Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PNWA annual conference

The Pacific Northwest Writers Association needs YOU!
The PNWA has some marvelous opportunities for the right authors and illustrators at their annual conference July 16. Specifically, they are looking for:
• one author to speak about picture and chapter books for main conference panel 
• one illustrator for the panel 
• 6 authors or author/illustrators for Young Author’s Day, preferably people who have experience presenting in schools

For details, please contact Pam Binder at and check out their website at

Best of luck for a wonderful conference!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rachel Orr class on MediaBistro

If you liked Rachel Orr's presentation at the conference last week, she's teaching a middle grade writing class through MediaBistro. Signup deadline is tomorrow (Tuesday). 


Here's the link:

Don't delay---To repeat, TUESDAY, APRIL 28 is your deadline!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators 

invites you (yes, YOU!) to attend

the Spring 2015 Inside Story 

May 5, 2015 at 7PM 

This celebration takes place twice a year so that booksellers, librarians, teachers, and other children's book lovers can hear two-minute "stories behind the stories" of new and upcoming books by our very own SCBWI-WWA authors and illustrators. 

(With permission from Steven Henry.)

This season's presenters are: 

Laurie Ann Thompson, Dana Sullivan, Toni Yuly, Rori Shay, Dori Hillestad Butler, Margaret Read MacDonald, Kevan Atteberry, Kelly Jones, Jeanne Ryan, Sara Nickerson, Kathryn O. Galbraith, Craig Orback, Stacey Campbell, Julie Paschkis, Karen Kincy, Carly Anne West, Brenda Z. Guiberson, Tom Robinson, Martha Brockenbrough, Shannon Grogan, Steven Henry, Katherine Pryor, Derek Sullivan, Andrea Gabriel, Suzanne Selfors, Doug Keith

We hope you can join us!
Deb Lund
SCBWI Inside Story Chair

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

World-building with Janet!


With YA Fantasy Author Janet Lee Carey
Are you creating worlds for fantasy novels, sci-fi novels or games? Considering terrain, ecosystems, beings, cultures, societies, and languages? There’s a lot to cover, but when you design a world from a central theme, adding history and conflict, you create the tension your story world demands. Come to this dynamic PowerPoint workshop, and be ready to discuss ideas and do an interactive world-building activity.

April (THIS WEEK!)
World Building Workshop

 Friday April
24, 2015
 1-3 PM
Location: Meeting Room, Mukilteo Library, 4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd. Mukilteo, WA 98275

World Building Workshop

Date: Saturday, May 23, 2015
Time: 1-3 PM
Location: University Bookstore, Bellevue, 990 102nd Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004
Sign up at
Price includes workshop, refreshments, handouts and a signed copy of In the Time of the Dragon Moon, choices of other books by Janet Lee Carey or How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nonfiction Intensive with Michelle McCann

On Sunday morning, Michelle gave an in-depth presentation about all things nonfiction to a packed room (we had to get more chairs!). Here are just a few of the many great tidbits participants gleaned from her presentation...

Reasons to write nonfiction:

  • Satisfy your curiosity
  • Be a lifelong learner
  • Reuse your fiction skills
  • Sell to a hungry market (You are 8 times more likely to get published if you write nonfiction!)

Brief history of the kids nonfiction book market:

  • textbooks, informational texts
  • In 1988, Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman won the Newbery and nonfiction got sexy.
  • Then, DK came along and made nonfiction look cool.
  • Now, Common Core State Standards are mandating more time spent reading nonfiction texts, so publishers are hungry to acquire it.
  • Nonfiction was the fastest growing area of children’s book publishing for 2014 and is projected to be again for 2015!

Where to sell nonfiction writing: magazines, trade, mass market, and educational market.

