Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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 Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw on the release of her new book, I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM: A BOYS QUEST FOR ICE CREAM TRUCKS

Q#1: Congratulations on your debut picture book, I Campaigned For Ice Cream: A Boy's Quest For Ice Cream Trucks! Can you tell us what inspired this story?

Thank you! It has been an incredible experience and I’m honored to be able to share it with my SCBWI-MI family. I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM was inspired by my son Josh, who at nine-years-old (he’s 27 now) wondered why ice cream trucks never came to our neighborhood. He soon discovered that a 1954 peddlers’ law forbade the sale of anything on our township streets including ice cream. Josh felt strongly that this was unfair. With a little guidance from his teacher momma, he decided to petition town hall to get the law changed. Over the years, I have used this story to inspire my students and teach them the importance of leadership, perseverance, and fighting for what you believe in. When I decided to persue writing seriously it seemed like the perfect story to start with.

Q#2: As a newer author, can you please share your journey to publication? What would you want other new authors to know about publishing a picture book?

Changes in direction would best describe my journey to publicationand my advice to new authors is to embrace taking an unexpected path.I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM started as a middle-grade fiction manuscript. Several chapters into that manuscript, I heard about Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archealogy class. Since I teach developing readers by immersing my students in a different science theme each year, the idea of writing nonfiction picture books strongly resonated with me. Kristen’s course inspired me to try the ice cream truck story in a nonfiction picture book format and it worked! Additionally, as a newbie, I made the common mistake of jumping right into querying agents. Many rejections later, I had an interested agent, only to learn that agents were looking for at least three picture book manuscripts. I had two others in the works, but not far enough along to keep her immediate interest. Not being known for my patience when it comes to waiting, I decided to forego the agent route and query small publishers. In time, I received an email starting with “Congratulations” and was thrilled that not only was Josh’s story going to be published; it would become a family legacy and an inspiration to all who read it.   

Q#3: Who are some of your favorite authors and why? 

Always a tough question and I give different answers every time. Today, I will go with Beverly Cleary for writing the books that nurtured my love of reading. Louise Fitzugh for writing  Harriet the Spy; a book that sparked my first journal—a spy notebook, shh! J.K. Rowling for not only writing an amazing series, but for creating an experience that I still share with my boys today. And Peter Reynolds for showing this long-winded writer that there is beauty, strength, and genius in symplicity.

Q#4: What are your marketing and promotional plans for I Campaigned For Ice Cream?

I will be celebrating the launch of my book in “the room where it happened”! When the good people at West Bloomfield Township heard Josh’s story was going to be a published book, they offered to host my book launch party. They have been incredible. Not only are they hosting, but they are sending out press releases, creating a montage of the board meetings where Josh spoke, providing food and drinks, and of course, we’re having an ice cream truck! I am so fortunate to have them as part of my cheerleading team.
In addition, I am scheduled to appear on a few blogs, currently have a few book sale opportunities on the calendar, and my publisher is helping me coordinate a summer bookstore/library tour.
Here is a peek of the book signing events I have scheduled for May.
May 5 - Kid Literacy, Inc./Edit and Get It Nonfiction Retreat Book Signing – Jacksonville, Florida
May 11 - Morse Elementary School Book Bazaar – Troy, Michigan
May 22 - Book Launch Party - West Bloomfield Town Hall, West Bloomfiled, Michigan

Q#5: What is something you want your readers to know about you? 

I am a Beatles, Starbuck’s hot chocolate, and sunshine fanatic. When I’m not writing or teaching, you can find me practicing at the yoga studio, walking my Portuguese Water Dog Ziggy on the nature trail, kayaking on our lake, or dabbling in interior design. I invite you to visit my website at www.SuzanneJacobsLipshaw.comto learn more.

A little bit about the book: 

I Campaigned For Ice Cream is an upbeat, educational, and heartwarming true story of the author’s son, Josh, who as a nine-year-old convinced his local government to change an outdated law that prevented ice cream trucks from driving through his town. Complete with adorable illustrations by Wendy Leach, this sweet little book is a tasty treat for young readers as well as a lesson that they too can make a difference in their communities. Relive Josh’s passionate journey to bring the joy of ice cream trucks to his town. 

A little bit about the author: 

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw is a children’s book author and elementary school special education teacher who is passionate about GROWING YOUNG MINDS through her teaching and writing. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Hugs and Hurrahs!

