Friday, May 31, 2024

Introducing the Critique Carousel Agents and Editors: Sandra Proudman by Wendy BooydeGraaff

The Critique Carousel will be back this fall for another spin! To prepare our SCBWI-MI members for this fun, asynchronous, virtual event, we are giving a sneak-peek into the faculty for the event. These ten professionals will be profiled, one at a time, for you to research, learn, and find out as much as possible before registration.


What is the Critique Carousel, you ask?

And here’s the answer:


The Critique Carousel is a virtual SCBWI-MI event for members to receive a written* critique from an acquiring agent or editor. Participants will select a kidlit agent or editor 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/editor for a period of six months. This does not guarantee representation or acquisition, but presents another opportunity.


*written critique—stay tuned! Most faculty will be providing written critiques. But this year, there will be ONE agent who does things a little differently. You’ll have to wait to find out who!

Exact dates of the Critique Carousel will be announced soon.

Information on past Critique Carousels can be found here and here. Updated information and the registration website will be posted when we have it. And, this year, we will have a webinar with some of the faculty. Think of some questions! In the meantime, here’s our FIRST critique faculty. . . Drumroll. . .


Sandra Proudman!

 Sandra Proudman (she/her/ella) is a literary associate at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, assisting Marietta Zacker and representing a small list of authors and author-illustrators. She is passionate about bringing underrepresented voices to the forefront and is also a committee member of #LatinxPitch. When not busily immersed in all things publishing, you can find her spending time with her amazing husband and adorable toddler, catching up on all her shows, and taking care of her vegetable garden. She is also the author of the YA fantasy, Salvación, ( Wednesday Books) and the editor of the Latinx anthology RELIT: 16 Latinx Remixes of Classic Stories (Inkyard Press). Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @SandraProudman.

Sandra’s Manuscript Wishlist can be found here.

For the Critique Carousel 2024, Sandra Proudman will be critiquing:

·        Picture book fiction 

·        Picture book nonfiction 

·        Picture book dummy 

·        Middle grade fiction 

·        YA fiction 

·        Novel-in-verse 

·        Portfolio review


We can’t wait to work with Sandra, and pass along her fabulous critiques to you, our hard-working SCBWI members. Now is the time to do your research, see what books Sandra has agented, and check out her agency website.

Keep writing, creating, polishing those manuscripts and illustrations, so when the Critique Carousel spins around, you’ll be ready to hop on!


Wendy BooydeGraaff is the Critique Carousel Coordinator for 2024. She is the author of a  picture book, Salad Pie (Ripple Grove Press/Chicago Review Press), and the Michigan story contributor in the forthcoming Haunted States of America anthology, due out July 9, 2024 (Godwin Books). She also writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction for adults. Find out more at 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Reflections and Takeaways from the Marvelous Midwest Conference

The Marvelous Midwest took place April 12-14, 2024 in Davenport Iowa. Below, some Michigan attendees share some of their thoughts and key takeaways.

Writers from Michigan at the Marvelous Midwest Conference

Dave Stricklen's Takeaways

It was a bit of an undertaking to drive to Davenport, Iowa, but I hadn’t seen any of my writer buddies for years (except on a small screen).  I remember feeling inspired after conferences and thought it would be nice to get back to that. I drove with Suzette Garvey.  As writers, we have a lot to talk about and when we tell a story… we tell a story! No joke we told life stories back and forth for five straight hours without as much as a 30 second break. Before we knew it, we were pulling up at the hotel. 

The hotel reminded me of “The Shining” (in a creepy but cool way) the place had atmosphere. My conference high point was Gary Schmidt’s keynote. I told him face to face that it was the best keynote that I had ever heard. I then realized that he wasn’t one of the speakers we flew in from either coast. He lived a just few miles south of my home address. Yes, we do have talent right in our back yard if we take a closer look.

After getting home and looking at my takeaways, I had eight great things to follow up on. I came to the realization that these great ideas came predominately from other writers while simply chatting over lunch or in the hotel lobby.

For me, it stressed the importance of in person meetings. I truly got more from my casual writer chats and connections than in the break outs. It stresses the importance of getting to the in-person shoptalks or seminars more than ever. Sitting across from someone with a cup of coffee is a different experience. You can find a YouTube video on basically any subject, but true connection and inspiration is built on in person meetings.

More than one writer expressed to me that they would be leaving the conference with their passion for writing fully recharged.

Interviews with BookSmitten

Heather and Kelly

The children’s book podcast BookSmitten was recording on-site at the SCBWI Marvelous Midwest 2024 Conference in Davenport, Iowa. 
Follow along with Kelly J. Baptist and Heather Shumaker as they gather wisdom from keynotes and attendees, and even glean insight from soup.

