Friday, February 17, 2017

Writing Through a Slump by Nick Adkins

If a draft is written in a hotel lobby, and nobody is around to read it, does it really exist? 

I have been working on a chapter book since February 2015. The current iteration is "New Revisions 34." I don't know how many "Old Revisions" there were, but I do know that the new revisions started after I had named a file "August Adelaide's How to Make a Friend FINAL FINAL." Clearly it was not. 

Most of those drafts have never been read by anyone other than me. I don't like people seeing my work until I've read through it without making any edits. Then they mark it up in red and I start over. It’s crazy and endless. It's write and rewrite and think about it in the shower and in the car, and then start it all over again. 

But why so many rewrites? What is missing? Why have I deemed the 33 previous versions not good enough? Why haven’t I written “FINAL FINAL FINAL” yet? When I realized I didn’t have the answer, I sort of broke down. I stopped attending local writing groups. I stopped participating in the online writing community. After a couple weeks, I stopped writing.

I’ve heard this comparison that writers are like sharks. It’s thought that if a shark stops swimming, it will die. Likewise, if a writer stops writing, he or she will die. But it felt more like losing a friend. Like someone you’ve come to expect to be there day in and day out and then suddenly they aren’t. 

Fast forward. I dragged myself to a writing conference—Write on the Red Cedar. It was great last year, I knew it was going to be great this year, but I hadn’t written more than a few words in a few months. Did I really belong at a writing conference? A voice told me that I did not. I recognized it as the same voice that tells me I’ll never make it. But then I saw people I hadn’t seen in months. I conversed with them and it drowned that other voice out. Sure I sat at the table in the back of the room, but I was surrounded by writers. I was surrounded by my people.

And Michael Hauge was there. He taught us about emotion and conflict and structure. About a journey of transformation and inner motivation. I’ve heard of these things. I’m familiar with the hero’s journey. But I had always assumed it was better suited for an epic storyline like Star Wars. Then Michael showed us clips from Pixar’s Up and outlined Carl’s journey. That’s when I realized that part of August’s journey was missing. I left the talk. I sat down in the hotel lobby and I wrote. “How to Make a Friend FINAL Revision 1” was born.

If a draft is written in a hotel lobby, and nobody is around to read it, does it really exist? Will the first 20 minutes of Up have you crying like a baby? The answer to both questions is yes. Each draft lives on in its successor, getting better and better and better if only a little bit at a time. Anybody who works persistently at something knows this. Sometimes it takes a conversation with a friend to remind us. Sometimes it takes an 8 hour workshop with a Hollywood screenplay consultant. Whatever it takes, find it.

Nick is an author and an illustrator who has self-published two picture books. He illustrated The Great Big Scary Monster (by Saraya Evenson) and wrote and illustrated Sloth VS Turtle. Nick is currently working on a chapter book about an introvert, a robot, and the struggle of making a friend. Learn more at http://www.twomonsterbooks.com/






Coming up on the Mitten blog: Interviews, interviews, interviews: a Michigan indie bookstore and a superstar librarian, teacher, and blogger. Plus, takeaways and congrats from the annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York.

Happy creating,
Kristin Lenz

Friday, February 10, 2017

SUCCESS STORY: Patti Richards and Work-For-Hire Writing Projects

You all know Patti Richards as one of our Mitten blog editors. She trumpets the good news and hard work of our SCBWI-MI members in two quarterly features, Hugs and Hurrahs and Writer Spotlights. It's been awhile since we've shared a Success Story interview, and Patti is the perfect candidate. It's her turn to shine! Patti kicked-off the new year with the release of her newest non-fiction book, ALL ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKING.

Tell us a little about your book.
ALL ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKING (Red Line/North Star Editions, January 2017) is part of the Cutting-Edge Technology series produced by North Star Editions. There are eight books in all that cover everything from apps and coding to drones and social media. They had two titles for me to choose from and I took the social networking title because that’s an area where I’m very comfortable. Specifically, my book is written for kids age 9 to 13 and defines social networking, how instant messaging works, the social media choices that are out there for kids, how to stay safe while online and future trends in social networking.

This book was a work-for-hire project. What does that mean?  
Work-for-hire writing is a bit different from the usual way writers submit a manuscript and wait to hear from a publisher or agent. With work-for-hire, the publisher determines the titles they wish to publish during their editorial year. Then they reach out to writers who have submitted resumes and writing samples or who have been recommended by another writer. If the writer is interested in taking on the project, the company sends a contract that outlines the terms of the agreement and payment.

Once the writer signs and returns the contract, she receives instructions on how to proceed. For me, this included an outline, suggested subheadings, submission formatting and those all-important deadlines! I got all my instructions in late May and had two weeks to complete the first draft. I waited about a week after submitting the first draft for my editorial notes (which required a complete rewrite because I’d miss some important style-guide points…ugh), and then the final draft was due about two weeks later. So the entire process from start to finish took approximately six weeks. That was last summer, and the book was released a few weeks ago. For most picture books the entire process can take two years or more from the day the contract is signed.

Are there pros and cons for this type of writing?
I really don’t see a downside because work-for-hire projects accomplish some important things.
First, it’s a paying gig, and those can be few and far between in this business. There’s nothing like knowing the work you’re doing is work you’re actually getting paid for as a writer. It’s a confidence builder in an industry where “atta girls” can be scarce!

Second, it forces you to work to a style guide and deadlines. It’s very common for those new to the business side of writing to chafe under deadlines. For me, deadlines are a part of daily life, and basically, if you don’t get it turned in on time, you don’t get paid. Learning to write under this kind of pressure sharpens your writing and editing skills in a way nothing else can.

Third, you get a hold-in-your-hand book at the end of the process and a new credit for your resume. It might not be the next Newbery Award or an idea that was born in your writer soul, but seeing a project like this through to completion and getting to open the box with your author copies inside- well, there’s just nothing like it!

As far as cons go, it’s difficult to find any. You’ve done the work (maybe faster than you would otherwise), it’s a substantial credit for your resume, and you have a book out. Some might shy away from this type of work because there are no royalties involved in work-for-hire projects. Once you get paid you don’t earn any more money and you have no rights to the content you’ve provided. I would say, sometimes you have to be willing to do things that look a little different than your dream in order to realize that dream in the long run. Writing is a business and making smart business decisions as you go along will serve you well in the end.

How did this opportunity come about for you?
I’m constantly looking for sources of paying work since I write for a living as well as working to get my children’s books published. As I’m working on writing web copy for clients, I’m researching places that do work-for-hire projects, whether they’re in the children’s market or other markets. I submitted my resume to Red Line Editorial the first time in October of 2014. I never heard back from them, so I resubmitted my resume in March of 2016, and this time, within 24 hours I was asked to send writing samples. Once I sent those and they liked them, I was put on their contributing writer list. That means if they come across a title for which they think a writer would be well suited, based on experience and the writing samples, they reach out. That happened for me just a couple of months later.

Do you have a responsibility for marketing/promoting these type of books?
No, work-for-hire projects are usually for schools and libraries and are marketed to teachers and librarians directly by the company. I can certainly promote the book through social media and my website/blog, but there’s no official book release party or that kind of thing for these projects; although there’s no rule that says an author can’t do that.

Do you have any research tips? And what about organizing all of this information (and on a tight deadline!)? Do you use a program like Scrivener?
Research for me has to go pretty fast, so I don’t use a program like Scrivener. I stay organized by simply cutting and pasting the URL from my sources into a Word document so I can keep a running list. Then from there I use a free bibliography generator like Citation Machine to produce a bibliography in whatever the style the publisher wants- MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.

This project required footnotes/endnotes, and for that I simply used the reference option in Word. I cut and past the URL while I’m writing into the endnote and then go back later and format the note correctly. For me, it’s better than stopping and starting all the time.

I also had to produce a glossary of terms and provide additional reading options for the “To Learn More,” section at the back of the book. So for these types of projects it’s pretty old school when it comes to research and sourcing, although internet resources make the entire process much, much easier!

Do you have any advice for others who would like to find work-for-hire writing projects?
As with other types of writing, researching the kinds of titles companies like this produce can help you craft samples that show you can do the work. One of the first things I did when I got this contract was to order a book written by a friend of mine for this same company so I could get a vision for what the final product would look like. I needed to see it before I started on my own title. Learning to write to a particular style may seem restrictive, but being able to adapt at a moment’s notice lets editors know you are a professional and someone they want to work with again and again.

