Saturday, August 18, 2018

Stephanie Campisi on her latest picture book, Luis and Tabitha!

Describe Luis and Tabitha in one sentence.

Alley cat Luis has it all figured out...until he meets indoor cat Tabitha, who turns Luis' world outside-in.

What inspires you?

Wordplay, people behaving in strange ways, and that thin line between the rational and the absurd. (I suppose those are all the same thing, really!) I feel like we’re always trying to make sense of things that don't make sense, and there’s something beautiful in that. There’s something about the outsider trying to make their way in a world that they don’t quite understand that rings very true to me.

Tell us about your illustrator.

Luis and Tabitha is illustrated by the very talented Hollie Mengert, also of the WWA region. Hollie has a delightfully whimsical style that’s so expressive and full of movement, and she’s brought so much depth and humour to Luis and Tabitha. We’re both owners of adopted cats, and our pets have inspired both the book’s text and illustrations! 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m somewhere between the two, although I’m moving gradually towards being a plotter. I always know my beginning, major climax and the takeaway or feeling I want to leave my reader with, but the rest of the book is usually a mystery to me until I’m deep into it. This isn’t so bad with picture books, but for novels it’s a somewhat messy approach, and I find that I end up working through the same plot and pacing issues every time. I’m actively working on exercising a little more patience up-front – here’s hoping the index cards I have on my desk actually get used!

Do you have a regular writing routine/spot/playlist, etc?

I’m a freelancer, so I work long and unpredictable hours. At the moment I tend to write in spurts, but it’s not my preferred approach. I feel like writing is like exercising: it’s so much easier when you’re used to using those muscles. In terms of other “regulars”, all I need is some quiet background music, about four cups of coffee, and a view of the nearby forest.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Be patient. Not just in terms of waiting to hear back on projects, but everything else. It takes time to build a career. It takes time to learn your craft. And it also takes time to be able to not just hear feedback, but understand it. You might be told the same thing dozens of times, but you need to get to a certain point before it actually sinks in and you can respond meaningfully. I don’t think that you can fast forward through that process. 

What’s next for you?

More picture books! I have a Russian folklore-esque picture book called The Five Sisters coming out from Familius in 2019, as well as a picture book about a K9 school drop-out called Very Lulu from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky launching at around the same time. I have a few more things in the works, so hopefully I’ll be able to update that list soon! 

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?

The lack of control authors have over much of their careers. It’s very difficult to be able to meaningfully build a career when you have very little access to sales, financials and industry conversations. 

On August 18th, 40% of proceeds from the sales of Luis and Tabitha from will be donated to the Oregon Humane Society. 
Click here for more info.

Find more about Stephanie here.
Find more about Hollie Mengert here

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2019-2019 Passport Series On Sale Now!

It's time to sign up for your 2018-2019 SCBWI WWA Monthly Programming Passport! Register HERE

A full season of regular monthly programming begins with our kickoff Editor Extravaganza, Saturday, October 13, 2018, at Seattle Central Library in the Microsoft Auditorium. During the Monthly Meeting portion of the day, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, we’ll host Tiffany Liao, editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, presenting on “Mirrors, Windows & Doors: Writing & Thinking Cross-Culturally.” After the meeting, enjoy the work of local illustrators at our KISS Art Showcase, displayed in the lobby of the Seattle Central Library.

But, wait, there’s more planned for our Editor Extravaganza! Plan to spend the day and evening with your SCBWI friends! From 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m, Tiffany Liao will lead a wonderful master class workshop, "The Heart Wants What It Wants: How to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters.” For your evening entertainment, stay for the Washington State Book Awards ceremony, 6-7 p.m. with schmoozing afterward. All events for the Editor Extravaganza and Washington State Book Awards will take place at the Seattle Central Library.

The final event for our Editor Extravaganza takes place on Sunday. Tiffany Liao will lead two 90-minute Roundtable Critique sessions on October 14, 2018, at Seattle Pacific University, between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sign up for Passport early to get your spot at the table!

