Friday, July 29, 2022

Dreams Do Not Have an Expiration Date by Cindy Williams Schrauben

Sitting down to write this post, the old adage, shoulda, woulda, coulda, came to mind. We’ve heard it all before… “I could never do that,” I should have done that ten years ago,” or “It’s too late now.” Regret and unanswered dreams seem to go together, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Sometimes, time is your best friend.

First is the obvious fact that dreaming alone isn’t enough. The bottom line is this… a dream without action is just fantasy. Realizing a dream requires risk, gumption, and perseverance. But, there’s more. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but am happy to share a few insights from my own journey.

Recently, I was a guest on the NOT YOUR AVERAGE GRANDMA podcast with Laurie Wright (listen HERE). Laurie is a coach who inspires people (especially those over 50) to find their SPARK. Talking with her gave me some valuable insight. The key to finally realizing a dream is the WHY. WHY do you want to write children’s books? How important is it? If the intrinsic motivation isn’t there, it simply won’t happen. My WHY? Sharing my passion with children (after all, being rich and famous will never pan out). Finding your own WHY can take a bit of introspection, but will definitely move the process along.

Laurie’s wisdom also helped me discover that the WHEN was a crucial component in my journey. I have always had the desire to write books for kids, but for years it was a dream without action. Combining that crucial WHY with the appropriate WHEN was the answer for me. As soon as my WHEN was right, everything clicked. The correct timing included my life position (empty nest), enough time and mental bandwidth, confidence, and the wisdom that can only come from age. It was important for me to realize that not achieving my dreams earlier was not a failure – I was gaining valuable experience and wisdom that would be beneficial when the time came to write. As I look back, I can see that every step along the way afforded me what I needed to achieve this goal.

In addition to the WHY and the WHEN, there is also the HOW.


One of my biggest hurdles early in life was the fear of failure, feeling unworthy, or looking silly (imposter syndrome). It wasn’t until after my picture book, THIS COULD BE YOU, was published that I started seeing the stark connection between its message for children and my own growth mindset as an author. THIS COULD BE YOU encourages children to shoot for the stars, to go for their dreams, to learn from their struggles, and bounce back.

Authors need those same growth mindset qualities to succeed.

      Negative critiques are an opportunity to learn and improve.

      I’m not published YET means you’re still trying.

      Rejection proves that you are submitting your work and without that you will never get published.

I asked the amazing children’s author, Vivian Kirkfield, for some inspiration. Vivian wrote her first book in her mid-60’s, has several more under her belt, and isn’t stopping any time soon. She said, "It's never too late to follow your dreams because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it," and "The only failure is the failure to keep trying."

That brings me to the WHO. I am positive that I would not have persevered in this business without the support and guidance of the kidlit community – find your people!

So, if you aren’t there YET, don’t despair. As my book says, “Believe. It could be you.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cindy Williams Schrauben lives in central Michigan where she writes books for kids that range from the truly serious to the seriously silly. Before embarking on this path, she held positions as a preschool administrator, teacher, and assistant director of a children’s museum -- always striving to empower kids. When not writing or honing her craft, Cindy might be found dissecting her grandsons’ shenanigans for story ideas, reading on the floor in the bookstore, or eating ice cream… ideally all at once. Her debut picture book was published in 2022 by Cardinal Rule Press and she is a speaker for their Bucket Fillers series of books.

You can connect with Cindy at or

Friday, July 22, 2022

On the Shelf by Tara Michener: With You Wherever You Go by Martine Foreman

Cover of With You Wherever You Go
With You Wherever You Go by Martine Foreman
illustrated by QBN Studios (One Nine Press)
When I was a kid I used to pretend that I had my own school. I took this very seriously...I had my own chalkboard and everything, and my stuffed animals were my dedicated students. I did not want school to be a place that was filled with drudgery and pain...I wanted kids to be able to feel free. I made up a concept called feelings class. This was a place where kids could express themselves and know that they would be heard and valued. 

With You Wherever You Go is a book written by Martine Foreman that recognizes the emotions that children feel, and she strives to help them connect to faith as an answer to some of the harder questions.

