Friday, November 19, 2021

7 Wintery Social Media Post Ideas by Lauren Ranalli

I don’t know about you, but this is typically one of my busiest times of year. Between family holidays, school vacations, book events, and the general end-of-year-rush, I can easily get overwhelmed. And I’ll be the first to admit that when I get overwhelmed, I sometimes fall behind. So, I’m trying to put systems in place to stay ahead of the game!

One way that I stay on top of things in my business is to plan out my social media content at least 1-2 weeks in advance. How does that sound to you? Useful? Daunting? Somewhere in the middle? Well, to help us get organized (I’m including myself here!), I’ve put together a list of book-themed ideas that we can post about this winter. Let’s take advantage of some upcoming social media celebrations by posting about these events: 

December  National Read a New Book Month: This should really be every month, don’t you think? But let’s highlight #ReadANewBookMonth by creating some great social media posts! Consider how to showcase your own books for people to discover and read. This is a great opportunity to share some of your recent reviews! In addition to posting your own books, give us a snapshot of your own “to be read” list- what’s on your bookshelf, nightstand, or e-reader? I always love seeing what my fellow authors are reading!

December 10th  Dewey Decimal System Day: What a perfect way to show your local library some love! Post a snapshot from the stacks or simply tell us about what libraries mean to you. Be sure to tag them in your content and use #deweydecimalsystem to get more traction on your posts.

January 2nd  National Science Fiction Day: Let’s give some love to all the #ScienceFictionWriters out there! Do a roundup of your favorite titles or ask your followers for recommendations. It’s a great way to discover new books! And use #NationalScienceFictionDay to connect with others.

January 28th  Multicultural Children’s Book Day: I’ve been a sponsor of this wonderful event for the past two year because of their mission to “not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.” Use #ReadYourWorld and plan some social media posts that highlight your favorite diverse books. Follow @readyourworldmcbd on Instagram or @MCChildsBookDay on Twitter to get more ideas.

February 2nd  World Read Aloud Day: Celebrate #WorldReadAloudDay by posting a video of you reading an excerpt from your books! Or showcase photos of your books being read aloud to kids around the world. Or do both! Tag @litworld on Instagram and @litworldsays on Twitter so they can share your posts as part of this celebration.

February 1st-7th  Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week: Whoohoo! An entire week to celebrate our work! Take advantage by scheduling multiple posts that highlight your own books, some of your best reviews, and give a shoutout to some of your favorite children’s book authors and illustrators. Consider offering a special discount code to your readers for purchasing books during this week. Bonus points if you mention SCBWI and the great work that they do!

Whatever you decide to post this winter, just be sure to mix it up! Tell us about your books, give us a glimpse into your writing life, promote the work of other authors, and share some of your favorite writing moments. And, above all, have fun with it!

More About Lauren

Lauren Ranalli is an award-winning self-published children’s book author, the Director of Marketing
and Communications for an international non-profit, and the mom of two high-spirited children. Visit her on Instagram at 
@lauren.ranalli_author or at to receive 2 FREE resources, Finding Social Media Success, and Daily Marketing Strategies for Authors

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Friendly Friday Folly! by Shutta Crum

When the first round of Covid hit last year, it seemed like everything stopped. And in that stoppage was the monthly critique group I’d been part of since about 2001 (though the group had been around much longer). During that hiatus, I thought if I could just keep myself motivated—keep that little spark of inspiration which was usually fueled by the critique group—that would be wonderful. I feared my pen was drying up (or my computer had lost its oomph!). So, once I got the hang of Zoom, the Friday Follies were born on the first Friday of September 2020.

What It Is

It’s quick. We meet online for no more than 30 to 45 minutes. The idea is simple: I give the group a writing prompt and we all write for 7 to 10 minutes. If anyone ones to share, they may. No pressure. No critiquing. (Afterall, this is automatic writing. We don’t expect polish.) But a participant may comment on somebody’s piece if they want to. It’s all very laid-back; just basically to get our pens/computers going for a few moments and then to see what happens.

It’s easy. Part of the problem of planning any meeting is settling on dates when a majority can attend. We made the Friday Follies as easy on folks as possible. No having to email back and forth a zillion times. There is a standing date and time (1st and 3rd Fridays at 1:30 pm). And no need to RSVP. Whoever shows up, shows up. Just mark it as a standing meeting on your calendar.

What Can Happen

While it’s fun, what happens can, also, be fruitful! For example, take a look at this quickie dialogue written by Doug Kasischke to this prompt:

“ . . . comedian, Tim Hawkins, compares the flavor and taste of a Krispy Kreme donut to “eating a baby angel.” How true is that . . .


Now, think about one of your favorite foods. Write a scene in which a character is trying to describe that taste to someone who’s never eaten that food. (Could be someone new to the U.S.) Use as many metaphors/similes as you need to.




Write a scene in which one character argues with another about how a favorite food tastes. The two characters have widely differing opinions on the matter.

Doug’s Campfire Enchilada Dialogue response (with some punctuation added later):

“It’s an enchilada.”

 “I know. I ordered it.”

 “You know it’s just a slice of cheese inside a corn tortilla.”

 “With sauce.”

 “Sure, but…”

 “It’s warm.”

 “I hope so.”

“No, the taste, like riding up to a campfire.”

“You ride horses?”

“No, but if I did… Let’s say it’s night, with a blizzard—the snow pelting your face like a million little icicles; and up ahead you see a campfire, and as you near, you feel the warmth. The snow feels it, too, and softens. The wind itself grows warmer, and the fire—it’s warmth—melts the snow, even dries it, and leaves a warm breeze; and your hands thaw, and your face, and you can feel again. That’s what an enchilada, at Compadre’s in Napa, California tastes like.

Wow! That last paragraph! It’s so difficult to describe tastes and smells. But Doug really delivers by setting a whole scene and getting into the details. Now, granted, the results are not always this great. But I’ve heard numerous workable and imaginative ideas, lines, paragraphs, scenes, poems read by the Friday Folly writers.

The Prompts

For me, coming up with prompts keeps me on my toes—thinking and reading about writing. I try not to use the common kinds of prompts which are subject oriented and can be found all over the internet. Such as “Write about a time you . . .” The prompts are directed at writing techniques: structure, setting, dialogue, characterization, plot, lateral thinking, etc. All the nitty gritty. And I write to the prompts, as well.

Join Us

We are open to new folks joining us! You just have to send me ( your email address so you can be included on the weekly reminder and the link email. Then join us with pen and paper on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at 1:30 pm. And ask your writing buddies to come along. No pressure—just show up and write for a few moments. Share if you want to.

Many writers fight sitting down and writing. Here’s a way to reinforce good writing habits in a fun and stress-free way. Won’t you join us?

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 Magazine “Notable Book” of the year. Her books have made Bank Street College lists as well as state award lists. She has won four Royal Palm awards (Fl), including one for WHEN YOU GET HERE, a collection of poems for adults. A second collection of poetry is expected in 2022. In addition, she writes the monthly Wordsmith’s Playground newsletter, blogs regularly for the Florida Writers Association, and hosts a column in the OPAP magazine (Of Poets & Poetry) for the Florida State Poet’s Association. For more information see

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Book Birthday Blog with Kathleen Marcath



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Kathleen Marcath on the release of My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me




How did you come up with the idea for your book?
While studying ASL and Deaf culture, I noticed the need for more children's books, inclusive of ASL, and was inspired to write My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me. My three-year-old grandson and his love for monster trucks are the basis for this first book. It started as a poem and unfolded into a story of childhood fun and imagination with ASL illustrations on each page. My goal is for children and families, both hearing and d/Deaf, to see ASL as normal—just like any other language.

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I hope my readers get the magical experience of ASL. My introduction to ASL came at a retreat. A woman taught us several songs, but one was in my head and on my hands all week. When our group signed "Our God is an Awesome God" the following Sunday, something came over me and has not left. I believe ASL is an untapped resource we can all benefit from. The potential is limitless. I hope our readers find it valuable and purposeful.

Research shows that children who learn sign language, even baby signs, can improve their vocabulary by 15-20% compared to non-signing peers. I hope ASL Picture Books will be a catalyst to bring ASL into the classroom from preschool through high school. Our talented team's videos offer lessons with each of the 32 signs, with native signers Diana Campbell and Michelle Osterhout brilliantly telling the story. In addition, Detroit's own Dennis Neubacher narrates a vibrant tale of My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me for the English student. You can read all about them in our blog article, "Award Winning Team."   The videos are all available with a QR code in the book. You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold. is offering special discounts now through December!

What inspires you to write?
I continue to be inspired by readers, reviews, and awards. We were so honored to receive the Kirkus Starred Review and were selected in April to be spotlighted by the Kirkus Indie editors. Readers' Favorite gave us the silver five-star seal and the bronze medal and RWYK Certified Great Reads! The best inspiration comes from our readers' reviews and big smiles on little faces.

Writing itself comes from the heart. Children are our most precious gifts and for any one of them to be given less than their peers breaks my heart. I believe all children also have a gift to give. They need the space and opportunity to express their unique purpose in life, to do that thing that only they can. 

During my studies at Madonna University, I heard the story of Alice Cogswell and a thousand other stories throughout history where our educational system or society did not allow d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing folks to thrive. As a result, I am inspired to write with gentle kindness and open doors to children not yet seen or heard. I always share Alice’s story with students at school visits. I believe it also inspires them. When I hear or see children light up seeing or using sign language, I am inspired to keep writing. 

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
The first step! That is always the hardest. To step out and face my fears. Finally, doing something I had dreamed about but knew nothing about and stepping on the scene of Facebook and Instagram. 

You see writing a book and building your social media platform go hand in hand. I wanted nothing to do with social media. All I heard was "the drama" and "be careful." I am delighted to say that on my Instagram I have met so many beautiful people. Other authors, educators, moms, thoughtful people willing to reach out and give a hand and who are making a significant impact in our world with their presence and participation. I am also on Facebook but I find Instagram to be my favorite. I have learned so much writing My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me.

What's next for you? Any events coming up or new books in the works?
I have HUGE news coming in December. Unfortunately, I cannot say what it is yet, so subscribe to our website to be the first to hear the exciting top-secret information.

I am currently building our platform with a monthly blog, where we talk about d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing education, share news, insights, and research. In addition, we hope to have some guest authors share insights and resources. 

Our website offers other books I have found and highly recommend. We offer free downloads, and additional educational materials related to My Monster Truck Goes Everywhere with Me, including an ASL alphabet chart so you can begin practicing fingerspelling, which is a great memory-building skill for spelling tests!

My granddaughter, who told everyone I was writing a book, held me accountable to complete it. Together we are working on a story, and my grandson Dylan has a list of stories he believes we should write. 

Please email me for information on school visits or direct bulk sales! We love hearing stories from our readers and would love to hear from you.
A little bit about the book . . .
Every day brings a new adventure for the curly-haired protagonist as he plays with his favorite shiny purple Monster Truck. He is also learning American Sign Language and knows how to sign the words for his favorite truck's color and sounds. Each page is beautifully illustrated with one or more signs that parents and children can learn together.

A little bit about the author . . .
Kathleen Marcath has a B.A. degree in Deaf Community Studies. Years of experience as a special Education Sign language supporter have kindled her passion for helping children reach their educational potential. Kathleen is delighted to help fill the need for picture books illustrated in American Sign Language. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother and resides in Michigan.




Friday, November 5, 2021

Ask the Editor by Katherine Gibson Easter

Hi everyone! A big thanks to all the people who sent me their questions! I’ve answered them to the best of my abilities, and I hope you find this post helpful and informative.

As with my previous Ask the Editor posts, I humbly ask that you take my comments in the spirit in which they’re intended. The advice here is meant to be friendly and helpful; I sincerely hope that no one finishes reading this post feeling vulnerable or discouraged.

Also, a general disclaimer that my thoughts are my own; I do not speak on behalf of my publisher or the publishing industry in general. I would not be at all surprised to learn that you’ve heard an editor or agent say something that directly conflicts with my perspective. Everyone in publishing has their own opinions and preferences, and I can only be honest about my own.

If you have any questions about writing, editing, or publishing that aren’t addressed here, please reach out to me. I’m always happy to gather questions for my next post!

Thank you, and happy reading!


What is your opinion on editorial agents? I've heard of some agents acting as such strict gatekeepers that authors can go years without getting their work before an editor. I know that all agents usually recommend some touch-ups, but is the agent's job to sell or to maintain high quality?

Traditionally, an agent’s role is to help their authors get their books sold, and it’s the editor’s job to maintain high quality. Of course, the odds of a book getting sold largely depend on how appealing the concept and content are, which is why, as you point out, agents will almost always recommend some touch-ups to a manuscript.

Each agent will differ in how they approach the editorial process, and writers too will vary on what they hope an agent will provide. Some authors really like getting detailed edits from their agent before it goes out to publishers; other writers prefer agents who take a more hands-off approach when it comes to manuscripts. I’d recommend going into the querying process knowing how much editorial advice you’re hoping to receive from an agent, and selecting your agent accordingly.

There will of course be times when an author disagrees with their agent's opinion or approach, but ultimately an agent should always feel like an asset, not a hindrance. If your personal styles clash, or you start to feel like your agent isn’t acting in your best interest, it could be a sign that it’s time to part ways.

If you've made substantial revisions to a manuscript that was previously submitted to a publisher, can you resubmit? If so, do you need to mention something in the cover letter? Wait for at least 6 months? Any other considerations for resubmitting?

I’m inclined to say yes, if you’ve made substantial edits to a manuscript and feel that it is now better suited to their list, you can resubmit the project. I would definitely be candid with them in your cover letter, explaining that this is something you’ve reworked substantially since you first submitted it and detailing why you feel that it’s better suited for them now. 

I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about how long you have to wait, but waiting at least a few months before resubmitting a manuscript makes sense to me. Allowing a bit of time helps to show the publisher that you didn’t just slap together a few edits, but thoughtfully and intentionally revised the project. 

Of course, all of this is assuming the publisher rejected the original submission. If they invited you to revise and resubmit, make those edits and send it back as soon as you can!

Now that it is out of favor to use the #OwnVoices hashtag, how should we describe our diverse characters or ourselves in query letters?

For anyone who may have missed it, We Need Diverse Books announced earlier this summer that they would stop using the #OwnVoices term because it had “become a ‘catch all’ marketing term by the publishing industry.” Instead, WNDB is using more specific descriptions for authors and protagonists (some examples they listed include “Korean American author” and “autistic protagonist”). 

I think you could adopt WNDB’s approach in your own query letters, being specific and intentional in your descriptions. Certainly if your manuscript features diverse characters, it’s worth highlighting in your query, and if you feel comfortable disclosing specific characteristics you share with your protagonist, then you should do so. But with documented instances of authors receiving backlash from readers for books with the #OwnVoices label (for example, the hurtful and unfounded accusations that their personal experiences weren’t “authentic enough”), it’s perfectly fine if you don’t feel comfortable sharing that information.


I have some questions about chapter books. What makes them different from middle grade novels? What’s the highest word count you can have for a chapter book? What’s the average word count per chapter?

While chapter books can have some overlap with middle grade novels in terms of audience (I tend to think of chapter books being aimed at ages 7-9 and middle grade being suited for ages 8-12), chapter books tend to be shorter and easier to read than middle grade novels. I’d also say chapter books tend to be a little zanier than middle grade books, but maybe that’s just because I personally gravitate toward the more screwball chapter books.

The length of chapter books can vary wildly; I’d say the total word count typically ranges from 4,000-15,000 words, with somewhere between 7,000-10,000 words being the average. The average word count for each chapter in a chapter book is even harder to pinpoint. Pulling the best estimate I can out of my head, with absolutely nothing scientific to back it up, I’d say aiming for around 500 words per chapter sounds about right. But I’d recommend finding yourself some mentor texts — chapter books that you really love and want to emulate — and looking into their word count, how they pace the story, and so on.

What is a reasonable amount for an agent to charge, and will the agent do any marketing, or is that the publisher's job?


The amount can vary a bit, but the standard commission for an agent is 15% of the author’s advance and royalties. As mentioned above, agents will frequently suggest some edits to a manuscript, but the marketing efforts typically fall to both the author and the publisher. 


Speaking generally here, publishers’ marketing budgets aren’t what they used to be, and there’s increased expectation that the author will make substantial efforts to promote their books through events (both in-person and virtual), on social media, etc. It’s especially important for an author to be involved in marketing their book because readers want to hear from you, not your publisher (no matter how nice we may be). Readers want to feel like they have a connection with their favorite authors, so the more an author is willing to put themselves out there, the stronger readers’ response will be.

Katherine Gibson Easter is an editor for Zonderkidz, having previously worked for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. She graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute in 2013 and has spent the last eight years editing and publishing award-winning children’s books, including Sibert Medal and Caldecott Honor book 
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and Plume, which was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.

Thank you, Katherine!

To submit a publishing question, email Mitten blog editor Sarah LoCascio with "Ask the Editor" in the subject line, and she'll forward your question to Katherine. Or, stay tuned on the SCBWI-MI MichKids listserv – Katherine will ask for questions a few weeks before her next post.

If you missed any of Katherine's previous Ask the Editor posts, go HERE to browse through all the questions and answers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Book Birthday Blog with F.P. LaRue



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to F.P. LaRue on the release of The Curse of Shadow Park


How did you come up with the idea for your book?

When I was growing up there were thick creepy woods near my home. My friends and I always made-up stories about monsters in those woods. That inspired me to write this story.

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I would like readers to take away that reading can be fun! I would like readers to experience what the characters are going through and have fun with it.

What inspires you to write?
I loved reading as a child. I read many fun and exciting books. I know there are many adventures for kids to enjoy and mysteries to solve.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Writing the book was fun and easy. Editing the book was time consuming.
What are your marketing plans for the book?
My marketing plans will consist of sending books to schools and libraries, school presentations, website, Facebook, Instagram, and Kindle/Amazon.

A little bit about the book . . .
Oliver calls himself the Evil Destroyer. He and his two best friends, Mellie and Scotty set out to solve the mystery of a hiker that went missing in Shadow Park. As they search for the missing hiker, they encounter more than they ever expected in the Forbidden Zone of the park. They confront ghosts, pirates, and other scary beings. They must conquer their fears as they deal with evil characters, voodoo spells, and a man-eating creature. In the end, they not only solve the mystery of the missing hiker, but they confirm the legend of The Curse of Shadow Park.
 A little bit about the author . . .

The Curse of Shadow Park is F.P. LaRue’s debut to the middle grade book genre. Her career has been in education, where she progressed from teacher to Dean of Academic Affairs at a small Michigan College. During that time, she authored Stalking: Surviving the Hidden Terror and co-authored Discover Your Inner Strength, both adult non-fiction books. She has been a regular guest on a weekly radio show on Safety and Security, including a show on “Back to School Safety.” 

F.P. LaRue is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  When not writing, F.P. loves to travel, having visited all 50 states in the USA and 53 countries worldwide. When COVID hit, F.P. took to writing again. She loves a scary story and looks forward to sharing her own scary stories. She is hoping her stories encourage all children to discover the wondrous adventures reading can bring … no matter their age. 


Monday, November 1, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 by Tara Michener

What has 50,000 words, is in November and is bound to make you a better writer? NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo is National November Novel Writing Month and is quickly approaching. Why do I love it? I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2011 and the benefits were many. I had to really hone in on my discipline…this meant that my favorite shows and social media surfing had to take a back seat and my free time was scheduled for my manuscript ideas and word count. It made me a better writer but also it helped me with my confidence. I had never written a book with so many words before and this experience taught me that I could do it and actually appreciate the content that I developed and that others would too. My NaNoWriMo book is NO LONGER BESTIES AND OTHER ASSORTED TEENAGE DRAMA. I just got to do a presentation on it this month and I like to inspire people by sharing with them that without NaNoWriMo it may not have happened. So…do you have 50,000 words in you? You may never know until you start. Join me this November 1stand let’s encourage each other by using the hashtag #nanowrimo on Twitter. The weather will be colder but hopefully you are getting warmer when it comes to your next book. 

Tara Michener is the author of six children's books that focus on self-esteem, diversity and anti-bullying. She is a TEDx speaker, therapist and owns her own private practice in Novi, MI. Tara has been recognized in publications such as Prevention Magazine, Essence Magazine, FREEP and more! She is the Committee Chair of E&I at SCBWI-MI. Her favorite days usually include spending time with her hubistrator, Jason, her son Cannon and her favorite snack Twizzlers and Diet Coke. You can follow her on Twitter 

We're pleased to announce the 2022 SCBWI-MI mentorships will be for novels. The mentors are Patrick Flores-Scott and Kelly J. Baptist. All SCBWI members who live in MI for at least part of the year are eligible to apply. The submission window opens on April 25, 2022. See the website for more information.