Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hugs and Hurrahs

Spring isn’t the only thing that’s “bustin’ out all over!” You Michkidders have been busier than bees since our last issue of Hugs and Hurrahs. And we’re as bouncy as bunnies and delighted as ducklings to celebrate all of your amazing news. We hope you enjoy this overflowing basket of publishing goodness. Congratulations to all of you!  

Hats off to RaeChell Garrett who recently signed with agent Sarah LaPolla of the Bradford Literary Agency. RaeChell’s debut contemporary YA novel will go out on submission in May. So proud of you RaeChell! 

Buffy Silverman learned about all kinds of engine-driven vehicles while writing six titles in Lerner Publishing's How Vehicles Work series, published in February. The titles included: How Do Big Rigs Work? How Do Trains Work? How Do Formula One Race Cars Work? How Do Monster Trucks Work? How Do Tanks Work? How Do Fire Trucks Work? It’s a standing ovation for you Buffy!

We’re happy dancing with PJ Lyons whose new book, God Is Watching over You, illustrated by Tim Warnes, was released by ZonderKidz on March 1, 2016.

Big applause for Sue Thoms, whose board book, JONAH AND THE BIG FISH, illustrated by Naoko Stoop, released on March 1 by Sterling Publishing. Sue is also currently working on a book of bedtime prayers for ZonderKidz. 

Kelly Barson’s newest YA contemporary novel, CHARLOTTE CUTS IT OUT, releases from Viking (Penguin Random House) on April 5. Three cheers for you Kelly!

Lisa Wheeler recently sold a book called Babies Can Sleep Anywhere to Abrams' Appleseed Books. It's a young book that explores animal environments. The illustrator and release date are yet to be announced. You’re awesome Lisa!  

Lori Eslick has an illustration coming out in the July/August 2016 issue of Cricket Magazine to accompany the story, A HOME IN THE GROUND. Fabulous news Lori!   

A huge round of applause for Lisa Rose, whose debut picture book, SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN, was the number #1 new release for mid-East children's books and Jewish children's books in January. Lisa also celebrated her book launch on March 13 at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. Lisa read and signed her book, and the children in the audience made book-related art projects and enjoyed colorful cupcakes, that could have been painted by Ezra himself. So proud of you Lisa! 

Janet Heller will read her book, The Passover Surprise and lead a creative writing workshop at the Congregation of Moses in Kalamazoo on Sunday March 27, 2016 at 10 a.m. The workshop will be followed by a brunch and book signing. In February, Janet participated in “Artfactory: Poems about Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo History.” The event was held at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and featured local writers reading poems about all things Kalamazoo. Awesome news Janet!

On March 8, the School Library Journal Blog, Scope Notes, featured, Instagramming an Author Visit: Ruth McNally Barshaw. The post documented one of Ruth’s recent school visits entirely in captioned photos. You are a rock star Ruth! (Photo Credit: Travis Jonker)

Congratulations to Matt Faulkner who was the recipient of the 2016 Michigan Reading Association’s Gwen Frostic Award. Matt writes, “It is truly an honor to join this list of past recipients: Gloria Whalen, Wendy Anderson Halperin, Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Shirley Nietzel, Patricia Polacco, Margaret Willey, Ryan Hipp, Gary Schmidt, Kelly DiPucchio, and Christopher Paul Curtis.” The New York Times also recently reviewed Matt’s book, ELIZABETH STARTED ALL THE TROUBLE, in its round up of kids books. You can read the review here: 

You make us proud Matt!

Three cheers to Sarah Miller whose middle-grade nonfiction, THE BORDEN MURDERS: LIZZIE BORDON AND THE TRIAL OF THE CENTURY, was released in January from Schwartz and Wade Books. Sarah also recently sold her book, THE Dionne Quintuplets, to Random House/Schwartz & Wade Books. The Dionne Quintuplets, is a YA narrative nonfiction book about the world's first recorded set of surviving quintuplets who rose to fame in Canada in the 1930s. Publication is scheduled for fall 2018. We’re giving you a standing ovation Sarah!

Shandra Trent recently celebrated the release of her new book, GIDDY-UP BUCKAROOS! with a book launch at Nicolas Books in Ann Arbor. So happy for you Shandra!

Hats off to Monica Harris, who recently sold 3 pieces to the Data Recognition Corporation of Michigan and 2 pieces to the Data Recognition Corporation of Nebraska. Way to go Monica!   

Leslie Helakoski (one of our fearless leaders) sold a picture book to Sterling Publishing called, Hoot and Honk, for both text and illustration. The book is about an owlet and a gosling that end up in each other's nests, and is due out next spring. You’re awesome Leslie!

