOL!


And King’s Cross Station–Next time I’m going to get to go in. Platform 9 and 3/4 is on my HP Bucket list. <3

Ahhh I miss it already. I can’t wait to go back. What about you?

Have you been inside JK Rowling’s imagination? What was your favorite part? Are you planning to go? What is on top of your HP Bucket List?

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The Boys in the Basement Found Their Groove

Filed under: Chasing Adaptation, Drafting, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

When I wrote my first book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I was obsessed with my musical playlist. I hardly ever wrote without it playing in the background. When I was brainstorming parts of the novel, I listened to certain songs over and over again. To this day, any of the songs on that list evoke very strong writing/book memories for me.

And then I stopped. Cold turkey.

I haven’t listened to a thing while writing since. And I’ve tried. I’ve made playlists for books I’ve worked on, but they never took on the life of that TTS playlist.

But… There’s always a BUT, isn’t there? Recently I found myself turning off my audiobooks while I’ve been running and listening to my workout music while giving the boys in the basement (my inner creative genius workhorses) time to day dream.


It’s been very helpful. I’ve had things I’ve been stuck on (for a thousand years) come bubbling to the surface. In excitement, I’ve done silly little dances of gratitude mid-run. Luckily I run on back mountain roads where there’s a limited amount of people witnessing my foolishness. Eek!

I’m not sure if these music fueled runs, or something else entirely, piqued my curiosity, but recently something possessed me to pull out the old, hardly been listened to playlist for my work in progress, CHASING ADAPTATION. Part of me wonders if it may have been morbid curiosity that caused me to dust it off. This novel has been written and rewritten so many times and with so many changes, I couldn’t even imagine the playlist being connected to my current scribbles.

But, as I listened, I found myself more than a little surprised at how perfect the songs were for the book I’m writing NOW. It seems a part of me has always known what I’ve been trying to say. The emotions, the questions, the feels and the wonder haven’t changed at all. Perhaps, the truly hard part is finding the RIGHT words to connect the dots between what’s always inside me and what gets printed on the page.

In honor of the boys in the basement, finally finding their groove, I thought I’d share one of the songs from the CHASING ADAPTATION playlist…


FIX YOU by Coldplay

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Do you have a playlist for your writing or any of your creative ventures. How does it work for you? What ignites your bones?

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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

IMG_7244 IMG_7245

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…

IMG_7266 IMG_7268

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!!!!!

IMG_2986 IMG_2989

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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We Are the Authors of This Boy

Filed under: Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Writing for Children

This morning I dropped off my oldest for an 8th grade overnight field trip. As I watched the bus get smaller in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t help but feel all the feels.

This isn’t the first time that my 14yo has gone away without me. It happens in certain degrees and combinations more and more often as he grows. This summer there will even be a week of sleep away camp in his future. And in four years he’ll be graduating high school and preparing for college. But as I pulled away from the bus (way too early) what I noticed was my mixed feelings. I was infused with a combination of giddy excitement for him, confidence in who he is and a wee bit of sheer terror as I imagined my unprotected heart driving away on a bus where anything could happen. Anything. Car accident, terrorist bombing, escaped tiger from the zoo. Do I need to go on?

No–I absolutely don’t. And I mean that a little differently than you might expect…

The only time that worrying like that is beneficial is if an asteroid, plague, bomb or whatever is about to hit and I’m packing up the kids and preparing to run. Day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute–nothing good comes from imagining the worst. I simply have to trust that what we’ve given this boy so far, is enough for the task at hand. We’ve done our best.

But that wasn’t all I thought about on the two miles back home to the coffee pot. The true connection I made this morning was realizing how far this young man must travel in the next four years. Every day between now and then he will be in revision. If we do it right, we’ll slowly and methodically listen to what our main character is telling us and help him tweak his story. We’ll make sure we use the most effective words in all the right places and we’ll try to show instead of tell and yell and nag and preach. We’ll have to step back and make room for the cast of characters in his life, that over time, will have more and more weight in his story. We must also give the plot a chance to take turns we never expected. He’ll need that to be diverse and complicated and interesting to everyone who peeks beneath his cover. We’ll have to give him room to fail because no one wants to read a book where nothing happens. And we’ll have to be reminded that no book is ever perfect. Art is subjective. People are too. And even more important we’ll have to be reminded that sometimes distance is as important as persistence and diligence. And maybe the hardest thing will be knowing when to stop tinkering and when to let him stand on his own out in the world.


My husband and I are the authors of this boy, but if we do our jobs correctly, he will one day know how to write his own story.





The Best Things Happen When You Aren’t Looking

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Sorry I missed you on Tuesday. I was thawing out.



The whole family was away on a ski trip that was awesome but very, very cold. How cold you ask?

Yeah, about a -24 on the top of the mountain. It was a mighty breezy gondola ride LOL! I felt like I was frozen half the weekend. Thank the stars for hot tubs. But, when I did get home, I was rather occupied. I had a long lost puppy to hug.

IMG_0418 It was the first time the little fur baby stayed with someone else. He did great but once we had him back, there was lots of hugging going on. And don’t forget that when I arrived home, I had a whole different mountain to climb–Mt. Laundrious. I think I’m still out there on one of the permanent press peaks. Bleh!

But today, even though it was still cold, the kids went to school on time. There were no weather delays, which allowed me to do something fabulous called writing. *sigh* It was wonderful to have an UNINTERRUPTED chunk of time with my manuscript. I hammered out over a 1,000 words in a reasonable amount of time, but it isn’t the word count I’m writing about. (Although it makes me very happy.) Rather, what’s worthy of a blog post is the unexpected thing that happened…

BAM! One of my characters blindsided me right along with my MC.


We are both still reeling from the unexpected development. He did what??? I’m still baffled. I NEVER thought this character would do THAT. But he did. I knew it for absolute certain even though I don’t know exactly what that means for my MC at the moment. It has rattled my cage, but it also makes me content to be a pantster. The truth is that some days I panic, being a fly by the seat of my pants kind of a girl. When I hit a tough spot, I’m SURE  if I could just outline, my life would be complete. COMPLETE!

But then a moment like today happens and I bask in my creative process. This development could have never come from an outline. At least not my outlines. Those are nuttier than an peanut factory. The simplest way I can explain the joy of this thing that happened, is to say that it’s a small moment of confirmation. It reminds me that I’m not really crazy–not THAT crazy anyway. *shrugs* I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, y’all.

And of course, tomorrow or maybe next week, I’ll be back to wishing I had a road map for a book, instead of just headlights, hope and instinct to guide my way. Traveling in the dark can be hard and even kind of scary, but that’s why I wrote this post. It’s to remind me that sometimes the best things happen when you aren’t looking.


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