Friday, February 16, 2018

Writing Historical Fiction by Barbara Carney-Coston

Writing historical fiction requires both a strong interest in big picture information and an eye for details that convey a sense of time and place. My experience in writing TO THE COPPER COUNTRY—MIHAELA's JOURNEY was deeply satisfying on many levels. It’s based on my family history, so learning about my ancestors was fascinating. But I also enjoyed the process. I tell young readers that research can be like a treasure hunt. You’re looking for unknown jewels that can make your story shine.

Research tips:
Historical fiction needs to be based on accurate information. And publishers like bibliographies. Here are a few ways to get started on the big picture idea.
  • Look for primary sources first. These are first-hand accounts of events, practices or artifacts that were in use at the time of your character’s story.  Diaries, letters, reports, photographs, creative works, financial records, memos, and factual newspaper articles are possibilities. Even post cards and original recipes reveal a lot. My first research for To the Copper Country involved scrapbooks that my grandfather had kept about his adult life. He was proud of his accomplishments, and he saved newspaper clippings, letters, and photos of his professional milestones, much as Linked In does today. While I chose another character to develop, getting started with these materials helped me focus on what I was trying to say.
  • Secondary sources are also important. These include reports of historical events or interpretations, newspaper editorials, biographies or even advertisements. If your story is set in the not-too-distant past, look for contemporaries of your characters and interview them about their memories and experiences of the time.
  • Internet sources are convenient, but make sure they are reliable. If you are not sure of sources, crosscheck to find at least two other trustworthy sites that can verify (not Wikipedia!). The Library of Congress, and the National Archives are excellent resources and free. Online encyclopedias such as World Book or Britannica are well regarded for basic fact checking. But don’t limit yourself to the biggest and broadest. Some of the best information can come from small regional libraries with collections that focus on a particular area
  • Once you’ve established background research, try to include a site visit. It can be well worth the time and money, and you may find something that leads you in an unexpected direction. Understanding that your character had to work in a certain way, for example, or that geography had a particular impact on life can create depth for your story. Add the details you’ve discovered and revise as your data directs.
  • Before submitting anywhere, check the manuscript against your research and create an annotated bibliography. You’ll be confident that you can state such an event might have occurred as described—you have solid evidence to support your point of view.

Finding the right publisher:
If a story has a regional focus, consider local publishers. I read about Jean Alicia Elster’s book, The Colored Car, in the SCBWI Bulletin, and realized the story was based on her family’s experiences in Detroit. Published by Wayne State University Press, I thought mine might be a fit there, too. I queried, and they asked for the complete manuscript. Working with WSU Press has been a wonderful experience. I was especially pleased when they asked for my input regarding the cover design. According to writing friends with bigger publishing houses, this is quite a nice benefit. (I agree!)

When it comes to historical fiction, enjoy the process. May your research uncover great treasures!

Barbara Carney-Coston grew up in Michigan and loved seeing the Mitten dancers at the SCBWI Summer Conference last July. She has written for Highlights, Hopscotch and Washington Parent magazines. TO THE COPPER COUNTRY—MIHAELA's JOURNEY is her first book and she hopes young readers will enjoy the story and feel empathy for immigrants today. Learn more at and find her on Twitter @barcrn.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: More about the 4 Out the Door Illustrator Postcard Challenge, the resonant roar of quiet stories, an interview with one of our SCBWI-MI novel mentors, a recap of the NY conference, and a round-up of SCBWI-MI member blogs. Do you have an active kidlit blog? Send an email to Charlie Barshaw to let him know.

Read the newly updated SCBWI Anti-Harassment Policy.

Save the date for our spring conference, Unearthing Your Funny Bone, May 5, 2018:
Thanks to Nina Goebel for creating the conference artwork!
Congrats to Gin Price for winning the inaugural SCBWI-MI 2018 Writing Competition!
Stay tuned for her winning entry and an interview.

Friday, February 9, 2018

BREATHE LIFE INTO YOUR BACKLIST TITLE: Marketing Tips to Move Your Backlist Title to the Forefront by Maria Dismondy

The “backlist.” It sounds like a scary place, doesn’t it? It’s really not! A backlist title just means a published book has been on the shelves for more than six months (while a frontlist title is actively in the promotion).

While you may wish your book could remain on the frontlist indefinitely, there are many reasons why the backlist isn’t a bad place to be. In fact, backlist titles have been called the backbone of a good publisher. Because if enough copies are sold, for a long enough period of time, that backlist book will become a classic.

