Monday, August 29, 2022

Book Birthday Blog with Lisa Wheeler



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Lisa Wheeler on the release of Baby Shower


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

Since 2019, I’ve had many baby showers to attend or purchase gifts for. I always give a basket of books—both mine and books written by others. I mentioned wanting a perfect book to give for baby showers and a family member said, “Ummm, maybe you should write it?” So I did! 

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?

I just want them to share in the joy of a bouncing new arrival. I also hope they begin reading to their babies in utero. I wrote this in rhyme and matched meter to mood by making it bouncy, like a baby!  

According to your website, you had many "no thanks" for your manuscript submissions before receiving your first "yes". What advice do you have for creatives to weather the submission rejections?

To quote Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender!” (Yeah, I’m a sci-fi nerd.)

It can be a long, lonely road. But that’s why we joined SCBWI-Michigan, right? To find our people. If you work hard, do the revisions, put in the time researching your craft and learning from others, your work can’t help but get better. While I cannot guarantee anyone publication success, I can say with full confidence that your writing will be much improved and who knows where that will lead. 

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

I think the hardest part was coming up with, then discarding all the various ‘types’ of baby personalities in the book. I have daring babies, trendy babies, happy and cooing babies. But as I was writing, I ‘d made this very long list of attributes and had to cut many of them for length.

What are your marketing plans for the book?

Well, this for one. Ha-ha!

I also got to share with a few groups I spoke to this summer. Since this is a book for babies, the appeal has to be for adults who make the purchase. I haven't quite figured out how to market a 'baby' book yet.

A little bit about the book . . .

In this very young picture book, a literal shower of babies falls to Earth with their unique personalities and style. Why did they come? To meet their families, of course!     

A little bit about the author . . .

Award-winning author, Lisa Wheeler is passionate about children’s books. “I love everything about them, including the smell!” She’s written over 50 picture books in prose and rhyme, an easy reader series, four books of poems, and creative nonfiction for the very young. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a rhymer. Wordplay excites me!” Lisa's newest books are Baby Shower, My First Dino-Football, Basketball and Soccer, and Someone Builds the Dream. Lisa is a local author from, Addison, Michigan. Check out her website at

Instagram: @littlelisais6
Twitter: @LisaWheelerbook


Book Birthday Blog with E.F. Meyette


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to E.F. Meyette on the release of The Go to Sleep Tree



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

The Go to Sleep Tree is based on two things: a childhood fear I had, and a dream.
As the youngest of nine children, I would lie awake and listen as each sibling came
upstairs to go to bed. With each one, my dread of being awake alone in the middle of the
night grew. And, of course, the more the fear grew, the harder it was to fall asleep.
Sometimes my mother would lay down with me until I finally dozed off.

Years later, during my time as an elementary librarian, I dreamed I was afraid again, but I
could hang my fears on a tree outside my bedroom window. The next morning, when I related this dream to the paraprofessional who worked with me in the library, she said, “That sounds like a children’s book.” The wheels started spinning, and the seed for my book was planted.

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?

I hope my book will open up discussion with children about their fears and ways they can
overcome them, or at least feel empowered to face them and look for solutions. I also
hope it will be a fun bedtime story for children. After all, Sam is so cute.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Initially, I had Sam’s mother suggesting solutions for Sam. My editor said Sam had to be
the agent of the action, so I had to rewrite the story so that, with his mother’s support,
Sam came up with the solutions himself.

What are your marketing plans for the book?

I will use Amazon Ads and discount promotions as my main marketing tools as I do for
my novels. I am already booking school visits and author events.

My dream is to create a companion kit with a tabletop model of the Go to Sleep Tree and
papers and ribbons or yarn so children can draw a solution to their own fears and hang
them on the Go to Sleep Tree. I don’t know where to start with this idea, so I’ll have to
do some research.

What's next for you?

Besides finishing two novels I’m working on, I have seven more children’s books in the
hopper. One of them is based on another childhood experience, this time having a
“second home” at my neighbors where it was blissfully calm and orderly unlike my home
with children and teens running all over the place.

A little bit about the book . . .

