Friday, December 18, 2020

Hugs and Hurrahs

We’ve reached the end of 2020. This is our last Hugs and Hurrahs and last post on The Mitten for the year. It’s been an unusual year and it will be a quieter holiday season for me and for most of you, I’m sure, but there’s still a lot to celebrate and be grateful for, including lots of good news from our members.

Deb Pilutti’s book OLD ROCK (is not boring)(Penguin/Randomhouse) was listed as one of the Kirkus Best Books of 2020and a Parents MagazineBest book of 2020TEN STEPS TO FLYING LIKE A SUPERHERO (Henry Holt/Ottaviano) was published on November 17 and received a starred review from SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. 

Congratulations, Deb!


Linda K. Sienkiewicz's picture book, GORDY AND THE GHOST CRAB (Writers Coffee Bar Press), was released November 18, 2020. Gordy is afraid of the crashing ocean waves and a strange creature he sees skittering across the beach. It doesn't help his fears when his big brother tells him it's a ghost crab that will pinch off all his toes. The story highlights empathy, problem solving, and the value of caring for nature. The book also includes fun facts about different types of common crabs. 

Good for you, Linda!


Nancy Shaw reports that Costco has a special board book edition of SHEEP IN A JEEP (illustrated by Margot Apple; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) with pop-out cardboard figures of two of the characters.

How fun, Nancy!

R. Craig Hupp and illustrator Amelia C. Svec have just independently published their first children's story together, SNOW DAY! A WINTER’S TALE. Little squirrels and rabbits who have been cooped up inside for three days, get out into the snow to play. Snow Day! can be purchased through Amelia’s website.  A Kindle version will follow in January.In 2019, Craig had a regular storytelling session with a pre-K group in Grosse Pointe.  Snow Day! started as a story he told them after a snowy week in January.

That’s very exciting, Craig!


Lori Taylor reports that she had many hurrah moments this year. Before total knee replacement surgery she illustrated a picture book for author Mary J. Grant, MOVING NORTH, in the days after surgery she illustrated and designed Kathleen Jae’s new chapter book, ELANORA AND THE SALT MARSH MYSTERY, and lastly illustrated Carol Trembath’s newest book, FAIRFIES AND THE GLOBAL TREE TO THE RESCUE. Here is a link to see a sample outcome of these projects. Last but not least, her newest picture book, which she wrote and illustrated, THE WHOPPER OF WHOOPEE LAKE (Bear Track Press), is on the printing press. It is a fun whale of a fishing tale for kids 6-8 with all the fun games, and educational matter in the back like her other books. 

Your illustrations look beautiful, Lori, and I hope your recovery goes smoothly!


Jean Alicia Elster’s third book in her Ford family MG/YA historical fiction series titled HOW IT HAPPENS has received thumbs up reviews in the Wayne State University Press peer review process and has been approved for publication by the WSUPress Board of Directors. The contract has been signed, and HOW IT HAPPENS is scheduled to be released in fall 2021!


That’s great news, Jean!


Mary Rudzinski had two articles published in Faces Magazine (Cricket Media) in October (Beautiful Birds) and in November/December (The Island of Birds).  The articles were pitched as a two-part series, and the query was accepted in June.

Well done, Mary!


Neal Levin’s poem “What Noses Know” was published in the October issue of Countdown, one of four Australian literary magazines for children collectively known as The School Magazine. Super Teacher Worksheets published two more of his poems, “A Toad’s Tool” and “Everyday Heroes,” on their website of educational materials for classrooms. His poem “Family Tree” was published in the November/December 2020 issue of Ladybug.

Way to go, Neal!


Kat Harrison’s book, SURGERY ON SUNDAY (Warren Publishing), was featured on the YouTube channel of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

That’s so exciting, Kat!


Ann Dallman spoke about writing CADY AND THE BEAR NECKLACE (Henschel Haus) on Saturday, Dec. 13 at the First Street Art Gallery in Menominee, MI via a Facebook presentation. The Gallery has been very supportive of her award-winning book. She won several awards in 2020, including: Midwest Book Award (Young Adult), Michigan State History Award (Books/Children & Youth), New Mexico/Arizona Book Award (Multicultural Category), Indie Book Award (Silver Finalist), Top 10 UP Books, Readers' Favorite 5-Star Review, and she received a Members for Members Scholarship from our MI chapter of SCBWI.