That’s right, your book isn’t just on the backlist, it’s a classic in the making!

To make the most of your backlist title, put these marketing tips to work for you.

Share: Word of Mouth
One great way to create buzz around your backlist title is to leverage your reviews.

Search online for your positive book reviews, make them into a graphic or a video montage and share your creations on your social media platforms, like Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. Create even more excitement with intriguing introductions to the reviews, like, “Did you hear what “so and so” said about this book? Find out!”

A Reason to Read: The Power of a Reader’s Guide
Did you know educators and book clubs are more likely to use your book if you provide supporting documentation?

Create a reader’s guide with discussion questions or lesson plans for the appropriate grade level to use in the classroom. Offer these guides and additional material as free downloads on your website.  Learn more about reader guides from SCBWI-MI member Deb Gonzales in this Mitten blog post.
Reader guides created by Deb Gonzales:

Cover Couture: Refresh Your Look

One of the easiest ways to market your backlist title is to refresh your cover. This can be done when working with your publisher as you move from a hardcover copy to softcover.

Or, think outside the box and hire a designer to take interior images and create marketing materials to use on social media. So simple, yet so impactful!

Hot Topics: Make the Connection 
When it comes to your backlist title, front page news is your best friend. Search for hot topics in the news that relate to your book and play them up to your advantage.

One of our books us a nice example of this, The Little Linebacker by Stephen Tulloch and Maria Dismondy, has a strong theme of determination woven throughout the story. A hot topic in schools today is the Growth Mindset concept. We connected our story to this trendy topic and educated parents and teachers on how they can use our book to teach mindset skills to kids.

Community: Reach Out & Make a Difference 
Libraries and community centers are always looking for outreach programs.  Think outside of the box and come up with something to offer your community.

For example, let’s say you’ve written a middle grade novel about teen depression. Reach out to a local expert in the field, such as a child psychologist or therapist, and design a talk for parents and educators on the topic. Use examples from your book throughout the talk and consider selling the book after the presentation.

Award-winning author and founder of the publishing company, Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy inspires and educates others in the book industry. Her background in early education and research enables her to touch lives the world over while touring as a public speaker in schools, community forums, and at national conferences. When Maria isn’t working, she can be found embarking on adventures throughout southeast Michigan and beyond, where she lives with her husband and three book-loving children. Find out more about Maria’s coaching services:

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Researching and writing historical fiction, an interview with one of our SCBWI-MI novel mentors, the resonant roar of quiet stories, and more about the 4 Out The Door Illustrator Postcard Program.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? We'd love to hear it! Read our submission guidelines here.

Thanks to everyone who entered our recent SCBWI-MI Writing Contest. The winner will be announced soon!

Save the date for the SCBWI-MI Spring Conference, May 5th! Registration opens March 15th.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Writer Spotlight: Debbie Taylor

You grew up in a large family. What was it about your early years that helped form you into the person you are today?  
As a member of a large family, I was allowed to take on different roles in the family. I was the younger sister to my wonderful big brother and I was also the big sister to my younger brother and my four sisters. We all played board games and card games. My mother was quite artistic and encouraged us to paint and draw.  She also led us in outdoor activities and sports. I benefited from the responsibilities of chores and structure in our home, but we were free to explore our talents, pursue hobbies and always encouraged to try new things. I have a deep well of experiences and characters from which to draw. Most of my stories spring from my childhood adventures in Columbus, Ohio.

Your mother played a central role in your development. Tell us about her.
She was a brilliant mother and a natural teacher.  Our home was filled with reading material: books, magazines, newspapers. She felt is was her responsibility (and joy) to teach her children to read before they started school. She allowed me to read as often and usually for as I long as I wanted. (I learned to read when I was four. On the first day of kindergarten I was sent home because I could read. Apparently, the school wasn’t certain what to do with a tiny reader. I skipped kindergarten and started school in the first grade.) My mother was also an athlete. She played tennis and high school basketball and was on several roller-skating teams. This loving, encouraging and generous lady was also very creative and artistic. She encouraged us to draw, sew, write, dance, sing and hike! She helped everyone shine. She was a legend in our family. There are grandchildren and great-grand children named after her. She set a very high bar in everything she did! I attribute my love of language and reading to her example and encouragement.

You’ve had your work published in Cricket, Spider, New Moon and Pockets magazines. What’s tended to be the unifying vision for these pieces?
Immediate families, extended families and the community are a source of support, comfort and knowledge.

