Friday, March 29, 2024

Ask the Editor by Katherine Gibson Easter

Hi everyone! Big thanks as always to all the people who sent me their questions! I hope everyone, whether you asked me a question or not, finds this post helpful and informative.

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

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

Finally, if you have any questions about writing or publishing that aren’t addressed here, please feel free to email me. I’m always happy to gather questions for my next post!

Thanks so much, and happy writing!

Can a manuscript be too polished? We've heard that you should leave room for the editor. If an editor can't find anything to improve, will they pass on the project?

Such a great question! I’d personally say no, a manuscript can never be too polished, though it is a weird sensation to acquire a book that needs very little editing! At least for me, there’s a knee-jerk panic of, “Wait, there’s nothing to fix? Am I even doing my job??” But I get over it pretty quickly when I look at how much time the writer has saved me, haha!

Really though, while I’ve worked on some books that hardly needed any editing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manuscript go completely unchanged from the initial submission to final publication. Maybe it’s because it’s really true that masterpieces are never finished, only abandoned, or maybe it’s because editors just can’t help but meddle a little, but it seems like there’s always something that could be tweaked, or tightened, or tinkered with.

I’m wrapping up the final edits on my debut book, but my idea for my second book isn’t nearly as polished. Would it be appropriate to bring what I have to my editor and ask for her thoughts, or should I work on developing it more on my own first?

I think it’d be totally fine to reach out to your editor and ask her this directly—this kind of thing tends to be subjective, so I’d recommend getting clarity on what she prefers. 

For me personally, as long as the project is something we may want to publish (and not, say, a totally different genre), I’m happy to look at early materials and help to brainstorm or give suggestions. Not only because it’s fun, but also because I’m invested in my authors and their writing careers. It’s my job (and privilege!) to help writers with their work, no matter what stage it’s in.

What makes you, as an editor, really excited about a book? Is there anything that makes you think, “I HAVE to have this?” 

When I’m reading a submission, I think the first jolt of excitement comes from the elevator pitch; if the idea’s really strong and aligns with my interests, I definitely sit up and take notice! But after that, it’s all about the writing—they have to deliver on that initial excitement and really pull me into the story. If those two things are there, I’m hooked!

Of course, there are a lot of other things that get considered when we’re looking at acquiring a project: platform, market demand, how well it fits in with our list, etc. So as much as I want to, I don’t get to acquire every project I fall in love with, but I never forget the ones that get away! 

Katherine Gibson Easter is an acquisitions editor for Zonderkidz, having previously worked for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. She graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute in 2013 and has spent the last ten years editing and publishing award-winning children’s books.

Thank you, Katherine!

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2024

Celebrate Women’s History Month with Quality Children’s Literature

by Isabel Estrada O'Hagin

March is Women’s History Month! Interested in delving into books for this month and beyond? ALA’s got you covered!

In early February, I received fabulous news in a letter of congratulations from the co-chair of the ALA 2024 Rise: A Feminist Book Project Committee. The committee shared that they selected my debut picture book, LA MARIACHI, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, to be honored this year on the 2024 Booklist. Thrilled with this news, I didn’t know much about the Rise project and wanted to know more. I went to their website and saw our book listed in the Early Readers: Fiction category.

Receiving this honor as a debut picture book author and seeing it on their website was exciting! I had many people to thank, including SCBWI, my critique group partners, editorial consultants, and the great team at Sleeping Bear Press.

Included in the site’s Introduction page is a quote from our book

“Remember, always play con todo tu coraz√≥n.” (Estrada, La Mariachi)

In a barrier-breaking story set in the 1970s, Tuchi is passionate about mariachi, but she’s told that it’s only for boys. With the help of her grandmother, she’s determined to prove that mariachi is for everyone. 

So, what did I find? According to their website, Rise: A Feminist Book Project for Ages 0-18 has been promoting quality feminist literature for young readers since 2002. Rise is part of the American Library Association’s Feminist Task Force and the Social Responsibilities Round Table. Each year Rise recommends recent books with significant feminist content for readers from birth to 18 years old.

I also discovered a bevy of book titles that will go on my TBR list. Looking for a book? I encourage you to take a look at this list!

The website answered my question about how books are selected for this honor. Rise: A Feminist Book Project selects well-written and well-illustrated books with significant feminist content for young readers each year. Books may be recommended by anyone through the field recommendation process, but books can only be officially nominated for the list by regular Rise committee members.

