Friday, September 25, 2020

Hugs and Hurrahs

Another school year has begun for many of us. Although this year looks different from other years, I am happy and grateful that we still get to celebrate some good news from Michigan authors. 

Lisa Rose's picture book, A ZOMBIE VACATION, was published on September 1, 2020 (illustrated by Angeles Ruiz; Apples & Honey Press). 

So happy for you, Lisa!

Lisa Wheeler’s newest picture book, DINO-THANKSGIVING, came out on September 1st, 2020. Illustrated by Barry Gott, it is the third book in the Dino-Holiday series from the CarolRhodaimprint of Lerner Books. 

Congratulations, Lisa!

S. F. Hardy’s picture book, DANCING MONKEYS IN MY SOUP! (illustrated by Stephanie Hider; Shenomenal Ink), was released in English and Spanish on September 1, 2020. A family/educator activity guide is included. 

How exciting!

Melanie Hooyenga’s YA contemporary romance, CHASING THE SUN (Left-Handed Mitten Publications), came out August 11. Book one in the Campfire Series, CHASING THE SUN is a lighthearted romance with space puns, Portland shenanigans, and enough feels to totally eclipse your heart.

Good for you, Melanie!

Sue Agauas’s MG novel, GRANDMA’S SOCK DRAWER (Why Not Now Children’s Books, LLC),  is now available. A note and a key to Grandma’s “most precise treasure” sends Sukey on wild adventures as she races against time to unravel the mysteries of a puzzling inheritance – a sock drawer – from a grandmother she was forbidden to know.
That’s great news, Sue!

Lauren Ranalli’s new book, LET'S MEET ON THE MOON, is a story of staying connected when we can't be together, something many of us are experiencing right now. It's her third collaboration with MI-SCBWI illustrator Emily Siwek. Her favorite review so far comes from Julie T. on Instagram, who wrote "I'm pretty sure it's one of the cutest books I've ever seen!" Through September 30th, all pre-ordered signed copies come with limited edition postcards to send to friends near and far (you can use the discount code SCBWI to get 15% off). 
How appropriate for the times we’re living in, Lauren!


K. J. Long, aka Kelly and Jay, a spousal writing duo, self-published, debut middle grade novel, BRIAR COATS AND THE TUNNEL OF STYX, featuring a main character of color on an underwater adventure, releases as an e-book on October 31, 2020 and will be as a paperback the next day.
Very excited for you, Kelly and Jay!

Patti Richard's is happy to announce she signed a contract with Blue Whale Press for her picture book, O POSSUM'S PREDICAMENT, about a theatrical possum who is tired of playing dead and wants to play Hamlet instead. Publication is set for fall 2021. Patti also sold a poem to Cricket Media called “In Autumn.” 
Happy dancing for you, Patti!

Neal Levin’s poem, “Smells Like Chicken Noodle,” which was originally published in Spider, was posted on the Giggle Verse website in June. His poem “A Vampire’s Dilemma” was published in the July 2020 issue of the Australian children’s literary magazine Touchdown (part of The School Magazine).
Awesome, Neal!

CADY AND THE BEAR NECKLACE, by Ann Dallman (Three Towers Press/Henschel Haus Books) is the winner of a 2020 Midwest Book Award (Young Adult category). The book was also a Silver Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and has recently won a Michigan State History Award. Dallman was also recently awarded a Member for Members Scholarship from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MI Chapter. Readers’ Favorite has given the book a Five-Star Review and it is included in the Top Ten of the U.P. Notable Books List. Her book tells the story of a 13-year-old Native American girl who finds an antique Indian beaded necklace in her new home in Michigan, leading her to solve a mystery that improves her personal and family life.
That’s fantastic, Ann!

Paulette Sharkey’s debut picture book, A DOLL FOR GRANDMA: A STORY ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE (illustrated by Samantha Woo; Beaming Books, 2020), was included in Red Tricycle's list of The Best New Kids' Books of 2020, So Far.
Well done, Paulette!

Kirbi Fagan signed with an agent, Kayla Cichello at Upstart Crow
That’s fabulous news, Kirbi!