Tiffany Liao is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She's had the pleasure of editing authors such as Tomi Adeyemi, Rhoda Belleza, Dhonielle Clayton, K.D. Halbrook, Lesley Livingston, Henry Lien, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, and Margaret Owen, among others. She acquires young adult and middle grade fiction of all stripes, as well as the occasional nonfiction title. A Bay Area native, Tiff now resides in Brooklyn where she continues to pine for a good avocado. She (mostly) tweets about bookish things at @tiff_liao.

Monthly Meetings, Webinars, and Additional Opportunities, 
September 2018 through May 2019

You asked and we listened! This year, we’ve mixed up some of our programming, moving regular monthly meetings to Saturday mornings, 10 am to noon, and expanding meeting locations. Watch for announcements about monthly meetings at several different venues, some familiar and some new: Seattle Pacific University, Seattle Central Library, and Bellevue College. We’re also launching Webinars, free to Passport holders, open to others for a fee. Webinar times and dates vary. Be sure to check our website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and, as always, your email inbox. We hope this mix of diverse programming means that there will be something for everyone in our fabulous region!

You won’t want to miss even one of these meetings and webinars and your Passport purchase ensures that you won’t have to! This year, our season starts in September and ends in May. Our SCBWI Western Washington chapter is fully self-supporting since we don’t receive money from dues to the International Membership. Our chapter works hard to keep our fees low-cost or free when possible. For lowest cost access to all 2018-2019 monthly meetings and webinars, pay a one-time registration fee -- $44 for SCBWI International members and $88 for non-members. This year, we’re offering scholarships for Passport. For more information about how to apply for a scholarship, check out our website or email Even without a Passport, you or your friends can still participate in our monthly meetings and webinars -- $15 per monthly meeting, and $20-$25 per webinar. Invite a friend!


September 8, 2018, 10:30 to 12:30 p.m., Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium, An SCBWI & Seattle Writes Welcome at Seattle Public Library. (Free and open to all!)

September 17, 2018, 7:30 a.m to 8:30 a.m., Webinar: Author/agent Lauren Spieller with “Dazzling First Pages.” (All attendees must register to participate. Watch email and social media for announcements.)

October 13, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to noon, Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium: Mirrors, Windows & Doors: Writing & Thinking Cross-Culturally with Tiffany Liao, Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

October 13, 2018, 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. , Seattle Central Library Lobby: KISS Art Showcase. (Select this option during Passport registration.)

October 13, 2018, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Seattle Central Library, Level 4, Room 1: Master Class with Tiffany Liao, The Heart Wants What It Wants: How to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters. (Register here.)

October 13, 2018, 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Seattle Central Library, Microsoft Auditorium: Washington State Book Awards Ceremony. (Free and open to all!)

October 14, 2018, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, Seattle Pacific University, Roundtable Critiques with . (Option to purchase during Passport registration.)

October 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Webinar: A Conversation with Martha Brockenbrough, The Writing of Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump, hosted by Lisa L. Owens. (All attendees must register to participate. Watch email and social media for announcements.)

November 10, 2018, Time & Venue TBD , Tacoma: Topic TBD with Wendy Wahman.

November 14, 2018, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Webinar: Just the Facts: On Researching Your Nonfiction Children’s Book with Lisa L. Owens, hosted by Joni Sensel. (All attendees must register to participate. Watch email and social media for announcements.)

December 8, 2018, 10 a.m. to noon, Seattle Pacific University, Demaray Hall: POV & Emotion: Writing Reluctant First-Person Narrators with Rob Land. And don’t miss our ever-popular holiday cookie contest and book exchange!

January 12, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to noon, Seattle Pacific University, Demaray Hall: Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing with Amazon KDP (indie publishing) with Jessie Hughes, Kamel Depuis-Perez and Beth Bacon.

January 12, 2019, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Seattle Pacific University: The Great Critique. (Not part of Passport programming; separate registration & fee required. Watch email and social media for announcement.)

February 2019, Webinar: Topic, Date and Speaker TBD, moderated by Joni Sensel. SCBWI WWA’s creativity liaison, Joni Sensel, will moderate a webinar about a topic related to creativity, your imagination, and how to harness them to improve your work, your life, or both. Watch your inbox and our Facebook page for the date and time of this not-to-be-missed webinar! (All attendees must register to participate. Watch email and social media for announcements.)

