Friday, January 12, 2018

Hugs and Hurrahs!

Happy New Year! We’re shaking things up this month at the Mitten and starting the year off with your happy publishing news. You heard it right- it’s time for Hugs and Hurrahs! You were busy writers during the last three months of 2017, and we salute you all for your hard work and commitment to craft. Drum roll please. . .  

Hats off to Maria Dismondy! Her bestseller, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun is now available in Spanish and will be released in Chinese later this year. Her book Chocolate Milk, Por Favor is being published in Korean and is now traveling the country as a children’s musical. Way to go, Maria!

Congrats to Kathryn Madeline Allen! Her book, A Kiss Means I Love You (Albert Whitman & Co.) won GOLD in the Moonbeam Awards board book category. Launched in 2007, the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to celebrate children’s books and life-long reading. That’s amazing, Kathryn!

Three cheers goes to Rebecca Grabill! Her first book, HALLOWEEN GOOD NIGHT, was released this past July from Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. Congratulations, Rebecca! 

Standing ovation goes to Supriya Kelkar! Supriya was recently interviewed by the Washington Post about her middle grade historical fiction, AHIMSA. So proud of you, Supriya! Here’s a link to the interview: 

Neal Levin has been at it again! His poem, “Saturn’s Rings,” was published in the October 2017 issue of Spider Magazine, and his poem “Smells Like Chicken Noodle,” is in the January issue of Spider. Neal also recently published his 25th “10 facts” feature for Fun for Kids Magazine. This is a regular two-page color cartoon he creates for each issue of the magazine, providing ten fun illustrated facts relating to the issue's theme. You are awesome, Neal!

Big congrats to Lindsay Moore! Her narrative nonfiction book, SEA BEAR, was recently purchased in a two-book deal by Greenwillow Books for a winter 2019 release. That’s amazing, Lindsay!

Three cheers for Debbie Taylor! At the Nov 5 Ann Arbor Library Fifth Avenue Press Book Release Reception, it was announced that the next author they will be publishing is Debbie Taylor. Her book will be coming out this spring. Congratulations, Debbie!

Hats off to Heather Shumaker! Her first middle-grade adventure story called The Griffins of Castle Cary, was recently purchased by Simon and Schuster for a March 2019 release. This is Heather’s first book for children and introduces the three Griffin children, their ginormous, tongue-drooling Newfoundland dog, and a bit of a ghost problem. Being billed by the S&S editor as a charming book with “Penderwick-y style and Neil Gaiman themes.” So happy for you, Heather!

And here’s a standing ovation for Lisa Wheeler! Her newest picture book, PEOPLE DON’T BITE PEOPLE (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon Schuster) debuts on April 3. The book is illustrated by the award-winning Molly Idle! So proud of you, Lisa!  

Congratulations to Sondra Soderborg! Sondra just signed with her “dream agent,” Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Erin will be taking Sondra’s first MG novel to market next year. So happy for you Sondra!

Three cheers for Ruth McNally Barshaw! Coming in June 2018: NO BASE LIKE HOME, written by ESPN broadcaster and two-time Olympic medalist Jessica Mendoza and her sister, Alana Mendoza Dusan, in which an eleven-year-old tries to live up to her legendary older sister's softball skills on her travel ball team. Stacy Whitman at Tu Books is the fantastic editor on this project. Way to go, Ruth!

Happy dancing for Claudia Whisitt! Broken Lines, the third book in the Kids Like You Series garnered a silver medal in the 2017 Moonbeam Awards in the pre-teen historical/cultural category. So happy for you, Claudia!

Congratulations goes to Lorelle Otis! Three of her mindfulness painting/poems have just been published in the online poetry publication, Willawaw Journal. Her work appears on the cover, back cover, and page 4. The poems are from her A Few of the Ten Thousand Things, project she has been working on for four years. That’s awesome, Lorelle!

Hats off to Joseph Kimble! Joseph, a law professor who has written three law books, recently published his first children’s book, Mr. Mouthful Learns His Lesson. Way to go, Joseph!

Three cheers for Jacquie Sewell! Jacquie’s book, Mighty Mac, The Bridge That Michigan Built (Peninsulam Publishing) is now available on Amazon (with a sneak peak!) or through the publisher:
So happy for you, Jacquie!

A special congratulations to Nancy Shaw, Kelly Dipuchio, Lisa Wheeler and Patricia Polacco! These amazing authors are part of the Michigan Album Quilt of Authors and Illustrators unveiled last fall at The Clarkston Independence District Library. The quilt was started in 2011, with participants signing fabric squares to go into the design. Other authors/artists for young people are Gary Schmidt, Gloria Whelan, Janie Bynum, Margaret Hillert, Devin Scillian, the late Nancy Willard, and Robbyn & Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Other libraries will be displaying the quilt, too. Standing ovation to these amazing authors and what they give to the children’s literature community!