Neal Levin has been busy these last few months! His poem, Cavemanners, was published in the November/December issue of Spider, and his short story, Messy Messages, was published in the November 2015 issue of Highlights For Children. Cricket Media also chose Cavemanners as an Editor's Pick as one of the Best Stories of 2015 from their family of literary magazines. Neal Levin's short story, The True Meaning of Hannah Berger, won an Honorable Mention in the 84th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition, and his poem, Warm Welcome, was published in the March 2016 issue of Highlights. You are amazing Neal! 

Phew! I think that’s everything! I just have to take this opportunity to say what an honor it is to read and report on all the happy happenings among our amazing SCBWI Mitten family. Your stories inspire me and give all of us the courage to keep on keeping on. Thank you so much for sharing!

Send all your publishing news to Patti Richards,  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bikers for Books: Rev Up for Reading

As soon as I learned about Bikers for Books, I knew I wanted to interview them for our SCBWI-MI blog. Badge Velasquez and his wife Kendra took time from their very busy schedules (they both work full-time jobs in addition to running Bikers For Books) to answer my questions. Read on to learn more about this grassroots Michigan organization that's making a huge impact.

How did Bikers for Books get started, and how has it grown since then?
Bikers for Books started in 2013 as a result of a local school reaching out for what seemed to be a small and simple request. The “biker” community in general is a very generous group of people. The pairing of 2 things, a love for motorcycles and a passion for literacy prompted the formation of the Bikers for Books program. Bikers in this area were thirsty for a local homegrown charity to call their own.

In the past 3 years we have been to over 35 different schools and seen over 15,000 kids. In the beginning it was not easy; schools were apprehensive about our presence and what we had to say to the kids. However, within the first few months of existence the doors were opened at many schools requesting our program.

What's next? What are your goals going forward? What do you hope to accomplish?
The possibilities for “what’s next” is a wide open and open-ended question. We are so passionate and dedicated to our program. Ideas and goals fill the spaces in our minds constantly. We are being guest speakers for the first time at the Michigan Reading Association, we have purchased a mobile book delivery unit, we have obtained small free-standing libraries, and we’ve partnered with local authors to send them to schools to help motivate kids.

Looking in the future we would love to have an actual location where people and kids can gather for free tutoring or the use of free resources. We also see ourselves hopefully spreading the word nationally, starting other chapters across the country.

What achievements are you most proud of?
One of our greatest accomplishments lies in our followers, supporters, and our Bikers for Books family. Our organization is proof that a group of people with a shared passion and goal can accomplish great things and make a difference in our community. The backbone of our group consists of common everyday people working together to help spread the word of hope to our youth.

What has been challenging or surprising about your experience so far?
Honestly, the growth and success of the organization in such a short time had been amazing.  But, early on it proved a little challenging getting people to take us seriously and get them to believe in our cause.

Throughout the last 3 years we have been surprised at the condition of some of the schools, their libraries, and their lack of adequate reading materials. It has been a real eye-opener at how little money is actually needed to make an impact.

What can others do to help your organization?
It is so easy to help… GET INVOLVED any way you can. Please like us on Facebook, share what we do with others, join us at an event, and lastly make contributions whenever you can. You don’t have to be a biker to be a part of our group, you need to have a passion for reading and the desire to make an impact in our schools.

Look for Badge Velasquez at MRA this weekend!
Learn more about Bikers for Books at their website, follow them on Facebook, and meet them at the Michigan Reading Association annual conference in Detroit this weekend!

Coming up on the Mitten blog:

Hugs and Hurrahs! Only a few more days to send your good news to Patti Richards. Email her at by Sunday, March 20th.

On April 1st, Nina Goebel will reveal our new blog banner created by our new Featured Illustrator!

Have a great weekend,

Friday, March 11, 2016

Four Fears Float Away at SCBWI’s NYC Conference by Lindsey McDivitt

This year I was the lucky winner of Shutta Crum’s tuition scholarship to the SCBWI conference in NYC. Did I tell you that I almost didn’t apply? In fact, I submitted my application at the eleventh hour. Literally. At eleven p.m., an hour before the midnight deadline, I pushed send on the email. My fears and anxieties almost stopped me. 

Was I ready? It felt like a big step. Despite attending numerous other fabulous SCBWI conferences I’d never signed up for a national conference. The current seemed to be carrying me in that direction, but I was intimidated and I almost let the opportunity go by. I’m so glad I didn’t, and I’m here to tell you—I stayed afloat. I survived, perhaps even thrived, and I certainly had fun!

Another fear involved navigating the depths of New York City. I lived for many years in Minneapolis/St. Paul so I’m not truly a small town girl, but NYC did scare me a bit. Carrie Pearson, our regional co-RA, mentioned an inexpensive bus from LaGuardia airport to within a block of the hotel. The tide turned for me—I began to think perhaps I could tackle the Big Apple. Transportation was a non-issue in reality and finding food a cinch. The food court for Grand Central Station was right next door to the hotel. (When I spotted pastries not seen since Germany I was hooked!)

