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Introducing! Kansas/Missouri SCBWI

If you’ve not yet had a chance to look at the website of the NEW! Kansas/Missouri SCBWI chapter, here’s your invitation! And if you’re looking for a children’s author or illustrator in Kansas or Missouri to speak at your school, library or conference, this is the place to look.

The first thing you’ll notice are the wonderful illustrations that roll throughout the middle of the page—all by our talented Kansas / Missouri illustrators. Below that is the ‘Events Calendar,’ highlighting important dates with something going on for aspiring and published authors and illustrators alike.

One of our upcoming events is a Picture Book / Poetry Workshop, on March 11th in Florissant, MO. I was very excited to be asked to lead this workshop! (Click here to find out more about me and my books). The focus is on rhyming poetry and picture books in verse. We’ll take a look at what makes poetry and rhyme something that editors will love. Click on the link above to find out more. Registration is open now, for both members and non-members.

Introducing our KS/MO board members! Click on any of the names on the left side of the page to view their SCBWI profile, and follow the links to their author websites, or to send a message.

At the top left is a picture of our Co-Regional Advisors (RA), Kim Piddington and Sue Gallion. They are our fearless leaders, who plan conferences and events for our members, and keep us motivated!

Before Kansas and Missouri merged into one chapter, Kim Piddington was the RA for the Missouri chapter. She is a former educator, and an author of middle grade and young adult fiction. She is represented by Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary Management.

Sue Gallion is the former RA for the Kansas chapter before our two chapters merged. She has worked in public relations, and is passionate about reading to kids of all ages. Sue met the editor for her first picture book at an SCBWI conference.

Jess Townes is our Assistant Regional Advisor (ARA), and a huge asset to the Regional Advisors. Jess is a writer for All The Wonders, a digital home for readers to discover and experience new books. She writes picture books and middle grade novels, and is represented by Stephanie Fretwell-Hill of Red Fox Literary.

Amy Kenney is our Regional Illustrator Coordinator. She helps create networking and other opportunities for both published and un-published illustrators. Amy is an illustrator and writer.

Andi Osiek volunteers as our webmaster and website designer. She is an illustrator and writer, and a graphic designer.

The Kansas / Missouri SCBWI region provides support to members through networking opportunities, workshops and much more, including an annual conference for all levels of children’s writers and illustrators. Our conferences provide attendees with opportunities for critiques by editors, agents and published authors. And it’s a great way to meet and talk with editors and agents. Click on the words ‘Learn More!’ to find out what SCBWI has to offer you.

To the right on the home page, highlighted in purple, are links highlighting events and opportunities for members and non-members. They include ‘an inside look’ at Stephanie Bearce, Missouri author and winner of the 2016 Crystal Kite award, PAL members with books published in the past year, an illustrator gallery, an interview with our featured author of the month, and a speaker’s bureau where you can find authors in Missouri and Kansas who speak at schools, libraries and conferences.

Watch for more changes and additions to the SCBWI KS/MO chapter, coming soon!

Whether you’re already a member of SCBWI, or new to the organization, check us out for a look at what KS / MO SCBWI chapter has to offer you!  Read More 
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WRAD--World Read Aloud Day!

Pick up a book and read out loud! Today is World Read Aloud Day,.

On World Read Aloud Day (WRAD), which is celebrated every year across the world, readers of all ages celebrate literacy and the “pure joy and power of reading aloud.” It's a day that calls attention to the importance of reading out loud and sharing stories. And what better books to read out loud are there than picture books and poetry!

In my Valentine's Day post I listed some of my favorite picture books, books with 'heart.' I might have added--

FROGGY EATS OUT by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
In this book Froggy wants to to do the right thing. His heart is in the right place. But he keeps messing up. His parents want Froggy to have good manners. but they see that he really tries, and sometimes that's all they need.

This book is full of onomatopoeia, and is very rhythmic. It makes good use of poetic tools, though it's not written in rhyme.

I think all picture books are poetry. The best picture books have rhythm that carries you along. Many include the power, or magic, of 'threes'--three strikes and you're out, three good things the main character does, and so forth. It makes for good rhythm.

Many picture books include 'sound' words (onomatopoeia), comparisons (simile and metaphor), internal rhyme, repetition of letter sounds (assonance and consonance).

Pick up a favorite or a new book this Thursday, and join others across the globe to read aloud. And if you want to have even more fun, share a picture book with a child--out loud, of course!  Read More 
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Valentine’s Day—Getting to the Heart of the Story

What is the Heart of your Story?

Authors, editors and agents talk about picture books having ‘heart.’ What exactly is ‘heart? And how do you know if your story has it? I think heart is what makes me ‘feel’ something when I read the story, and makes me feel connected to the story somehow.

Last spring I attended the SCBWI Wild, Wild Midwest conference for children’s writers and illustrators.

Author Lisa Cron said: Story is internal, not external. “Story forces (the characters) to go after what they want.” The internal journey and change is what moves the story forward.

Agent Brianne Johnson said, “You want your character to ‘want’ something deeply.” She used the book BEARD IN A BOX as an example. “At first it was funny and clever,” she said, “but it had no ‘heart’ until author added ‘like his dad.’

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I would explore what the ‘heart’ is in some of my favorite picture books. My list of favorite picture books continues to get longer! And these are just a few.

MAMA, WHY? Karma Wilson, illustrated by Simon Mendez
Margaret K. McElderry Books 2011
Nighttime comes and the moon sails high in the arctic sky—and Polar Cub asks, “Mama, why?” Each time Polar Cub asks why, Mama Polar Bear answers his questions. In the end she says “let’s rest our heads.… I’ll dream of my dearest the whole night through.” Polar Cub asks “Mama, who?” And she answers “You.”

Heart of the Story: Love—between a mama and her cub. The end of the story becomes more personal, and reassures the little polar bear cub of his mama’s love.

MORTIMER’S FIRST GARDEN Karma Wilson, illustrated by Dan Andreasen
Margaret K McElderry Books 2009
Winter is here, and little Mortimer Mouse longs to see something green, as he nibbles on sunflower seeds that he had saved. When he overhears talk about a garden, Mortimer isn’t sure he believes it, but decides to plant a sunflower seed, just in case.

Heart of the Story: A story of hope, trying new things, and believing in miracles.

LIBRARY LION Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes 2006
Candlewick Press
When a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library, and he isn’t breaking any library rules. But when something terrible happens, the lion quickly comes to the rescue in the only way he knows how.

Heart of the Story: Friendship and Rules—celebrates reading and books.

BEDTIME FOR FRANCES Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams
HarperCollins Publishers 1960
Frances is a badger with a big imagination. She is far from asleep at bedtime, and every few minutes she gets up to tell her parents about all of the things she ‘sees’ and ‘hears.’ “Everyone has a job,” her father tells her. “And yours is to go to sleep.” She decides that the moth bumping against her window is just doing his job, and closes her eyes and goes to sleep.

Heart of the Story: Family—children who do not want to go to sleep at bedtime can relate to Frances in this story, wanting attention from their moms and dads, and thinking about all the noises they hear when things get quiet.

MOLE MUSIC David McPhail
Henry Holt & Company 1999
Mole lives alone underground. He feels something is missing in his life, and after hearing a violinist on TV he decides to learn to play the violin. Music makes a difference in his life and he continues to get better at playing the violin. Not realizing how much the music he makes affects the people listening to it above the ground, he imagines playing for others and how it might affect them and the difference it might make in the world.

Heart of the Story: A message of peace, how one person can make a difference, and how music can make a difference in people’s lives.

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
GP Putnam’s Sons (Penguin) 2015, Newberry Award winner
A young boy rides the bus every day with his nana and asks why they don’t have a car and things that other people have. Along the way and sees things to be grateful for—the bus driver who always has a trick for him, the man with the guitar, and more. He learns how “Some people watch the world with their ears” when they can’t see. By the end of the story he sees that he has much more than many other people have.

Heart of the Story: Finding joy in what you have rather than feeling sad at what you don’t have, and helping others. “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt… you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

SITTING DUCK Jackie Urbanovic HarperCollins 2010
“Babysitting is easy!” Brody and Max think. “How much trouble could a puppy get into, anyway?” They find out when they babysit puppy Anabele. When Brody falls asleep, it’s up to Max to take over on his own. After an adventurous afternoon, they are all asleep when Anabelle’s owner comes back to take Anabele home.

Heart of the Story: Family and friends—by the end of the day, Max and Brody find that babysitting can be more fun than trouble.

THE FOX IN THE LIBRARY Lorenz Pauli and Kathrin Scharer
NorthSouth Books 2011
Fox chases Mouse into the library where Mouse tells him “You can only borrow things here…. This isn’t the forest, it’s the library.” Fox finds a book about chickens, which gives him a new idea. Because he can’t read, he takes the book and the CD home with him. He runs into a problem, and comes back the next day with the chicken for more information. He makes a deal with the chicken that will save both their lives if she teaches him to read.

Heart of the Story: Getting along peacefully with others, working together to help each other, combined with a of love of reading.

My idea of what the heart is in each of these picture books may differ from what others think, but it’s what makes me love them so much. Overall, I think I love a book if I love the characters. And ‘heart’ is what makes the characters who they are. And if I can relate to their joys, hopes, dreams and fears, that's the 'heart' of the story.

Happy Valentine's Day! Feel free to share your favorite book, and what the heart of the story is to you.  Read More 
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