Monday, September 18, 2023

Little Free Library Day

It’s September!

I love Autumn, don’t you? This time of year always reminds me of change: changing seasons, colors, and wardrobes too. For some, it may be the beginning of that time we take to reflect upon our experiences, goals, and accomplishments, as the end of the year scoots a bit closer than we’d like.

For members of SCBWI, our reflections often have much to do with children—our own, those in our families, our communities, and of course—those wonderful children we create books for! With that in mind, the Equity and Inclusion Team is happy to announce an exciting community event planned for September 30th. EVERYONE is invited to join us, but we particularly ask our Michigan SCBWI members to support us and participate.

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, we will celebrate the very first Little Free Library Day!

I’m sure you’re familiar with those unique little library stands scattered throughout our neighborhoods and communities. Some look like mailboxes, some like birdhouses, and others are over-the-top creative! What they all have in common is their purpose, which is to share the gift of books. Readers can borrow a book and return it for someone else to enjoy. Anyone can donate.

We’re asking you to join us in spreading love, literacy, and diversity! We are committed to every child being represented and seeing themselves in the books they read. Diversity truly matters.

Here’s how you can get in on the fun!

  • Purchase a children’s book that features main characters who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) or those from another underrepresented group (or donate one of your own). Here’s a list of recommended books you can choose from: SCBWI-MI Resource List (diverse books)
  • Find a Little Free Library in your community.
  • Take a selfie or quick video (30 seconds or less) when you drop off your donation. Have fun with it! Big smiles, happy poses, and even a little dancing would be very cool!
  • Post your picture or Reel on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, or other social media platforms. TAG us @SCBWI_michigan and the Little Free Library organization @littlefreelibrary. They are as excited as we are! Use our HASHTAGS below:

#SCBWImichigan      #SCBWI                     #diversebooksforkids #littlefreelibrary         #diversebooksmatter  #weneeddiversebooks


Thank you for your support! Let’s help ensure that all children can find themselves and lose themselves in the wonders of a book.

E&I Team, SCBWI-Michigan Chapter

Naomi V. Dunsen-White, Chairperson


Naomi V. Dunsen-White is an award-winning, independent children’s book author writes books that promote diversity, uplift self-esteem, and inspire discovery of one’s purpose. Naomi has a passion for closing the diversity gap in the children’s book industry and believes all children deserve to have books with characters who look like them and stories that positively represent a world to which they can relate. She also believes that all children have a gift within, just waiting to be discovered. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives, to help them discover it.


Naomi is also an editor, writing development coach, and author coach. She takes great pride in amplifying diverse voices and helping others fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors, leaving a legacy for the next generation. Understanding that the published word is a gift that lasts forever, she prepares her clients to make an impact by building a following for their books and a business from their message. From children’s books to non-fiction to memoirs, Naomi’s clients come from all walks of life, yet have one thing in common: they have found their purpose in the power of their pens.


Naomi serves as Vice President of LiteracyNation, Inc., a nonprofit organization and Affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA). Promoting diversity and equity in literacy, they bridge the gap between independent authors and the library community. She serves as Chairperson of the Equity and Inclusion Team for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Michigan Chapter, is a member of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the Editorial Freelancer’s Association. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

For National Latinx & Hispanic Heritage Month: An Introduction to Las Musas! by Isabel Estrada O'Hagin


In late August I received the thrilling news that I was accepted into Las Musas. Why was I so excited? I’d been fortunate to have met many wonderful people in SCBWI Michigan these past years, but I didn’t cross paths with many other Latinx KidLit creators (although many members of Las Musas are also members of SCBWI). As a writer, I needed that connection and now I’m meeting many Latinx writers, several who are debut authors as well.

What is Las Musas? (The Muses) Las Musas is the “first collective of Latinx women and otherwise marginalized people whose gender identity aligns with femininity, writing and/or illustrating in traditional children's literature who have to come together in an effort to support and amplify each other’s debut or sophomore novels in US children’s literature.”

As posted on our website: Our mission is “to spotlight the contribution of Las Musas in the evolving canon of children's literature and celebrate the diversity of voice, experience, and power in our communities.”

Las Musas debuted in 2018 with 12 women and now boasts 100+ members. Our Latinx community includes a vast and diverse group of people with cultural ties to Latin America. “We are not one voice, but many.”

