Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Conference Series-Editorial and Art Director Faculty: Tim Travaglini

Today is the last day of March!! April is so exciting because it's the month for our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference!! We have another Editorial and Art Director Faculty to introduce; Editor Tim Travaglini. Tim is formerly with G.P. Putnam's Sons at Penguin. He's an experienced conference, and keynote speaker as well.

Since 1994, he has worked in trade marketing for Scholastic, Inc.; been a bookseller for Books of Wonder, an all-children’s bookstore in New York City; and has edited for Henry Holt and Company, Walker & Company, and was with Putnam for five years. He is the editor of the New York Times #1 bestseller GOODNIGHT GOON, New York Times bestseller THE RUNAWAY MUMMY, and FURIOUS GEORGE GOES BANANAS by Michael Rex (among many other wonderful books!).

Here's a great question (and answer) from an interview from Mermaids on Parade.
How can authors and illustrators help their books sell well?
The Modern Author must have a comprehensive and interactive website; on-line video content; maintain a living list of contacts that she/he both emails and mails to quarterly (or to announce special events). She/He ideally should aim for as many school visits per year as possible; become acquianted with every children’s librarian, school, bookseller, and children’s literature specialist in her/his state or region; create classroom activities and/or discussion guides unique to each book. And she/he must continue to produce the best possible books.
A few Q & As from an interview on Author Robin Friedman's website :

What was your favorite book as a child?


Do you think “celebrity books” are on the rise? Why?

"Celebrity books" are absolutely on the rise. One reason is that they can get away with it; their fame gives them the clout. Another reason is that the publishing model of the largest houses are more and more resembling their adult division counterparts. They actively seek the blockbuster bestsellers as a primary goal of their programs, and celebrity sells.

You can see a video (about mid-page) where Tim reads from BENJAMIN FRANKLINSTEIN LIVES! (Tim is the editor for the book). Make sure you visit the event website to get your name on the waiting list (since registration is full).

Coming to the Conference? Don't Forget Your Dancing Shoes!

If you're registered for our SCBWI WWA Annual Conference, we hope you'll join us on Saturday night, April 16, for our first annual conference dance party:


It's going to be a ton of fun!
Come in a futuristic costume, put on some silver or spangles, or just wear whatever you've got on! The main thing is that you come and boogie with us. This is our region's twenty year anniversary and we're pulling out all the stops.

There will be swag! There will be door prizes! And there will be funky music!

The party will be from 7-10 p.m., immediately following the wine and cheese reception. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Blog Post on Writing Prompts

It's so wonderful to be part of SCBWI! We have so many great members nationally & of course in our own fabulous region! Fellow SCBWI WWA member Helen Landalf just wrote a great blog post on "The Joy of...Writing Prompts". It's a fantastic post to check out (and she mentions one of my favorite writing prompts "Monday Moments" from Jolie Steckly's blog, Cuppa Jolie). You can find out more about Helen, and her work (including her blog) on her website. I found Helen's blog post through following her on Twitter (another great way to connect with members).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Conference Series- Faculty Q & A with Rosanne Parry

I love our faculty for our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference! They are so talented, diverse, and just wonderfully fun! One of those is Author Rosanne Parry! You can check out her Conference Bio here, and read her great answers to the Faculty Q & A below!

What is the best and worst advice you were given when you started in children's literature?

The worst advice I ever got was that you had to “know someone” in the industry to break in. I have yet to meet an author who had an inside track from the start.

I got some really great advice from a workshop Linda Sue Park did last summer. She said, “To succeed as a writer you need talent, passion, and discipline, and if you have to, you can do without either talent or passion.” It’s not easy advice to hear but it’s wise, and it’s kept me on track in a challenging year.

What advice would you now give someone starting out in children's literature?

Finish something. Take your strongest story idea, focus on it exclusively, set a deadline and finish it.

What favorite author/illustrator blogs, websites, Facebook pages, or Twitter accounts do you follow?

The best agent blog I’ve read lately is Jennifer represents… by Jennifer Laughren.