Feminist books for young readers must move beyond merely “spunky” and “feisty” young women, beyond characters and people who fight to protect themselves without concern for the rights of others. Feminist protagonists call out and work to eliminate sexism and other systemic prejudices, actively shaping their destinies. They break bonds forced by society as they defy stereotypical expectations and show resilience in the face of societal strictures. . . . feminist books show women solving problems, gaining personal power, and empowering others. They celebrate girls and women as a vibrant, vital force in the world.

March is Women’s History month is a great time to introduce children to historical stories, biographies, and fiction that highlight incredible women through the years. If you’re looking for book titles, the Rise website includes this year’s bibliography and archives of past years. The complete list can be found on the official RISE blog and FTF’s official website. The categories are: Early Readers: Fiction/Nonfiction; Middle Grade: Fiction/Nonfiction; and Young Adult: Fiction/Nonfiction.

Here are the Top Ten titles for 2024 (featured in a School Library Journal article):

  • FLOWER GIRL by Amy Bloom, illustrated by Jameela Wahlgren
  • SPIN by Rebecca Caprara
  • THE BLACKWOODS by Brandy Colbert
  • BIG by Vashti Harrison
  • I KICK AND I FLY by Ruchira Gupta
  • AUTUMN PELTIER, WATER WARRIOR by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Bridget George
  • MY POWERFUL HAIR by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Steph Littlebird
  • BARELY FLOATING by Lilliam Rivera
  • THE MOONLIT VINE by Elizabeth Santiago
  • ALL THE FIGHTING PARTS by Hannah V. Sawyerr

Happy Reading in March and anytime of the year!

Isabel O’Hagin, who writes as Isabel Estrada, is the author of the picture book, LA MARIACHI, published by Sleeping Bear Press, and serves as the SCBWI-Michigan Outreach Coordinator and the Kalamazoo Area Shop Talk Coordinator (Where everyone is a star!). She is also a member of Las Musas, a collective of Latinx women and otherwise marginalized people whose gender identity aligns with femininity, writing and/or illustrating in traditional children's literature.



Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Book Birthday Blog with Kate Rietema



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Kate Rietema on the release of When God Makes Scribbles Beautiful


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

One day, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by one of our foster children’s difficult situations. Feeling helpless and a bit hopeless, I sat down and typed out all the things I needed to be reminded of, and all the things I wanted him to know.

What inspires you to write?

Emotions, my kids, reading, nature, and setting goals!
I feel most inspired when I experience strong emotions, like wonder, delight, fear, or hope. Often, these are moments I want to savor, remember, overcome, or share—and picture books feel like the perfect medium to express big feelings.
Having a house full of kids and being intentional with their tiny hearts helps me see life through their eyes and with their language. Having young kids also gives me lots of excuses to read picture books (which are so inspiring)! My library account tells me we check out about a thousand books a year.
Our family also loves to be outside, hiking and exploring. Even if I’m not working on a nature themed project, beauty and fresh air always spark creativity!

Goals are also necessary to keep me focused when inspiration feels lacking. I maintain a running monthly ‘goals and to-do’ document on my computer. Items include learning activities, writing tasks, research needs, submission deadlines, and whatever else requires my attention. A few years ago, I purchased a book display stand as a tangible reminder of my goal to be a published picture book author. For a long time it sat empty, but now it holds this!

How do you approach the creative process? Plotter, pantser or combination of the two?

Hmm, for me, this varies project to project. Story ideas come to me in various ways: a new bit of information, an emotion, or a title idea. For me, emotion based projects tend to come out quickly (pantsing). If I start with a title, I find myself thinking next about a structure—so this leans more towards plotting. No matter what I’m writing, my first drafts are always pretty sparse and the text needs to be bulked up during the revision process.

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it?

My book is available online at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, Walmart,, and in many local Christian book stores.
Some things I’ve done to get ready for my release:

  • Updated my website
  • Created a book trailer with my first grader, see it here
  • Joined a picture book launch group called #PBbuds24 (find us on X and IG)
  • Set up some book signings and story times (both in Michigan and in Florida while there for spring break)
  • Organized a fundraiser event to donate books to an organization that distributes first night bags for children entering foster care
  • Worked with my publisher to create printable bonus material, secure endorsements, send out advanced copies for review, and promote on social media

Phew! It feels like a lot, but most of it has been fun.

 What's next for you?