Awesome, Ann!


Lisa Wheeler’s book, JAZZ BABY, was chosen as a Jambo Book Club selection for age 0-2.  Jambo is an award-winning children’s books subscription box that delivers 2-3 books each month featuring a child of color as the star.

How cool, Lisa!


Buffy Silverman is thrilled that On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring (Millbrook Press) was named an NCTE 2021 Notable Poetry Book. It was also listed in Evanston Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids 2020, and Fuse 8's 2020 Fabulous Photography Books.


That’s fabulous, Buffy!


Dave Stricklen’s book RIPLEY ROBINSON AND THE WORM CHARMER made Kirkus’ “35 Great Indie Books Worth Discovering” list. 


That’s so cool, Dave!


Long-time SCBWI member Erin M. Brown just launched -- a place where authors can meet with kids online and talk about their books/present similar to school visits. Authors join by "invitation only" at the start; message Erin if you'd like your book to be considered.

What a great opportunity for authors and kids, Erin!


That’s it for now! Our next Hugs and Hurrahs post will be in March. Please send all of your good news to Happy New Year, everyone! 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Wild Words: a Book Review by Kris Munroe


When you’re shopping for holiday gifts this month, set aside time to check out Wild Words: Rituals, Routines and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path by Nicole Gulotta. It’s full of tips for overcoming obstacles and making the most of opportunities in your writing life.

Gulotta wrote the book while she was a first-time mother looking to continue writing while adjusting to her new responsibilities and time constraints. She realized that her life had seasons, and she started to identify them, accept them, even honor them. Her book is designed to help us look at our own life changes - whether it's a new job, a move or loss of a loved one - as an opportunity for new rituals and routines. She shows us how to identify our own patterns and helps us develop strategies to honor the rhythms of our lives.

Let’s dive into a few of her suggestions. Need more time to write? Gulotta recommends that you look at your life right now, both your weekday and weekend schedule. What open blocks of time do you have? When you get up, before you go to bed, at lunch, when the baby is napping, when you get home or stop work for the day? Pick one or more and use that time to start writing. But where can you write? Do you have an office or a desk? What about a local park or your car? Choose a location and start experimenting. Ask yourself, what’s working and what isn’t?  Don’t be afraid to change if what you thought would work, doesn’t. What if you’ve established a writing routine and your life changes again? The beauty of Gulotta’s suggestions is that they can be used multiple times. So, go back and look at your life again, work through the questions, and make changes. 

Now let’s look at the big picture. Gulotta recommends choosing a word of the year to help keep us on track and achieve our goals. Start by setting an intention and asking yourself: How do I want to feel? What do I need more of in my life? What do I need less of? Consider both your personal and your writing life when asking these questions. Several words may emerge so give yourself enough time to think about each word and the potential impact it might have on your life. Once you’ve chosen a word, commit to it. You’ll be amazed at how it can help keep you on track as well as identify blind spots in your thinking. 

I chose the word uncomfortable as my word for 2020. No, I didn’t have a crystal ball; I was acknowledging and trying to work through the discomfort that I feel when I sit down to write. It ended up having special meaning in my personal life as well; my mother was admitted to hospice care earlier this year and the word was a reminder to cherish this time with her, despite my discomfort at the progression of her illness.

I’ve only touched on the surface of this book. I loved that it contained suggestions for each stage of a writer’s life: generating ideas, first drafts, revisions, finishing a project, publishing, book tours. If a particular section or idea resonates, refer to the References list in the back of the book which contains suggestions for further reading. The best part: you don’t have to read the book in order; it still works if you go right to the section whose title intrigues you.

Kris Munroe, one of the SE-Mitten Shop Talk – Farmington Hills Co-Coordinators, has been a member of SCBWI since 2003. After a long career in human resources, she retired in 2018 and is working on a fantasy chapter book. She’s married and loves to garden.

  • What about you? If you choose a word for your year ahead, please share with us in the comments! I just started thinking about it, so I could change my mind, but my top two words are focus and pivot, which might seem contradictory, but I have my reasons! When 2021 is underway, maybe I'll write a post about why I settled on one word or another. But first, we'd love to hear from you! ~Kristin Lenz

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

Hugs and Hurrahs! We want to trumpet your good news! Please email your writing, illustrating, and publishing news to Sarah LoCascio by Dec. 15th. Hugs and Hurrahs will be our final post for 2020. The Mitten blog team will take time off for the holidays and return in the new year to unveil our new blog banner and introduce our new Featured Illustrator.