The best general introduction to children’s literature can be had in daily doses from Anita Silvey at the Children's Book-A-Day Almanac.

For all things Middle Grade try From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors.

Where do you do your best work?

Love my tree house! I can work anywhere, and because I have a big, busy family I usually do, but I love to work outdoors more than anything, so my husband and kids built me a wonderful tree house in the back yard, and I work there all summer long.

What are you most looking forward to about being part of the 2011 SCBWI WWA faculty?

I’m very much looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting some new ones. It’s always invigorating to talk with writers at every stage of the process. I’m going to be leaving on a research trip right after the conference so I also have a few people whose brains I’d like to pick about historical and cross-cultural novels.

Attendees are often nervous to meet faculty at a conference. What, if anything, makes you nervous about being part of the faculty?

One of my day jobs has been teaching SAT prep to 17 year olds in an un-air conditioned classroom in August—that’s a tough crowd. Teaching writers is all joy! I won’t make you do any algebra, I swear! Maybe a teensy bit of vocabulary, but no analogies. Promise. J

What do you like most about your job?

I love, love, love school visits! It’s a long exhausting day, but the kids are so fun, and I’m always inspired by the dedicated teachers and librarians I meet.

What do you like least?

Spelling. As a child I became hooked on fonix. I’ve struggled with it ever since. It’s not pritty.

Thanks Rosanne!! You can find out more about Rosanne, and her work, on her website. Sadly, our conference registration is full, but you can still get your name on the waiting list. Visit the event website for more information.

Picture Book Critique Group

Fellow SCBWI WWA members Jennifer Reynolds and Julia Cousineau are looking for other members interested in forming a Picture Book Critique Group. They meet for critiquing on Tuesdays, from 5-6:30 p.m, prior to the monthly SCBWI regional programming meetings. They initially meet at the entrance of Demaray Hall (the location for Professional Meetings). Please email either Jennifer ( or Julia at ( if you would like to be part of the critique group. The first meeting will be in September.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Conference Series-Distinguished Faculty: Jim Whiting

Just a few more days left in March! Which means we're getting that much closer to our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference! It's time to introduce another wonderful faculty member who is part of our Distinguished Faculty; Author Jim Whiting. Not only is Jim an author, but he has also been a journalist, editor, and photographer for more than 30 years. He has written and edited about 200 nonfiction children s books. He covers a huge range of subjects; from authors to zoologists.

Jim worked a seventeen year stint publishing Northwest Runner (a regional running magazing) and is the founder, and head couch for the Bainbridge Blazers Cross Country Club, a youth running program. Jim also offers editing services (you can see some great recommendations on his website), and does school visits.

Jim has a bio on the Bainbridge Island Friends of the Library webpage, and the fun quote below is from an article on the Kitsap Sun page.
Whiting's work also makes him "one popular guy at parties." That is, if you don't mind listening to a guy describe the training habits of cage fighters or how childbirth was carried out in Hungary, circa 1860.
A fun fact about Jim is that he ran a marathon in Greece over the original course from the Plain of Marathon to downtown Athens. Jim is also co-leading the Nonfiction Intensive at our upcoming conference (along with Editor Lionel Bender). You can find out more information about Jim, and his work, on his website (he has some Fun 'n Fascinating Facts section posted).

Medical Illustrations Needed

Ten to fifteen illustrations are needed for a video (simple digital line art). There was someone lined up to do them for $30 each (about an hour for each drawing), but it fell through. If you're interested email Charlene (

Children's Books: Facts & Figures 2010

Check out the Publisher's Weekly article on 2010 Children's Books Facts & Figures. The article includes hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books (this was the first year they collected information on e-books). You can find out how many copies were sold of MOCKINGJAY, and many others! There's lots of information to peruse! Thanks Laurie for sending the link!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Pages Bugaboos