As far as finding this type of work, Google is your best friend. Use keywords like “work-for-hire writing,” “work-for-hire writing for children,” “educational publishers,” and “educational book publishers,” and you’ll get lots of hits. From there, the submission guidelines, FAQ’s, Contact Us or About Us pages will tell you how to submit or where to send your resume and writing samples.


Thanks for helping us learn from your experience, Patti, and congrats again on your new book! You can learn more about Patti by visiting her blog, Sensibility and Sense, A Perfect Blog for Imperfect Writers. Patti offers paid critiques, resources for writers and insight into the world of writing for children.








https://www.scbwi.org/events/18th-annual-scbwi-winter-conference-in-new-york-ny17/
The annual SCBWI Winter Conference in New York begins today! Safe traveling to everyone attending, and we'll share some reports from our MI attendees when they return.


https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1941237

The SCBWI-MI Written Critique Program is underway and going strong! Learn more here.

Happy creating!
Kristin Lenz










Friday, February 3, 2017

Writer Spotlight!


It’s time for another Writer Spotlight on this edition of The Mitten!


Today I’m happy to welcome one of my friends (and critique partners), Wendy BooydeGraaff. Wendy was born and raised in Canada, on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario (which, she says, is almost a full degree latitude south of Grand Rapids where she lives now). She’s been in Michigan for over twenty years and is still shocked by all the snow.

Wendy writes, “Where I grew up, close to Lake Ontario, the lake effect kept us in a little warm bubble and the other side of the lake (Buffalo) got all the snow. Here in Grand Rapids, lake effect means SNOW, and lots of it. I looked it up because I thought maybe my childhood memory was wrong, but guess what? Grand Rapids receives an average of 20 more inches of snow per year than my hometown.”


Let’s dive right in, Wendy!

Mitten: When did you start writing for children or otherwise, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do?

Wendy: I started writing fiction in earnest my first year out of college when I was teaching fifth and sixth-grade students with learning disabilities. I had long been an avid reader but it had never occurred to me to write for publication until then. I latched onto the idea and have never let go.

Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?

Wendy: Though I don’t remember exactly how I found out about SCBWI, I’d guess it was through an author’s blog, I’ve been enjoying membership since 2009.

Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?

Wendy: I write fiction, mostly picture books, middle grade and YA. I read a lot of fiction (picture books through adult) and nonfiction, though lately nonfiction has been particularly inspiring for my writing life.

Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?

Wendy: I have a picture book out with Ripple Grove Press called, SALAD PIE, illustrated by Bryan Langdo. The two best events that helped (and are still helping) me on my way toward publication were the Nevada SCBWI mentorship program and Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-On-One Plus Conference. Also, I received a first runner-up prize from Michigan’s SCBWI for a picture book manuscript.



Mitten: Many of us have a job other than writing for children. Tell us something about what you do outside of writing.

Wendy: I contract for an educational research foundation, which puts me in schools and working with children on a regular basis. I also work for an international company, providing settling-in services to professionals who move from various countries around the world to the Grand Rapids area for work assignments.

Mitten: How does this occupation inform your writing?

Wendy: Writing is solitary, so my jobs get me out and working with a wide variety of people. This gives me balance, and also, income. Also, both jobs are detail-oriented, and so I’ve developed skills of organization and checking things over from all angles, which are great skills for writing fiction. It’s also nice to meet a steady stream of new people, because they remind me how unique every individual is.

Mitten: Where do you get most of your writing ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?

Wendy: All of my writing ideas come from my imagination. I’ve always had a vivid inner life. While people, places, stories might spark an idea, it’s imagination that runs away with it and pushes the spark into a story.

I usually write down ideas on a scrap of paper. I have file folders both on my computer and in my cabinet, full of half-baked ideas. The ideas that really won’t let go, I spend more time with. I spend a lot of time thinking before I begin writing, especially for novels and I never talk about what I’m writing until it’s ready to be seen.

Mitten: We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.

Rather than pick writers, I’m going to pick books. THE DARK, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen is one of my favourite picture books because it’s so good at setting the creepy tone we are all taught to believe about the dark, and then, the book shows us that the dark isn’t so bad after all. You can read more about some of my favourite picture books on this post and this other post for Nerdy Book Club.

