December 27, 2010

Hopewell Christian Preschool Visit

How great my little friends were at Hopewell! They listened so attentively, and asked wonderful questions. We talked about our favorite part of the book, and the illustrations they liked best. The true meaning of Christmas seems to be a year-round feeling at Hopewell. Thanks for a great day!

St. Thomas the Apostle Grade School

I had a wonderful time with my friends at St. Thomas the Apostle. The kids were excited and the audience even included several newspaper reporters and photographers. I was delighted to be one of the "Real Life Authors" that has visited the school. This article in the Delco Times captures the spirit of the day.

December 13, 2010

Christmas is in the Air - KidLit Authors Club

I had the pleasure of signing with a bunch of fantastic writers from the Kidlit Authors Club at Borders in Exton Mall yesterday. Things were busy at the bookstore (always a good sign!) and we were we were busy signing too (another good sign!). This group of PA, NJ and DE authors spans the genres of picture book, middle grade and young adult. If you are a teacher, librarian or bookstore owner check out our KidLit Author Club. We'll coordinate a party at your school or library. Put Kidlit Author Club on your wish list this year. Check out the website at

December 2, 2010

What to Give the Writer on Your List?

Hmm....what to give that favorite writer for Christmas? Can't wrap a publishing contract, movie deal or face-to-face with that sought-after agent? No need to fret - ideas are plentiful!

* a one-year membership to SCBWI

* a Mentoring Workshop or conference sponsored by SCBWI

* a subscription to Children's Writers newsletter

* paid manuscript critique with an agent/editor at a workshop

* book of stamps for submitting manuscripts by snail mail

* gift card to Staples (in an attempt to keep our writing space clean)

* subscription to Fast Pencil for the novel writers

Most valuable gift: a hug sprinkled with encouraging words, and a dash of faith from those who love us. This will keep us happy all year long.

November 22, 2010

'Tis the season . . .for School Visits !

School visits galore! Can't wait for December 1st as I begin the rounds of author visits to preschools and elementary schools. I love the visits - the schools are always gracious and the students ask fantastic questions! If you are on my list of schools this year, see you soon and be sure to check back for photos of our day together!

November 2, 2010

PiBoIdMo: Are You In On The Fun?

Today is November 2nd, and if you are a PiBoIdMo participant you should have your second idea penciled in. If you are not a participant, you are saying, "What the heck are you talking about?" PiBoIdMo is a funny name, but loaded with creativity and imagination. Tara Lazar is sponsoring Picture Book Idea Month on her blog.

The goal: each day in November, come up with a new picture book idea.

The details: it can be just the title, a jacket blurb, an outline or an entire first draft!

The reward: winners will submit their top five ideas to agents. The agents listed on Tara's blog will provide feedback on the picture books.

The other reward: you now have a folder of 30 picture books titles!

Jump on over to Tara's blog and sign up as a participant. And for goodness sake, get writing!

October 22, 2010

Pointers When Pitching Your Manuscript.

Kathy Temean, Regional Advisor of SCBWI-NJ, has a great post on 11 Questions to Answer While Working On Your Pitch. Kathy makes a great analogy of comparing your pitch to a t.v. commerical. You have the ear of an editor/agent for 30 seconds. Make it work for you! Kathy urges us to be clear on the theme, genre, hook and conflict. Check out Kathy's blog here and find other interesting tidbits too.

October 20, 2010

The ABC's of Rebus Writing

My critique group has challenge this month - rebus writing. "How simple" you say? Not so fast!
At 80-125 words, rebus writing has its own set of challenges. I picked up some great tips from an article in Institute of Children's Literature by Marianne Mitchell.

Focus on one small event
The topic must appeal to 2-6 year olds
1-4 characters in the story
At least 8 nouns that can be clearly illustrated
Illustrative possibilities are nouns, colors, numbers
Need a surprise or twist at the end

Check out The Nuts and Bolts of Rebus Writing for other important rebus tools.