And finally, my story, “The Christmas Candles,” appeared in the December issue of Highlights Magazine, and the joy I felt was pretty much overwhelming!

I hope this issue of Hugs and Hurrahs has you celebrating with your friends and finding new inspiration to get those drafts polished and submitted! You can do it! And when you do, we’ll be right here to celebrate you!

Happy Writing!

THIS JUST IN: Author Jack Cheng has won the SCBWI Goldne Kite Award for Middle-Grade Fiction! Please join us in congratulating Jack Cheng, the author of SEE YOU IN THE  COSMOS, on this special honor. The Golden Kites are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. The awards will be presented at a gala during the SCBWI New York Winter Conference on Friday, February 2 at 7 PM at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Featured guest Chelsea Clinton, humanitarian advocate and children’s author, will make a special presentation at the event.
Big Michigan congratulations, Jack!
Carrie Pearson and Leslie Helakoski

Send all your happy publishing news to Patti Richards, Our next Hugs and Hurrahs deadline is March 28, 2018. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Featured Illustrator John Bleau


This questionnaire goes back to a popular parlor game in the early 1900s. Marcel Proust filled it out twice. Some of our questions were altered from the original to gain more insight into the hearts and minds of our illustrators. We hope you enjoy this way of getting to know everybody.

1. Your present state of mind?
Thoughtful, with a smidge of anxiousness, a hint of panic and one cup of caffeinated confusion.

2. What do you do best?
Listen and translate thought to image, quickly.

3. Where would you like to live?
Before kids, I lived in Cologne Germany and would love to take them back one day.

4. Your favorite color?
Yellow, of course! Who doesn’t like yellow?

5. Three of your own illustrations:


6. Your music?
Disney soundtracks with the kids and Ed Sheeran in the studio.

7. Your biggest achievement?
Making time for my children despite a two-hour commute to work, otherwise, teaching design and working with students.

8. Your biggest mistake?
Spending too much time in meetings with people who say “No.”

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?
P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! and Snow!

10. Your main character trait?
Seeing both sides of a situation.

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?
First time mistakes, not ones that seem to repeat.

13. Your favorite children's book heroes?
The ones with a secret identity, Peter Parker, Dick Grayson, Don Diego de la Vega, and John Clayton III.

14. What moves you forward?
The anticipation of making something better than yesterday.

15. What holds you back?
Self-doubt, indecision, and looking over my shoulder when I need to focus on the road.

16. Your dream of happiness?
Being the “Art Dad” at the STEM meeting.

17. The painter/illustrators you admire most?
The people making a living through their art while raising kids like Jake Parker, Will Terrell, Jason Brubaker …

18. What super power would you like to have?
I would like to time travel in my own TARDIS.

19. Your motto?
“I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it’s all in the reflexes.” Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China

20. Your social media?  
Web site:

Friday, December 15, 2017

Book Awards from the Mitten State by Kristin Bartley Lenz

Earlier this year, I was honored to learn that my YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO, was selected for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books state-wide literature program. And I was delighted to see that several of our SCBWI-MI members have books for younger readers on this list. Looking at you, Lisa Wheeler (DINO-RACING), Laurie Keller (WE ARE GROWING), Alison DeCamp (MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES), and many more from previous years!

I had assumed the Great Lakes Great Books (GLGB) program was only for Michigan authors, but I was surprised to see authors from all around the country on the lists. And I soon discovered that booksellers and librarians often confused the program with other similarly named awards, such as Great Lakes Great Reads and the Great Michigan Read. Curious to learn more, I reached out to the GLGB co-chairs from the Michigan Reading Association. They were happy to answer my questions. Introducing Trish Sippola and Lynette Suckow!

Tell us a little about yourself. What and where do you teach and how did you become co-chairs of the Great Lakes Great Books Program?

Trish Sippola - I'm a 3rd Grade Teacher at Birchview Elementary in Ishpeming, MI. This is my second year as co-chair on GLGB. I first came on the GLGB committee 4 years ago and was also involved in the Michigan Reading Association which is how I got involved in the committee.

Lynette Suckow - Even though I now work as a reference librarian at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI, my background is in elementary education and children’s literature. I became the GLGB Award committee chair 10 years ago and have been a committee member even longer. Trish, who is also passionate about books, became a co-chair so we could move the committee in a new direction and make it more relevant to new teachers.

There are several award programs with similar names - Great Lakes Great Reads from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and Great Michigan Read from the Michigan Humanities Council. Tell us about MRA's Great Lakes Great Books program and how it differs.