February 23, 2019, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m, Western Washington University (Bellingham): Social with SCBWI-WWA. Mingle with fellow SCBWI members at a no-host dinner after the WWU conference. (Watch your inbox and social media for details!)

March 9, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m, Seattle Pacific University, Demaray Hall: Mini-Panel, Meet the Agents with Linda Camacho & Quressa Robinson. (Monthly Meeting is separate from Agent Day; registration required to participate in full Agent Day agenda).

March 23, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to noon, Eastside Venue TBD: Nonfiction Craft Talk with Laurie Ann Thompson, hosted by Lisa L. Owens.

April 13, 2019, 10 a.m. to noon, Bellevue College: Worldbuilding: How to Create Solid Worlds That Feel Real with Alma Alexander (followed by Kidlit Write-In; see description below).

April 13, 2019, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., Bellevue College: Kid-Lit Write-In. (Kid-Lit Write-In is not part of Passport Series; separate registration required.)

May 11, 2019, 10 a.m. to noon, Seattle Pacific University: Join us for our final meeting of the year as we take a video stroll through two illustrator studios. After the video, both illustrators will answer questions from the audience about their work. (Illustrators to be announced in the new year.)

Registration Details and More Information

Click on the Additional Opportunities tab for complete details about the October Editor Extravaganza’s Roundtable Critiques and Master Class, the October Meeting’s Keep it Simple (K.I.S.S.) Art Showcase, The Great Critique in January, and the Kidlit Write-in in April.

All have limited space and tend to sell out, so be sure to register quickly once registration opens!

To purchase a Passport Series, add a $60 roundtable critique with Tiffany Liao, or sign up for the KISS Art Showcase, register HERE.

To purchase Tiffany Liao’s Master Class Workshop, click HERE.

To register for webinars (sign-up required), or other programming, watch for future announcements in your email inbox or follow our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

And take advantage of our many regional opportunities for FREE event programming that require no registration and no fees!

Locations for In-person Meetings:

Seattle Pacific University

509 West Bertona

Demaray Hall, Room 150

Seattle, WA 98119

Seattle Central Library

1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104

Microsoft Auditorium & Level 4, Room 1

Bellevue College

Paccar Auditorium (N-201)

Bellevue, WA 98007

Friday, August 10, 2018

Next Creative Salon on August 26th!

Eastsiders, mark your calendars!

Come have some creative fun in the sun. Join SCBWI Creativity Liaison Joni Sensel for our next informal Creative Salon on Sunday, Aug. 26, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m (or thereabouts) at Lewis Creek Park in Issaquah (5808 Lakemont Blvd SE). Bring a phone or other device capable of taking photos. (Like those old-fashioned… whattaya call ‘em? Cameras.) No need to RSVP; just show up, dressed for being outdoors. Kids 10 and up are welcome, if you like (with you! Not alone). We’ll meet just outside the visitor’s center for a nature-infused spa session for your imagination and a chance to play with kidlit friends. If you’re new, welcome! And look for someone waving an SCBWI sign.

For those who plan too far ahead: October’s Creative Salon will be in the Tacoma vicinity with our South Sound Network; stay (loosely) tuned for details.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

October Editor Extravaganza with Tiffany Liao!

We’re so excited to open the season with our October 13-14 Editor Extravaganza, featuring Tiffany Liao, Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers!

Registration is now open for Tiffany Liao’s workshop, “The Heart Wants What It Wants: How to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters.”

Here’s what Tiffany has to say about her workshop:
“With every book I edit, I always start with one big question: What does the character want? Your character motivation is the heart of the story and will inform every element in your book including voice, plot, pacing, and world-building. I’ll show you how to dig deep into your character to establish a motivation that is compelling, believable, and urgently drives the story forward from page to page.”

Don’t be left out of this wonderful opportunity to work with Tiffany Liao in her master class, on October 13, from 1:30-4 pm, following the monthly meeting at Seattle Central Library Seats cost $65 for SCBWI International Members, and $75 for all others.

