Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Birthday Blog with Dawn Chevoya

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

Congratulations to Dawn Chevoya on the release of her new book, TRAPPER'S GROUNDING!

Q#1     What inspired you to write Trapper's Grounding?
In 2009 my grandsons were young and wanted G’ma to tell them a story on the long drive to Ontario for our annual camping trip. The story I told back then—involving a cabin in the woods—was much simpler than Trapper’s Grounding, about a 13 year old, and inspired by the Williamston middle schoolers where I worked. When the book finished, it struck me that Iwas the inspiration for my main character who struggled with feelings of insignificance.

Q#2     Did you come up against any challenges when writing this book? How did you deal with them?
            Basically I was pretty inept at putting together a clean sentence. I had to read literally dozens of books on the craft of writing by authorities such as James Scott Bell, Les Edgerton, Stephen King and others, even Stunk & White. Also I commissioned my brother, an awesome artist who lives in Colorado, to draw a few illustrations I thought the book needed. He ran into some personal problems and never came through, so a day before my manuscript submission deadline I whisked off six pencil drawings that appear in the book. His would have been much more professional. Artists! Gotta love ‘em, right?

Q#3     Who is your author idol? How has that author affected you?
            E.B. White is way at the top of my author idol list. When I get into a slump, reading anything that E.B. White has written in his wonderful clear, perfect style gets me back on track. He iskinda like an author godto me.

Q#4     Can you share what you are working on now?
            My sequel research file is overflowing with ideas. Brennon Trapper will get into some more hot water when he discovers an opening in the ground of the dried-up creek bed.

Q#5     What are your marketing/promotional plans for your new book? Where can people connect with you?
            Right now, I have someone working on an audiobook version. I am looking to book some school visits for anyone interested! Also, I offer a Classroom Guide created by a veteran 6thgrade teacher available on my website:
Email me at
You Tube channel: om/channel/UCR7EtlTeeiyPgS-Jt-1ywwQ
I try to post regularly on Instagram: dawnchevoya.

Trapper’s Grounding is available on B&N, Amazon, IndiBound, Books.A.Million(BAM), Goodreads and Google Books.

A little bit about the author:
While managing a middle school library (Williamston) for thirteen years, Dawn Chevoya enjoyed bonding during lunch hour with kids on the fringe and with students after school working on yearbook layouts. She has two children and frequently supplies gummy worms to her seven grandchildren. Chevoya was born in Fresno, CA, grew up in Miami, FL, and lives in Lansing where she has not yet retired from 22 years at the Thomas Cooley Law School Library.
A little bit about the book:
A boy sets in motion something big when he buries a tesserapod in the woods of Northern Michigan. Seventh-grader, Brennon Trapper discovers his parents have lied to him, and that his birth father is buried in the cemetery where he hangs out after school. On a family camping trip in the woods, Brennon and his younger brother encounter a beaver with an inexplicable gift who gives them the tesserapod that must be grounded. Already afraid of his father, Brennon  is even more afraid he won’t be able to keep it a secret when it develops into something too big to hide. An epic December blizzard triggers a chain of events that drives Brennon to finally confront his greatest fear and ultimately run away. Too bad he chooses the worse day of the entire year.    

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lit in the Mitten: an Interview with Adam Gac

A few months ago, I visited the Delta College Q-90.1 FM studio to be interviewed by Adam Gac for the Lit in the Mitten podcast. I enjoyed our conversation so much, we're continuing it here on our SCBWI-MI blog. Read on to learn more about Adam, his writing and VCFA/MFA experience, children's literature, and his hopes for the Lit in the Mitten episodes.

Tell us about your Lit in the Mitten radio series at Delta College Q-90.1 FM. How did it start, how long will it continue, and how can we tune in?

My wife and I moved to Bay City after she finished her Master’s degree at University of Michigan and was subsequently hired for her dream job as the Director of Education for BaySail – an organization that teaches history, science and sustainability on the Appledore Tallships. I was fortunate enough to follow my excitement for news to a position as a producer at Q90.1. Lit in the Mitten is my contribution to Q90.1’s selection of Michigan-focused art programs. My colleagues have a variety of shows following their passions, including highlighting local musicians and theater.