When we look at "On the Shelf" it is so vital to see that every child should be able to see a book that resonates and helps, and in this book the need for comfort and safety is addressed as well as the reminder that they are not alone. This book addresses the tough times that many of us face and it also reassures and gives guidance that is centered in a higher power. It is important to note that the themes are clearly aligned with religion as a source of coping and compassion. The book features characters of a variety of skin tones and races and includes colorful imagery. I am pretty sure that a younger Tara would have been eager to read this to herself and her stuffed animals for feelings class.    

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 @Taramichener. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Congratulations, Novel Mentorship Winners and Runners-Up!

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up of the SCBWI-MI 2022-23 Novel Mentorship Competition!

(Runners-up are listed in no particular order.)

Patrick Flores-Scott mentorship:
Heather Brewer with WE ARE WANDERERS
Shanti Thirumalai with ELEPHANT'S CHILD

Kelly J. Baptist mentorship:
Joan Donaldson with BROTHERHOOD
Pat Trattles with STEPHEN, ME AND THE CAVE
Betsy McKee Williams with FALLING OUT OF TIME

Thursday, July 14, 2022

(Song) Writer Spotlight: Kitty Donohoe

Grandmother Woody, playing piano at six years old, 'There Are No Words', Northwood Kids, and Scottish tours: author/singer/songwriter Kitty Donohoe

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our regular Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet world-famous musician and author Kitty Donohoe.

You grew up in Royal Oak, the oldest daughter in a family of eight kids. Your family didn’t have a TV for many years. Do you think that was intentional? It sure seemed to spur your young creativity.

It certainly was intentional on my father's part. He specifically said that his kids were acting like cartoons and he didn't like that, thus the "broken" TV set. It was some years before we had a "working" TV again. 

You used to write stories on your Grandmother Woody’s old typewriter, which now sits on the piano in your home. Do you remember any of your early stories? 

I have no idea of those. We all read a huge amount (see 'no TV' and you'll know why!) and I'm pretty sure they were take-offs on whatever I was reading at the time. Some stories about magic, boy-meets-girl stuff, a bit of adventure...

You started playing piano when you were six years old. You used to watch your Mom play piano, so there’s that. But you must have also shown a love of music. 

Like her, I think I was born with an innate knack for making music, as well as for rhyming, so that creativity has been with me all my life. When I hear people say they don't 'like' music, that baffles me. It's like not enjoying breathing or something. Very foreign to me.

You graduated from high school and moved to Nova Scotia. Were you seeking sea shanties? 

Not at all. That trip was because of a curiosity about Nova Scotia and a love of the sea (even though I hadn't been near one yet and didn't know what a sea shanty was at the time.)

That said, I feel very drawn to Canada now, and my father's mother was born in Ontario and moved to Michigan. So there may be some kind of natural instinct toward that place and those songs. 

You eventually moved back to Detroit, specifically Corktown. What did you find in old Irish Detroit?

I wasn't really there that long. My best friend was living there then and we were both getting into our Irish heritage and Corktown was a great intro to the Irish culture in Michigan. We hung out at the Gaelic League a whole lot (where Irish bands played 6 nights a week) and that alone was a great introduction to all things Irish.  

You may be best known for “There are No Words,” penned after the 9/11 tragedy. Obviously you were moved to write the song. Is songwriting your go-to release?

I've always written songs, for as long as I can remember. Not just as a release but as an expression, for all kinds of things. My song is one of hundreds written on that day (if not more) as it certainly moved so many with the need to express our outrage and sorrow.

A reviewer once wrote that you never in your career showed stage fright. Are you good at hiding the jitters, or is it true, you’re a natural performer? 

I actually don't know anything about that review! Yes, I certainly have had my share of 'jitters', though not so much anymore. And I don't know that I'd say I'm a 'natural performer' but I am a natural creator of music, and performance is the most direct way to bring my music to anyone who wants to hear it. 

You’ve written and published
Bunyan and Banjoes: Michigan Songs and Stories, and Henny and Benny Bunyan and the Maple Syrup Adventure. What can you tell us about Gypsie Bird Press?

