NJSCBWI 2017: Another Rocking Weekend of Writing Inspiration.

I spent this past weekend attending the Annual Conference for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) and came away inspired, enlightened and filled with a new desire to write stories for children.  So many wonderful workshops and a chance to see some amazing writers and illustrators.  Here are the workshops I attended:

  1. Biographies: Finding Subject and Focus: by Laurie Wallmark
  2. How to Market Non-Fiction Books: by Jennifer Swanson
  3. Using Subtext to Add Depth to Stories: by Laurie Calkhoven
  4. 7 Steps to Stronger MG and YA Novels: by Gabriela Pereira
  5. Breaking Down Barriers – How to Write and Critique Across Racial Lines: by Kelly Calabrese and Tami Charles

There was also first page and round table critiques,  and catching up with old friends while making new ones.

Natalie Zaman, Laurie Wallmark


Browsing the Book Fair and enjoying a fabulous Keynote address by author/illustrator Stephen Savage on Saturday morning:



Here are some photo highlights:

With PB author Annie Silvestro




Cocktails with Katie Howes, Jody Staton, Kathy Temean, Robin Newman and Colleen Kosinski


The LRA Tribe: Yvonne Ventresca, Robin Newman, Me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Laurie Wallmark, Leslie Santamara


With Carole Lindstrom



Leeza Hernandez, Linda, Char Bennardo


This Makes Sense by Beth Ferry

I recently flew home to NJ from Dallas, TX.

With a sore throat.  In a storm.

As a result, the hearing in my right ear was compromised.

Like I have a cotton ball tucked snugly and constantly in my ear.

Nothing permanent, but pretty darn annoying.

Most people, especially me, take their senses for granted.

Our senses are like five little superheroes to whom we don’t pay much attention, but who really rule our world.

Not being able to hear as I usually do made me think about how our senses affect our writing.

Do we use our senses as we write?

Interesting question.  Our senses surely inspire us.

I know the smell of the salt air at the beach makes me dream of whales and mermaids and deep sea stories.

The feel of the sand gives me ideas about sand castles and buried treasure.

The sight and sound of the crashing waves makes me write about pirates and seagulls and starfish wishes.

But do we use these senses during the writing process?   During the typing and reading and thinking and revising?

The answer is most definitely yes!

And even though you’ve probably heard this advice before, because of my current auditory predicament, I am going to focus on the sense of hearing.

Write your stories.

Read your stories.

Hear your stories.

Reading your stories aloud is critical to the writing and revising process.

When you read your stories aloud and float your words in the air, you are able to perceive them in a completely different way.

You can almost taste them!

Those spicy verbs.                          hjn010212lifespice           

The bland run-on sentences.

The juicy adjectives.

The past-their-expiration-date adverbs.

Something that looks fine on your computer screen and sounds fine in your head, doesn’t always work quite the same way when heard by your ears.

Your ears will pick up the rhythm of your sentence.

The power of your word choices.   The flow of the story.

The mistakes.  The successes.

It is the single most important thing you can do as a writer – read your stories aloud.

It’s how children will hear them.

It makes complete sense!            sbw-cover


A Small Blue Whale is releasing in October and is illustrated by Lisa Mundorff.

It is about a whale who sets out to find a friend, but along the way uses his senses to ponder the meaning of friendship.

Have you ever thought about what friendship looks like?

Tastes like?   What it sounds like?   Or feels like?

Probably not, but it is a pretty fun idea to explore.

I like to think that friendship tastes like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

That it sounds like those waves crashing on the sand and smells like that salty air.

That it feels like soft, fluffy cotton balls.

An image that I love.

Only not in my ear!

bethFerry Headshot 500Beth Ferry lives and writes by the beach in New Jersey where she is influenced by the sea and the sand and the salt. She is the author of Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and A Small Blue Whale which swims into print on October 24, 2017. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.



Meet…Kid Lit TV!

KidLit TV: A Place That Brings Out the “Kid” in Kid Lit
By: Katya Szewczuk                 IMG_9170

Are you looking for great children’s literature authors or illustrators so your kids or students will jump into the reading world and go on all kinds of adventures? If so then KidLit TV is the place to be. Here you’ll find all kinds of fun and interesting kid lit books, interviews from well-known authors, tech savvy information about the latest technologies and some great advice that will have your kids reading in no time.

Julie Gribble,owner of New York Media Works, realized there was a need for creating and producing content to support the children’s literature community. So in November 2014 she founded KidLit TV, a resource for children’s book creators, industry insiders, booksellers, librarians, teachers, and parents. Julie’s vision was to open a communication channel between kid lit authors, illustrators and experts, with parents and educators. She also saw the importance of technology in the world today and wanted to ensure that these new literacy tools were made accessible to everyone. http://kidlit.tv/

KidLit TV is more than just a resource or a website.  It is a community of authors, illustrators, educators, and parents all working together to create great books for kids.
The KidLit TV Headquarters is always busy creating original videos and content. Every week, KidLit TV has a highly anticipated show called Storymakers. On this show the charismatic host of StoryMakers, Rocco Staino, interviews an author, illustrator or industry expert and gets the inside scoop of what goes on behind the scenes of that individuals’s life and career. Storymakers is a fan favorite, too, because the interviewee always brings signed books to give away! You can view past StoryMakers interviews on KidLit TV’s website or Youtube Channel. KidLit.TV also provides Red Carpet interviews at children’s literacy events around New York City which is a must see for everyone in the kid lit world.
In addition to the StoryMakers exclusive interviews, KidLit TV also shares original content. Every Tuesday is Kidlit Kibbles day; Readers will discover what hot topics or fantastic events are going on in the kid lit world, such as:
• book awards
• interviews with authors, illustrators or other experts in the industry
• book birthdays
• kid-friendly fun

Thursday is “Tech Thursday”, a day that the KidLit TV team shares tips and tricks for learning new technologies, video editing software, apps or simple, tech savvy advice to keep everyone up to date with the latest and greatest virtual tools. On this day readers will find a series of ‘how to video edit’ articles that will provide a basic rundown and understanding of video editing software. From simple, free programs to advanced software that Hollywood uses; the KidLit TV team knows how to lend a helping hand in the video-editing world. .