Good nonfiction  has the same elements as good fiction:

  • appropriate for the audience and age group
  • promotes a sense of kid power through the knowledge it imparts
  • has a strong opening hook
  • fully fleshed out characters and settings
  • fun, interesting, and well-organized text
  • a beginning, middle, and end
  • a climax
  • an uplifting resolution

How to strengthen your nonfiction voice:
  • Write!
  • Don’t second-guess yourself.
  • Choose topics your passionate about.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Crystal Kite Keynote: Nina Laden

Crystal Kite winner for Once Upon a Memory, author and illustrator Nina Laden’s career has been long and full. Inextricably bound up with love and family, luck and loss her inspiration comes from journaling, working in her studio and nature. The text for Once Upon a Memory began with a feather found on the beach. Persistence, experimentation, partnership, community, darkness and light carry her work forward. Her wisdom for us: Let go. What matters most is love.

“If life is like a merry go round, it’s boring: round and round and round. But my life has been a roller coaster: up, up, up and down, down, down.”

On working with other illustrators:
“This has been a very strange trip...”

Thank you, Nina, for your books and inspiration. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sharon Flake Keynote: Flying Scared: Or How To Get Published In Spite of Yourself

Sharon Flake is an award-winning author with millions of books for kids in print, including The Skin I'm In and Unstoppable Octobia May.

"I think I was born scared."

When we're not our true authentic selves the world misses out.

What are you willing to sacrifice? Because your dreams will cost you something.

To write you need a healthy dose of fear and hutzpah. That's something Sharon certainly possesses.

As a published author Sharon Flake is brave.

What are you willing to tolerate to be the best writer you can be?

In this business you have to jump in and swim like hell if you're going to make it to the other side.

"I'm a writer not in spite of myself but because of myself."

This industry is not for wimps.

Carter Hasegawa: The Candlewick Editorial Process

First, Carter introduced us to the history of Candlewick, the company culture, and some of their extremely well known authors, illustrators, books, and series. 

He then explained their relatively simple acquisitions process: there are no big meetings, editors don't need to get buy-in from sales and marketing, and there aren't a great many hoops to jump though for a Candlewick editor to acquire a manuscript. Their guiding statement is simply,
“We only sign the un-put-down-able.”
Some other tidbits included:
  • For picture books, Candlewick solicits input from the author about the choice of illustrator. They paginate and layout the text before sending to the illustrator. 
  • For nonfiction, an important aspect is the source material used. He looks for strong, primary sources, and offered Action Jackson as an example of a perfect picture book biography.
  • Candlewick likes narrative-based work, whether in novels, picture books, fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. If you are not writing a narrative story, they are probably not the right publisher for you. 
  • Candlewick editors are always looking for picture book texts, picture book biographies, and character-based stories. Carter loves unusual sci-fi with great world building. He also likes boy books along the lines of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe). “Show me the book that no one else wants,” they often say. They are looking for something unique and special.

2015 Art Portfolio Show

The Rollin Thomas Portfolio Awards

"Be well, create lots." ~Rollin Thomas

Grand Prize Winner: Corinna Luyken

1st Runner Up: Dalton Webb

2nd Runner Up: Alice Chu

Booster Award: Michaele Razi

Congratulations, everyone!

Thank you SCBWI WWA Advisory Committee

Many do not realize that the regions of SCBWI are run by dynamic teams of volunteers and our region has one of the very best.

Thank you, AdCom!!!

Nina Laden: Conceptual Journaling (From the Mixed-Up Journals of Nina Laden)

After accepting her Crystal Kite Award for Once Upon a Memory, author-ilustrator Nina Laden welcomes a packed room ready to work on conceptual journaling.

To Nina a journal is so many things.

So why journal? Because if you do not write it/draw it you will forget it.

Fancy vs. Not Fancy Journals? For Nina, it's too hard to figure out what to put in the fancy journal. So they sit empty.

Size does matter. A journal can be too small or too large. You have to find a size that's comfortable.

The only rule: You can never tear the pages out.

A journal does not need to be neat.

Nina's favorite quote: "If you are afraid of making a mistake you won't make anything." There are no mistakes in journaling.

Time to play...

The room busy journaling.

Michelle McCann & Amber Keyser: Down and Dirty: And Author and an Editor Talk Teens, Sex, and the Edge in YA

Editor Michelle McCann (Beyond Words / Simon & Schuster) and author Amber Keyser worked together on Amber's upcoming non-fiction YA, THE V-WORD, an anthology of essays about first-time sexual experience.

