Friday, May 18, 2018

The Resonant Roar of Quiet Books by Emma Dryden

Emma D. Dryden recently celebrated the 8 year anniversary of the founding of drydenbks LLC, her children's editorial and publishing consultancy firm. Congrats, Emma! If you're not already following her on social media, make sure you click the links in her bio at the end of this post - you've been missing out on great advice! A couple months ago, she shared this video on her Facebook page and wrote, "I often talk with authors about the resonant roar a "quiet" story can make. Somehow this performance of human strength and beauty with Disturbed's Sound of Silence exemplifies exactly what I'm talking about."

I have often heard from editors that my stories are "too quiet," and Emma's observation intrigued me. I was mesmerized watching this performance of artistry, beauty, and strength. I found myself holding my breath, smiling, even tearing up a bit. I felt the emotion deep in my chest. And when it was over, I wanted to watch it again and share it with someone else. I felt like I had a general understanding of what Emma meant by "resonant roar," but I wasn't sure how to apply it to my stories in practical terms. I asked Emma if she could expand a bit more on her idea. This is another wonderful thing about Emma - she's very approachable!

Here's Emma discussing the resonant roar of quiet books:

The song, “The Sound of Silence” has always resonated with me, and it makes me wonder about what the sound of silence really is. What sound does silence make? And what sound does quiet make? Quiet can be unremarkable, unnoticeable, unmemorable—or quiet can be deafening.

When I think about “quiet” manuscripts, I wonder what that really means. Authors often hear from agents or editors that while their manuscript is well written or nicely characterized, it is not right for the market or for their list because it’s “too quiet.” This phrase—“too quiet”—can be translated in different ways: “not commercial enough” or “lacking a strong enough hook” or “not quickly and easily marketable” or “unremarkable, unmemorable.” But sometimes—often, in fact—it is the “quiet” story that can, if crafted well, be loud as thunder to a reader and have a lasting impact, wholly remarkable and memorable.

Within your question to me you’ve tapped into exactly what I mean when I say that a quiet manuscript can have a resonant roar: As you watched this video you felt the emotion deep in your chest. Yes! This is it! When a quiet story—what I will call a deceptively quiet story—manages to make readers experience emotions deeply, that to my mind is a story that has the opportunity to roar, to thunder, to resonate so very loudly with readers. A story that taps emotion, triggers emotion, and forces readers to stay with their emotion—that to me is the remarkable story that has a resonant roar.

At the same time, that story that taps emotion, triggers emotion, and forces readers to stay with their emotions is often, at first glance, perceived to be a quiet story—it may be the story about a relationship between a child and a pet; about a child who has lost something or someone; about a character who is lost, unable to find their way home. In these stories there are generally no obvious battles for good and evil; no horrific antagonist; no heroic quest; no dragon to slay. Not on the surface anyway.

If crafted well and true, a quiet story that explores love or loss or home can have all of these elements—but not in an obvious way. These elements—the quest, heroism, vanquishing the foe—are subtle and these elements are emotional. Loss itself is a challenge requiring heroism; grief itself is a foe to be vanquished; safety itself is the good that battles the evil of abuse or abandonment; home itself is a quest as well as a journey. These themes are simple and they are perennial and they are human—often perceived as “quiet,” these themes can be the most remarkable and most memorable but only if the author has done the deepest possible dive into human emotion to express and explore those themes through their characters.

When a manuscript’s rejected for being too quiet, it’s often because a story hasn’t explored these themes at all or has only touched on these themes too quietly, too cursorily. By this I mean the author has presented love, loss, longing, hope, or the need for safety in their story in ways that aren’t deep enough to force readers to experience the story on the deepest possible emotional level. The deeper and more resonant the emotions of a story, there’s less room for unremarkable, unmemorable quiet and the deeper and more resonant a manuscript will be to readers.

Emma D. Dryden is the owner of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm she founded after twenty-five years as a highly regarded editor and publisher. She consults with authors, illustrators, agents, editors, publishers, start-ups, and app developers. Emma has edited over 1,000 books for children and young readers, many of which hit national and international bestseller lists and received numerous awards and medals, including the Newbery Medal, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor. Emma is the co-author of the award-winning picture book WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR? (Little Pickle Press/Sourcebooks) and is on the Advisory Board of SCBWI. She is a sought-after speaker on craft, the art and business of children’s books, and reinvention. Her blog Our Stories, Ourselves explores the intertwined themes of life and writing. She can be followed online at Twitter @drydenbks, Facebook, and Pinterest

Coming up on the Mitten blog: a recap of our spring conference and another Writer Spotlight. Who will it be? Learn more about upcoming events and initiatives at our SCBWI-MI chapter website.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Pitching Podcasts for Interviews by Maria Dismondy

Podcasts! They’re all the rage and for good reason.