Many people enjoy the First Pages sessions that again will be a part of SCBWI Western Washington's 20th anniversary conference in just a few weeks. As we've collected the many (many!) entries this year, we thought it might be helpful for future years or other events to share some of the reasons that a few entries have been disqualified:
  • Improper formatting, specifically, a "first page" that starts at the top of the sheet of paper instead of roughly one-third of the way down the sheet. As noted in the submission instructions, First Page sessions provide feedback on first pages as if they were received by an editor or agent as part of a submission, and as such, they must comply with standard manuscript formatting. That means the "first page" is really only a partial page. (It's not necessary to put a separate title page on submissions, either, but those we just discard without disqualifying the entry.)
This formatting guideline does not apply, of course, to the query submissions — but be wary of sending a query that looks like you tried to put as many words as humanly possible on the page. You won't be blacklisted for margins and white space, we promise.
  • Slovenliness. We've disqualified three entries, so far, for having big coffee or water stains that blurred the print on one or more of the copies. These appear to have been made prior to being put in their envelopes. Your first page, or any submission, should make your best impression.
  • Improper formatting, specifically, single-spacing (except for queries). See #1 above. Manuscript pages should virtually always be double-spaced, even for novels in verse. Queries can be single-spaced. If you're not sure how to handle new paragraphs, look it up. Manuscript formatting generally uses indentations to indicate a new paragraph, not block formatting with extra line spacing.
  • Insufficient text. For picture books, a first pages session is feedback on the first page of a manuscript text, not a dummy or the book as you imagine it laid out. If you only have seven words on your first page, or less than a complete sentence because you intend the sentence to be finished on a subsequent page, the editor and agent don't have much to react to. It's not necessary to lose lines with lots of blank space between stanzas, either; you can indicate stanzas if you like, but for this purpose, you don't need to. And a wordless picture book is not really an appropriate submission for this particular kind of session.
  • Similarly, if your first page is no more than your title and an epigram or a quote from a song or a poem, next time, send a submission without that front matter. There's no point in getting editor/agent feedback on nothing but a title and a line by Bob Dylan, 'cause we're pretty sure Bob won't be in the room and wouldn't change the song based on feedback anyway. Even if the epigram is written by you, you'll probably get better feedback if you just start the story and save the epigram for a full manuscript submission.
  • Craziness. I suppose if this bugaboo applies to you, you won't know it, but based on the query submissions, we're a little worried about a few of you. Maybe you just shouldn't put quite that much of your personality into your letter?
We have loads of great submissions, too, so the First Pages sessions will be great. Remember that the submissions read are selected randomly (once we've disqualified just a few), so there's no guarantee that any one will be read (and the number we've received will definitely preclude that), but everyone in the room will be sure to learn something. See you soon!

Third Place Books New Event: Children's Book Talk!!

This is a new event at the Lake Forest Park store!
For more information visit Third Place Book's website.

Eastside Carpool?

A new member of SCBWI (who lives on the eastside) is looking for a ride to the next SCBWI Regional Program meeting in May. She can meet at a convenient location in Bellevue. If you're able to help; contact Daya at

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Conference Series- Faculty Q & A with Emily Jenkins (and a little bonus too!)

WooHoo! It's Saturday, and just 20 days from our
20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference!
It's also time for another fabulous Faculty Q & A with one of our fabulous Faculty, and I'm delighted to share answers from Author Emily Jenkins! Emily is one of keynote speakers (you can check out her Chinook Update conference bio here).

What is the best and worst advice you were given when you started in children's literature?

Best: Subscribe to the SCBWI newsletter! (It was a newsletter only, back then.)
Worst: Well, not that many people were giving me advice. I would have liked some more advice.

As you know, those who are in children's literature tend to have lengthy discussions on the important topic of snacks (usually it's a baked good). What's your favorite snack?
Pumpkin bread

What are you most looking forward to about being part of the 2011 SCBWI faculty?
Giving back to an organization that helped me keep my spirits up and feel oriented in the business when I was just starting.

Attendees are often nervous to meet faculty at a conference. What, if anything, makes you nervous about being part of the faculty?
Critiques are always challenging for me. I want to be delicate with work that someone has spent hours and hours -- or even years -- working on; and yet, if I don't push and challenge the person, I am not being helpful. It's hard to find the best balance.

