Friday, September 30, 2016

Hugs and Hurrahs

It’s time once again for that all-out party and big WOO HOO you’ve all been waiting for. Yes, my kidlit friends---let’s hear it for, HUGS AND HURRAHS! Please join me in a standing ovation for the following members that had fabulous publishing news over the summer months. Thunderous applause to all of you!

Matt Faulkner’s, GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR (Disney-Hyperion, April 2014), was nominated for the Maryland Black Eyed Susan Book Award 2016/2017! "The Black-Eyed Susan Book Award is a children’s choice award for the state of Maryland. Each year since 1992, the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award has been given to authors and/or illustrators of outstanding books chosen for the award by Maryland students. The award seeks to promote literacy and lifelong reading habits by encouraging students to read quality, contemporary literature."

We’re so proud of you Matt!

Neal Levin is happy to announce that he won First Place in the 2016 Magazine Merit Award for poetry, and Second Place in the 2016 Magazine Honor Award for fiction,  both presented by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Neal’s also celebrating that the Oxford University Press-India has purchased the right to reproduce his poem "The Pizza Beast" in its Oxford Ink Literature Reader 4.

You’re awesome Neal!

Writer/illustrator Lindsay Moore of Ann Arbor was the winner of the SCBWI-Michigan Fall Retreat 2016 Logo Contest! Congratulations Lindsay, and thanks to all who entered the contest!

Jess Pennington’s debut novel, LOVE SONGS & OTHER LIES, will be published by TorTeen/Macmillan October 2017!

That's awesome Jess!

We’re happy dancing for Barb Rebbeck whose novel, NOLA GALS, has been awarded a bronze medal in the Readers' Favorite Competition for 2016. Barb will be attending their awards celebration in Miami in November where her book will be displayed at the Miami Book Fair. Also, the play adaptation of NOLA Gals, Turbulence is out to several youth theatre groups and Barb is hoping some one will pick it up for production soon.

So proud of you Barb!

Lisa Rose, author of SMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN (Kar Ben, January 2016), was recently a guest on the Barnes and Noble blog! Lisa did a fabulous job comparing diverse books of today with established favorites and how to add them to your child’s library. You can read the post here:

You’re awesome Lisa!

Erin Fanning’s YA novella, Cloud Warrior, was accepted by Saddleback Educational Publishing for a new series coming out sometime in 2017. Erin’s short story, The Demon Inches, will be featured in The Yellow Booke, an annual journal of speculative and horror fiction. 

Happy Dancing with you Erin!

Lisa Wheeler is proud to announce that October 1st is the release of Dino-Racing (illustrated by Barry Gott). It is the ninth book in the Dino-Sport series with Lerner. This installment features those whacky dinosaurs drag-racing, off-road racing and stock car racing. Lisa also has a second book coming out on October 18th called The Christmas Boot (illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). Lisa writes, “This book has had a long history, including several rejections 15 years ago, a sale to a small Michigan publishing house in 2006, publication, followed by a stint being OP. I then got the rights back and sold the manuscript to Dial. This story is near and dear to my heart and I am glad it is having new life breathed into it.”

We are too Lisa! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing this book’s journey with us.

Ruth Behar is new to our SCBWI Michigan group and has some great news! Her debut novel for young readers, Lucky Broken GirL, is scheduled to release in April 2017 with Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. You can read all about it here:

Welcome to our kidlit family, Ruth, and congratulations!

Author/illustrator Jeff Jantz is happy to announce the completion of his first book this year, Gruel Snarl Draws a Wild Zugthing. The book will be published under the name Jantzer Studios through Shiffer publishing, with a tentative release in spring of 2017. 

So happy for you Jeff!

Buffy Silverman is just bursting with good news. It's all babies and biomes for her books with Lerner Publishing this season:

Meet a Baby Chicken
Meet a Baby Cow
Meet a Baby Horse

Let's Visit the Desert
Let's Visit the Evergreen Forest
Let's Visit the Lake
Let's Visit the Rain Forest

You’re awesome Buffy!

Janet Ruth Heller conducted a creative writing workshop for teenagers at the Boston Public Library on July 9, 2016.  She also spoke at the International Literacy Association conference on July 10. Janet will be presenting a paper about "Recent Multicultural Books for Children about Jews and People of Color" at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference on Sunday, November 20, 2016 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center. She will also cover the same topic Michigan College English Association conference on Friday, October 21 in Warren MI at Macomb Community College.

You are one busy gal, Janet! Congratulations!

Leopold the Lion (Sleeping Bear press, september 2015), written by Denise Brennan-Nelosn and illustrated by our own Ruth McNally Barshaw, was on the Michigan Bestseller chart, ranking at #3 in March and #5 in April 2016. Leopold was written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and published by Sleeping Bear Press.