When and how did you find SCBWI? 
I learned about the organization from members of my critique group over twenty years ago. Many of us have benefitted from a variety of SCBWI resources, including the Michigan conferences and workshops. Last year, the Marketing Boot Camp in Lansing provided a wonderful day of information and fellowship. Of course our SCBWI members have been helpful and supportive in practical ways. 

Your most famous work, the picture book Sweet Music in Harlem, was inspired by an intriguing photo on your husband’s t-shirt. What called to you in that photo? 
The faces and postures of the people in the photograph were compelling. The musicians seemed to be connected by a common, almost visible energy.

The famous photo was taken in 1958 Harlem, and included dozens of world-famous jazz musicians of the time. Were you a fan of jazz when you started writing this story? 
 I was not a jazz fan, but I became a fan.  Fortunately, my husband is not only a fan, but quite the expert.  He introduced me to the icons of jazz, the history of the art form and the various styles. I have an appreciation for jazz that continues to develop.
                                                                Art Kane's famous 1958 photo which inspired Debbie's "Sweet Music in Harlem."

Your story tells a fictionalized account of young clarinetist CJ, who’s looking for forgetful Uncle Click’s beret, so that the jazz trumpeter can be dressed to the nines for a magazine photo shoot. In the quest for the cap, CJ alerts the neighborhood, many of whom are tied to the jazz scene, and inadvertently draws a huge crowd to his uncle’s brownstone stoop.  You wrote this story in an unusual manner. Tell us about your process.
The story idea sprang from examining the photograph. The shape and plot emerged before the research in this case. During the course of revising the story, I read several books about the jazz musicians and began listening to jazz. I looked at many other jazz photographs. I also watched a fine, upbeat documentary entitled  “A Great Day in Harlem” several times. My car radio is now set for the local jazz station so I can enjoy jazz every day.

Some of the memorable characters (barber Charlie Garlic, Mattie Dee of the Eat and Run Diner, and crooner Canary Alma) as well as CJ and Uncle Click, are invented for the story. Were they amalgams of real historical figures? 
No, they were inspired by people I knew or heard about. My mother once described a man standing on the corner pontificating and said, “He thinks he’s Big Charlie Garlic.” The name was right for the character.  Uncle Click’s character surfaced because I grew up with two very nice uncles. Canary Alma, as the artist Frank Morrison illustrated her, reminds me Billie Holiday. Mattie Dee is a combination of the energetic cooks and waitresses I’ve encountered over the years.

One of the iconic parts of the photo are the line of young boys sitting in the gutter, along with the bemused Count Basie. Did you imagine one of those faces as your CJ?
I imagined CJ was among the boys sitting on the curb, but not that one of the boys in the photo was actually CJ. I used an illustration of a young boy gazing at a trumpet in a pawn shop window on the cover of a New Yorker magazine as the model for CJ. I stuck it on the bulletin board in my computer room for inspiration.

Among the charming parts of the story, everyone CJ encounters encourages his musical enthusiasm and talent, predicting that he’ll be as big a success as his Uncle Click someday. Did you imagine that CJ succeeded in his dream?
Absolutely! CJ certainly achieves his dreams because music is in his spirit. The support of his uncle and his community guarantees it.

Sweet Music in Harlem was published in 2004. In 2017, the picture book Jazz Day was published, commemorating the same event. Your thoughts?  
Roxane Orgill’s Jazz Day is a wonderful book. Her fine book really expands, fleshes out the wonderful story of Art Kane’s photograph and its subjects through poetry. Her book is somewhere in my house right now. I highly recommend her book for the delightful, evocative writing and cool artwork. It’s a treasure. That photo has inspired paintings, other photographs, a documentary, stained glass pieces, a symphony piece, etc.  

As works in progress you mention Vine Street Basketball, Slip Through the Dark Woods, Elzada Clover/Lois Jotter, and Idlewild, Michigan. Would you care to share anything about those pieces?  
One of my current books, a mid-grade novel set in Idlewild, Michigan is still in progress.  Slip Through The Dark Woods was accepted for publication by Schoolwide, Inc. My next book, Over in Motown, will be published this summer by the Ann Arbor District Library’s Fifth Avenue Press.

"Busy Mr. Higby" was published by Meegenius/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2014.  MrHigby is an industrious rabbit who delivers bunches, bouquets, centerpieces to the townsfolk. He eventually learns how to meet the ever-growing demand for flowers and helps the community become more self-sufficient.