Mitten: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children? Why?

There is so much great advice out there about writing and revising, but in writing for
children, it is most important to remember what it was like being a child. Writing as a parent, teacher or adult tends to make the writing a little manipulative, and I think kids deserve better than that. For instance, if I had made sure there was a parent at the park with Maggie and Herbert, the characters in SALAD PIE, the whole story would have changed. A parent would have made sure they played together right away. But for them to figure it out on their own, that’s priceless.





Thanks so much for stopping by, Wendy! It’s always fun to get to know our Michigan SCBWI family members better. You can find out more about Wendy at her website, and you can read about many other debut picture books at On the Scene in 2016. Wendy would also love to connect with you on Pinterest or Goodreads.

And remember, you never know when the Writer Spotlight will shine on you!

Happy writing, 

Patti Richards


Friday, January 27, 2017

Jordan J. Scavone's Tips for a MightE Signing Event

My first book signing wasn’t great. I’m not quite sure when how to do a successful signing really happened. A big part of me thought that just having a signing meant I was going to sell books. This was obviously not the situation, I sat for five to six hours and sold… eight books maybe? With each signing I learned a little bit more, trial and error in the ways I would interact with people, the decision to sit or stand, little things like that. After thirteen Barnes and Noble signings, four convention signings, and a few restaurant signings (all in one-year) I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve learned what works for me.


1.  Know Your Book
It seems obvious, but if you can’t tell people about your book quickly, then the odds are not in your favor in selling them a book. Almost everyone who approaches me hears almost identical mini-pitches.

“My book is about a four-year-old girl with social anxiety starting school. In order to overcome her fear of going to school, she becomes a superhero.”

Many people who pick up a copy of my book show they're impressed by my quick, simple, yet catching pitch.

2.  Know Who You Are
Some people can talk, some people cannot. My background comes as a competitive speaker, I’m lucky enough to be trained to speak to people. This give me a high level of confidence when it comes to talking to any, and all people. If talking isn’t your strong suit, don’t force conversation. If talking is one of your strong suits, use it, keep a keen eye on people as they pass by. Watch for lingering glances at your table, utilize eye contact, and don’t be afraid to invite people to your table.

3.  Know Your Audience
These points seem obvious, but, having a firm idea of who you are going to your signing event to sell to it key. If you write picture books (as I do) then you have a wide range of audiences. Kids, are the most obvious. If you can get a child interest in your book, then the child will get their parents into your book. When a little one comes to my table I start speaking them, shift my attention to the parent, then finish my pitch/conversation on the child. Kids also want to handle the book, I let them know that they can look at the book, I let them hold the book, and I encourage them to talk and ask questions.

4.  Be You
You wrote a book, and you are doing an event. That’s awesome, remember that. Even if you sell one book. That one book can change the direction of the new owner’s life. At one of my last signings of 2016 I told a seven-year-old aspiring author that “I’d only sign her book, if she would sign one for me at one of her signings one day.” I wrote that in her book, and she left with one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. Remember that you are there to inspire.


 Jordan J. Scavone’s received his M.A. in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University in April of 2016, his debut superhero children’s book Might-E released in December of 2015, and in June of 2016 he married his best friend. It was a good calendar year. Learn more at www.jordanjscavone.com and
 facebook.com/MightEBook. Tweet at Jordan @RealJScavone using #BeMightE.





Coming up next on the Mitten blog: It's time for another Writer's Spotlight. Who will it be?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Growing a Thick Skin by Melissa Cunningham

I started writing my novel, The Life-Dividing Days, on a train I was taking from Ann Arbor to my sister’s house in St. Louis. By the time I arrived, the first version of the first chapter was finished. I gave it to my sister, Laura, who was encouraging. I always looked up to my sister, who has a master’s degree in English and worked her tail off to become Dean of Libraries for Webster University. She agreed to be my first reader. I’d send her each chapter as soon as it was finished and would wait for her response. I seriously couldn’t move forward without hearing back from her. Fortunately, she continued to be supportive, coaching me to keep writing.

