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 Pokémon 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  

Friday, April 6, 2018

Featured Illustrator Basya Cohen


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?

Slightly anxious but hopeful.

2. What do you do best?

Procrastinate. Besides that, draw and paint and hibernate, according to my 9-year-old brother.

3. Where would you like to live?

Imladris. More realistically, Birmingham, MI.

4. Your favorite color?

Blue. Specifically, turquoise. Also Alizarin Crimson.

5. Three of your own illustrations:

6. Your music?

I tend to go through stages. Lately I’ve been listening to Imagine Dragons, The Vamps, and Nina Simone. While doing work that requires reading, research, or more brainpower, I usually listen to instrumental music like Classical (especially Debussy), New Age Piano or Celtic.

7. Your biggest achievement?

My MFA. Boy, that was hard!

8. Your biggest mistake?

Not quoting a price before I did a project. Total disaster.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?

How can I choose just one?
Goodnight Moon. Harold and the Purple Crayon. The Little House Books. Number the Stars. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

10. Your main character trait?


11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

Someone who’ll listen and empathize but isn’t afraid of having a passionate discussion.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?

Ones that are easily fixed. Ones that don’t have big repercussions.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?

Harry Potter. Eugenides (from the King of Attolia series).

14. What moves you forward?

Hope. Encouragement. Belief in myself. That elusive moment when everything falls into place and I feel chills because I know I’ve created something magical.

15. What holds you back?

Fear. Fear of failure. Fear that I’m not good enough.

16. Your dream of happiness?

Painting in a beautiful art studio with sunlight streaming through the wall to ceiling windows that look out on a wood with a bubbling brook and mountains in the distance.

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?

Another impossible choice. Here are a few of my favorites:
Past: William Adolphe Bouguereau, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, John Singer Sargent 
Current: Robert Papp, Jim Daly, P.J. Lynch

18. What super power would you like to have?

Time travel or flying.

19. Your motto?

“Bored is Good” and “Find joy in simple things” (like a good coffee:)

20. Your social media?

My newfound love is Instagram. We’ll have to see if the relationship lasts.