I’m thrilled to have a board book releasing in October titled, All the Babies: A First Book About Adoption. This book, illustrated by Judi Abbot and published by B&H Kids, is a sweet celebration of how God makes every baby and family special. 

I’m also on pins and needles about a couple other projects that are currently on submission—fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’m always subbing to magazines and working on new picture book ideas!

More about the book . . .

A child’s struggle—portrayed as a dark scribble—follows him everywhere. But when he asks God for help, he discovers new hope as his scribble turns into something beautiful. When God Makes Scribbles Beautiful presents layers of Biblical truth that take the reader on a gentle journey of God’s promises—inspiring hope and faith in His good and redemptive plan.

Publisher: B&H Kids

More about the author . . .

Kate Rietema is the author of When God Makes Scribbles Beautiful and a forthcoming board book, All the Babies: A First Book About Adoption. She has also authored over 50 stories, poems, and articles for magazines like Highlights, Cricket Media, and The School Magazine. Kate is the mother of five girls, works as a nurse, volunteers in her county jail, and lives at the campground she and her husband operate in West Michigan.


Twitter: @katerietema (I'm most active here!)

Instagram: @katerietema

Facebook: Kate Rietema - Children's Author 



Friday, March 15, 2024

Writer Spotlight: Jeff Stone

Martial arts, homemade business card, five-house auction, and a black belt test at the Shaolin Temple: novelist Jeff Stone

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our regular Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet  middle grade writer and kung fu black belt Jeff Stone.

Many 70s kids were obsessed with martial arts movies and shows. We all recall David Carradine in Kung Fu. Which series or movies influenced young Jeff enough that he would pursue Kung Fu and Tai Chi throughout his life?

My parents were pretty strict about how much time they’d let me sit parked in front of the tv, so there wasn’t a specific series or movie that captured my imagination. I was just fascinated by any snippet of whatever random kung fu movie or tv show episode I managed to catch. Kung Fu featuringDavid Carradine was definitely one I recognized and was always excited to see, and of course anything featuring Bruce Lee.


When did you stop watching and start practicing martial arts? Was there an incident or instructor that changed you from a dabbling hobbyist to a lifelong disciple?

I never got the opportunity to learn martial arts as a kid because the classes cost too much. I’ve been fortunate, though, to have played many other sports throughout my life, some at quite a high level. 

I didn’t take my first martial arts lesson until I was 30 years old. It was kung fu, and I’ve been hooked ever since—nearly 25 years. I no longer practice the kung fu system in which I earned a black belt, but I’m currently studying tai chi with a renowned master from Hong Kong.

Youve got a list of various jobs youve held over the years, including photographer, maintenance guy, ballroom dance instructor and concert promoter. Aside them all being jobs you found yourself doing, was there a common denominator to them?

I get bored easily. That’s why I tell kids that being a writer is a great vocation because you can constantly change the content you focus on while still putting food on the table. 

Once I found writing, or perhaps once writing found me, it became the common thread between jobs. In addition to writing and publishing fiction, I’ve held multiple corporate technical writing leadership roles, primarily in mechatronics

I’m currently leading a global team of nine technical writers in the creation of software documentation for autonomous warehouse robots. You just never know where writing will take you.


At one point, married with a child, you were let go from one of these jobs and at a low point. Your four-year-old daughter handed you a scrap of paper, calling it your new business card. On the paper the words, Daddy Write Books.” Was your daughters belief in you what gave you the courage to launch this long-shot career?

My amazing daughter’s belief didn’t give me courage, it gave me a desperately needed boost of life-sustaining energy, like strapping on an oxygen mask at high altitude. With her at my side, I was able to complete the climb. My son is pretty amazing, too.


You wrote Tiger, the first of a seven book Five Ancestors series. The manuscript went to auction, with a number of big publishers competing for the rights. Describe for those of us who dream of such an unlikely occurrence, what that experience was like.

It was surreal. There was a five-house auction: Random House, Penguin Putnam, Scholastic, Harper Collins, and Harcourt. I assumed the auction would be one insane day with my agent fielding multiple, simultaneous phone calls while frantically typing emails and calling me with updates. It wasn’t like that at all! 

It was glacially slow, taking nearly three months, like the world’s longest, lamest poker game. Every time one company made an offer, the hand was shown to all the others who then had to decide if they were going to fold, call, or raise. In the end, Random House made the most sense for reasons that went beyond the life-changing advance. 