In addition to this dynamic advocacy and the support offered to debut authors, I find the idea of being a part of a collective attractive. Too many organizations seem to be top-down hierarchal power structures where decisions are made at the top. The possibility of having my efforts make a difference beyond being a volunteer is energizing. Each Las Musas member is asked to serve on one or two teams to remain active. We--and only us--are the ones who make the various benefits of membership and programs offered thrive. We are challenged with this ideal that WE ARE the organization, and it will only be as strong as our individual efforts toward keeping the collective strong.


In Las Musas, decisions are made by the group: As a collective, Las Musas works with a close-to-consensus ideal as we can get. If a new venture or sponsorship is proposed it must be voted on. Similarly, anything that proposes a change to standards, voting, or membership acceptance must also be brought to a vote.


The benefits of being a part of Las Musas are many. There’s the Las Musas website with 1000+ visitors a week. Active debuts/sophomores have their own author page featuring their book and bio. They are active on social media, sponsor a newsletter, have a professional Canva account open to all members, organize panels/workshops/virtual events, help with school visits, host a podcast and book club, and collaborate with the Latinx KidLit Book Festival, a virtual celebration of Latinx KidLit books, authors, and illustrators.


This year’s LKBF’s free workshops and presentations are truly amazing (You can also access previous LKBF’s presentations on YouTube.). Find information about this year’s Festival Schedule at:


You can join LIVE from your classroom, library or home for FESTIVAL FRIDAYS starting September 22nd through October 13th! Meet your favorite Latinx creators of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, poetry, comic books and graphic novels! 


Enjoy four Fridays (September 22, September 29, October 6, and October 13) of creative language arts and visual arts content for students of all ages. In addition, there are Educators’ Nights and Writers’ Nights that begin Sept. 20.


Special note: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor opens the LKBF with a discussion of her NYT bestselling children’s books! She joins Rafael Lopez and Angela Dominguez on panel to discuss their series: How to Build a Better World, September 22, 11 a.m. ET


You, too, SCBWI-M­­I, can help support the work of Latinx KidLit creators by purchasing our books, asking your local library to order our books, and by checking them out! You can support us through social media as well. We have room for all of our stories, and strong alliances will help lift every single voice in solidarity to better provide a broader understanding of Latinx diversity to young readers.


*Las Musas Books website:

Instagram: #lasmusasbooks

               Facebook: Las Musas Books


Latinx KidLit Book Festival

Instagram: @latinxkidlitbf  #lkbf23

Facebook: Latinx KidLit Book Festival

Isabel Estrada O'Hagin grew up in the desert borderlands of Arizona, dancing and singing her way through life. Always a dreamer, she blends her life experiences as a performing arts educator with her love of Mexican-American culture & folklore into stories. When she’s not writing, she loves to dance, cook, read, daydream, and play with her two gatitos, Dante and Cosmo. She also loves her volunteer work for SCBWI-Michigan as Outreach Coordinator and K.A.S.T. Co-Coordinator (A shout-out to my KAST friends—Where everyone’s a star!)  LA MARIACHI is her debut storybook!


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Dana VanderLugt



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors, illustrators and translators.


Congratulations to Dana VanderLugt on the release of Enemies in the Orchard


Congratulations on your debut novel! The book is based on stories passed down in your family. Tell us more about what inspired you to write the book.

Thank you! My grandfather managed a Michigan apple orchard for most of his life. I grew up calling it Grandpa’s Orchard, though technically the two hundred acres of apples never belonged to our family. My dad and his siblings were raised on that farm, and in many ways, I was too. While in an undergraduate creative nonfiction class more than two decades ago, I interviewed my dad about our family orchard and he told me a story: that during the Second World War, a decade before Grandpa and his young family came to live on the farm, German prisoners had been hired to help pick that fall’s crop of apples.
While the original college essay I wrote only included one paragraph about the POWs, my dad’s story planted a seed in my mind, and in 2019, while enrolled in an MFA program, I began researching more intensively and found that here in Michigan, 32 base camps housed German soldiers — some of whom were still teenagers — plucked out of war and in many ways, saved by being captured. I had intended to just write only 20 pages for a writers workshop assignment, but knew almost as soon as I started drafting that I’d need to write this novel. The main characters, Claire and Karl, were immediately real and vivid in my mind. 

