Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Birthday Blog

Welcome to SCBWI-MI's NEW Book Birthday Blog! 
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

BIG congratulations to Lisa Rose on the release of her new series, STAR POWERS!
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I actually didn’t come up with the idea for Star Powers—the editor asked me to write about a second grade girl who wants to be an astronaut and also uses a wheelchair.  However, when I created Star Powers, I knew exactly who to model her after: My daughter!

My daughter doesn’t use a wheelchair, but she is visually-impaired and uses a cane to help her know where objects are around her. My daughter never lets her mobility challenge stop her. I wanted Star Powers to be that way too. Sometimes, if a person has a special need, people believe that the person can’t do anything. People are always amazed when my daughter can spell a word, swim, and even do gymnastics. Everywhere she goes she teaches others that she is just like everyone else and can do so many things. I wanted Star Powers to do the same.  I didn’t want Star’s disability to define her. I wanted her to be brave and teach not only herself but every child and adult around that she was capable of achieving anything—even being an astronaut!
What was the most difficult part of writing these books?
I had to keep the story to a specific word count.  There is a lot I wanted my characters to say and do.  I had to tell the best story with a limited amount of words.

In the voice of your main character, tell us what you hope readers will experience or learn while reading your books.
I hope that kids and adults learn that people in wheelchairs can do anything—even go into space!

Who is your author idol and how have they influenced your work?
It’s hard to pick just one “author idol.”  I have always been in love with Judy Blume.  She wrote funny kid stories that always had a lot of heart.  So many kids could relate to characters. As an adult I’m admired Jacqueline Woodson.  Her stories deal with tough issues in a tenderness that scrapes your soul.  I can see how Star Powersis sprinkled with both of them.
What are the marketing plans for your books? Where can we find them?
Unlike my other book, Star Powers was made for the school and library market. This means that it mostly sold directly to schools and libraries.  As a “recovering” first grade teacher nothing makes me happier than knowing my book will use in classrooms to help inspire beginning readers.  Also, each book contains back matter about the science topics described in the book.   Each book contains additional non-fiction information and science experiments. For example, kids can build rockets just like Star Powers and her friends. Buy all six books at

A little bit about the books: Star Powers is a wheelchair-bound second-grader and aspiring astronaut obsessed with all things space including black holes, aliens, and the latest findings from NASA. Oh and she's convinced her big brother is from another planet. Each book features Star navigating her daily life while chasing her dreams and reaching for the sky.

A little bit about Lisa: 

Lisa Rose lives in Detroit, Michigan with her husband and daughter. She likes to swim, practice yoga, and eat ice cream but not at the same time. She is the author of SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN and you can find her e-books OH NO! THE EASTER BUNNY IS ALLERGIC TO EGGS! and OH NO! THE TOOTH FAIRY BROKE HER WING! on WWW.MEEGENIUS.COM 
Please see her website and her author program video. to learn more about her.
Facebook: LisaRose
Instagram @LisaRoseWrites

Hugs and Hurrahs

Happy summer! It may be time for vacations and evenings by the firepit, but Michikid authors are still hard at work producing amazing stories resulting in lots of happy publishing news. We’ve got tons to celebrate around here, so let’s get right to it!

Lisa Rose is proud to announce the release of her six-volume chapter book series, STAR POWERS, with Rourke Educational Media, today! The series is about a second-grade girl named Star Powers who wants to be an astronaut and uses a wheelchair and includes science experiments in the back matter. Lisa recently attendad ALA in New Orleans and did a signing for STAR POWERS! 
Happy Dancing with you, Lisa!

Kathie Allen’s vividly-colored board book, THIS BOOK, (Albert Whitman & Company) was released in March. The book is chock-full of preschool concepts and was illustrated by Lizzy Doyle.
We’re giving you a standing ovation, Kathie!

Monica Harris recently sold an activity called "Hocus Pocus: Crayon Mind-Reading Trick," to Highlights Magazine. Monica also recently completed eight pieces for Data Recognition Corp, including fictional and informative listening passages and a biography.  
Way to go, Monica!

Josef Bastian’s, EXCERPTS FROM AN UNKNOWN GUIDEBOOK: BOOK 1: PHASES OF THE MOON, was recently named a Finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards in the Children’s Fiction category.
We’re so proud of you, Josef!

Neal Levin is happy to announce that his poem, “It’s Summertime,” was published in the June 2018 issue of Pockets Magazine. His poem, “Rumble-Grumble Storm,” is in the July 2018 issue of Highlights for Children.

Way to go, Neal!   