What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
I like when I write a scene and it comes out good, and I'm not sure how that happened. I like seeing artwork for the first time. The business parts of my job I don't much like. I hate going to the post office and booking travel!

What do you most want our attendees to know about you?
I'm from Seattle!

Great answers from Emily (I love when authors and illustrators talk about how helpful SCBWI is for them)! And as a little bonus here's Emily's first EVER book trailer! She interviews Inkling from her new book INVISIBLE INKLING (it's super cute!). INVISIBLE INKLING comes out April 26. You can find out more about Emily, and here work on her website. Also, if you haven't gotten your name on the conference waiting list (registration is full), then go to our event website.
Secret Garden Bookshop is proud to announce the next installment in their partnership with Seattle Children’s Theatre for the 2010-2011 Season! THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES Drama Story, Saturday, April 9, starting at 2 p.m. at Secret Garden Bookshop.

During the run of each show of the season, they will be hosting weekend Drama Story events with artists from Seattle Children’s Theatre Drama School. The artists share concepts and actions from the play interactively with the audience. THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES is based on the book by Jean Giono. This Drama Story, like the play, is best for people aged 7 and up (and it's a free event).

You can find out more information at Secret Garden's website, or Seattle Children's Theatre's website.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011 Conference Series-Agent Faculty: Marietta Zacker

Three weeks from today I'll be headed to Redmond for our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children conference (just three weeks!!!)! We have just a few more faculty to highlight! And last, but not least of our Agent Faculty is Marietta Zacker. Marietta is an agent with Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. Marietta works with authors, illustrators, publishers, educators and readers. On her Nancy Gallt bio it says this about Marietta:
As an agent, she is passionate about bringing those worlds together. She represents authors whose words make her pause, shiver or laugh out loud and illustrators who add a completely different dimension to the story being told.
Literary Rambles did an Agent Spotlight on Marietta, which features some great interview links to check out! Here's a great Q & A from an interview on Market My Words.
As an agent, what are you looking for in a writer/manuscript?

Work that moves me – whether through words, illustrations or both. I look for manuscripts and illustrations that speak to the rich, complex, diverse world we live in and hope to work with people that are just as passionate as I am about the vital function children’s books serve in our society.
A fun fact about Marietta is that she owns a bookstore in her hometown in South Orange, NJ called Sparkhouse. She's got a very unique perspective as someone who owns a bookstore, and is an agent! Make sure to put your name on the conference waiting list (registration is full) on the SCBWI WWA event registration page.

Children's Websites: Usability Issues in Designing for Kids

Thanks to Wendy Wahman for sending us the link to this article on usability issues in developing children's websites (a good thing for authors with sites, and those of us who want to develop websites that are kid-friendly). Here's the summary of the article:

New research with users aged 3–12 shows that older kids have gained substantial Web proficiency since our last studies, while younger kids still face many problems. Designing for children requires distinct usability approaches, including targeting content narrowly for different ages of kids.

Jakcob Neilsens's website is all about current issues in web usability, and worth checking out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2011 Conference Series- Faculty Q & A with Holly Black

Time for another Faculty & A with our tremendous faculty! Our next Q & A is with Keynote Speaker Holly Black. You can re-read Holly's Update conference bio, and you can also find out more information about Holly, and her work, on her website! Holly answered a few questions for our SCBWI WWA members (and I love that she answered the snack question!).

As you know, those who are in children's literature tend to have lengthy discussions on the important topic of snacks (usually a baked good). What's your favorite snack?

Coffee is my favorite snack.

Attendees are often nervous to meet you at a conference. What, if anything, makes you nervous about being part of the faculty?
Just remember that like a snake startled in the woods, I am probably more afraid of you than you are of me. Seriously, I am much more shy than I appear.