October 9, 2010

Agents Talk Trends in Children's Publishing

At the NE-SCBWI conference, agents discussed trends in the children's publishing world. What's hot, what's not, the status of picture books and nonfiction. The agent panel consisted of three top agents: Edward Necarsulmer, Ammi-Joan Paquette and Sarah Davies. Find out what writers were asking and how the agents responded. Great information . .

Find the article in The Guide to Literary Agents.

October 4, 2010

Writing Narrative Non-Fiction? Read On!

In last week's Guide to Literary Agents, agent Jon Sternfeld gives us the skinny on the essential elements of writing narrative non-fiction. Jon is an agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. He describes the five important points in this type of writing:

1. Arcs

2. Inverse rule for nonfiction

3. Familiar strange, strange familiar

4. Big and small

5. Voice

Read Jon's interview here

September 26, 2010

SCBWI Fall Philly Fantastic

If you missed the SCBWI Fall Philly conference this year, be sure to sign up next year. The 2011 event will be a three-day extravaganza combined with Western PA. I was fortunate to be part of yesterday's speakers. My presentation included YA author Jennifer Hubbard and MG author Nan Marino. The Fall Philly theme was Harvest. Jennifer, Nan and I spoke about our journey as a debut author, the Garden Tools for publication, Soil and Nutrients, Weather, and Selling the Crop. Wendy Mass, also a KidLit Author Club member, did a great job on providing inspiration for all. Theu audience loved her, and we were delighted to hear that one of her (11) books, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, was recently made into a movie. Congrats Wendy! Harold Underdown also spoke of the current state of publishing. He has a huge online presence and it was definitely interesting to hear him speak. Kudos to Fall Philly coordinator Tara Cahill for a wonderful event!

September 23, 2010

7 Habits of Effective Writing

Kristi Holl has an excellent article on the 7 Essential Habits of a Working Writer. It's difficult to say which is my favorite, but I do love #6 Finish and Submit. Manuscripts don't sell unless they are sent to publishers, yet many writers are reluctant to let it go. Perhaps it's the fear of rejection or "just one more revision". All manuscripts must go through multiple revisions, but at some point it's time to send your baby out in the world. My gut usually tells me when it's time - call it mother's intuition (?) - but I also rely on my critique group. How about you? Isn't it time?

September 22, 2010

Get Your Writing Noticed: Enter a Contest!

This Writer's Digest article lists seven writing contests that are sure to get you noticed - and perhaps a contract too. These contests are all free - what do you have to lose?

September 21, 2010

What Picture Book Editors Are Really Looking For

Less words? More illustrative possibilities? A clear market? A special hook? Character development? What exactly do editors want in a picture book? Melanie Hope Greenburg's article Diamond in the Slush: What Picture Book Editors Are Really Looking For has some great nuggets of information from two editors at top publishing houses.

Just a few:
Can you read the story 10 or more times and not tire of it?

Why is your story different?

Can you identify your audience?

Allow white space for the illustrator to create.

Kid appeal but sophisticated enough for adult readers.

Check out the other tips in the article. Thanks to my critique friend Joanne for sending the link my way :)

September 17, 2010

Announcing Tonight You Are My Baby board book edition!

The board book edition of Tonight You Are My Baby will be released on September 28th! This is fantastic news for any author. The board book edition will reach the youngest readers - just their size. Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer, new baby gift or Christmas book for the little ones on your list? The board book will be available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere. Share the miracle!

September 15, 2010

Word Count For Children's Books

Are you wondering if your 1,000 word picture book is too long? Most likely - yes. Check out this article on word length for all categories of children's books - board books through YA.
How can you ever delete that fantastic scene? Or the character who has so much depth? Well, you might have to do it, if you want to give your manuscript a chance with an editor or agent.

August 30, 2010

Do You Write Non-fiction?

Highlights Foundation is hosting a cozy, educational workshop for 10 non-fiction writers at their beautiful site in Honesdale, PA. Carolyn Yoder, editor at Caulkins Creek and Highlights Magazine, is leading the workshop. I have attended some of Carolyn's workshops through SCBWI and she is a wealth of information. Non-fiction writing is a great entry for school visits and building publishing credits through magazine articles. Non-fiction can be fun! Check out the details here.

August 22, 2010

Picture Book or Magazine Article?

Interesting post from Mary Kole, agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Mary suggests asking yourself the $50,000 question. This is approximately what publishers invest when sending a manuscript to print. In today's tough picture book market, a quiet manuscript with a regional focus, or smaller audience appeal, may not make it to the printing press as a book. However, it may be a terrific piece for a magazine, the author gets paid quickly and the publishing credits add up. Check out Mary Kole's article here.

August 14, 2010

Are You A Nine to Fiver?

Returning from vacation and spent time focusing on several projects. Just in time is this post from Kristi Holl on Thinking Like A Nine-to-Fiver.

With the carefree days of summer coming to a close, we'll be falling into schedules and commitments. Kristi's blog should make it easier to fit writing into the day, and all the other parts of life too. How to do it? Check it out here.

July 20, 2010

Highlights Foundation and Writing Novels for Young Adults

Crisp autumn days certainly seem like a long time away from these sweltering summer days. But autumn will be here in a blink, and Highlights Foundation offers a fantastic weekend for eight YA writers. Rich Wallace, former Highlights editor and author of numerous YA/MG books, will host a workshop on the beautiful grounds of the Highlights Foundation in the Poconos.
Identify voice, create interesting internal dialogue and find interesting story ideas are among the topics that will be discussed. Interested? Limited to eight participants, so find the details here and act fast.

July 17, 2010

Vote for Katie!

Highlights Magazine just acquired my "Gallant Kid" article about Katie Stagliano. Yay! Katie is an incredible kid and she certainly deserves a starring role as a Gallant Kid. As an eleven year old, Katie grew a 40 pound cabbage from the third grade Burpee Seed school program. She donated it to a homeless shelter, and found her calling as a gardener and volunteer. Now you have the chance to vote for Katie. If she wins, Katie can start two more gardens, adding to the seven gardens she currently is tending. More gardens means more vegetables donated to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Vote today - only four days left!

July 8, 2010

True or False? Top Ten Publishing Myths

Former NY editor Erin Brown has a great article on Top Ten Publishing Myths. Terrific information for aspiring authors. We all like to think that publishers will be offering huge advances, our book will hit the NY Times bestseller list, and we need only to clear our calendar before the publisher creates a glitzy publicity tour. Ms. Brown explains why these are all myths, but take hope! Knowledge is power. This information can help you define your book as a success in realistic terms.

July 2, 2010

Looking To Go Green?

Going green is the hot topic right now, but this article is about pulling in the green, or at least spending less, while you are busy pursuing your writing dreams. In the Institute of Children's Literature newsletter is "Going Green in the Writing Business" by Sally Phillips. The article lists helpful suggestions such as: Getting magazines from libraries, submitting electronically to publishers, entering writing contests with no fees, free writers newsletters (like Institute of Children's Lit), submitting to smaller magazine publishers, etc.. In today's economy, this is information that we could all use!

June 25, 2010

Where Are You In Your Writing Career? Freshman or Senior?

Author and professor Randy Ingermanson poses this question to (unpublished) writers of all genres, "Where are you in your writing career?". Breaking the career into four categories: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Randy explains the nuances of each level of the career path. It's a bit like high school really (and you thought you had left that a long time ago).

Freshman: wandering the halls, looking for guidance, finding their way
Sophomore: a little experience, know how to find the right class (or conference)
Junior: doing some exciting work, not afraid of revising
Senior: have all the tools, shown polished work, ready to graduate

Check out the article and the action plan that will get you ready for graduation (and publication).

