NJSCBWI Conference Rocks it Again!

This past weekend I attended my umpteeth conference with the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ. It was fun and inspiring to spend the weekend with fellow authors and illustrators talking shop and re-igniting the writing spark thanks to workshops and critiques. Keynote addresses by PB Author Laurie Wallmark and MG Author Bruce Coville inspired us to keep on writing and reminded us that our stories have an impact and make a difference.

There were agents and editors looking for projects and plenty of attendees hoping to make a connection. I enjoyed seeing old friends again and making some new ones.

Here are some of the highlights in photos:


Keynote Address by Award-winning author BRUCE COVILLE.


With Author/Illustrators Patricia Keeler and Barbara DiLorenzo


Illustrator Awards


Enjoying cocktail hour with Marina Cohen, Kathy Temean, Johanna Staton


Had a copy of WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by award-winning Author/Illustrator  Vesper Stamper

Many thanks to Kim Pfennigwerth, Trisha Hamilton, Roseanne Kurstedt, Barbara DiLorenzo, Laurie Wallmark, Super agent Liza Flessig, all the other agents and editors who kindly shared their expertise, as well as everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make the weekend memorable.

If you missed the festivities, mark your calendar for next year’s event on June 20-21-2020.


Fellow attendee Eileen Holden

conference 1

Agent Liza Fleissig with some of her NJSCBWI clients. So happy to be part of this distinguished group.

NJSCBWI Craft Weekend Rocks!

It was a joy to share workshops with fellow writers at the New Jersey Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) Fall Craft Weekend November 12-13 at the Theological Seminary in Princeton. NJ.  I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop titled SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET: HARVESTING YOUR ANCESTRY FOR STORY.  There were other workshops as well as panels of agents and editors discussing their wants in children’s books.  Here are some photo highlights:

Yvonne Ventresca, Patricia Keeler, me, Laurie Wallmark, Robin Newman: All represented by Liza Fleissig or LRA.

Yvonne Ventresca, Patricia Keeler, me, Laurie Wallmark, Robin Newman: All represented by Liza Fleissig or LRA.



We three conducted workshops on Suspense, PB's and Using Genealogy in storytelling.

We three conducted workshops on Suspense, PB’s and Using Genealogy in storytelling.








PB Author Superstar Tara Lazar

PB Author Superstar Tara Lazar


Editor/Agent Panel.

Editor/Agent Panel.







With workshop attendee Eileen Holden

With workshop attendee Eileen Holden



With Jody Staton

With Jody Staton

Annie Silvestro with her debut PB: Bunny's Book Club.

Annie Silvestro with her debut PB: Bunny’s Book Club.









Most diners raved about the chocolate dessert...I really enjoyed the edible nasturtium!

Most diners raved about the chocolate dessert…I really enjoyed the edible nasturtium!




       If you’d like copes of the handouts from my workshop, let me know and I’ll email them to you.

SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET: MINING YOUR ANCESTRY FOR STORY. (How to use photos,documents, diaries, etc to develop character/setting and details in a story)

Many thanks to RA Cathy Daniels and her “CREW” for making the weekend a great success!

NJSCBWI 2016: Rocks It Again!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my writing “tribe” at our annual conference in Princeton NJ.  The NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) is always a great time to learn techniques for improving the craft of writing for children.  It’s also the best time to pitch projects to agents and editors who are in attendance…each specifically looking for new talent.

We got to meet many new faces and reconnect with familiar ones.

Friday evening cocktails with Robin Newman and Carol Lyndstrom.

Friday evening cocktails with Robin Newman and Carol Lyndstrom.

It was a great weekend and always leaves me re-energized to start new projects and edit old ones based on critiques gotten from those in attendance. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Jody Staton, Yvonne Ventresca, Cathy Breisacher

Jody Staton, Yvonne Ventresca, Cathy Breisacher

In KidLIt TV Land with Katya "Kat".

In KidLIt TV Land with Katya “Kat”.






Author book signing with Marina Cohen.

Author book signing with Marina Cohen.

Saturday Evening Social with Gigi Collins, Jody Staton, and Kathy Bakos.

Saturday Evening Social with Gigi Collins, Jody Staton, and Kathy Bakos.

With PB author Robin Newman.

With PB author Robin Newman.

With Illustrator/author Mary Zisk.

With Illustrator/author Mary Zisk.


I had another informative and inspirational weekend at the annual New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Princeton, NJ this past weekend.  Lots of opportunities to reconnect with writer friends and make new ones. Workshops on perfecting craft, Keynotes from Author/Illustrator, DENISE FLEMING, Agent/Author JOHN CUSICK, and a report on the state of children’s publishing.  (doing well, we’re happy to hear). Plus lots of time for sharing success stories.  An exhausting but always motivating event.  Here are some highlights in photos.

With Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth

With Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth

Signing books with Charlotte Bennardo, fellow KIdLIt Author's Club author.

Signing books with Charlotte Bennardo, fellow KIdLIt Author’s Club author.

Musician and author Jonathan Sprout

Musician and author Jonathan Sprout

The LRA crew: Laurie Wallmark, me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Robin Newman

The LRA crew: Laurie Wallmark, me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Robin Newman

With Jennifer Reinhartz

With Jennifer Reinharz

Hanging out on Friday evew. with Jody Staton, Laurie Degman, Corey Rosen-Schwartz, and Robin Newman.

Hanging out on Friday eve. with Jody Staton, Laurie Degman, Corey Rosen-Schwartz, and Robin Newman.

Finally meeting blogging friend Katey Howes.

Finally meeting blogging friend Katey Howes.

Another new friend Katya.

Another new friend Katya.

Books for sale...

Books for sale…

With Marilyn Ostermiller

With Marilyn Ostermiller

The LRA Club

The LRA Club

Another awesome weekend of writing and social connection.  Thanks NJSCBWI.  You Rock!

With Eileen Holden

With Eileen Holden

My Path to Publishing by Beth Ferry + PB Give-away!

I am especially excited today to bring a post by my friend and fellow children’s book author BETH FERRY.  Her debut PB, STICK & STONE (hmh.com) is being released this month to starred reviews.  “Stick” around, because one lucky reader will have a chance to win a signed copy of this endearing story of friendship.  Here’s Beth with how it all came about:

I’ve always loved reading.
I read while brushing my teeth.
I read while eating breakfast.
I read while walking to the bus stop with my older sister steering me clear of rocks and trees and fast moving vehicles.
I read anything and everything – cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, recipes, and of course, books, books, books!
I became an English major in college because I loved to read.
But I never actually thought of becoming a writer.
I scribbled stories now and again.
I once wrote a story about a “rich, extra body” appearing to a girl who was washing her hair.
That’s what you get when you read shampoo bottles.
But it wasn’t until my kids were well on their way to becoming teens that I decided to commit my time to writing.
I joined SCBWI in 2008 and began writing long, rhyming stories about pirates and pumpkins.
Who knows why?
Then I began learning.
Attending conferences.
Receiving rejections.
Writing and re-writing.
It was a long road.
Full of queries and questions.
Disappointments and disasters.
Until finally I wrote Stick and Stone.
I had challenged myself to write a story under 200 words.
What would it be about?
Something universal and timeless.
At first I decided not to write it in rhyme.
But that was painful.
And no fun.
So I did it anyway.
I wrote Stick and Stone in April 2011.    2014-01-30 07.32.40
135 words.
I brought it to the June NJSCBWI conference.
Got positive feedback.
Thank you, Steve Meltzer!
Sent it to Pippin Properties in August.
Received an offer of representation in September.
Thank you, Elena!
And sold the story to HMH in December.
Thank you, Kate!
Stick and Stone will be released on April 7, 2015.
It is illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
Thank you, Tom!
It has been a long journey.                                   beth Ferry
An interesting one.
An exciting one.
A beautifully illustrated one.
And one paved by Stick and Stone.

Beth Ferry is the author of Stick and Stone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, available April 7, 2015. She is also the author of Land Shark, coming August 4, 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet setting sail in the Fall of 2016. Her latest picture book, Swashby and the Sea, will be released in 2017. Beth writes and lives by the beach in New Jersey with her family and two lazy land sharks. You can learn more about Beth and order her books at: www.bethferry.com.

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of STICK & STONE (HMH Books April 2015), please post a comment below. If you’d like to increase your chances of winning, tweet about this post on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and reblog it. For each additional “shout out,” another entry will be added with your name on it. Just let me know what you did so I can add the correct number of names. Deadline for this great give-away is April 13, 2015.

Interview With MG Author Kat Yeh.

Can You Write a Novel in a Month?  by Kat Yeh

When people find out that my upcoming middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, started as a NANOWRIMO book, they ask a lot of questions. First being: Can you write a novel in a month?

NANOWRIMO stands for National Novel Writing Month — the online phenomenon that has writers around the world attempting to write an entire novel during the month of November.
To be honest, I had always been afraid of Writing a Whole Novel. It just seemed impossible.
But the idea of reaching that goal in only one month was tempting.
And all you had to do was write 1,667 words a day for 30 days.
I had my idea and vague storyline and a voice. I decided to give it a try.

I announced to all my writer friends that I would be a NANOWRIMO participant, so that I would feel the pressure of being accountable.
I began posting my word count each day online — sure that if I missed one day someone I admired of importance and great influence would shout “A missed day? Novelist, indeed! Bah!” The Bah!, in particular, would especially hit me hard. So, I kept at it.
I wrote every single day in November and, in the end, I had over 55,000 words.
And then (this is the important part): I put it away.
I did not peek.
I did not re-read.
I let it sit there for months. I pretended it didn’t exist and immediately began writing another novel and a picture book or two.

When enough time had passed that I could no longer recall specific sentences and chapters, I printed the entire thing out and read it in one sitting. I wanted to get the feel of it. It was a rough read. But there was hope. I knew the voice was there. And there were passages and certain sentences that I wrote during NaNo that are in the final novel exactly as I wrote first them then — and they are some of my favorites. There were also pages and chapters that I quickly tore and burned to avoid future blackmail.

I spread the entire novel across my dining room floor where one day I hoped to have a real live dining table like the real grown ups have. I kept a quick red pen in hand and made little marks and moved on. I slashed entire sections out and cut and stapled others together.
Then I read it through again. And I put it away again. And I worked on something else – anything else! Until enough time had passed again.

So much easier once we had our BIG dining room table...

So much easier once we had our BIG dining room table…

And I then I picked up that cut and stapled and taped up bundle of chapters and I read it through with a bigger red pen. Then I went back and wrote myself an outline. And I cut and stapled some more. I wrote and rewrote and revised. AGAIN.
During this time, I went to every conference that I could afford to go to. I selected ones where specific editors or agents that had my interest were going to be. I did every first page and critique that was offered. Little by little, I got feedback and critiques and then — I started getting interest.

One of the first editors to see the first 50 pages of THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (then titled TWINKIE PIE AND OTHER THINGS OF A DELICATE NATURE) was Alvina Ling of Little Brown Books for Young Readers. I do not think I can begin to describe the head explosion that occurred when she smiled at me, paused, and then said, “I loved this.” And I cannot even begin to explain the control that kept me from express mailing the entire messy thing to her that very afternoon.                    YEH_TruthTwinkiePie_HC 2-1
Because I knew it wasn’t ready.

Agents and editors are busy. You want to bring them the very best possible version of your manuscript that you can imagine. You want to start from There. And I knew that I had a strong first 50 pages, but I wasn’t There yet. So I went back and revised some more. A few months later, I brought it to the SCBWI summer conference where it was nominated for the Sue Alexander Award. And I had a few more people asking when I could send it.
But it still wasn’t ready. Not quite yet.

I went back and revised for one more year. Yes, a whole year. I needed it. The time I spent away from my manuscript was just as important as all that time I was spending on it.
And then, finally, on September of 2012, almost two revision-filled years after completing NANOWRIMO, I sent out my agent queries.
It went well.
Many people have asked me about my actual timeline. And, honestly, it’s such a blur that I’ve often gotten the dates wrong – so I decided to go back through my emails and see what the actual breakdown from NANO to Pub date really was.
And here it is:

Kat’s NANOWRIMO Reality Breakdown:
NANOWRIMO – November 1- 30, 2010 = Doggy Draft done (Doggy because, you know, it was rough-rough)
(Put manuscript away for several months, then go back and revise. Repeat.)
June, 2011 = First 50 pages are critiqued by Alvina Ling at the NJSCBWI Summer conference. I am asked to submit the entire manuscript.
(I DO NOT submit! I keep revising.)
August, 2011 Bring manuscript to SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE is nominated for the Sue Alexander Award
(But, they are only reading the very first few chapters, I remind myself. I put the manuscript away and revise for another year.)
September, 2012 Submit to agents, sign with the awesome Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary
(Do one round of smaller revisions with my agent before submitting to editors)
November, 2012 THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE goes to auction and is won by the lovely Alvina Ling
(I put it away again until I receive my editorial letter. Then go through several rounds of revision with my editor and copy editors. The last several moths, it is mostly finessing and copy editing.)
October, 2014 FINAL 2nd pass queries are finally finished
(Weep. Pass out.)
January 27, 2015 Publication Date.
This is only my very own personal novel journey — wrought with my own personal revision and writerly needs. Perhaps yours will take less time. And perhaps, more. Whichever way it goes, I wish you happy writing and revising.
And do I recommend NANOWRIMO? Absolutely.
After all, I did write a novel in one month. One month, four years, and a few weeks…

KatKat grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water every day and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.  Her debut middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE comes out January 27, 2015     Visit Kat on Twitter @yehface

You can order a copy here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316236621

Interview With YA Author Josh Bellin.

Today I am thrilled to bring you my guest and fellow author (who happens to share the same fabulous Agent Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency) Josh Bellin.  Josh’s debut YA SURVIVAL COLONY 9 will be released this month with Margaret K. McElderry Books.  And, you can check out the post I did for Josh on his website on 10-9-2014: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Synopsis:    Querry Genn is in trouble.

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.

Tag line: Forget the past. Fight to stay alive.

PRAISE, Critical Acclaim, BUZZ for:                       SC9 Cover medium
Joshua David Bellin

2014 YA Nominee – The Nevils, Noted Cli Fi Novels of the Year

Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series:
“Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human. This debut novel made me feel almost as desperate to find out the secret behind Querry Genn’s existence as he felt. And what a surprise when everything was revealed!”

Kirkus Reviews:
“Querry’s memory loss allows for exposition to smoothly unfold. With each description, the Skaldi menace becomes more vivid and horrifying….The ending doesn’t explain everything, but it is action-packed and completes Querry’s emotional arc. Readers won’t want to face the terrifying Skaldi, but they’ll enjoy reading about them.”

Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars:
“Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!”

“…thanks to its deliberate pacing and Querry’s garrulous first-person narrative, debut author Bellin’s novel is strongest in what it does not reveal. Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the postapocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.”

School Library Journal:
“Survival Colony 9 will appeal to sci-fi fans who will anxiously await the planned sequel.”

Publishers Weekly:
“Debut author Bellin weaves a bleak postapocalyptic tale of survival against overwhelming odds…”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews:
“…this debut novel by Joshua Bellin is most certainly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. The action never stops, and Querry is definitely a character you will root for!”

Heather Anastasiu, author of the Glitch series:
“Gripping and action packed. Just when I thought I knew what was coming, another twist would shock me. Superb!”


Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

ISBN: 9781481403542      Release date: September 23, 2014

Biography: Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. http://www.lizaroyce.com

Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.             Joshua Bellin PR 3

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com
Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin
Survival Colony 9: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18457362-survival-colony-nine
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Colony-Joshua-David-Bellin/dp/1481403540/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393982949&sr=1-1&keywords=survival+colony+9