Happy Spring, Michkids! The tulips are blooming, the spring trees are budding and The Mitten is all a-buzz with your happy publishing news for February, March and April! So, join me in offering plenty of “hugs” and lots of “hurrahs!” to the following authors:

Three cheers for Rhonda Gowler Green, who celebrated the release of her newest book, THE FIRST MENWHO WENT TO THE MOON, on March 15! Rhonda’s release party happened on March 24 at the Oak Park Library, where she gave a short program about her book and the amazing journey of Apollo 11. Congratulations, Rhonda!

We’re happy dancing for Neal Levin, whose poem "Earthworms" was published in the April 2019 issue of Babybug. Way to go, Neal!

Jordan J. Scavone's third picture book, A GIRL NAMED ADAM, is now available! The story follows fourth graders Annie and Adam, however when Adam starts wearing dresses and changes his named to Addie, the two very best friends find their friendship put to the test. This book explores transgender identity, through the lens of something that everyone experiences, friendship. The book is available on Amazon. You can learn more about Jordan by following him on Twitter and Instagram @RealJScavone. We’re so happy for you, Jordan!  

All of Nancy Shaw’s amazing sheep books have been herded into a single anthology called, SHEEP IN A JEEP- 5 MINUTE STORIES. The book released on March 12, and according to Nancy, it is beautifully bound in a “fancy padded cover!” So very happy for you, Nancy!

Hats off to Lisa Wheeler! Her board book, BABIES CAN SLEEP ANYWHERE (Harry N. Abrams) released on April 23! Way to go, Lisa!

Congratulations to Fatma Al-Lawati! Her new book, Maryam Had a Dream and Her Dream Came True, recently released. Maryam's dream carries her across the Arab world describing each site in the journey and giving the strong message that the Aqsa grows and grows, and the cause remains ever strong as time passes. We’re so happy for you, Fatma!

Three cheers for Sandy Carlson! RESCUE, her third book in THE WAR UNICORN CHRONICLES releases in June, but you can preorder the book now at the following link:

We always have so much to celebrate here in The Mitten! Keep up the great work, Michkids, and soon you’ll see your name right here in Hugs and Hurrahs! Our next Hugs and Hurrahs post happens July 26. Watch our listserv, Facebook page and Mitten blog for submission deadline and send all of your happy publishing news to Patti Richards at pgwrites5@gmail.com.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Ten Tips for a Successful Book Launch Party by Heather Shumaker

I’ve just wrapped up my 4th book launch. THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY, my first Middle Grade book, came out in March, and we launched it with a “Book Birthday Party” bash. Kids love birthdays, so we had cake, balloons, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to the book.

Send Personal Invites

I always like to pack the room. My launches typically have standing room only, with 50-120 people, and the Griffins launch may have exceeded the room’s fire code capacity at 175 people. To draw a large crowd, I put my efforts into personal emails. When I receive generic “Dear Friend” emails myself, I don’t feel invited and included, the way I would to a party. This book launch is your party! So take the time to personally invite. I also ask people to RSVP and I send a friendly reminder message a few days before the event if they express interest. Most of the message can be cut and pasted, but I do add personal notes. Knowing how many people are likely to come also really helps with planning, from chairs to food.

Let the Launch Fit the Book

We invited a giant, live Newfoundland dog to the Griffins book launch, since there’s a Newfoundland dog in the book. The kids loved meeting the dog and crowded around him. Also an excellent photo opportunity! Make it unique to fit your book.

Pick a Partner

Partnering can help draw a bigger crowd and share the cost. Some authors partner with fellow authors. This works well if you each have a book coming out around the same time. I partnered with the youth services department of my local library. This was a natural partnership, since I’d relied on the children’s librarians to be early manuscript test readers. As a partner, the library hosted the party, provided staff and refreshments, and did advanced promotion and graphic design help. They even concocted a GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY scavenger hunt for kids two weeks leading up to the event.

The Griffins of Castle Cary launched at the Traverse Area District Library hosted by the wonderful youth librarians.

Only Give a Start Time

Tell guests the event begins at 10am. Or 3pm. If you plan to give a presentation, don’t give an end time. If people see an invitation for 3-4:30pm, they often think it’s a drop-in event and might miss your whole presentation.

Bring Extra Books

Invite a local bookstore to supply books, but then be sure to have an extra supply in your trunk. Twice I’ve had bookstores sell-out, and they are always grateful when I announce I have extra copies. Book sales vary at a book launch. Some guests show their support by showing up. Others buy three or four books. For a crowd of 150, I usually sell about 80 books. Let the bookstore know how many RSVPs you have so they order enough books.

Collect Emails

Pass around a sign-in list for guests to add their emails. This helps you build your author email list for newsletters and other promotion. People are generally eager to be in-the-know and learn about new books. It also helps you remember who’s there since it’s a busy day.