June 20, 2010

High Concept: Publishers Want It, But What Is It?

Kathy Temean has posted a great article by Steve Kaire on the definition of high concept books. We hear that term bandied about at conferences, but what exactly does it mean? Steve Kaire states that five essential components must exist:

1. The premise must be original
2. The story must have mass audience appeal
3. Your pitch must be story specific
4. The potential is obvious
5. Your pitch should be one to three sentences long

Check out the article - is your manuscript high concept?

June 14, 2010

Grammar Question? Ask the Grammar Girl

I rely on my critique group for my punctuation and grammar questions, but this is a terrifc website for many of the grammar questions that pop up for writers. You can submit a question or check the archives. Happy (correct) writing! Grammar Girl

June 9, 2010

Hats Off to NJ SCBWI!

Hats off (and a big bow) to Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark for coordinating a fantastic conference! Kathy and Laurie are the dynamic duo that managed to have 22 publishing houses/agents represented. These fine agents/editors were available for critiques, networking, workshops and a post-conference dinner. They also generously donated full manuscript critiques for the Silent Auction (proceeds to benefit the scholarship fund). Prizes galore! The raffle had autographed books, gift certificates and book bundles. NJ SCWI presented me with a signed copy of a Richard Peck book and a gift certificate for money off another NJSCWI event -as a token of appreciation for volunteering to facilitate a First Page session. Folks - run, don't walk, to the 2011 June conference! This year about 10 authors/illustrators received contracts through the NJ workshops/conference. The conference attendees left with their heads full of new ideas, inspiration and a big dose of gratitude to Kathy and Laurie. They are tireless volunteers who have done an outstanding job!

June 4, 2010

YAY! The NJ SCBWI Conference is Here!

Off to the NJ SCBWI conference and am I excited! Folks, take a look at this fantastic line-up of editors/agents/authors:

Marshall Cavendish
Dial and Dutton
Random House
Egmont USA
Sterling Publishers
Wendy Lamb Books
Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky
Paulist Press
Little, Brown BFYR
Scott Treimel Literary Agency
Foundry Literary
Adams Literary
Sheldon Fogelman Agency
Herman Agency
Andrea Brown Agency
Fne Print Literary Agency
Viking Books
Henry Holt
Keynote speakers:

David L. Harrison - author of 80 children's books

Catherine Murdock - author of Dairy Queen and other books

Last year I was on the faculty as a member of the "First Book Panel". This year, I'm facilitating a workshop for the "First Page Session". Bring those first pages folks - this is where my manuscript "Tonight You Are My Baby" was discovered.

Hope to see many of you SCBWI friends this weekend!

June 1, 2010

Feeling Rejected? How About These Famous Authors?

Join the club! And it's an esteemed group as well - famous authors who have climbed the ladder to success, and accrued a pile of rejection slips as well. We have all heard the story of how our beloved Harry Potter was rejected at least a dozen times before Bloomsbury Publishers picked it up (and we all breathe a collective - whew!). But how about Stephen King or William Faulkner?
And the literary success of Diary of Anne Frank and Animal Farm? Almost didn't happen. Check out this article from the to see the 30 authors/books who rose above rejection, polished their manuscripts, and didn't give up. Each rejection is the chance to make your manuscript better and find the editor who will love your work as much as you do. A little inspiration next time you find a rejection letter in your mailbox . . .

May 29, 2010

Just the Facts? Or More?

In the third edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, author Harold Underdown gives us the latest in children's non-fiction (now also called informational books).

For example, there are books that present just the facts, biographies, creative non-fiction (books that follow a traditional story arc or facts presented in a fun, unusual format), and how-to books. Check out the sneak peek at this chapter. Sneed Collard, author of numerous non-fiction books, is quoted, "Non-fiction has not even begun to peak as far as creative possibilities." I'd have to agree with Harold and Sneed. In addition, creative non-fiction opens the door to the school market and provides teachers with another avenue of meeting required teaching units. Sounds like school visits are a must!