Dec. 15th is also the deadline to donate to the Books with Barbers Fundraiser.
To see the book wish list and instructions for donating, go here:

And lastly, here's a message from SCBWI-MI Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein:

Hi Illustrators!

SCBWI-MI is here to help you with your New Year’s Resolutions. 
Resolution #1: Create a wonderful illustration. 
Resolution #2: Create another one.
Resolution #3: And another.
Resolution #4: And one more.

Now you’re ready to enter one of the illustration mentorships. 
Dow Phumiruk is the mentor for picture book illustrations. 
Brittany (Bea) Jackson is the mentor for middle grade and young adult illustrations. 

The winners receive a year-long mentorship (six exchanges of art and critiques) with Dow or Bea.
The submission window opens May 17, 2021.
The competitions are open to SCBWI members who live in Michigan (all membership levels).

Pretty much everything you’ll need to know can be found on the SCBWI-MI mentorship page of the website. 

For questions, contact SCBWI-MI mentorship coordinator, Ann Finkelstein. 
P.S. Stay tuned for interviews with Dow on April 30, 2021 and Bea on May 7, 2021.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Journey of Co-Authoring Diverse Fiction (with your Spouse) by K.J. Long

Sitting at the kitchen counter, stuffing our faces with cereal and coffee, we laugh and high five over the great ideas pouring onto the page as we draft a plot for our newest novel. Plotting with your best friend is absolute cloud nine.

When we sit down to write, we open a google doc and team write, or sometimes we take turns drafting chapters. Whoever is feeling the spark takes the lead and then we review and tweak. We work to make each other laugh, or give a hearty “AHH SNAP” in surprise at a scene. And the novel ping pongs back and forth this way for about three months until we have each directly edited the book at least three times over. The final step is sitting side by side on the couch over a weekend and reading aloud to each other. 

And honestly, the whole process is a blast! When one of us writes in a new idea, it gets the other hyped. After all, real life is full of surprises and these left turns help us keep the writing fresh and unexpected for the reader. Plus, when we get blocked, we have a partner who knows the book inside and out, so we can talk it out. Or when one person is unmotivated, the other takes the lead, and their writing brings new motivation back to the team.

It takes flexibility to pull this off. We both come into the process in agreement that nothing is written in stone (until it reaches the editor). We are both willing to cut whole chapters in favor of a better idea. How do we agree what’s better? That’s where luck and love goggles comes in. 

Being a married writing duo, we can’t hide our LGBTQ+ identity from the readers, particularly when we write our author bio. Or maybe we could, but it would feel wrong to do so. But that doesn’t come without fear. LGBTQ+ authors who don’t focus on LGBTQ+ themes in their writing know the decision all too well: out yourself and risk alienating readers who may have anti-LGBTQ+ views, or be true to yourself through visibility. We decided to be visible and hope for the best, even if this means affecting sales. 

And then there is our second layer. We write main characters of Color. As an interracial couple, race is a part of our daily life, and this comes out in our writing, particularly in our newest novel which we’ll be pitching to agents in early 2021. Our MC is a young African American boy from Detroit. Race isn’t the central theme, but it’s a reality in this fantasy adventure which follows shape shifting pre-teens through their summer school adventures. Our hope is that this novel brings forward a fun fantasy adventure for kids who can connect with the characters.

Peace and Love, 

K.J. Long 
(Kelly and Jay)

The K.J. Long author name is a reflection of spouses Kelly Long and Jay Long.

Dr. Kelly Long has been writing novels since 2010, alongside non-fiction research articles that appear in peer-reviewed journals. Kelly works by day as a college administrator and professor, writing fiction novels by night.

Jay Long is an attorney and professor by day, has long had a passion for writing fiction, and has non-fiction scholarly publications as well.

When they first met, the pair spent the days they couldn’t see each other co-authoring a romance novel, ironically while they lived their own romance story. Now they spend nights weaving fantasy fiction in the middle-grade genre. As an interracial LGBTQ+ couple, Kelly and Jay know what it’s like to be on the outside of the mainstream, and they have a passion for serving black and LGBTQ+ communities. They live in Michigan with their hound dog, Smuggler.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

A book review to jump-start your new year and our final roundup of Hugs and Hurrahs for 2020. You inspire us, and we want to share your writing, illustrating, and publishing successes! Please email your good news to Sarah LoCascio by Dec. 14th to be included. 