REGISTER today! 

And here is Tiff's bio: 

Tiffany Liao is an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She's had the pleasure of editing authors such as Tomi Adeyemi, Rhoda Belleza, Dhonielle Clayton, K.D. Halbrook, Lesley Livingston, Henry Lien, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, and Margaret Owen, among others. She acquires young adult and middle grade fiction of all stripes, as well as the occasional nonfiction title. A Bay Area native, Tiff now resides in Brooklyn where she continues to pine for a good avocado. She (mostly) tweets about bookish things at @tiff_liao.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Weekend on the Water Retreat: Registration is OPEN!

We’re happy to announce the 10th annual SCBWI Western Washington Weekend on the Water retreat at IslandWood, November 2-4, 2018

This year, we’re combining writers’ and illustrators’ programming. Our special guests are Newbery award honoree Kirby Larson and illustrator Jennifer K. Mann

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Our theme is art/life balance: generating powerful creative work in a busy world. At nature-filled IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, you’ll step away from the daily grind to amp up your creativity and connect with others in the kidlit community.

Join us if you’re a writer or illustrator, beginner or seasoned pro. The weekend is jam-packed with opportunities for inspiration. Or, if solitude is what you’re craving, you can find it in this natural setting.  

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This 2018 Weekend on the Water includes: 
  • Weekend programming: 3 days of and 2 nights’ lodging at IslandWood. Choose a single or get matched for a shared room. Either way, you get private shower and toilet facilities in IslandWood’s beautiful, sustainable buildings.
  • 6 catered meals that meet your food preferences, plus snacks and s’mores by the campfire.
  • Special Guests author Kirby Larson and Illustrator Jennifer K Mann.
  • Open access to the creativity programs, networking, and nature walks. A hands-on illustrators’ workshop will help you gain new skills and perspectives. The writers’ track offers inspiration and productivity insights. 
  • Optional add-on day and night Thursday, November 1-2 gives you time, glorious time, to work on your craft or just escape from the grind and revitalize your creativity. 

Now through September14, 2018

SCBWI Member

Non Member
Main Retreat, November 2-4, 2018
Member Single Room, 6 Meals, Programming
Member Shared Room, 6 Meals, Programming
Add-on November 1-2, 2018
Member Single Room, 3 Meals
Member Shared Room, 3 Meals

Sign Up September 15 through Oct. 12, 2018

SCBWI Member 

Non Member
Main Retreat, November 2-4, 2018
Member Single Room, 6 Meals, Programming
Member Shared Room, 6 Meals, Programming
Add-on November 1-2, 2018
Member Single Room, 3 Meals
Member Shared Room, 3 Meals

Friday, July 20, 2018

SCBWI WWA: Year in Review and What's Coming Up!

Greetings Western Washington SCBWI –

As the 2017-18 programming year comes to a close, we want to share a recap of last year’s events, coordinated by your very own Advisory Committee and Super Volunteers. Our chapter receives zero funds from SCBWI Headquarters; our programming and activities are fully self-supporting and volunteer-run, making our offerings that much more impressive! The recap below reveals the depth of free programming in our region, as well as our expanded programming outside of Seattle proper. We are so proud of our chapter’s direction.

For next year’s programming, watch for even more free and low-cost programming, vibrant Networks, and the inclusion of webinars as part of our Passport programming. We hope webinars will increase opportunities for our members to get work under the nose of industry professionals.

Come August, be sure to check your email inbox and our Facebook group for notification about open registration for outstanding events we’ve planned, including an upcoming New Member Orientation on September 8, led by Jolie Stekly; a Passport webinar on September 18, featuring agent Lauren Spieller from TriadaUS Literary Agency; and, on October 13, our first meeting of the year, this one held at Seattle Public Library Downtown branch, featuring Tiffany Liao, Editor at Henry Holt for Young Readers.

For now, enjoy this recap (below) of last year’s events, relish every moment of our brief and glorious summer, and plan to return in the fall, refreshed and ready to dig into another jam-packed year of industry and craft-related events with your fellow kidlit writers and illustrators!

