Friday, December 31, 2021

Resolutions Anyone? by Ann Finkelstein

Hi novelists! Once again, SCBWI-MI is here to help you with your New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolution #1: Finish the draft of your novel.

If that seems daunting, check out these posts by Kristin Wolden Nitz on the Institute of Children’s Literature blog:

How to write a Novel in Only 15 minutes a Day

The Energy of Groups

Wooing the Muse

Resolution #2: Write a synopsis.

No one said this was easy. Consider directing your synopsis to answer these questions:

What does the main character want?

Why can’t the main character achieve this goal?

How does the main character change in the attempt?

Resolution #3: Apply for one of the novel mentorships.

And now, the fun part! SCBWI-MI is offering mentorships with Patrick Flores-Scott and Kelly J. Baptist.

The submission window for both mentorships opens April 25, 2022 and closes on May 16, or when we receive 30 applications, whichever comes first.

All entrants receive constructive comments from three superstar judges.

Everything you need to know can be found on the mentorship page of the SCBWI-MI website.


Still have questions? Email Ann Finkelstein, SCBWI-MI mentorship coordinator.

Ann Finkelstein is a former scientist who discovered that writing novels is more fun than wrangling test tubes. She coordinates the SCBWI-MI mentorship program.

Friday, December 17, 2021

7 Things to Include on Your Author Website by Lauren Ranalli

As an aspiring or self-published author, having your own website is incredibly important. But there’s a big difference between having a site that simply exists to “check a box” and having an author website that is engaging, intentional, up-to-date, and designed to connect with readers.

Looking to create or improve your author website? Here are some must-add features. Need some real-life examples? I’ve included links to my own website so you can see how I’ve put these tips into action.

7 Things to Include on Your Author Website

1.  About the Author- this may be your reader’s first introduction to you and your work. So, take a moment to tell them your story! It’s great to include details about what inspired your books, why you chose to become an author, or link to additional features they can find on your site.

2.  Book Reviews- Do you happen to have any book reviews that live on Amazon and nowhere else? Yep, me too. But don’t forget that your website is one of the primary places you should post your reviews! I like to go in and swap out my reviews every 6 months or so to keep the site feeling fresh.

3. Free Download or Giveaway- having a freebie is a great incentive for people to visit your author website. This could be anything from free coloring or activity pages, discount codes, discussion guides, or other content that is relevant and useful to your readers. One option is to provide a direct link to a free download (check out this example), but you can also create “gated content” where your readers provide you with their email address in order to receive the freebie (like this free social media training). Having gated content on your site is a great way to build your newsletter list! Which leads me to item #4…

4.  Newsletter Sign-Up- you want to have a newsletter. Don’t think you need a newsletter? Let me repeat, you want to have a newsletter. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways that you can reach your readers! So be sure your site has some feature that allows you to capture email addresses. Not sure what you would include in your newsletter? Check out this blog post on 6 Emails Authors Should Send to Readers

5.  Media Links- do you have recent interviews, guest blog posts, or links to media appearances? Be sure to include them on your site! Don’t have any of these yet? Use this as an opportunity to highlight photos from any author readings, book fairs, or other events.

6.  Social Media Links- social media is a great way to build a loyal reader following. So be sure to make it easy for people to find your online!

7.  Contact Me- every author website should have an option for readers, book buyers, media coordinators, or others to get in touch with you. But don’t just have a standard form, give people ideas on WHY they should contact you! Check out this example from my site.

Personally, I love to use my author website as a place to showcase my work. Which means I also make it a priority to keep my site updated, relevant, and useful for my readers. And you can do the same! Start off with these 7 tips and see how it will make a difference for you.


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, December 10, 2021

Hugs and Hurrahs

We’ve almost reached the end of another year. It’s been a very difficult one for many people in many ways, which is why I’m so glad to be able to celebrate some good news from some of our members:

Rhonda Gowler Greene had two picture books released this fall. This Magical Musical Night (illustrated by James Rey Sanchez; Little Bee Books) was released on September 7 and selected as a 2021 Best Picture Book by School Library Journal, received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and rights were sold for a French-Canadian edition.

Her first touch-and-feel book, Christmas in the Stable (illustrated by Virginia Allyn Scholastic/Cartwheel) was published on September 21, 2021.


Wow, Rhonda! That’s fantastic!


Kristin Bartley Lenz's poem "Soccer Rules" was published in the anthology, Rhyme & Rhythm: Poems for Student Athletes


Congratulations, Kristin!