Arcadia Children's Publishing has just released Diane Telgen’sfirst two middle-grade books, THE GHOSTLY TALES OF MICHIGAN’S WEST COASTand THE GHOSTLY TALES OF PITTSBURGH (signed copies available from her website). These collections combine legends of the supernatural with local history, and are lots of spooky fun! 
 Thanks for sharing your good news!

A big hug and hurrah for all of you! Stay well, everyone! Please send all your good news to Sarah Prusoff LoCascio at for the next Hugs and Hurrahs post.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Birthday Blog with Lisa Rose

 Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog! 

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

Congratulations to Lisa Rose on the release of her new book, A Zombie Vacation!

Congratulations on the release of A Zombie Vacation! What inspired this ghoulishly fun story?

When I was researching Israel, I discovered that The Dead Sea was losing 1 meter of water per year.  This meant that the hotel I visited 20 years ago at the water’s edge, was now quite a schlep to the beach. I originally wrote this story as an environmental call to action in the form of a Travel Guide to hurry and visit The Dead Sea before it disappears! My editor liked the idea of a story about The Dead Sea, but wanted more of a narrative arc. Thus, my Zombie was born or maybe just unearthed!

Your zombie visits all sorts of places in Israel, like the Sea of Galilee, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and Luna Park in Tel Aviv! Why did you pick Israel as his vacation destination, and how did you decide on which places in Israel he would visit?

Well, since The Dead Sea is in Israel, I decided to make this “a no place like home” story.  I wanted the Zombie to visit others places near to where the Zombie stays. This is a way to expose kids about other places in Israel too.

Your book has a lot of great tie-ins to STEM subjects, like why things float in the dead sea, and the importance of preserving natural resources! Were these tie-ins a goal from the beginning of your writing process, or did they emerge later on?

The environmental element was always an ingredient. However, the STEM tie-ins came later when I was thinking about author visits. Then, I had to adapt even further with the pandemic. I ask the kids to do the STEM activities with me. This way it is more interactive. I didn’t want families to have to go out to the store to participate, so I had an extra challenge of finding items that most families would already have in their house. For example, cups, glasses, water, salt, and eggs.

You’ve created loads of great promotional content for A Zombie Vacation: a positively spine-chilling book trailer and lots of zombie-fied vacation photos, in addition to coloring and activity pages! Do you have any tips on creating promotional material for new books?

Personally, I love to dress up!  When I taught first grade, I was like Ms. Frizzle and had a costume for every lesson. After months of staying at home, I was just excited to do something fun. I think everyone needs a little fun now. So, I think you should just have fun with it! Find what works for you. If you love what you are doing, everyone will love it too. Also, for this book, I did have a very talented technical assistant to help me. In addition, our own Deb Gonzales the Pinterest Queen! It takes a team to write a book AND it takes a team to promote the book!

What has your experience with virtual author visits been like so far?

I have to admit, I’m not very comfortable, yet. Kids aren’t as playful and interactive. I enjoy the off-topic interruptions asking me if I have a second favorite reptile or telling me about their new Batman bed. Also, I learned the hard way that you can't really read the book like it is story time. You should have the book on PDF and present your screen.

Do you have any advice for authors who are trying to reach out to kids in the midst of social distancing and online school?

YES!!! I’m developing a platform called BOOK BOOK LOOK! which is part Netflix and Etsy. It will help connect authors to kids.  More details will be coming soon. I wanted to do this for years. I always thought it was silly for individual authors to advertise. I thought we should have one central location so schools, libraries, and religious organizations could easily search book authors for events. I will share one more thing: It will be free for authors to join and people to use. 

What’s up next for you? Do you have any fun projects on the horizon? Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

I have a very serious non-fiction picture book about the friendship between Marian Anderson and Albert Einstein titled The Singer and the Scientist that will be published by Kar-Ben on April 1, 2021.

