Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Jackie Freeman


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Jackie Freeman on the release of I'm Okay, Momma!


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

My happiest memories from childhood center around my mother, Joy Price, whose spirit lived up to her name. As she played gospel music on her old upright piano, I would sit beside her on the piano bench and sing the lyrics.

I realized at an early age that my mother’s form of communication was through musical notes, and mine was through words. When she died in 2018, I knew I had to share her gifts with a broader audience.

I wrote a devotional for women to discuss the wisdom imparted by my mother’s gospel songs. Keep a Song in Your Heart: Musical Notes for Daily Devotions has a Spotify playlist for the reader to listen to the music as world-renowned performers perform it. I continued the tribute to my mother in my picture book I'm Okay, Momma!, which is based on episodes I recalled from my girlhood. Written in rhyme, this story celebrates the ways a parent teaches the Fruit of the Spirit, often unconsciously, in quick everyday events.

Kevin Fales illustrated the scenes with simple, colorful, multicultural art that reflects a child’s world at various ages. 

I'm Okay, Momma! was inspired by a story my mother shared with me shortly before her death.

            One day, Jackie’s Grandma fetched her little granddaughter when school ended. When they stopped to visit a neighbor, the minutes ticked by, and Jackie’s mother grew concerned. She set out searching for her mother and daughter. Where was her little girl?

            The five-year-old saw her mother approaching and understood the concern on her face. She opened the neighbor’s screen door and shouted, “I’m Okay, Momma! I'm Okay!”  

As the years passed, Jackie forgot this episode. But her mother never did. Shortly before Joy Price died, she reminded Jackie of the memory and told her, “I know you will always be okay, Jackie.”

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

I hope my readers will see the significance of ordinary moments becoming extraordinary teaching opportunities that can impact a child’s life in amazing ways. 

The back pages have additional information and questions for an interactive experience. We all benefit when we tell, hear, and write about important moments and people in our lives. I ask the reader to give it a try!

What inspires you to write?

My love of words blossomed during my childhood, thanks to my Grandmother Nettie, whose bookcase held a marvelous collection of stories for a young girl – and then a young woman – to enjoy. Books by Louisa Mae Alcott, Margaret Mitchell, Zane Grey, Mary Jane Holmes, Nancy Drew Mysteries, and others inspired my passion for reading and writing. After a career in early childhood education, I joined writers’ groups to hone my writing skills.

What are your marketing plans for the book?

I’m Okay, Momma! had a book launch team within the faith-based community and the national pickleball community (more on that below), creating a growing audience. Excellent reviews on Amazon and other sites are multiplying, various publications have interviewed me, and I frequently speak to teachers, schools, and parent groups. While I faithfully write a weekly blog and monthly newsletter, I’m also planning a podcast. 

I learned a great deal about marketing with my first children’s picture book, Bend Your Knees, Louise! A Pickleball Primer, which was published in 2020. It, too, is written in rhyme. Co-author Karen Worthy and I used the same illustrator, Kevin Fales, who captures everyday moments through a child’s eye. This book quickly became an Amazon bestseller and opened school doors for author visits, where we discuss the writing process and demonstrate pickleball. Karen and I bring paddles, nets, and balls and teach the sport. This book has its own website full of teacher resources, media events, coloring pages, pickleball word search puzzles, and pickleball organizations. https://www.bendyourkneeslouise.com/

We also welcome an invitation to speak with students or adults about the writing process and the sport.

What's next for you?

Of course, I continue marketing both children’s books, but with the New Year came new writing plans that will continue weaving my themes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control into everyday experiences. I have two projects at the head of my must-do list: another devotional based on the Fruit of the Spirit and a children’s book that will tell the story of a very old and significant place in the lives of many children. 

Stay tuned for more information!

A little bit about the book . . . 

 Jackie Freeman wrote I’m Okay, Momma! as a tribute to her mother, Joy Thomas Price. Based on a childhood memory, the book illustrates how small everyday events teach children huge moral lessons, often at times when busy parents are unaware of their importance. 