If you haven’t started listening to podcasts for your own entertainment or professional development, it’s time to get started.

Podcasts really took off in 2015 and are now noted as a high converting marketing channel. They get messages out into the world and then some.

When you hear a person tell their story, rather than read about it, it takes the personal connection to a whole new level. Being interviewed on several podcasts also expands your network by connecting you to the host who is interviewing other experts weekly. It’s a form of online networking achieved with just one interview!

One of the greatest benefits of being interviewed on a podcast is the fact that you don’t have to travel, get dressed up or invest any money in the interview.

This is what I call grassroots marketing – it is free or a low cost to the business.

Now the big question: How do you get on a podcast?

Here are three ways you can pitch to be interviewed on a podcast this year.

1.   Listen to podcasts regularly. In order to understand whether or not you are a good fit for a show, you need to listen to it! Listen on the go, in the car, on a walk, while cooking dinner or folding laundry. Wherever you have your phone, you have access to a free podcast episode.

•   Pro Tip: Look for new and noteworthy podcasts on iTunes. A new show will be looking for guests to interview. They are also putting a lot of time and energy into their own marketing efforts, considering they are just launching their program.

2.   Contact the host or take a look on the website for submission guidelines. When emailing your pitch, be sure to include:

a.  One to two sentences describing your background and qualifications. Tell them why you would be a great guest on their show.

b.  A few bullet points on topics you are comfortable speaking about. Do the work for the podcast host by giving them these talking points. What kind of value can YOU deliver to this podcast audience?

c.  Something personal about what you like about the show. Prove to the host or team that you have listened to an episode, showing an understanding of why you think you are a good fit. Spend time on these first few sentences so that the person you are pitching continues reading.

3.  Follow up in a few weeks. The follow up is so important! I’ve learned this first hand with pitching local news. The anchors and producers are always so busy, they may have either missed your email or just forgot to respond.

Podcasts are a good way to market your book and its message. The benefits are truly endless when you start listing them out.

The interviews will live on in digital world forever, which means they will also add to your SEO.

Start exploring a number of shows and consider which are a fit for you.

Then, start creating your pitch!

Good luck!

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:

How do you find podcasts about children's writing and publishing? Start here:

1. The Children's Book Podcast

2. All The Wonders

3. Brain Burps About Books or Writing for Children by Katie Davis

4. The YARN by Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker

5.  From Brightly: Press Play: 8 of the Best Kids'Lit Podcasts (And a Few for Grown-Ups Too!) 

Plus, SCBWI has its own podcast, and there was a Kidlit Podcasts Roundup in the SCBWI Spring 2018 Bulletin.

SCBWI-MI member Jack Cheng created a podcast with 15 episodes detailing the publication process of his middle grade novel, SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS. Find it here.

Please share your favorite podcasts about children's writing, illustrating, and publishing in the comments below.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: How to know if your art is ready, a recap of our SCBWI-MI spring conference, and another Writer Spotlight - it could be you!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Introducing Novel Mentor, Kelly Barson! An Interview by Ann Finkelstein

SCBWI-MI’s second novel mentorship is coming up fast. This mentorship with Kelly Barson is for Associate and Full Members (non-Published And Listed, aka non-PAL).

The submission window for the non-PAL mentorship is June 4-25, 2018. (This is sooner than you think.) We require that all applicants have completed a draft of their novels, so get cracking, people. You won’t want to miss this opportunity.

Complete submission instructions can be found on the SCBWI-Michigan website.

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

Kelly is the author of 45 POUNDS MORE OR LESS and CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT. Kelly’s books will make you laugh and cry. They’ll show you the truth. They may even give you a glimpse inside yourself. Kelly teaches classes on writing Middle Grade and Young Adult novels at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

What do you like best about writing novels?
The best part about writing novels is being surprised. I always start writing thinking that I know everything about the characters and their stories. But there’s a point in every novel where I’m surprised by something. Either a story twist or a theme I hadn’t intended or a character doing something within character but not from my imagining. It’s a reminder that the magical part of writing—the muse—is beyond me. That the art of story isn’t about the writer at all, but the story itself needing to come to life.