Chief among them was the fact that they had a gaping hole in their list. Scholastic had Harry Potter, and most of the others already had an established middle-grade franchise. Random House did not. In their offer letter, the Random House team said, “We want Jeff to be our Lemony Snicket.” So, yeah, they won.


You were adopted by a loving family, but began a fifteen-year quest to find your birth mother. A week after you completed the manuscript for Tiger, you found her and reunited. Please paint for us how this real-life drama came to pass.

I won the lottery by being adopted by my parents. They’re the absolute best. At the same time, was always extremely curious about my genetic roots and my life before my parents picked me up at the orphanage. 

Long story short, after my 15-year search some laws changed in Michigan that allowed me to hire a court-appointed confidential intermediary, who in my case was a social worker with a private investigator’s license. I knew exactly where the records were housed, but I wasn’t allowed access to them because I was adopted during a time of closed adoption. 

I told the intermediary what I knew, and she found my birthmother in less than an hour. My birthmother enthusiastically agreed to a reunion, and the rest is a wonderful history that is still being written. If my birthmother had wanted anonymity, it would have been granted, and I’d still be searching.


Your Five Ancestors series features five orphan monks, residing and training at the secret Cangzhen Temple.  The temple is attacked and destroyed, and only the youngsters escape with their lives. They are now on a quest for survival and to uncover the secrets of their past. Was it eerie coincidence how closely your life mirrored those of your protagonists? Or fate?

No coincidence, I put my life into these books. I am the characters, and they are me. 

A prime example of this is the villain’s frustration over his name having been changed. I never realized this, but I had a different birth certificate. Every child born in a hospital in the USA is issued one. If they’re adopted, the name is changed, first name included. That hit me pretty hard. It hits the villain even harder. He’s also an orphan, and his name change is a key element of what drives him to become the antagonist. 

The name given to each temple orphan reflects their true nature—their animal spirit—and by extension, the animal kung fu style they study to mastery. Get a child’s name wrong, or worse intentionally change it, and you change who the child becomes.


Tiger (2005), Monkey (2005), Snake (2006), Crane (2007), Eagle (2008), Mouse (Mantis in the U.K. and Australia) (2009), and Dragon (2010) followed. What did it take to produce a middle grade novel a year? What was your writing routine?

It was brutal. My original contract was to deliver two novels per year. TIGER, MONKEY, and SNAKE were all released six months apart, but then I was unable to keep up that pace and thankfully Random House allowed me to shift to one manuscript delivered every 10 months or so. 

The books aren’t overly long as far as page count, but the plot in each is extremely dense, equating to that of books with 2-3 times as many pages. 

Also, I was doing 30-day book tours, dozens upon dozens of school visits,

School visit, Shanghai, China
conferences keynotes, media several times each week, and a million other things—all while being expected to write. Take a look at the Events page on my website and you’ll get partial glimpse of the madness. 

I had no choice but to write on the road in hotel rooms and on airplanes, which I hated. Don’t get me wrong, Random House never forced me to do any of this. I just knew how important these things were to keep the momentum going. It was my efforts OUTSIDE the writing that actually helped Random House decide to relax my deadlines. 

When I wasn’t traveling, I binge wrote at home to catch up. I rented an office a few miles from my house, and I would sometimes write 48 hours straight without sleep. I need absolute focus to do anything, writing included. I have no concept of what multitasking is.


Your wife was born in Hong Kong and fluent in several Chinese languages. But what kind of research did it take to accurately portray 1650 China?

My former wife and I had a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony in Hong Kong in the mid-nineties, and I returned to both Hong Kong and mainland China multiple times to scour many different temples and other historic locations that are far, far older than 370 years. 

I did my best to get the locations and day-to-day things as accurate as possible in my books, but the language is neutral and modern, which is why the stories work just as well today as they did nearly 20 years ago. 

The most complicated historic things to convey were time and measurements, neither of which can be translated directly into feet or meters or minutes or hours. Even the calendar was different, as you can see in the opening of each book: 4348—Year of the Tiger (1650 AD).


Then you started a new series, Out of the Ashes,” based in present-day America. Did it take some real effort to extricate yourself from Chinese history?

I wrote a present-day trilogy precisely because I wanted to extricate myself from historic China! Ha ha! Seriously. I was so tired of saying things like, The hole was as deep as a man is tall, or He stood an arm’s length away. 

Despite needing a respite, the trilogy wouldn’t be a Five Ancestors spinoff without some serious connections to the past. There’s enough history in the trilogy to meld multiple styles of modern bicycle racing with ancient kung fu. 

It may sound like a huge stretch, but it’s actually not. Kung fu is as timeless as it is all-encompassing. Kung fu literally means, acquired skill or accomplishment through effort.


All the while you pursued the rigorous training and discipline of Kung Fu. You tested for your black belt at the Shaolin Temple in China. That must have been exciting and nerve-wracking. What do you remember about this challenge?

I don’t remember anything! Ha ha! No joke. The test took well over an hour, and I honestly don’t remember one single thing. I was so in the zone

Kung fu black belt test, Shaolin Temple
When the test started, there were just the twenty or so black belts that I was traveling with, as well as a young woman from our association who tested along with me. When we finished, I came out of that hyper-focused tranced and saw close to a hundred spectators and five Shaolin monks! 

To be clear, I tested for my black belt at the temple, but the monks didn’t issue it to me. The style I learned is based in the USA, and the Grandmaster had a strong enough relationship with the Abbot of Shaolin Temple that our group was allowed to visit and I was allowed to take the test there, along with my co-tester. 

I wish I remembered at least a little bit! Thankfully, there are some pics. I do remember touring the temple compound after the test and also climbing the small mountain behind Shaolin Temple to visit Bodhidharma’s cave, which is at least something. I was so tired at the end of that day!


Your alma mater is Michigan State University. What major did you pursue? How did young Jeff Stones plans for the future line up with what happened?

I entered MSU as an engineering student and came out 3.5 years later with a bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing, and I also fulfilled all the requirements for a second bachelor’s degree in Journalism, plus I have a cognate in dance (long story). 

Additionally, I managed to squeeze in a six- month, full-time technical writing internship at General Motors Advanced Engineering Staff, which paved the way for ALL my writing adventures.

I’ve received accolades from the American Library Association/YALSA, International Literacy Association, Children’s Book Council, and many other organizations for my books’ ability to resonate with reluctant middle-grade readers. The truth is, it’s just clear, concise technical writing.


You were a writing coach and a college writing instructor. Is your writing success something you can teach others?

I still am a writing coach, but now it’s mostly mentoring the nine technical writers on my team at the W-2 gig. I also still occasionally do SCBWI critiques, which I’ve been doing for 20+ years. I’d teach or coach fiction more often, if I had time. 

As for teaching others writing success, I’d say, no. It cant be taught. Success is something you earn. You have to put in the work. You, and you alone.


Your last book was published in 2014. Finally, almost a decade later, the rights reverted back to you, and you had a plan. What is it? What does it take to become your own publisher?

Yikes! Answering this is a novel unto itself! Owning your own small press takes MUCH more work than I realized, especially since I’m doing everything myself. 

This includes typesetting, cover design, ebook programming, website creation, marketing, PR, sales, accounting, media relations, advertising…the list goes on. I’m fortunate in that I’ve done most of these things at one time or another in the 35 years I’ve spent in and out of corporate America, but lumping them together simultaneously is almost too much to manage. 

cover redesign by author

In my case, every function is 10X because there are 10 novels to re-release. It’s difficult for me to believe I’m saying this, but after spending well over a year slaving away, weeknights and weekends, TIGER was re-released on Amazon in early January 2024! 

The remaining titles are scheduled to release roughly every six weeks for the remainder of the year. The last one comes out on Christmas Eve! So. Much. Work. But absolutely worth it.


Please list any social media platforms you wish to share.

I’m currently knocking the rust off my socials, but I’m @jeffstonebooks everywhere. That would be FB, IG, X, and soon TikTok and YT. The place I’d most like to share is my website with its newsletter signup:


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Book Birthday Blog with Leslie Helakoski



Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Leslie Helakoski on the release of When the Rain Came Down



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

I grew up on a bayou in south Louisiana where my family lived through many storms, one of them leaving 5 feet of water in our family home. WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN was inspired by those storms and Hurricane Katrina and Rita in particular. In the aftermath, everyone I knew had taken people into their homes. Everyone volunteered in some capacity, everyone spoke of before and after the storms and noted water marks that are still there today. The phrase, ‘When the rain came down and the water rose up,’ came to me when I was trying to write a story about neighbors.

At the same time I was working on RAIN, I had another idea involving hurricanes in a more whimsical way. GATOR’s BIG MOUTH is also about a storm displacing locals –alligators this time. It was inspired by a trip through the marsh after a hurricane. The storm damage made me wonder what happened to the alligators when their homes were destroyed.

What inspires you to write and draw?

The work of other artists and other writers inspires me all the time. Finding work I love and respond to, makes me want to do the same thing.

How do you approach the creative process? Plotter, panster or combination of the two?

I don’t consciously plot out picture books. I get an idea about a character or a problem and start writing about it. Once I have something down, I may do a bit of plotting to see what is missing or not working.

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it?

I’m lining up school visits and speaking at Michigan Reading Association this spring. There are many festivals and book fairs where I will promote the book. It will be available at most bookstores and online. You can get a signed copy or pre order from Book Bug, a great indie,  here: WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN

What's next for you?

I just sold a picture book to Putnam that will be out in fall of 2025.
And GATOR’S BIG MOUTH will release in April–you can pre-order it here:

More about the book . . .

WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN is about the strength that arises when a community bands together to overcome immeasurable hardship. It was inspired by Hurricane Katrina and influenced by Leslie's personal experience living through rising waters on a bayou in south Louisiana. WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN follows the devastating effects of flooding and the enduring heart of the community.

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan)

More about the author . . .

Leslie Helakoski is the author and sometimes illustrator of 18 picture books. Her books like BIG CHICKENS and WOOLBUR are known for their humor and wordplay and have won many state book awards and starred reviews. Her recent title, ARE YOUR STARS LIKE MY STARS? was chosen as a best diverse book in 2021. Leslie served as Regional Advisor for SCBWI Michigan for 11 years and is now RA Emeritus. Each summer Leslie also runs the PB&J picture book workshop at the Highlights Foundation.

Facebook: Leslie Helakoski

Instagram: helakoskibooks 


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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 Dino-Earth Day


The book is part of a series. What are the unique challenges or benefits of writing a series?

From the time I started writing for kids, I heard that you should never count on a series. When I wrote the first book (Dino-Hockey) it was a stand-alone title. But during the revision phase, I was asked to change the ending. I thought it would be fun to end the book with the promise of another season of sports—Dino-Soccer. After the revision was accepted, it occurred to me that it would be wonderful if they made this into a series. But I didn’t count on it.
It wasn’t until just before the release of Dino-Hockey that I was asked to consider writing Dino-Soccer.
I was thrilled! And then reality struck. I knew nothing about soccer. So, just like Dino-Hockey, I started researching.
Every one of the Dino-Sports books have gone the same way: excitement followed by terror, followed by research and the realization that yes, I can do this.
The first few books in the Dino-Holiday series were not research-heavy as I had experienced those holidays my whole life. But when asked to write Dino-Hanukkah and then Dino-Earth Day, I had to dig in, just like writing the sports books.
For Dino-Earth Day, I wanted to add lots of ways that kids could help clean up the environment. I went online and checked out books. Then, I had to narrow it down! I’m excited to add this book to my school visit programs.

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

Environmental issues are overwhelming. I want kids to know that they don’t have to solve the whole problem. They can help in small ways. Reuse shopping bags and water bottles.  Recycle bottles, can and glass. Plant gardens. Compost. Shop in thrift stores. These are just some of the ways I show the Dinos helping out.

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it?

Dino-Earth Day will be featured on I’m also planning to incorporate this book into my school visits, which always helps with sales. Of course, I’ll promote on my social media.

What's next for you?

This year I have 4 more My First Dino board books coming out. Spring 24 will bring My First Dino-Swimming and My First Dino-Boarding. Fall of 24 is when we’ll see My First Dino-Thanksgiving and My First Dino-Hanukkah. Then, in Fall of 2025, I have a title coming out with HarperCollins tentatively titled, It Takes A Family to Serve.



More about the book . . .

The world needs help to keep it clean.
It’s Dino-Earth Day. . .
Let’s go green!
These dinos take care of the environment all year long—especially on Earth Day! Today they’re cleaning up a park, planting trees, learning how to recycle and compost, and using their creativity to turn junk into treasure. Go green. . .dino-style!

Publisher: Carolrhoda/Lerner

More 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 55 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-Swimming, Dino-Earth Day, and Someone Builds the Dream. Lisa is a local author from, Addison, Michigan. Check out her website at

Instagram: @littlelisais6

Facebook: Lisa Wheeler Children's Books