And on another happy note, Charlie Barshaw and Ruth McNally Barshaw have sold 5 short stories so far to an educational publisher who is starting up a new reading initiative for children. They both continue to write for the publisher, and have several pieces in the revisions stage.

We love you Charlie and Ruth-- Congratulations!

Rhonda Gowler Green is thrilled to announce that her picture book, PUSH! DIG! SCOOP! A CONSTRUCTION COUNTING RHYME, will be coming out with Bloomsbury on October 25th. The story sold at auction in March 2012, so it's been a very long wait. Daniel Kirk is the illustrator.    

So happy for you Rhonda! 

Kristin Bartley Lenz celebrated the release of her YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO (Elephant Rock Productions, September 2016) on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at The Office coffee shop in Royal Oak. It was a standing-room-only crowd with Book Beat of Royal Oak on site to sell books.

Shutta Crum celebrated the release of her new middle grade novel, WILLIAM AND THE WITCHE'S RIDDLE (Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 2016), on Sunday, September 25th at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. 

Kristin joined Shutta at Nicolas where both authors gave a brief presentation, read from their books and signed copies. What a great celebration for the two of you!

And here they are! We’re just tickled pink for you, Shutta and Kristin! 

And finally, I’m (Patti Richards:) happy to announce that my picture book manuscript, O POSSUM’S PREDICATMENT, was awarded an honorable mention in the Children's/Young Adult Fiction category of the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Among the ten competition categories, there were over 6,000 entries in total* this year, and I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of my crazy possum. And just this week I sold a story to an educational publisher. -- more details to follow!

It's always so much fun putting this happy news together! Our Michigan SCBWI family is a talented and hard-working bunch. We've got one Hugs and Hurrahs left for this year, so please send all of your happy publishing news to me, Patti Richards at

Friday, September 23, 2016


Our SCBWI-MI Fall Retreat is only two weeks away! Charlie Barshaw looks back on the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest Conference and gives us a reminder about all of the hard work going on behind-the-scenes by an army of volunteers. Here's Charlie:

Note: These impressions are the writer’s alone. They are based on faulty memories, overheard conversations, and opinions parading as facts. Please ingest with caution.

The first clue that the 2016 Wild Wild Midwest SCBWI Conference was a big deal surfaced Thursday, the day before it officially started. We walked into a large conference room, set up wall-to-wall with tables and chairs.

Twelve well-dressed hotel people sat opposite the twelve SCBWI people, Regional Advisors from Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ruth McNally Barshaw, the Illustrator Coordinator. And me, the guy who “technically” was the Audio/Visual expert.

In front of us, placards with our names, water glasses, hotel pens, pads of paper, and a spiral-bound booklet.

Inside that booklet a breakdown of each room of the conference, for every day. Every hotel person seated there would play a part. Every person on the SCBWI side likewise had commitments that played out over the past three years, and the next three days.

SCBWI National pulls off two of these huge spectacles every year: the winter sessions in New York, and the summer sessions in downtown Los Angeles. And they employ people whose only job is to make each conference run smoothly.

Contrast this with the WWMW conference, held for the first time in Spring 2013, and then May of this year. Why three years? Because every person involved is a volunteer, many with real day jobs and families.

Planning began immediately following the successful end of WWMW ‘13. During the 2014 LA conference, I was a fly on the wall as RAs gathered in a hotel room to lay out possible venues. During the 2015 LA conference, they again gathered to finalize faculty selections.

Over the years, RAs dropped out and were replaced by new volunteers, who then inherited WWMW duties. One whole state, comprising two SCBWI regions, dropped out entirely, to be replaced by another state.

Faculty had to be contacted, cajoled for bios, quizzed on food preferences. Schedules had to be drawn up, plane tickets and airport pick-ups arranged, rooms set aside.

There were also almost 500 attendees, some veteran conference-goers, some eager but oh-so-green rookies. Dietary requirements, special requests, unexpected emergencies: all had to be dealt with in the months leading up to, and especially during the three days of the conference.

Projectors and laptops were donated, to offset the huge expense of renting that equipment from the hotel. Many of the pages of the spiral-bound booklet specified, in agonizing detail, the cost of each service.

I witnessed one of the most stunning sights of the whole weekend, entirely behind closed doors. After lunch, there was a brief window where every trace of the meal had to be cleared, tables removed, walls assembled. Every hotel person seated across from us on Thursday, from security, AV, management, food service, worked together to set up the room for the next events.

As incredible a display of teamwork as that was, the work of the Midwest organizers was amazing in its thoroughness and dedication. Special thanks to our own RAs, Leslie Helakoski and Carrie Pearson, who shouldered much of the responsibility as co-chairs.

So, how do you organize a multi-state conference? It’s impossible, but somehow they did it.

Charlie Barshaw has four MG and YA novels-in-progress, three critique groups, two dogs and a gifted, supportive and encouraging wife. Oh, and a miniscule bank account, but a whole vast world of opportunity.

Learn more about the upcoming SCBWI-MI Fall Retreat here, and be sure to thank our hard working volunteers.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Hugs and Hurrahs! Send your good news to Patti Richards by Monday, Sept. 26th to be included. Don't be shy; we're inspired by your success!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Paying it Forward: Cathy Bieberich - Mentor Extraordinare, a Volunteer Tribute by Monica Harris

If you ask people about SCBWI Michigan volunteer, Cathy Bieberich, several things might be mentioned. Her boisterous laugh and wickedly sharp sense of humor might be first. Her diligent work ethic would certainly be high on the list. A few members may even reminisce (with chuckles) about her karaoke skills and interpretive dance prowess.

While these are just a few of her sparkling wonders, one of Cathy’s biggest accomplishments as a SCBWI volunteer is the strong mentorship program. Sadly, Cathy is stepping down (or should I say retiring) from her Mentorship Coordinator position; a position she has held for 9 years. Her personal journey actually began when Cathy won the novel mentorship in 2002 with Audrey Couloumbis. At the end of their mentorship session, the two remained close friends and shared their writing. When Audrey had another book published, Cathy was humbled to find her name included in the dedications. Filled with gratitude from the entire experience, Cathy choose to give back in the best way she knew…to expand, strengthen, and coordinate the mentorship program.

Even while working full time, Cathy made sure to put together an outstanding program.  She devotedly located and secured mentors.  While this may sound easy, it is not. Many writers and illustrators are busy with their own careers so it would often involve a little ‘pay it forward’ coaxing on Cathy’s part.  After that, capable judges were secretly contacted (again, sometimes needing a bit of coaxing).  Once submissions rolled in, Cathy coordinated every detail including sorting and coordinating the submissions, making sure the judges received their copies (either by mail or electronically), and then tabulating the results for the mentor.  A tedious job, to say the least, but Cathy embraced it with the excitement of a 2-year old being handed a Labrador puppy!  It was a time of thankfulness and generosity, which Cathy juggled like a three-ringed circus professional.

While I can certainly dwell on how much we’ll miss Cathy’s hard work, I know with certainty that her presence will continue to be felt within the Michigan chapter. For example, Cathy was the pioneer for our speaker-shadowing program. Speakers will continue to have a SCBWI “shadow helper” in order to make them comfortable during conferences.  The program has been so successful that other national SCBWI chapters have adopted it.

If there’s ever a moment when the Advisory Committee needs a helping hand, Cathy will be there to offer both her left and her right. Whether it’s stuffing folders for conference participants, greeting them at the registration table, or bringing cold water to the members of a panel, she will be there…. selflessly offering her time and cheerful smile.

What I admire most about Cathy is her devotion to make new people feel welcomed.  If someone is sitting alone at a table, she makes a point of joining them. If a participant is lost, Cathy takes time to walk them to the appropriate conference room.  She doesn’t do it for any sort of glory. She doesn’t expect a pat on the back. She does it because she believes in our chapter, our members, and our dreams. We are in this together and the best way to help each other is to be supportive.

Without a doubt, she will be missed in her role as Mentorship Coordinator. Yet, I find it uplifting knowing that she will continue to be a pinnacle example of what makes our Michigan chapter so wonderful. Thank you Cathy---my role model, my writing buddy, and my dear friend.

Although she’ll deny it, Monica Harris is usually an accomplice and backup dancer to Cathy Bieberich’s karaoke singing! As a previous AdCom member and a retired Co-RA, she does have to worry about her reputation, you know? She lives in Kalamazoo…oh oh, there goes her status in the witness protection plan (gulp).

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Behind the Conference Scenes, a new Featured Illustrator, and another round of Hugs and Hurrahs. We want to trumpet your good news! Please send your children's writing or illustrating news to Patti Richards by Sept. 26th.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Schuler Books: An Indie Interview with Whitney Spotts by Carol J. Verboncoeur

Schuler Books has been a staple in the mid-Michigan community since 1982 with stores in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Okemos. Schuler Books hosts a variety of fun and informative events including: writing workshops, book clubs, author readings, story time and so much more. Events coordinator, Whitney Spotts was kind enough to give us a glimpse behind the scenes.

Tell us a little bit about your job at Schuler Books? 

I manage the author events for three Schuler locations, so every day is a little different! I spend an inordinate amount of time on email, corresponding with publisher contacts, local media, and authors, but the best part is obviously hosting the authors. I've met so many interesting people, and been exposed to so many different subjects than the normal person. There's always something to enjoy or learn from. 

Was there an event at your store that remains particularly memorable? Something surprising that happened, a wonderful chain reaction, or a day that went terribly wrong? 

