November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm one of those lucky people who have an abundance of blessings. Wonderful family, good friends, laughter and love in my life. But I also count my writing life among my blessings:

* the gift of words

* the schools who have shared their day with me

* the editors who have shaped my writing

* those who have given me opportunities

* the kids who ask questions and tell me I've taught them something

* the gift of sharing the Christmas story

* the schools who have donated to our foundation, At Least Kids

* my critique group who offers support and laughter

* friends who I've met through SCBWI

I am thankful to all of you for sharing my writing life. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2011

What's A Writer To Do? Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette Gives Tips on Writing

So much conflicting advice we picture book writers hear ...

* write quality manuscripts, focus on making one better - Wait! - write many manuscripts and find the gem.
* start with a PB manuscript under 500 words - Wait! - write as much as you want to tell the story, THEN cut words
* you must write an original story - Wait! - it has to have a universal theme

What is a writer to do? Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette, a guest blogger on Tara Lazar's website, gives an excellent overview. Ammi-Joan creates a unique perspective, as she's not only an agent, but a picture book and novel author. Check out Tara's website for the skinny....

November 6, 2011

Inspiration? It's Everywhere!

Tara Lazar is hosting the wonderfully creative Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). Each day of November means you come up with an idea. But, Tara is not only creative, she is especially generous :). In return, she is giving us a guest blogger. Day 4, and we have author Joan Reidy (Too Pickley, Too Purpley, Too Princessy, and the newest Light Up the Night). Inspiration for ideas really just comes from looking at the world around us. Stay open to possibilities. Joan talks about a few of her favorites: YouTube videos, newspaper articles, illustrator websites and the "rhythm of life sounds". Check out today's post on Tara's website.

October 25, 2011

PiBoIdMo is ON!!

Okay my writer friends - Picture Book Idea Month is almost here! The ever-creative Tara Lazar has planned another awesome PiBoIdMo. Her blog is chock-full of interview with agents, editors, prizes, ideas and even critiques! Run, don't walk, to Tara's blog and sign up. One picture book idea, every day, for the month of November. But don't panic - Tara's daily blogs will keep those creative juices flowing. Join me in the fun!

October 9, 2011

Do You Have Character? Does Your Book?

So you have the perfect picture book character and can't wait to get started on the manuscript. Or maybe you already started writing. Is your character lovable? Memorable? Does she have flaws that make her relatable to kids? Are we getting an inside peek to who the character really is? And how does this move the story along? Character-driven picture books fly off the shelves (think Fancy Nancy), and yet writing them can be as complex as the characters themselves. Highlights is here to help with a special weekend workshop "It's All About the Character". Join Lindsay Barrett George and Kim Griswell for a fall weekend in the poconos, as you learn the importance of page turns, moving the character forward and catching an editor's eye. Find out how to make the reader love your character as much as you do.

September 19, 2011

Looking for an agent? What a website will tell you...

Harold Underdown, editor of the Purple Crayon Website and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, understands the dilemma in searching for the right agent. In his blog post, Harold gives a great overview on what to look for when perusing agency websites. Harold narrows it down:


His case study of Adams Literary Agency, a well-respected children's literary agency, gives the reader insight to carry forward when reviewing other websites.

August 30, 2011

Hurry, hurry, hurry to a New Jersey SCBWI event!

Many of my writer friends have been to the NJ SCBWI events. For those of you who are interested, but not quite sure which event is best for you, Kathy Temean gives a wonderful overview. Kathy is the regional advisor for the NJSCBWI chapter. She and Laurie Wallmark work dilligently to provide members with a slew of interesting workshops, first page sessions, intensives and the annual conference. They provide wonderful access to top-notch editors, agents and art directors. You simply can't get this opportunity elsewhere. So, what is best for you? The networking dinners? First page sessions (which led to the publication of my book)? The writer's intensives? Check out Kathy's blog for a description of the events. Just a warning's hard to choose just one!

August 9, 2011

Would you like to see your picture book in a million Cheerios boxes?