The very first criticism I received of the book was from my brother (always the pragmatist – lol) who asked why the book had to be about something so depressing. It was such an innocuous comment, really, but I felt completely crushed by it. It’s not as if I’d never had my work revised, either. I was a journalist for 4 years and a communications specialist for two. My writing was constantly being edited and it never bothered me. Writing a novel, though, is like pouring your heart and soul onto a page. For that reason, having it criticized cut to the core.

In the last 15 years, I’ve had countless paid critiques by authors and agents. I’ve been to conferences and joined writing workshops. For five years, I met monthly with a writing group, taking excerpts of novels, short stories, creative essays, poems and even picture book manuscripts and laying myself bare. Our group consisted of two English/creative writing professors and three other talented writers/poets. I valued their opinions and learned an incredible amount from them about craft. They changed my work in in-numerous ways, and they changed how I think of critiques.

Somewhere along the line, a switch flipped. I started looking forward to feedback and became grateful for every bit of constructive criticism they offered. I learned how valuable it can be and saw how much these insights improved my writing – and that’s really the end goal.

I’ve recently started querying literary agents. I won’t lie and say it isn’t nerve-wracking. I know that my chances of getting published, statistically, are slim; only about 3% of unsolicited novels are picked up by literary agents and that’s just the start of the publishing process. I also won’t deny that rejection hurts, but these days the blows don’t connect quite as hard as they once did and the healing comes much quicker.

In that way, I feel like I’ve grown since my brother’s comment. I’ve even come to realize that what he said wasn’t a comment about my writing, but more a comment of how my brother saw me, as a generally upbeat, positive person. I find it sweet, now, that he was concerned about my writing revealing my darker, more complex side.

I guess that’s all part of growing a thick skin, which is vital if you plan on being a writer.

Melissa Olson Cunningham has a degree in communications from the University of Michigan and has written for children's and parenting magazines, weeklies, and online publications in the states and Canada. She has won two awards for her novel, The Life-Dividing Days, which she is currently querying. View her blog, Wordsmithery, at her website







Thanks for sharing your experiences, Melissa, and best of luck with your queries. Speaking of queries and critiques, SCBWI-MI is gearing up for our Written Critique Program:

What do Brianne Johnson, Carrie Howland, Adah Nuchi, Susan Dobinick and Julie Bliven have in common?
1. They are all experts in the children’s literature industry; Brianne, Carrie, and Adah as agents and Susan and Julie as editors.
2. They have all offered to critique manuscripts for our members as part of the SCBWI-MI Written Critique Program.

This program will feature 8 agents and 9 editors offering a total of 294 critiques in February and March. It's an opportunity to make an important connection and receive valuable feedback on your manuscript from the pros.

Are you an author/illustrator? Several of the experts will review illustrated manuscripts, too.
Registration opens on February 1. The deadline for submission of February manuscripts is Feb. 15 and the deadline for March manuscripts is March 15. You will be able to purchase more than one critique -- first come, first served -- until all the slots are full.

So whip that manuscript (or manuscripts) into shape and get ready to submit. You might want to review the following articles as a checklist to make sure your manuscript is submission ready.

http://ingridsundberg.com/2010/12/29/10-tests-to-prove-your-manuscript-is-ready-for-submission/

Is Your Manuscript Ready to Submit? - Books & Such Literary Management

How Do You Know When Your Manuscript is Ready?

More details to come! SCBWI-MI members will receive an email, and more info will be on our MichKids listserv and Facebook page.

In the meantime, visit KidLit 411's Birthday Bash 2017 for a wealth of resources related to children's writing/publishing and multiple opportunities to win free critiques from literary agents.

Cheers!
Kristin Lenz



Friday, January 13, 2017

Featured Illustrator Brianne Farley






 MEET BRIANNE

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?

Kind of sleepy, actually.

2. What do you do best?

Draw expressive characters with odd noses.

3. Where would you like to live?

Near friends in a tiny house on the beach.

4. Your favorite color?

Lavender. And also gray.

5. Three of your own illustrations:




















































6. Your music?

I’m currently listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas album. It doesn’t even need to be Christmas to enjoy this thing, turns out.

7. Your biggest achievement?

My first picture book, because it opened a door to a lovely career and meeting my closest amazing soulmate friends.

8. Your biggest mistake?

Equating busyness with progress.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?

Sneeches, by Dr. Seuss.