A little bit about the book:

A Zombie Vacation
My walk lacked the proper stiffness. I had lost the urge to moan. My skin no longer had its lovely dull, sickly color. I wasn't scary anymore . . .
Where oh where can a tired, stressed out zombie get a little rest and relaxation? Sounds like the Dead Sea might be perfect!
Take a tour through Israel with an unusually adorable zombie who desperately needs a break.

A little bit about the author:

My first picture book Shmulik Paints the Town (Kar-Ben Publishing 2016) was a PJ Library Selection in May 2016 and 2020. It was sent to over 50,000 homes in North America. My chapter book series Star Powers (Rourke Educational Media, 2018) is about a second grade girl who wants to be an astronaut and also uses a wheelchair. I have several stories published with Amazon Rapids, an app designed for at risk readers. I founded the Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group, whose mission is to highlight new picture books featuring diversity and little-known subjects on a monthly basis. Look out for more information about Book Book Look! Learn more about me at

Friday, September 18, 2020

Illustration Value and Light with Kirbi Fagan

Coming up from SCBWI-MI:

This Sunday, Sept. 20th, 1-3pm, a FREE community-wide virtual presentation with Kirbi Fagan

Value and Light

“Value” is the backbone of any illustration. In this 6 Part lecture, Kirbi Fagan will go in depth about value and lighting. This information will show you how to improve narrative, style and mood using value. Using examples of techniques from a wide range of imagery including historical artwork, illustration and film, Kirbi will break down difficult art fundamentals such as exposure. This lecture will show you tools to examine and diagnose issues with value using photoshop. This lecture is appropriate for any level artist, beginners to professionals.

Part 1: Basic Lighting
Part 2: Major and Minor Key for narration and mood
Part 3-4: Values for improved readability and making your work “pop”
Part 5: Exposure: A complex topic that will change how you think about value.
Part 6: Using Film Lighting Techniques to inspire your unique voice and style.

Click HERE to join the Zoom webinar, Illustration Value and Lighting or go to the SCBWI-MI website:

Sunday, September 20th 1:00-3:00 pm (Est.)

***This presentation will be recorded and available for a limited time.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The 2020 Members For Members Scholarship Awards

This year the SCBWI-MI E&I Team sponsored our first-ever Members for Members Scholarship Awards. Thanks to generous donations from our members and community we were able to fund five scholarships! Congratulations to this year’s awardees:

Elyse Arring

Stephanie Campbell

Ann Dallman

Rebecca Grabill

Sarah Lynn John

The following is a condensed version of our online interviews.
~ E&I Team Coordinator, Isabel Estrada O’Hagin. 

How did you use your award? 

Elyse: I attended my first national kidlit conference. Prior to the Summer Spectacular Conference, I wrote for middle grade through adult. I had the opportunity to listen to presenters who write picture books, which may not have happened in a traditional conference. The thoughtful and engaging presenters inspired me to try writing a picture book.

Stephanie: I attended the Summer conference, and this award made it possible. After the conference I felt inspired to continue my journey as an author and to never give up because we all start somewhere. After watching Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s webinar, I gained insight on book layout, both words and illustrations. I also was reminded to do what works for me and not to compare myself to authors because we are all unique in our own ways.

Ann: I applied it toward my membership fee that has helped me stay connected with the writing world. I live in the area of Michigan’s UP bordering Wisconsin. So, at times, it is easy to feel disconnected from the writing world, but the MI chapter’s wonderful website and blogs keep me up-to-date with valuable information.

Rebecca: The scholarship enabled me to continue my SCBWI membership, connecting me to this wonderful community of authors and artists who so freely share their wisdom and talents. As the global pandemic shuttered schools and businesses this spring, my plans for school visits, workshops, and the like evaporated. I watched my membership lapse and given the coronavirus pandemic I couldn't justify the expense of renewal over, say, groceries or school supplies. I’m grateful for this award.

Sarah Lynn: Because my membership dues were extended, I was able to sign up for the Summer Spectacular. The conference speakers were inspiring! I scribbled page after page of notes. Their words and life experiences triggered many ideas for my own future writing projects.

How did this new information influence your writing/illustrating of diverse books for children?