Amber reads from Judy Blume's FOREVER to a packed room.

The discussions turns to: Where are kids learning about sex? How? Is it accurate?

Kids today have a access to a great deal of info about sex (including porn) without receiving good information.

Michelle turns to the crowd, to those attempting to write sex scenes: How do you get past writing those parts that make you uncomfortable?

It's mentioned that there is a discomfort when you begin to think about your own kids and writing something for them and their friends, which brings up discomfort in the writing process.

Where's the line between erotica and other books? The line is wavy.

Amber shares an essay from THE V-WORD.

What's acceptable? What can we do? What can't we do?

It's editor to editor specific right now. If there's going to be sex in a book, it needs to be there for reason. It needs to move the story forward. It can't be shoehorned into the story.

As the author you can choose how to handle sex in your story. You can fade to black with not much is shown. Or can you can take the Judy Blume in FOREVER approach and say it all.

Local Success Story Panel

Rebecca Van Slyke, Laurie Thompson, Kelly Jones, Toni Yuly, Dan Richards, Shannon Grogan,
Lois Brandt

Some takeaways from the panel on what lead to their successes:

Going with my heart. ~Lois Brant

I wouldn't be sitting here without the SCBWI. Shannon Grogan

Failing at every other creative endeavor I've ever done helped me immensely. ~Dan Richards

People have helped me more than anything and having an intense desire. ~Toni Yuly

Friend and family were critical as well as the writing community. ~Kelly Jones

I owe everything to this organization (SCBWI). ~Laurie Thompson

Deadlines were helpful in inspiring creativity. ~Rebecca Van Slyke

Sharon Flake: Creating a (Non-Stereotyped) Authentic Voice

Sharon Flake is an award-winning author with millions of books for kids in print, including The Skin I'm In and Unstoppable Octobia May.

You have to walk carefully when you write about someone outside your cultural and ethnic group. Look to people you know to vet your work.

Sharon Flake has an amazingly strong voice. She grew up in a family of storytellers, though she didn't know it at the time.

Sharon was influenced greatly by community and family. "Those voices were loud...Those voices were loving...Those voice were help-you-when-you-can...Those voices were quiet..."

Sharon Flake Storytelling
If you're telling a story, get to the point fast. Don't waste time. Don't tell things that aren't important. BOOM! Sharon actually tell us, Boom. Get to the point!

Voice is not just what people say but what people do.

Sharon doesn't think we create voice but reveal it. She knows very little about the story she's going to write. She's very comfortable flying blind. As she writes, the voice is being uncovered.

So, how do you crate an authentic teen voice? Sharon says we know you can go and listen to teenagers. You can read others work. You can trust your gut. Sharon suggests watching your words because no matter what, your character has to sound 15.

"I will not tell a typical story about any of my characters."

David Wiesner Keynote: Inspiration Is For Amateurs

David Wiesner, author & illustrator, has been awarded the Caldecott Medal three time for Tuesday, The Three Pigs, and Flotsam

David Weisner used his Caldecott Medal winning picture book Art & Max to walk us through his process of discovering character and story, from play and experimentation in the studio through the 3-D modeling he taught in Friday’s all day Intensive.

His practice of showing up in the studio every day, asking questions of the work and being open to change is central to the development of his books and led him to creating Spot, his new, many-layered story app.  

Check out the trailer for David Wiesner's app SPOT, and buy it in the app store. 

“Wallow in your process because it will never let you down.”

Editor/Agent/Art Director Panel

On today's panel:

Jen Rofé, agent, Andrea Brown
Kristen Nobles, art director, Candlewick Press
Michelle McCann, editor, Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster
Christa Heschke, agent, McIntosh & Otis
Rachel Orr, agent, Prospect Agency
Carter Hasegawa, associate editor, Candlewick Press

Any recent bright stars that you've signed or published and if so what attracted you?