10. Your main character trait?

Playfulness. But in, like, a badass way.

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

A great, loud sense of humor and a knack for comfortable silences.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?

The ones for which you’re asked forgiveness.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?

Matilda. What a badass.
14. What moves you forward?

A willingness to fail big.

15. What holds you back?

Facebook.

16. Your dream of happiness?

Being present. Another version involves swimming in Lake Michigan with someone I love and also there’s pie.

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?

Quentin Blake? That is a tough question. This could be a 400-person list.

18. What super power would you like to have?

Teleportation

19. Your motto?

We Are No Longer Impostors And We’re Good At What We Do

20. Your social media?

twitter: @briannefarley
instagram: @briannehfarley

Friday, January 6, 2017

Is It Time You Tried a Residency for Writers? by Jean Alicia Elster

I don’t think there is a writer alive who has not, at one time or another, looked up from their computer screen, gazed wistfully out of a nearby window and sighed, “Oh, if I could only get away and just focus on my writing!”  Well, I’m here to tell you that you can—you can get away and do just that. And the vehicle that makes it all possible is what is known as a residency for writers or artists.

I was introduced to the benefits of a residency by my then-mentor at another writers organization. She was glowing in her effusive praise about her recent residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Armed with the conviction that if my mentor, who was actually at the same point in her fiction-writing career as I was, could make it into one of the coveted residency spots then so could I—as well as the fact that Lake Forest was only a five-hour drive from metro Detroit—I went to ragdale.org and downloaded the application materials. The rest is history: I was accepted into a residency for the following year, 2001, and then via subsequent applications for the years 2003 and 2005.

Because each residency program is different and offers its own perks and limitations, pick one that is right for you and your personality. Do you crave just a cabin in the woods where you prepare your own food and live off the grid? Do you want meals prepared by a chef and served on a dining room buffet?  Do you want to be close to home or is a plane ride away to one of the coasts no big deal for you? Do you want the company of writers only or are you interested in sharing time with creative types of other disciplines? Is cost a major factor? The cost at Ragdale is generously subsidized by the organization. Some residencies require writers to foot the entire bill. Go online and do your research. Also, Poets and Writers magazine periodically devotes a portion of an issue to various residencies and retreats.



As I reflect upon my three residencies at Ragdale, the following thoughts stand out and explain why those times were so helpful to my life as a writer and to my fiction-writing career:

·      The daily contact with other professionals pursuing creative endeavors was invigorating beyond words. To be able to have regular conversations and interactions, particularly during communal meals, with others who shared a similar commitment to an artistic or literary endeavor provided a validation of purpose that invigorated and confirmed my creative processes.

·      As a writer, to be freed from routine daily tasks (such as cooking, housekeeping, attendance at a day job and, yes, parenting) in order to concentrate exclusively on a creative task allowed me to focus my complete thought processes and the unencumbered will of my muse on my manuscript. Such single-minded devotion meant that I could complete more work in a two-week residency than I could have completed in six months at my desk at home. (I do not exaggerate—other writers-in-residence have concurred with that statement).

·      Preparing for the residency and actually leaving home (at the time of my first residency, my husband asked me, “Why are you abandoning us?”) helped the significant people in my life—namely my husband and children—understand how important my identity as a writer is to me and that I needed a span of time to give that part of my life the same level of devotion that I give to them.

Even though it has been over a decade since my last residency at Ragdale, I still cherish the benefits of those three sessions. And I heartily encourage you, at some point in your literary career, to seek your own time away to focus solely on your writing. If I can do it, so, indeed, can you!

Jean Alicia Elster is the author of several books of children’s, middle grade and young adult fiction. Her two most recent books—Who’s Jim Hines? and The Colored Car (both published by Wayne State University Press)—were selected as Michigan Notable Books by the Library of Michigan. She recently submitted the trilogy’s third volume, Blood Journey, to her WSU Press editor and is eager to begin the process of editing the manuscript. Keep up with her at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.




Coming up on the Mitten Blog: Our blog banner changes every quarter thanks to our Featured Illustrators, and Nina Goebel is preparing to unveil our newest banner. Nina created our Happy Holidays banner and will introduce our new Featured Illustrator next Friday!

Happy New Year!
Kristin Lenz