Debbie added  some additional answers:
What are some other venues for writers and illustrators? 
In addition to presenting at schools and libraries, I would encourage people to consider opportunities to present at institutions such as the Children’s Hospital of Michigan or events like a Little Library kick-offs or music festivals.

Where do you turn for encouragement?
Authors Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner have been quite inspiring when I need a little kick.

What message would you like to leave for Mitten readers?
In a documentary about the great American playwright, August Wilson, his widow states that Wilson washed his hands each time before settling down to write because his writing was “sacred work.” All creators of work for children might want to embrace that notion as they tackle creative challenges.

Debbie Taylor is the Assistant Director of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) at the University of Michigan. She is also the Program Manager, Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach.

Charlie Barshaw is (honestly) making progress on a revision of his YA novel "Aunt Agnes." He's also co-chair of the Humor Conference to be held in Detroit on Saturday, May 5. Save the date!

There's a Mitten post scheduled in March about SCBWI-MI blogs. Want to advertise yours? Email me at with your blog's address and a short description of its theme, and I'll try to include it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Picture Book Dummy Day Camp by Isabel O'Hagin

“Dummy Day Camp!” How would I explain these words to anyone who’d read my sign?

Let me try. . .

It all began with Troy Cummings’ presentation at the SCBWI-Indiana 2017 Summer Retreat where he walked us through the revisions he undertook with his new picture book, CAN I BE YOUR DOG? (to be published by Random House: March 2018). His website states it is a “heart-tugging dog adoption story told through a series of letters dropped in the neighbor’s mailboxes—a stray dog searches for a place to call home.”

In his session, Troy listed three sets of tools we could use to create our books: words, pictures, and designs. He described how he begins with a draft followed by a sketch, and then he creates a dummy—a rough version of the graphic design. Other considerations dealt with the pacing of the story such as silent spreads, typography, the physical size/shape/feel of the book, and page turns to highlight dramatic events.

Troy encouraged us to try making a dummy book, to find the page turns in our story, and not to worry about color or the level of our artistic skills. Also, we should think about the voice of the book itself and what that’ll look like. In other words—think about every part of the book from cover to cover.

Inspired by Troy’s presentation, I recently hosted a Dummy Day Camp at my home for our SCBWI-MI picture book critique group, the Dreamcatchers, and four other SCBWI-MI friends. Prior to the event I contacted Troy who gladly shared more information about the Dummy Camp he had organized. Right away I realized we had to adjust our plans—Troy’s Dummy Camp lasted for several days; ours was planned for one day.

Nick Adkins, Ashley Adkins, Beth McBride,
Paulette Sharkey, & Julie Richardson
To help the Dummy Day Camp participants make the most of our time together, I sent information ahead of time via email: Troy’s notes, a picture book layout, links to relevant websites (e.g., Tara Lazar’s homepage), and tips on which supplies to bring along. Unlike summer camp, we each had homework!

Our Dummy Day Camp started with introductions followed by a presentation by author/illustrator Nick Adkins who brought examples of his own sketches, dummy books, self-published books, and his picture book favorites. We continued our conversations over lunch, and afterwards we each found an area to work individually for the next two hours. At the end of our five-hour session, each author presented their finished products with feedback from the group.

Jennifer Burd, winner of
the SCBWI-MI 2017 
Picture Book
Mentorship Program
The following are comments from participants:

It was great to be at this Dummy Camp and talk with one another about our stories. As writers we often sit at home alone, and we miss the camaraderie to be had with other writers.

A delightful day of creativity. It was a much needed boost to spend time with real people pursuing the same goal, and such fun to hear first-hand what others are working on. I enjoyed every minute of it.

As for me, I learned valuable lessons by designing thumbnail sketches on a chart that I then used to create my dummy book. Misplaced or missing page turns and pacing issues became obvious—much more so than on my Word document. Extraneous words popped out at me. But it wasn’t all glaring mistakes—I had fun drawing cats galore! More importantly, I spent a wonderful day with my fellow writers!

Isabel B. O’Hagin dreams of becoming a published author and making children laugh and play! A former music professor and dance/drama teacher, she now enjoys writing stories that draw from her childhood experiences in the borderlands, La Frontera, of Arizona.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: Promoting backlist titles, researching and writing a middle grade historical novel, and more about our upcoming mentorship programs and the 4 Out The Door Illustrator Postcard Challenge. But first, Charlie Barshaw will shine the spotlight on one of our SCBWI-MI members for our quarterly Writer Spotlight feature. Who will it be? Come back next Friday to see!