What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
My favorite parts about being a professional novelist are (1) that I get to make up stories for a living and (2) that I get to meet and hang out with other writers. There is nothing I like better than talking about stories and craft with other novelists. The thing I like least is the uncertainty over whether people will like the new story, the new thing. I think there's an expectation that that goes away, but it never does. I still worry and fret and hope as much -- or more -- than I did at the start of my career.

I love Holly's last answer! It's nice to know that even published pros like Holly still want people to like her work! Conferences are a great way to meet others who share the same hopes, fears, and dreams that you have as a writer/illustrator! Make sure you visit the event website to get your name on the waiting list for the conference (registration is full).

Authors & Ebooks: 11 Points to Ponder

Thanks to Laurie for sending this post from I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) called Authors & ebooks: 11 points to ponder (written by Loreen Leedy). Here's a preview of the article:

#11 Business as usual?
If ebooks are priced lower, they may undermine the sales of traditional books, a huge problem for most publishers (and naturally authors.) The impact on libraries and bookstores, how schools will utilize ebooks, the affect on textbooks, the split authors get versus the various middlemen, how ebooks will be reviewed, the rise of indie publishing... whew, must stop now.

I.N.K. is another great blog to follow (especially for nonfiction writers!).

Writing Vs. Storytelling

Thanks to Liz Mills for sending this post written by Nathan Bransford (author and ex-literary agent) on Writing vs. Storytelling. Here's a little preview of the post:
And let's also get one thing clear up front: there absolutely has to be a certain level of writing for a book to work, and I personally think the degree of writing quality in bestselling books is underestimated by many aspiring writers. I host page critiques because smooth and polished prose aids storytelling and in today's publishing world you need an extremely high degree of craft in order to be published.
You can read more on Nathan's blog (it's a great blog to regularly follow).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Conference Series-Distinguished Faculty: Jesse Joshua Watson

Each day we're getting closer to our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference! We still have more AMAZING Faculty to tell you about!! Next up is one of our Distinguished Faculty; Jesse Joshua Watson. Jesse Joshua Watson is an award winning, NY Times Bestselling illustrator and author; some of his books include HOPE FOR HAITI, MARCELO, and he's illustrated CHESS RUMBLE, and the HANK ZIPZER series (among others). He also teaches art to kids, and exhibits fine art (Jesse's artwork has been displayed in galleries, cafes, clubs and a museum).

Here's a Q & A from an interview on Lee & Low Books with Jesse and Tony Medina on their book I AND I BOB MARLEY.
Jesse, are there particular challenges to illustrating a book largely about music – translating or connecting something auditory to something visual?

JJW: Yes, there is a challenge that comes with visually depicting somebody we are all used to hearing. When you get a likeness of a person down but miss the spirit of that person, the work feels hollow. I need to paint to encompass the musician, bringing the spirit of his or her music and message to the canvas. The image then begins to look like that musician and also becomes him or her. I see my duty as being similar to a shaman’s, in a way. I take a piece of art and I give it a heartbeat. If I do my job well, the viewer will hear the music coming from the painting. It dances. It has life within. This is maybe my highest calling as an artist.
The Children's Book Review has a video of Jesse sharing about his book HOPE FOR HAITI (it's a great piece to check out!). You can find out more information about Jesse, and his work on both his website and his blog. A fun fact about Jesse is that he shares on his website bio is that he is "infatuated with growing bamboo".

Since the registration is full, make sure you visit the SCBWI WWA's event website to get your name on the conference waiting list.

Difference Between Illustrating Picture Books and Chapter Books

Here's a wonderful post written by Illustrator Patrice Barton on the difference between illustrating picture books, and chapter books. Patrice wrote her blog on Cynthia Leitich Smith's wonderful and incredibly useful blog CYNSATIONS (a good one to regularly read). Here's an preview of the article:
Just like illustrations in chapter books, picture book illustrations need to engage the reader. But instead of playing a supporting role, picture book illustrations take center stage. They must move the story forward and compel the reader to turn that page and the next and the next.
You can check out more on Patrice at her website.