Six-year-old Sam cannot go to sleep because he is worried. He worries about the bully at
school, he worries about the big dog down the street, and most of all, he worries that
everyone in his family will fall asleep before he does. Sam is afraid that he will be alone
and awake in the middle of the night. Then Sam discovers the power of the Go to Sleep


A little bit about the author . . .

When E.F. Meyette first heard, “Once upon a time…,” she knew storytelling would be
a part of her life. One of her favorite positions as an educator was as the school
librarian at an elementary building where she could have green eggs in the morning,
visit a dinosaur in the afternoon, and learn everything she needed to know from
kindergarteners. Though she taught literature at all grade levels from K-12, her love
for children’s picture books led her to write her own.







Friday, August 26, 2022

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): Much More than Writing 50,000 Words in November

In the first of three blogs, author Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw introduces NaNo Prep

My middle grade contemporary fiction story idea was brewing since a crazy dream I had one April night. I spent the summer thinking it through, researching setting, etc., but as a picture book author, drafting a middle grade novel seemed daunting at best. I dabbled in a makeshift NaNoWriMo club with my students several years ago, so I was familiar with the basics. I decided to run with my story idea and give the true NaNoWriMo program a whirl.

Since I am the consummate “planner,” I perused the NaNo website in August under a writer vs. a teacher lens. I was surprised at the number of resources offered not only for the month of November, but for the months surrounding the main event.

The process actually begins in September with a six-week NaNo Prep course. Each of the first four weeks are dedicated to an aspect of planning your story and the last two provide tips on organizing and managing your time in November.

Week one’s topic was Developing a Story Idea. Each week NaNo Prep assigns an exercise to do, provides a forum to converse with other WriMos about the week’s exercise, and lists additional resources. Since my idea was already developed, I chose to skip the first topic and move directly to week two Creating Complex Characters. I utilized their Character Development Questionnaire to flush out my protagonist and my main supporting characters.

Week three’s (my week two’s) topic was Constructing a Detailed Plot or Outline. Since most authors fall somewhere on the “planner vs. pantser” continuum, NaNo offers a quiz to discover what type of plotting method works best for you. Already knowing I was a planner, I took the test for fun and was glad I did. It led me to planning and outlining resources best aligned to my spot on the continuum. I chose to use the Save the Cat! Beat Sheet created by Jessica Brody, the author of Save the Cat! Writes A Novel. For me, one week wasn’t nearly enough to work through the outline so I was glad to be a week ahead of schedule.

Week four centered on Building a Strong World. Initially, I didn’t think I needed this since I wasn’t writing a fantasy or sci-fi, but soon learned this section was geared to any setting. Coincidentally, that week, I was scheduled to take a trip with my husband to explore Marquette, Michigan where my story was set. If you’re able, I highly recommend turning your research into a working vacation.

Weeks five and six’s topics were Organizing Your Life for Writing and Finding and Managing Your Time. Again, I didn’t delve too much into those sections. Last year was my first year as a retired teacher and I knew I would have a lot of time to write, or so I thought…(stay tuned to part 2 of this series for more about that).

Instead, I used those two weeks to continue developing my story outline. I combined the Save the Cat! organizer 

with professional writer and editor Erin M. Brown’s Master Story Map (which I received from a previous SCBWI-MI workshop). Melding the two enabled me to better understand and outline the story beats needed for the ENTIRE novel.

Come November 1, this “planner” was ready to roll!

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw is an award-winning nonfiction children’s book author and former elementary special education teacher who is passionate about growing young minds. Suzanne’s first nonfiction picture book,, I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks, debuted in April 2019 from Warren Publishing. Her second book, Mighty Mahi, launched from Doodle and Peck Publishing in March 2022. Suzanne enjoys speaking to schools about writing, leadership, and how kids can make a difference in our world.

You can visit Suzanne online at:







Editor's Note:

Part 2 (writing the novel) can be found here. 

Part 3 (revising the novel) can be found here.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Writer Spotlight: Kathleen E. Clark


Marshmallow the book, sesquicentennial farm, a cat who thought he was a chicken and a dog who raised bunny orphans: the never typical days of Kathleen E. Clark

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our regular Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet writer and farmer Kathleen E, Clark.