What do you like least?
Fear and self-doubt. What if I’m wasting my time? What if nobody likes this story? What happens next? How can I be a writer when I don’t know? What if I never figure it out? How long has this mustard stain been on my sleeve? When was the last time I ate mustard? Should I pre-soak it? And distraction. It’s too easy to get off track.

Describe a typical writing day.
Let the dogs out. Make coffee. Shower. Let the dogs in. Toast a bagel. Drink coffee and eat while talking to my mom on the phone about news, politics, and miscellany. Let the dogs out. Start a load of laundry. Let the dogs in. Head upstairs to my office with my water, my phone, and the dogs. Check email. Star something to get back to later. Open manuscript file. Ponder. Pet a dog. Ponder more. Write some words. Backspace. Swear. Write more words. Stare into space. Notice dry hands. Put lotion on. Check the news and/or social media. Get angry about something. Swear more. Go back to file. Write a few more words. Just when words start to flow, phone rings. Swear. Answer the phone. Forget what I was writing. Let the dogs out. Put clothes in the dryer. Let dogs back in. Make a sandwich. Go back to office. Check online banking. Swear more. Get back to file. Wonder what in the heck that sentence was supposed to be. Backspace. Ponder. Write another half sentence. Swear. Close laptop.

Which of your books was the most fun to write? Why?
Probably 45 POUNDS because it was my first. I was able to play and rewrite it several times, several ways, and I learned a lot in the process.

When you’re reading for pleasure, what features of a book typically impress you the most? 
If a book can make me laugh and cry, I’m a fan for life.

What brings you joy?
Mischievous children and animals. I don’t know why, but when a toddler throws every piece of clean laundry out of a basket with total abandon or my cat knocks the magnets off the fridge and walks away satisfied, I smile. Making mischief is a delightful art.

What inspires you?
Pain inspires me. I’m always amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit. So, I guess it’s not the pain itself. It’s more about how human beings overcome it, how they manage to remain upright in the face of insurmountable odds, how they heal “strong in the broken places.” (Hemingway)

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to tour Europe. But whenever I’m able to get away, I find myself in Northern Michigan. My heart wanders there. As soon as I cross the 45th Parallel, I breathe deeper and relax.

If you could have dinner with any person throughout history who would it be? What would you discuss? 
Jesus Christ. Yes, I know, as a Christian, I can talk to Him through prayer. But that’s not what I’m talking about. When I read The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, I was overtaken by emotion when the main character had an encounter with Jesus. I couldn’t imagine being one of the actual human beings who experienced hearing him, seeing him, talking with him in person. Maybe we’d talk about religion and politics and where and how things go awry. Maybe we’d talk about how English teachers sometimes attribute meaning to literature that the author didn’t intend, and how some Biblical scholars do the same thing. Maybe we’d talk about the secrets of the universe—like about the origin of Earth, eternity, and how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop.

What kind of compliment means the most to you?
The genuine kind.

What aspects of being a novel mentor are you most looking forward to? 
Ooh! This is the best question!

At one of the first SCBWI conferences I attended, I paid for an editor critique. It was from Michael Stearns (back when he was an editor). Like many newbie critique seekers, I vacillated between knowing he was going to buy my novel on the spot and also knowing that he’d forbid me from ever writing again because I was a hack who should never put word to paper. Lucky for me, he did neither of those things.

Instead, I got an honest critique—what I’d actually paid for! He pointed out areas where I’d nailed voice and character and scene. “Gold,” he called it. Then, he said, “Now make all of it like this.” While that sounded easy—after all, I’d written nuggets of gold, right?—it was about as simple as adding an egg to a baked cake. I had no idea what was gold and what was garbage. How would I ever know? I was both encouraged and frustrated.

About fifteen years have passed since that critique. I now have a better sense of what works, what doesn’t, and why. I’ve read more. I’ve written more. I’ve published more. I want to help other writers recognize their gold nuggets. To mine them. To polish them. And to celebrate the superpowers that created them. I also want to help them spot the areas that need more work and give them the tools to do it. I want to inspire them to keep going when the work gets hard. Because it will get hard. But their stories are worth telling. And they are the only ones able to tell them.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
I have a middle grade Christmas story out on submission right now. I’m nearly finished with an early chapter book about Mother Goose. And I’m planning out a couple more YA novels.