Speaking of good news, here's something to look forward to: 

Planning is underway for the SCBWI multi-region Marvelous Midwest Conference! This might be one of our first, long-awaited, in-person, large events! More information to come.

Here's something to look forward to sooner:

In January 2021, Sleeping Bear Press is launching their first Own Voices, Own Stories Award for BIPOC and LGBTQ writers. This award elevates their mission to recognize and amplify new and diverse voices in children’s literature.

Submissions will be accepted from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021 with winners notified by August 1, 2021. Awards include a Grand Prize (publishing contract and cash prize) and Honor Awards (cash prize and consulting session with an editor). Please see the submissions section of their website or visit them on social media for more information.

Don't delay!

The Books with Barbers book drive continues until Dec. 15th.  Learn how to donate a book here:

See you next Friday!
Kristin Lenz

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Jay Whistler Seeks Warmer Climes


Mitten blog co-editor, Charlie Barshaw is here to show our appreciation for a long-time SCBWI-MI member who's in the process of moving out of state. Read on for Charlie's interview with Jennifer (Jay) Whistler, and please join us in wishing her well. Stay in touch, Jay!

Jay Whistler on Thunderstones, Pantsing, Paris and Character Desire

When you were young, which books and authors helped to make you the voracious reader you are today?

 The first book I bought through the Scholastic Book Fair with my own money was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

I remember thinking that if a young girl like that could survive wild dogs and storms and injury, I could do anything. I fell in love with the idea that I could buy my own adventures based on what appealed to me, with no parent, teacher, or librarian telling me what was “required” reading. In fact, until well into college, if a book was required reading, I automatically eschewed it. But anything that I picked up because I wanted to? That to me was the ultimate expression of freedom.


Who or what inspired you to write?

When I was in third grade, we had to write an essay about something in geology that we were intrigued by. My mother had a subscription to Natural History magazine, which contained an article about thunderstones,

pieces of flint that were likely created during the stone age as arrowheads, ax blades, etc. For hundreds of years in Europe, farmers (or anyone who dug one up) thought they were bolts of lightning that had fallen to earth.

So I wrote my essay in the form of a news bulletin about a famous Scandinavian tunderstones (no ‘H’) found in a farmer’s field in the 1800s. I even wrote in a Scandinavian “accent.” While I cringe now at writing in dialect—oh, please do not ever do this!—third-grade me was thrilled when I was the only student to receive an A and for my teacher to ask me to read it aloud.


With an MFA and an MA in your pocket, what have you found to be the challenges and rewards of higher education?

 The MA is in technical writing, which helped me learn how to write lean. I am always on the hunt for filler words in my own and clients’ manuscripts. It also helps me zero in on passages that tell. And after teaching essay and technical writing at the college level for years, I focus on grammar and mechanics like, well, a college professor.

The MFA gave me the skills I needed to take my writing to the next level. I needed to learn more about plot, character development, and how to revise. Even though I have the three letters after my name, I’m still learning. But now I know how to learn, where to go to find the resources that help me continue my education. I will always be learning how to write (and revise and edit) better.

 The biggest challenge with higher education is not allowing myself to fall back into writing habits that I had for 20 years. We are often told to write what we know, but I think that we often mistake that to mean write “how” you know. If you’ve always written in a specific way or believed something an editor or agent or critique partner said you must do from now on, it can be difficult to change how you write.

For me, changing how I write also changed my output. I now write more words and produce cleaner drafts that don’t meander. I used to be a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), but now I am a dedicated “plotter” (someone who does a lot of character development and outlining before drafting). That’s been a game-changer, but it is still a challenge to stay focused and not bang out a draft just because I am excited about my shiny new idea.   


You do freelance editing for everything from rhyming picture books to adult novels. What do you wish aspiring writers understood?

 Never submit a first draft. Terry Pratchett said that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. He was right. Get it on paper and let it simmer for a few days or weeks. Come back with fresh eyes. You will see so much that needs to be re-visioned. Submitting that first draft to a potential agent, editor, or contest can end your chances with them. Many agents and editors will say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” which is code for, “Never contact us again.” You don’t want to close that door if you can avoid it.