You’re building a website. How goes it?

I am not a techy person, so this has been a totally new experience for me– exciting and daunting at the same time. Being able to put this together as an expression of who I am has certainly tested my skills as a writer.  It has also tested my patience!  

I don’t even want to guess where I would be without help. Among those generous with their time, expertise, and suggestions were Charlie and Ruth McNally Barshaw, and also a shout out to my techy daughter, Heather.  Thank you! All in all, it has been fun getting to share my creative side with the rest of the world. 

One of my favorite things about writing is finding just the right words; now I get to choose the pictures too. 

On your website you reminisce about how your “Mom walked you downtown to the library.”  Paint the picture: Downtown where and when? What were some of your favorite books growing up?

Oh, what a fun memory. I grew up on a crazy, “let’s try farming,” thirty acres in the village limits of the quaint railroad town of Holly. 

Downtown Holly's buildings old brick facades, complete with a dime store, pet shop, and hardware. On the corner of the main street, next to the old filling station, was the library. The only daylight was from the shop window out front, and inside, just a narrow floor space with rows of books. 

But I could always find my favorite, even in the dark. Marshmallow, by Clare Turlay Newberry. The best line– “A bunny’s a delightful habit, No home’s complete without a rabbit.” And yes, our home was complete with a rabbit or two. 

You work at a library now. Is that a tribute to your Mom, a genuine love of the library, or both?

Well, for sure I have to say it started with my mom and a love for children’s books. The first in my collection was my own copy of Marshmallow

I homeschooled my kids up through graduation, and the local libraries were a must. Actually, our favorite part of the school week. 

At fifty-five, I found myself searching for job listings, having my daughter help with my resume, and putting myself out there. And look what popped up, a clerk position in my hometown.  No, I didn’t get it. 

After suffering from a bruised ego for a month or so, a position came up at the library where my kids and I went, closer to our farm, but not in the same zip code. Just proof that where one door closes, another one opens. I just love it there.


The “adventurous Dad” trip to find the starting place of the spotlight. Where did it end up coming from? Was there more than one occasion?

Something I will never forget. It was just the two of us, and we ended up at a furniture store having a big sale! No, not that exciting, but the fun was in the journey. Definitely something to be said about enjoying the journey.  

And one Thanksgiving, we ended up at Plymouth Rock because my mom said she didn’t have any plans when my dad asked her. 

How did you meet your “very own farmer”?

The first time I met him, he was with the band group helping recruit middle-schoolers to join the high school band. He was kind of big and scary, at least compared to my almost five-foot self. 

Though quiet and reserved, this tall and strapping farmer had a singing voice to match his size. Any time he was on a tractor, he would sing all the louder. He got asked to sing at church and wondered if I could accompany him. Well, I had a few piano lessons. We practiced. Sat in the front row on Sunday. And they never called on him, but he asked me out after. 

I didn’t even scare him off when I swamped our canoe in one of the farm ponds. In my defense, he did say to look at that fish. He just didn’t know what an enthusiastic looker I was. 

What makes your farm “sesquicentennial”?

Michigan has a great centennial farm program honoring family farms. My husband and I were starting the paperwork for it when he passed suddenly at work. I wasn’t sure about trying to file the paperwork, pay the fees, and get the sign, but his friend, a fellow farmer, wanted to do that in his honor. 

When they contacted me back, they said our time frame was over 150 years, and they would send the added sign at the same time. There was even a write-up in Michigan History Magazine. Definitely an honor to my very own farmer and his heritage.

Now we put small stones or pebbles from vacations underneath the sign. Some we took together and new ones too. My daughter just brought back some from Scotland to add to the collection

Describe a typical day for you.

Never typical- it’s a farm!

What kind of menagerie do you have at the Clark Farm?

Young Kathleen, her Mom, and a lamb

Farm animals here consisted of work horses and a long barn of milk cows before my time, Herefords later. In my early married days, they kept one milk cow. 

I only milked when the boys didn’t get home in time. My thanks, a slap in the face with a dirty tail. Ugh. She never did that to them. 

Also, calves, chickens, and barn cats, including one deaf cat who thought he was a chicken. And yes, I am working on a story about that cool cat who took up prime real estate, napping on the only nest in the coop! Needless to say, we figured out why all those squawking noisy hens never bothered him. 

Here are the last two stanzas of my WIP about my "chicken cat."

So don’t get all worried

If things start out slow.

Hang in and make friends

While you blossom and grow.


Turn a challenge around;

Put your strengths to good use.

Make your place in this world

Then just chill and hang loose.”

I’ll bite (because the dog won’t). What’s the story about the rabbits you raised “rescued” by a toothless dog?

Post, pond and wildflowers 

My dad got me a dog for my birthday from the pound. Sweetest dog ever, but it nipped at kids when it played. Maybe something from its past, but still not okay. 

Though my dad was the dentist, it was my grandma who came up with the idea of pulling its teeth to rescue it from a sad fate. The vet checked, and sure enough, pulling just the front ones was a great solution. 

Maybe that’s where my dog got the heart for rescues. By the way, eye-droppers make great bunny bottles. It’s probably a good thing our vet didn’t have caller-ID, we were calling so often to ask vet questions.

What kind of manuscripts do you have resting “in the drawer”?

I have almost a dozen stories that are drawn out of life lessons I learned from the animals. Nature is a great teacher, and I’m working on just how to share those messages of humor and hope with the next generation.

What are you working on now? I should specify “writing,” because you’re always working.

I’m working on the story of a small bantam hen, Josefina. Of the importance of determination and learning to spread your wings in a big people’s world. 

This tiny hen needed a home, and someone thought of us. Here she was thrown into a group of large old biddies, and she escaped out into the feedlot full of cattle with horns! 

 You received a critique from author Lisa Wheeler. What did you learn from her? What other writing and educational challenges have you tackled?

Oh my goodness, she was so gracious and helpful. I learned I needed to get to the heart of the story quicker. To focus on the main point and stick with it. I learned to pay attention to my character’s voice and point of view.  I also learned that it’s okay if my stories come out in rhyming fashion- ha. 

She was just as generous with compliments too. It certainly made a big difference in my manuscript. Such a gifted writer. I love her stories! 

How did you find SCBWI? How did you find LAST?

Swallow and rainbow, captured by Kathleen

When I began to make my stories into picture books, I scoured the internet for helpful information. SCBWI was recommended so many times, I can’t count.   I decided to be brave and paid my money for the first year, but that was it. Oh, the resources I was missing. 

During the shutdown for Covid, there were so many opportunities to connect by Zoom to local groups.  Whether in-person or online, it has been fantastic meeting everyone– learning, sharing, and being encouraged. 

I am so thankful for the LAST group and those in the various regions. Everyone is so welcoming and helpful. It has been extremely informative– and fun. 

At the first in-person at the park during introductions, I said I was a want-to-be writer. Ruth asked me if I write– well yes. She said, “You’re a writer.” I will never forget that. A totally different perspective of myself.

What’s the story with your uncle, who turned a ballroom into a roller rink?

So, during the Covid shutdowns and Michigan ice storms, I decided to make use of the 14-day free trial at Ancestry. Of course, you then get ads for 

Through both sites, I pieced together this family --my family-- of Scottish Hand Loom Weavers (HLW), displaced by the Industrial Revolution I am guessing.  They made their way to Canada and eventually the West Coast, losing their dad at an early age. 

They, along with their mom, were certainly go-getters, making a new life in a new country– lumbermen, railroaders, miners, hotel proprietors, a stagecoach driver, and a township constable.  In the newspaper, their mom is known simply as Grandma Kerr. She must have been quite a woman. 

In changing times and a world throwing them curve balls, it seems my uncle and his brother, my great-great-grandfather, adapted and swung for the fences. I would have loved to have seen the new roller rink back in 1908.

What is “Christmas in Action”? What is your most memorable Christmas interaction?

This organization is such a great gift to the community, benefiting low-income senior or disabled homeowners. 