Holly Huckeba & Julie Artz, Co-Regional Advisors


The Passport Meeting Series branched out (from Seattle proper) into the Eastside Seattle Metro area. We held nine monthly meetings total, with speakers ranging from local talent (Sean Petrie, Mark Maciejewski, Michèle Griskey, Megan Kelso, Laura Moe, David Lasky, a panel of kidlit librarians from our region) to literary legends (Rosemary Wells) to industry professionals (Liz Kossnar, Simon & Schuster; Harold Underdown). Additionally, we featured a special monthly meeting in May: Illustrator Videos and Q&A with Michaele Razi and Karen Lewis. The Passport Meeting Series also included the following add-on events: Master Class by Liz Kossnar; Master Class by Harold Underdown; consultations for a limited number of SCBWI members with Liz Kossnar, Harold Underdown, and Rosemary Wells.

Three Illustrator Art Shows: Keep It Simple Silly (KISS) Art Show was shown at our monthly meeting and promotional materials were collected from illustrators at the exhibit to give to editor Liz Kossnar; Tell Me A Story, illustrator exhibit at University House Issaquah. ~50 illustrators exhibited; Drawn to Books, illustrator exhibit at Seattle City Hall. 45 illustrators exhibited.

The Mentorship Program is a new offering for our region and was a huge success, earning it a second round for next programing year! Eight mentors chose 14 mentees with whom they worked on polishing manuscripts (PB, MG/YA, & NF) for a 6-month period. We will continue to offer scholarships to diverse writers/illustrators that covered the entire cost of the program.

Five Nonfiction events drew a mix of published and pre-published authors.

Two Inside Story events, each drawing approximately 100 people.

This year, our annual retreat, Weekend on the Water, shifted away from an emphasis of connecting attendees with industry to focusing purely on the creative process and craft. For the first time, we combined programming for both writers and illustrators, beginners as well as published authors. Attendees were urged to dig deeply into the creative process and explore life-work-art balance.

Our region held a first-ever Publishing Bootcamp with local agents, editors, and art directors. The day included a panel-style Q&A, break-out sessions, two sessions of Four Minutes of Fame roundtables, and a query/first page read-aloud that was both fun and full of learning opportunities.

This year, we launched a popular new program, the Critique Group Roadshow. Two local members -- Mark Maciejewski and Donna Matney -- traveled to more than a half dozen venues around our region offering a brief introduction to their techniques for critique group success and a two-hour live critique for participants. Several critique groups have already formed as a part of this exciting program!

Our new Eastside Network events were highly successful! Attendees meet for four Nanowrimo Write-Ins in November, and three Craft Book Club meetings, including one where Cheryl Klein joined our group via Skype to answer questions about her craft book!

Island Network events included monthly meetings held immediately after the Langley Art Walk. In addition to monthly meetings, members met for book sharing and planning. Also: First Saturday Authors; Children’s Book Creators Meet & Greet; Kidlit Ideas Workshop; Twitter Talk & Tweet; Anne Belov Studio Tour; Bob Brunjes’ presentation on creating comic strips.

Northern Network monthly meetings included: Ideas Night; Agent Talk; Storyboards and Dummies; Critique session; Write-In/Draw-In; Books We Love; In the Beginning: Best First Lines; Sip & Scribe; Using Mentor Texts to Inform Our Writing/Art; Bring & Brag WIP.

South Sound Network monthly meetings included: How to perfect your query letter like Query Shark; Self Pub talk with Kiki Hamilton; Success Story: Jennifer Shaw Wolf; Write-In/Draw-In; Show & Tell : WIP/Dummy First Pages; Breaking down your first chapter; Character Night : Introduce us to your main character; Tips on how to edit your first draft; How to market your self pub; Summer Write-In/Draw-In; Summer Write-In/Draw-In; Critique-nic.

Peninsula Network events included: Coffee and Characters at Velocity Café; Kidlit Sunday in the Park with Pencil (or Pen); First Wednesday of the Month Social; Writer Talk with Karen S. Robbins at the Charles Pink House in Port Townsend.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Postcards for Immigrant Children

Want to send a postcard from a prominent illustrator with an encouraging message to immigrant children separated from their families? Print out one of these, draw or buy one and write a message that they are not alone and send to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program in the office of Refugee Resettlement

UAC/ORR Program, Attn: Cards for Kids, 330 C Street, SW, 5th floor, Washington, D.C. 20201.

Here’s a link to more information about the efforts of author Julie Burstein and Pippin Properties Creative Director Holly McGhee. Thanks to Dana Sullivan for the heads up.

Here is sample text, translated into Spanish by Maria Victoria.

You’re in our hearts

Estás en nuestros corazones
¡Tú! (inside the heart)

You have friends
Tu tienes amigos 

your friends in Washington State
Tus amigos en el estado de Washington

Dear Friend, please know that the people of the United States welcome you and hope you are soon back with your family. Keep up your courage and remember you have friends thinking of you!
fondly, Dana

Plural: Queridos amigos, los ciudadanos (can also use “la gente”) de los Estados Unidos les damos la bienvenida y deseamos que muy pronto puedan reunirse con sus familias. ¡Manténganse fuertes y recuerden que tienen muchos amigos pensando en ustedes!
Con cariño, your name

Singular: Querido amigo, los ciudadanos (or “la gente”) de los Estados Unidos te damos la bienvenida y deseamos que muy pronto puedas reunirte con tu familia. ¡Mantente fuerte y recuerda que tienes muchos amigos pensando en ti!  
Con cariño, your name

Translated by Maria de Lourdes Victoria

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New Authors Guild Seattle Chapter Reception

You are invited to a kick-off event celebrating the new Seattle Chapter of the Authors Guild!

Sunday, July 29
2–4 p.m.
Seattle Public Library
University Branch
5009 Roosevelt Way NE

Please RSVP here by Friday, July 27.

Hello, fellow authors.

Following up the results of our recent survey—my thanks to the many who responded—I’m delighted to announce the first meeting of the Seattle chapter of the Authors Guild. We’ll be gathering Sunday, July 29, from 2–4 p.m. at the University branch of the Seattle Public Library, 5009 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, convenient to I-5. Our featured speaker will be William Kenower, memoirist, writing coach, and a gifted, impassioned teacher.

If you’ve ever seen Bill at work, you’ll know what I mean; if you haven’t, you have a treat in store. His theme will be “Marketing for Authors Who Hate to Market,” and his presentation will take about an hour, leaving time to socialize and enjoy refreshments.

More than a few of you commented that you’ve been waiting for a group like ours to take shape. So have I, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

If you think you’ll come July 29, I’d love an RSVP, so we know about how many people to expect. Hope to see you there.


Larry Zuckerman
Chair, Seattle Chapter, Authors Guild

P.S. Many of you asked for information on forthcoming conferences in our area. See below:

Port Townsend Writers Conference, July 15-22, 2018, Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA 

Rivers of Ink, August 17-18, Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive, Richland, WA

Poets on the Coast, a Writing Retreat for Women, September 7-9, 2018, La Connor, WA

Pacific Northwest Writers Conference: September 13-16, 2018, DoubleTree Hotel Sea-Tac Airport

LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop, September 28-30, 2018, Tieton, WA (near Yakima)

Write on the Sound, October 5-7, 2018, Frances Anderson Center, 700 Main Street, Edmonds, WA

Emerald City Writers Conference, Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America, October 26-28, 2018, Bellevue, WA

Friday, July 6, 2018

Meet Our 2018-2019 Mentors: Picture Book Text AND Illustration!

Meet our mentors from our Mentorship Program 2018-2019

      Here’s what Picture Book Text and Illustration Mentors, Kevan Atteberry and Laura McGee Kvasnosky, have to say.


Tell us a little bit about what you are working on now and your current projects.

Kevan: I am a writer and illustrator of over a dozen books for children. Some of them award-winners. After several books I’d illustrated for other writers under my belt, my first book I both penned and illustrated, BUNNIES!!!, came out. I am currently working on a book that comes out next year. It is completely different than anything I’ve ever done before and it has been challenging for me. But I’m thrilled with how it is turning out.