Gypsie Bird Press is my own little outfit (publishing company with plans for expansion someday) because when I was writing the Henny & Benny story, I discovered that the traditional press world has restrictions that I didn't like.  

In particular, the author rarely gets to pick the illustrator for the book and I had very specific ideas of what I wanted the characters to look like. It's not uncommon to wait a couple of years for your book to come out if it's picked up; and I know many authors who make very small amount of money on the books they sell. That all seemed like a reason to create my own publishing company.

The first book comes with a music CD, so it's part of your brand. But Henny and Benny is a straight-up children's book. What prompted you to write a non-musical story?

At heart I'm a storyteller, first and foremost, so I included the CD to augment the tale but it works just fine without it as well.

A second Northwoods Kids book was in the works at one time. What’s the status? 

I have books 2 and 3 essentially figured out and plan to most likely release them together. Possibly this fall.

How are songwriting and children’s book writing similar? Different? 

Since I have songs for both kids and adults the difference is obviously in the approach. And there can be some crossover between the two but I basically tell tales/write for kids in a simpler way than I do for adults.

You've done hundreds of school visits. How do you keep up the energy necessary to face four tough audiences in one day?

Well, these days I'm not doing quite that same intensity, especially as I've had some health issues in the last year. I loved doing school shows and still plan to promote that part of what I do but with more of an emphasis on being a Visiting Author (who also plays songs) than the high-energy 'everybody sing' efforts in the past. 

It was a glorious bunch of years though, and I STILL hear from adults who heard me as children and can actually remember things like how high and how long the Mackinac Bridge is because of my song about it. It's quite an honor to think my songs will long outlive me.

Tell us about “Lost Voices.” 

Lost Voices was started by my friend Mike Ball, who had a vision about bringing songwriters together with at-risk teens, and he got me on board early on. The program is still going strong, and I know Mike has visions for expanding to other states. 

You’ve offered a musical tour of Ireland most summers for more than a decade. How did the idea of a bus and a B&B and nights full of Irish pub music for 20+ people come about?

I actually joined the Inishfree Tours group in 2015, so not quite a decade. It's a great concept and the tours easily sell out a year ahead of time, although they took a big hit with Covid, obviously.

The company hires performers who have a fan base and can sign up some of those fans to travel around Ireland for 10 days, see the sights and hear traditional Irish music every night. 

Sometimes the music is a pub session, but we've also had private concerts with a solo harpist, a 'sean nos' (Irish traditional Gaelic) singer, a duo who play accordion and guitar and get everyone up and's always amazing music and SO much fun! 

And I think one of the best things about the tour is that everyone has become lifelong friends by the end of the trip. With such a small group it lends itself to the intimacy of friendship and I know several folks from my first year still hang outl

In 2022 you’ve begun to offer a second tour to Scotland. Looks like July is going to be exhausting and immersive for you.

We'll see! The health issues I mentioned are having a serious ankle break in October and a very recent hip replacement. Neither of them life- threatening, but they have slowed me down a bit! I'm very much looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

If anyone is interested in the Ireland and Scotland tours for next year they can contact me at 

You've always been a "hustler," in the best sense of the word. Did your decision to rely on entertainment as a career force you into this hurly-burly world of road trips and non-stop performances? Or is it a built-in part of you who wants to see and experience the world?

I don't know that I'd call myself a 'hustler,' but in this world of performing you pretty much have to stay on top of things - going for gigs, lining up tours, promoting yourself as a songwriter. 

There are some great organizations out there - Folk Alliance and FARM (the Midwest version of Folk Alliance) that are a tremendous source of information, camaraderie, a chance to learn more about what we do and a non-stop support system.

I highly recommend anyone looking to be in the biz (or who is already there) to check out the above and look around for other resources.

It's rough to be self-employed, and knowing others like you are out there is a huge help. For me, one of the biggest shifts in the past couple of years is the demise of the physical CD and the rise of downloads.

I take great issue with that direction (I won't go into it here) - but it makes supporting live music even more important these days. in particular, I'm developing a platform to get my music - songs and instrumentals - to music buyers for TV, movies, ads. It can be a great source of revenue if you're lucky.