It's kind of like Christmas in July, but in May. The community comes together. Raises money. The local restaurants provide meals.  We meet that first Saturday and all work together to make this world a better place, and a safer place for the elderly or disabled. 

We do home repairs, yard clean-up, and even plant flowers—all in one day. A lot of hard work, but you meet so many great people. All in all, a win-win, for the homeowner, the community, and the workers.


And speaking of win-win, two kittens

Please include any social media contacts you wish to share.

You can find Kathleen at:  

and on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest at:






Friday, August 12, 2022

Critique Carousel FAQ

Logo by SCBWI-MI member Cathy Gendron

This year’s Critique Carousel is right around the corner, and we know Michigan SCBWI members have questions. Good news! We’ve got answers!

15 amazing kidlit agents are lined up for this year’s carousel and they’re looking forward to reading your work! We hope the FAQs below will help you prepare for the logistics of the event. More details regarding the participating agents will be shared once the registration website goes live in September. Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of time to review the agents and pick the one best suited to critique your work. 

We hope you’ll consider taking a spin on this year’s Critique Carousel!


Your 2022 Critique Carousel Coordinators, 

Alicia Curley, Wendy BooydeGraaff, and Natalie Aguirre 

Q: What is the Critique Carousel?

The Critique Carousel is a virtual SCBWI-MI event for members to receive a written critique from an acquiring agent. Participants will select a kidlit agent that represents their genre (science fiction, fantasy, etc.) or age category (picture books, middle grade, young adult). Agents will have a month to read submissions and provide the critique on our standard SCBWI Gold Form. After the event and after revising their work, participants will have the opportunity to submit to their critiquing agent for representation consideration even if their agent is closed to submissions to the general public.

Critiques cost $55/each and are a max of 6 pages. Please see more information regarding submission requirements below.

Q: What can I submit to the Critique Carousel?

Agents participating this year are open to critiquing: 

  • Picture books (fiction and nonfiction)

  • Chapter books

  • Middle grade (fiction and nonfiction)

  • YA (fiction and nonfiction)

  • Graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction)

  • Novels in verse 

During registration, you’ll be able to see which agents are open to critiquing what. 

Q: What is the Critique Carousel submission window? 

Registration opens at 7:00 pm September 19th, and it will close at 11:00 pm October 2nd. 

Participants must submit their manuscripts (and meet all submission guidelines) by midnight on October 2nd.

Agents have until November 12th to complete their critiques. We will do our best to have all completed critiques back to participants before the end of November.

Q: Can I sign up for more than one critique?

No; participants can only register for one critique during the registration window. In the event critique spots are still available, we will notify participants via email regarding opportunities to purchase additional critiques. 

Q: How do I format my manuscript for the Critique Carousel?

Submission guidelines for written critiques:

  • At the top of the manuscript or manuscript sample, include your name, email, and title of the manuscript. In successive pages, add your name and manuscript title to the top of each page as a header. These are not counted toward your word limit.

    • Picture Books:

      • Fiction: up to 800 words, 1-inch margins, double spaced (sample here). 

      • Non-fiction: 1,200 words, 1-inch margins, double spaced.

      • Art notes do not count toward word count.

    • Novels: 6 pages, 1-inch margins, double spaced. You may include a synopsis (at the end of your pages), but these will not be critiqued (sample here).

    • Graphic novels: 

      • Art and text: 6 sample page spreads in jpg or pdf format, as well as a summary/synopsis.

      • Text only: 6 pages of script.

      • You may include a synopsis (at the end of your pages), but these will not be critiqued (sample here).

    • Novels in Verse: 6 pages, 1-inch margins, single-spaced, no page breaks at the end of a poem. Run them right up after the one before. You may include a synopsis (at the end of your pages), but these will not be critiqued (sample here). 

  • Please use standard font formatting; Arial or Times New Roman, size 12.

  • If your manuscript is intended to be author/illustrated, you may add the line "author illustrated PB" (or MG or Chapter Book, etc.) in your contact information.