Michelle McCann pointed to Amber Kyser and her new book THE V WORD, an anthology of essays about first time sexual experiences, a recent acquisition.

Rachel Orr shared that a new client had a wonderful style, knew how to make a dummy, and was receptive to feedback.

Jen Rofé recently signed a client whose artwork she said she "fell into".

Christa discovered a YA author that had many unique ideas and a lyrical voice. She could see the author having a long career ahead of her.

Kristen Nobles found an illustrator at an SCBWI event and fell in love her whale illustrations, which she later paired with a manuscript by Jane Yolen.

What have you been pleasantly surprised by in the submission/acquisition process:

Rachel Orr: When people trust me. There must be a lot of trust and respectful boundaries, as well as a great deal of patience and perseverance.

Do you pay attention to social media? 

The panel agrees, a large following on social media doesn't matter. More than anything, a person's social media might be looked at to see how she or he behaves and interacts with others and the industry.

It can be more important to have a social media presence if you are writing YA.

For illustrators social media (particularly an online portfolio and blog) is very important because art directors use websites to find and look at an illustrator's work.

When is it time to submit?

Make sure you have polished, strong work. Be sure you've done your homework and research (about the agency/publishing house) and are sending/submitting completely prepared. But there's also a time when you might be fine-tuning too much. Trust your peers to help you make those decisions.

Also, don't be in such a hurry, especially after a conference. Take time to listen to feedback, allow information and feedback to soak in, and then do more work before submitting.

SCBWIWWA15: And we're off! AWESOME!!

The Danas (co-regional advisors Dana Arnim and Dana Sullivan) kicked us off this morning and welcomed the faculty with a parade to the tune of "Everything Is Awesome." Then they each told us briefly one thing that they think is awesome. Here are a few of the highlights!

SCBWIWWA15 New Attendee Orientation with Jolie Stekly

Jolie Stekly extended a warm welcome to first-time attendees to our conference and packed it with helpful advice and encouragement.

She started by getting us acquainted with one another.

She reminded us that each and every one of us belongs here:
“If you’re able to be yourself, then you have no competition. All you have to do is get closer and closer to that essence.”  –Barbara Cook
She helped us set realistic, achievable goals for the conference.

She shared the nuts and bolts of conference etiquette (remember: editors and agents are people, too!) and of getting started in children's book publishing.

First-time attendees are wearing blue ribbons on their badges that identify them, and return attendees who have volunteered to act as mentors have red ribbons that say "Ask me!" But, all attendees are asked to help make the newcomers welcome!

Thanks, Jolie!

SCBWIWWA15: Ship Shape, Shape Up: The Picture Book and Its Forms Fiction Intensive with Carter Hasegawa

On Friday afternoon, April 17, 2015, Carter Hasegawa from Candlewick walked participants through the physical construction of a picture book and explained why there are fixed page counts in multiples of eight. Next, he talked about how they use those pages. Then, he passed out a text-only manuscript and asked attendees to paginate it. It was interesting to see where most of us agreed, and where we were more split, and to hear the reasoning behind the decisions.

Carter led us through an analysis Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Then, he asked participants to analyze other well-known picture books and present to the room.

Lastly, participants were asked write an original picture book text in one of the following forms: diary entries, minimal words, wordless, or where the text and illustrations do not match. Brave attendees shared their off-the-cuff creations. Let me tell you, there were some pretty darn amazing 15-minute manuscripts! Way to go, SCBWI-WWA 2015 participants! 

And thank you, Carter Hasegawa!

SCBWIWWA15: The So-What Factor with Jen Rofé, Writing Intensive

We spent the morning of Friday, April 17, 2015, with agent Jen Rofé learning how to play the “so what” game. Jen told us that whenever she reads books, queries, or manuscripts or watches movies or television, she is constantly asking the question, “So what?” For a story to stand out, there must be a good answer (or many) to the “so what” question after every single plot point. Jen walked us through a scene-by-scene “so what” analysis of Dirty Dancing, Flora & Ulysses, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She also looked at the picture books Rosie and Rex and Blue on Blue.

My favorite quote of the session?
"You must always give your character hard choices, or else 'so what?'"
Then, attendees volunteered to summarize their works-in-progress aloud while Jen “so what”ed them every step of the way. Way to go, brave participants! I can’t wait to read all of your books. J

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Conference Registration!

Some folks have been emailing to ask when things get started at the conference and when to show up for their registration packets. Everyone who is registered has been sent an email, so please check your spam filter.

But the short answers are:
Friday: registration begins at 8:00 a.m.
Friday eve is Kid Lit Drink Night from 7 to 10 p.m. You can also get your registration packets from 7 - 9 p.m. No portfolio turn-in Friday night! (Sat am only).
Saturday: registration & portfolio turn-in begins at 7:00 a.m.

See you soon!

Monday, April 13, 2015

When the clock strikes MIDNIGHT....

If that heading reminds you of a familiar fairy tale, then let us continue the metaphor and issue a friendly heads-up:


Don't be the one standing alone, with or without a pumpkin. Or missing a shoe (code for: missing a lot of amazing and informative and creative and inspirational and memorable experiences). We hope that, if you're still stuck on the fence, you'll jump down and decide to join us. Because it's going to be a good one. (Understatement.)

To register before the clock strikes 12, please click here. We'd love to see you!

And we'll all live happily ever after....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Summer Conference registration is open!

Summer is sliding closer, and what better way to anticipate it than to register for the annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles?

Full of fun, friends, and fascinating, ferociously talented faculty, it's the consummate conference experience.

To register, click here.

And until then, keep dreaming of summer!

Flim feedback wanted!

Our February meeting presentation of the documentary, At-Risk Summer, has three screenings at film festivals during the month of April––one being the prestigious Sarasota Film Festival. We anticipate
this will give us more clarity on when the film will be available for wider distribution.
Fingers crossed it will be sometime in the Summer of 2015!
Any SCBWI members of or February meeting attendees who saw the film and feel compelled to 
share their experience and comments about it via email will only help in the promotion of this film. Please use the following email address to give your feedback:
Send all comments directly to Carrie Gordon Watson:

Also: The prompt seen in the film is now the first broad step to reach youth as a nonprofit organization. If Someone Only Knew is a now a challenge Charlton-Trujillo and Never Counted Out have created in the wake of teen suicides and bullying in America. Visit the page for
additional information. 
Thank you for participating, and for helping get the word about this important film out so that many more people can learn about and from it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lois Brandt, meet Christopher!

Our very own Lois Brandt, author of the lauded picture book, Maddi's Fridge, just found out that her debut received a prestigious 2015 Christopher Award. [much clapping inserted here]

Congratulations, Lois!

A story of friendship and childhood hunger.

Awarded for work that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit,” Tony Rossi, Director of Communications for the Christopher Awards, says, “The Christopher Awards are unique in that they celebrate both sacred and secular works across a variety of media." To read more about the awards and the other recipients,
please click here.

Lois will receive her award at a special ceremony in NYC on May 13, 2015. Huzzah!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lois Brandt's short-story class

If you want to get that short story written consider joining Lois Brandt's class at Bellevue College:

Writing Short Stories from First Sentence to Submission  
Bellevue College Continuing Education
Tuesday evenings, April 14–June 9
6:30 - 9:00 p.m.         
Fee: $179
This is an intensive eight-session writing class. Each student is expected to write approximately 2,000 – 7,000 words a week and produce a portfolio of 2 – 5 short stories. During the first four weeks students plot short stories and write them to completion. The second half of the class is devoted to editing and revising one story from the student’s portfolio. Students will learn to edit their own work and to receive and give constructive criticism. At the end of class students submit their polished stories to literary or genre markets.
This class is taught in Bellevue at Bellevue College’s new North Campus. For more information please follow this link to the BellevueCollege website,
If you have any questions about whether this is the right class for you, please feel free to email Lois directly (

Top THREE reasons!

The final countdown of really, really good reasons...and counting down the days till our conference actually happens! SO. What are the Top Three reasons to attend our chock-full-o'-goodness program the weekend of April 17?