Good advice for setting conference goals & expectations

Hear from our own Kim in a new forum, get some good advice, and hear why it's important not to quit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Publicizing Websites

Thanks to Stephanie Barden for sending this information! Stephanie was looking for ways and places to publicize her up-coming book, and she came across two terrific websites.

The first is the Story Snoops website
. It was started by a group of moms. They share children's book reviews from a parent's perspective. They have a fun search feature that allows you to identify tween and teen fiction for every type of reader. "Curious about content? Our book reviews will give you the scoop! We help you find fiction that fits."

The second is the Rat Chat Reviews website. "Stanley and Morris Rat" create darling animated video reviews of kids books -- they're the Ebert and Roper of Children's Literature!

Very fun stuff to check out! Stephanie's debut book CINDERELLA SMITH comes out this spring, April 26!! You can find out more about her new book at her website.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Spring Inside Story - You're Invited!

The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators invites you to attend our Spring 2011 Inside Story, a party we hold twice a year to celebrate new books by local authors and illustrators, who share the secret "stories behind their stories" with fellow children's book lovers.

The party will feature new releases by:

The event is Wednesday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. at University Bookstore in Bellevue, 990 102nd Avenue Northeast, Bellevue, WA 98004. We'll have snacks, stories, and our traditional trivia contest--you could walk away with free books!

* A few folks are unable to attend in person, but we'll have their books on hand.

2011 Conference Series- Faculty Q & A with Sarah Davies

It's just under a month before our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference! To get you even more excited and familiar with the faculty, we're going to start sharing the Faculty Interview Questions & Answers! Part of the fun of being the Chinook Update Editor was coming up with these questions (and getting to see the diverse answers). Now it's time to share! First up is Sarah Davies, an agent with Greenhouse Literary Agency. You can check out Sarah's Conference bio here.

What is the best/worst advice you were given when you started in children's literature?
I started so long ago I honestly can’t remember! Back then it was a completely different world for children’s books – small money, small expectations, and very much about ‘nice girls sitting in a corner publishing kiddies’ books’. But that sorted the sheep from the goats in terms of those who really cared about this area of the business. Now it’s really cool to be in the children’s/YA industry. Which doesn’t answer the question, but shows how far we’ve come!

What advice would you give now to others?
Whatever area of the business you’re in – writing, publishing or agenting – I would say this: learn your business, learn your craft, pay your dues and always treat people with integrity. Your reputation, your relationships, the care you bring to your work are all vital and will come back to you, in whatever way.

What was your favorite book as a child? And now?
I liked the English classics like TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN and THE SECRET GARDEN (a lot of gardens, I guess). But it was THE LORD OF THE RINGS that was transformative for me.

As you know, those who are in children's literature tend to have lengthy discussions on the important topic of snacks (usually a baked good). What's your favorite snack?
I love cake but try to steer off. My authors clubbed together at Christmas and gave me a year’s membership of a fruit club. Which means that every month I get an amazing box of perfect fruits in season delivered to my door; this month it’s honeybells! This means that every month I’m reminded about a) the identity of the Greenhouse and its writing ‘fruits’ and b) my wonderful, generous authors. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Attendees are often nervous to meet you at a conference. What, if anything, makes you nervous about being part of the faculty?
I must be honest, I love being on a stage, I love public speaking, I thoroughly enjoy getting to know new people so faculties are all good for me. The only thing I don’t like is being trapped in a corner listening to an hour-long pitch about a book that’s completely out of the zone I represent – especially if the writer delivering the pitch is a bit wild-eyed and scary!

What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
I love the strategy, the chess game of managing someone’s career, and I love the discovery of something new and special. Like every agent I don’t relish delivering bad news, and at times I find the inundation hard to deal with; if you are literally open to all submissions all the time, it can be very hard to take a break and keep your sanity.

What do you most want our attendees to know about you?
That’s a tough one! Professionally, agenting and running the Greenhouse is the pinnacle of my career, and I can say that despite having been a publisher for more than 25 years. Personally, it might amuse people to know I used to have my own band and performed a lot as a singer/songwriter (see above answer about enjoying being on stage and behind a mic!). I love dogs, walking in wild and windy places, good cheese, coffee shops, taking photographs, my 24-year-old twin boys – and I really enjoy fashion, finding ways to make it work on a budget. (In London right now it’s all about harem pants . . .)