 By the same token, don’t be too eager to send a draft to a freelance editor. I’ve had lots of what I suspect are first drafts that need complete overhauls because the timeline is off, there is no clear concrete goal for the protagonist, plot holes abound, and more. This is a waste of your money. Be patient. Revise thoroughly. Send an agent, editor, or freelance editor the very best version of your writing.


 As an acquisitions reader for a literary agency, what mistakes automatically trigger a “hard pass”?

 One of the biggest for me is when I see a manuscript that has not been proofread or grammar checked. I am always willing to overlook a few typos here and there, but if I am seeing them on every page, or if there is a consistent pattern of sentence-structure errors, this makes me think I am looking at a first draft. Take the time to run the manuscript through good grammar software. There are several free programs available. My current favorite is Grammarly, which has free and paid versions.

 I also need to see a story that has a concrete desire line for the protagonist and includes meaty stakes if the MC doesn’t achieve that desire. It’s not enough for the MC to want something. They must risk losing something else if they don’t get it. If I am reading a submission that shows promise because the writing is beautiful or the story is intriguing, I might suggest a “revise and resubmit” offer, which essentially lets the author know that the agent is willing to look at it again if substantive changes are made.


As Regional Advisor for SCBWI in Switzerland, what are your favorite memories? What challenges did you face as the head of a writing community in Europe?

When I took over the Swiss chapter, we had nine members in the entire country and no money. I mean not one franc. My main goal was to build our membership and create opportunities for members to get together, form critique groups, and network.

I did a few webinars to build our treasury, held in-person gatherings across the country, often traveling from the French region to the German region to host events, and I was fortunate enough to be one of several European RAs who organized the first-ever Europolitan SCBWI conference, which was held in Paris in 2013. This is now a biennial conference every odd year.

When I turned the chapter over to my successor, after only 18 months, we had tripled our membership and built a tidy nest egg. The Swiss chapter now has over 50 members and continues to grow.

You’ve done numerous Shop Talk presentations, and just recently spoke on “Character Desire.” You’ve helped to co-chair writer conferences. Why are you so generous with your time and talent?

I would not be where I am today without SCBWI.

I had never heard of the organization until 2004 when Monica Harris invited me to attend a conference. Her critique group also welcomed me with open arms. Every conference, every critique group meeting, every retreat all served to improve my craft. Our chapter is incredibly generous and so many members are willing to donate their time and expertise to help newbies and “oldbies” alike. So I am paying back this chapter that helped me reach major milestones, but also paying it forward by helping nurture up-and-coming writers and illustrators. 


The Whistlers are moving to warmer climes. Rumor has it you don’t care for Michigan winters. What are your plans for the future?

Rumor is not wrong. Kalamazoo has the distinct disadvantage of gloomy winters with only three days of sun per month, on average, between November and April. (Look it up if you don’t believe me.) That’s six months with only 18 days of sun. By the time Groundhog Day comes along, I’m ready to hurt people. This move to Texas, while ostensibly to be closer to our daughters, is really for the safety of all Michigan residents. You’re welcome.

As for future plans, I continue to do my freelance editing and agency reading. And I may decide to start breeding long-horn Texas steers and do some bronco busting. But first I have to git me some cowboy boots and a lot of plaid.


Which of your own Works in Progress are you most excited about?

 I’m working on a middle-grade historical fiction novel. And that’s all I’m going to say.

Follow Jay here:


Twitter: @JayWhistler




Saturday, November 21, 2020

Book Birthday Blog with Linda Sienkiewicz


 Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog! 

Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

Congratulations to Linda Sienkiewicz on the release of her new book, Gordy and the Ghost Crab!  
Congratulations on the release of Gordy and the Ghost Crab! What inspired this seaside story?

It began with a little story I wrote for my grandchildren. We were vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina when my grandson, then three, was totally freaked out by a ghost crab that ran across the top of his shoe one evening. The next day, we tried to find a book for him about ghost crabs in the local bookshop, but there wasn’t anything. My daughter said, “You’ll just have to write him one, Mom.” So that’s what I did.
How did writing for a picture book compare to your previous experience of writing for adult fiction, like your award-winning title In The Context of Love?

