The Surprise, The Honor, and The Challenge

“Here lies one doubly blessed. She was happy and she knew it.”  — ​Gwen Frostic’s epitaph written by herself


The Surprise
On March 9th, 2019, during the Michigan Reading Association‘s (MRA) annual literacy conference, I was honored with their 2019 Gwen Frostic Award.

I hadn’t a speck of an inkling this was in the works. So imagine my confusion when I was packing up my belongings after a presentation and was commanded to the late afternoon general assembly by a dear friend, author, and MRA board member, Deb Gonzalez. I think her exact text read, “Get here. Now.” She immediately ushered me to a seat in the front row of a 1700-person packed room. Call me perplexed but I didn’t have to wonder long because about a second later, the Award was described and I was announced as this year’s recipient.

The Honor
​From the MRA websiteGwen Frostic Award
“In 2006 the Michigan Reading Association established a Board Award that would honor a Michigan author and/or illustrator. The candidate must have strongly influenced literacy in Michigan in any dimension of literacy: which may include but is not limited to: children’s fiction/nonfiction, young adult fiction/nonfiction, adult fiction/nonfiction, drama, song, poetry, newspaper, magazine or multimedia.”

Sara Gwendolen Frostic was a beloved artist, author, and lecturer sharing “her observations of the universe.” She was owner and president of Presscraft Papers, Gwen Frostic Prints, of Benzonia.  Gwen was awarded honorary degrees from many colleges and universities, was inducted into the Michigan’s Women’s Hall of Fame, and was even given her own day, May 23rd, known as Gwen Frostic Day in Michigan.

Her nature-inspired art themes resonate deeply with me as does her willingness to pursue her passion for creativity. Her art is breathtaking in its simplicity, the way it engages the eye, and in its respect for subject. Through Gwen’s art, we learn about the subject in its environment and like her printmaking technique, that subject is indelibly imprinted in our hearts.


The official Gwen Frostic website is linked HERE. I hope you visit and learn more about her and her work. PLUS, we now have a picture book about Gwen! NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY, a Michigan Notable Book,  was written by author friend, Lindsey McDivitt, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewan and published by Sleeping Bear Press.  Feel free to add this book to your collection and share with young readers.

The Challenge
The candidate must have strongly influenced literacy in Michigan in any dimension of literacy…” Although the Award language is past-tense, this moment has stoked my commitment to positively influence literacy in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I also challenge you — writer, illustrator, storyteller, teacher, librarian, parent, and/or guardian of our most special people on Earth — to positively influence literacy in any dimension that YOU can. 

Thank you to the Michigan Reading Association Board for this surprise, this honor, and this challenge.

To Gwen! To children! To books!

Pish, Posh, Let’s Get Cleaned Up


A quick look at the magazine rack at checkout counters reveals that January is the month to clean up and organize. I’m following suit inside my house but it dawned on me that I should peek into my digital home, too. 
Good thing I did because my online profiles looked like this…messy, cluttered, and disorganized. 

Cases in point:
1. My Google Knowledge Panel shows a book with no cover image and my profile picture is outdated. I’m in the process of getting verified as a the owner of that Knowledge Panel so I can make changes to it. Wish me luck.
2. The SEO site description on my website was clunky and didn’t reflect my current writing emphasis. 
​3. My Amazon Author profile was out of date even though I did revise it before the launch of STRETCH TO THE SUN in October.
4. My SCBWI profile was out of date. Gulp. 
5. My Facebook profile? Old and boring. Needed an overhaul. 
Thankfully, my Twitter profile was okay.
How do you look to the online world? Need a dustin’? I’m right in there with you. 

Agent Linda Epstein Dishes On Rejection

No nonsense literary agent Linda Epstein offers up some thoughts about rejection. The format you see below is created through an app called Thread Reader in which all the tweets in a thread are stitched together so you can read them more easily — like a blog post. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Read Linda’s thoughts and breathe them in. Remember that rejections are passes on work and represent opportunities.
Cheers, my friends.

What To Do While You Are Waiting. And Waiting. And Waiting…


Multi-published author, Lisa Amstutzoffers a helpful post for writers who are trying to traditionally publish their first book and experience long periods of time waiting for answers.