May 18, 2010

Agent Pet Peeves

The Guide to Literary Agents has a terrific post on agent pet peeves. Quoting numerous agents representing various genres, the post lists everything from cliched phrases ("It was a dark and stormy night" - wow, people actually still write that?) to flowery writing that doesn't move the book forward. Also mentioned: waking from a dream in Chapter One, a run-down list of physical attributes, and characters moving around in the scene, but essentially doing nothing.
Before submitting to your dream agent, check out this article.

May 5, 2010

Why does it take so long to hear about my manuscript?

If you are a writer, you have surely muttered the question, "Why does a publisher take so long?". This is probably asked after the hundreth day of checking the mailbox. Actually, to hear in 100 days isn't bad :) A publicist from Peachtree Publishers, an independent publisher with a terrific list, gives us a peek into the acquisition process. This may not make the wait any easier, but it gives us more clarity. Thanks to the Peachtree folks for this blog. Check it out here.

May 1, 2010

Best Agent Blogs

The website Guide to Literary Agents just posted their top five agents blogs. This is really valuable information folks! Agent blogs are a peek into the publishing market, what agents might be looking for at the particular time, a sense of "is this the agent for me?", books they recently sold, how to write a query letter, etc.. Some agents even sponsor contests that may lead to your manuscript sitting on their desk. The Guide to Literary Agents notes these five blogs (in alphabetical order): Chip MacGregor, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, KidLit, Nathan Bransford, and Rachelle Gardner. Check out the website for the links to the agents.

April 12, 2010

Wish You Could Attend a SCBWI conference? Read About It Here

Two regional SCBWI conferences took place this weekend. The bad news: you couldn't attend. The good news: you can get the insider tips anyway!

Western Washington State live-blogged the conference here and Western PA's conference was blogged here.

Check it out for great information on keynote speakers, editors and agents. A real dose of inspiration.

April 6, 2010

Dear Editor - I Have A Question

I thought this was an interesting tip for our writers. Deborah Halverson, author of two award-winning novels and a Harcourt Children's Books editor for ten years, has recently launched This website is designed to answer questions about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. Deborah now works as a writing instructor and author. You can't beat the price - it's free!

March 29, 2010

Get The Party Started!

Wow! The KidLit Authors Club has a party just waiting for you! This newly formed group of 13 PA, NJ, De authors will bring experience, writing tips, prize bags and fun to your next event. The mix includes picture books, middle grade and YA novelists. The spring schedule is hopping and events are already booked into Fall 2010. Check out our website at KidLitAuthorsClub and get the party started!

March 23, 2010

Does a Capybara make a nest? Ask an expert!

So you're writing a non-fiction piece? Perhaps an interesting article or you have a fabulous book idea? That's great! The beauty of writing in today's world is the ease of checking facts. Say you're writing a book about the rainforest (okay, I'm writing a book about the animals of the rainforest). With a click of your mouse, you can enter the rainforest and discover that a large pig-like rodent with webbed feet (called a Capybara) also dwells there. Great internet sources tell us that the Capybara stays near the water, but you can't seem to find out how it makes a nest. Does it tunnel in the mud? Does it make a nest of grass and twigs? Who on earth will know these offbeat facts? You need a Capybara expert! In the March/April SCBWI bulletin, author Jane Mcbride Choate shares a fabulous list of experts just waiting to help!

And if any of you are Capybara experts, please let me know. No pressure though, I can always ask the other experts!

March 2, 2010

Board Book Edition Coming Fall 2010!

Great news! Tonight You Are My Baby will also be printed Fall 2010 as a board book edition! This edition will be for the littlest readers, who can hold the sturdy book in their hands and share the story of Mary's love for her baby. This is the perfect stocking stuffer, baby shower gift, or new baby present. Look for it in your local bookstore in September.