Sign Photo Release Slips

If you plan to use photos later on your website, for social media, and other promotion, ask guests to sign a short photo release form. This is especially important for children. Have forms available at the door for parents, and make a short announcement. Parents are usually happy to give permission.

Your book launch is an all-ages affair. Ask for volunteers and get the kids involved.
Give the Audience Fun

With a children’s book, you’re bound to have an audience of all ages. Make it interactive, give everyone some information and fun. Consider your book launch as an audition for future school visits – there are sure to be school librarians and other speaker-seekers in the audience. You never know what invitations you’ll receive afterwards. Launches should generate excitement.

Explore New Venues

Bookstores are easy, friendly and obvious choices. Many authors like to hold the launch itself at another venue and invite a bookstore in. Make it a space that fits your book. For example, an author friend held hers in a barn. My land conservation book launch was held in an event space overlooking a lake. The children’s department of your library is a great choice for a children’s book.

Ask for Funding

Answers vary, but it never hurts to ask. If you’re traditionally published, ask your publisher for help with funds for refreshments or more. I’ve had publishers pay for all the catering, plus the cost of renting event space.

Get a Cake!

There’s nothing quite like seeing your book cover on a cake. After all that hard work producing a book, make sure you celebrate.

Heather Shumaker is the author of THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY (Simon & Schuster, 2019) and three books for adults (IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE, IT'S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE, and SAVING ARCADIA). She hosts the Traverse City-based northern Michigan Shop Talk for SCBWI-Michigan and frequently speaks about her books at conferences and schools.

Learn more at http://heathershumaker.com/.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

Hugs and Hurrahs! We're inspired by your good news. Please send your writing/publishing accomplishments to Patti Richards by April 23rd to be included.

Calling all SCBWI-MI Picture Book Writers!

April 22nd is the deadline to enter the PAL mentorship competition with picture book author Kelly DiPuccio. Next we'll be gearing up for the non-PAL mentorship with Lisa Wheeler. Everything you need to know is here on our SCBWI-MI website.

SCBWI Crystal Kite Award

Voting for round two has begun! Go to www.scbwi.org and log in to vote in your region.

Friday, April 12, 2019


I first met Ann Arbor author Lara Zielin years ago when she was on a YA author panel at Nicola's Books. Flash forward a few years and she had three published young adult novels with Penguin Random House and four contemporary romance novels written as Kim Amos. From the outside, she was living the writer's dream, but behind the scenes she was struggling on a very bumpy path that many writers know all too well. Read on to learn more about how Lara navigated these challenges by "storyifying" her life. She'll show you how you can do it too.

Writing Myself Into the Hero’s Journey: How approaching my life like a character on an adventure changed everything for the better

By Lara Zielin

At the start of 2018, when I wanted to change my life, I decided to do it through the power of storytelling. Here’s what I can say about January 1, 2018, when I started my own Hero’s Journey:

First, I woke up the heaviest weight I’d been in years. Actually, probably the heaviest I’d ever been. I can’t tell you what I ate that day, but I can definitely tell you I drank. Because drinking was something I found myself doing more and more.

And my work writing novels, which had once been thriving, had also dried up, leaving me questioning who in the world I was since being a novelist had been the only big career dream I’d ever had. It felt inextricably linked to my identity, and I was shuffling around, lost, without it.

I had a part-time job that kept a regular paycheck coming in and ensured we had things like health insurance, but the gigs my husband and I had started on the side—me a writing business and him an ice cream store—were often struggling. We were getting by, but barely.

“Storifying” Life

That’s when I went back to writing, but I decided to play with the fiction-writing process and the Hero’s Journey. I wanted to test whether writing about the life I wanted to have could actually help it come to pass.

So I began a book I unimaginatively titled Lara’s Life. Every day I wrote about myself like a character, and I wrote about the things I wanted to have happen to this person.

And right after I started, everything that I wanted to have happen came true immediately and it was super easy, THE END!

Haha, no.

Instead, what happened was the tried and true pattern of the Hero’s Journey. There were nearly predictable challenges that occurred as I worked to create a better story around my finances, my health, my relationships, and much more.

The amazing thing is that because I’d put my “life” into a story structure, I knew the challenges were coming. After all, as an author, I know the Hero’s Journey. I know the patterns and the obstacles that would challenge any protagonist, who in this case just happened to be me.

So when I wrote about Lara having more financial abundance, I was not at all surprised when our finances took a huge crap. When I wanted a better relationship with my husband, it’s no surprise that we suddenly had big huge boulders in our path that we had to push out of the way.

The Hero’s Journey Pattern

My observations about the Hero’s Journey have led me to conclude that it’s more than just the blueprint for good storytelling. Joseph Campbell himself, who popularized the Hero’s Journey in the 1970s, suggested it was part of our human DNA—that there was no other way to explain its prevalence across culture and time.

I’d actually go a step further and posit that the Hero’s Journey is a fundamental, unshakable law in the universe like gravity or the speed of light. Why? Because it’s repeatable. I’d say it’s even testable. When you start the Hero’s Journey, the same cycle occurs. Every time.

It’s not a monomyth that formed as a result of human activity over time, and it’s not something we’re supposed to study for useful nuggets, simply because it IS the nugget.

As such, the Hero’s Journey is a blueprint not just for fiction but for real-life, too. It’s the roadmap for what’s going to happen to you when you start creating the life that you want. It’s all the cards laid out on the table, telling you step by step what to expect.

Try This at Home, Kids

If you’re curious to try this for yourself, it’s pretty simple stuff. Get a notebook and grab a pen.

Title your story and write what you want to have happen to you, the same as you would a character in a story.

  • How does this character feel?
  • Where do they travel?
  • Who are they with?
  • How do they change for the better?

Don’t worry about plotting out the entire arc of the story. The arc will take care of itself. Just write every day like a chapter and put down whatever bubbles up in your heart.

This process changed my life and reignited my creativity. I believe it can do the same for you, too.

Lara Zielin is a published author, editor, and the founder of Author Your Life. Her debut young-adult novel Donut Days was selected to the Lone Star Reading List, and her romance novel And Then He Kissed Me (written as Kim Amos) was nominated for a Romantic Times Reader's Choice Award. Her magazine articles have appeared in Writers Digest, Culture, Medicine at Michigan, and more. Her nonfiction book Author Your Life is about using the power of writing to create a better story for yourself. She lives in Michigan with her husband and dog, and her goal is pretty much to eat ALL THE CHEESE.

Learn more:

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

Book Launch Party Tips, the Lit in the Mitten Podcast, Painless Self-Promotion, a Writer Spotlight, a Mentorship Interview, and another round of Hugs and Hurrahs. Please send your writing/publishing good news to Patti Richards by April 23rd to be included - we want to trumpet your success!

Did you notice our new spring blog banner! Thank you again to our new Featured Illustrator, Melissa Bailey! If you missed her interview, go here.

Kristin Lenz

Friday, April 5, 2019

Featured Illustrator Melissa Bailey


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?
Relaxed, with an undercurrent of anxiety because we’re days away from April 15 and my taxes aren’t done yet. (See question 15.)

2. What do you do best?

3. Where would you like to live?
There are so many fantasy places, but really, having lived away from them, I prefer to live close by family and friends. I like living in Michigan.

4. Your favorite color?
I don’t have one!

5. Three of your own illustrations:

6. Your music?
Very eclectic. I listen to everything (except rap and heavy metal). In my studio I usually go for singer/songwriter or modern folk.

7. Your biggest achievement?
Hmm. That’s a toughie. The thing I’m most proud of, I think, is being known as a kind & friendly person. No awards or accolades or successes mean more than being kind.

8. Your biggest mistake?
That’s not so tough! Back when I started freelancing, I wish I’d had the confidence to negotiate for something near the going rate for illustration instead of taking whatever was offered. But we all have to start somewhere and I learned from it.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?
The Monster at the End of This Book starring loveable, furry old Grover. It’s a great book.

10. Your main character trait?

11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?
Honesty and authenticity.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?
When someone gets it wrong but they tried their best.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?
Anne Shirley. Probably because I identified with her so strongly. Just like Anne, I was always dreaming, using extravagant words, and leaping before I thought it through.

14. What moves you forward?
A great idea. And more practically, the need to pay my bills is great incentive!

15. What holds you back?
Procrastination. It’s always in the background waiting to strike.

16. Your dream of happiness?
Right now, it’s a whole week of doing nothing but going for hikes with the poodles, reading, writing, drawing, and sleeping as late as I want to. Can we make it two weeks? It’s been a crazy, hectic year.

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?
There are too many! One of my favorite illustrators is Erin Stead. Her work is brilliantly expressive, gently detailed, full of heart.

18. What super power would you like to have?
The ability to make time stand still. Or time travel. Either would come in handy.

19. Your motto?
“Always look on the bright side of life.” (Borrowed from Monty Python.)

20. Your social media?
Instagram: @melissa.bailey.illustrates
Web: http://www.melissabaileyillustrates.com