Friday, January 25, 2019

Hugs and Hurrahs

Happy New Year Michkids!

The holidays may be weeks behind us, but here on The Mitten we’re celebrating! Yes, it’s time for our first Hugs and Hurrahs of 2019. Your fellow Michigan authors were hard at work during the last part of 2018 signing contracts and celebrating all kinds of releases. I know you’re all sitting on the edge of your icy seats, so let’s get to it!

Hats off to Julie Angeli! Her serialized short story, “The Pearl Inside,” was published in the May/June 2018, July/August 2018, and September 2018 issues of Cricket Magazine. Congratulations, Julie! 

Three cheers to Neal Levin! Neal sold three new short stories to Super Teacher Worksheets, a website that provides online educational materials to teachers. Neal is also happy to announce his recently redesigned website. You can visit him at It looks awesome, Neal!  

Kelly J. Baptist is pleased to announce the sale of her debut picture book, THE ELECTRIC SLIDE AND KAI (Lee and Low, 2020). The book is about an African American boy who wants to prove he can bust a move at his aunt’s wedding like everyone else in his family. The manuscript was the Honor Award recipient in the 2017 Lee and Low New Voices Award. Kelly is also excited about her upcoming middle grade novel, ISAIAH DUNN IS MY HERO (Crown Books, 2020), about the misadventures of Isaiah as the new man in the family. We’re giving you a standing ovation, Kelly!

                                                                                                                        Buffy Silverman’s newest nonfiction title, Surviving a Shipwreck: The Titanic, sets sail from Lerner Publishing this month! So happy for you, Buffy!

Lisa Wheeler is pleased as punch that her new picture book, A Hug is for Holding Me (Abrams Appleseed Books), released on Dec. 11, 2018. The book is illustrated by Lisk Feng and has enjoyed some great reviews! We’re giving you a round of applause, Lisa!

Suzanne Lipshaw is excited that her debut picture book, I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks (Warren Publishing), will release this spring! Way to go, Suzanne!

Joe Kimble's book Mr. Mouthful Learns His Lesson (Iguana Books, October 2017), has been accepted by DartFrog for distribution in independent bookstores. That is awesome, Joe!

Lauren Ranalli was recently interviewed on The Beginning of Your Life Book Club, discussing her book, The Great Latke Cook Off, and the importance of creating an intentional bookshelf. You can enjoy the podcast here: 
Congratulations, Lauren!

Carol Levin's debut picture book, HAGGADAH REGATTA, (Two Kids Books) released this month! The book is a Passover tale about two kids on a matzah raft. The book launches in February in Ann Arbor and Carol hopes to see a crew of SCBWI Michkids at the party! So happy for you, Carol!

Rhonda Gowler Green’s most recent picture book, Here We Come, Construction Fun! (Zonderkidz) released in January. Rhonda also recently learned that this book will be coming out in a French version. Way to go, Rhonda!

Lisa Rose has sold two more picture books! A ZOMBIE VACATION went to Apples & Honey Press and THE SINGER AND THE SCIENTIST to Kar-Ben Publishing. Release dates TBD. So proud of you, Lisa!

And even though we try and reserve Hugs and Hurrahs for all things kidlit, I wanted to offer my heartfelt congratulations to our awesome Mitten editor, Kristin Lenz! Her poem was published in the January edition of Literary Mama. You can read her lovely poem, “Daughter (Dis)Connected,” here.

And that’s it for this edition. It makes me so happy, proud and encouraged to share all of this good news with you four times each year. Our Michkids are the best! Keep writing, revising and submitting, and someday soon you’ll see your own Hugs and Hurrahs shout out!

Watch for announcements and Hugs and Hurrahs deadlines here on The Mitten, on our listserv, and our Michigan SCBWI Facebook page, then Submit all your happy publishing news to Patti Richards at

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Birthday Blog with Martha and Jeff Gottlieb

Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog! 
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

BIG congratulations to Martha and Jeff Gottlieb on the release of their new book series, 

Q#1: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Educators, government programs, and parents were asking for an English/Spanish version of our current Spriggles Motivational Books for Children.  We wanted to answer the demand from our current customers as well as expand our reach in the marketplace.

Q#2: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Making sure the translations were correct and would be appropriate for the widest audience.  There are quite a number of Spanish dialects so we had several translators reviewing the books.

Q#3: Tell us what you hope readers will experience or learn while reading your book. 
We hope our young readers (and parents alike) will learn healthy habits in a fun and interactive way!  

Q#4: Who is your author idol and how have they influenced your work?
Dr. Wayne Dyer with his messages throughout the years of inspiration and living a healthy life.