What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

Writing in verse was one of my favorite parts of this project, but also challenging. When I first begun, I was incredibly lucky to be assigned to work with author (and SCBWI member!) Lesléa Newman, and she was honest that if I was going to write in verse, my poetry had to get stronger. I worked hard to make sure every word counted and to be sure the book is lyrical, emotionally layered, and carefully crafted.
When I taught middle school English, I often was able to sway readers to try a novel-in-verse because all the white space alleviated some pressure for them. For me as writer, I wanted to make sure every bit of text earned its space on the page. 

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?

In my acknowledgements, I write that the students I was entrusted with over the years as a middle school teacher sat on my shoulder as I wrote this novel, and my hope for my readers is the same hope I had for those students when they picked up a book: that it would move them to think more deeply.
This is a book about World War II on the American home front, but more than that, it’s about empathy, grief, and forgiveness. It’s about looking past assumptions and stereotypes to understand people’s stories and wrestling with one’s own
mistakes and shame. And it’s about the realization that there are no real winners when it comes to war.

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it?

I hope to see fellow SCBWI members at my book launch on September 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids! I’m also looking forward to school visits this fall, as well as events at libraries, bookstores, and Michigan orchards and wineries, such as Anderson & Girls in Stanton and Bos Wine in Elk Rapids. While my book is a middle grade book, I expect to have a lot of adult readers, as well, especially due to the Michigan history connection. Events are added to my website as I book them.

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or any online retailer, though I would love readers to support their local, independent bookstores.

What's next for you? 

In my day job as a literacy consultant, I’ve been working on some guest blogs and articles for youth literacy sites. I also contribute to the Reformed Journal as a blogger. I'm beginning to explore the possibility of a companion novel to Enemies in the Orchard, and hopeful that research will propel me forward as it did with this novel.

Thank you for the chance to share about my book and journey! I'm looking forward to hearing from readers, and encourage any SCBWI members to reach out to me anytime. I'm always happy to talk about writing, publishing, and youth literacy!

More about the book . . . 

It’s October 1944, and while Claire’s older brother, Danny, is off fighting in World War II, her dad hires a group of German POWs to help with the apple harvest on their farm. Claire wants nothing to do with the enemies in the orchard, until she meets soft-spoken, hardworking Karl. Could she possibly have something in common with a German soldier?

Karl, meanwhile, grapples with his role in the war as he realizes how many lies Hitler’s regime has spread—and his complacency in not standing up against them. But his encounters with Claire give him hope that he can change and become the person he wants to be.

Inspired by the little-known history of POW labor camps in the United States, this lyrical verse novel is told in alternating first-person poems by two young people on opposite sides of the war. Against a vivid backdrop of home front tensions and daily life, intimate entries reveal Claire’s and Karl's hopes and struggles, and their growing friendship even as the war rages on. What are their chances of connection, of redemption, of peace?

Publisher: Zonderkidz

More about the author . . .  

Dana VanderLugt is a writer and teacher who believes firmly in the power of stories to change hearts and minds. She descends from a family of apple growers in Michigan, where she lives with her husband, three sons, and a spoiled golden retriever. And yes, she makes a mean apple pie.




Twitter: Danavanderlugt




Sunday, September 10, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Mimi Olson


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors, illustrators and translators.


Congratulations to Mimi Olson on the release of Middle School is No Place for Magic


How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Several years ago, my husband and I took our daughter to a magic show at a summer festival. The magician had his young son in the show, acting as his assistant. That ignited my imagination. I couldn’t help but envision what it might be like to:

a. Have a dad who’s a magician,
b. Grow up helping in the magic business, and,
c. Enter middle school, a time when the smallest things can be mortifying. 

To be that age and have to perform, possibly in front of your peers…my brain was buzzing. 

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book? 

I hope my middle grade readers will see that they can and should express themselves, whether that is about heavy expectations, worries, or other issues they need help with. I also think the novel shows a realistic vision of what life is like for a middle schooler today, through the trials and joys of being that age. Lastly, I hope they see a character who leans on his friends, grows, and chooses to be brave. 

What inspires you to write? 