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the Christian Fruit of the Spirit, are among the lessons taught in everyday events as a child goes through her first five years. Beginning with the scene of a pregnant mother sitting in a nursery, this tale reminds parents and shows children how they are showered with love, care, compassion, discipline, and kindness even before birth. The simple illustrations by Kevin Fales are multicultural and reminiscent of the world a child sees.

A little bit about the author . . .

The mother of three sons, Jackie Freeman lives on sixty rolling acres of farmland in rural Michigan, where she gardens, walks, practices pickleball, writes for the Christian and children’s market, plays with her grandchildren, and cares for a somewhat whimsical donkey and a cuddly and opinionated cat, who is featured in I’m Okay, Momma!, as is Jackie’s mother’s piano. You can connect with this author at:


Instagram: @jackiefreemanauthor

Email:  jackie@jackiefreemanauthor.com



Friday, January 27, 2023

Hugs and Hurrahs

 I'm not sure if it's the same across the rest of the state, but here in West Michigan, we are—and have been—deep in the dark days that forge hardy Michiganders. Let's shine a bit of light on some of our incredible colleagues. Welcome to the first Hugs and Hurrahs of 2023! 

Dana VanderLugt is excited to share that her debut middle grade work, Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel-in-Verse will be published by ZonderKidz in September 2023.  From 1943 to 1946, over 400,000 German prisoners of war were sent to labor camps in the United States–including the Michigan apple orchard where Dana's  family once lived. Inspired by extensive research into the little-known history of POW labor camps in the United States, Enemies in the Orchard tells the story, in alternating first-person poems, of two young people whose lives intersect and are changed forever. 

Congratulations, Dana!

On February 7th, Lisa Wheeler has two board books making their debut: My First Dino-Wrestling and My First Dino-Racing illustrated by Barry Gott and published by Carolrhoda/Lerner. These are the 6th and 7th titles in the series.

We're excited for you times two, Lisa!

The second book in Ann Dallman's Cady Whirlwind Thunder mystery series, Cady and the Bear Necklace, has been named a UP Notable Book. It was also honored by the State Historical Society of Michigan with its State History Award in the Books/Children & Youth category.

What an honor, Ann!

Karen Elise Finch had three poems accepted by Pomelo Books for three new anthologies: What is a Friend?, Things We Feel, and Things We WearWhat is a Friend? is featured in the Children's Book Council's "Hot Off the Press" section for October 2022.  

We are triply proud of you, Karen!

Lisa Rose is celebrating the January 1 publication of her latest book, Senor Saguaro The King of the Desert illustrated by Emma Graham (Little Fig, 2023)

She would also like to announce the many awards The Singer and The Scientist (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2021) Illustrated by Isabel Munoz has won:

  • National Jewish Book Finalist, 2021
  • Bank Street Best Book, 2021
  • The Singer and the Scientist was chosen by the New Jersey Center for the Book to be included in the “Great Reads from Great Places” list for the 2022 National Book Festival of the Library of Congress. 

Many congratulations, Lisa! 

For the second time in 2022—Jean Alicia Elster was invited to speak at the Detroit Historical Museum. On December 30 and reading from select passages, she described how she included aspects of Detroit’s history into the plots of her historical fiction trilogy Who’s Jim Hines?The Colored Car and How It Happens.

What an honor, Jean!

Congratulations, Everyone!  Look for the next request for Hugs and Hurrahs in your email, but please feel free to submit all your kidlit publishing news to Alison Hodgson at aewhodgson@gmail.com at any time. Have a wonderful winter, MichKids! I look forward to celebrating your hard work.

Friday, January 20, 2023

4 Out the Door by Katie Eberts

4 Out the Door is a challenge hosted by SCBWI Michigan for illustrator members (from any region) to send promotional postcards quarterly to art directors and editors that they would like to work with. It was started in 2018 by our former co-ICs, Deb Pilutti and Kirbi Fagan, and was really well-received by our members. It stopped during the pandemic because everyone in publishing started working from home and stopped receiving mail from their offices, but now that things are going back to normal, I thought it would be a great program to revive.

Rebecca Howe

To participate, illustrators create promotional postcards with their artwork and contact information to send  quarterly to a personally curated mailing list. The mailing dates are the first days of February, April, July, and November. These dates were picked based on publishing industry's habits: In September, many people in publishing take vacations, and December is often very quiet. To join the community of other SCBWI illustrators participating, images of the postcards can be posted on Instagram with the hashtag #4outthedoor.

Thalita Dol

Why is sending a postcard important? For starters, it lets the publisher know you and your work exist and are available for hire. Once you start sending on a regular basis, it will keep your work on their bulletin board for consideration. Could you also do this with an email? Absolutely yes. But my thought is that going the extra mile to send some snail mail in our digital-forward world sets you apart.

Bradley D. Cooper

Whatever you do, definitely be promoting you work in some way (honestly, multiple ways)! I really like this article from The Business of Illustration

For the full run-down of 4 Out the Door, take a look at our website

Katie Eberts studied art at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design. She lives in Cedarville, Michigan with her husband and their friendly cat in a sweet little red cabin surrounded by flowers in the summer and piles of snow in the winter. As of May 2021, she is the IC for the Michigan Chapter of SCBWI.

Friday, January 13, 2023

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

 In the last of three blogs, author Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw introduces the NaNoWriMo “Now What?” Months. 

 When I typed the words “THE END” to the initial draft of my first middle grade novel, I couldn’t contain my excitement. But, as a picture book author, revising a middle grade novel was daunting at best, and the question “now what?” was soon racking my mind. Fortunately, NaNoWriMo had the answers with the “Now What? Months.”

NaNoWriMo provides an “I Wrote a Novel, Now What?” workbook on the “Now What?" section of their website. The workbook outlines a ten-step revision and editing resource process. I will outline the steps that resonated with me, but everyone is different, so I suggest taking a look at the workbook to see what best fits your needs.



For the entire month of December, put your novel away. Taking time away from your manuscript will give you the chance to look at it with fresh eyes in January. Done! Who was I to turn down a well-deserved break?!

 Re-Read Your Entire Manuscript

Invest time refamiliarizing yourself with your manuscript. Read it like a reader—no editing, no revising! But it is okay to jot down simple thoughts like “love!”, “????”, or “ick!” Definitely a struggle for those of us that can’t handle seeing a blue and red underline in our Word documents, but I am a rule follower and held myself back. I found this step to be valuable as I hadn’t read the entire manuscript over prior to this.


Since the rest of the steps in the workbook weren’t as concrete as I needed, I chose to wait for NaNo’s four-part revision workshop series which began at the end of January. “Revise Your NaNoWriMo Novel” webinars introduced me to the “Level Down Revision Process.” Hosted by Jessica Brody (author of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and founder of WritingMastery Academy) and Kristina Stanley (CEO and founder of Fictionary:Book Writing and Editing Software), the information moved fast but was exceedingly valuable. Fortunately, the workshops are recorded and stored on YouTube. 

Sticky Note Storyboard

These workshops were the catalyst my revision process needed!

The four webinars broke the process into five steps:


Step 1: Complete a Hands-Off-Read Through and Take Notes – the difference between this reread and the one mentioned above is this time you take comprehensive notes as you reread, and organize your notes by revision level (I found this step extremely valuable!)


Step 2: Build your First Draft Storyboard – this can be done with sticky notes or through Fictionary – see photos (I did both and found benefits to each. If you have a chance to input your story arc into Fictionary, it’s a must do. It will amaze you!)


Step 3: The Story-Level Revision (also known as the “developmental edit”) – introduced how to analyze a story for problems with structure, pacing, character development, and worldbuilding/setting (I found Jessica Brody’s Writing Mastery Academy videos were very helpful at this level.)

Step 4: The Scene-Level Revision –illustrated how to treat the scenes of a novel like mini stories and analyze each scene for problems with structure, pacing, point of view, transitions, etc. (This is where Fictionary shines by not only giving you the software to outline the “38 Fictionary Story Elements” but providing free videos and webinars with instructions on how to do so.)

Step  5: The Page Level Revision (also known as the “line edit”) – discussed how to analyze a manuscript page by page and line by line, improving it even further by identifying problems with paragraph structure, word choice, dialogue, etc. (I haven’t gotten here yet…revising a novel takes a LONG time!)

Initially, during the webinars, I paid more attention to Jessica Brody—learning a new software didn’t hold any appeal—but somewhere along the way Kristina Stanley pulled me in. After the webinars, I signed up for free trials of both Writing Mastery Academy and Fictionary. I benefited significantly from the Writing Mastery Academy videos that further instructed me through the “Level-Down Revision Process.” And surprisingly, I found myself blown away by the Fictionary software. By analyzing a manuscript form start to finish using the “38 Fictionary Story Elements,” Kristina Stanley has created an efficient, visual way to revise.

Find what resonates with you and good luck revising!

You can read Suzanne's post on planning her NaNoWriMo novel here and drafting her novel during NaNoWriMo here.

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. Her blog, Dynamic Book Duos, features two books that pair together in a meaningful way along with coordinating educational activities to strengthen reading skills.

You can visit Suzanne online at:

v    www.suzannejacobslipshaw.com

v    https://twitter.com/SuzanneLipshaw

v    www.facebook.com/SuzanneJacobsLipshawAuthorEducator

v    https://www.pinterest.com/SuzanneJacobsLipshaw/

v    https://www.instagram.com/suzannejacobslipshaw/

Friday, January 6, 2023

Interview with our featured illustrator, Aubrey Jewel!

Interview By Isabel Estrada O’Hagin


Thank you, Aubrey, for designing our new banner!

The Mitten Banner Debuting January 2023

What is your day like? 

Stella and Mootilda

I start off my day being a mom to an amazing four-year-old named Stella. During the week I teach visual arts at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Primarily, I teach Animation classes, and also mentor folks of all ages in art, including my Stella. When I’m not teaching or fulfilling my mom duties, I get to be in my studio creating all types of art.
How many hours of creative work are there in your day?
Not enough—ha! I do try to make sure I have a 30-minute draw time sometime during the day (I try to promote that for all my students, too), but once a week I get to be in my studio and have a nice 6-hour block to create.
What does your studio/work space look like? 

I work in multiple places, but my favorite isolated one is my studio garage. During the beginning of the pandemic, I had to clean out the garage to teach from home and it turned into my studio. And now it is my little escape to do art. It has LEGO for stop motion animation, a photo studio setup, and my favorite watercolor pencils and paint. The decor is filled with fun pop culture characters like Ashoka Tano, Jane Foster (Mighty Thor), Wonder Woman, and Doctor Who. The best part is the art my daughter has made also posted on the walls.

When you start a new piece, where do you begin? What’s the first step?
I work in all types of digital and traditional mediums, but my go-to starting spot is a sketchbook and pencils. I feel that is where life shows in my illustrations. Right now, I've been drawing images of Stella with her favorite stuffed animal, Mootilda Moo-Cow. Her play with Mootilda inspires me, and with a little imagination, I get some fun illustrations. 


Light and Shadows


How do you know when you’re done?

Oh, that’s a great question! When it comes to my illustrations, the images are on the computer, and I’m pushing my lights, shadows, and textures. I feel I make a “what if” layer to add… something, and if it works then that’s it! And if it doesn’t and it feels a little too much, I take it off and call it good!

Color Script


What music do you play when making art?

My music choices when I’m drawing tend to revolve around Regina Spektor and Kishi Bashi. I highly recommend those creative music makers!

What’s your favorite work by another illustrator?

I’m lucky to get to teach and mentor many amazing local artists and illustrators here in the Kalamazoo Community! One of my favorite current artists beyond our part of the world is Geneva Bowers. Her art is full of color and whimsy. 

We’d like to get to know you better. What would you like to share with us? 

Aubrey Jewel
I enjoy sharing my creative curiosity with people of all ages and backgrounds. My art is playful, as well as mischievous when needed.

I am a multimedia artist, teacher, and mentor. My specialty is mixing art and technology together to tell visual stories. I share my knowledge of art with the Kalamazoo community, as well as creating my own art that is filled with hope and whimsy. 

You can find my art at 
aubreyjewel.com and on Instagram @aubreyjewel.

Thank you so much for this opportunity!