We'll put you out of your misery:

Number Three: We're all newbies! 
Think our conference is a showcase for the experienced attendee? No way! No matter how many times you come, you're starting fresh. We try hard to make our VIP faculty, guests, and local success panelists different each time. By shaking up the lineup for every conference, as well as the content of their sessions, we're all starting from scratch. We're all in it together, hearing it all for the first time. We are all eager to hear everything so we can absorb it and let it carry us through the weekend, through conversations with fellow attendees, and through our own work the rest of the year.

Number Two: 2017. 

No, it's not an Olympic year. But it IS a special year, because that's the next time our conference is happening. And while it may be hard to imagine waiting TWO WHOLE YEARS until our next extravaganza, it should help motivate you to register before you miss out and have to wait for––count 'em–-24 months. Can you wait that long? We can't! And our work can't either. Why postpone the chance to rub shoulders with nationally known authors and illustrators and be in thrall to their wit and wisdom, when you could be part of the fun in a mere two-ish weeks? We hope to see you there!

Number One: THE FIRE!!!
Inspiration is what fuels our conference. We are surrounded by it all weekend as we learn from published pros and each other. The creative process, we know, ignites fully when like-minded individuals come together. The energy and the excitement that occur spontaneously throughout our event inspire our own passions and reinvigorates our own work. Your inspiration will burst into flame, sustaining us until the next time. (In 2017. –SOB!– But there's always our national SCBWI conferences, in NYC in winter and LA in summer. Check them out!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Crystal Kite voting open!


Okay, peeps––

Time to get those voting vibes up and running...for this year's Crystal Kite Award!

Round One opened TODAY, and will close APRIL 15 at 5pm.  
To vote, log into SCBWI.COM
To cast your vote make sure you are logged in to If you are not logged in,  you will not be able to vote. Once you are logged in, read through the list of books nominated for your region and then cast your vote for your favorite book. Don't forget to remind your SCBWI friends to vote by posting on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

The votes will then be tabulated and the top vote-getters will form a short list for the next round of voting. 
P.S. Round Two opens on April 18 at 9am and will close April 30 at 5pm.

Call for submissions

Revving up for a submission, agent, query, or just a chance to take a leap of faith?

Here's an interesting opportunity for writers to submit for their work to be considered for a new literary prize: 

The Grateful American Book Prize!
According to the Prize site, this is an award for "excellence in writing, storytelling, and illustration for children’s historical nonfiction and fiction, focused on the events and personalities that have shaped the United States since the country’s founding."

The prize, which was created by author and publisher David Bruce Smith and Dr. Bruce Cole, the former Chair of the National Endowment for the National Endowment for the Humanities, consists of a $13,000 cash award in commemoration of the 13 original Colonies. In addition, the winner will receive a not-yet- revealed work to be created by Smith’s mother, the renowned artist Clarice Smith.
Eligible books are those published between 2014 and June 2015.  The Prize is open to any and all works of nonfiction and fiction that portray events and people in an historically accurate manner and that appeal to youngsters in the 7th through 9th grades. 
SUBMISSION DUE DATE: August 31, 2015
To submit, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: This opportunity is not in any way affiliated with SCBWI or SCBWI-WWA. And also beware, for future reference: Any prize or contest that requires an entry fee is something we do not stand behind. This is not one of those, and therefore we include it on the Chinook. (Plus, wouldn't it be AMAZING to win?)


Lois Harris has a class for YOU!

Lois V. Harris will be offering a class at Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon campus, titled "Writing for Children: Nail Your Work of Fiction/Nonfiction on a Strong Structure."

The course takes place on April 30, 2015 and May 7, 2015, 6:30 PM—8:00 PM. Learn about key organizational elements: the Introduction, Conflict, and Resolution. Discover the importance of the Inciting Incident, Plot Points, and the tension-filled Climax. Follow a simple outline, plug in your manuscript's info, and breeze your way through the revision process!

Class fee: $49

There are two ways to register:

Go to Skagit Valley College and plug in Course 6107 CENG or by calling the college, 360-416-7638.