Laura: My sister Kate McGee and I are finishing the illustrations for SQUEAK, so my studio is papered with photos of animals and the landscape of Yellowstone. The story follows a cause-and-effect alarm clock that wakens the animals early early before the sun is up. I am drawing realistic mice, chipmunks, trout, elk, eagles, bears, wolves, big horned sheep, bison and 12 other animals. This is a big challenge since I have illustrated most of my books in a fanciful way (i.e. foxes in clothes). Thank God for google image search. SQUEAK is scheduled to come out from Philomel in Spring 2019. Kate and I first collaborated on LITTLE WOLF’S FIRST HOWLING, Spring 2017. I love making books with her.

How does being a mentor influence and inform your work and why do you do it?

Kevan: Being a mentor allows me to step back a little in my career. It is easy to get jaded and assume all knowledge is known and forget about how getting to every milestone is a journey. The ability to share with someone working the same or similar path as me is motivating and a little exciting.

Laura: I started toward my dream of creating children’s books when I turned 40 – that was 27 years ago.  Ten years into it, I was a founding teacher in the UW Extension certificate in Writing for Children program. A year after that I taught the first of what were 10 winter semesters in Vermont College’s Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program. I signed on to be a SCBWI mentor because I miss the freshening that mentoring brings too my own work; the way it helps me meet what I know in a new way and make new discoveries. I love to see new stories and talent and help nurture it along. Also, I have received so much from SCBWI and want to give back.

What are some challenges you have encountered in your writing/illustration journey? How did you manage to survive through them and achieve success?

Kevan: The biggest challenges for my writing and illustrating career has been, predictably, financial. Very few folks in this industry make a living solely creating books. But fortunately, there are other venues. I’ve been just lucky and successful enough not to need a “day job.” And I can supplement my publishing income with school visits and conference opportunities.

Laura: Challenges: believing in my work, hanging in there, riding the ups and downs of the industry and life. My critique group and a supportive husband and family as well as wonderful mentors and fellow writers have helped keep me on course.

What advice would you give to your beginner self who is just starting out to make a creative career? 

Kevan: Do what you want to do—writing and/or illustrating—a lot. I mean a whole lot. Do it when you don’t have something in particular to work towards. I tell illustrators to always have a sketch book and pencil with them, and SKETCH. At a restaurant, in a waiting room, at the DMV, while watching TV, for crying out loud! This is something I’ve had to relearn myself and remind myself to do as, over the years, I became more and more of a digital artist. Writing is similar. Write. And then write some more—with or without something to actually write about. Even writing about nothing and without intention is going to help you. Pick up a favorite picture book and type (or write) out the whole story. See how it looks on paper, where the highs and lows are, how the arc flows. And finally, read. Read the kind of books you want to make. Lots of ‘em.

Laura: Go for it! Sing your own song. Remember how you love the process. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Be patient and put in the hours. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Listen to your inner self. Listen to the work itself. Join SCBWI. Take classes. Get a critique group.

            For more details of the mentorship program check here.

Kevan Atteberry is a writer and illustrator of award-winning children’s books. Before breaking into picture books —a lifetime goal of his—he spent decades running a graphic design studio, owning a greeting card company, and toying with fine art. . His books include, Bunnies!!!Puddles!!!, and the recently released I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas. Among books he has illustrated for others are Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett, and Frankie Stein by Lola Schaefer.
But Kevan’s biggest claim to fame may be creating Clippy the Paperclip, the Microsoft Word helper. At one point it was annoying hundreds of millions of people a day. He finds an odd kind of pride in this…

Laura McGee Kvasnosky is an award-winning author/illustrator of 18 picture books, best known for her series about fox sisters Zelda and Ivy. The eponymous original won dual SCBWI Golden Kite honors and Zelda and Ivy the Runaways won the ALA’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Laura’s newest book, Little Wolf’s First Howling, illustrated with Kate McGee, debuted to three starred reviews, followed by numerous “best books of 2017” listings and the Margaret Wise Brown Honor. Laura was a founding instructor of the UW’s certificate in children’s writing program and taught nine semesters at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She co-founded the SCBWI’s “Inside Story” salon for new books.