The literary heroes that I grew up reading (and my current favorites) inspire me: Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maya Angelou, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Kate DiCamillo, Shutta Crum, and so many more. The books I’ve read over the years have shaped me in so many ways. I grew up in a village of 800 people and books helped me see life through other’s eyes and glimpse new worlds. Books have always felt like friends to me. That is what I hope my writing will do, in some small way. And since I was very young, I’ve processed the world through writing, which often feels like joy. There are certainly times that have been difficult in my 20-year journey to become an author. Looking back, though, I appreciate all the direction, critique, and encouragement I’ve received from many people. Being published at this time in my life has the bonus of getting to experience this thrill with my daughter, who is 19. Every revision, and rejection, has been worth it! 

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it? 

Primarily, I’m planning to launch a “grassroots” marketing campaign visiting middle school classrooms virtually to give my Short Story/Author Talk Workshop. The workshop is geared toward encouraging middle schoolers to write their own fiction. I was able to pilot the workshop earlier this year with three sixth grade classes in Columbus, Ohio, and it is the best thing I’ve experienced since starting this publishing journey. I love connecting with youth and was delighted to hear from the teacher that they have since been very engaged in writing their own stories.
Other plans include:

An in-person book tour to various areas of Michigan and the Chicago area. 

I was fortunate to find the very magician who inspired this novel, Boyer the Magic Guy! Jeff Boyer has been a consultant on my novel and we are developing a middle school assembly that will be a combination author talk and magic show.

I've been building my social media presence and will be sending out press releases, flyering, and attending as many book fairs and conferences as possible.

Fifth Avenue Press is hosting a Book Launch Party for their 2023 authors during this year’s Ann Arbor Community Bookfest (formerly Kerrytown Bookfest) at the district’s downtown library Sunday, Sept. 10th from 1-2 p.m. I’m also hosting a Zoom Book Launch Party Sept. 9th (email for more information).

I have recruited a Book Launch Team to assist with publicity and provide reviews.

What's next for you?

I wrote a novel that’s been through many revisions before I started working on this one and, a few years ago, I decided to set it aside. Knowing what I do now about craft, I am going to complete another revision and start querying agents. I’m also working on the outline for a sequel to this novel titled High School’s No Joke. The main character of the sequel is introduced in the last chapter of Middle School is No Place for Magic, so the setting (Ann Arbor) will be the same and many of the characters will be reappearing. Having so much support from Fifth Avenue Press, my writing community, family, and friends through this publishing process has motivated me to move forward!

More about the book . . .

Eighth grader, Jay, has been his dad’s magician’s assistant for the last five years. He mastered spoon-bending by the age of eight, silk tricks by ten, and has become a talented cardician. But no matter how fun it used to be when he was younger, being in the family show business is growing OLD!
Jay wants to try out for the basketball team and spend more time with his friends. He wants to be his own person. However, with so much weighing on his family - his parent’s talk of separation, his grandpa’s bad health, money struggles – the last thing Jay wants to do is disappoint the people he loves.
The clock starts ticking when his dad signs them up to perform their magic act at his school’s talent show. Will Jay find the courage to speak his mind, or will he end up being the laughingstock of Barrington Middle School?
Sometimes, Jay wishes he could disappear for real!

Publisher: Fifth Avenue Press

The book will be listed with IngramSpark, Amazon, and Goodreads.

More about the author . . .

Melissa Cunningham is an award-winning writer, recipient of the Bear River Writers’ Merit Scholarship and recognized as Highlights Magazine’s Author of the Month. A former journalist and communications specialist, Melissa has been writing professionally for 30+ years. Publications include pieces in Metro Parent, Jack and Jill, High Five Magazine, Pulse and Highlights. Melissa lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, daughter, and two very spoiled cats. Middle School is No Place for Magic is her debut novel.

Facebook - @wordsmitheryrocks

Twitter - @authormimiolson

Pinterest -

Instagram - 




Friday, September 8, 2023

The 2013 SCBWI-MI Conference, or What Were You Doing Ten Years Ago?

Picture books and MG novels, crucifixes and nuns, a weekend escape room for writers: 
Welcome to the 2013 conference

by Charlie Barshaw

This the the first in a series of articles .


I had been fresh out of my day job for four years, and I’d volunteered myself to work on the SCBWI-MI events as a member of AdCom (the advisory committee). We advisors got to, if one hung around, say, four years, co-chair a conference. Which meant naming it and finding a place to hold it, finding some speakers, getting people to put down good money for this alleged kid’s book writing conference.