Mentioned in this episode:

SCBWI Marvelous Midwest 2024
Gary D. Schmidt
Sherri L. Smith
James Solheim


Aaron Fox (MO)
Debbie Gonzales (MI)
Kat Higgs-Coulthard (MI)
Leslie Helakowski  (MI)
Danielle Defoe (MI)
Kathy Halsey (OH)
Amy Flynn (OH)
Sheila Willobee (MI)
Kathy Groth (WI) -  Sunken Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan, Ocean Party (Illustrated by Becca Hart)
Joyce Uglow (WI) - Stuck: The Story of the La Brea Tar Pits (Illustrated by Valerya Milovanova )

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Book Birthday Blog With Deb Pilutti


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

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


Congratulations to Deb Pilutti on the release of The Dinosaur in the Garden


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

This never happens to me, but one morning at 3 a.m., I woke up with the words, “She waited with the patience of a creature who has waited for millions of years,” in my head. I got up and wrote that down and made a few sketches about what I thought it meant. I just looked at the sketches again today and  honestly, I have no idea what it is! At the time, I decided that it was a story about a dinosaur who wanted to be found by a curious girl, and about the land that they both lived on and how it changed over time.

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

I mostly hope they have fun reading a story about a girl and a dinosaur. But if they also come away thinking a little about deep time, and how things are always changing and how if we are curious to look around us we might see something really astonishing, that would be OK too.



What was the most difficult part of writing and illustrating this book? 

When I wrote the first version of this story, I thought it was the easiest book I had ever written. That is, until I learned that no one wanted to publish it. The first version was pretty fanciful, which may have created a dichotomy with the more informational aspects of the story.  I spent over a year revising the text many, many times. I thought it might never be published and put the MS away for a while. Eventually, I took it out again and was able to find a way to resolve some of the issues. I want to give a shout out to my critique groups and partners for all the time they spent on this one! During the final Illustration phase, I also made a lot of changes to the artwork. So really THE DINOSAUR IN THE GARDEN ended up being the most difficult book I have worked on, but I love where it ended up. 


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

I’ll be having a book launch at Schuler’s in Ann Arbor on June 4, along with Lisa Wheeler. We will be having a Dino-themed event. The book should be available in bookstores and online on May 21.

What's next for you?

FISH DON’T GO TO SCHOOL is being published next year by Little, Brown. It’s a story about Henry, who battles a case of school jitters by wearing his favorite sparkly fish costume to class on the first day. I’m finishing up the art now and having a blast painting a kid in a fish costume.

More about the book . . .

After waiting millions of years, a T Rex thinks a curious girl might just find the clues he left behind, making his story part of hers. 

This lyrical picture book captures the vastness of geologic time while also showing how close the traces of the distant past can be—as long as we are curious enough to look.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin/Randomhouse

More about the author . . .

Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and watching cartoons is considered “research.” Her publishing clients include Simon & Schuster, Henry Holt, Penguin Random House and Little Brown & Co.
Deb lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, Tom, and Australian Shepard, Tater. She enjoys hiking, camping, reading and hanging out with friends and family.

Twitter and Instagram: @dpilutti

Friday, May 17, 2024

Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Matt Faulkner


1983, JACKIE and JACK, MAD Magazine, "Some Enchanted Evening," and graphic novels: author/illustrator Matt Faulkner

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our regular Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet author /illustrator Matt Faulkner.

You’ve been in the children’s book world a long time, and it’s changed. Will you recall young Matt, fresh out of school, pounding the New York City pavements and knocking on publishers' doors?

Matt Faulkner and Kris Remenar

When I first got to New York city after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1983, I got a job working in an ad agency doing what at that time were called mechanicals - the layout of type and image that were used by printers to produce just about everything that got printed back then; newspapers, record album covers, bags to hold fast-food, etc. 

It was a fun, pleasant place to work but the job, making mechanicals, was about as pleasing as burnt toast to me. Just as I was about to be let go, I showed some of my drawings to the owner of the company. 

Soon after, he offered me a job drawing storyboards for commercials! What a great day that was. I got my own cubicle to sit in and I got to draw all the time. It wasn’t exactly the kind of drawing that I dreamed I’d be doing when I was in college, but it was a start. I used that job to support my efforts in finding work as an illustrator in publishing.

Back then, you might catch an art director’s eye. You didn’t need an art rep or literary agent. You just needed a portfolio of your best work and gumption. How much different the process for your first book and your latest?