Lisa Wheeler has a new book coming out on February 22, 2022,  Dino-Easter illustrated by Barry Gott (Lerner/Carolrhoda). This is the 4th book in the Dino-Holiday series. This series features the same dinosaurs kids know and love from the Dino-Sport series.


That’s great, Lisa!


Katherine Higgs-Coulthard’s YA book, Junkyard Dogs, was picked up by Jonah Heller at Peachtree Teen. Publication is planned for spring 2023.


How wonderful, Kat!


Neal Levin has had several poems published in magazines recently. “Amazing Pete’s Amazing Feet” and “A Pledge” were published over the summer and “Cinderella a Cappella,” “Nervous Circus,” and “Fireworks” were published in November in The School Magazine, a children’s magazine in Australia. “Night Lights” was published in the August issue of Highlights Hello and “Pumpkins” was in the October 2021 issue of Highlights High Five. “Bee Yourself,” which he wrote and illustrated, was published in the July/August issue of Fun For Kidz.  His feature “10 Smart Facts About Owls” was published in Fun for Kidz. This was his 50th double-spread color cartoon in the “10 Facts” series, featuring a different theme in each issue.

Good for you, Neal!


Tammy Layman Hall sold her first kid lit story,  “Outside with Hippo” to Highlights High Five Magazine.


How exciting, Tammy!


Monica A. Harris has sold eight informational passages to Data Recognition Corp. and their work with South Carolina and Alabama assessment. Topics include: biographies, art therapy, organism relationships, dietary patterns, and the evolution of fashionable items in society.  


Yay, Monica!


Joe Kimble’s book, Mr. Mouthful Learns His Lesson, got an honorable mention from the podcast Science Direction, a spinoff of NPR’s Science Friday (listen at 9:20 of the November 2 podcast). 


Excellent, Joe!


Amy Leskowski signed with her agent, Keely Boeving at WordServe Literary, in November.


That’s fabulous, Amy!


On Giving Tuesday, Paulette Sharkey took part in an Amazon Live event featuring fifteen members of AlzAuthors, a community of 300+ authors who write about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Paulette talked about the experiences that inspired her picture book, A Doll for Grandma (Beaming Books, 2020).


What important work, Paulette!


That’s our last Hugs and Hurrahs post of 2021. Congratulations to all of you! Have a good rest of the year! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to those of you celebrating! Happy New Year, everyone! We are looking for someone else to take over the Hugs and Hurrahs posts in 2022. It’s been my honor and pleasure to hear everyone’s good news and celebrate with you. Now that I’ve taken on more editing responsibilities for The Mitten, it would be great to have someone else join the team to do the Hugs and Hurrahs posts. If you are interested in this role or you have news for the next Hugs and Hurrahs, please email me at


Sunday, December 5, 2021

Featured Illustrator Brianne Farley

Can you tell us about the process of designing the new banner for the SCBWI-MI website? What was your inspiration? Can you share any early sketches?

Sure! Rebecca and Katie reached out to me about creating a new logo and banner. They were so nice to work with, and gave me a ton of creative leeway. I wanted to draw something to represent the entire state of Michigan and all the creative members of SCBWI MI, which felt pretty intimidating. Sometimes, when I have SO MANY options, my mind goes totally blank. 
So I started listing things associated with Michigan--the state bird, state flower, state reptile (the painted turtle!), Motown, cars, the Great Lakes--and things I love about Michigan. Living in Traverse City, I am always inspired by the water and the dunes. I tried a bunch of different directions for this logo, but ultimately decided to draw what I know and love.

You were also the featured illustrator in The Mitten in 2017. What’s changed for you between then and now? (Feel free to include anything, professionally or personally, including the books you’ve had published.)
Yes, thank you! That was a fun project too. Since then, a couple books I've illustrated have come out, I've done some murals, and I got married! Getting married came with a very nice guy, a move across town, and a cute dog. I made a mural for my favorite bar and food
truck spot, Little Fleet, a lovely chocolate shop called Grocer's Daughter, and the new climbing gym, Elev8. The books I've illustrated since then include Charlotte the Scientist is Squished and Charlotte the Scientist Finds a Cure, both by Camille Andros; Building Books by Megan Wagner Lloyd; Dozens of Donuts by Carrie Finison; and No Buddy Like a Book by Allan Wolf. Right now I'm working on writing and illustrating a book. I haven't sent the manuscript and dummy off to my agent yet, but I have my fingers crossed it works out.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? I'm not sure about anyone else, but the pandemic was pretty rough on me creatively. This book I'm working on has been VERY slow going, but it's nearly ready to send out. I think some people go through stressful times and are inspired by it (see: the blues and heartbreak ballads), and others are impeded. If you felt laid low or slowed down in your creative work, you're not alone!

Website and social media links? My website is Twitter is @briannefarley and Instagram is @briannehfarley (my middle initial is "H").

Friday, December 3, 2021

Get Involved with The Book Fairies by Lindsay Gizicki

There’s been a campaign to encourage readers and spotlight authors in Michigan for a few years now. Maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe you’ve yet to discover the charm of The Book Fairies. The Book Fairies launched in March 2017 in London and are now sharing books worldwide.

As Cordelia Oxley, our Book Fairy in Chief, writes: “The idea of The Book Fairies is simple. There are people who like to read, and to share the amazing books they’ve read.” And who doesn’t love finding a surprise? “These two things come together with The Book Fairies—giving people a chance to pop a sticker and some ribbon on a book and leave it somewhere to be discovered!”

You’d be surprised how happy this simple act can make people. As the Michigan-representative, I’ve received hundreds of messages from happy readers, ecstatic to find books waiting for them. The opportunity to pass on my own love for books has been something I’ve cherished the last few years I’ve had the honor to be a part of this initiative.

Back in 2019, fairies around the globe participated in a campaign for the movie Little Women. Emma Watson (who helped hide books around London in March of 2017 for Women’s History Month) wrote notes that were included inside books for fairies to leave. The campaign was a success and people went wild for it. We also did a similar campaign for the theatrical release of The Secret Garden last year.

On November 5, 2021, Emma hid over 300 books with our organization for an event we called #COPBookFairies. This event involved sharing books related to climate change, activism, and caring for our planet in partnership with the COP26 conference—the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted.

We’ve even had the honor of doing a campaign with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge to celebrate the release of Hold Still, published by the National Portrait Gallery to create a unique collective portrait of the UK during lockdown.

We also celebrate monumental days and events such as Indie Author Day, LGBTQ History Month, Black History Month, etc. Over the years, we’ve worked with many authors and publishers to promote their books.

Many authors have used our services simply as a self-promotional tool with either Michigan, national, or international campaigns. With every social media post, we share the plot of the book, author, and publisher accounts and any relevant hashtags.  

For more information on who we are and how you can get involved, visit, follow the hashtag #ibelieveinbookfairies on social media, or email me directly at

Lindsay Gizicki graduated from Central Michigan University and pursued her passion for journalism. She is currently the editor of an architecture magazine based in Troy, Michigan and writes for publications all across the country. Lindsay is an avid book lover and the Michigan-representative for The Book Fairies Worldwide, leaving hidden books for potential readers all around the state. She’s also a frequent contributor for Detroit Mom. In her spare time she fishes Lake St. Clair with her husband, Cyle, and speaks nonsense with her 3-year-old daughter, Harper, and her 18-month-old son, Henry. Her debut children’s book, To the Moon and Back, launches February 28, 2022.


It Starts with Hello

Isabel Estrada O’Hagin

Do you remember the moment when you entered your first Shop Talk or SCBWI-MI workshop with a tinge of nervousness, and then someone in the room smiled and said hello? These friendly gestures led you to feel welcomed and allowed you to feel like you belonged—so you stayed! Fortunately, we’ve been able to adjust through the covid19 protocols and have said hello through our screens and monitors!

As your Outreach Coordinator, I invite you to share these moments with our community to celebrate and reaffirm the importance of how we foster relationships within SCBWI-MI. Our new column, It Starts with Hello, will highlight these positive personal memories that may inspire others. Based on my own experiences, I can attest those welcoming moments made me feel seen and valued. From the Conference Organizers and Shop Talk Coordinators who ask for first-time participants to stand and be recognized, to the empathetic person who invites you to join their table at lunch, together we form a network of creative kidlit professionals. Many of these relationships develop into long-lasting friendships and a support system we often need in our line of creative work.

The stories you submit will be shared on The Mitten blog throughout 2022. Send your It Starts with Hello submission (under 300 words) to Isabel Estrada O’Hagin by December 20, 2021 at:

Note: I will post a second call for these submissions in 2022 as a reminder. Start thinking about which welcoming moment you’d love to share with us!