Pat Trattles and I co-chaired this conference to be unlike any other. It was, for both of us, our first chance at co-chairing, and wow did we have some passionate beliefs. We were going to create a weekend intensive, find two authors who’d published both a novel and a picture book, and make them present before a captive audience of 20 each picture book and midgrade novel writers.

We named it, "From Monster Mash to Model Manuscript." Fine alliteration, and a nod to the approaching Halloween holiday, because we had nestled this baby deep into October.

Do NOT remember the statues or stairs
but this is on the defunct Transformations
website, photo by Tommy Anderson

The conference was hosted in what they called “Transformations Spirituality Center.” But make no mistake, it was a convent, a nunnery with, like, working nuns.

Audrey Vernick and some of her books, 
from her website
Pat and I wanted two tracks: picture book and novel, so we needed two authors who had published both. We invited Deborah Halverson from sunny California and Audrey Glassman Vernick from New Jersey.  Audrey’s written  books on buffaloes to baseball, and Deborah is the keynote speaker at SCBWI national. They're such big names now that we would never dare ask them to appear at our conference. But we did, then.

This was back when writing conferences would start on Friday evening, right after real work let out. You’d have to make reservations and drive to a place with a suitcase full of clothes and books.

It could be a hotel, but more likely it was some sort of conference center/rooms arrangement. We were, after all, working artists who had to make a dollar stretch till next Tuesday. No swanky suites for us, we shared the room.

We had basic meals served in a cafeteria. The rooms were spartan, two beds and a nightstand. And a crucifix. I think the surroundings were beautiful. But I never actually got out of the building.

There were nun encounters. The nuns were pleasant enough, even mischievous, but to my knowledge none of the writer attendees were moved to join the convent afterwards.
Deborah Halverson
from her website
credit: Teresa Stanton

This may have been the sign that
greeted us. I'm told the whole place 
has been razed, and its last active
post was 2021

But Deborah and Audrey were pros, even in those 2013 days, and they switched audiences and topics, did probably six sessions each, talking about heartfelt novels and picture book poetry and how writing intersected in all of it.

We added extracurriculars, of course, because we micro-managed the hell out of this weekend conference, every 15 minutes blocked off for the craft book swap, followed by the hat costume party, oh, and critique group meetings. Meeting more than once. A day.
We made vision boards (mine had a big shoe and Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies).
My vision of Aunt Agnes

But all good hostage situations must come to an end.

By Sunday morning Deborah had caught a good-ol-Michigan cold, and there were some persuasive arguments made about the healing power of Earl Gray.

Audrey went on to write more picture books and middle grade novels, and collaborated with Liz Garton Scanlon and Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich. So, no lasting harm.

All I know is we, presenters and participants, parted friends. Or at least survivors. 

I’m going to try to interview Deborah and Audrey, our two superstar speakers. (They've agreed.)

I'll ask some of the attendees (a number of them still part of SCBWI-MI) probing questions to test their dulling memories. (They've agreed, too. Some have already sent back their answers.)

Maybe I can coax out some photos. (Deborah Halverson sent a few!)

I’ll tell you what I was doing ten years ago. The writers will tell you what they were doing ten years ago. Deborah and  Audrey have agreed to remember what they can.

It was an audacious conference: an unusual locale,  limited enrollment, no editors or agents, just relentless workshops on writing and a crit group on a tight schedule. 

Like all conferences, it was hard volunteer work, but also very rewarding. But, for a number of reasons, this conference was an anomaly: Spirituality, presenters from both ends of the country, limited enrollment on two tracks. A writer's escape room with no exit until Sunday afternoon. There never was a writing retreat weekend like this. There never will be again.

So put on your Google glasses and venture back ten years to 2013...

Charlie Barshaw interviews children's book writers and illustrators from SCBWI-MI for the Writer Spotlight feature of The Mitten blog. He moderates the Lansing Area Shop Talk. He's got MG and YA novels in piles inside of drawers

That's me on the right, Betsy McKee Williams across from me, Sue Ann Culp in the back middle, and an as-yet-unidentified writer. Photo taken and supplied by Deborah Halverson 2013.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Lisa Wheeler


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors, illustrators and translators.


Congratulations to Lisa Wheeler on the release of My First Dino-Halloween and My First Dino-Christmas


Your 2 new board books are part of a series. Did you start out with the Dino books knowing you would create a series? Tell us more about your vision for the books.