I’m also teaching classes at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Writing the Middle Grade Novel, Writing the YA Novel I, and Writing the YA Novel II, depending on the quarter.

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.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: how to know if your art is ready, pitching podcasts, and take-aways from our SCBWI-MI spring conference.

See you tomorrow in Detroit for the spring conference!

Friday, April 27, 2018

If you're blogging and you know it, raise your hand

The Blogs blog

Here, in the order their creators sent them to me, are the blogs of SCBWI-MI:

Vicki Lorencen offers her blog, Frog on a Dime. "Frog on a Dime is all about providing
Artwork by Matt Faulkner
encouragement to children's writers." Check it out  HERE

Stephanie Bucklin's blog is simply titled Blog. "I interview authors, booksellers, and other people in the book business about their carers, the good and bad advice they've gotten, and what's surprised them about the book business." Find it HERE

Sarah Prusoff LoCascio writes Thing of the Week. "Thing of the Week is an attempt to make people smile, think, or be inspired on a Monday morning, or at least to share cute things my kids say and do." Look for it  HERE

This next one can hardly be considered a simple blog. It is an Institution, a Literary Force. I speak , of course of Natalie Aguirre and her long-running and much-revered blog Literary Rambles.  "The mission of Literary Rambles is to support aspiring authors and debut MG and YA authors through agent spotlight interviews with query critique giveaways and author interviews and guest posts with book giveaways." You'll find that indispensable blog HERE

Pages from The Blob Blog
Amy Nielander's blog is a familiar one for many illustrators, but you don't have to be an illustrator or even an adult to enjoy it. It's called The Blob Blog, and it's meant "to inspire and empower kids to be creative problem solvers. (Kidlit Artists welcomed!) Check it out HERE

Elvy Rolle offers Nature's Pages. "I help parents and educators support Preschool Learning, Oral Language, and Early Literacy with picture books, songs, and activities, through Nature Play and Nature Themes." Discover it HERE

Jim Doran's blog is titled Tales of Fascination. It is "a collection of fantasy stories and other tales of fascination." Explore this world HERE

Richard Rensberry suggests you try his blog: Richard Rensberry: Poetry, Children's Books and other Passions. It features "illustrated poetry for young readers to learn and enhance their reading and story time." Find it HERE

Heather Shumaker's blog is Starlighting Mama. It is "a mix of parenting, education, writing and literacy topics for parents, teachers, grandparents and those who care about kids." Starlighting Mama can be found HERE

Co-Regional Advisor Carrie Pearson's blog is Yackity Yack--let's talk!  "My blog provides insights to other children's book creators on craft, the industry, and the business of writing." Check it out HERE

Prolific non-fiction author Buffy Silverman offers Buffy's Blog. "I occasionally post original poetry for children and (even more occasionally) review children's poetry picture books." 
Buffy adds, "My posts are linked to the Poetry Friday blogging community." Read here to learn more about Poetry Friday:POETRY FRIDAY
Check out Buffy's Blog HERE

Artwork by Angie Kidd
Angie Kidd offers up Artwork and Musings by Angie Kidd: Welcome to My Mind! "This blog is dedicated to inspiring other writers and artists to pursue their dreams through the sharing of art, poetry and meditative thoughts." Enjoy it HERE

Lindsey McDivitt's blog is titled, A is for Aging. "My mission is to showcase picture books that can help combat ageism by providing truths about aging and older characters devoid of negative age stereotypes." Find Lindsey's blog HERE

Patti Richards writes Sensibility and Sense, a Perfect Blog for Imperfect Writers. It is "a blog about the nuances of writing for children and the writing life in general. Advice, author interviews and resources." Visit HERE

Carole Lea Winans' blog is titled Family Heritage Living--Our Pioneer Life: Recreating a Life from the 1800's One Step At a Time. "Our mission is to encourage others to embrace a simpler life, simpler ways and simpler moments for themselves and their families as our family shares our adventures of an unconventional life." Travel back in time HERE

Erin M. Brown offers her blog, Focus, Create, Repeat. The subtitle says it all, "Action points for writers, authors, artists and creatives--for the entrepreneur and thought leader who wants to get it done and make an impact." Be inspired HERE

Thanks to everyone who sent me their blog information. I checked them all; the addresses worked on my computer. I tried my best to use the blog creator's own words, but if I got something wrong, I apologize.

If you missed the call but would like your blog mentioned, add it to the comments below.

Certainly, investigate some of these sites. You're sure to add at least one to your favorites.

Oh, and here's a post published about two years ago on the same topic:

Charlie Barshaw lost his job nine years ago, and his optimistic and supportive spouse, Ruth, asked him to follow her into the writing life and join SCBWI. Since then, they've bobbed right above the poverty line, and he's never been happier. 
Oh, and it's still not too late to register for the Humor Conference on May 5. Register here: UNEARTH YOUR FUNNY BONE

Friday, April 20, 2018

Writer Spotlight:Gin Price

Writer Spotlight: Gin Price

OK, gotta get the uncomfortable stuff out of the way first. You go by Gin, and that’s the only way your name appears in social media, so that’s obviously who you are. Why?
 It’s funny how often I’m asked if Gin Price is my real name or my pen name. I answer yes to both questions because both are true-ish. Gin is part of my birth name which almost no one can pronounce correctly first try. And as for Price, I met a man once, who loaned me his last name for a time. It’s a solid last name, with a nice consonant, so the real questions is, why not?

How did your early life prove formative in creating the author you are today?
I had some interesting experiences as a child in Metro Detroit. One side of my family was steeped in law enforcement, and the other side, breaking the law. I grew up in a gray area. In my writing I spend a lot of time in that hue.

You mentioned in another interview that the sixth grade was a pivotal time for your writing. Why was that?
There were a lot of changes going on in my life at that young age. My parents were divorced, dad stopped showing up, we lived on a corner house where it was easy for boys to jump my fence and try to stare into my windows. I was a very anxious kid, and every night I would truly believe I was going to die soon. Making up stories became a coping device. Instead of being scared, I could write myself as a hero. I think I still write best when I’m down.

In that same interview, you said you ruined “several diaries” (I believe they were Hello Kitty brand) in the pursuit of writing excellence. Care to explain?
Example. Not the real thing.
It all started with a pretty diary, but nothing I wanted to fill it with at the age of 10. So like all great misguided story-tellers, I lied. I created stories of events I wished would happen and filled pages after pages with dreams. I still have some of these ruined diaries to this day. Though in hindsight, V.D. would make a horrible romance story title. Sorry Little Gin.

In a blog post you admitted that you “learn differently, so the writing process can be a struggle.” Yet you succeeded in publishing a YA novel and winning the SCBWI-MI writing competition. How did you find a way around your challenges?
Yeah. I have a really hard time reading textbooks and comprehending their lessons. Always have. I get intimidated by grammatical rules, especially when they contradict weird things I was told at a young age. For example, commas. I was once told that whenever you pause or take a breath, you should use a comma. That misguided advice has led me down a path of hell. I comma when I shouldn’t, I don’t when I should. I get wrecked by the comma rules. Also I most definitely can’t tell you what grammatical term defines a particular rule with confidence.
When I hit 15 I became a book sponge. I read. A lot. And when I wrote, I mocked the style and structure of books I’d read. Over time I learned some things, but in all honesty, I bring the creativity, and I depend a lot on my agent and editor to tell me if I’ve really screwed something up. If I ever learn how to correctly use a semicolon, there will be a parade. Maybe we’ll toss cupcakes in the shape of a comma.

How did your writing develop after that sixth grade revelation?
Actually it didn’t. After all the writing during troubled times, I stopped for three years and went back to writing only about boys and how many of them I loved that week. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I started taking writing seriously again.  

You’ve written in other genres besides YA. What other areas have you explored?
I’ve been published in Romance under a different pen name. As a mother of three children, 2 very young boys, I’ve dabbled in Picture Book ideas and I’m out on submission, hat in hand. I also have two really cool series ideas that I think will only work as MG, but as I haven’t read many of them, I feel I need to familiarize myself with the genre before attempting to write for it.

You published your first novel On Edge: A Freerunner Mystery with Poisoned Pencil Press on February 2, 2016. How did that come about?
It took nearly 2 years to find a home for On Edge. Though when it was on submission it was called “Tagged”. No one really knew what parkour/freerunning was, and writing about graffiti, which is oftentimes viewed as illegal art, was a bit of a hard sell. My agent really kept on it, never giving up even when I was ready to throw in the towel. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

When did you find SCBWI? How? 
As I mentioned before, I was a romance writer. After finding my first agent, I was struck with this idea for a YA and I just wrote for three solid months and finished it. All the other cross-over authors at the romance meeting talked about SCBWI, so I gave it a shot. Both groups have helped me not only improve my craft, but given me a platform with which to promote myself and my works. It’s been amazing.