At KidLit TV you’ll see:
• Inspiring and diverse videos from authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, and more
• Informative videos to help you navigate the world of kid lit
• Video tutorials on using new technology for creating and promoting books
• Entertaining videos about contemporary and classic books

Having the latest news relating to everything in the children’s literacy world is important to Julie Gribble and her team. Every day new content is curated from all our favorite resources around the web and shared on the KidLit TV website. Authors, illustrators, parents, teachers or kid lit fans can use this content for reference, advice or take part in any of the activities promoted on the site. For all the latest happenings and information on kid lit related to publishing, writing, technology, community and more, be sure to check our website for daily news updates. We are a team who invites every new idea and supports our community with open arms.

Want to learn more about us? Visit us on:               kidlit-sitelogo-small
• YouTube––Subscribe to our channel for KidLit TV’s original videos, our curated video collection, and our special live streaming events!
• Facebook––Join our KidLit TV Facebook Group where authors and illustrators help each other create and fine-tune book trailers, how-to videos, welcome videos, and more.
• Twitter––Follow @nymediaworks to see what we’re up to, get behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks, and get the latest industry news!
• Pinterest––Follow our Pinterest boards for everything fun, education, and inspiring in the world of children’s literature.

Loner in the Garret: A Guest Post by Jennifer R. Hubbard

The upside to freelance writing is that it’s self-directed. You decide what to wear, where to sit, what music to play, when to start and when to stop, how much to do in a day. All those things that a day-job employer controls are in your own hands when you freelance. (Once you start signing contracts, you have deadlines to meet. But you still choose how you’re going to meet those deadlines, and how much to do each day.)

And the downside to freelance writing is that it’s self-directed. If the choices are yours, the responsibilities are yours also. You can get feedback, but it won’t be consistent: The ending that seems abrupt to one reader will strike another as dragging and drawn out. One reader will call your plot fresh and original, while another considers it predictable. And you will have to decide whom to listen to, what to change. You have the responsibility of sitting down and starting, of revising once more when you’d rather be done, of motivating yourself and coping with the rejections that come.

It can get lonely in the writer’s loft. Without a circle of writer friends to share the experience, I might not have the fortitude or the attitude to sit down and face the blank computer screen again and again. And so I decided to produce a “writer’s companion” in book form, addressing these very ups and downs.      LonerintheGarret_Ebook

Loner in the Garret is a series of short discussions on all aspects of writing and publishing. Ideally, it’s meant to be read a page or two at a time, perhaps before a writing session, focusing on whichever topic you most need to read at that moment. But of course, you can read as much or as little as you want, in any order. You’re the boss … which is your challenge and your reward.

Synopsis: Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is not coming up with a plot or the perfect turn of phrase. It’s getting motivated to sit down and start, or having the confidence to go forward, or finding the courage to move past the sting of rejection. Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion provides inspiration and encouragement for that mental and emotional journey. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.

For more: http://jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com/p/publications.html       biopic2

Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard http://www.jenniferhubbard.com is the author of three novels for young adults, several short stories, and a nonfiction book about writing. She lives near Philadelphia with an understanding husband, a pile of books and chocolate, and a   melodramatic cat.

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.

Mining Your History for Stories.

It’s been said that everyone has a story to tell. I’ll go one step further and say our ancestors have great stories to tell. Just because our grandparents and great grandparents are no longer with us, or weren’t famous, doesn’t mean their lives weren’t interesting. I’d be willing to bet that everyone’s family has a person, event or incident that could be the catalyst for a novel or short story.

While researching my own family tree, I discovered two interesting facts. The first was that my paternal great grandfather worked as a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. He worked on carriages for prominent people in DC such as John Philip Sousa. The second fact was that his daughter – my grandmother – received an invitation to a reception at the White House and met Theodore Roosevelt. That invitation is in the family scrapbook.   invitation 1

Think about that. It’s not every day any of us gets to meet and socialize with a president. It wasn’t long after discovering these tidbits that I came up with this premise: What would happen if a girl – who adores her Papa’s carriage business and wants to become a blacksmith – sees the emergence of automobiles as threatening to that business. What lengths would she go to keep that business from closing down? Would she go all the way to the President?
With that premise, my middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE was born.

Think of the places your ancestors grew up in or originated from. What is unique about those settings? What kind of occupations did they have? It is safe to say there are few carriage makers left today, just as there would be few telegraph operators, stagecoach drivers or telephone switchboard operators. But you can bet kids would find those occupations interesting and maybe even exciting. What did grandma eat as a kid? What games did grandpa play? All these bits and pieces of our ancestors’ lives have the potential to be a good story for today’s kids.

So, let the skeletons out of the closets. Dust off grandpa’s war diary; go through that ancient box of trinkets. Examine the old black and white photos and letters from your family’s past. Somewhere under the dust of time, is a gem – a gold nugget – waiting to become your next story.

Thank you, Grandma for saving that White House invitation. I wonder what grandma said to President Roosevelt at that reception.     emily 1

Maybe that’s another story.   Happy digging!


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