Like many picture book authors, I’d always dreamed of writing a successful series. Never did those dreams include dinosaurs or sports! Until I literally dreamed of exactly that. I awoke in a hotel room at 3am because I’d just had the most vivid dream of dinosaurs playing hockey. It was in full color! That was over 17 years ago and the dinos are still going strong.
The first ten books were what is now called the Dino-Sport series. When a new editor came on board I was asked to write about those same dinosaurs celebrating holidays. There are currently five books in the Dino-Holiday series with the sixth, Dino-Hanukkah, coming out this fall. I’m contracted for future books, as well.
March 13, 2020—the day when all my spring school visits were cancelled and I realized the world would look very different for all of us—my editor and I discussed a board book series on a phone meeting. I worked on a PowerPoint presentation for her to take to a meeting. I included a mock-up of My First Dino-Hockey.  They loved my concept and I was asked to write the first two books. With the edition of My First Dino-Halloween and My First Dino-Christmas, there are now nine books in this series.

I love writing about these guys and feel very fortunate that the right dream came along at the right time.



You have several books releasing this year. What's your trick to staying organized?

I’m still trying to figure that one out! When it comes to my home, I am fairly organized. I cannot create in cluttered spaces. But don’t look in my closets—or my head! I find it very difficult to ‘do all the things’. I make lists because I get scattered in so many directions. I find that one of the most satisfying things in life is crossing to-dos off my lists.

How do you approach the creative process? Plotter, pantser or combination of the two?

I’m mostly a pantser. But for the Dino books, I have to think ahead for plotting. When writing a book for a series, one must look ahead to make sure that it’s all cohesive. Each book is the same length, features recurring characters, and ends with the title of the next book in the series. I always panic a wee bit before setting out on each new journey with these guys. I find that ‘panic first’ is also part of my process.

What are your marketing plans for the books and where can we find them?

I’m hoping to have a trailer made for the My First Dino board books. I will also post on social media, promote them at every event, including the Rochester Children’s Book Festival in Rochester, NY on November 4th.
I’ve found that promoting board books is kind of hard because they sell to parents of children who aren’t quite in school yet. 

Like all my books, you can find/order them from your local independent bookstore or online sources.

What's next for you?

Next spring will see the release of Dino-Earthday, My First Dino-Dino-Boarding and My First Dino-Swimming. Then, in fall of 2024 My First Dino-Thanksgiving and My First Dino-Hanukkah will be available. All illustrated by Barry Gott and all with Carolrhoda/Lerner books. I better start working on those organizational skills!
I recently sold a book to HarperCollins. It is coming out in 2025 and will be illustrated by the wonderful David Soman (who wrote and illustrated The Impossible Mountain). It’s a picture book celebrating and honoring the families of those who serve in the armed forces. I’m very excited for this. Like Someone Builds the Dream, I feel it’s a needed book and I’m so honored to be able to share it.

More about the books . . .

My First Dino-Halloween - Illustrated by Barry Gott. Published by Carolrhoda/Lerner
Pumpkins, parties, costumes and trick-or-treating! The littlest reader can now join in the dino-Halloween fun! This board book is low on words but high on excitement. It’s perfect for little hands.
My First Dino-Christmas - Illustrated by Barry Gott. Published by Carolrhoda/Lerner

Here comes Santa Claws! Get ready to celebrate the holidays . . . dino-style. Rhyming text and vivid illustrations show dinosaurs decorating cookies, playing in the snow, dreaming of presents, and more! Your toddlers and preschoolers will love it.

More about the author . . .

Lisa Wheeler is the award-winning author of over 50 children’s books including Someone Builds the Dream, People Don't Bite People, and the popular Dino-Sports series.  The Christmas Boot, was the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner for Picture Book Text. Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum was the 2017 Michigan Reads! One Book, One State Children’s Book recipient. Lisa shares her Michigan home with one husband, one dog, and an assortment of anthropomorphic characters. Check out Lisa’s website at:

Facebook: lisawheelerchildrensbooks

Instagram: littlelisais6



Friday, September 1, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Kirbi Fagan



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors, illustrators and translators.


Congratulations to Kirbi Fagan on the release of A Horse Named Sky


You've created cover art for adult, YA, MG fiction and comic books and your first picture book, The Summer of the Tree Army, released in 2021. What inspires your illustrations?