Episodes are released bi-weekly on Mondays with on-air clips and full interviews available at I hope to continue the program for the next few years. I’d love to offer Michigan authors the opportunity to talk craft and their latest projects until people get tired of me. One of our local hosts, Rod Bieber, has been producing shows with the station for 25 years and he’s still going strong, so the sky’s the limit.

I was honored that you read my entire novel to prepare for our interview. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation about children's and young adult literature and was impressed with your thoughtful questions. You're currently working toward your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at VCFA. Tell us more about your studies and your own writing.

First and foremost I want to give a shout out to Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy and Tirzah Price. I met the three of them while I was a reporter in Big Rapids and I wouldn’t be at VCFA if it wasn’t for their guidance and support. Second and middlemost, reading your novel was an absolute pleasure!

The low-residency MFA program at VCFA is well-suited for cultivating the knowledge and discipline necessary for sustainable writing. Twice a year I get to surround myself with people who share my passion for writing for children and young adults. It’s basically like going to Hogwarts. The residencies are filled with great workshops, lectures and so many amazing conversations. In between residencies students work one-on-one with advisors with a TON of experience. I’ve worked on projects from picture book biographies and short stories to full-length novels.

My primary focus is on YA and Middle Grade science fiction and horror, but one of the great parts of the program is advisors who encourage you to work outside of your comfort zone. Challenging yourself with other genres and styles as well as with critical writing can be surprising. There’s a very specific kind of delight that bubbles up when you realize that you’ve increased the size of your comfort zone writing by venturing outside of it.

You've been reading a lot of books for all ages for your MFA program. Are any patterns jumping out at you? What aspects of a story grab your attention at the beginning and keep you engaged throughout?

One pattern that really excites me in the kidlitsphere is the growing demand for graphic novels and traditional novels with other forms of media mixed in. Comic books were a big part of growing up for me and it’s super exciting to see the industry embracing the opportunities that blending words and pictures has to offer.

Another exciting trend is the growing demand for books with diverse characters written by diverse authors. One of the most powerful aspects of kid lit is the opportunity for young people (and grownups for that matter) to grow through the reading process. The more readers can see themselves represented honestly in a story, the more impactful it will be.

Because I come from a journalism background I put a lot of value in truth in storytelling. I’ve read hundreds of books in my journey through VCFA and the unifying factor in the works I’ve really loved is their honesty. When an author is trying to capitalize on an industry trend or use their story to force a reader to a specific conclusion the work is so much less fulfilling than a story that comes from the reality of the writer’s own experience.

During our interview, you asked me about quality literature. I've been thinking more about this, and it's helpful when considering my own writing and what I'm hoping to accomplish. May I direct the question back to you? How do you define quality literature?

Quality literature, to me, is any writing that enriches the life of the reader. The aspect of quality literature that excites me most is its ability to enrich the life of the author through the writing process. Getting at the hard truths of your own existence is the only way to authentically express that process in your characters and their stories.

Anything else you'd like us to know?

Adam interviewing author Nick Adkins
Anyone interested in appearing on Lit in the Mitten can reach out to me at I’d also like to encourage people to support their local independent bookstores. I spent some time working for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and they are doing tremendous work helping employees of brick-and-mortar bookstores through all sorts of emergencies. Booksellers don’t get into bookselling because they love working in retail, they get into it because they know how important it is to have a strong literary community.

Thanks so much for your time, Adam! To listen to Adam's interviews, go to the Lit in the Mitten podcast here. And stay tuned, he'll continue to add new interviews each month.

Coming up on the SCBWI-MI blog: 

Tips for Painless Self-Promotion (from Debbie Gonzales who is celebrating her Girls with Guts book birthday this week!), a recap and photos from the SCBWI Marvelous Midwest conference, Ask the Editor, and much more.

Have a great weekend!
Kristin Lenz

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Writer Spotlight: Camilla Roper

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our quarterly Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. This quarter's writer is Camilla Roper.

Writer Spotlight: Camilla Roper and the Tale of Two Languages

What was your early life like? How did it shape your desire to write and teach?

I wrote and illustrated stories from a young age. I recall in junior high, a friend and I were enamored with the original Avengers series on TV.  We’d watch the show, and then I would write as fast as I could additional episodes for her to read.  I recall both of us being frustrated that I couldn’t write faster…

What were some of your favorite books, and who were some of your favorite authors, growing up?

Rudyard Kipling’s and Helen Bannerman’s stories inflamed an early desire to travel and experience diverse cultures.  Beatrix Potter’s dry wit and hapless yet lovable characters were like family.  P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins stories fascinated me, and I loved the weird genius of Maurice Sendak.  Being a very serious child, I took to heart every moral in Aesop’s Fables.  The Bible related stories of family drama, bloody battles, natural and supernatural phenomena, gore, and violence. Helen Oxenbury’s The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig is brilliant, and one of the few books I actually own.  I didn’t read Beverly Cleary as a child, but love the way she paces her books.  Polly Horvath knows how to turn a phrase.  Jerry and Ellen Spinelli, and Ellen’s illustrations - these are all gifted writers I still read today.

How did you end up attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln? And how did you come to pursue the dual majors of Spanish and Education?

I grew up in Lincoln.  I think I chose UNL because I could ride my bike to classes.  In winter, I showered and hopped on my bike and arrived on campus 5½ miles later, with ice crystals in my long blonde braids.  I’d absolutely loved Spanish since finding my dad’s Spanish textbook when I was about four, deciding then and there to study the language.  The decision to become a teacher came suddenly when, as a second-semester junior, I realized I would be graduating soon and needed a job.  

You evidently found teaching compelling early on. Name some of your most influential teachers, and how they affected you.

Camilla working on a watercolor project.
We had half-day kindergarten and first grade.  One group studied in the morning, and a second group came in the afternoon. Mrs. Kane epitomized all my great teachers:  She consolidated the first-grade curriculum into half the time, and a disproportionate number of my classmates not only thrived, but became physicians, scientists, and other accomplished scholars. I studied ridiculously hard all through school and received an exceptional education. At UNL, tuition was cheap, so I took classes every summer, and as many courses as I could each term.  I studied law for one year, but found I was not suited to it.  I did encounter some amazing characters in my professors, in case I ever decided to write horror stories, though.

At Boston U. you pursued a Masters in Bilingual, Multilingual, Multicultural Education. That’s quite a mouthful to say, and a challenge to complete. What does that educational curriculum entail?

It’s a funny story. We only had one car, so I started riding in with my husband to BU, and got a job on campus. BU employees got 100% tuition remission for eight credit hours each term. So we pursued graduate degrees. My curriculum included current issues in bilingual ed, cultural awareness, curriculum development, teaching reading in Spanish, metrics, and narrative and literature. I taught and observed in an elementary and a middle school during my studies.

 At this point in your life you were obviously proficient enough in Spanish and English to pursue bilingual education. What are some of the benefits to be able to speak, write and read in multiple languages?

You gain flexibility in thinking, and become aware of more options in life in general.  It gives you confidence and keeps you on your toes. Traveling is more compelling and fun.  Learning one language facilitates learning others.  Before recent trips to South America, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and France, I studied the languages, and it definitely had a positive impact.

It’s been proven that younger students have more ability to learn additional languages. Would you like to see a greater emphasis on early language education?

Yes! Communicating in other languages changes your perspective, opens up your heart, your mind, and your world.  I think it makes you more cognitively flexible.  Your lexicon at least doubles, and you learn to think, write, and express yourself in different ways.  It teaches you to really listen, and to use language carefully, especially upon entering and exiting foreign countries.  It can also magnify opportunities for employment and earning power later on.  

What led you to Michigan?
My husband’s job brought us to Michigan.  We had a choice between somewhere in Tennessee and a third state, and we chose to live near the Great Lakes.

Are you still a substitute teacher in the Ann Arbor area?
Yes, a couple times weekly, and I sometimes do a long-term stint in Spanish.  I absolutely love being in the classroom.  

 What do you like to read now? Who are your favorite authors today?

Richard Peck passed in May 2018, and I’ve made it my mission to read everything he wrote!  Without a doubt, he was immensely gifted.  He didn’t start writing until he was 37, but continued until his 80’s.  All his books amaze me. In sci-fi, I reread Lois McMaster Bujold.  Alex Kourvo and Harry R. Campion’s four “Detroit Next” novels keep me on the edge. In children’s lit, Aree Chung’s Mixed: A Colorful Story takes on racial/ethnic diversity for the wee lot, and excels.  Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night deals with touchy subjects delicately. I scan the just-published children’s and YA section at the library and end up reading about three new books a week.

When did you start to write? How has your writing changed over the years?

I began to write as a child. Early on, I wrote fiction, adventure, mystery, none of which I submitted for publication. Lately I write nonfiction, and magazine articles about science and technology and historical subjects.  I especially feel an affinity for the mindset of average people during World War II and their sense of mission and being part of something bigger than themselves.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a WWII piece dealing with how real people dealt with the concept of rationing (conceptualized as a picture book).  I am also working on a fantasy piece about an underground society ( a mid-grade novel) sparked by a trip last fall to a subterranean salt mine near Krakow, Poland and unique sewer covers dotting the streets of Copenhagen.  From time to time, I write pieces on subjects like eclipses, self-driving vehicles, and augmented reality (for children's magazines like Highlights).  I also enjoy drawing and painting.

How has being proficient in two languages (and conversant in others) changed your life? 

It’s made me more open to different arguments and perspectives.  I minored in Czech at college, and spent six weeks on a scholarship trip to Prague.  My paternal grandparents emigrated from Bohemia, so I’m a third-generation American.  Now I travel a great deal, and worry about immigration issues often.  

Is there a question you’d wished I asked?

Two, actually:

1) How do you write authentic dialogue?  

       I think it comes with listening more and speaking less.  Great dialogue goes on around us all the time. I take notes - on the bus, in class, at the grocer’s, at religious services, at movies, in restaurants, on campus, and in coffee shops.  You cannot make up stuff this good.  

2) Why is it so hard for some of us to actually submit our writing for publication?  

        For me, at least, I guess it is so personal, I wonder who in the world would want to read it.   But I think it helps to read voraciously and see other writers’ thoughts, and try to make a contribution.

       Camilla Roper has a B.A. in Spanish and Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and an EdM in Bilingual, Multilingual, Multicultural Education from Boston University, and education certifications from the College of Charleston, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She currently lives in Ann Arbor and works as a substitute teacher.

       Charlie Barshaw (pictured with his good-looking and good-natured son Joe) is a member of the Advisory Committee of SCBWI-MI and part of the editorial staff of The Mitten. He's revising his WIP YA at a glacial pace.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

SCBWI-MI Picture Book Text Mentorship - An Interview with Mentor Lisa Wheeler

Full and Associate SCBWI-MI members who write picture books, you’ve waited patiently while we held the PAL mentorship. Now, your moment is almost upon us. SCBWI-MI’s mentorship competition this year is with Lisa Wheeler and is open to Associate and Full Members (non-PAL) members who live in Michigan.

The submission window for the non-PAL mentorship is June 3-24, 2019.

Complete submission instructions can be found on the SCBWI-MI website. On that page, click the link (after the red words “click here” to download a pdf that explains membership status, eligibility and submission instructions.

For questions about eligibility or submissions please contact SCBWI-MI Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein.

Lisa Wheeler is the author of numerous children’s books with well-respected national publishers. You can see some of the titles on her website. Lisa's book, The Christmas Boot, was the SCBWI 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner for Picture Book Text. Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum is the 2017 Michigan Reads! One Book, One State Children’s Book Program recipient. Her awards include The Michigan Mitten, The Missouri Building Blocks, The Texas Bluebonnet, and the Theodore Geisel Honor given by the American Library Association. Lisa has critiqued SCBWI members’ manuscripts in over ten states and at the national conference. She’s taught picture book workshops to hundreds of people.

Ann interviewed Lisa so we can get to know her better.

What do you like best about writing picture books?

I think my very favorite part is getting the idea. When an idea hits me, I'm on fire. It's like when you first fall in love. At that point, I don't know where it will lead as my ideas never come fully formed.

Then, taking that journey is magic! Starting out, I don't think about "Is this idea viable?", "Will I finish it?", "Will it sell?", etc. All I know is that I am in love with this new thing and I want to spend every waking minute with it.

What do you like least?

Trying to sell the dang thing! First, I have to get it past my agent. Then, he has to find interest with a publisher. And if the manuscript becomes a book, I feel as if I have to sell readers on it. (I really hate this part!)

It's an uncomfortable feeling for me to push my work out into the world. But it's a necessary part of the process as I'm not writing for my desk drawer.

Describe a typical writing day.

My writing days are never typical. I may write, in my head, while walking or even exercising on a spin bike. I generally don't sit down in front of my computer until I have omething solidified in my head. I find that being in motion helps my creativity and thought process.

Rather than writing every day, I do something writing related every day. That might be answering these questions, visiting a school or putting together a new program.

Which of your books was the most fun to write? Why?

Rather than pick just one, I'd like to say that all four of my poetry books were the most fun to write (Wool Gathering, Seadogs, Spinster Goose and The Pet Project). Poems are fun little snippets that I can write (and re-write) while taking walks, cleaning house or exercising.

I have also written a few that haven't been published and it is like a fun little workout for my brain to take an idea, turn it on its head, and see if a poem spills out.

When you’re reading for pleasure, what features of a book typically impress you the most?

In novels, it is all about characters for me. I can read a book that has very little action if I'm in love with the character. They have me at "Hello".

In picture books, I am drawn toward humor, but also to books that I know I would never/could never write. I love the quiet and sentimental when they are written beautiful. (Like Ida, Always or All the Places to Love) And I also love well-written non-fiction picture books. (I'm currently loving Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsey Moore)

What brings you joy?

My family. My husband and children are my world. And then dogs, puppies and puppy dogs! And then nature, walks-- and walks in nature.

What inspires you?
This great big wonderful world! I never know when inspiration will hit, so I try to be observant. I think if one is wired for picture books, they see everything through a six-year-old's eye. At least I do!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I find this one of the hardest questions to answer. I have been very few places and I want to go everywhere. So when you ask that, my mind races to all these wonderful parts of the world I have yet to explore! (Both in the US and other countries.) If I had unlimited funds, I'd do a world tour, starting in the redwoods, then off to New Zeeland, Australia, and then on to all the continents. There is just so much out there and I rarely get out of Michigan.

If you could have dinner with any person throughout history who would it be? What would you discuss?

Mr. Rogers. I would thank him for allowing me to be his neighbor and for being the calm in a stormy childhood. I also wonder how much he and the Muppets had to do with my love for puppet play.

What aspects of being a picture book mentor are you most looking forward to? 

I love the when an author has that "light bulb" moment. I've done mentoring before and I get giddy when a mentee sends back a revised manuscript that is so perfectly spot-on, that I know my teaching is making an impact.

I believe that we, as children's authors and SCBWI member, should have a pass-it-on mentality. I've had people who helped me and I, in turn, hope to help others.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

Thank you for asking!

In June, I have a sequel to Even Monsters Need to Sleep coming out. In this one, we explore first days in Even Monsters Go to School.

Then, sometime this summer Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum is going to be re-released by Purple House press. They are publisher that only does re-releases of classic titles for kids. This title won 4 State awards and is my most frequently asked for OP title.

In August, the next installment of the Dino-Holiday series comes out with Dino-Halloween. This one was fun to write and the kids get all giggly when I mention it.

Finally, In September, I am thrilled that the second book in the "people" series comes out with Simon & Schuster. This one is called People Share with People.

Ann Finkelstein is a former scientist who discovered that writing novels is more fun than wrangling test tubes. She coordinates the SCBWI-MI mentorship program and helps Charlie Barshaw host Lansing Area Shop Talks.

Thank you Ann for all of your time and energy coordinating the SCBWI-MI Mentorship programs!

The 2019 SCBWI-MI Mentorship Competition is only for picture book text, but we didn't forget about you illustrators! Next year's mentorship will be for illustration. In the meantime, stay up-to-date with events and opportunities for illustrators on our chapter website:

The 2019 SCBWI Marvelous Midwest Conference is happening this weekend in Naperville, Illinois, and it's sold out! We'll share conference recaps and photos here on the Mitten blog in the upcoming weeks. If you'd like to share your experience, please email Kristin Lenz. Safe traveling, and have a blast!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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

Big Congratulations to Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw on the release of her new book, I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM: A BOYS QUEST FOR ICE CREAM TRUCKS

Q#1: Congratulations on your debut picture book, I Campaigned For Ice Cream: A Boy's Quest For Ice Cream Trucks! Can you tell us what inspired this story?

Thank you! It has been an incredible experience and I’m honored to be able to share it with my SCBWI-MI family. I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM was inspired by my son Josh, who at nine-years-old (he’s 27 now) wondered why ice cream trucks never came to our neighborhood. He soon discovered that a 1954 peddlers’ law forbade the sale of anything on our township streets including ice cream. Josh felt strongly that this was unfair. With a little guidance from his teacher momma, he decided to petition town hall to get the law changed. Over the years, I have used this story to inspire my students and teach them the importance of leadership, perseverance, and fighting for what you believe in. When I decided to persue writing seriously it seemed like the perfect story to start with.

Q#2: As a newer author, can you please share your journey to publication? What would you want other new authors to know about publishing a picture book?

Changes in direction would best describe my journey to publicationand my advice to new authors is to embrace taking an unexpected path.I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM started as a middle-grade fiction manuscript. Several chapters into that manuscript, I heard about Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archealogy class. Since I teach developing readers by immersing my students in a different science theme each year, the idea of writing nonfiction picture books strongly resonated with me. Kristen’s course inspired me to try the ice cream truck story in a nonfiction picture book format and it worked! Additionally, as a newbie, I made the common mistake of jumping right into querying agents. Many rejections later, I had an interested agent, only to learn that agents were looking for at least three picture book manuscripts. I had two others in the works, but not far enough along to keep her immediate interest. Not being known for my patience when it comes to waiting, I decided to forego the agent route and query small publishers. In time, I received an email starting with “Congratulations” and was thrilled that not only was Josh’s story going to be published; it would become a family legacy and an inspiration to all who read it.   

Q#3: Who are some of your favorite authors and why? 

Always a tough question and I give different answers every time. Today, I will go with Beverly Cleary for writing the books that nurtured my love of reading. Louise Fitzugh for writing  Harriet the Spy; a book that sparked my first journal—a spy notebook, shh! J.K. Rowling for not only writing an amazing series, but for creating an experience that I still share with my boys today. And Peter Reynolds for showing this long-winded writer that there is beauty, strength, and genius in symplicity.

Q#4: What are your marketing and promotional plans for I Campaigned For Ice Cream?

I will be celebrating the launch of my book in “the room where it happened”! When the good people at West Bloomfield Township heard Josh’s story was going to be a published book, they offered to host my book launch party. They have been incredible. Not only are they hosting, but they are sending out press releases, creating a montage of the board meetings where Josh spoke, providing food and drinks, and of course, we’re having an ice cream truck! I am so fortunate to have them as part of my cheerleading team.
In addition, I am scheduled to appear on a few blogs, currently have a few book sale opportunities on the calendar, and my publisher is helping me coordinate a summer bookstore/library tour.
Here is a peek of the book signing events I have scheduled for May.
May 5 - Kid Literacy, Inc./Edit and Get It Nonfiction Retreat Book Signing – Jacksonville, Florida
May 11 - Morse Elementary School Book Bazaar – Troy, Michigan
May 22 - Book Launch Party - West Bloomfield Town Hall, West Bloomfiled, Michigan

Q#5: What is something you want your readers to know about you? 

I am a Beatles, Starbuck’s hot chocolate, and sunshine fanatic. When I’m not writing or teaching, you can find me practicing at the yoga studio, walking my Portuguese Water Dog Ziggy on the nature trail, kayaking on our lake, or dabbling in interior design. I invite you to visit my website at www.SuzanneJacobsLipshaw.comto learn more.

A little bit about the book: 

I Campaigned For Ice Cream is an upbeat, educational, and heartwarming true story of the author’s son, Josh, who as a nine-year-old convinced his local government to change an outdated law that prevented ice cream trucks from driving through his town. Complete with adorable illustrations by Wendy Leach, this sweet little book is a tasty treat for young readers as well as a lesson that they too can make a difference in their communities. Relive Josh’s passionate journey to bring the joy of ice cream trucks to his town. 

A little bit about the author: 

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw is a children’s book author and elementary school special education teacher who is passionate about GROWING YOUNG MINDS through her teaching and writing. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Hugs and Hurrahs!

Happy Spring, Michkids! The tulips are blooming, the spring trees are budding and The Mitten is all a-buzz with your happy publishing news for February, March and April! So, join me in offering plenty of “hugs” and lots of “hurrahs!” to the following authors:

Three cheers for Rhonda Gowler Green, who celebrated the release of her newest book, THE FIRST MENWHO WENT TO THE MOON, on March 15! Rhonda’s release party happened on March 24 at the Oak Park Library, where she gave a short program about her book and the amazing journey of Apollo 11. Congratulations, Rhonda!

We’re happy dancing for Neal Levin, whose poem "Earthworms" was published in the April 2019 issue of Babybug. Way to go, Neal!

Jordan J. Scavone's third picture book, A GIRL NAMED ADAM, is now available! The story follows fourth graders Annie and Adam, however when Adam starts wearing dresses and changes his named to Addie, the two very best friends find their friendship put to the test. This book explores transgender identity, through the lens of something that everyone experiences, friendship. The book is available on Amazon. You can learn more about Jordan by following him on Twitter and Instagram @RealJScavone. We’re so happy for you, Jordan!  

All of Nancy Shaw’s amazing sheep books have been herded into a single anthology called, SHEEP IN A JEEP- 5 MINUTE STORIES. The book released on March 12, and according to Nancy, it is beautifully bound in a “fancy padded cover!” So very happy for you, Nancy!

Hats off to Lisa Wheeler! Her board book, BABIES CAN SLEEP ANYWHERE (Harry N. Abrams) released on April 23! Way to go, Lisa!

Congratulations to Fatma Al-Lawati! Her new book, Maryam Had a Dream and Her Dream Came True, recently released. Maryam's dream carries her across the Arab world describing each site in the journey and giving the strong message that the Aqsa grows and grows, and the cause remains ever strong as time passes. We’re so happy for you, Fatma!

Three cheers for Sandy Carlson! RESCUE, her third book in THE WAR UNICORN CHRONICLES releases in June, but you can preorder the book now at the following link: 

We always have so much to celebrate here in The Mitten! Keep up the great work, Michkids, and soon you’ll see your name right here in Hugs and Hurrahs! Our next Hugs and Hurrahs post happens July 26. Watch our listserv, Facebook page and Mitten blog for submission deadline and send all of your happy publishing news to Patti Richards at

Friday, April 19, 2019

Ten Tips for a Successful Book Launch Party by Heather Shumaker

I’ve just wrapped up my 4th book launch. THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY, my first Middle Grade book, came out in March, and we launched it with a “Book Birthday Party” bash. Kids love birthdays, so we had cake, balloons, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to the book.

Send Personal Invites

I always like to pack the room. My launches typically have standing room only, with 50-120 people, and the Griffins launch may have exceeded the room’s fire code capacity at 175 people. To draw a large crowd, I put my efforts into personal emails. When I receive generic “Dear Friend” emails myself, I don’t feel invited and included, the way I would to a party. This book launch is your party! So take the time to personally invite. I also ask people to RSVP and I send a friendly reminder message a few days before the event if they express interest. Most of the message can be cut and pasted, but I do add personal notes. Knowing how many people are likely to come also really helps with planning, from chairs to food.

Let the Launch Fit the Book

We invited a giant, live Newfoundland dog to the Griffins book launch, since there’s a Newfoundland dog in the book. The kids loved meeting the dog and crowded around him. Also an excellent photo opportunity! Make it unique to fit your book.

Pick a Partner

Partnering can help draw a bigger crowd and share the cost. Some authors partner with fellow authors. This works well if you each have a book coming out around the same time. I partnered with the youth services department of my local library. This was a natural partnership, since I’d relied on the children’s librarians to be early manuscript test readers. As a partner, the library hosted the party, provided staff and refreshments, and did advanced promotion and graphic design help. They even concocted a GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY scavenger hunt for kids two weeks leading up to the event.

The Griffins of Castle Cary launched at the Traverse Area District Library hosted by the wonderful youth librarians.

Only Give a Start Time

Tell guests the event begins at 10am. Or 3pm. If you plan to give a presentation, don’t give an end time. If people see an invitation for 3-4:30pm, they often think it’s a drop-in event and might miss your whole presentation.

Bring Extra Books

Invite a local bookstore to supply books, but then be sure to have an extra supply in your trunk. Twice I’ve had bookstores sell-out, and they are always grateful when I announce I have extra copies. Book sales vary at a book launch. Some guests show their support by showing up. Others buy three or four books. For a crowd of 150, I usually sell about 80 books. Let the bookstore know how many RSVPs you have so they order enough books.

Collect Emails

Pass around a sign-in list for guests to add their emails. This helps you build your author email list for newsletters and other promotion. People are generally eager to be in-the-know and learn about new books. It also helps you remember who’s there since it’s a busy day.

Sign Photo Release Slips

If you plan to use photos later on your website, for social media, and other promotion, ask guests to sign a short photo release form. This is especially important for children. Have forms available at the door for parents, and make a short announcement. Parents are usually happy to give permission.

Your book launch is an all-ages affair. Ask for volunteers and get the kids involved.
Give the Audience Fun

With a children’s book, you’re bound to have an audience of all ages. Make it interactive, give everyone some information and fun. Consider your book launch as an audition for future school visits – there are sure to be school librarians and other speaker-seekers in the audience. You never know what invitations you’ll receive afterwards. Launches should generate excitement.

Explore New Venues

Bookstores are easy, friendly and obvious choices. Many authors like to hold the launch itself at another venue and invite a bookstore in. Make it a space that fits your book. For example, an author friend held hers in a barn. My land conservation book launch was held in an event space overlooking a lake. The children’s department of your library is a great choice for a children’s book.

Ask for Funding

Answers vary, but it never hurts to ask. If you’re traditionally published, ask your publisher for help with funds for refreshments or more. I’ve had publishers pay for all the catering, plus the cost of renting event space.

Get a Cake!

There’s nothing quite like seeing your book cover on a cake. After all that hard work producing a book, make sure you celebrate.

Heather Shumaker is the author of THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY (Simon & Schuster, 2019) and three books for adults (IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE, IT'S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE, and SAVING ARCADIA). She hosts the Traverse City-based northern Michigan Shop Talk for SCBWI-Michigan and frequently speaks about her books at conferences and schools.

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Calling all SCBWI-MI Picture Book Writers!

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