On Edge focuses on graffitti and parkour (freerunning), “two expressions dear to my heart”. How do you relate to these urban art forms? They are completely misunderstood and oftentimes abused. Graffiti IS art. I’m not talking about the punk with a spray can devaluing his/her ex’s car. I’m talking about the mad skills involved in throwing up a clean line. The angles, the colors, the expressions, hell, even the placement of this style of art is a thing of beauty.
Parkour is different but still an expression. It is defined by the journey, and sometimes that journey is a little less expression and a little more trespassing, but it is still a stunning show of what the human body is capable of.

You currently live in Detroit, your writing “steeped in street life, whether good or bad.” You’ve found inspiration in “all the excellent material city living has provided”. Some examples on how Detroit has shaped your life and your work?
I currently live in Metro Detroit, which is an important distinction because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt a part of the real life that happens outside of downtown. I can’t speak for how bad or good those streets are now, only what I remember them to be, but with a respect of what they have become. Growing up with my eyes wide and alert created an acceptance of diversity on all fronts of humanity. We are all wonderfully different on the outside with life paths that make us unique on the in. I don’t have to spend so much time trying to reflect on human differences to create real characters. People just are who they are. I grew up seeing that, living that, and loving that.

On Edge plays like an updated West Side Story or urban Romeo and Juliet. Two high schools are merged into one, and rival gangs collide. Emanuella “LL” is attracted to graffitti artist Haze, but they try to keep their romance on the down low so as not to incite war. But when portraits of “LL” in Haze’s unique style start popping up, tensions boil over.  Finally, here’s the question: Did real life events inspire you?
Snitch the tarantula
Yes. Years ago I was watching the news about a shooting that took place outside a school. When I did a little research I saw that the motive for the shooting was territory dispute and the underlying cause was because one school had been forced by closure to merge with its rival. I was horrified. No one took that into consideration and those kids died for it.

You’ve had two agents and tried different kinds of publishing. What have you learned from your experiences? 
On the agent front, I learned that an acceptance can lead to temporary blindness. Know what kind of experience you want and find the person who can give it to you. On the publishing front, I’ve learned that self-publishing has its good and bad sides, like everything else, and you really need to figure out who you are writing for. Self-publishing can be a compromise on your dream, a short-cut avoiding editorial skill or an exercise in vanity if you’re not careful. I speak from experience. :) Traditional publishing requires a different type of self-discipline regarding timelines, a compromise in creativity versus marketability, and editorial skill. And it is awfully subjective. You could potentially write great stories your whole life and never find the right agent or editor. This is where self-publishing becomes the hero. However, there is something to be said for a publishing house paying you money upfront to put your book out there. That is a sense of gratification exclusive to traditional publishing. But both styles can be equally successful.

You’ve mentioned a sequel to On Edge. Where does that stand?
On my shoulders, pushing down...hard. On Edge was originally written as a stand-alone. My editor wanted me to try to make it a series and after four ‘nahs’ I’m hoping this fifth try is a resounding ‘yeah’, as it is my favorite attempt yet. :) Wish me luck.

You’ve got three children, a biologist partner, an ornery cat, and “many reptiles”. Tell us about the menagerie at your house.
Winnebago the tortoise
We are a family of naturalists. With David being a zookeeper, and my history dotted with animal rescue, volunteer work, and a stint as a naturalist guide for children, it’s only a matter of time before our house becomes more jungle than human habitat. Since the interview you’re referencing, we have an additional 10 frogs and a tarantula named Snitch to go with our reptiles.

On your FB page you claim to be able to carve an hour a day out of your crazy schedule to write. How do you make it happen?
Magic. Or possibly Pocoyo. (My oldest son’s favorite.)

What are you working on now?
I’m working on book two, obv. I also have two other YA novels working, one is a quarter of the way through, the second is still in the plotting stage, but I’m excited about it too. I have two MG books in my brain wanting out and I’ve recently written seven picture books with more I’d like to get out but alas...that hour goes by too damn fast.

Gin Price
Gin Price recently won the 2018 SCBWI-MI writing competition. She lives in the Detroit area . Find her at, on twitter @Gin_Price, or on Facebook.

Ruth and Charlie
 Charlie Barshaw asks too many questions, and then doesn't want to edit any of them out of his interviews. He is still learning how to manipulate Blogger. He is co-chair with Anita Pazner of the May 5 Humor Conference in Detroit.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

THE Q&A by Gin Price, winner of the 2018 SCBWI-MI Writing Competition

In January 2018, SCBWI-MI hosted a writing competition to kick off the new year. Michigan members were asked to write an engaging article about the benefits of membership in SCBWI. The article could include benefits related to our region but the larger focus was on the membership in general. Judges were looking for creative approaches to this topic and expected the content to be accurate and current.
And we have a winner!

You'll get a kick out of reading her winning article below. Gin Price lives in metro-Detroit and her debut YA mystery, On Edge, was published in 2016. Be sure to come back tomorrow when Charlie Barshaw interviews her for our Writer Spotlight feature.

The Q&A
By Gin Price

“I’d like to thank you all for coming and listening to me read an excerpt from my latest novel.”

I close my book and look out over the sea of faces, surprised by the turnout. “Does anyone have any questions?”

“How long does a novel have to be if it’s for kids?” someone shouts.

Not the question I expected, but, I clear my throat. “Well, it depends on what age you’re writing for.”

“How do I know that?”

“Google!” An unhelpful snarker in the bunch yells out.

“I wrote a book myself,” someone else chimes in. “How do I submit it to agents and editors?”

“I’m writing one, too! Do I pay someone to edit or do it myself? Do I hire an agent and they edit it for me? How does that work?”

“Those are all great questions,” I say. “Well, everyone’s journey to publication is different…”

“Yeah, but what’s the right way?” Someone impatient interrupts. “Do you get an agent first? And how do you find the right agent? Or do you just go straight for the editor?”

An older gentleman stands up. “I was rejected so many times, I figured I’d die before I’d ever see my book out there. Then my grandson showed me how to self-publish. Now I am rejection free.”

“It’s true,” I say. “You can self-publish. Many people enjoy the benefits of the self-publishing world.”

“How do you self-publish?”

“Do you pay for that?”

“My friend wrote a picture book and I illustrated it. Do we both submit it or just one of us?”

“I’m an illustrator too and I have no idea where to begin! Do I just email my artwork to every agent and editor I find?”

"Just Google it!" The snarker is back.

“Well, no. You don’t want to do that,” I say.

Instead of helping, I seem to make a bigger mess of things.

I no longer hold the room captive. It has captured me.

“So we shouldn’t Google things?”

“Can you tell us anything specific?”

“What do we have to pay for?”

The questions are popping up everywhere!

I suck at Whack-A-Mole.

How do you submit? How do you edit? How do you get your illustrations out there? Can you write as well as do the art? Self-Publishing or Traditional? Editor or Agent first?

Emotionally, I start going fetal, complete with thumb-sucking. Everyone has so many questions, how can I answer them all?

Then I remember I already have THE answer.

“Everyone, please!” I say, and the room quiets after a moment. “I'm sorry. I can’t possibly tell you everything you need to know about the publishing path, because there's too much. But write this down:”

“SCBWI? What does that stand for?”

“Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It is your best chance for publication from picture book to young adult. As a member, you will find everything you need to answer all your questions. There are resources to guide you, from the beginning when you don’t even know if you can write a book, to the end when you’re ready to promote your new release.

“Honestly, friends, I can’t say enough about this organization, but I can tell you that without it, I wouldn’t be standing up here reading from my book. So do your career a solid, and become a member. Start on your path today!”

Everyone claps, and I feel great. By giving them the website address, I've answered all their questions!

“Now, anyone have any questions about my book?”


Congrats again, Gin, and thanks for sharing your writing with us!

SCBWI-MI has another competition coming up - our 2018-2019 Novel Mentorship Competition. Two mentorships are being offered, one for PAL members and one for non-PAL members. The submission window for the PAL mentorship is open right now and ends on Monday, April 23rd - don't delay!
Here's everything you need to know:

See you back here tomorrow for Charlie Barshaw's Writer Spotlight interview with Gin Price!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Hugs and Hurrahs

Happy Friday Michkid Friends!

As I’m putting the finishing touches on this installment of Hugs and Hurrahs, it’s a beautiful sunny and breezy day in the Mitten. The first in a long, long, LOOOONNNGGG time! So it seems only right that it’s time to celebrate our happy publishing news from the first three months of 2018. Be sure and adjust your sunglasses, because as always, Michigan kidlit folk are shining brightly!