My inspiration starts with the story and Rosanne writes an exciting one. I tapped into my animal-obsessed 10-year-old self, whom I know I would have devoured this book. Visuals came like wildfire. When you are working on a project that includes over 100 illustrations, it can be challenging to stay in the game but I truly felt (and still feel!) I am buzzing with inspiration from start to finish line.
I chose to do this book completely traditionally, something I’ve never done before. I hoped the traditional, chalky-looking mark-making would bring the reader to the West. I have two 18x24-inch folders full of artwork from the book… I physically cannot lift them.
This new challenge contributed to keeping the buzzing going. You may be familiar with the quote from David Bowie about always working a little out of your depth and I think it describes my experience.

“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

What was the most challenging part of illustrating your recent book?

The sheer volume of illustrations and historical research was overwhelming at first, but I worked through the story one chunk at a time. I had multiple spreadsheets about locations, colors, sizes, and other traits for the many different horse characters that must remain consistent throughout. I charted seasons and weather. It was a lot to wrap my head around. Luckily Rosanne's meticulous research and the team at Greenwillow were an enormous help.
It’s not my first time working on a historical text so I anticipated that finding visual references may be difficult. The whole team on the book had to put our heads together to research and triple-check. Black-and-white pictures are available but usually, you can’t make out the details.
Astute readers will notice that as Sky travels, plant life and landscapes are drawn carefully and as accurately as possible to describe real-life landmarks. Illustrators often draw characters moving to the right of the page, to the motion of the page turn. The book doesn’t go the traditional route, the horses face and travel in the pictures relative to north, east, west, and south. Could be an exciting project for a classroom to track Sky’s route to follow on the map in the classroom?!



What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?

A big hope for this book is about bringing these amazing creatures to readers. Though I loved horses growing up, that wasn’t something I had access to and I know that is true for many horse lovers like me.
I hope this book could inspire a young artist to take on the challenge of drawing horses. I encourage readers to dream up their very own wild Mustang and western terrain. A Horse Named Sky I think has the power to ignite new appreciation and inspire future generations to continue the important work of preserving our natural world. 

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it? 

The book is published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins, available at most bookstores or online. 


What's next for you? 

I have a few book projects coming out in 2025 that have yet to be announced, one of the books, is not just illustrated by me, but written by me. My first author-illustrator project!

More about the book . . .

Young colt Sky was born with the urge to run. Alongside his band, he moves across the range searching for fresh water and abundant grazing. But humans have begun to encroach on Sky’s homelands. With fewer resources to share, Sky knows that he must leave if his family is to survive. He hopes that one day, he’ll be strong and brave enough to return and challenge the stallion to lead the herd.

Being a lone wild horse in a vast landscape is not easy, and things get even more dangerous when Sky is captured and forced to run for the Pony Express. Now, against all odds, Sky must find a way to escape and reunite with his family.

A Horse Named Sky is a stand-alone companion novel to Rosanne Parry’s New York Times bestsellers A Wolf Called Wander and A Whale of the Wild. Chronicling the perils of westward expansion and the grueling Pony Express from the perspective of a wild horse, A Horse Named Sky is a gripping animal survival story about family, courage, trust, leadership, and loyalty. Impeccably researched and illustrated in black-and-white throughout, A Horse Named Sky is an excellent read-aloud for parents and teachers, and a wonderful choice for fans of DreamWorks’s Spirit and Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty.

Includes black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map, and extensive backmatter about wild horses and their habitats. 

Publisher: Green Willow/Harper Collins

More about the author . . .

Kirbi Fagan is a Michigan-based illustrator who specializes in creating art for readers. She is recognized for her cover art in Adult, YA, and Middle-Grade fiction as well as her numerous covers for comic books on projects such as Black Panther/Shuri and Firefly. Kirbi’s first picture book The Summer of the Tree Army by Gloria Whelan was released in 2021. Her first author-illustrated picture book will debut in 2025.

Kirbi is driven to create books for readers like her. When she was growing up, arts and crafts were her lifeline as a way to cope with ongoing illness. Art quickly turned into her greatest passion and now, a career. Kirbi is traditionally trained as an oil painter, earning her bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design. Kirbi has visited many classrooms to talk about her illustrations and books. She is the former Co-Regional Illustrator Coordinator with the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

Represented by Kayla Cichello 

Instagram: @kirbifagan