Swimming with the big fish was also intimidating to this pre-published author. The halls teamed with big name editors, authors and agents. Would I find friendly faces in that sea of humanity? But I found it was similar to sailors far from home—encounters with anyone from the same part of the world felt welcoming. Ahoy there! Fellow picture book writer?! Non-fiction writer?! Michigander! Minnesotan! The Saturday evening Gala was anchored by tables labeled with states and countries. Meeting someone in the same boat became as easy as sprinkling this post with nautical terms.

Wondering if I’d sink or swim in the critique sessions also stirred up my nerves. I’d signed up for the Friday roundtables. Two opportunities to read 500 words of my manuscript to eight table-mates and an editor or literary agent. Two opportunities to feel like schools of minnows churned my innards. But overall it was a good experience. Although the agent preferred YA to picture books, the editor did like my manuscript. And as I suspected she shared her email with our group—allowing us to submit one manuscript to her. But only for eight weeks. Words to the wise—group critiques did feel a bit like jumping off the deep end. Do your homework and have a manuscript truly submission ready before signing up.

Sure I was just a little fish in a big, big pond, but WOW was it a treat to listen to some of those BIG fish inspire us! Rita Williams-Garcia, Rainbow Rowell, Jacquelyn Mitchard, William Joyce and Gary D. Schmidt, a fellow Michigander! I’m fired up to go the distance now and I’m so grateful to Shutta, and also the Michigan SCBWI chapter for my airfare. Thank you also to Carrie Pearson and Leslie Helakoski for the advice and support—you were lifesavers! So next year—when you hear the news, take the bait! Sign up for a chance at Shutta’s scholarship ASAP.

Lindsey McDivitt is an Ann Arbor based writer formerly from Minnesota. She writes both fiction and non-fiction picture books and is especially fond of picture book biographies. Lindsey reviews Positive Aging picture books on her blog at You can also find Lindsey on Twitter and Facebook, as well as A is for Aging on Facebook.

Pssst, want to know a secret? An editor just sent one of Lindsey's picture book manuscripts to the acquisition committee. We're cheering you on, Lindsey, and looking forward to hearing news of your book contract! 

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Hugs and Hurrahs! To be included, please send your good news to Patti Richards at by March 20th.

Friday, March 4, 2016

On the Scene in 2016, and What To Do While Waiting by Wendy BooydeGraaff

When I first signed my contract with Ripple Grove Press, one of the hardest things I had to do was wait. There was waiting to find out who would illustrate the picture book (Bryan Langdo), then there was waiting to see some of the preliminary sketches, and waiting to see the final art and cover, and waiting for my advance copies and the launch date.

Of course, I’ve kept busy writing and marketing—all the things I’ve read to do and all the things author friends have encouraged me to do—but one of the best things I did was find a group of other debut picture book authors and illustrators.

There are 51 of us in a private Facebook group where we share our experiences, ask for advice and cheer each other on. While we are officially a 2016 group, some had launch dates that, surprisingly, moved them into 2015. Some have had setbacks that are pushing their debuts into 2017. Some of us post all the time and some of us rarely post. That’s okay. This group is about community and shared experience, and each member can choose their own level of participation.

Out of that group, we made a public blog: On the Scene in 2016. Here we celebrate our books and ideas with the world. We…

  • introduce ourselves in three scenes (follow this link for a list of introduction posts)
  • celebrate launches
  • give information about our picture book debuts based on voluntary surveys
  • create sentences from the sixteenth word in each of our books (called “The Sixteenth Word Series,” featuring wonky illustrations)
  • welcome your comments

I hope you’ll stop by and visit us. I also hope that when you get that book contract, you join a debut group, and if there isn’t one that fits what you need, create it.

Wendy BooydeGraaff’s picture book debut, SALAD PIE, illustrated by Bryan Langdo, and published by Ripple Grove Press, is available March 1, 2016, wherever books are sold (or you can preorder it on Barnes and Noble, Amazon or IndieBound). Please visit her at where you can ask a question. 

The 2016 picture book debut authors and illustrators are on Pinterest, Goodreads, and on the blog. If you’ve got your first picture book coming out in 2016, it’s not too late to join the group.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Take-aways from the SCBWI New York conference and another round of Hugs and Hurrahs. To be included, please send your good news to Patti Richards at by March 20th.

Are you following the SCBWI-MI Facebook page? Please "like" the page to help our chapter reach its goal of 500 followers. In addition to the listserv, it's one of the best ways to stay up to date with news from our chapter, including conference updates.

Have a great weekend!