[Let me interject that published authors wait, too. In fact, I double dare you to find a published author that doesn’t!]

Remember Newton’s first law, “…a body in motion stays in motion?” It was meant to describe a physics concept but it also applies to writers — pre-published and published. We must keep moving toward our goals. Lisa helps us realize there are many ways to augment the goal of debut and sharpen our skills and connections in the process. 

What do you do while waiting that augments your career? 

The ARC is here and there’s no flood in sight!


The ARC, celebratory flowers from hubby, and a lovely note from the team at Charlesbridge.

Opening a package from your publishing company is a complete treat. Especially when you have an idea the package might contain the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from your latest book. It did and I am over the moon about this one.


On the cover alone, I adore the detail on the tree bark and foliage, the sweetness of the bear cub’s face, the rich sunny yellow behind the tree. And the font choices, oh the font choices! So many to consider and these are perfect. Artist Susan Swan and the design team at Charlesbridge have given readers a feeling of grandeur yet made the cover engaging and inviting. I CANNOT wait to hear childrens’ reactions. 

There are a few more sneak peeks of interior spreads HERE and they are equally awesome. Stay tuned for the book trailer currently under production with PookyHonk Productions.

I’d love to hear your reactions!

Is Fear Getting in Your Way?

Recently, a client who is working through the stages of my Find Me an Agent Match, Please service shared that fear gets in her way of submitting. When we discussed it further, she and I were both surprised to learn she did not have a fear of failure; she had a fear of success. It took some time to peel back the layers of this fear but she was open to learning why she, a grammarian at heart, sent out query letters with glaring sentence construction mistakes and obvious typos. She had even made the unforgivable error of addressing a query to “Mr. X” when it was directed to “Ms.  X.” 

Although her projects were ready for submission, she wasn’t. 

When I asked her what success looked like to her, she described a fairly dramatic scenario where she’d be on the road most of the time promoting at book fairs and presenting at book signings and school visits. Although this was exciting, it was daunting because she is a single mom of two children and because public speaking gave her the heebie-jeebies. We discussed how this scenario might actually play out. She realized she could say yes to people who had offered to help. She could find a balance between home and book life. And, she could send out submissions that reflected her years of work, talent, and her promise as an author. 

Is fear of success — or failure — getting in your way? Take some reflection time and see if you can let it go. 


Many thanks to my friend, Nancy Castaldo, for hosting the cover reveal of STRETCH TO THE SUN on her blog, Naturally Speaking. Nancy is a multi-award winning author of middle grade and early reader nonfiction and activity books. She’s also an environmental educator, naturalist, and photographer. In fact, many of her photographs are used in her books. Here are some of her most recent titles:

Let’s Go to the Fair! And by that I mean the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Part Duo.


Part one of this two-parter offered a small window into the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018. Now I want to focus on what it means for an individual creator to attend an event like this.

I guess I can only say what it meant to me as a first-timer. Hopefully something will resonate with you!
Herewith are my takeaways:

  1. POV: our world is only as big as our experience. After eleven focused years in the children’s book industry, I have a fairly decent feel for the US market. However, I learned at the Fair that many publishers outside of the US use very different illustration styles, make very unique books, and take what appear to be risks in illustration and content I never would have considered possible. Question: how can I/we push my work into fresh territories that I now see are possible? How can my work land on the front end of the curve?
  2. there are a. lot. of. books. being. published. I still can’t fully assimilate the vast worldwide industry of children’s book making and selling. This is exciting because it is a clear indication the market is robust. But it can also be paralyzing in that could there possibly be a story left untold? kind of way. Question: how can I/we create a story that is uniquely mine to tell? 
  3. foreign rights are important to the longevity of a book. They aren’t something to glaze over in your contract. (oops) I learned at the Fair that if the rights for your books aren’t sold soon after it launches, there may be a market for them later. For example, multi-published author Miranda Paul shared that her book about siblings, Mia Moves Out, was of interest to a Chinese publisher because China is now experiencing more families with siblings. Interesting, right?