Q#5: What are your marketing plans for your book? Where can we find it?
Our books will be marketed directly to government programs as well as other early education outlets.   They will also be available at online booksellers and offered at a discount on our website ( 

A little bit about the book:
Spriggles combines "spirit" and "giggles" to motivate and educate young children (ages 3-6), educators, parents, and grandparents to lead healthy, active, and energetic lifestyles.  Named an Educational Book of the Year by the Michigan Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports, Spriggles books are currently a component of WIC, Head Start, and child care programs throughout the country, as well as University Cooperative Extension curricula in the area of early wellness education.  Now available in 
bilingual editions (English/Spanish).

A little bit about the authors:
Martha Gottlieb, CPT, CN has been motivating and inspiring friends, children, and those around her for over 30 years. An ACE-certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor, RYT 200 Yoga instructor, and certified nutritionist, she has an ongoing passion for nutrition and exercise science, and vigorously spreads her message of improved childhood health and nutrition to schools, parents groups, and anyone else who will listen.
Jeff Gottlieb, CPT, an ACE-certified personal trainer, Level 2 Yoga instructor, and certified golf conditioning specialist, has been a writer for 30 years, having concentrated on film and television. He’s now turned his attention to co-writing the Spriggles Motivational Book Series as well as developing future Spriggles projects for film, television, and video.

Contact Info:
Martha and Jeff Gottlieb
Mountain Watch Press

Friday, January 18, 2019

Painless Self-Promotion: Unassuming Authenticity – A Case Study

Recently, I had a fabulous conversation with a long-time author friend about the notion of authenticity and its connection with visibility in the marketplace. We wondered if it were possible for an author or illustrator to be a genuine individual while achieving the notoriety of being a well-respected, highly successful published professional. If so, how is this done? Being that my pal and I share a broad and talented friend base, we explored how several of our colleagues have done it. One individual became the primary focus of our chat, an unassuming and humble writer who has risen to epic prominence in the Kid-Lit industry. This amazing artist, whom we’ll call Mary, once said that she “just lets things come to her.” I dare to disagree with that statement. Good things come to those who have worked for them. Mary is, and always has been, a diligent soldier. Let’s consider how this unassuming celebrity has rightly earned her place in the limelight.

First of all, Mary is a master of the craft. A master, I say. She’s been at this business of writing for a long, long time. Along with enjoying an active and happy life surrounded by family and friends, her writing time is sacred and disciplined. She’s dedicated to crafting thoughtful prose that emotionally resonates with young readers. I know this to true. I’ve witnessed her struggle. Her beautiful words, so effortlessly read on the page, are hard to come by. Knowing Mary, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not only does Mary employ the earnest effort required to be one of the finest writers of the industry, she’s incredibly humble about her success. Community matters to Mary. Even though her work is lauded by The Hornbook and Publisher’s Weekly, she’s a regular at local SCBWI meet ups. She mentors fledgling poets and writers online and in formal sessions nationwide. She is fun to be with, supportive, and highly intuitive. A newbie writer would be wise to take heed of Mary’s suggestions. She knows her stuff. Mary’s unassuming dedication to SCBWI and its members has contributed to the authenticity of her visibility in the industry in big, big way. 

So, you see, Mary’s accolades and prominence have not merely “come her way.” She’s worked hard for them. She’s devoted to the craft of writing and faithful to those who have supported her successful journey. In doing so, she’s become known as one of the most talented, prolific writers in the industry today. Mary’s visibility is founded on sincerity and authenticity…something we all should aspire to emulate.

 My key takeaway from my conversation with my dear friend is that the establishment of “unassuming visibility” is a long game. There are no shortcuts to be found. Mary’s diligence proves this. We “pre” or newly published artists should take note that lasting visibility in the marketplace requires a steadfast commitment to the development of one’s craft and obligation to one’s community. This business of starlight celebrity does not happen overnight. Instead, we have to be true to our stories and to supporting one another – always and forever.  

Debbie Gonzales is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as the SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. She's the author of six “transitional” readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb creates teacher guides for new releases and is the host of The Debcast, a podcast dedicated to the tenacious spirit of the female athlete. Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Subscribe to her podcast on iTunes and/or stop by or to check out her painlessly promotable content.

Coming up on the SCBWI-MI Blog: Hugs and Hurrahs! We want to trumpet your success! To be included, please email Patti Richards your recent writing/illustrating/publishing good news no later than January 23rd.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Birthday Blog w/ Michael Spradlin

Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog! 
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

BIG congratulations to Michael Spradlin on the release of 2 books in his new MEDAL OF HONOR series and the upcoming release of the paperback edition of his PARARESCUE series!

Congrats on the release of your amazing non-fiction middle grade series, Medal Of Honor and the Pararescue series! What made you decide to tell these stories?

I’ve always been interested in what defines a hero. Everyday there are people among us who perform heroic acts. I think what it means to be a hero is a theme that has run through all of my novels. With the Medal of Honor books, I found a chance to tell true stories of heroism. I often tell students during school visits that the truth is often a better story than fiction.