February 22, 2010

Announcing KidLit Authors Club!

I'm breaking my own challenge (inspired by Laurie Halse Anderson of abstaining from blogs, Facebook, Twitter for one month) for this important announcement. The KidsLit Authors Club has arrived!

Are you a teacher or librarian in the PA, NJ, DE area who would love to have one-stop shopping available for author visits? How about a whole group of young adult, middle grade and picture book authors arriving at your doorstep in one day? If you think this is a fabulous idea - look no further.

The KidLit Authors Club (KAC) is a group of of authors and illustrators from PA, NJ and DE who will bring the party to you! The KAC is new, but gosh, are we busy already! Check out the website for a list of where we will be visiting: bookstores, schools, libraries and writing conferences. This terrific mix of debut and multi-book authors combines fun with valuable writing tips. You make the contact, we'll take it from there - talk about a party planner!

Check out our blog at KidLit Authors Club and be inspired!

February 5, 2010

No Time To Write? Stop Blogging!

Another gem from Laurie Halse Anderson, and she makes a very good point. She dares us to stop blogging, Facebook, etc. for the month of February. I would have to agree that we will find ourselves with much more time to write. The newsletter from the Institute of Children's Literature relays a quote from Laurie that I think is fabulous. "Reading blogs will not turn you into a published author. Writing blogs won't either. Writing books will. You have precious little time after your other responsibilities and if the goal is to write a book, well, then . . . write it." That's it, folks - I'm signing off. Not sure I can do the month of February, but the longer I write this note, the less time I'm writing my book!

February 4, 2010

Top 10 Influential YA Authors

Amazon recently announced who they consider to be the Top 8 Influential YA Authors of the decade. I picked up this link from the blog of Laurie Halse Anderson, who I think is a terrific author, and is included in the list. Other noteworthy authors are Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries), Stephenie Meyers (Twilight) and Christopher Paolini (Eragon). Check it out.

January 25, 2010

Book Proposals

Literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, has a terrific blog post on how to write a non-fiction book proposal. She also lists several books that will help you in this endeavor. This is really valuable information folks. "What's the big deal?" you say. "I just write a few sentences about my book and how it will be a hit on Oprah." Actually, a book proposal is a big deal. Details include: who is your audience? What books are similar? How is your book different? What is your platform? Why are you qualified to write the book? Include Table of Contents and several chapters. When will the book be completed? What is your publishing history? This comes at a good time for me, as I embark on a proposal. Hope you all find it helpful too. Thanks to Rachelle Gardner. . .

January 21, 2010

List of Editors - What Do They Want?

Author Ellen Jackson has written a terrific list of editors and what they are interested in publishing. She cautions to read the list carefully, and also check the publisher's websites. Not all houses are open to submissions. This list is a great tool for writers. Check back to Ellen's website for updates.

January 19, 2010

Highlights Workshop Scholarships

Did you know that Highlights Foundation offers scholarships for their writer's workshops? In these tough economic times, many of us could use financial help in perfecting our craft. Highlights offers fabulous worshops, with a varying focus, and some of the top names in the writing field. Check out this link to learn what opportunities may await you in 2010!

January 9, 2010

Thanks to the Schools!

In this wonderful new year, I'd like to thank the schools for hosting my author visits. It was a busy December, as every day was booked. Without exception, each school was gracious, organized and informed. The kids had fantastic questions and I certainly noticed some budding authors. I am particularly thankful for the generous donations that each school gave to our foundation, At Least Kids, to support pediatric brain tumor research. Truly, these are kids helping kids. The school donations totaled approximately $1,500. May you all be blessed with peace, joy and health in the new year.

St. Anastasia School
St. Patrick School
Mother of Divine Providence
St. Joseph's School
St. John the Baptist
Ursuline Academy
Pope John Paul Elementary
St. Edmond's School
St. Maximillian Kolbe School
St. Elizabeth School
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta