Up-Coming Author Visits

Brentwood Middle School
Author Visit
November 12, 2015
Brentwood, MO

Local Author Open House
November 19, 2015
Spencer Library
6:00 to 8:00 pm
427 Spencer Road
St. Peters, MO 63376

Please contact me if you would like me to speak at your school, or autograph books at your Scholastic Book Fair.

Recent Author Visits

With Nancy Polette, Writing for Children instructor, October 1, 2015

Picture Book Intensive, SCBWI conference September 2015, Soaring to New Heights

Author visit, with Author and Instructor (Writing for Children), Nancy Polette May 2015

Author visit at Troy Buchannan HS March 2015

Scholastic Book Fair, St. Charles, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Fenton, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Columbia, Missouri December 2014

Saturday Writers presentation on writing and marketing a picture book, June 2014, St. Peters MO

Lakeview Elementary School, O'Fallon, MO in April 2014

With Kim Piddington, Missouri SCBWI Regional Advisor, at the Missouri Association of School Librarians convention in St. Louis, April

Indiana SCBWI Spring conference April 2014

Chesterfield, MO children's writers group at Christmas 2013

scholastic Warehouse Book Signing December 7, 2013

At Main Street Books with owner, Vickie Erwin November 30th

B&N with authors Mike Force, Chris DiGiuseppi, and Valerie Battle Kienzle November 22nd

Local Author Open House at MK Library in O'Fallon, November 21st

Carlin Park Elementary School Angola, IN

Sherwood School Scholastic Book Fair in Arnold, MO

ICD Scholastic Book Fair with students--Immaculate Conception Dardenne Prairie, MO

Peggy with children's author Karen Guccione-Englert at the MK Library Local Authors Open House in O'Fallon, MO

Book signing at Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with Mary Igras

Author Visit to Immaculate Conception School (ICD) April 2012

ICD library staff

Edison Elementary School Hammond IN

Lincoln Elementary School Hammond IN

Beta Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Hammond IN

Keynote Speakers
MO SCBWI Fall Conference

Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers

Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency

Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER

Author Visits
Spring 2011

Kids Ink Independent Children's Bookstore, downtown Indianapolis

Shirley Mullin, bookstore owner, with children's authors Janna Mathies, Peggy, and Nathan Clement

Thank You cards from Holy Family School in South Bend

Fieler Elementary students

Ms Hanneman's class at Northview Elementary

In the classroom at Northview Elementary School

Talking to students at Northview Elementary

Working together to create a poem in Starke County

Talking with students at Starke County

Author Judy Roth and students at the Starke County Young Artists Day

Indiana SCBWI PAL Luncheon and Bookfair at B&N Bookstore

Booksigning at B&N Bookfair

Anderson's Bookshop Children's Literature Breakfast

Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, with author and keynote speaker Tim Green

December Booksigning at The Bookstore in Michigan City

friendly staff at The Bookstore

Holiday Author Fair
Hosted by the Indiana Historical Society

Author Book Signing

Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols

Bellaboo's Play and Activity Center

Turkey for Thanksgiving?

Stuffee and the author

Stuffe's lunch!

November: Picture Book Idea Month

October Author Events

Author Panel: the Road to Publishing--Kathryn Page Camp moderating

Kate Collins: adult trade publishing, mysteries

Peggy Archer: children's trade publishing, picture books

Katherine Flotz: self-publishing, memoir

Michael Poore: adult trade publishing, fiction

Cynthia Echterling: e-publishing & small press, science fiction

Author visit to Portage Public Library, October 23rd

IN SCBWI presents Esther Hershenhorn:
Getting Your Stories Right
October 9, 2010

Esther Hershenhorn talks about the Reader's story and the Writer's story

Esther shares resources, experience, and opportunities

Trish Batey, Indiana RA

Yellow paper on your back gave a hint of 'What author are you?' for the day

Smiling faces

Peggy Archer gives an overview of the 2010 SCBWI conference in LA

Karen Kulinski gives an update on Indiana's HoosierLinks

Janna Mathies at the piano sings "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves

door prizes

IN SCBWI steering committee with Trish: (L to R) Karen Kulinski, HoosierLinks, Kristi Valiant, Website Coordinator, Alina Klein, Listserv Coordinator, Peggy, ARA (not pictured: Sharon Vargo, Illustrator Coordinator)

New Regional Advisor, Kristi Valiant, talks about plans for 2011

Indiana SCBWI: Outgoing RA Trish Batey, ARA Peggy Archer, Incoming RA Kristi Valiant

Author visits at Citizen's Financial Bank and ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors

Visiting with author/illustrator Nathan Clement and son Theo at the ROAR author event

Autographing for a young reader

Story Time at ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors Event in Indianapolis

Reading to young bankers at Citizens Financial Bank in Valparaiso

2010 SCBWI Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles, CA

Some of the crowd at the SCBWI conference in LA

Ashley Bryan, Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction

with Keynote speaker and Golden Kite winner, Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrator and Keynote speaker, Loren Long

E.B. Lewis, Keynote speaker

with Keynote speaker, Gennifer Choldenke

Keynote speaker, Gordon Korman

Chris Cheng, Australia RA and SCBWI Member of the Year

Kris Vreeland, Independent Bookstore manager, Vroman's Bookstore

Eva Mitnick, LA librarian and reviewer for SLJ

Greg Pinkus and Alice Pope on networking

Bruce Hale--Skyping

with Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI

Steve Mooser, co-founder of SCBWI, with Sally Crock RAE

Indiana SCBWI members Mary Jo, Shannon, and Peggy celebrate in LA with Heart and Soul.

East and Midwest members celebrate at the Golden Kite Luncheon in LA--Peggy, Courtney, Julia and Mary Jo.

Peggy with Alice and Lisa, co-RAs from IL--friends and roommates

Linda V., formerly of Indiana, with her 'dog-in-training,' Dusty.

IWC Writers' Picnic

Anyone for Literary Bingo?

Children's Corner

Knee-high by the 4th of July!

This is the cornfield just down the street from my house on July 13th. That's me with the boot on my foot again!

Springtime Author Visits

Local Authors Day, Valparaiso B&N

Welcome to the Young Artists Fair in Plainfield, IN

Signing books at Van Buren Elementary School in Plainfield, IN

Book Launch Party for NAME THAT DOG!, Valparaiso Public Library

Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!

Little reader loving that dog book!

Celebrating the Book Launch!

Doggy treats at the book launch party

More springtime author visits

With Jocelyn at the Porter County Expo Center for the Be Kind to Animals Celebration

Speaking to readers and writers at the LaPorte County Public Library in April

Our new grandpuppy, Dudley!

Chad & Sara's Wedding Day

The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!

Focus on the Novel:
Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference

Trish Batey, Indiana SCBWI RA, Stephen Roxburg, Lisa Graff, Helen Frost, Peggy Archer, Indiana SCBWI ARA

Stephen Roxburg, Publisher of namelos, talked about writing the YA novel, the current state of publishing, and his new company, namelos

Lisa Graff, Middle Grade author, talks about writing the middle grade novel and the Slush Pile

Lisa autographs books with a smile

Introducing Helen Frost, YA author and poet

Question and Answer panel--Lisa, Stephen, and Helen

Registration, getting to know you

Schmoozing with other writers

Trish with author, Valiska Gregory

Books for sale--writers can never have too many!

Taking it all in.

School visits
Chesterton, IN

Mitchell, IN
Library Event

Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell

Alexis talks about storytime for the very young

Starke County Young Artists Day
North Judson, IN

My little corner--I love when students come up to talk.

HOW many dogs do you have?!

Authors of the day

Keynote address: Growing an Author with Peggy Archer

Making a book with Katie Mitschelen

Research--detective work, with Peggy Miller

Crafting a poem with Mary Ann Moore

Becoming an artist with Edwin Shelton

Music with the Band

One small hand holding onto another

Sharing the Christmas holiday with writer friends

Name That Dog! Sharing F&G's and write-up in Dial's catalog with group.

Writers Christmas lunch and meeting in Michigan City

Meeting up with Esther and Karen in Chicago

F&G's for Name That Dog!

Name That Dog! ISBN: 978-0-8037-3322-0

Christmas Writing Celebrations

Writing friends from the beginning!

November Author Visits

Drawing a turkey at Hussey-Mayfield Public Library-- Zionsville, IN

Autographs at Hussey-Mayfield Library, Zionsville

"Who likes to eat turkey at Thanksgiving?" --Morton Elementary School, Hammond, IN

Thank you cards from Morton Elementary students

Reading to my grandson's pre-school class at Zion Lutheran School-- Bethalto, IL

Ladies Tea
St. Mary's Church

Family Book Basket

Indiana SCBWI Fall Picture Book Conference

Courtney Bongiolatti, Editor S&S

Laurent Linn, Art Director S&S

Terry Harshman, Editor CBHI

Author-Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo

Kristi Valiant, IN-SCBWI logo winner

Our volunteer crew (minus a few)

author Katie Mitschelen and Peggy enjoying the conference

...Pawprints on the heart.

Snickers 2009

Snickers 1998

IWC Dinner Event
The Business of Writing

Janine Harrison, opening remarks

Sharon Palmeri, President IWC and speaker

Kathryn Page Camp speaks on Taxes for Writers

Kate Collins, mystery book author and Keynote speaker

Gordon Stamper, secretary IWC

Peggy, Sally, and Karen--writing friends enjoying the dinner event together

Autographs with a smile :)

Smokies in the morning

Writing the Picture Book
Rensellaer, IN

Smile and say 'author'!

Ready to start!

"Ghostwriting" with Sara Grant, Editor,
Working Partners

Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners

One on one with Sara

Author and Editor...