Elyse: I felt SCBWI did a superb job of cultivating a virtual conference that was both engaging and helpful. SCBWI showed up—for kids and for diverse creators and readers of all kinds. The commitment to justice and caliber of presenters made me proud to call myself a SCBWI member and deepened my commitment to my own work. I hope to bring underrepresented kids to the page, that they might see themselves in more and more books—that they will grow up knowing that all people are thinkers, and doers capable of courage and magic.

Stephanie: This information informed my decision to write for diverse children’s books because I truly strive for every child’s sense to feel alive when they read my books!

Ann: I taught for 15 years on a reservation in Michigan’s UP and continue to stay in touch with many of my former students. They asked me to write a book about them and for them. “Cady and the Bear Necklace” is that book. It has been recognized for a 2020 State History Award by the Historical Society of Michigan. This was in The Books: Children and Youth category for 2020.

Rebecca: Giving voice to the voiceless has always been a driving mission of mine, more now than ever before. Diversity of class, and the devastation of poverty, diversity of safety and the realities of domestic violence and exploitation of children, diversity of ability whether due to injury or genetics ... these are just a few of the faces of diversity that need to be reflected in literature for children, and some of those I am uniquely qualified to write. This award is helping me to continue a mission already well underway. Together we can change the world.

Sarah Lynn: One of my current WIP’s is a MG sci-fi whose protagonist has Type 1 Diabetes like my son. At the conference, the words of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina and Grace Lin filled me with ideas of how I could bring more of my personal experiences to the page that would help broaden the perspective of children and cultivate more acceptance and empathy.

In closing, our awardees expressed their deep gratitude for the combined support, inspiration, and camaraderie found in our amazing, welcoming community.

We are indeed kindred spirits!

Isabel Estrada O’Hagin (Ph.D.), Equity and Inclusion Team Coordinator and Kalamazoo Shop Talk (KAST) Co-Coordinator, has been a member of SCBWI since 2013. As a pre-published author, she writes stories steeped in Latino culture from the borderlands in Arizona where she lived most of her life. She has written two middle-grade novels, several picture books and is currently working on a YA novel. In 2018 she was recognized as a runner-up in the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship Contest. Her publication credits include teacher education articles, book chapters in early childhood music, and serving as editor for a state education journal.  

Thank you, Isabel! Learn more and read quarterly posts from the SCBWI-MI E&I Team at the Equity and Inclusion Corner of our blog. We're excited about their newest initiative. Learn more below:

Monday, September 7, 2020

Book Birthday Blog with Tara Michener

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

Congratulations to Tara Michener on the release of her new book, I'm Just O.K.!

Tara Michener - I'm Just O.K.

Congratulations on the release of I’m Just O.K. and welcome to the Book Birthday Blog! What inspired your newest picture book story?

Thank you so much Lauren! I appreciate being featured on the Book Birthday Blog and having the opportunity to talk about I’m Just O.K. I was inspired to write this book because I know how hard it is for kids to express their feelings with words although they feel a lot. It is very hard to experience a lot of emotion without knowing how to convey the emotion. This book is purposely simple to help kids and parents to both have dialogue in a narrative that entertains as well as educates on the matter. 

You speak in your TEDx Detroit talk about how challenging experiences can become great ideas. What were some challenges and successes in the process of writing and publishing I’m Just O.K.?

Ironically one of the biggest challenges was my professional schedule speaking and working and making the time for this project to be launched. Everything needed to align in order to have a successful opportunity for this book to be introduced. This seemed like an obstacle but the time is right for this book right now as so many kids are facing very real concerns during this pandemic that has directly impacted them from the way that they play, learn and live. I am hoping that the success is that it gives kids a viable resource during a challenging time. 

You’ve written several books for various age readers, like the picture book Who I Am Not What I Am! and the YA novel No Longer Besties: And Other Assorted Teenage Drama. How would you say those experiences differ? Do you enjoy writing for one age group most?

The experience writing for picture book readers involves the need to align the words and illustrations in simple ways to convey complex messages. It has to be succinct enough to hold interest but also fun and on a level that multiple age groups can relate to it. When I write chapter books for older readers I use more character development tools as I cannot rely on illustrations to provide details. I enjoy writing for all youth based age groups.  

You can find more of Tara's books on her goodreads page!

Has your experience as a therapist impacted how or why you write, or what you write about?

My experience as a therapist has impacted how and why I write in a huge way. The topics that are relevant to my writing are relevant issues that some kids might see a counselor about including emotions, race, self-esteem, bullying…I write about what kids need to talk about but they may lack representation. When a kid sees a character like Janelle from Who I Am Not What I Am they may open up a whole new way of thinking that builds a foundation for that reader that helps them to solve a problem that they have. I believe that being a therapist does give me additional insight about my target readers.   

Could you talk a little bit about your company, TMI LLC, what it does, and how it ties into literacy and children’s literature?

Tara Michener Industries includes my practice, my anti-bullying work, speaking, curriculum building and more. Many of these elements of my business tie in easily but some clients might only be interested in one aspect so it is important to have a company that encompasses options to pick and choose consultation needs.

If there was one thing a child could take away from reading I’m Just O.K. what would you want it to be?

I hope that if there is one thing that a child takes away from reading I’m Just O.K. is that they will be just o.k. but they are so much more. They are delightful humans that can encompass a variety of emotions all at once and that does not make them bad or horrible. I hope that after reading this book that they are feeling less alone and more equipped to cope with and identify their feelings.  

What’s next for you? Any new projects or ideas in the works? How or where can readers learn more about you and your work?

I am working on many related resources for teachers, parents and children that help them expressly during this time of pandemic and that can help them afterwards as well. One of my biggest requests right now from clients and those interested in my services are author visits and speaking engagements-many through Zoom which has opened up opportunities to meet a bigger group of needs. I also have some other programs, books and curriculum in development at this time. My info is easily found at  

A little bit about the book:

Mad can feel hot like fire. Happy can feel bright like the sun. I'm Just O.K. is a story that takes you on an emotional adventure. Get ready to explore!

A little bit about the author:

I live in Novi, MI. My dream has always been to write stories that inspire self-esteem and acceptance of others. I am now living my dream. I hope that my books inspire children to be well-rounded and to realize that if they have a dream it can come true as well. I am available for school visits, library programs and more. Contact me at

Learn more about Tara on her website, on her twitter @Taramichener, or on her goodreads page.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Writer Spotlight: Three New Members

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our quarterly Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet three new to SCBWI-MI writer/illustrators: Michelle Nunley, Anna Lunt and Alice Wilds.

Three New(er) Members Tell You a Story and Draw You a Picture

Alice Wilds

Alice Wilds

Who or what influenced your drive to create images for children?
When I was younger, I would always draw a flop-eared rabbit. One day I was looking at painting I had made with my father when I was in the fourth grade of that little rabbit. The idea came to me that I should do something with my little bunny, so I created Katie and Darcy twin bunnies with long floppy ears who love going on adventures.

Artwork by Alice Wilds

What path did your life take to bring you to this moment?
I had always wanted to write books, but I was told that I should get another dream for I am dyslexic. My teachers did not think I had what it would take. So I tried cake decorating instead but I found I hate baking. I tried a few other odd jobs but I always came back to wanting to create children's books. It may be hard work, but I love it and would not want to do anything else.

How did you discover SCBWI?
I was at a craft fair at a library where some members of SCBWI were selling their books. It was a very slow fair, and one of them wandered over to my table. She told me she used to be a teacher for creative writing. With great care, she looked over my book and told me I had talent and that I should join SCBWI. So I did.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a series of picture books about two twin bunnies who like to go on adventures. My books are a mixed media of photographs and hand-drawn illustrations. In the next book, I will be introducing new characters. Three raccoon brothers will be coming to give a little playful mischief to Acorn Valley.

What dream do you embrace for your future?
My goal is to write many more books featuring the friends of Acorn Valley. I dream of being able to share my love of my cute little critters with children from all walks of life.