Great information and answers from Sarah! Here's a post that is directly related to Sarah's workshop session "From Ordinary to Extraordinary". A good preview to check out! Make sure you visit the event website to get your name on the waiting list for the conference (registration is full).

Organizing the Bookcase

How organized is your bookcase? If you're like me, you probably reorganize it every so often, but it's an ongoing process. Check out this fun video sent by Liz Mills.

Worth Repeating: Critique Guidelines & Tips

Are you part of a critique group? If not, you can be! SCBWI has a wonderful Critique Coordinator, Kerri Kokias, who can help you join or start a group (Kerri and I were in a critique group that I started in West Seattle).

I can't emphasize what being part of a critique group has done for my writing! Having other writers look at your work objectively can really help you to improve as a writer, reader, and critique group member (and make some wonderful author/illustrator friends as well). Being part of a group was so important for me as a writer, that when I moved I worked with SCBWI to find members nearby, and I'm now part of another wonderful group!!

Here's a great blog post (sent to me by Laurie) written by Donna Bowman Bratton's called: Worth Repeating: Critique Guidelines & Tips. It gives some solid lists, guidelines, and tips for your critique group. Here's a highlight:
What is a critique? A critique is an honest evaluation of a manuscript or work-in-progress, offering constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, framed with positive reinforcement.

Why a critique group? The ultimate goal of any critique group is to help each other hone the skills necessary to produce publishable manuscripts, while offering emotional and professional support during the arduous journey toward publication. As a critique group member, you will at times be a partner, a therapist, a sounding board, an impartial reader, an editor, and a cheerleader. Not only will critique of your own work offer fresh perspectives to help improve your personal writing, but by analyzing the works of others you begin to read like an editor.
There's much more to read on the post! Now that you're ready to be part of a critique group, you can contact Kerri through the SCBWI WWA contact information page.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Check out Cheryl Klein's new book

If you haven't heard, Arthur A. Levine editor Cheryl Klein has recently published a book distilling her editorial wisdom, and we had a nice message from her about it that we wanted to share with you (along with the news about her book), particularly those of you who enjoyed hearing from her at our 2009 fall retreat:

"I recently published a book containing many of my writing talks: SECOND SIGHT: AN EDITOR’S TALKS ON WRITING, REVISING, AND PUBLISHING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. The book includes the speeches on point, character, plotting, and voice that I gave at the Western Washington retreat in the fall of 2009 (though the voice talk especially was revised for the book); and I thought you might be interested to know that those talks (and a lot of other nattering from me) are now available in print form. You can read more about it, including how to purchase it, at

"The book really came about because of all the kind SCBWI RAs who invited me to speak over the years, thus giving me the reason and opportunity to write the talks collected here – and that’s especially true of the Western Washington talks, as they take up about half the book! So SECOND SIGHT truly wouldn’t have happened without you."

2011 Conference Series-Agent Faculty: Tina Wexler

It's a rainy Sunday, and I'm working on revising my manuscript. I'm also counting the days until our 20th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference! Registration is full, but you can still get your name on the waiting list! It's also a perfect time to introduce another of of our talented Agent Faculty; Tina Wexler! Tina is an agent with International Creative Management. Tina represents writers in both the children's and adult marketplace (with a focus on MG & YA). She was with the Ellen Levine Literary Agency, and the Karpfinger Agency before she joined ICM.

Here's a snippet from an Interview with Alice Pope on the SCBWI Team Blog (good advice for approaching an agent):
Would you offer some general advice on approaching agents?
First, do your research. I know it's tempting to query every agent you find info on--the old "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach--but doing so only results in slower response times and fewer agents responding to queries at all, which no one wants. So do yourself and your fellow writers (and agents) a favor and be selective. Second, be professional but know that I'm in this business because I love the written word, I love stories, and I really do want to hear from you if our interests overlap.
Here's a Q & A from Seanchai (Author Gretchen McNeil's blog).
Gretchen: "And speaking of authors you believe in, what catches your eye in an author submission, and conversely, what makes you run screaming from a query/submission?"