Here we go. . .

Hats off to Joe Kimble who was interviewed about his picture book, MR. MOUTHFUL LEARNS HIS LESSON, on Michigan Radio in January. Here’s a link:

Joe also spoke at several elementary schools in Phoenix and San Diego this winter and had a book signing at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix.

Way to go Joe!

A big hurrah to Janet Heller, who recently presented “Nine Tips for a Successful Book Signing Event” for the Motown Writers Network Monthly Meet Up at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. Janet will also be speaking at the Festival of Faith and Writing on Friday, April 13, about “Writing and Revising Religious Poetry and Prose.”

That’s awesome, Janet!

Congratulations to Neal Levin who won the latest Saturday Evening Post “Limerick Laughs” contest. His winning limerick is announced here:

So proud of you, Neal!

A big round of applause for Lisa Wheeler, whose new book, People Don't Bite People, was released April 3rd, 2018, and has received two starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal. AMAZING!

In other news, Lisa’s book, The Christmas Boot, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, (Dial Books for Young Readers) has been translated and released in China with TB Publishing. Also, 8 of her 10 Dino-Sports books, illustrated by Barry Gott, (Lerner Publishing) have been translated and released in Korea by Woongjin Think Big Co. Ltd.

You’re an international star, Lisa!

Hop! Hop! Meeehh! Meeehh! Clomp! Clomp! Oink! Oink! Buffy Silverman's four new titles for Lerner Publishing's Little Pets series are now out. Read all about these cute critters in Dwarf Rabbits, Pygmy Goats, Mini Horses, and Mini Pigs. Buffy also ventured into the World of Gaming with two other Lerner books: The World of Pok√©mon and The World of Mario Bros.

You’re amazing, Buffy!

Woo Hoo for Erin Fanning! Her hi-lo novel, Cloud Warrior, about bravery and rediscovering old friendships during a kayaking disaster, was published in January by Saddleback Educational Publishers. Here's the URL:

Way to go, Erin!

Hats off to Monica Harris who recently sold SIX writing pieces (3-fictional and 3 informational) to Data Recognition Corp / Michigan Department of Education.

That’s awesome, Monica!

Kevin Dangoor (writing as Barnaby Quirk) indie published his third middle-grade novel, Virtual Grunt, on March 9th. Kevin and Chris Africa and will be talking about indie publishing at the next Ann Arbor SCBWI Shop Talk on April 21, where Kevin will share some of how the book came to be.

So excited for you, Kevin!

Hat’s off to Jack Cheng, whose untitled middle-grade novel was recently acquired by Dial Books, following his award-winning debut, See You in the Cosmos. His new book takes place in a near-future Detroit, is set partly inside a video game, and follows Chinese-American seventh-grader Octavia Lu and her burgeoning friendship with Dante, an African-American boy newly "bussed in" to her suburban school in a self-driving car. Publication is set for spring 2020.

Way to go, Jack!

Three cheers for Rhonda Gowler Greene, who has a new picture book coming out with Bloomsbury in May— Let’s Go ABC! Things That Go, from A to Z, Illustrated by Daniel Kirk.

In other good news, the text from Rhonda’s book, Sing Praise, was commissioned several months ago by St. John’s Cathedral of Knoxville, set to music, and sung at their February 4th treble choir festival.  Sixty kids (3rd grade - high school) from area Knoxville churches made up the choir, and Rhonda got to attend the performance!

That’s so inspiring, Rhonda!

Students around the state recently voted for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books Award. Lisa Wheeler's picture book DINO-RACING was the winner for grades K-1, and Kristin Bartley Lenz's YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO, was one of the two honor books for 9-12th graders. See the complete list of winners and honor books for all ages here. The 2018-2019 nominees have also been announced, including Jack Cheng for his middle grade novel, SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS. See all of the nominees and voting instructions here

So proud of you Lisa, Kristin and Jack! 

Anita Pazner is celebrating! She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January.

That’s quite an accomplishment, Anita! 

And finally, I did my first school visit entitled, ARE YOU MY FRIEND? based on my book, ALL ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKING, in North Carolina just a few weeks ago. We had about 60 kids attend, and we talked about what true friendship looks like, the differences between real live friends and social media friends and how to stay safe online. It was so much fun (and I think the kids liked it tooJ).

Isn’t it great to be part of such an inspiring group of children’s writers? And remember, no matter where you are on your publishing journey, we think you’re pretty special!

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