  • Please name your file in this format: YourName_AgentsName_GENRE 

    • For genre, please use: PB, CB, MG, YA, GN, NV

    • Example: JaneDoe_AgentX_PB

  • Preferred file formats: Word doc or PDF

If your manuscript arrives with formatting issues, we’ll let you know and give you a chance to resubmit, but you still need to make the submission window date. We are unable to offer refunds due to formatting errors so please follow carefully!

Q: Will there be more agents who represent picture book writers, not only author/illustrators?

We’ve worked hard to ensure there are plentiful critique opportunities this year for picture book writers. 13 agents are offering picture book critiques, however not every agent offering picture book critiques is open to picture book submissions (or picture book text only submissions). Please read the agent’s MSWL carefully when deciding which agent to select for your critique.

Q: Will the agents in the carousel be open to submissions? If agents are currently closed to submissions, will they accept submissions from the writers they critiqued?

Yes, agents will be open to submissions from Critique Carousel participants for six months after receipt of the completed critique. Agents who are presently closed to submissions to the general public are asked to adhere to this as well. Instructions for submitting to agents will be shared with participants via email, with their completed critique.

Q: I’m submitting a novel, should I include a synopsis?

While it is NOT mandatory, it is highly encouraged that you include a synopsis of your novel or graphic novel with your materials for critique. This way, agents have more information to analyze your submission. Please note, agents are not asked to provide critique on the synopsis itself, but they may use it for more context on your story, in order to provide better feedback on your work.

Note: Please limit your synopsis to one page, single spaced, standard formatting (12pt size font). Include this at the end of your 6 pages.

Q: How do I write a synopsis?

There are a lot of great resources online for synopsis writing. A few that may be helpful: 

Q: For novels and graphic novels, should I submit the first 6 pages? Or can I submit any 6 pages?

There’s no specific requirement here, however, we strongly suggest the first 6 pages. Your first pages are your first impression with an agent or editor, and they’re likely to be the only pages read in a submission package. Those are also the pages that set up the story, and the story may not make sense if you choose pages from the middle of your manuscript. You want those pages to shine! Making these pages as strong as possible can make a big difference in getting an agent or editor to request more work.

Q: I’m submitting a novel and my first chapter ends on page 7 and the limit is 6 pages. Can I just send 7 so you'll have a complete chapter?

No; please limit your manuscript to 6 pages. If your chapter is longer than 6 pages, look for a natural stopping point before that and send the pages up to that point.

Take a look at the manuscript sample for a novel. You may be able to fit in more than you realize by not leaving the typical spacing for a chapter beginning. 

Q: After I submitted my work, I made some changes and I want to replace my original submission with a new one. There is still time before the submission deadline, so can I do that?

No; please upload your manuscript ONLY ONCE. We cannot accept multiple revised uploads. Proof your work carefully and submit when you are absolutely ready.

Q: I would like a refund, or I’d like to cancel my participation. How do I do that?

There are no refunds or cancellations for this event. 

Q: I have a question that’s not addressed here. Who can I contact?

For any questions that are not already addressed in our FAQs, please reach out to We’ll respond as soon as we’re able. 

Meet the 2022 Critique Carousel Coordinators:

Alicia Curley writes picture books, chapter books, and middle grade. Her first published work, “A Lesson in Empathy” was included in the 2019 Chicken Soup for the Soul title, Life Lessons from the Dog. Previously in the tech industry, she received her Bachelor of Arts in marketing from Michigan State University. This is her first volunteer project with SCBWI and it won’t be her last. Visit her at, where she blogs once a quarter at best.

Wendy BooydeGraaff is the author of the picture book Salad Pie (Ripple Grove Press/Chicago Review Press), and her middle grade story will be included in the upcoming Haunted States of America anthology (Henry Holt). Her poetry, fiction, and essays have been included in Popshot Quarterly, X-R-A-Y, The Shore, Taproot Magazine, and elsewhere. Connect on Twitter @BooyTweets.


Natalie Aguirre is the blog host of Literary Rambles. She is an aspiring middle grade and YA author and a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Natalie's mission at Literary Rambles is to help aspiring writers and authors on their path to publication. She features many debut middle grade and young adult authors who offer advice to writers with an ARC or book giveaway and interviews literary agents with query critique giveaways.