Tina: "I'm most drawn in by query letters that reflect an understanding of what I'm looking to represent (you'd be surprised how many queries I get for adult political thrillers and screenplays--neither of which I rep) and that mirror the tone of the manuscript. Consequently, I'm most apt to pass on, say, the humorous middle grade novel that comes across rather, um, humorless, or the YA query that promises "a sassy new voice" but reads like a grocery list--and not a SASSY grocery list! And of course, there are the usual suspects: the mass e-query, the "Dear Sir" salutation, the incoherent plot summary, the defensive, the antagonistic..."
Here's a wonderful Agent Spotlight post on Literary Rambles (which links to many other articles & interviews), and also a Q & A piece on the same website. Remember to visit our conference event website to get your name on the waiting list.

Conference rideshare arrangements

Coming to the conference and interested in carpooling from, well, anywhere? Leave comments and your contact info here (or on our Facebook group site) to hook up with like-minded folks.

Specifically, if you're headed in from Port Townsend, contact Katherine at 360-385-5982 or katherine (at) olympus (dot) net.

Adois, Nirvana Book Trailer

Here's a great video trailer for Conrad Wesselhoeft's YA novel, ADIOS, NIRVANA. The video highlights West Seattle, and really sets the tone for the book (that's also set in West Seattle).

Here's a review from Booklist:
In the wake of his twin brother’s death, Jonathan, a former star student, is facing the possibility of repeating his junior year. The only things standing between him and failure are his devoted best friends, an understanding principal named Gupti, and his English teacher. The assignments that will ensure his promotion? Attend class every day, help an 88-year-old WWII veteran write his memoir, and perform Gupti’s favorite song, “Crossing the River Styx,” at graduation. Wesselhoeft offers a psychologically complex debut that will intrigue heavy-metal aficionados and drama junkies alike. Peopled with the elderly and infirm, crazy parents, caring educators, and poignant teens trying desperately to overcome death’s pull, it mixes real and fictional musicians and historical events to create a moving picture of struggling adolescents and the adults who reach out with helping hands. Darker and more complex than Jordan Sonnenblick’s thematically similar Notes from the Midnight Driver (2006), Adios, Nirvana targets an audience of YAs who rarely see themselves in print. Grades 8-12. --Frances Bradburn
You can also become a fan on the Facebook fan page.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Congratulations to the Crystal Kite finalists!

Congratulations once again to the Crystal Kite finalists for the Washington/Oregon/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota division! There are lots of familiar names from our region on the list, which we wanted to share with you here:

A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker
A Garden for Pig by Kathryn Thurman
Moon Bear by Brenda Z Guiberson
More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt
Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
The Timekeeper's Moon by Joni Sensel

Don't forget to cast your vote for the winner by April 15 (yes, tax day AND the day before the annual conference!).  Just log in at, click on the "Member Home" button, click the link for "See what's going on in your region," then click the "Crystal Kite" tab. 

Carole Estby Dagg Author Event

Author Carole Estby Dagg reads from her new book, THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS, on Tuesday, 5 April 2011, at 7 p.m. at Secret Garden Bookshop.

Based on the true story of the author's great-aunt and great-grandmother, this is a fast-paced historical adventure that sets its’ drama against an American backdrop during the time of the suffragist movement, the 1896 presidential campaign, and the changing perception of "a woman's place" in society.

Join us for book-themed treats, games, and celebration. This is a free event! For more information visit the Secret Garden website. For more on Carole, and her work, visit her website.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good News for Stephanie Barden

A big yippee & yahoo for Stephanie Barden!! Stephanie's debut book CINDERELLA SMITH, which comes out April 26, just got a starred review from Booklist.

For more information on Stephanie, and her work, visit her super adorable website!!