Writing is a learning process, and the more you learn, the more you find you have yet to learn. Even though you need to rely on good storytelling with a character arc and compelling plot, details such as layout and individual word choice become really important in a picture book.
As both the author and illustrator of Gordy and the Ghost Crab, you had control not only over the narrative, but the visual aspects of the story as well. What did your process for creating this picture book look like? Did you plan to illustrate it from the beginning?

Initially I drew up a little book for my grandson with magic marker and colored pencil, but I didn’t plan to illustrate the text for publication until much later. For one thing, I had gone to art school in the seventies long before digital art existed. I had studied figure drawing, but never drew children. Or ocean waves. Or crabs! Then I decided, why not try? I bought myself an iPad and Apple Pen and started playing around on Adobe Sketch, and had a blast. It was a year-long learning process where I honed my skills and developed a style that I thought matched the story.

Of course, then I had to learn about layout and what parts of the story to illustrate. When I found a publisher, I learned that my illustrations were not the optimal size and had to redo them all. Then, after the book was laid out, the editor told me there were three more pages to fill, so I expanded the science facts at the end of the story, and added more drawings. 

Who are some of your favorite or most inspiring writers? How about artists?

My favorite fiction writers are Anne Tyler and fellow Michigander Bonnie Jo Campbell. My very favorite children’s book is Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. The language play is wonderful, the illustrations are so unique, and the story has such suspense!
What has your experience of releasing a book in the current times been? Do you have any advice for authors also releasing their book in this time of social distancing and changing school situations?

Get comfortable with Zoom and doing live video on Facebook and Instagram! With Zoom, you can appear all over the country without leaving home—what could be better!

I put together a Pre-K – 8 teacher’s guide for the book that includes language arts, social studies, math, and science so that it can be used in the classroom, with or without Zoom.

I’ve been creating posts for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’ve made a book trailer that I’ve posted everywhere I can think of. Since my book is beach related, I hope to visit bookstores and gift shops along the Atlantic coast next summer, fingers crossed. I plan to run a contest through Rafflecopter to give away a large plush ghost crab, too. 

Always so much to do! 

What’s something you hope your readers take away from Gordy and the Ghost Crab?

For children, what we imagine is often counter to reality. Gordy’s big brother tells him a story about ghost crabs that scares him. Then he has to make a choice about whether or not to protect a little ghost crab from a girl with a net, so there’s a lesson about caring for others and problem solving. You can be afraid and brave at the same time. The book also has lots of fun facts about different kinds of crabs. Learn about the things you’re most afraid of and they won’t be so scary!
What’s coming up, any new ideas in the works? Where can our readers go to learn more about you?

I’m working on my second novel, which also takes place in the Outer Banks, on remote Ocracoke Island.

I blog about books, writing and life at
A little bit about the book:

Gordy is afraid of the crashing ocean waves and a strange creature he sees skittering across the beach. It doesn't help his fears when his big brother tells him it's a ghost crab that will pinch off all his toes. What will Gordy do when he meets a girl intent on capturing a ghost crab? Will he stay away, or will he rescue the little crab?

The story highlights empathy, problem solving and the value of caring for nature. The book also includes fun facts about different types of common crabs and offers a gentle conservation message.
Order it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

A little bit about the author:

Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s poetry, short stories and art have been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. Gordy and the Ghost Crab is her first picture book. Her first novel, In the Context of Love, won four finalist awards, including the Hoffer Award and the Sarton Award for Fiction. She also has a poetry chapbook award, three other poetry chapbooks, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her MFA is from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She volunteers at The Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social services organization.

Friday, November 20, 2020

What’s With the Buzz about Pinterest? By Debbie Gonzales

Pinterest is so, so, SO much more than a quick reference for great recipes or DIY projects. The marketing potential on this dynamic platform is phenomenal! Studies show that Pinterest is the largest website traffic driver in the world. Thoughtfully crafted content has the potential of becoming 80% more viral than on any other social media platform. When it comes to Twitter, Pinterest is 3 times more effective in establishing connections and building relationships. Yet, currently, the Kidlit industry lacks a vibrant representation on the platform. We need to change that. I am eager to show you how. 