Jordan J. Scavone's second picture book, The Mud Princess, is now available on Amazon! Follow Georgia, a girl who defies the looks and ideals of her princess peers. When the other princesses are captured by a dragon, Georgia must decide if she should help those who shunned and mocked her. Jordan also has a downloadable companion coloring page on his website.

So happy for you, Jordan!

Ruth McNally Barshaw illustrated the middle-grade novel about two Latino sisters who love softball, THERE’S NO BASE LIKE HOME. Written by two-time Olympic medalist and ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza and her English-teacher sister Alana Mendoza Dusan, the book officially released June 19 by publisher Lee and Low. This story is for 7 to12 year-olds who like sports, love families, or just want an exciting read.

Happy Dancing with you, Ruth!

On March 10, Janet Ruth Heller spoke about “Nine Tips for a Successful Book Signing Event” for the Motown Writers Network Monthly Meet Up at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. On Saturday, March 17, Janet also spoke about “Recent Multicultural Literature for Children” for the Michigan Reading Association Conference in Detroit. On April 13, Janet and Miriam Bat-Ami conducted a workshop called “Writing and Revising Religious Poetry and Prose” for the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Three cheers, Janet!

Lindsey McDivitt is thrilled to share that her PB bio, Nature's Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story, officially released in July from Sleeping Bear Press. And Lindsey did her first book tour in early July and visited book stores in Northern Michigan. This is Lindsey’s first picture book!

We’re so happy for you, Lindsey!

Pat Trattles’s activity, “Welcome Game,” will be published in the November issue of Pockets Magazine!

Way to go, Pat!

On June 30, 2018, Jean Alicia Elster was the guest speaker/presenter for the 3rd Annual Yule Love It Lavender Farm Writing Workshop, sponsored by Detroit Working Writers. Her workshop presentation was titled “The Tyranny of Reality (Revisited).” Jean was also one of the off-panel authors interviewed in The Documentary, World Book Cafe: Detroit, a production of the BBC World Service. The segment aired on international radio on June 23, 2018.

We’re proud of you, Jean!

September sees the release of the 11th book in Lisa Wheeler’s Dino series for CarolRhoda/Lerner (illustrated by Barry Gott). Dino-Christmas will be the first of 4 titles that share how the dinosaurs spend their holidays. Dino-Sport fans are eager for this one!

We’re giving you a standing ovation, Lisa!

Deb Pilutti is happy to report that her illustrations for IDEA JAR, written by Adam Lehrhaupt, were awarded merit in the 3x3 International Children's Book Show and will be published in 3x3 Magazine's Illustration annual #15.

So happy for you, Deb!

Special congratulations go out to Kristin Lenz, the winner of the PAL Novel Mentorship with Leslie Connor for her novel, THE DOOR SWINGS OPEN. Congratulations to runners-up Charlie Barshaw for his novel, AUNT AGNES, and Margaret Mason for her novel, IS MY NAME.

Congratulations to Kristin, Margaret and Charlie!

Kathryn Madeline Allen's picture book, I Am a Baby, (Photos by Rebecca Gizicki, published by Albert Whitman & Co.) will be released as a board book edition on Sept 1!

That’s awesome, Kathie!

And I have some happy news of my own to share! My poem, “Alice Thanks her (Looking) Glasses,” will be part of a poetry collection called Thanku: Poems About Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul, published by Lerner/Millbrook and scheduled for a fall 2019 release. And my picture book manuscript, WHAT THE SEASHELL SAID, recently won an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Literature at Hunger Mountain. The piece will be published in their winner’s collection in the coming months. So very happy! 

Didn’t I tell you we had lots to celebrate?! For every piece of good news, there are hours, days, months and years of hard work, and we are proud of all of you!

Send all of your happy publishing news to me, Patti Richards, at  


Friday, July 6, 2018

Featured Illustrator Darrin Brege


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?
Very focused of late…on projects, deadlines, and direction.

2. What do you do best?
Make people laugh.

3. Where would you like to live?
The Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disneyworld.

4. Your favorite color?
Black…although, technically a tone.

5. Three of your own illustrations:

6. Your music?
Classic Rock…Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, Beatles

7. Your biggest achievement?
The fact that I get to do art for a living, do comedy with my wife and together we have a wonderful son.

8. Your biggest mistake?
Listening to my dad and wasting time by choosing a path to pre-med instead of art school in college. I did end up moving to an economics major and received my BA from Albion College (Go Brits). After graduation, I immediately moved to LA to study animation, and although I’m proud of my degree, I wish I would’ve gotten it in art or animation.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?
Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Suess.

10. Your main character trait?

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
A shared sense of humor.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?
Honest mistakes that can be used as a learning opportunity…. either that, or a botched movie quote.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?
Mick Morris. He’s the main character in our Mick Morris Myth Solver book series (my wife, Karen Bell-Brege is the author and I illustrate). His mannerisms are loosely based on our son, Mick, and I illustrate him based on how he looked at ten. Mick is determined, funny, thoughtful, and fearless.

14. What moves you forward?
Creating as a husband and wife team - always striving to take our creations to the next level, and ultimately having our readers and fans love our stories!  We love inspiring kids to read, and especially getting them to laugh.

15. What holds you back?
Time!  We have so many things on our plate, that it’s hard to get to everything.

16. Your dream of happiness?
Karen and I continuing to work together in all of our creative endeavors and our son doing the same in whatever drives or motivates him.

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?
Walt Disney.

18. What super power would you like to have?
It’d be wonderful to temporarily replicate to double, or triple up on any task. I’d be able to get a lot of painting done…or at least be able to fold clothes quicker. Or, Karen & I would be able to go off to Florida, and let my double handle everything.

19. Your motto?
Do what you love…it’ll never feel like work.

20. Your social media? 
Instagram:  @karenanddarrin
Facebook:  Karen & Darrin Author & Illustrator
Book website:
Art website:

Monday, July 2, 2018

Story Sculpting by Jeff Jantz

Growing up I always loved to draw and build things. I would sculpt dinosaurs and monsters from clay and cut apart my toys, carve, glue, and paint them until they became creations of my own. Elaborate backstories and characteristics would evolve from my creations. I would tell these stories to whomever would listen.

Now, I create my illustrations for my books using a technique I call Illustrative Sculpture. This is very similar to the techniques used in stop motion animation, just without the animation. As one might imagine, it is very time consuming and labor intensive. This may not be the most efficient way to create an illustration. For me, it beats sitting in front of a computer or a drawing table for days on-end..

A big part of the reason I started using the Illustrative Sculpture technique was something I heard at an SCBWI workshop I attended years ago. The great Matt Faulkner shared briefly with us how he often used sculpting as a form of character development. He said it was not only a great way to come up with fresh new characters but it also served as a great reference for drawing your characters from different angles. He mentioned it also helps with continuity from one page to the next.

I was still unpublished at this time and searching for my unique illustration style. I implemented that idea and began sculpting more and more as part of my process. Sometimes, it would be simple things; like a snake I wanted to draw for a dummy book I was working on. You would think a snake would be fairly simple to draw but I was going for a dramatic angle and the snake needed to appear to be close to the viewer on one part of the page and far away in another.  After several attempts and several wasted sheets of paper, I pulled out the modeling clay, rolled out a snake, arranged it the way I imagined it and snapped a photo. CLICK! With a reference, I was easily able to draw the illustration I could see in my imagination but couldn't seem to get on paper.

I also find sculpting as a form of character development to be very helpful. Most illustrators have had the experience of laying down dozens of sketches trying figure out what a character that's sneaking around in their imagination would look like. I still use a good old fashioned pencil and paper to sketch out initial ideas but I often find myself in a rut or with just a vague two dimensional understanding of the character. When I “sketch” with clay, the character starts to literally jump off the page. The funny thing is, during this process the character becomes more three dimensional in the figurative sense as well. As I’m sculpting, backstories, character traits, motivations and even feelings start to feel visceral as I forge an imaginary being in my hands.

I met with Matt Faulkner again a year or so after that workshop for a portfolio critique. I shared with him a couple of sculptures I had created.
“Maybe THESE are your illustrations,” Matt said.

At the time I brushed the idea off, but it stuck with me. Eventually it led me to where I am now in my artistic journey. I take the sculpting aspect of my illustration process to the extreme and create my work using not only clay, but wire, foil, metal, wood, repurposed objects, and even the occasional custom 3D printed items.

I don't recommend this process for everyone, but I do think other illustrators and perhaps even writers could benefit from pinching and pulling a lump of clay in an effort to see a story from a new perspective and develop a character that is trying to emerge from the depths of the imagination.

Learn more about the illustrations Jeff builds:

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Nina Goebel has been busy coordinating with our new Featured Illustrator. Come back on Friday to read the Illustrator Interview and see our new summer blog banner!

Did you see our first Book Birthday celebration? PAL Coordinator Jodi McKay is organizing this new, ongoing section of our blog. Please email Jodi if you have a new book coming out this year.

And it's almost time for another round of Hugs and Hurrahs! We want to trumpet your success. Please send your writing/illustrating/publishing good news to Patti Richards by July 10th to be included.

Kristin Lenz