Great Lakes Great Books has been around for the past 30 years. We are one of two Michigan Reading Association committees to directly involve students in the reading process. Our mission is to share current literature recommendations with classroom educators. The books on the GLGB list provide interesting stories for grades K-12 and have to be less than two years old. The second part of student participation is to allow them to vote on their favorite book from the list. This is where the “award” part comes in, as a winner is chosen in each age category based on popular vote.

The 2017 Michigan Reads title by SCBWI-MI member Lisa Wheeler 
We differ from the Great Michigan Read program from the Michigan Humanities Council, which features an array of programming around a single adult or YA title every other year, and from Michigan Reads! One Book One State Children’s Book Program from the State of Michigan, which chooses a single title annually to be used in schools, libraries, Head Start programs, and Great Start collaboratives.

The Great Lakes Great Reads list from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association is an excellent, but short list of recommended titles for all ages of readers. Great Lakes Great Books suggests 40 titles in five age levels for reading with students. We hope the similarity of names doesn’t diminish the separate goals of each literacy committee.

SCBWI-MI member Jack Cheng's middle grade novel was chosen for the 2017 Great Lakes Great Reads list.

Do you read all of the nominated titles? How do you choose the final 8 titles in each age category?

We have a committee this year of 11 readers from schools and libraries from across the state who read throughout the year and add our favorites onto a list for each other to read. Some of us specialize in certain grade-levels so we may not all be reading all of the books K-12, but there are a few of us who do.  We hold a meeting in January to go over our list from the year, keeping in mind to choose fiction, non-fiction, illustrated, culturally diverse, well-written books. We bring our top 2 favorites from each grade-level category to the table to discuss, and from there we end up choosing the final 8 for each category.  Since we have members from far and near, some join in electronically.

How do students find out about the selected titles and award winners?

The MRA website has a downloadable packet of election information, along with grade level bookmarks, participation certificate, and a nomination form for suggesting future GLGB titles. We also have beautiful GLGB posters published by PermaBound Books for classrooms and libraries which are available at all MRA conferences and board meetings. We’re working to get an electronic version of that poster on our webpage. The winning book titles are announced in March at the annual MRA Conference. Additionally, when a classroom sends in their votes, we will email them back with the final award winners long before they are publicly announced.

Anything else you'd like us to know about GLGB?

Great Lakes Great Books Award committee work is a labor of love.  Members have a passion for books that blinds them to fact that they spend a whole year reading and evaluating new publications.  The effort pays off when Michigan students are treated to some of the best literature of the year.  It also keeps teachers aware of which books are currently available for enriching their classroom libraries. GLGB is definitely great!

Thanks for your time, Trish and Lynette! There's still time for students in all grades to vote for their favorite book. To see the list of 2016-2017 winners, the nominated titles for 2017-2018, and student ballot forms, go here. Students have until January 25th to submit their vote. And I just realized that today is the last day to nominate a title for the 2018-2019 award! That form is also included in this packet.

The 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books Award winners will be announced at the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference, March 17-19, 2018 in Detroit. Will you be there?

And I'm sure there are even more Michigan book awards that I've overlooked in this post. Please let us know in the comments, so we can check them out.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Vacation! Happy holidays from the SCBWI-MI blog team! We'll return in January to kick off the new year with Nina Goebel introducing our new Featured Illustrator. Followed by Patti Richards trumpeting your good news in our Hugs and Hurrahs. Please email Patti your writing/illustrating/publishing good news by Monday, January 8th, to be included. Finally, don't be surprised if you hear from Charlie Barshaw - he's planning our 2018 Writer Spotlights - it could be you!

Our SCBWI-MI chapter volunteers are busy planning 2018 events and more. Here's a sneak peek:

Attention Novelists!
SCBWI-MI is happy to help you with your New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution 1: Figure out your membership status. (This is easier than it sounds.)
If you are pre-published, you are an associate member.
If you are published, it depends on the publisher.
If your publisher is on this list of traditional publishers, you are a PAL member.
If your publisher is not on that list, you are a full member.
To check your official membership status, go to and click the Member Search box at the top right hand corner. Enter your name to look yourself up. If your listed membership status is not correct, contact SCBWI by email and explain the situation.

Resolution 2: Finish a draft of your novel. (This is as difficult as it sounds, but you can do it.)

Resolution 3: Apply for one of the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorships (This is really easy.)
The submission window for the PAL mentorship with Leslie Connor is in April 2018.
The submission window for the non-PAL mentorship with Kelly Barson is June 2018.
The submission instructions will be posted on the SCBWI-MI website. You’ll need to submit 10 pages and a synopsis.
Make sure you apply for the correct mentorship! SCBWI-MI can do wondrous things, but we cannot yet turn back time – if you miss your submission window.

For questions, contact SCBWI-MI Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein.