Can you take us through a bit of what it was like to research and write these books?

I will use any resource I can when researching. In this case, I had a great deal of primary source material to work with. There is a great amount of material accessible today that didn’t exist even ten years go. I love researching because I’m always learning something new. And I usually will come across ideas for future books during research. 

What do you hope readers will experience or take away from your books?

First and foremost, I hope they are entertained. I hope they will feel that reading the book was a few hours well spent. Then I hope they gain an appreciation of our men and women in uniform and the courage and dedication they possess.

Who is your author idol and how have they influenced your work?

Tough one to answer. But I’d have to go with John Steinbeck. I feel like he could write anything. I feel his love of humanity shows through in his writing. He had real affection for the downtrodden and overlooked in our society. Those on the fringes often were the heroes in his work. 

Do you have any advice for newer writers?

Just write. There is no secret. Writing is a craft like any other. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Don’t worry about getting published. Just write because it’s something you enjoy. There are no shortcuts or gimmicks. You need to put your butt in the chair and write.

A little bit about the author:

New York Times Bestselling author Michael P. Spradlin is the author of over thirty books for children and adults. His books include Into the Killing Seas, The Enemy Above and Prisoner of War. He lives in Lapeer, Michigan. 
Follow him on Twitter @MSpradlinAuthor
Follow him on Instagram mspradlinauthor

A little bit about the books:

The Medal of Honor series focuses on winners of our nation’s highest military honor. Each book provides a profile of a Medal of Honor winner telling their story from primary sources. The books include maps, photos and interesting cross text which appeal to reluctant readers. 

The Pararescue Series is a paperback bind-up edition of the four Pararescue Series novels. These fictional stories follow the U.S. Air Force pararescue troops around the globe as they work to save soldiers and civilians. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Featured Illustrator Nick Adkins


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?

2. What do you do best?
Come up with ideas. I have more ideas than I know what to do with and some of them are good.

3. Where would you like to live?
Disney World, but I hear they frown upon that, so a cozy place on the beach would do.

4. Your favorite color?
Green. Like the first little sprout of grass in the spring.

5. Three of your own illustrations:

6. Your music?
When drawing: indie rock/pop. I’m listening to The Shins right now.
When writing: instrumental only. I’m partial to string quartets and video game soundtracks. The Stardew Valley soundtrack gets me in a pretty happy state of mind. And always Rainy Mood playing quietly in the background.

7. Your biggest achievement?
Creatively: I would say sticking with my current project (a middle grade novel) for the last three years. There was a time in my life that I could hardly stick with a project for a week. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world!
In life: my family. My wife (Ashley), and kids (Logan and Eli) are the best!

8. Your biggest mistake?
Not writing my ideas down in the past. I was always so sure I’d remember them. RIP forgotten million dollar ideas.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?
I don’t really have one favorite thing of anything, so here’s a short list:
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Those Terrible Toy Breakers by David McPhail
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Say Cheese and Die by R.L. Stine
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Hatchett by Gary Paulsen

10. Your main character trait?
Patience (with others, sometimes not with myself).

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
Humor, kindness, and a love of reading. Otherwise you run out of things to talk about.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?
I often find myself forgiving my kids for spilling something. At some point, it would seem they would stop making that particular mistake, but I haven’t stopped forgiving it yet. Don’t cry over spilt chocolate milk.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?
Maniac Magee, maybe. My cousin and I spent a lot of time one summer trying to run on the rails like him, but never quite got it. I’m a pretty big fan of the Harry Potter trio too.

14. What moves you forward?
Two things:
1.    The thought of finishing a project usually gives me a good push. If it feels like I’m nearing the end, I sometimes work late into the night and early morning trying to wrap things up.
2.    Ashley. She’s really good at keeping me on track and moderately focused.

15. What holds you back?
Procrastination and anxiety. I’ve developed a bad habit of constantly second-guessing my work and being worried about things most people don’t worry about. Public appearances sometimes have me feeling sick for days.

16. Your dream of happiness?
Travel. Lots of travel.

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?
I really like Scott Campbell. He has some pretty interesting art books out there with lots of pop culture references. Zac Gorman is great too—lots of nostalgic video game art. He adds gifs to his artwork that I think are pretty neat.

18. What super power would you like to have?
I always wanted to be a Wolverine when I was growing up. Now the claws seem less practical. I’ll go with flying or teleportation.

19. Your motto?
I don’t really have a motto, but I do often find myself saying, “Could you guys quiet down?” and, “Shhhh.”

20. Your social media?
Thanks for asking! My website and blog are at Events, articles, and other shenanigans can be found at Ashley is my social media master and keeps it all up to date!