Did you enter the Cheerios New Author writing contest? 2011 was the fifth year that Cheerios/Simon & Schuster held a writing contest for previously unpublished picture book writers. The winning prize was $5,000 cash and a book published by Simon & Schuster!

My friend, Tara Lazar (The Monstore, Alladin/Simon & Schuster, 2013) interviewed winner Laurie Isop. Laurie won the Cheerios New Author contest in 2009 and her book debuted this July in a million Cheerios boxes. Wow - talk about an introduction!

Laurie explains the process and talks about her idea for How Do You Hug a Porcupine? A great premise, and the idea was born while chatting around the dinner table.

Check out Tara's interview with Laurie and you'll be inspired to enter the next Cheerios New Author contest too! Good luck!

July 27, 2011

Does Your Book Title Pop?

If you are like most writers, your head is full of book titles. Titles may seem to be the easy part, and the title is often the impetutus for writing the book. But does your book title stand out? Jan Fields, Institute of Children's Literature, has an interestesting article on the art of book titles. Jan has broken it down into several categories:

* Titles Are Not Labels

* Titles Should Be True-ish

* Titles Need Memorable 'Oomph"

* Bait And Switch With Care

Check out the article in Institute of Children's Literature, and use your title to tempt the buyers.

July 5, 2011

NJ SCBWI Conference and Industry Report

As always, the June NJ SCBWI conference was FANTASTIC! Kathy Temean, Laurie Wallmark and the gang do a terrific job. The days are full of interesting workshops, a great line-up of editors/agents, brainstorming, the chance to catch up with old friends, and meet new ones. Each year, David Carumba presents an industry report. This year, Kathy Temean has graciously provided an overview of David's report on her blog.

A quick look at the questions asked of 30 editors and agents:

* what are editors buying?
* the current trend? new trends?
* the impact and crossover appeal of YA?
* how does the bankruptcy of Borders affect the market?

Check out Kathy's blog for the details.

Happy July!

June 23, 2011

Is Your Picture Book Character Flawed?

Rob Sanders writes a terrific blog on the art of picture books. In this post, he describes the necessity of a flawed character who makes a reader feel connected. The interview with Tammi Sauer (who has 5 picture books debuting just in 2012!) describes the three characteristics that Tammi thinks are essential to picture book characters: active, relatable and flawed. Check out the post and take the quiz. Have you perfected the imperfect?

June 2, 2011

Highlights Gallant Kid: June Issue

I'm happy to announce that my article, Gallant Kid: Katie Stagliano appears in the June issue of Highlights Magazine. Katie is AMAZING! It all started with one seedling. Katie planted the cabbage seed as part of a school program - that one seedling grew into a 40 lb. cabbage! She donated the cabbage to a homeless shelter, and launched her dream of Katie's Krops. Katie now has seven gardens and has donated over 5,000 pounds of vegetables to shelters and soup kitchens. A team of volunteers assists in watering, weeding and finding land for more gardens. Check out her website for a good dose of inspiration. As Katie said, "We can make a huge difference in the fight against hunger."

May 11, 2011

Tonight You Are My Baby and Scholastic Books!

I'm thrilled to announce that Scholastic Books will now offer my book, Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift (HarperCollins Publishers) in their catalog and school book fairs. Scholastic provides a wonderful opportunity for kids to have books in their schools, and I'm delighted that Tonight You Are My Baby has been chosen as a holiday offering. Look for the book at a school near you !

April 8, 2011

What Makes A Successful Picture Book?

Check out this post on 9 factors that can add dazzle (and sales) to your picture book manuscript.

You may want to hang this next to your favorite writing spot for inspiration!

March 16, 2011

Highlights Foundation: Writing for Middle-Graders Workshop

The Highlights Foundation always offers terrific workshops and this is perfect timing. Publishers are looking for middle-grade books. Rich Wallace, author of the popular The Winning Season series, will lead the workshop, and give tips on voice, age-appropriate dialogue and action. I know many writers currently hard at work on their middle-grade novels. Check out the workshop and bring your manuscript!