See you in the new year!
Kristin Lenz

Friday, December 8, 2017

Artistic Evolution: How the Cakeasaurus Picture Book Grew into a Traveling Art Exhibit and More by Marian Short

I first met Cakeasaurus during a latte-fueled afternoon in 2008. I saw an imaginary movie poster with a monster rearing up behind a fully lit birthday cake, upraised claws clutching the "C" and "S" in his name. The caption warned: "No Cake is Safe."

Next, I saw the same monster, leaning against a wall, arms folded; (again) multiple lit birthday candles dangled from his mouth. While the first monster seemed to rule through (confectionary) terror, in his second guise he was smug, a little sassy -- an oddly appealing hooligan. Having a ridiculous sweet tooth myself, I contemplated the potential ramifications of a town struck by widespread cake thievery.

I drank more coffee and jotted down the first draft of a picture book about a town beset by a cake-stealing monster, a pivotal kitchen showdown, and brave child with impressive kitchen skills.

I had already been printmaking for several years and selling prints through local stores, Etsy, and alternative craft fairs, so the ideas of
A.) exploring the Cakeasaurus story by making woodblock prints, and
B.) selling prints of page designs as I went along arose pretty quickly.
Thus, The Cakeasaurus Picture Book Project was born.
An “intro” sign for craft fairs
Now, my savvy readers, I imagine you nodding: “Ohhh, you did a subscription service? Crowd-funded it and sent a new page every x months?” To whom, I say: “Where were you in 2008?” Alas, no. While I wrote the backbone of this picture book quickly, I tweaked many facets over time; and some pages of the story attained clarity before others. I sketched, drew, and carved out of order, around the edges of a full time job and changing life conditions. For a long time when I sat at my dinner table, I faced a wall of taped-up unfinished drawings, which taunted/inspired me, depending on mood.

Gradually, I carved my woodblocks and the number of undrawn pages dwindled. About halfway through -- 15 pages more to design, carve and print! -- impending motherhood galvanized me. First it was a race against flagging energy and a belly that literally came between me and my carving. After my daughter’s birth, it became a race to nail down as much as I could before she learned to walk…

…And I won! Or something like that. I succeeded in carving woodblocks for every page of the book, hundreds of Cakeasauri prints decorate walls around the world, and I got the satisfaction of seeing my whole project laid out as a rollicking exhibit with almost 50 pieces.

This project was quite a journey -- not bad for something that started with doodles scribbled in a café. And this is something that I try to remind myself, when I feel lackluster, or cowed by an unwieldy idea. This was most definitely unwieldy – but still worthy. By taking creative “meandering” time, and by breaking its development down into stages, it took me to unexpected places.

Will it find a publisher in traditional book form? Unclear. But what grew clear early on was that different aspects of this project demanded different things from the story. A well defined graphic may sell well on its own, but cause a part of the overall tale to drag; likewise, pages necessary to the story may not lure in the casual consumer; and an ample gallery may inspire you to grow and rethink images previously deemed “done.”

 Woodblock print, with minor digital alterations
A strong seller from the series!...but needs tweaking to fit smoothly into the book
Woodblock print (L); Book version (R), with additional tree, star carvings; digital modifications

Woodblock print (L); Expanded block print with additional carving (R), for exhibit space

One of three process plaques I made for the exhibit 

“Cakeasaurus: Scenes from a Picture Book” was first exhibited through the University of Michigan Hospital’s “Gifts of Art” program (March - June 2017), and a pared down version just closed at the Dexter District Library (August – October 2017). You still have a chance to visit the full exhibit, at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location (multipurpose room, December 1st – January 10th 2018).

What’s next?

Fledgling picture book concepts. The front-running story has a strong plot, but needs a different visual language than this one. Bright, Splashy, and Energetic! I have imagined picture fragments for most pages, but I haven’t seen the faces of the characters yet.

A greater focus on card line development. I have also been selling small batch cards for some time, cards eccentric sometimes problematic – I periodically task myself with creating occasion specific cards like “Thanks!” or “Congratulations!” but what usually happens is an image of a badger who loves kipper snacks. I’m still working on it.

Flying squirrels, elephants, a toddler who negotiates ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Marian Short is a Michigan-based artist and writer, who began printmaking in 1999. Her artwork has been exhibited across the country. Marian originally hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia, where she thrived in an art-filled house (painter/seamstress/calligraphist mother, photographer father and sister); she moved to the mitten in 1994. 

Learn more:

Marian will be selling prints at the Tiny Expo at the downtown library, this Saturday December 9th, one level above the exhibit.

Many SCBWI-MI members will be signing and selling books and artwork at events this weekend -check out the Merry Mitten bookstore events, the Orion Township Library Author Fair, and the Anton Art Center Picture Book Exhibit. Know of another event? Let us know in the comments below and on the SCBWI-MI Facebook page.