    The pub house may have new buyers or may have changed their interests in general. Question: how can you be your own foreign rights advocate? Miranda held a showcase for her books and had reached out to possible foreign rights people in advance of the Fair. She had discussions with them at the Fair and if they expressed interest in a title, she passed their contact information on to her agent and/or publishing team.  Other SCBWI people made these kind of connections at the Fair and goodness, it was exciting! 

  4. engaging with people at the Fair is important. We never know where our engagement might lead. One friend was invited to speak at an event because she met the organizer at the Fair. Another had “interesting discussions” with an agent. Question: in what ways can I reach out and offer something memorable for new contacts to take with them? Bring your engaging bookmarks, business cards, and/or other small and easy to pack trinkets displaying your contact information to share. 
  5. once again, SCBWI offers safe harbor in a windy sea.  The stand is ready for action the moment the Fair opens and is available until it closes.  It’s a place to reconnect to old friends, make new ones, and at the end of the day, know that you are with your special people.  Question: how can I grow my circle of SCBWI friends and include these new people in my writing framework? SCBWI always makes a big world smaller and this is very apparent at the Fair. If you are putting off going because you won’t know anyone there, start your day at Stand 26 B 76.
  6. diverse perspectives make things much more interesting! I spent time with people from Australia, France, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, and Poland. We chatted about our unique challenges and opportunities. Each conversation opened my eyes just a bit wider to the world outside my own. Question: what can I learn from other perspectives that might inform my own work? 

​There are so many ways in which this experience broadened my horizons. I hope you’ll put the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on your bucket list.

Ciao for now! 

Let’s Go to the Fair! And by that I mean the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Part Uno.


I’d seen pictures of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and I expected it to be big. I expected a lot of people making foreign rights deals and of course, a lot of children’s books. But I never expected so much intensity around and respect for the art of creating books for children.

Every time I pushed the turnstile into the venue — called BolognaFiere — it was as if I’d left a typical world full of typical happenings and landed in a special place that was created only for and about children’s books. Every person there (approx 27,000+ of us) came because they wanted to know more, do bookmaking better, and/or explore what was possible. 


So what does it look like inside the Fair? Several very long and light filled-halls are chock-full of booths — or “stands” as they are called there — showcasing books and child-related products from all around the world. Ever wonder what the country Slovakia is publishing? Head to stand 22 C 4. Or want to see what the Scandinavian Publishing House views as its best new titles? That’s stand 26 A 68. Or maybe compare the illustration styles of the Cambridge School of Art (stand 25 B 110) with Changjiang Children’s Press (26 B 127)?


Here is a list of all the exhibitors and a map of the venue. Wow, right? 


Then there are “conferences” – short presentations/workshops/masterclasses on many, many topics such as illustration, packaging, apps, translation, toy design, etc. etc. This year, there were 250 different conferences, many presented in Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and English. At one conference, I heard a translator who looked as Midwestern USA as person could but spoke with a beautiful command of Japanese. Really, one could keep busy just attending conferences. Here is a view from my… um…refueling station.  ​​

​The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s booth (stand 26 B 76) was a happening place and home base for book creators from around the world. Highlights were the Dueling Illustrator’s competition (in which two illustrators are read part of an unpublished manuscript and asked to draw an image for it on the spot, in front of an audience, in a short amount of time!) and showcases where SCBWI members shared their books and often, their art-making for visitors.

​Here is a Dueling Illustrator’s competition with intrepid SCBWI Advisory Board Member, Bologna Book Fair coordinator for SCBWI and author, Chris Cheng, reading the manuscript selection to two illustrators: 


Here is SCBWI Michigan co-Regional Advisor and author/illustrator, Leslie Helakoski, during her busy showcase.


​Also, the Fair celebrates the “best of” -– such as the best illustrations submitted for selection (displayed in the photo to the left) and gives out prestigious awards (Bolognarazgazzi Digital Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award, Silent Books Award, BOP – Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, etc.). 

And just to keep things interesting, the Licensing Trade Fair happened simultaneously so we were treated to various life-sized licensed toys in our midst. 
Fascinating books are being made and sold in almost every corner of the Earth. If we believe, and I do, that children’s books often represent our current culture and our hopes for tomorrow, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an opportunity to see our whole wide world under one roof. 

What does all this mean for a creator? For your own work? Scroll down for Part Duo.