I think when you're doing what you should be doing, you find new ways to get it out there.

Please include any social media platforms you wish to share.

Right now I only have 2 Facebook artist pages and a Youtube page that has some of my songs set to film - tho on my 'list of things to do' before I go to Scotland is to develop more social media presence.





Friday, July 8, 2022

A Slice of Sales with SCBWI by Cathy Collison

Summer reading fests can really rock – and I was grateful to get word from SCBWI in the spring about the Rockford (sorry on the rocking pun) tent and table the Society was offering to writers – and readers.

Sure, it was a little bit of a trek across the state in June (before the $5 gas), but with the tent and table free, I considered it the perfect way to spend a Saturday to sell my book, co-authored with Janis Campbell, MeetThe Pets: Presidential Animals From A to Z.  It was my second event with SCBWI, the first in December 2021 was in Ann Arbor at an annual holiday art fair that allowed space for authors as well.

OK, did I sell 30 books at the two events? No, but close! The Ann Arbor venue had many browsers ready to gift family and friends at the holidays.  At Rockford, eight books were purchased, but both opportunities gave me a boost – don’t we all need that these days? —connecting with Suzanne Lipshaw, site coordinator, on a sunny brisk day, and mainly connecting with readers.

The Rockford celebration of reading – with an audience that chose to stop by a book fair before heading to the beach – was as refreshing as a sip of my favorite iced tea (with a splash of lemonade). The same was true for last December’s tent event – a chilly December afternoon, but a warm buzz with authors from metro Detroit connecting, reading aloud and a natural boost.   Writers and illustrators of children’s books naturally often spend time in their own solitary nook – whether a desk at home or just a cozy corner – and often prefer the creativity of writing to the business of book sales. Tips on school visits, shared insights into contests or giveaways – it was all part of the SCBWI Michigan tent.

It was such fun to see what a community of writers can do together. If anything, I suspect we sell more books together at the fests, from Ann Arbor to Rockford, and across the state, because we can reach many more readers at these than a bookstore signing, much as those are appreciated, which are more rare these days.

Hope to see more SCBWI members and thanks, Michigan SCBWI, for subsidizing these tables, giving us more affordable bookselling opportunities, sprinkled with the fun of sharing a day with writing colleagues.

See you at the next fest!

Cathy Collison is a metro Detroit writer and retired Detroit Free Press journalist.  She and co-author Janis Campbell have teamed up on several books, meeting when they both worked at the Free Press’ magazine for young readers and newspaper education program. Both love animals and are history buffs, inspiring them in their latest book, illustrated by Wendy Popko. Her website is

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

It Starts with Hello with Kat Higgs-Coulthard

Hello used to be hard for me.

It's one of the reasons I started writing--in the high school cafeteria, bending over a notebook, pen in hand, made me look busy instead of lonely. Creative, not terrified. I wrote words to avoid speaking them. day at a bookstore I overheard a group of women analyzing the moves an author had made to build suspense in the book they were reading. After the group dispersed, I approached one woman who remained behind gathering her things and asked the name of the book they'd been discussing.

She introduced herself as Cynthia Furlong Reynolds and shared that her book group was composed of writers who analyze the work of other writers in order to inform their own writing. She shared that she was also a writer. PROFESSIONALLY. Until that moment, that was something I did not think was actually possible. She was kind and friendly and told me I should consider joining SCBWI. She belonged to the Michigan Chapter and because I lived in Michigan, I could too. In fact, I should come with her to the meeting next month.
I was terrified.
But I went.
It was tempting to sit in the back and hide in my notebook. But before I could, Cynthia introduced me to one person, then another. The hellos piled up; conversations began. I couldn't tell you who I met that day or what we talked about, but the message was overwhelming and clear: YOU BELONG.

I'm still afraid to say hello. But every time I do there's a new friend saying hello back. I've met some amazing people through SCBWI and I look forward to meeting even more.