THE AMAZING VOYAGE OF JACKIE GRACE was my first picture book which I both wrote and illustrated. It was published by Scholastic Inc. in 1986. The publishing of that book came about by my sharing the idea for the story over the phone with the head editor, Jean Fiewel. She liked the idea, asked that I write it up and, after seeing what I’d created, bought it. That was the first and only time I ever instigated the sale of one of my ideas over the phone.

I’ve just become a client of the Fuse Literary Agency. My agent, Gordon Warnock, and I have been spending time discussing various projects. We’re hoping to get these in front of editors soon. So, I guess the main difference between then and now is that it’s my agent and not me who is on the phone and online working to sell my work. I am very happy to put the nuanced and often complicated process of selling a manuscript and negotiating its contract into the hands of my agent.

 How did you get your first big break?

I was working at the ad agency I mentioned above. The advertising editors and art directors with whom I worked had connections in other creative business’ in New York, such as children’s publishing. One of them introduced me to his illustrator wife who got me a portfolio review with her editor at Scholastic. The next thing I knew, I was hired to create the art for JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, my first illustrated book.


You said your art style was influenced by MAD Magazine. What other influences led young Matt into illustration?

MAD magazine! Ah, yes. I love(d) the artwork created by MAD magazine illustrator Mort Drucker. Dude was a genius – witty, graceful, spot-on drafting style, fantastic sequential imagery. 

And then there are animated cartoons. I love(d) the humor and slapstick ballet in Bugs Bunny cartoons. Nobody sings a Wagner aria in a Viking costume quite like Bugs. Also, THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. Brilliant sequential storytelling. Both these animation examples are from the genius-mind of animator Chuck Jones. So, I’d say that he was and is a major influence for me.

Then, there was THE LORD OF THE RINGS. That magical narrative lit a tremendous fire in my 14 year old mind that has yet to go out.

 And, lest we forget, Michelangelo. Because, well, Michelangelo.

There was no “virtual” art when you started, just canvas and Bristol board and tubes of paint with a fistful of brushes. You’re still a master of old-school physical art, but do you incorporate any digital tools nowadays?

Thanks for that compliment, Charlie! I still love to draw and paint with traditional materials. However, I have also used my iPad and the Procreate application to make the illustrations for my recent graphic novel/novel mash-up, MY NEST OF SILENCE and for SQUIRREL NEEDS A BREAK, a delightful picture book story written by my wife, Kristen Remenar.

Tell us about how you met and courted Kristen Remenar. A real SCBWI-MI love story, right? (Be forewarned, Kris is telling her side of the story in her interview.)

Kris and I had met at a Battle of the Books event at which she’d asked me to speak. When we met, I knew she was a person I wanted to get to know. However, I was in the process of moving to California at the time and so did not pursue that desire. But then, two years later, I was invited to speak at the Michigan SCBWI conference. I saw her standing across the crowded cafeteria. I was startled in a very good way, not expecting to ever see her again. Our eyes locked and…



You collaborated with her to produce her first picture book, Groundhog’s Dilemma. Was it the plan all along that you would illustrate the story?

Plan all along? Hmmm… I think it was a bit of a surprise when Kris received the call from the book’s editor, Yolanda Scott of Charlesbridge, asking if Kris would mind if they invited me to illustrate GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA. Mind?! We were both very happy!

Your early picture books were fun, fantastical exercises in imagination. What led you to tackle the weighty subject of race relations in A Taste of Colored Water?

I believe(d) it to be essential to encourage the discussion of important issues like race with children. Hence, A TASTE OF COLORED WATER. Through my experiences sharing the book with many children over these many years, I’ve learned that kids want to talk about race. I hope the book has made it easier for kids to work out their thoughts and feeling about race, with themselves and with the grown-ups in their lives.

And then, a graphic novel about a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII. Much has been made of your personal connection to that turbulent time. Your Irish-Catholic relative went to Manzanar rather than let her child go alone. Was that a cosmic arrow pointing you to the story? It was a hard sell, the real-life injustice of the United States to a group of citizens during wartime. What kept you pursuing the story? What was the turning point to getting it published?

My graphic novel story GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR was, for the most part, inspired by the imprisonment of my Japanese/Irish second cousin Mary, her three children and her mom, my Irish American great aunt Adeline. Their story of imprisonment in the Japanese American prison camp, called Manzanar, was a powerful piece of my family’s mythology and was shared proudly by my mom when I was a child

I thought it would stay a part of our family’s history until, just after 9/11, I heard people saying that they thought we should intern American Muslims. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 

It wasn’t long after that I decided that it was important for me to write and illustrate GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR, a graphic novel presenting a time in recent American history when we imprisoned people because of their race.

A labor-intensive labor of love, the sheer volume of illustrations and text had to be mind-boggling. What were some of the challenges you faced in producing this award-winning graphic novel?

Yes, GAIJIN was a considerable amount of illustration work. That was a challenge. It was my first graphic novel, so, getting used to presenting a story in that fashion took a lot of concentration. Yet it was also tremendously satisfying to wake up in the morning and go draw and paint this story.

You weren’t done, either. Your research had turned up a unit of Japanese-American recruits who fought for the U.S. in Europe. An even harder sell. Yet you persevered, and put out another award-winning hybrid novel, My Nest of Silence. What were the challenges and successes you encountered on the way to its book birthday?

Once I decided that MY NEST OF SILENCE was going to be a graphic novel/novel mash-up, I set myself to the task of both writing the voice of Japanese American Mari, the 11 year old narrator, and drawing the voice of her 18 year old brother, Mak. I’m happy with the way they both share their stories. I’d say that feels like a success. 

One of the challenges was my decision to use the Procreate application on my iPad to create the illustrations. Procreate is a great, user-friendly app and so the learning process went fairly smoothly. Regardless, it was, at times, challenging to move from the familiar - drawing and painting with traditional materials to the not-so-familiar - drawing and painting with digital tools.

You’re back illustrating for Kris. The community of characters you conjured forth on the page is now dealing with child care and single-parenting in Squirrel Need a Break. When you create supporting characters in a book, do they sometimes threaten to take over the story?

Kris has developed a sensitive, funny, nuanced group of characters in her GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA universe. In creating images of each that reach to match the depth in Kris’ descriptions took up a chunk of my creative efforts in GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, and our new book SQUIRREL NEEDS A BREAK. As an illustrator, the development of supporting characters can be fun. 

However, it’s always important for me to remember that these characters (and anything else I might add to visually embellish a moment in the story) are there to support, not surpass, the core characters and elements of the story.

When Kris was in recovery from her stroke, you took on all the household duties, cared for her, AND kept your day-job, illustrating for a living. What got you through the days, weeks, months, years of uncertainty and fatigue?

Kris is kind, funny and gorgeous. I focus(ed) on that. We’ve worked together to keep the train on the tracks. And we’ve also worked to be okay with letting things get a little messy when other things took precedence.

You’ve illustrated books for others, including two for Laurie Halse Anderson and a series of WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT(ELECTIONS, FIRST LADIES, FREEDOM, and AMERICANS) by Ruby Shamir. Those historical manuscripts require a lot of research. How much?

Quite a bit. I’ve filled binders with printed images for reference material for my illustration projects. And, I own a considerable library of illustrated history books which I still turn to when developing the layout, the characters and the environment for a book.

What’s next?

I’m working on the initial stages of a couple of graphic novels for a couple of authors and I’ve got one of my own in the works. And, of course, I’m busy working with Kris on the next book in the Groundhog’s Dilemma universe!

Thanks, Charlie and all our SCBWI/Michigan friends for inviting Kris and me to be interviewed! Happy writing and drawing to you all!

Here’s a list of more recent honors:

2022- Recipient Junior Library Guild’s Gold Standard

            for MY NEST OF SILENCE

2019- New Jersey Garden State Children's Book Award Nominee 


2018- Association for Library Service for Children Reading List

a division of the American Library Association 


2016- Bank Street College’s Best Books of the Year

            for GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA 

written by Kristen Remenar, illus.d by Matt Faulkner

2016- Michigan Reading Association’s Gwen Frostic Award Winner

            Given to a candidate who strongly influenced literacy in Michigan.

2016- Junior Library Guild Selection


            illustrated by Matt Faulkner, written by Doreen Rappaport

2015- Asian/Pacific American Library Assocition Award Winner


2014- CYBIL Awards Finalist


2009- California Commonwealth Club Book Award Finalist

            for A TASTE OF COLORED WATER

2009- Storytelling World Resource Award Winner

            for A TASTE OF COLORED WATER

2009- NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

            for A TASTE OF COLORED WATER

2009- Comstock Read Aloud Book Award Honor

            for A TASTE OF COLORED WATER

2009- Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award Winner

            for A TASTE OF COLORED WATER

2004- Young Hoosier Book Award Winner (Assoc. for Indiana Media Educators)


            illustrated by Matt Faulkner, written by Danny Schnitzlein

2004- Virginia Readers’ Choice Award Winner (Virginia State Reading Assoc.)


            illustrated by Matt Faulkner, written by Danny Schnitzlein

2003- Museum of Tolerance ‘Once Upon a World’ Children’s Book Award Winner


            illustrated by Matt Faulkner, written by Laurie Halse Anderson

And here's more artwork, because, well, Matt Faulkner: