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