Follow the fun on our brand new SCBWI-MI Instagram page! Tag your postcards #4outthedoor. We can't wait to share them.

Friday, January 19, 2018

We're All In This Together by Shutta Crum

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.”
Emily Kimbrough, author and broadcaster (1899-1989)

Before I was published I heard stories about how writers hoarded their best writing advice, or how opportunities were snatched up jealously, and the names of contacts never shared. That may be so in some writing circles, but that hasn’t been my experience in the world of children’s authors and illustrators. We tend to give our all at presentations, in our critique groups, and on our blogs, etc. I have joyfully learned at the feet of others, filled notebooks with writing advice, loved connecting folks with each other, and supporting my fellow writers. Best of all, I have met great folks and made many friends. Wherever I travel there are friends—SCBWI members in all corners of the world! We are not in this endeavor alone.

That said, sometimes I still feel there is more we can do to help each other. Below is a short list of easy things to lend a hand to our fellow writer or illustrator. What you do just might be the break a colleague needs.

  • Never just say “no.” If you’re invited to speak or present somewhere, and can’t do it, say, “I can’t, but I am sending you a list of writers (or illustrators) who might be able to. Then keep a list of folks you know who do great presentations with their contact info and webpage URLs. It only takes a few moments to copy and paste and send it with your reply.
  • When you’re at a book festival or conference, thank the organizers and let them know that you have a list of other writers, or illustrators, who might like to participate next year. And then hand them your list, or follow-up with an email. (A lot of organizers have no idea how to contact writers and illustrators. BTW: I always include links to our speaker’s bureau.)
  • Tell your local booksellers about writers in the area who have books coming out soon.
    Shutta Crum and Jonathan Rosan sharing a book launch
  • Buddy up! Do your own signings and book launches with another author. You can double the audience this way, and cross-introduce family and friends to each other’s books. Booksellers love it. Even go for three authors—make it a party! Don’t wait for the bookseller to suggest this.
  • Have an elevator pitch for the manuscripts of friends. I’ve heard of one writer who used her precious ten minutes with an editor at a conference to pitch all the manuscripts in her critique group! What a heart. The editor asked to see three manuscripts from the group.
  • Open the door for someone else. Support SCBWI scholarships. Even if you can only donate a little. Make it an annual giving, and help members who may not be able to attend otherwise.
  • Help each other by critiquing when you can. I know time is precious, and we can’t all do this, or are uncomfortable doing this, but lend a critical ear and eye if possible. This also means attending your critique group sessions even when you don’t have any of your own writing to share. Good groups thrive on giving—you should not be there just to get feedback on your own work. 
  • Use your social media to advertise the books, awards, and successes of others—not just your own. Share FB posts and retweet often! Spread the good word beyond your own circle of family and friends. How hard is it to push that “share” button?
  • And don’t hoard information about writing/illustrating opportunities, online classes, agents, editors, pitch parties, spur-of-the-moment markets, freebies, etc. Sometimes these kinds of opportunities come and go too quickly to make it into the Bulletin or chapter newsletters. No miserliness allowed! Push that “share” button on Facebook (It’s easy!), and use group emails for like-minded friends.
  • Finally, of course, volunteer as you are able. We all know that life happens, and what available time we have gets co-opted quickly. But every little bit helps. (And remember to thank our volunteers whenever you see them. Thanks, Leslie, Carrie and the whole AdCom board! We couldn’t do what we do without you.)

Shutta Crum is a long-time MI-SCBWI member. Her newest picture book, MOUSELING’S WORDS (Clarion) is out as of Dec. 5, 2017. She says it’s an auto-mouse-ography; her life as a word loving mouse!

*  Did you know Shutta writes novels as well as picture books, and she was one of SCBWI-MI's novel mentors years ago? Her mentee Tracy Bilen's YA novel WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND was later published by Simon Pulse. This year, our MI chapter is offering TWO novel mentorships. Learn more here.

And here's another SCBWI-MI writing competition! Act fast, the deadline is January 22nd! Learn more here.

*  Calling all illustrators! Click here to learn more about our 4 Out the Door Illustrator Challenge.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hugs and Hurrahs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Writing!

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

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

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Featured Illustrator John Bleau


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

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

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

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

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

5. Three of your own illustrations:


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

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

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

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

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

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Your social media?  
Web site: