Friday, October 29, 2021

Writer Spotlight: Sarah Prusoff LoCascio

The Mitten Blog has a new editor! 

Welcome to your new role, Sarah LoCascio! Sarah will be managing the blog’s weekly operations beginning November 1st. We’re so grateful to have her expertise, and she's looking forward to connecting with SCBWI-MI members around the state. Generate your queries, polish your posts, and send her your submissions!

Coincidentally, we had already initiated a Writer Spotlight interview with Sarah before she applied for the editor position. What perfect timing to learn more about her! Read on for Charlie Barshaw’s interview with Sarah below.

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our quarterly Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet Sarah Prusoff LoCascio. If her name seems familiar, it's because she hosts Hugs and Hurrahs. But there's much more to her story...

How does Sarah's Literary Garden Grow? From Connecticut to the Asian Journal to the Viola da Gamba, a Twisty Tale of Discovery 

You grew up in Connecticut. Aside from learning how to spell a difficult state name, how did your childhood prepare you for the Writer’s Life?

That’s a tricky question (and it was definitely difficult to spell)! I’m not sure if there’s anything about any particular state that prepares you more than any other state. I’m sure my childhood prepared me, but I can’t think of reasons that would only be true about Connecticut. I will say that both my family and my elementary school were very supportive of story telling and writing. Our big writing projects in first and second grade were writing stories. I always had dolls that I used as the characters in my stories. In addition, an author would visit my elementary school every year, which really planted the idea that being an author (and a children’s author) was something that was possible and worth trying to do.

Who were some of the people who influenced your love of reading and writing? What were some of your favorite books and authors growing up?

My parents always read to me. I also often visited the public library with baby sitters or nannies. As I mentioned before, my elementary school had author visits every year. The first time I considered being an author was when Marc Brown visited my elementary school when I was in kindergarten.

The Baby Sitter’s Little Sister books by Ann M. Martin were the cool thing to read when I was in first and second grade. Having reading be the “cool” thing to do certainly couldn’t have hurt my love for reading. The first book to make me cry was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was in fourth grade, which gave it a place as my favorite book for a long time.

You earned your bachelor’s degree at Bard College. Was the name of the college prescient? What did you study? Did you do any writing?

 My bachelor’s degree is actually from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, which was called Simon’s Rock College of Bard when I attended. The special thing about Simon’s Rock is that almost none of their students have graduated from high school; they just felt ready for college before the traditional time. My “concentrations” (they don’t say major) were Music and European Studies and my undergraduate thesis was titled “‘The Instrument Our Nation Glories In:’ The Role of the Viol in English Society from the 16th Century through the 18th Century.” Students at Simon’s Rock do a lot of writing in general. Even the one math class I took required a fair amount of writing. But as far as creative writing, I was very lucky to be able to take a fiction writing workshop my sophomore year taught by Okey Ndibe. He’s an amazing storyteller.

You earned your Master’s at Indiana University. What brought you to the Midwest? How did your time there affect your future?

Going into my final year at Simon’s Rock, I thought I might need to make a plan for the future. I didn’t really feel ready to start working, and so applying to graduate school seemed like the thing to do. Having accidentally studied music (I hadn’t intended to make it one of my concentrations initially, but one of my professors argued that I might as well since I had fulfilled all the requirements), applying in music seemed like the best option. 

Indiana University is consistently rated as one of the best schools of music in the country, especially for early music (like my instrument, viola da gamba). Going to Indiana University (as opposed to a smaller conservatory) also allowed me to take classes outside the school of music including a fiction writing class with Tim Westmoreland.

The effects on the rest of my life are pretty substantial, but not closely related to what I was studying: First, I met my wife there. Second, I began working as an English tutor for international students or professors visiting Indiana University on sabbatical, and that led to the rest of my career.

You’re now married, living in Michigan, with a busy young family. How do you find time to work on The Mitten and, you know, write?

I have never been able to balance everything and do everything at the same time. I can usually pick a maximum of two things to do well enough in a given week: mom, work (editing and tutoring), creative (writing or music; I almost never do them both on the same day), or housekeeping (which is the one that I drop most easily).

Sarah-sized sunflower

At the same time, having young children while working on picture book manuscripts has its advantages. They are always an inspiration, sometimes from what I observe in their play and sometimes for what their interests are. They are also always happy to listen to a new manuscript and let me know what they think. I’m not sure I would have even started writing picture books without my kids.

I am also really grateful for my critique group for keeping me accountable. Knowing I’m going to be meeting them every month helps to keep me motivated. It also helps to have some time set aside. I usually try to do some “writing work” Saturday morning, either working on my own writing, critiquing something for a critique partner, or working on submitting to agents. Of course, my family knows that quarterly, based on the publication schedule for the journal I work for, the house is going to get exceptionally messy and I’m going to feel a little bit irritable.

You’re the managing editor of the Asian Journal for Public Opinion Research. How did you come to work there?

When I was at IU, I realized I was not going to have a career as a musician or an academic and began looking around for other ideas. ESL tutor felt like something I could do and so I answered a couple of ads on a message board from people looking for tutors. My very first student, a professor at a university in South Korea who was visiting IU for some time, continued to work closely with me and had me proofread some of his work. In 2012, he was elected the first president of the Asian Network for Public Opinion Research (ANPOR) and so when they decided to launch an English language journal in 2013, they asked me if I could help with some of the correspondence between authors, reviewers, etc. and proofreading papers before publication, and eventually I became the managing editor.

One of the journal articles you’re most famous for on Google is titled: “The Effects of Attitudes Toward Breastfeeding in Public on Breastfeeding Rates and Duration: Results From South Korea.” Is this indicative of the type of reporting you do for them?

I wouldn’t say I do reporting since they are academic papers rather than articles that you might find in a newspaper. I have been listed as a co-author on seven papers published in AJPOR between 2016 and 2021. Most of them, including this one, are related to results from a survey regularly conducted in South Korea. The one you mentioned is the only one for which I’m the first author and that I’m most proud of. It’s the one that was most interesting to me personally and that was more my personal project, in that I suggested the survey questions and so was involved in the process from the beginning.

You say on Sarah Prusoff that you’re “enough of a writer to need this website.” What was the tipping point for you?

I would guess after hearing that it’s a good idea to make a website several times at various shop talks and an SCBWI-MI conference, I finally decided that I better make one, if for no other reason than to make sure no one else could take my name as their domain name.

You mention a picture book and a novel you’re working on. What can you tell us about your Works In Progress?

Sarah reading to her kids (from left Francis, Cecilia and Anthony).

The picture book that I’m currently most excited about right now is titled The Dragon-Knight Book Club, which I started working on after my middle child asked me for a “two-part, not true story about a dragon.” Ooglyboo the Dragon and Nicky the Knight both love to read and hate to listen. Nicky is eaten by Ooglyboo and discovers a library of books in the dragon’s belly.

I think I have about seven picture book manuscripts that are pretty much “ready,” including a rhyming one about a toddler at a parade who wants to go “Up” until she sees a cat and finally wants “Down.” And The Broken Story, which is about a child revising a story using a building metaphor.

My novel has taken many forms over the years and is basically about a girl not writing a novel about pirates. In some of its forms, it’s a memoir. In others, I tried making a fictional protagonist who just had some experiences that were similar to mine. It’s currently on hold in favor of my picture book writing, but I may go back to it at any time.

You confess your love of planting gardens, but not so much maintaining them. How grows your garden this year?

Cecilia and raspberries

It is a mess, but even so, the raspberries were delicious. The raspberries in my garden are probably my favorite, because from planting a single raspberry plant maybe eight years ago, it spread and always produces fruit, pretty much in spite of me. We had a few sunflowers this year that have finally bloomed. I also always plant tomatoes and marigolds, because they’re the first things I planted with my mom when I was really little

You mention playing  viola da gamba. For those of us unfamiliar with the instrument, what does it sound like, and how do you feel when you play it?

It’s a bowed, stringed instrument, and so kind of looks and sounds a little like a cello, but maybe a little sweeter and softer. You hold it between your legs, and so it feels to me more of an extension of myself than I feel with some other instruments. I would say I generally feel happy on days that I play it, partly from the unique experience of expressing emotions through music and also because I still feel guilty if I go too long without playing.


Follow Sarah here:

On Facebook, I’m

On Twitter, I’m @SarahLoCascio

On Instagram I’m sprusoff 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Book Birthday Blog with Patti Richards


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors and illustrators.

Congratulations to Patti Richards on the release of Mrs. Noah 


How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I was packing my family for our very first cruise—a trip to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I was running around like a crazy woman trying to prep for the two-day drive to Florida as well as the three-day voyage.  There were five of us in my family at the time, so making sure everyone had enough clean clothes and toiletries for all the stages of the trip was a big job. Add in buying up enough pet supplies and snacks for our house sitter, stopping the mail, making sure everyone had a swimsuit and shoes that fit, plus paying all the bills and getting the house cleaned before we could leave, and I was a shipwreck waiting to happen!

Somewhere in all of the craziness, I had this thought… “If I’m this stressed trying to get everything done before we leave for our cruise, how in the world did Mrs. Noah get everything ready for an ark full of animals and the rest of her family?” This made me laugh out loud. The idea of Mrs. Noah settled in and stayed (a “God whisper”) and by the time the trip was over, I had the first lines of the story in my head.

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?
The themes of MRS. NOAH are love, family and teamwork! I hope young readers and the adults in their lives will see the joy and fun of working together, all wrapped up in the unconditional love it takes to make a house—or Ark in this case—a home!
 What inspires you to write?
So many things inspire me, it’s hard to name one. But the reason I write is to bring joy and light to little hearts in a world that can sometimes be difficult to navigate. I want all of my books to sing with love and the magic of childhood.

You have 2 more books scheduled for release next year. Do you have more books in the works and how do you stay organized?
I do, and just reading those words makes my heart so happy! It’s been many years in the making, and I’m so excited to see MRS. NOAH and my other two books out in the world. The thing about writing for children is that you need to have a variety of projects at different stages of completion at all times. So, while I’m marketing for MRS. NOAH, waiting for the finishing touches for O POSSUM’S PREDICAMENT (Blue Whale Press), and finishing revisions for MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE (Little Lamb Books), I’m still writing, revising and submitting new stories regularly as well as submitting to agents. Even as I’m answering these questions, I have several files open that I’ll look at off and on when I need a break from other tasks or have an idea that needs attention right away!

As far as staying organized, I use Excel spreadsheets to keep track of submissions. I have three different ones: Editorial Submissions, Agent Submissions, and one special one for a group I’m part of called, 100 Rejections Are a Good Thing!

What are your marketing plans for the book?
I have to admit that marketing is one of the things that gives me the most anxiety in this process. But I’m diving in and hoping I don’t make too many mistakes along the way. Right now, I’m in the process of visiting wonderful blogs like our Mitten! We’re also getting a press release ready to send out to local newspapers, libraries, schools and bookstores. I’m part of a launch group called “21 for the Books,” where we review others books and share on social media about release events, and I’m planning a Facebook live event the day MRS. NOAH releases. I think part of marketing is just doing what you know to do in the most professional and enthusiastic way you can, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

A little bit about the book . . .
Noah can’t wait to show his bride the enormous ark he’s just completed. As amazing as it is, Mrs. Noah knows it can be more. She sees beyond the wood and fasteners to the home it has the potential to be—and so, she gets to work! With care for each animal and its needs, Mrs. Noah hammers, gathers, knits, and schlepps this floating house into a loving home. And while she starts the project on her own, teamwork will see it through.

A little bit about the author . . .

As a writer, wife, mother, teacher, and storyteller, Patti Richards has spent nearly 30 years spinning yarns and telling tales. From local newspapers and regional and national magazines to published children’s books, Patti’s life revolves around writing words that speak hope, love, light and joy into the lives of her readers. She lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan with her husband Gene. You can visit her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as well as on her website at

Friday, October 22, 2021

Hidden Treasures: Finding Poems Within Your Poems by Shutta Crum

One and done, should not be the case for many poems. Why waste such a wealthy resource as a poem by only publishing it once in its entirety, or reprinting it whole? The truth is, like any good non-fiction writer who mines their research and articles for possible other perspectives on the material—poets can do the same. If you’ve got a longer poem, is it possible to pull out bits and pieces of it for a micro-poem? Can you reword a portion of it for a slightly different take on the subject? Or do a blackout poem using your original as the basis?

Mining the old for the new

I wrote a poem called “The Canoeist.” It was first published in the Southern Poetry Review (2020). Here it is as it appeared in the poetry journal:

The Canoeist

He travels the river—
raising only a ripple fore and aft.
His paddle perfects silver spirals
upon the surface. The only sound
the plink and plonk of water
as he dips into stillness.

He passes homes,
manicured lawns, boat docks.
He hears children. People wave,
or stare from their deck chairs.
A heron rises from the reeds.

Now, fewer watch his passing.
He will not return.
They know well what is downstream
where the current stalls,
where cattails, water lilies,
spatterdocks encroach, and roots catch.

Of an evening, some will walk
to the water’s edge and listen
for the distant plying of his paddle,
or the subtle wash of his passage
across the surface of the night.
They will breathe in the river damp,
knowing he is out there
where the dark wild closes in.

And here is a senryu (a type of haiku) I pulled from it, adding only two new words:

reeds, treefall, roots
the dark wild is down-river
he will not return

A successful example

Kristin Lenz met a challenge head-on with one of her poems and came out with a great conclusion. Here is her beautiful poem in its entirety:

Kristin decided to enter a NY Times short poem contest. Initially, when she read the instructions, she thought the poems were limited to fifteen lines. So, she worked on reordering her poem. But when she went to submit it, she saw that it was actually limited to fifteen words!

This time she sorted through her already fairly short poem for the “meat” of it. She looked at three things she’d learned from poetry mentor Heather Meloche:  

1. the subject of the poem 
2. the main metaphor 
3. the epiphany/turn 

Her subject was her daughter learning to ride her bicycle. The main metaphor was learning to ride safely equals learning to navigate through life. The turn was letting her go, out of sight.

Here is the short poem she submitted and had accepted by the NY Times (Yay, Kristin!):

While I absolutely adore the whole poem she’d written earlier, the short snippet also works as a wonderful micro-poem.

Mining older full-length poems is also a way to get unstuck—to get that poetry making mojo working again if you’re staring at a blank page/screen. Try it and see what happens. You just might end up a winner, as did our friend Kristin.

Shutta Crum is the author of several middle-grade novels and many picture books, poems and magazine articles. THUNDER-BOOMER! was an ALA and a Smithsonian “Notable Book.” MINE! was reviewed by the N.Y. Times as “a delightful example of the drama and emotion that a nearly wordless book can convey.” Her books have made Bank Street College lists as well as state award lists. WHEN YOU GET HERE, a collection of poems for adults, won a gold medal from the Royal Palm Literary Awards, 2020 and 2021 (FL). For more information:

Here's Shutta's most recent poetry book for older readers: When You Get Here 

A note from Kristin:

Thanks to Shutta for analyzing my poetry process for me! Shutta adapted this blog post from one she first wrote for the Florida Writers Association. Some of this poetry analysis was prompted by a virtual Poetry Panel for the SCBWI-MI Shop Talk in Farmington. If you missed it, you can watch the recording for a limited time:

We have many wonderful poets in SCBWI-MI, writing for children and adults. You'll see many of their announcements on social media and on the MichKids listserv. Stay involved here:

I'll add another Kidlit example to Shutta's concept of mining for hidden treasures. My YA short story, Spontaneous Combustion, was a runner-up in a 2020 flash fiction contest, max word count: 750. I later cut and revised that story into a poem, "Soccer Rules," that was recently published in an anthology, Rhyme & Rhythm: Poems for Student Athletes. It was a good opportunity to play with character development and descriptive language. It could even be a launching point for a novel!

Coming up on The Mitten Blog:

Book Birthdays, Writer Spotlights, Ask the Editor, Social Media Marketing for Every Season, and more.
The Mitten Blog will have a new editor on November 1st! 
We're giving her one more week of behind-the-scenes-transition-time, but we'll introduce her next Friday. See you then!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Equity & Inclusion Corner: It's All a Bunch of Queer Hocus Pocus! by Shanna Heath

The Equity and Inclusion Corner features quarterly posts written by members of the SCBWI-MI E&I Team and guests. Learn more about the E&I Team, upcoming initiatives, virtual Town Hall meetings, and how to become involved here:

Our fall 2021 post is by author Shanna Heath who also contributed to the Mitten Blog last month and led a community-wide Shop Talk: The Terrifying Terrific Toolkit: Scary Secrets for Writing and Illustrating Thrilling Kidlit. The recording is viewable for a brief time here:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience, Shanna! Read her E&I Corner post below.


by Shanna Heath

It’s the spookiest month of the year, and if you’re into all things creepy like me, you finally feel at home in the world every October. That cozy sensation of belonging is fleeting, however, because I’m queer. But one Halloween in 2018 held a magical and queer children’s literature moment for me.

I was in Salem, MA on a sunny October day, browsing the stacks of Wicked Good Books on Essex Street. Three familiar faces caught my eye: Mary, Sarah, and Winnifred Sanderson. Hocus Pocus! Of course, I’m a fan. I scanned the cover and read, “and the All-New Sequel.” 

A sequel to Hocus Pocus? Okay. I’m here for it. The more witches in my life the better. I bought the book and settled in at an outdoor table at the Village Tavern. I cracked the book open (isn’t that the best feeling in the world?) and sipped from a pint of hard cider.

I expected the sequel to be straight. Most books are.

The very heterosexual Max and Allison in the 1993 film Hocus Pocus.

But the sequel to Hocus Pocus is gay. Not subtle gay. Gaaaaaaaay. The protagonist, Poppy Denison, is a lesbian and she’s in love. The daughter of Hocus Pocus couple Allison and Max, Poppy crushes hard on Isabella Richards. And Isabella is a black teen who returns Poppy’s affections! The story of their love is a major through line of the book. 

Illustrations of the three protagonists of the Hocus Pocus sequel. Poppy and Isabella are left and center.

I choked on my cider. “Excuse me, waitress? Have we been sucked into an alternate dimension?”

I was thirty-seven-years-old at that moment in time. A long way from childhood. Yet, when I read about Poppy and Isabella, my inner-child rejoiced. I was goosebumps-and-misty-eyes-level moved. Seeing myself reflected in the beloved Hocus Pocus universe shifted my heart one notch closer to self-acceptance. Toward self-love. Queer self-love.

Did you know that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth? The rate for trans kids is even more dire. Was I one of these kids? You betcha. If someone would have handed me the gay Hocus Pocus sequel, what may have been different for teenage me?

I would have seen myself mirrored in literature. “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us,” wrote Rudine Sims Bishop. “When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”

The windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors that Bishop writes about are essential not just for LGBTQI+ kids. Poppy and Isabella’s love story is for straight kids, too. 

All kids need diverse stories. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” discussed her childhood in Nigeria, where she read books mainly about white children. She explains “[…] how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” When we don’t have access to mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors, adults and children cannot get an accurate view of the world. “The consequence of the single story,” she continues, “is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

Visibility matters. To everyone.

This Halloween season, gift the gay Hocus Pocus sequel to the young adults in your lives. Read it together. Then, seek out more. Poppy and Isabella’s relationship is just one single story. The LGBTQI+ community is as diverse as any. More representation equals more stories, and more stories create compassionate kids.

“When there are enough books available that can act as both mirrors and windows for all our children,” Sims continues, “they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what make us all human.”

I’ll be doing a Poppy and Isabella re-read this October. Grab a cozy blanket and join me. 

Shanna Heath is an author and monster slayer who writes horror for all ages. Childhood can be terrifying. Shanna makes monsters, then shows kids and teens how to defeat them. Her favorite young horror read is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. She lives in Michigan with her patient wife and two spooky kids and is a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA). Shanna is represented by Paige Terlip at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

Connect with Shanna:

Author’s Note: This blog focuses on visibility in regard to LGBTQI+ representation. Diversity is an enormous universe. To find books that mirror the many varied ways in which humans live and love, check out We Need Diverse Books

Find more windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors into the LGBTQI+ universe here:

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Your Author Website: Make a Dynamic, Yet Personable, Connection by Debbie Gonzales

Debbie Gonzales has been keeping us updated on all things Pinterest, and we invited her back to share additional tips for marketing and promoting our books. How do you draw readers to your website and keep them there? Here's Debbie:

Pinterest Marketing Basics: Keep It Simple, Authentic & Fun

By Debbie Gonzales

I firmly believe that all book creators would benefit by establishing a visibility platform on Pinterest, this goes for pre-published authors and illustrators, as well. Not only is the process in establishing a viable platform highly effective as a marketing tool, Pinterest shines an authentic light on who we are and what we embrace as creatives. This reflection is digitally achieved by intentional connections between one’s Pinterest platform and their website. 

Here’s how the magic happens.

Pinterest is a tool to amplify a message of service, inspiration, and encouragement for our audience. It’s a visual search engine on which parents, teachers, librarians, millennials, and teens use to find answers, products, and inspiration. Gone are the days when we had the luxury of chatting up a potential buyer at a bookstore or festival. The reality is that purchasing relationships are developed digitally. Our challenge is to first understand how our services and books meet their needs, then establish a pathway for them to land in an intriguing place where they are compelled by a desire to want more than a one-off purchase. We want to make a dynamic, yet personable, connection through our websites. Tall order, yet relatively easy to do.

Too often we focus on embellishing our websites rather than focusing on their functionality and purpose. Slow-loading websites adorned with gizmos dancing across the screen have lost their appeal. Pinterest users want what they want when they want it: 
  • If the website seems buggy or confusing, they’ll bounce. 
  • Conversely, if they land on captivating content they can connect with, chances are they’ll poke around the website with curiosity. 
  • Better yet, they find the content living on the site to be so intriguing, they bookmark it! Bingo! The first steps toward a happy digital relationship have been established!

Here's an example:
Award-winning author Barb Rosenstock not only knows how to write award-winning picture book biographies, she’s savvy regarding how to maximize her web presence to assist in marketing her books and programming. Her website layout is one to consider, for sure. 
  • The website is packed with practical content to benefit teachers and librarians, while being organized in a clear and succinct manner. 
  • It’s attractive, loads easily, and is extremely user-friendly. 
  • Though not glitzy, Barb’s website is a shining example of inspiration, education, and of service to those who have the good fortune to land on it. 

Much like the revision process, refining our marketing message takes time, especially if we seek to establish something that is genuinely authentic. Our audience is looking for books that resonate with young readers. Take your time to become acquainted with those you desire to market to. Discover the type of content that appeals to them, then experiment with formatting that messaging on your website. The best news is that Pinterest is a long game. It’s a slow burn, which allows plenty of time to thoughtfully establish marketing strategies that edify one’s audience. Most importantly, have fun while doing so! 

Debbie Gonzales is an author, educator, and a Pinterest Marketing specialist. She’s the host of Guides by Deb, a website consisting of over 300 standards-aligned educator guides for all genres. If you’re interested in learning more about Pinterest marketing, reach out to Deb. She loves talking about all things Pinterest! 

Did you miss Deb's other posts? Catch up or revisit them below:

What's the Buzz about Pinterest?

Painless Self-Promotion: Confidence

Painless Self Promotion: Creating Content

Michigan KidLit Advocate: Debbie Gonzales, Creating and Utilizing Book Guides

Coming up on The Mitten Blog:

Equity & Inclusion Corner, Book Birthdays, Writer Spotlights, Ask the Editor, and more!

The Mitten Blog is looking for a new editor! Learn more here, and email current editor Kristin Lenz with any questions.

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Quick-and-Easy Introduction to Christian Publishing by Rebecca Grabill

Early in my writing career, I decided I wanted nothing to do with Christian publishing. 

I spent years laboring over a fantasy series, placed with the first two books in the series in a notable writing contest for Christian authors, and made a handful of connections in the publishing industry, but fantasy was a tough sell to Christian publishers, and the one published fantasy author I knew said it had taken her 27 (twenty seven!) years to place her first book. I was young, impatient, and most of the Christian books I had read were gifts from my mother-in-law, who really, really liked pioneer romance. So let’s just say I had a very limited and largely incorrect view of the Christian publishing world. If they didn’t want fantasy, I didn’t want them.

Fast forward more than a decade—it seemed I was on track. I had two books coming out with New York publishers, and more circulating with regular bites of interest. But in my spare moments, I had been putting together a book of readings for Advent because I couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves. I have an undergrad in Religion and Philosophy and am married to a theologian, so this was natural and easy. It wasn’t a project I ever thought I’d try to publish, until I mentioned it to my agent.
She looked at a summary and said, “I didn’t know any of this!” And she set about trying to find a publisher in the Christian Book Universe.

We quickly realized that the Christian book world is very, very different from the ABA (American Booksellers Association). It’s so different, in fact, that my agent released my Christian works to another agent, who works almost exclusively with religious presses. I then began my crash course on writing for the Christian market. What are the key things to know for those hoping to break in? And why would you want to?

Published by Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers

Where are Christian books, anyway?

Those who don’t frequent Christian bookstores might think religious books are a tiny fraction of all books sold. The “inspirational” section of the local bookstore is minuscule and usually populated with self-help or gift book titles (and Eat Pray Love wall signs, amiright?), and when it comes to children’s books, you’ll struggle to find any contemporary Christian titles in stores or at the public library. But roughly 20 percent of all books sold are religious, and that number does not include the bestselling book of all time, the Bible.

How do I get started writing for the Christian market?

I have three words for you, three words that are already familiar to most writers: Network, Platform, Proposals.


Network is every bit as essential in Christian publishing as it is in the ABA. I’ve found both my agents via my author-learner-friend network and not through blind submissions. Likewise all of my books have been hand-sold to publishers by my agent. What are the key ways to build network in the Christian market?
  • Search out Christian bookstores, visit, and ask if they have author groups or events.
  • Attend online and in-person writing conferences.
  • If you do social media (I don’t, but that’s a topic for another day), follow houses and professionals online and interact with them in meaningful ways.
  • Write fan letters to authors you admire, though without the expectation that they will become a new BFF or refer you to their agent (because that’s creepy).
  • Find or create a writer’s group that focuses on Christian literature.
  • Make and maintain friendships.

There’s a little-known expectation in the Christian market that other authors are now doing some of the preliminary vetting. Agent guidelines often ask that submitting authors have a referral. A referral is a published author, one of that agent’s clients, who is willing to say, “Yes, I know this writer and they’re worth looking at.” 

Your network matters. A lot.


In the Christian world, platform rules. Sure, it’s helpful in ABA publishing (otherwise would we have picture books by Madonna? Hmm), but in religious publishing, you truly need a stellar website, active subscriber base, teaching or speaking platform, or some other method of being known by your niche market. You don’t have that? Not all is lost. Use what you do have, and use it well. Here are some platform enhancers for all of us:
  • Is your career or day job specific to your writing? Highlight it.
  • Are you a teacher, librarian or other book professional? Use it!
  • Do you have a quality website? No? ALL you need is a landing page—no need for an elaborate site, and they’re easy to make through site builders like Squarespace and Wix.
  • Do you have any numbers at all? Your Christmas card list goes back 50 years and has 2,000 names on it, all of whom are blood relatives? That, my friend, is platform.


If you write nonfiction, you know this beast and you know it well. If you write fiction for the ABA you’ve probably never so much as considered writing a proposal. 

Start considering. 

Proposals are the golden nugget of the Christian publishing universe, and I’m talking proposals for everything. Book of Lenten devotional readings? Proposal. Historical novel? Proposal. 3-word board book? Yup, proposal. 

You may be thinking it’s absolute insanity to create a proposal for a board book, but I can guarantee a good, well written proposal is the industry expectation. So if you’re interested in writing for the Christian book market, learn to write, and learn to love writing proposals. I could write at length about the benefits of proposals that go far beyond book submissions, but here ends your introduction.

That fantasy series I mentioned at the start is still languishing on my hard drive, but rewriting it (and creating a proposal) are high on my writerly to-do list.

Rebecca Grabill is an award-winning author of a collection of poetry (Sweetened Condensed, Flying Ketchup Press) and two picture books published by ABA houses (Halloween Good Night, Atheneum; Violet and the Woof, HarperCollins) and one picture book, A Year with Mama Earth, with Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers. She balances writing with homeschooling some of her six children and lives in rural Michigan with kids, husband, sixteen chickens, and high-maintenance cat. Discover more about her at her website

Here's a peek at more of Rebecca's books:


To celebrate her most recent release, Rebecca created a printable poetry journal and printable bookplates as a gift to readers. You can download them for free here:

Coming up on The Mitten Blog:

Website tips, writing craft tips, Equity & Inclusion Corner, Book Birthdays, and more!

The Mitten Blog is looking for a new editor! Learn more here, and email current editor Kristin Lenz with any questions.

Coming up in SCBWI-MI:

This is an hour dedicated to sharing your ideas and hanging out with our new E&I Team Coordinator. We welcome your thoughts for continued growth as we work together to celebrate and create quality content for young readers.  

Bring your questions, comments, and your favorite candy. We may have a few tricks up our sleeves and some treats too!

SCBWI-MI members: Check your email for more info and the Zoom link.