Hello :)

Kat Higgs-Coulthard has been a writer as long as she can remember. She became a teacher out of a desire to help others share their words and has been a teacher for more than 20 years, first as an elementary teacher, then as a teacher educator at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame. Her latest YA book, Junkyard Dogs, is due out in March 2023 from Peachtree Teen.

Thank you, Kat, for sharing your Hello story marked by these descriptions of authentic emotion. I think many of us can relate to your experiences. From being terrified to looking forward to meeting more amazing people through SCBWI—may our greetings and smiles welcome the new faces we encounter virtually or in person! Pass it on!

Do you have a Hello story you want to share? Send me your submission at (300 words or less).

Friday, July 1, 2022

Interview with John Rodriguez, BIPOC Scholarship Awardee and Featured Illustrator

In this third of our series on our BIPOC scholarship awardees, we meet John Rodriguez—an exciting illustrator and multimedia artist. In addition to his interview, John delights our imagination by sharing a few exciting, action-packed illustrations that promise to grab his young readers’ attention! Marvel and enjoy, everyone!


Isabel Estrada O’Hagin

SCBWI-MI Outreach Coordinator



1.    How has the SCBWI membership been useful to you? 

Being a member of SCBWI has enabled me to expand my network of relationships with authors and other illustrators in the state of Michigan. The newsletters have been very informative and there have been opportunities for me to learn about how other professionals are trying to grow their business.  


2.    We’d like to get to know you! Tell us about your past creative work in the area of children’s literature or related areas of interest or expertise. You can also tell us about your studio or workspace.

I am working on growing as an illustrator of children’s literature. My recent interest started to develop after having children and spending time helping them to grow their imaginations. One of my children began to show interest in storytelling. So, we began to work on sketches toward a book production. After working with him on this project, I realized that I had a lot to learn in this growing industry. 

It is important to me to work on projects that showcase Black children. For a short time, I worked on putting together comic strips and illustrations featuring a young Black boy. This helped to further the conversation about what life can be like for Black boys. It is fun and filled with love and family.


I primarily work at home. I use a variety of media to create my pieces. This includes traditional mediums such as watercolor, acrylics, and oil paints. Most recently, much of my work has been on my iPad using the Procreate app with an Apple Pencil. Using this tool allows me to produce work at a faster pace and doesn’t have any significant prep time or clean-up. You still have to be able to illustrate and understand color theory to produce artwork. It allows me to work anywhere I enjoy.

3.    What in your childhood or youth piqued your interest in writing or illustrating? What were some of the major influences that led you to this road? 

 Drawing was always accessible. Since paper and pencils were readily available, it was an easy way to engage in something productive while waiting for time to pass or keeping myself occupied when being a noisy child wasn’t an option. I was very much inspired by early 80s cartoons such as Thundercats, Transformers, He-Man, Teenage-Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the like. I wanted to be able to draw these characters and tell my own stories. I am happy to say that I still engage with cartoons and continue to enjoy animation and the visual arts. 


4.    Please share anything about your current projects or what’s ahead in your creative work. We’d love to hear about it! 

I am currently working on a project with the Ann Arbor District Library where I am creating a visual piece that represents Michigan culture. Most recently, I designed the artwork for Ann Arbor’s 2022 Juneteenth Celebration.  Since I am a multimedia artist, I do a variety of work including photography and video production, as well as illustration. 

Other samples of my work can be found at:

Instagram: @bruinprophet

Facebook: @jrartsite 

John Rodriguez is a marketing and communications professional at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. John holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). John is of Afro-Caribbean descent, having been born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is a husband and father of two young boys. His work as a visual artist explores the dynamics of culture and emotions through portraiture and storytelling that build community awareness and challenge stereotypical narratives.

BIPOC Scholarship

This scholarship awards a one-year membership to SCBWI for new members who identify as BIPOC kidlit creators.

Qualifications: Must be a Michigan resident, at least 18 years of age, who identifies as BIPOC and is a writer and/or illustrator of children’s literature.

Award: A one-year membership to SCBWI.

Applications Accepted: September 1st – October 1st (via a link that will be posted here).   Awardees will be notified on or before Oct. 15th.

To donate to this scholarship, click or tap HERE.