March 4, 2011

Agent Offers Critique Every Month

I'm always intriqued by people who offer their talents to advance a cause near and dear to their hearts. And literary agent Irene Goodman is doing just that. Hats off to Irene. Each month, Irene auctions a critique. Each month! This is a win-win situation as you can receive a critique from a well-known agent and proceeds are donated to Hope For Vision and Foundation Fighting Blindness. This is a unique and clever way to raise money for these important causes. As my family runs a foundation, At Least Kids, to advance research into pediatric brain tumors, I appreciate Irene's fund-raising skills. When I do school visits, I ask each school for a donation to At Least Kids. I also donate part of the proceeds from my book to the foundation. The possibilites are endless with how writers can help others. So if you are looking for a critique from a experienced industry professional. check out Irene's auction page. You may even land an agent while helping a great cause.

February 23, 2011

20 Tips on Query Letters by Agent Janet Reid

The Guide to Literary Agents website includes a guest blog by Ricki Shultz. The article focuses on agent Janet Reid and her 20 top tips on query letters. In addition to "Keep it brief" and "remain professional", Janet includes "Surefire Query Killers" and what I think is the best advice of all, "Remember: You can query too soon. You cannot query too late."

Check out the article and make those query letters work for you.

February 20, 2011

Has Your Picture Book Idea Already Been Published?

Check out the hilarious flow chart that picture book author Tara Lazar (Monstore, Alladin/Simon & Schuster, Summer 2013) has posted on her blog. The chart leads the aspiring author down the path of "PROCEED WITH CAUTION" or "STOP! THIS IDEA HAS ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED". Check out Tara's blog and let's just hope you don't land on the "This book has already been written by Denise Richards" square. Good luck!

February 13, 2011

Sign up for the SCBWI NJ Anuual Conference - Today!

Wow, wow, wow! Check out the line-up of editors and agents for the annual June conference in Princeton, NJ. About 25 industry professionals will be giving workshops, intensives and critiques to attendees. Interested in submitting to a publisher that is closed to submissions? If you attend the conference, that door is suddenly open. Like to hear how published authors got their break? Register for the workshops teaching you rhyme vs. meter or how to write a good query letter. The possibilities are endless, but catch the early bird pricing today before time runs out!

February 2, 2011

More Goodies from SCWI Conference

Alessandra Balzar, co-publisher of the HarperCollins imprint Balzar & Bray, addresses "What Makes Your Work Publishable?" Ms. Balzar tells the crowd the 10 factors she wants before acquiring a project. Lucky SCBWI attendees heard the whole list, but the rest of us who had to miss the conference can at least get five "don't miss" pointers.

!. Voice
2. Groundbreaking concept
3. World-building
4. Read Aloud Quality
5. Heart

Check out the SCBWI blog to read the details of Ms. Bray's talk.

January 27, 2011

What Happened to Your Book Today?

Another day of writing? Does it really matter? Is your book making a difference? Author Kate Messner want you to know - it does! Kate is the author of numerous novels and picture books. And she has written a brilliant blog post titled, "What Happened To Your Book Today?". A gentle reminder that somewhere our book is warming the heart of a child, telling a kid they are are not alone, eliciting a giggle, shared by chubby hands and a parent's heart. Your book may not win awards, but it's turned a reluctant reader into a voracious reader or been wrapped in birthday paper and chosen carefully as the perfect gift. Yes, your writing does indeed matter.

January 18, 2011

NY SCBWI Conference

Are you going to the annual NY SCBWI conference? It promises to be a fantastic event, filled with agents/editors galore and great writing tips from inspiring authors. Today's SCBWI Team Blog interview: Advice on Critiques from Editors and Agents. Check out the interview so you'll know how to get the most from your valuable critique.

January 2, 2011

Feelng the Pain of Rejection? Laurie Halse Anderson Understands . ..

Now I know it's the start of a brand new year, and I probably shouldn't speak of rejection, but Laurie Halse Anderson understands your pain. Laurie is the author of Speak, Fever 1793 and other great novels. This wonderful article speaks to the pain of rejection, but also the inspiration to move past and continue forward. And isn't moving forward what the New Year celebrations are all about? Happy New Year and happy writing!