Getting to know you...

Sharing thoughts... connecting


Smiling faces...

Our Kentucky friends...

Trish, RA, Peggy, ARA, Christi and Alina, steering committee members

Writing the non-fiction picture book

Picture book author, April Pulley Sayre, speaking in South Bend.

Writers and Friends


Esther and Heidi

Esther with Steve and Sally from National SCBWI

Heidi and Peggy, friends and poets

We came from Indiana...

...from California and Iowa

and enjoyed the friendships.

Peggy, Karen & Esther--connecting once again.

Summer Critique Meeting

Critique group gathering at Peggy Miller's house. Karen, Fred, Mary Ann, Katie, Judy, & the two Peggy's in front.

Songwriters in the Family

Our daughter, Sarah & our son, Dan both sang original songs at the Porter County Fair in the Colgate Country Showdown.

Indiana SCBWI Summer Schmooze

From Fort Wayne to Whiting, we gathered to talk & gain some bit of insight into the world of creating children's books.

Enjoying the company of other children's writers & illustrators.


Meeting other children's writers.

Sharing thoughts.

Smiles were free.

Peggy Archer talks about trade publishers.

Judy Roth talks about working with a small publisher.

Karen Kulinski talks about working with an agent.

Karen fielding questions.

ALA 2009 Chicago

Peggy with the Cat in the Hat

Katie and the Cat in the Hat

I won a collection of autographed books from the IL SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers & llustrators) booth at ALA for the Valparaiso Public Library. An awesome prize! Thank you IL SCBWI!

Peggy, presenting books won at ALA to Connie Sullivan, Branch Manager and Leslie Cefali, Youth Services Assistant, Valparaiso Public Library.

Find Authors

Thanksgiving Blessings—On Family, Friends and Writing

November 25, 2015

Tags: Schwartz & Wade, Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency, SCBWI, Highlights Let's Grow book club

This year, as always, I’m most thankful for my family—my husband, my kids and extended family, too. I’m also thankful for friends—friends through the years of growing up (past and present), friends I’ve met through writing and through church. Some years I have other special things to be thankful for, and this is one of them!

Here are some special moments in my writing journey to be thankful for this year.

I’m very excited today to share my news that my picture book TOAD IN THE ROAD will be published by Schwartz & Wade (a division of Random House)! I’ve been sitting on this news for awhile, just waiting to be sure that it wasn’t going to ‘go away!’ You won’t see the book in bookstores for a couple of years yet, but it’s definitely coming! So I’m thankful for Anne Schwartz and for Anne Kelly at Schwartz & Wade who share my excitement and my vision for TOAD.

Last month I signed with agent Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency! Kirsten is a children’s author, former editor of children’s books, as well as a picture book agent. We met at the Missouri SCBWI Fall conference at the end of September. After talking with her at the conference and later on the phone, I knew she would be a great agent for me, and we’re off to a good start! So I’m thankful for SCBWI, and for Kirsten, who has already been a blessing.

In October I talked about the SCBWI Work-in-Progress awards, and how TOAD IN THE ROAD won the award for picture book text—another thankful moment this year for my writing!

This year I have two board books that were published by Highlights for Children’s Let’s Grow book club for toddlers age 0 to 2 years. They are WHEELS GO ‘ROUND and A DAY AT THE ZOO. I’m thankful for editor Susan Hood who worked with me, and for Highlights for publishing my books—my first board books for children.

I’m also thankful for the author visits that I’ve had this year, visiting schools and events for children’s writers.

I want to add that these things did not happen without quite a bit of work and study over many years. In this year, I attended two small writing events and one major conference for children’s writers, one online conference and four webinars, and five local author events. I chose events that were for or by children’s writers, some where I would be able to submit my work to editors or agents following the event.

I participate in two critique groups every month with other children’s writers (unless I’m out of town). At these meetings we read each other’s manuscripts and give and receive valuable input on our writing and story. I also keep in touch with a group of writing friends from Indiana, and we sometimes critique each other’s manuscripts—and receive more valuable input. I also do volunteer work for Missouri SCBWI. So it’s very exciting when things come together and we have those great moments in writing!

And I’m thankful for those of you here, who read and share my thoughts on writing for children, and who share my good news. Thank you for visiting, and coming back! I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving Day, but mostly I hope you have lots to be thankful for.

Rhyming Picture Book Revolution!

November 15, 2015

Tags: Rhyming Picture Book Revolution, Angie Karcher, KidLitTV, Picture Book Month

Join the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution! If you’ve ever been told (or read) ‘Don’t write in rhyme,’ ‘Editors won’t look at rhyme,’ or ‘Rhyme doesn’t sell,’ read on!

My friend, Angie Karcher, started the rhyming picture book revolution in 2014 when she initiated RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month in (of course!) April! RhyPiBoMo is a month long celebration of children’s poetry during poetry month with blog posts by well known children’s poets and others in the field of children’s poetry, poetry lessons and poetry-writing exercises.

This year is the debut of the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution conference, which will be held in New York City on December 4th through the 6th. On the evening of Friday, December 4th, the award for the Best Rhyming Picture Book of 2015 will be announced!

If you’re not able to attend the conference, you can opt to view a live recording of the conference, which includes the following sessions:

Session 1: Reject ~ What’s NOT working in RPB manuscripts.
Session 2: Revolt ~ The story and meter MUST be perfection!
Session 3: Rules ~ Poetic techniques and lyrical language
Session 4: Rewards ~ The heart of the story brings them back!

As a perk, following the conference, you will be invited to submit your own manuscripts to Editor Justin Chanda, Editor Rebecca Davis, Agent Kendra Marcus and Agent Jodell Sadler. don't miss the RPB Revolution auction page with links to autographed books and items donated by authors, illustrators, agents and editors, including autographed books, a critique or a phone session with an agent!

Check out the KidLitTV website for a list of the top rhyming picture books of 2015. One of my new favorites, and just in time for Thanksgiving, is Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Schwartz & Wade/September 2015).

While you’re there look around a bit and click to find Kidlit Radio, book trailers and more.

Don’t miss the daily blogposts about Why Picture Books Are Important on the Picture Book Month blog.

And remember, good rhyme does sell! It takes a lot of hard work to get your rhyme there, but what a joy it will be to read when you’ve finally got it just right!

Think Poetry in Picture Books—Poetic Tools to Try

November 7, 2015

Tags: picture books, picture book month, poetic tools, poetry in picture books

Think ‘Poetry’ and add that extra dimension to your picture book.
All picture books are poetic in some way. That doesn’t mean that they need to be written in rhyme. Think—

In my earlier blog I listed some tools that you can use to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ when writing a picture book. These included—

“Wow!” said Mr. Slinger. (from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Kevin Henkes)

"...he roared very loud. RAAAHHRRRR!" (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Body language
"Mr. McBee frowned as he walked away." (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Your 5 senses
"The wind it shrieks like bobcats do..." (from THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Henson)

Detail (language)
“If they see me, they’ll pluck out all my feathers, stuff me with bread crumbs, and cook me for Thanksgiving dinner.” (from Turkey Surprise, by Peggy Archer)

When you think about the poetic side of a picture book, you find even more tools that can help you ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’—

Onomatopoeia –Thump, thump! Squawk!

Hard and soft letter sounds
Soft sounding consonants are: R, J, M, N, S, V, W (C and G)
—use for a quiet or sentimental mood.
Hard sounding consonants are K, D, Q, T, B, P (C and G)
—use if you want a more active or upbeat mood.

Similes –"...as pleasing as ticks in a taco." (from Ginny Louise and the School Showdown, by Helen Lester)

Metaphors –It’s a piece of cake.

Alliteration and Repetition –"Click, Clack, Moo!" (from Click, Clack, Moo! by Doreen Cronin)

Short and long sentences (or words)
Using short words or sentences is more active, more tense; it speeds things up
Using longer words or sentences creates a pause; it slows things down

Look at the books listed above and others at your local library.

Thinking in terms of poetry when writing a picture book adds another dimension to your story. So think like a poet, and give your writing that extra oomph using some of the ‘poetic tools’ listed above! /

Picture Book Idea Month—PiBoIdMo!

November 1, 2015

Tags: Picture Book Month, PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month

On her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), Tara Lazar has created another way for authors to celebrate Picture Book Month. She created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers.

PiBoIdMo is not a challenge to create 30 first drafts, or 30 completed manuscripts. Just 30 story ideas that might eventually be developed into a picture book. As Tara explains it, “The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses.”

And to help you, during November there will be daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. And prizes (did I say prizes!?). You have until November 5th, that’s Thursday of this week, to sign up! Just visit Tara’s blogsite to sign up!

While you’re there, check out today’s post by Joan Holub on fresh ways to get picture book ideas, and sign up to win a prize!

When you’re finished there, go to the Picture Book Month.com website to read today’s first post of the month by Trisha Speed Shaskan on Why Picture Books Are Important!

Then find links to author/illustrator blogs, picture book resources, literacy organizations and more ways to celebrate Picture Book Month there!

Coming Soon—Picture Book Month! November 2015

October 31, 2015

Tags: picture book month 2015

Read * Share * Celebrate!
November is Picture Book Month!

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November. Every day in November, there is a new post on the Picture Book Month website from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.

In last year’s celebration, Debbie Ridpath Ohi shared her insight on why picture books are important:

“Picture books are important because childhood is important. Picture books help inspire today’s young people into becoming tomorrow’s thought leaders.”

The 2015 Picture Book Month Champions are:

Sudipta Bardan-Quallen
David Biedrzycki
Paulette Bogan,
Mike Curato
Matthew Gollub
Julie Gribble
Julie Hedlund
Carter Highins
Molly Idle
Joe Kulka
Jennifer Gray Olson
Kathryn Otoshi
Anne Marie Pace
Rukhsana Khan
Robin Newma,
Penny Parker Klostermann
Eric Litwin
Loren Long
Deb Lund
LeUyen Phan
Matt Phelan
Stephen Shaskan
Trisha Speed Shaskan
TJ Shay
Whitney Stewart
Holly Stone-Barker
Mo Willems
Natasha Win
Matthew Winner
and Paula Yoo

Join the celebration and party with a picture book!

Thanks to the following who put together their worldwide connections to make Picture Book Month happen—

Founder: Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller)
Katie Davis (author/illustrator)
Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator)
Tara Lazar (author)
Wendy Martin (author/illustrator)

Thanks also to Joyce Wan for the beautiful logo and to Marcie Colleen for the Teacher’s Guide and Curriculum Connections in each post.

from: http://picturebookmonth.com/

Soaring to New Heights!

October 24, 2015

Tags: SCBWI Missouri, Soaring to New Heights, fall conference

On September 26th Missouri SCBWI held its fall conference for children’s writers and illustrators, Soaring to New Heights. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday in fall, with something to offer for children’s writers of all genres. Here’s the Wrap-Up!

EB Lewis, award-winning author/illustrator of children’s picture books, was the keynote speaker. Others representing picture books were Connie Hsu, editor at Roaring Brook Press and Kirsten Hall, agent and owner of Catbird Agency. I also did my part for picture book writers in the picture book intensive along with Connie and Kirsten. Representing middle grade and young adult were Brianne Johnson, agent at Writer’s House, Kate Sullivan, editor at Delacorte Press, and author Jennifer Brown. Behind the scenes, not present that day but doing written critiques, was Melissa Edwards, agent at Aaron Priest Literary Agency.

I didn’t attend all of the breakout sessions, but attended the ones that focused on writing picture books.

The day started off with artistrator, EB Lewis, who talked about Art and Picture Books.
He said that the illustrator creates a ‘visual’ language in which you read images like words. Each image moves a story forward. Something that, as a writer, I had not thought about before. Keeping that in mind helps me as a picture book writer.

Agent, Brianne Johnson talked about Character Driven Picture Books.
She said that character influences plot and voice. You want your character to ‘want’ something deeply and not be shy about it! When developing your character, you should look at your character’s values, behavior (including virtues and flaws or weaknesses), and Traits (they should be unique, and have heart). You can put your character in any situation and you know what is going to happen.

Picture book agent, Kirsten Hall, talked about Pitching Your Work.
Your pitch to an agent or an editor should be short and sweet, and include a short summary, a small amount of interesting relevant biographical info about yourself, and be visual. Include comparable titles that are successful and refer to books that the editor has previously edited.

Kirsten’s advice—
1—Pitch to the right editor at the right house
2—Be confident
3—Stand out, be different
4—Remain optimistic
5—Be happy!

The Picture Book Intensive started off with editor, Connie Hsu.
Three things that Connie looks for in a picture book are character, voice and arc. She said to avoid stereotypes when developing characters. Ask yourself ‘why’ your main character is a child or an animal, and how that moves the story along. Regarding voice, ask: who is the narrator and who is the audience? At the end of the story the main character should learn something, and change somehow. There should be a satisfying ending with an emotional resonance, or ‘take-away,’ for the reader.

Agent Kirsten Hall talked about picture book basics. Picture books are written for children ages 4-8. A picture book is structured with a combination of text plus art. The format is a book with 32 to 40 pages—the pages are divisible by 8—although some newer picture books are 90-100 pages!

She gave us 20 tips for writing picture books from editors. Among those were—
Begin at the library or bookstore—ask for their 10 best-selling picture books and read them.
Think visually.
Know your characters and their world.
Know the parts of your story
PUSH the emotion.

‘Cheesy Tip’—Be Nice and Be Professional (also echoed by Connie Hsu)

Also stressed by both Kirsten and Connie, and among ‘Editors’ Tips’ was—
Check your story’s ‘Readability’ by reading your picture book text out loud—over and over! Twenty times or more in one sitting!

My own author part of the picture book intensive focused on 'Show, Don’t Tell.' Why 'show?' We ‘show’ to keep the reader’s attention by making the story more active, putting images in the readers’ minds, and drawing them into the story. We want the reader to ‘feel’ what the main character feels.

What do we want to show? We show characters, emotions, story, setting and time.

How so we 'show'? Some ‘tools’ that help ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’ are—
Body language
Use your 5 senses
Detail (Language)

And, since all picture books have a poetic quality, there are also ‘poetic tools,’ which I’ll talk a little bit about in my next blog post. See you there!

Congratulations to the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Winners!

October 11, 2015

Tags: SCBWI, Work-in-Progress Grant Winners 2015

A teeny-tiny toad in my 8-year old grandson's hand

The Work-in-Progress awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) to assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the publication of a specific project currently not under contract, and they are awarded in several categories. SCBWI recently announced this year’s winners. They are—

Young Adult Fiction: Twisted by Erin Stewart
Nonfiction: Tomboy: The Daring Life of Blanche Stuart Scott by Donna Janell Bowman
Multicultural Fiction or Nonfiction: Walking on a Tightrope by Suma Subramaniam
Picture Book Text: Toad in the Road by Peggy Archer
Middle Grade Fiction: Chasing Gold by Beth Cahn
Chapter Books/Early Fiction: Haunted Key Mystery: Help! I’m Haunted by Lorrie-Ann Melnick

The Don Freeman Illustration Grant:
Published Award: Jacob Grant
Pre-published Award: Corinna Luyken

I’m on top of the world because my picture book, TOAD IN THE ROAD, won the award for picture book text. I’m more used to rejections and close calls, than winning, and I was completely caught off guard! So I’m super excited.

The award helps by putting the winning manuscripts in front of editors, thus eliminating the agony of submissions and finding that so many publishers of children’s books are closed to unsolicited manuscripts. No guarantees of acceptance, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

My journey with TOAD began when my husband and I were walking one morning at Quail Ridge Park. It was a quiet morning, and it had rained the night before. As we walked past a wooded area, a little toad sat in the middle of our path. Like many writers, my mind goes off on tangents sometimes, and I started thinking, ‘in the middle of a puddle in the middle of the path….’

As the day went on I started playing with the words in my head until I had to stop and write it down. It came to me in rhyme, and the verse wasn’t coming together very well yet. I was also working on something else at the time. So I put my ‘toad story’ aside. For about a year...

That’s when were walking again at Quail Ridge Park, this time with our 8 year old grandson. He wanted to go off the paved path onto a dirt trail and, of course, we did. It wasn’t long before we discovered hundreds of tiny toads on the trail! My story of the ‘toad in the road’ came rushing back to me, and later that day I got it out from my files and worked with renewed inspiration.

I enjoy writing poetry, and I have two poetry collections published, but TOAD IN THE ROAD is the first picture book that I’ve written in verse. I had lots of fun with the words and toad’s journey, but writing really good verse with really good rhythm is not easy! It took lots of revision, and writing some of the verses over and over. Then making sure it flowed—from beginning and middle to the end. My critique groups liked it, and they offered some very helpful comments.

Finally I finished writing the story, and topped it off with some ‘toad facts’ at the end. Researching the facts about small toads was interesting and fun. I hope that somewhere an editor will connect with my story and want to publish it.

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Try!
Just so you know, this wasn’t the first time that I submitted a manuscript for the WIP grants. I’ve sent a manuscript in several times, and didn’t win. But it was good practice. And I found that there are other perks of submitting besides winning.

The year that I submitted “The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving Day Feast,” I received an email from one of the judges following the contest, who just happened to be an editor. She invited me to submit my manuscript to her at her publishing house! That editor eventually rejected it, but it boosted my confidence, and TURKEY SURPRISE was later accepted by an editor at Dial.

I submitted FROM DAWN TO DREAMS another year. It didn’t win, but it received a Letter of Merit from SCBWI, and my poetry collection was later published by Candlewick.

So if you’re a member of SCBWI and working on a manuscript that you’re passionate about, start getting it ready to submit in 2016! Write your story, take it to your critique group for their input, and revise your heart away until it’s as good as you can make it! Submissions for 2016 will be accepted starting March 1st. Check the SCBWI website for more information.

You can read more about the awards and the winning entries by clicking here or below the SCBWI logo on the left.

Rhyme and Meter Clinic with Renee' LaTulippe on KidLit 411

October 5, 2015

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section

In May I signed on to “KidLit 411 “Rhyme and Meter” with Renee’ LaTulippe. Renee used poems submitted by participants and talked about what worked and what didn’t, and why. She started off with some basic vocabulary.

Meter = stressed and unstressed syllables + metrical feet + metrical lines
A metrical foot = a unit of measurement made up of stressed and unstressed syllables which are repeated in a line of poetry
A metrical line = the number of metrical feet in a single line of poetry

iamb = u/s da Dum
trochee = s/u Dum da
anapest = uu/s da da Dum
dactyl = s/uu Dum da da
spondee = s/s Dum Dum
pyrrhic = u/u da da

truncated foot = leaves off a beat at the end of a line
enjambment = when the end of one line flows into the next—it carries the reader and the story forward

Renee stressed that when writing poetry, you should count stressed feet—NOT syllables.

Rising meters—create an upbeat or happy mood
ends on a stressed beat (iamb and anapest)
Falling meters—create a heavier mood
ends on un-stressed beat (trochee and dactyl)

Types of Rhyme

1—Perfect Rhyme—also called exact rhyme, full rhyme or true rhyme
1—the last stressed vowel is the same in both words
2—all subsequent sounds are the same
3—consonants preceding the last stressed vowel are different
As In—light/sight groovy/movie crispy/wispy flamingo/bingo
Perfect rhyme is the most common type used in children’s poetry and rhyming picture books.

2—Slant Rhyme (also called near rhyme, half rhyme, approximate rhyme, partial rhyme, off rhyme, or oblique rhyme)
1—the sounds are close, but not identical
2—the words often (but not always) contain a repetition of the final consonant or vowel sound
As In—bug/rag slant/vent who/through tougher/suffer
Slant rhyme can be used to good effect in free verse and prose.
It’s best avoided in rhyming children’s poetry and picture books.

Some tips for writing poetry
Rhyme shouldn’t drive the story
1—stick to plot—write it out in prose to test it
2—write a 1-sentence summary of each stanza, in the right order; then read it in order —is it vague or general?
3—use words that move the story forward
4—every word counts and is there for a reason

Ways to Vary Meter—Tools for Varying your verse
1—enjambment—keeping thoughts flowing from one line into the next
2—Caesura—a pause in the middle of a line so the reader takes a breath
3—Really Specific imagery—to take us into the world of the story
4—Really Specific diction—to give us concrete people and places and events to hold onto
5—Sound devices—to delight the ear—don’t overdo it—don’t create tongue twisters
6—Refrain—use a refrain with a slightly different meter or rhyme scheme (careful!)
7—Variations in meter—subtracting or adding an unstressed beat now and then (careful!)
8—Mixed meter—Do Not Try This At Home unless you know the 4 main meters inside and out, and how they do and do not work together!

The biggest obstacles to publication of rhyming picture books
meter—when the reader stumbles reading it
pacing—plot—page turns

Renee is a children’s author and poet, and freelance editor. She teaches an online writing course, The Lyrical Language Lab. You can find details at http://www.nowaterriver.com/the-lyrical-language-lab/. Read more about Renee on her blog, No Water River.

The ABC's of Poetry Webinar

September 25, 2015

Tags: Writing children's poetry, webinars, The ABC's of Poetry, Leslea Newman, TX SCBWI

Earlier this year I discovered some interesting Webinars for children’s writers. In February I signed on to The ABCs of Poetry: Writing in Poetic Form for Children & Young Adults, hosted by Texas SCBWI, featuring Leslea Newman. Leslea is an award-winning children’s author, and teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.

Leslea’s focus was on formal poetry, and poetic forms.
“Formal poetry is poetry that sticks to a traditional pattern or structure that often uses rhyme, rhythm, and repetition as well as other poetic techniques.”

Poems that don’t stick to a rigid form still make use of attributes of formal poetry such as rhyme, rhythm, repetition, meter, and uniformity of stanza length. Rhyming couplets, which contains four-line stanzas with the second and fourth lines rhyming, is a simple form of formal poetry.

Many of her own poems are written in rigid forms with prescribed structures. These include the pantoum, villanelle, terza rima, sonnet, sestina, cinquain, haiku, rondeau and triolet.

Just hearing those words intimidates me! But Leslea’s webinar explained the types of poetry in a way that even I could understand, giving examples of each. Here are just a few.

The ghazal, a Persian form of poetry, contains internal rhyme before a repeated refrain at the ends of the lines. Read Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s poem “NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT.”

The ballad is a French form of poetry consisting of four-line stanzas. Using simple, direct language, the emphasis is on plot and story-telling (a heroic act). An example is THE PIRATE QUEENS by Jane Yolen.

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines. The entire poem should be as long as one breath, and should contain some description of nature, and have an aha! moment and an element of compassion. Read GUY KU by Bob Raczka, or WONTON by Lee Wardlaw

The pantoum, from 15th century Malayan literature, consists of 4-line stanzas of indefinite length and optional rhyming. Every line in a pantoum is used twice.

Leslea gave a few reasons for writing formal poetry. A few of them are:
•It develops your ear.
•Formal poetry soothes the reader.
•It provides a built-in tension of expectation and surprise.

Leslea said “I find writing formal poetry especially helpful when writing about emotionally wrenching situations.” See her book, I CARRY MY MOTHER.

Books on poetic form

Leslea Newman is a poet, a teacher, and a mentor. Find out more on her website at: http://lesleanewman.com/

Check out these upcoming or ongoing webinars and podcasts for children’s writers:

Picture Book Craft Intensive: Telling Children's Stories in Today's Market
An On-Demand Webinar
Guest Speaker: Mary Kole

Chapter Book Craft 101 with Simon & Schuster editor, Amy Cloud
October 20, 2015 from 7:00-8:30 pm
hosted by North Texas SCBWI
very reasonable price with reduced rate for SCBWI members

Keep your eye on this Writers’ Digest link to up-coming webinars

SCBWI Podcasts, which are free to members!
SCBWI brings our members engaging podcasts with leaders in the children’s book field. Sit in on these conversations to get informed and inspired!

For information on how to become a member of SCBWI, click here or go to http://www.scbwi.org/about/.

What Makes a Good Picture Book

September 16, 2015

Tags: webinars for children's writers, SCBWI podcasts, Emma Dryden, Julie Hedlund

Earlier this year I discovered some great webinars on writing for children. A webinar is a seminar conducted over the internet. The cost of attending varies. Some are free. Some, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) regional chapters, are offered at a reduced rate for members. Others cost more. All are easily accessed if you have internet access.

Last month I logged on to the 12 X 12 Webinar--What Makes a Good Picture Book with Emma Dryden and Julie Hedlund. The talk was about what makes a good picture book and how to write one.

Emma Dryden talked about qualities that make an outstanding picture book. They are—
1—Read-aloud-ability—Read your own text over and over, ten times in a row!
4—Illustration possibilities

As a freelance editor and consultant, Dryden looks for distinctive main characters, and a main point of view. The reader, who is a child, must be able to relate to the main character.


One way to develop your picture book character is by giving them a distinctive, memorable voice. Ways to do that:
Use rhythm
Use a refrain or a tag
Change some of your narrative into dialogue

One example of a book whose main character has a great voice is THAT BOOK WOMAN. The author Heather Hensen’s main character has a narrative, Appalachian voice which gives his voice a ‘tone.’

“Why, even critters of the wild will keep a-hid come snow like this. But sakes alive—we hear a tap tap tap upon the window-glass. And there she be—wrapped tip to toe!”

Regarding whether to write your story in 1st person or 3rd person, Dryden said that most picture books are told in 3rd person, and there is more than preference to consider here. Young readers (ages 3-6) are not emotionally developed enough to understand (or make the connection to) ‘I’ in a story. Making the leap from ‘me’ to ‘I’ is more difficult because the young child can’t put themselves into someone else’s shoes. They ‘get’ the narrator better. She said that it’s often the same with middle grade books and for the same reason.


A great picture book ‘shows’ emotions well. One example of a picture book that ‘shows’ emotions is LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; Candlewick Press 2000). I checked this book out from the library and it’s become one of my favorites. Here’s one example of ‘showing’ emotion from the book—

“Story hour is over,” a little girl told him…. The lion looked at the children. He looked at the story lady. He looked at the closed books. Then he roared very loud. RAAAHHRRRR!"

I think the reader can easily figure out that the lion is not happy that there are no more stories.

Show, Don’t Tell

Dryden looks at whether the author can ‘show’ not ‘tell’ the information in the manuscript.

Ways to do that:
Do something with body language
Use dialogue

Dialogue can get dull, and feel flat. What to do?
Have some activity along with your dialogue.
Change it up—think ‘page turns.’ Dummy your picture book to see what page turns can do.
Alternate dialogue and narrative.
And if no one else is around, your characters can talk to themselves.

Regarding non-fiction picture books, the advice was very similar.
Develop your main character.
Create a voice in narrative non-fiction.

A wonderful example of a non-fiction picture book was MOON SHOT by Brian Floca (Atheneum 2009). This book is also one of my favorites. Floca uses a poetic (but not rhyming), rhythmic, narrative style:

Here below
there are three men…
who—click—lock hands
in heavy gloves,
who—click—lock heads
in large, round helmets.

One quality of a good picture book is ‘musicality.’ Like music, a picture book text has a beat and has pauses. Is writing lyrically or rhythmically a learnable skill? “Absolutely!” both Dryden and Hedlund agreed. But it takes discipline.
Read a lot of picture books out loud!
Use sound effects to help create a rhythm.
Use the help of a critique group.

Keep in mind the top two qualities of an outstanding picture book
Read-aloud-ability and
Rhythm—even in narrative.

Now it’s your turn to sit down and create an outstanding picture book!

Emma Dryden is a past editor of board books through YA and has edited over 500 books. She currently does freelance editing and consulting. You can find her at:
@drydenbooks (Twitter)
Dryden books (on facebook)
Emma's blog

Check out these upcoming or ongoing webinars and podcasts for children’s writers:

Picture Book Craft Intensive: Telling Children's Stories in Today's Market
An On-Demand Webinar
Guest Speaker: Mary Kole

Chapter Book Craft 101 with Simon & Schuster editor, Amy Cloud
October 20, 2015 from 7:00-8:30 pm
hosted by North Texas SCBWI
very reasonable price with reduced rate for SCBWI members

Keep your eye on this Writers’ Digest link to up-coming webinars

And take a look at the SCBWI Podcasts, which are free to members!
SCBWI brings our members engaging podcasts with leaders in the children’s book field. Sit in on these conversations to get informed and inspired!

For information on how to become a member of SCBWI, click here or go to http://www.scbwi.org/about/.