I’m Supporting the We Need Diverse Books Campaign. How about you?

Raise your hand if you are aware of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Many of us don’t realize how few books are either published or marketed with characters that represent diverse communities. Here are some sad stats about this:

Of course we all want to see ourselves in the books we read. But we also need to see others who are NOT US in the books we read so we can expand our view of what is normal, right, and should be valued.

I’m supporting the Indiegogo campaign (click sidebar to the left for more info). I’m hoping the campaign will result in books both written and published for and about all children.

PiBoIdMo? What the heck is that?

Once again, I’m excited to participate in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) extravaganza that kicks off November 1st. She’s pulled together an amazing cast of inspiring people in the world of children’s books and I can’t wait to start my next 30 days with their insights. Plus, during PiBoIdMo I give myself permission to collect at least 30 off-the-wall-and-who-cares-if-they’ll-sell ideas. It’s all about the “ideas” — not the execution — and that is just plain fun. So thanks, Tara, for pulling this together.  

BTW, watch for a Mentorship interview with Tara coming soon!

Do you want to spice up your school visits? Better check out this webinar!


Don’t miss this ​90 ​minute ​live ​webinar ​with ​noted ​author, ​former ​teacher, ​and ​school ​visit ​expert, ​Suzanne ​Morgan ​Williams. ​Fees are: ​$25 ​for ​current ​SCBWI ​members, ​$30 ​for ​not-yet-members, ​and ​free ​to ​Michigan ​P.A.L. ​members. ​It will be great ​for ​illustrators, ​pre-published, ​and ​seasoned ​presenters. 

The ​best ​school ​visits ​are ​age ​appropriate, ​energetic, ​engaging, ​and ​add ​value ​to ​the ​curriculum. ​How ​do ​you ​design ​amazing ​presentations? ​Gain ​confidence ​in ​your ​performance, ​teaching, ​and ​negotiations? ​How ​do ​you ​get ​schools ​(or ​more ​schools) ​to ​hire ​you? ​Handouts, ​exercises, ​and ​the ​online ​presentation ​will ​help ​you ​plan ​programs ​based ​on ​your ​strengths, ​your ​books, ​and ​students’ ​needs. ​ 

Suzanne Morgan ​Williams ​will ​share ​her ​best ​tips ​for ​connecting ​with ​schools ​and ​negotiating ​fair ​deals. ​If ​you’re ​serious ​about ​giving ​presentations ​that ​leave ​schools ​buzzing, ​tune ​in. ​The ​webinar ​will ​end ​with ​an ​optional ​online ​question ​and ​answer ​time. ​ ​Homework ​and ​supplemental ​information ​will ​be ​forwarded ​to ​registered ​participants ​prior ​to ​the ​live ​event. ​Your ​link ​to ​the ​webinar ​will ​be ​active ​for ​three ​months ​after ​the ​event. ​Click below to register! Seats are limited and filling quickly…


You Might Not Know This About Punctuation Marks — But You Should 


My current events-junkie hubby brought this short article to my attention (Akira Okrent, The Week online 10/14/14). 

We all know that word meanings morph over time, but I hadn’t thought about how the role of punctuation is changing, too. Poor little comma…  


Mentor Monday is BACK!

PictureAnastasia Suen

I’m excited to share my news that the Mentor Monday series is open for business again! The feedback from this series was always positive and my enthusiasm for the topic has never waned. So…once a mid-month on a Monday, I’ll share an interview with people in the children’s literature community on the topic of mentorship. YAY! is all I can say about that. 

For my inaugural re-invigoration, I virtually sat down with the amazing Anastasia Suen. Her interview follows after two short mentorship promo bits below:

  • Of course I’m partial to the great state of Michigan and our SCBWI-sponsored mentorship program http://michigan.scbwi.org/mentorship-program-2/. However, there are other programs in the SCBWI world. I worked with SCBWI to create a resource page for these programs. The page resides on the main website https://www.scbwi.org/scbwi-mentorship-programs/. (You can only access it if you are a member.) If you wish to be mentored or mentor another, you can start your research here. We will add more programs as they become available.   
  • You can find another SCBWI-member only resource about mentorship in THE BOOK: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children 2014 (p.37) called Mentoring Matters by moi. This describes the benefits of mentorship for both mentees and mentors. 

Now, on to the important part of this post!!!

Anastasia Suen is the author of 190 books for children and adults, a LibrarySparks and Booklist’s Quick Tips for Schools & Libraries columnist, a literacy blogger, a children’s literature consultant for several publishers, a freelance editor, a former K,1,5, & 6 teacher who visits schools to teach the six traits of writing, and a former Staff Development for Educators, UNT and SMU instructor who teaches writing workshops online.

Have you been a part of a formal mentoring program through SCBWI or any other organization?

I have never been formally mentored, but that hasn’t stopped me. I actively seek out opportunities to keep growing as a writer by attending professional events, such as SCBWI conferences. I also read in the field every day. I read children’s books as well as books and blog posts about craft, the children’s book market, and freelancing.

Do you agree or disagree with distinguished author Margaret Atwood’s statement about writing: “Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own?”

I agree and disagree. If you never ask for help, it can take a very long time to learn your craft.  However, at some point, you need find your own voice, and that means not listening to what other people say.

In what ways have you been “helped a bit?”

The SCBWI conferences I have attended over the years have helped quite a bit. Everyone there is actively working on their craft, making it a wonderful day of immersion in the writing life.

If you were a mentor, what strengths would you bring to a struggling author?

I have been teaching the craft of writing to children’s book authors since 1999 and my strength is my focus on reading and structure. From the beginning I have insisted that all of my students read books like the ones they are writing. I teach this way because long ago I heard Judy Blume speak at an SCBWI conference about taking books apart to see how they worked. I followed her advice and it worked for me, too.

If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?

When I start writing a new book, I read, read, read, so I always have several mentors for each project. And because I write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, my writing mentors change with each book. There are so many books and blogs to read, so much to learn and explore. One encounter leads to another in a continuous journey of discovery.

Thank you for your insights, Anastasia!

Blog Tour for A Cool Summer Tail Begins Today — With a Give-Away!


I’m happy to announce the first day of A Cool Summer Tail Blog Tour. The book launched this spring, but since this is an informational fiction children’s book about how animals adapt to heat, it seemed appropriate to save the tour until the temperatures got nice and steamy.  We all know how hard it is to stay cool when the thermometer rises. Can you imagine how much harder it would be if you were wearing a fur coat? A Cool Summer Tail gives readers some insight on how animals survive hot weather. 
Blog tour participants can be entered to win a free, signed book and a plush animal featured in the book (fox, bear, or squirrel) just by visiting each stop on the tour and commenting to let us know you popped in. One commentor will be randomly selected. You’ll learn about some very cool sites along the way, too. Here’s the schedule:

August 11: Anastasia Suen: Booktalking #kidlit http://asuen.wordpress.com/ and Nonfiction Monday http://nonfictionmonday.wordpress.com/ (a nonfiction guru)

August 15: Deborah Diesen: Jumping the Candlestick http://jumpingthecandlestick.blogspot.com/ (New York Times bestselling children’s book author and fellow Michigander)


August 15: Brittney Breakey: http://authorturf.com/ (unique and quirky interview questions that made me think!) 

August 18: Jennifer Chamblis Bertman: http://writerjenn.blogspot.com/ (a peek at creators’ work spaces)

In addition, Debbie Gonzalez and Sue Morris at Kidlit Reviews are reviewing A Cool Summer Tail on their websites. They are expecting you, so stop in for a look-see.  

Then, stop back here on August 20 to find out who won the book and plush. (They would make a great summer birthday present!)

So…buckle your seat belts. Here we go!

I’ve Been Tagged! Writing Process Blog Tour continues…

PictureOne of my many happy booksigning moments…

Shutta Crum, Michigan author extraordinaire (MINE!, Thunderboomer, Dozens of Cousins, etc), tagged me to participate in the ongoing Writing Process Blog Tour. Shutta’s effervescence is her calling card, and just underneath it lies gobs of talent as a writer, poet, child whisperer, storyteller, mentor, and role model. I feel lucky to have crossed her path in life. Visit her website and you’ll see what I mean.   

Week after week, writer by writer, the Writing Process Blog Tour asks and answers 4 seemingly-simple-but-surprisingly-complex questions about how we write. Then we’re tagging others to post their answers, as well. My answers follow below and information about the person I tagged is at the very bottom. Be sure to scroll down so you can learn about her. 

What are you currently working on?

If all goes well, I’ll have two picture books (one nonfiction nature and one fiction humor) ready for my agent by September. I have one picture book (fiction with nonfiction underpinnings) and one historical MG on submission and another picture book that will be going out soon. Hopefully there will be post-contract revisions for all of these soon!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Right now, I am a multi-genre writer. However, I am a nonfiction (nature) author. The tagline on my website is “writing at the intersection of fiction and nonfiction” and that concept resonates deeply to me. If I can narrow in on a reality-based topic that is new and tell it in a fresh and fun way, then it’s a HOME RUN, baby!

Why do I write what I write?

If I hear, see, feel, taste something unknown to me, I often wonder if there is a story in it. Like every creator, I’m on a continual quest to learn and I love sharing what I learn with others – particularly children. When I see the light turn on in the eyes of children who read my stories, I know the hard work is worth it.

How does my individual writing process work?

I wouldn’t be Quickly-Bored Me if I didn’t have several picture book and novel projects in various stages of development. Here are my typical stages of a developing manuscript:

Get pinprick of an idea > write, revise > maybe there is something there > write, revise > like it enough to keep working on it and do some research > write, revise > send draft to my critique group > revise the heck out of it > run draft through crit group again > write, revise > ask secret ninja reader to react to it > write, revise > send to agent > write, revise > manuscript goes out to the world

More often than not, my pinprick of an idea doesn’t make it to the end of the cycle. If I lose steam on it, the passion isn’t there. One day, I asked my agent, Jodell Sadler, which project she thought I should focus on next, and she said, “Pick the one you care deeply about and jump in there.” It was great advice and it helped me realize we could work together effectively. She could have said, “Do X project because it is more commercial” and blown the flicker of my enthusiasm right out.   

I do almost all of my writing at my computer, but carry notebooks and favorite pens with me everywhere. I write best after movement/exercise and will often solve issues with dialogue or characterization or plot while out in the woods or on the water. My first two books, A Warm Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail were born because of my experiences in Nature. (Yes, capital “N” because Nature is my best writing partner and I’d be lost without her.) Here are a few scenes from my trails… 

I’m tagging Jennifer (Jenn) Chambliss Bertram who is an author to watch. In total transparency, she is in my critique group and I know how strong a writer she is. But I chose her for this blog tour because she a great example of how talent + experience + hard work leads to success. She’s paid her dues as a writer, journalist, editor, student, and teacher. When she had her first baby, landed an amazing agent, and secured a three book contract in a matter of months, we weren’t surprised, but we were very happy for her. Visit her website and stay tuned for her debut, The Book Scavenger, in 2015. Go Jenn!