To raise visibility on Pinterest, a marketer must nurture three variables – content, consistency, and community.  Like a sturdy three-legged stool, each element supports the other. Fresh, relative, audience-centric content is the foundation of a successful platform – authentic messaging that is unique to your brand and intriguing to your audience. Pinterest users come to the platform looking for something specific in mind. Because of this, literary pinners must shift focus from impressing and entertaining their readers to discovering ways to solve a problem or to meet a need. By consistently showing up with engaging content designed to educate, inspire, and motivate others, a savvy Pinterest marketer is destined to build a loyal following, one that frequents their website on a consistent basis. I know this to be true. I’ve done it. You can, too. 

I discovered the power of Pinterest in early 2018 while working on the pre-publication marketing campaign for my debut nonfiction picture book, GIRLS WITH GUTS: THE ROAD TO BREAKING BARRIERS AND BASHING RECORDS. I wanted to try news ways to promote the book, so I studied the strategic principles and tools of relationship marketing. Along with tons of social media hacks, I learned about the community fostering effects of the e-newsletter, how podcasting exponentially magnifies messaging, and about the robust marketing potential of Pinterest. I figured out to launch the e-newsletter and podcast on my own and hired a professional to manage my Pinterest platform. I’m so glad I did. My Pinterest specialist has now become my mentor. Under her tutelage, I’ve become even more astonished by the platform’s potential than ever before. There is a learning curve involved in establishing and maintaining a Pinterest platform, one that is well worth the effort to master. Especially now, in these uncertain times, when traditional modes of relationship marketing such as school visits and book festival signings are out of reach. 

Author Tami Lewis Brown is new to using Pinterest as a marketing tool and here’s what she has to say about the experience. “Pinterest is a visual encyclopedia of ideas and can offer all kinds of different experiences, depending on your needs and interests. Parents, teachers, and other adults already use Pinterest as a resource for everything from popsicle recipes to anti-bullying techniques to bulletin board ideas. I write non-fiction picture books and I love how Pinterest allows me to tap into that, to offer tie-ins, to build awareness and to promote interest in other books that young readers should know about. I have two new books, PERKIN’S PERFECT PURPLE and ART IS LIFE coming out this fall and it would be challenging (to say the least) to get the word out without Pinterest.” 

Like Tami, I’d like to invite you to consider how you might promote your work on Pinterest. Explore creative ways to connect with your audience. I’ll be sharing a few more posts to help you do just that. Until then, take some time to examine Tami’s Pinterest platform then ask yourself the following questions (Take notes, if you’d like. They could become in useful as you apply the information presented in the upcoming blog posts):

  • Instead of merely showcasing your book cover and purchasing information, are there ways you might encourage more engagement with your topic and, perhaps, yourself? 
  • List ways you might be able to educate your audience about your topic or services you offer.
  • Is there an inspirational way to create content founded on your messaging that might encourage, uplift, or simply brighten someone’s day?

  • Consider ways to keep your branding solid but your message fun and fresh.  

Your response to these statements can become the foundation for the first leg of your Pinterest stool – content! Then, by consistently posting pins crafted with your audience’s needs in mind you, too, can slowly-but-surely build a vibrant community on your engaging Pinterest marketing platform.  

You’re off to a great start!

Debbie Gonzales is an author, a career educator, and a Pinterest marketing specialist. Being passionate about the marketing potential of Pinterest, Deb delights in leading on-line or in-person workshops, managing client platforms, and coaching Pinterest users in one-on-one sessions. She has created and established the Guides by Deb website, a free resource consisting of over 300 standards-aligned teacher guides crafted for some of the finest kidlit books in the industry. Deb is the author of GIRLS WITH GUTS: THE ROAD TO BREAKING BARRIERS AND BASHING RECORDS. She earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more about Deb by accessing or

*Note: This post is one in a series of three first published on the Cynsations blog. Click the links below to read the other two posts. To take a deeper dive into Pinterest for authors, Deb is hosting an online 3 Day DIY Pinterest Hands-On Workshop on Dec. 9, 2020.


Attention Illustrators!

Next year, SCBWI-MI is offering two illustration mentorships. One is for picture book illustration with mentor Dow Phumiruk. The other is for middle grade or young adult illustration with mentor Brittany Jackson.

To learn more, go to the mentorship page on the SCBWI-MI website.
The submission window opens May 17, 2021. We look forward to hearing from you.
For questions, contact Ann Finkelstein, SCBWI-MI Mentorship coordinator.