My favorite events have been the times I've worked with David Sedaris - he is always hysterical and you never know what will happen (like unexpected raunchy jokes over the intercom). On one particular tour, David was collecting and telling jokes from all of his fans. There was one woman loudly complaining about how long the signing was taking, and in a quiet lull, everyone, including David, loudly heard her say "He has to tell every person  some goddamn joke." You could hear a pin drop and David sweetly cocked his head and said, "Well, I guess I'll have to sign your book next." The woman turned purple and slowly walked up to the table, just mortified. He grabs her book, smiled and said, "You wanna hear a joke?" It was the best thing I'd ever seen.

What advice can you give to authors and illustrators who are preparing for bookstore appearances?  

First off, know whether you will be talking, or just signing. If you're talking, every presentation is a little different, so just be sure to communicate with the bookstore. Some authors do full-scale presentations with visuals like a slide-show, others simply talk and read. It makes no difference to us - we just want you to be comfortable so that the presentation goes smoothly. So do what feels natural to you, and rehearse it a little before your first talk. Readings aren't done as much anymore (except for picture books) -- most readers want to know the story behind the book, what your process is, what got you here. If you do decide to read, definitely keep it short: 5, no more than 10 minutes or people get antsy.

Do you have any particular advice for children’s authors and illustrators?

For children's book authors and illustrators, I would just say that you should have practiced reading your story aloud, holding the book or whatever demo instruments you have. Rehearse the presentation. We love it when authors and illustrators have their own activities or activity sheets; we are happy to print-off copies and provide supplies -- just let us know in advance so we can prep the space or any supplies you need! Be very clear what you need and what you will be bringing.

Tell us about some of your upcoming events at Schuler Books.

I am SO excited about what's coming up this fall. We have confirmed a stop on the Jan Brett Gingerbread Christmas tour at our Okemos store on December 3rd, and are working out the details for an event at our Grand rapids store with Patricia Polacco! We are also excited to have middle grade author Mike Lupica to tour Okemos store on Sept. 19th as well as hosting a zombie themed event for middle grade author Max Brallier at our Lansing store on October 29th! It's going to be an awesome fall season, so keep an eye on our website for details on these and other events!

Carol J. Verboncoeur writes middle grade fantasy and science fiction under the pseudonym, CJ Verb. Her blog History Bites shares quirky bits of history and delightful treasures from museums near and far.  She is a docent at the Michigan State University Museum and serves on the executive board of the Capital City Writers Association

Coming up on the Mitten blog: An SCBWI-MI volunteer tribute, Behind the Conference Scenes, and another round of Hugs and Hurrahs. We want to trumpet your good news! Please send your children's writing or illustrating news to Patti Richards by Sept. 25th.

See you next Friday!
Kristin Lenz

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back to School: MFA Week, Day Seven. That's a wrap!

Welcome to Day Seven of our special Back to School: MFA Week! Six SCBWI-MI members (representing three different MFA programs) answer a question a day for seven days. It's everything you ever wanted to know about getting your MFA.

Just joining us? Go here to read the first post in our MFA series. Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay Five. Day Six.

Team MFA: Jennifer (Jay) Whistler, Diane Telgen, Anita Pazner, Erin Brown Conroy, Rebecca Grabill, and Katie Van Ark.

The final question: Would you do it again?

Erin: Absolutely. No question. The learning was phenomenal. My writing leaped miles ahead of where it was before. And now I have an incredible support system of other WSCU graduates who I can call on, night or day, who are also professionals in the field. Invaluable.

Jay: I am considering doing a post-grad semester with VCFA. They allow you to choose a focus area that you want to work on, and you also get to choose your advisor.

Diane: When I graduate, they’ll probably have to drag me onto the plane out of Vermont, that’s how much I’ve loved my time there. It’s the best investment in myself I’ve ever made.

Rebecca: Honestly, I sometimes wish I could have a do-over. I’d love to go through the program again, now that I know what it’s like and what to expect. I sort of hate that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hamline also offers post-grad semesters, so maybe…. But I love how Diane says, “It’s the best investment in myself I’ve ever made.” So 100% true.

Katie: The skills I gained and the connections I made were worth every penny of tuition. I would do it again - and in a way, I still am. VCFA allows graduates to continue accessing their lecture database and recently updated their library system to also make student theses available. I plan my own personal "residencies" where I listen to lectures from the database at home and I also exchange feedback with other members of my graduating class.

Anita: Do it again? You mean I have to graduate and leave? I was hoping to go back every six months for the rest of my life. I have become so vested in the work and camaraderie that I have a tough time thinking about graduating and leaving it all behind. So to answer your question- yes. I would absolutely do it again.

And that's a wrap! Thanks to Team MFA for answering all of our questions for seven straight days! And now, the Mitten blog team is officially on vacation! We'll be back on Friday, September 9th with an indie bookstore interview.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!
Kristin Lenz