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Here’s Your Sign!

Spring is on the way—the signs are all around us! The grass is getting green again, daffodils and hyacinths are blooming. Birds are singing! You can’t miss the signs.

But sometimes the signs are not quite as visible. A late winter snow storm or some cold winds might hide them.

Like looking for spring in March, as writers we sometimes look for a sign to let us know that we’re on the right track. A sign to show us that we should keep going! Or a sign that tells us where to go next. The signs are there, but sometimes we have to look a little harder, and believe a little more, to see them.

As a new writer I wondered if I was wasting my time writing stories for children. Was I really any good? Or was I just kidding myself. So far I had kept my writing life a secret between myself and my husband. One day I picked up a copy of the Writers Market Book at the library. As soon as I took it to the check-out desk, my secret was out! The librarian happened to be a writer, and invited me to a writers' critique meeting—sign #1.

As uncomfortable as I was sharing my writing with strangers, I went to the meeting. I made lifelong friends and got lots of encouragement there—sign #2. I started to submit my work to children’s magazines and had a poem and a short story accepted.

Sometimes even rejection can be a sign! A sign to get out of my comfort zone and move ahead. I had written a short story that I loved. I sent it to every children’s magazine I could find, and they all rejected it! But I still believed in it—sign #3. I sent it to Little Golden Books—and they liked it. One of the Family was my first published picture book.

Do you need a sign? Like Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh, sometimes you just have to believe in yourself a little more to see it.

2016 is Leap Year—is this your sign?

Is this the year for you to take that ‘leap’ and really sit down to write your poem, short story, picture book or novel for young readers? Do you have stories already written? Maybe you’ll leap forward and join a critique group to get feedback from other children’s writers! Check your local library, or your local chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) for critique groups for children’s writers.

‘Spring Ahead’—is this your sign?

Spring is just around the corner. Last week-end those of us on daylight savings time had to set our clocks forward one hour. It was time to ‘Spring Ahead!’

Have you revised until you’re satisfied that your manuscript is the best that it can be, and are you waiting for a sign that says ‘This manuscript is ready! Send it in!’? Check out the publishers online, both magazine and book publishers, and get it out there. If you’re a member of SCBWI, check out the SCBWI Work-in-Progress awards and submit your manuscript. You’ve nothing to lose! Just make sure that you get it in before March 31st.

Are you a poet? Lucky you, April is National Poetry Month! Is this your sign?

For lots of information, inspiration, and writing challenges check out Angie Karcher’s blog for RhyPiBoMO, Rhyming Picture Book Month. Read the daily blog posts by authors, editors and agents about rhyme and rhyming picture books. Follow the links to even more poetry fun.

Next check out the Reading Rockets website for video interviews with children’s poets, booklists, books on poetry, activities and more.

In June SCBWI Missouri celebrates ‘Critique Across Missouri.’ Members will be hosting critique groups at different locations across the state. Non-members are welcome, too! Keep your eye on the SCBWI Missouri website for upcoming information and locations.

So Here’s Your Sign! Wherever you are in your writing, just take a leap and spring forward!  Read More 
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Thanksgiving Blessings—On Family, Friends and Writing


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.  Read More 
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Congratulations to the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Winners!

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.  Read More 
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Your Post Conference Plan

2014 Seeds of Success Missouri Fall Conference
What’s Your Post Conference Plan?

You attended that conference for children’s writers and now you’re really pumped! Your head is spinning with ways to revise that work-in-progress so it’s the award-winning picture book you’ve dreamed of. Attending the conference has opened doors to new places to submit your finished manuscripts, and sparked new ideas. And you’ve connected with some wonderful writers who were also at the conference.

Don’t let that drive get away! Here are some things to do to keep the ball rolling long after the conference is over.

Conference notes—

Hopefully you’ve taken good notes from the sessions that you attended. Now is the time to type them up, before the thought gets away from you, before you can’t remember what you meant by that scribble that you wrote down.

As you’re typing, you’re also going over all the great tips and advice that you received from the speakers. You’re thinking about how to use what you’ve learned in your own writing.

Handouts—

Don’t forget about those handouts that were passed out! Read or re-read them to keep them fresh in your mind.

Check out the websites or other links that are listed in the handouts. They may be market listings, great blogs to read about the craft of writing, or other helpful writing links.

Were there handouts about any upcoming events for writers that you’d like to attend? Check out the registration deadline and register on time, or before the event fills up.

Critiques—

If you received a manuscript critique at the conference, what suggestions did you get for improving your manuscript? Think about what was said, then revise while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Conference speakers—

Were there editors at the conference who are open to receiving manuscripts? Read their handout, and check out their website. What genres are they interested in receiving? If your manuscript fits what they’re looking for, is it ready for submission? If not, take the time to work on it now in order to submit it before that window of opportunity closes. Revise your manuscript, then take it to your critique group for their input before sending it out. Be sure to follow the guidelines given by the editor, and send it before the deadline!

If you’re looking for an agent and there was an agent at the conference, follow the same guide as for editors. Read their handout and check their website. Do they represent the type of manuscript that you write? Make your manuscript as perfect as possible before sending it to them. Follow their guidelines, and send it before the deadline.

Did you make a personal connection with an editor or agent at the conference? Was there an author who spoke or another speaker who offered advice that made a special connection to you in your writing? If so, think about sending a personal note to thank them.

Other conference attendees—

Part of the fun, and the benefit, of going to a conference is mingling and meeting other writers. There may be ‘old’ friends who you only see at writers’ events, but there are sure to be new people that you met as well. In this age of social media, it’s easy to follow up or keep in touch with other writers. Visit their websites or blogs. Check out who’s on facebook, twitter, or other social media sites.

New ideas—

Finally, did something spark a new idea in your mind? I always come away with new ideas-- it could be an idea for a new story, or a different way to revise something I've already started, or maybe it's something about marketing or author visits. If you’re like me, you need to write those ideas down, now! Before you forget them!

I attended the SCBWI conference in Missouri a week and a half ago. I’ve gotten some of my post-conference goals accomplished, and I’m working on the rest of them now. I hope to have some tips from the speakers ready to post soon!  Read More 
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Missouri SCBWI Fall conference Line-Up is Impressive!


Missouri Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators has something for everyone! Whether you're new to writing or illustrating children's books or a published author or illustrator, if you write picture books, middle grade novels, or young adult novels, or if your interest is in illustrating children's books, this is the place for you on September 6th and 7th!

What?
Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference: Seeds of Success

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference

When?
Saturday, September 6th—8:00 am to 9:30 pm
Sunday, September 7th—8:30 am to 11:30 am

Where?
Lindenwood University, Spellman Center
209 N. Kingshighway Street - St. Charles, Missouri 63302

Last Day to register: August 20, 2014!

Who?
—featured speakers:


Jodell Sadler—Agent
Nancy Gallt—Agent
Elena Giovinazzo—Agent
Krista Marino—Editor at Delacorte (YA and MG)
Deborah Halverson—freelance editor, author, writing instructor
Guiseppe Castellano—Art director at Penguin group
Josh Stevens—Publisher
Dan Yaccarino—author/illustrator
Carolyn Mueller—Author/Illustrator
Heather Brewer—Author
Amanda Doyle—Author
Steve Sheinkin—NF Author
Cecily White—Author
Nancy Polette—Author (on writing biographies for children)
Debbie Gonzales—Curriculum Specialist

for authors—First 5 Lines
for illustrators—postcard evaluations

Sunday Intensives (choose one):
1—Deborah Halverson: How to Build Your Own Teenager: Techniques for Writing Believable MG/YA Characters
2— Debbie Gonzales: The Anatomy of a Teacher’s guide: A Hands On Approach to CCSS Project Creation
3— Jodell Sadler: Ten Tips Workshop for Writing Your Heart into Picture Books
4— Guiseppe Castallano: A Conversation with an Art Director
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Meet Middle Grade Author and RA for MO SCBWI, Kim Piddington!


My special guest this week is Kim Piddington, author of middle grade (MG) fiction, and the current Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) in Missouri. Kim is a great promoter of reading, writing, and children’s literature. She has served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book, is a National Writing Project Teacher consultant, and is on the executive board of the Language Arts Department of Southwest Missouri (LAD) which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children.

Welcome, Kim! You are such an active participant in promoting reading and writing for both children and adults, and I appreciate that. Can you tell us what made you want to write for children?

I always wanted to write. I started emulating the authors I was reading when I was in elementary school. I took tons of creative writing courses in college. But no one ever counseled me how to make a living at it. After college, I packed my pencil and notebook away until my inner writer was reawakened by the bNational Writing Project/b (NWP) in 1997.

You have a teaching background. Did teaching influence you to go back to writing?

I think after teaching MG children for 20 years- the MG voice is what is firmly entrenched in my head! I write MG exclusively. I’ve written one historical fiction, one fantasy, and am working on a contemporary fiction.

In California, I taught 7th grade English for 5 years, then I moved to a self-contained 6th grade class (teaching all subjects) for 10. I moved to Missouri and finished off by teaching 5th grade English for 5 years. I was writing my first book at that time, and my students would come in at lunch to read my chapters as I finished them. It was very eye opening for me to see what words and concepts they stumbled over.

Do you work on one project at a time or more than one?
More than one.

What are you working on now?

My agent suggested some revisions to my fantasy, so I’m working on those. I also started a contemporary MG to keep me going when I hit the revision wall.

How did you meet your agent, and what do you think helped you to ‘connect’ with her?

I met my agent, Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary, at the 2013 SCBWI MO Fall Conference. I had sent in a query, synopsis and the first 5 pages of my fantasy to be critiqued. She really liked it, but I told her it was a work in progress and it wouldn’t be finished for several months. Then she told me she’d checked my webpage and saw that I had a historical fiction manuscript finished. She wanted to read that while I worked on the fantasy. I was actually afraid to send it to her! But thank goodness I did, because she loved it and signed me based on that book.
Moral of the story: personal connections really help and make sure you have a webpage!

How do you feel having an agent benefits you, personally?

I love Lori! She makes me feel like she is my biggest fan. She is positive, a great person to bounce ideas off of, and thanks to her, my manuscript is sitting on the desks of editors at places like Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, etc—places I had no access to without her. She really looks out for her clients—sending us links to writing advice, sending us news tidbits that pertain to the industry, and she even checks on and likes my facebook posts. Did I mention I love her? I feel very lucky!

When, and why, did you join SCBWI?

I used to take my students to a conference that featured great children’s authors every year. In 2010, my historical fiction manuscript had just won first place in the Pike’s Peak Writing Contest, Children’s Category—and I had no idea what to do next. One of the authors there suggested I join SCBWI—so I did. About six months later, Joyce Ragland asked me to be ARA (Assistant Regional Advisor) for SCBWI in Missouri. When she stepped down in 2013, I took over as RA (Regional Advisor).

SCBWI has opened so many doors for me—I’ve traveled to both Los Angeles & New York to attend the national conferences, learned a ton about the craft of writing by attending SCBWI workshops, and met the most fantastic people. And I met my agent at an SCBWI event. I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without SCBWI.

I’m a long-time member and great supporter of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Can you share some reasons why you would recommend membership in SCBWI to other children’s writers and illustrators?

Writing can be lonely—SCBWI offers you an opportunity to meet up with others who have the same goals/dreams as you. They provide top-notch “training” for writers & illustrators via their conferences and workshops. You get the opportunity to have your work critiqued by the best in the business, which could eventually lead to representation. And you meet fantastic, interesting, caring people.

Is SCBWI a good fit for self-published writers as well as traditionally published writers?

SCBWI recently created an annual award specifically for self-published authors. And ANY author can benefit from the craft lessons that are such a big part of every SCBWI event. SCBWI also offers opportunities to network—which is invaluable when you have a book to market.

What are you working on now for Missouri children’s authors and illustrators?

Currently, we are working on the SCBWI Fall Conference. I’m so excited about our lineup—I really feel we have something for everyone.

In addition, we are working on choosing the finalists for the PB mentorship program with David Harrison, as well as running a scholarship contest for both writers & illustrators that is tied to the fall Conference.

I’m looking forward to the fall conference myself, which features three agents, two editors, several published authors, an art director, two author/illustrators, and a curriculum specialist! There is something for everyone, from picture books to middle grade and young adult. Critique spots are filling up fast, but there is still a chance to snag a critique with an agent, an editor, and a portfolio critique with an art director or author/illustrator!

Kim, you are also a National Writing Project (NWP) Teacher Consultant. What can you tell us about that?

The NWP focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation's educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners. The NWP is a network of sites anchored at colleges and universities and serving teachers across disciplines and at all levels, early childhood through university. We provide professional development, develop resources, generate research, and act on knowledge to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.

The National Writing Project believes that access to high-quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. We work in partnership with institutions, organizations, and communities to develop and sustain leadership for educational improvement. Throughout our work, we value and seek diversity—our own as well as that of our students and their communities—and recognize that practice is strengthened when we incorporate multiple ways of knowing that are informed by culture and experience.

I have been a NWP member for 13 years. It shaped me as teacher, reminded me I was a writer, and gave me the skills (after serving as the Ozark Writing project Youth Coordinator and hosting an annual MG conference for over 500 students for several years) to plan and organize events for SCBWI. I’m still active in this organization and think the work they do is important and inspiring.

You are a member of ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and several local writing groups including the Springfield Writers’ Guild and the Ozarks Writers League. How are these professional organizations important to you as a writer?

All of these organizations help me stay connected to other writers, as well as provide opportunities to get work critiqued, and learn more about the craft of writing. ALAN holds a conference each year at the end of NCTE, which is amazing! Dozens of successful and up & coming YA (young adult) authors in every genre speak either individually or on panels AND you walk away with an amazing box of books that would retail for 5 times what you paid for the conference. One of my “author dreams” is to be invited to speak there some day!

What can you tell us about the other projects/organizations that you are involved in that have to do with writing, children, education, etc.?

I served on the executive board of the Missouri Center for the Book for a brief time. They have a GREAT program- letters about literature- for school children. They also chose which Missouri book will represent the state at the National Book Festival.

In addition, I am also on the executive board of LAD which holds one of the largest and longest running writing contests for children. There are over 70 categories, k-12, and they receive over 5,000 entries each year. I love judging- it’s amazing to see the work these students produce.

Outside of writing, what other interests do you have?

I’m married and have two beautiful daughters. One is getting married in the fall and the other is heading off to college—so I’m spending as much time as I can with them now.

I love gardening (weeds sprout overnight in this weather), baking, and traveling. I also have several horses and a passel of dogs & cats—so I spend a lot of time scooping poop!

Thank you so much for sharing some of your writing life with us here, Kim!

Kim lives with her family in Ozark, Missouri. Readers can find out more about Kim on her website.  Read More 
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Warming up to children's books in MO

Greetings from O’Fallon! It’s been a summer of emptying boxes, finding things and re-discovering other things, and everything else that it takes to move from one state to another. We’re finally settling in, and I’m beginning to make a few connections to the world of children’s books here in Missouri.

My first stop, shortly after moving in, was to the Middendorf-Kredell Library in O’Fallon, where I visited the children’s department and met the librarian and staff there. I’m lucky to be just ten minutes away from this beautiful new branch of the St. Charles Library District.

The O’Fallon children’s librarian gave me the name of the owner of Main Street Books, an independent bookstore in near-by St. Charles. I made a visit to Main Street Books a couple of weeks later, and met Vicki Erwin, bookstore owner and fellow SCBWI member. The warm, cozy atmosphere, like most independent bookstores, feels like family, and I have it on my list to return soon and browse through the stacks. (www.mainstreetbooks.net)

Wherever there’s an SCBWI member, there’s a smiling, friendly person ready to share children’s book-related information. Vicki gave me the link to the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance. I was amazed at the number of independent bookstore in the St. Louis area. Checking their schedule of events, I found that several children‘s authors were on the books doing author appearances at various stores, including Jarrett Krosoczka (the LUNCH LADY graphic novel series), author/illustrator Peter Brown (CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS and YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!), and Jack Gantos (JOEY PIGZA and ROTTEN RALPH). My calendar is filling up quickly! (www.stlindiebook.com)

I enjoy doing author visits to schools and libraries, as well as visits to bookstores. I stopped at the Mid Rivers Barnes & Noble bookstore in St. Peters, where my son’s family lives, and met Shelly, who schedules the activities there. I just added an author story time and a book signing to my calendar during Educators Week on October 22nd. My daughter’s family recently moved from north of St. Louis to Fenton. I contacted the South Roxana Library where they visited before they moved, and offered to sign copies of my books. I'm looking forward to doing an author visit there sometime in the next several months.

Of course, the one place that I KNOW will connect me to other children’s writers no matter what state I’m in is SCBWI (http://www.scbwi.org ). I’ve registered for the Missouri SCBWI fall conference (http://moscbwi.org/Home_Page.html) on November 5th in St. Charles, which is just a hop over from O’Fallon. I’m looking forward to meeting an editor, an agent, and of course other children’s authors and illustrators.

I’m beginning to warm up to this new home state of Missouri. No pun intended (or maybe so), since except for the past few days, the temps have been in the 90’s and 100’s ever since we moved here!
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A Writer's Work-in-Progress

Book sale volunteers, from right: Peggy and Katie, with children's book browsers
Getting published in the children’s field is often a long, hard journey. So it’s good to have a plan. While you wait for that acceptance, here are some things that you can do to help move you closer to your goal.

1—Read children’s books
Read to find out what children are reading. Read to see what publishers are buying. Read to learn how to write. Read the type of books that you want to write, but read other genres, too. And don’t forget children’s magazines. Get to know your children’s librarian and the children’s book coordinator at your local bookstore. They can tell you what they like. They can tell you what kinds of books they want more of. And they’ll be rooting for you when you get your first book published!

2—Read about writing for children
There are books on craft, books on marketing, and books about the children’s publishing business. There are books about how to write for children, from picture books to YA and everything else in between. Gather tips from authors and editors by reading magazines and newsletters for children’s writers. The Children’s Writer and Children’s Book Insider, are excellent examples. Writers’ Digest magazine occasionally prints a special issue about writing for children, and Publishers’ Weekly has two issues per year about children’s books.

3—Check out websites for children’s writers
Many good websites offer articles about the children’s publishing business and writing for children, as well as current marketing news. Be sure to check when the site was last updated, and the credibility of the website’s author. Check out authors’ websites and blogs, and discussion boards for children’s writers.

4—Research the market
Read children’s books to see what’s being published. Check out the current Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Book, which is updated every year. Keep up with the trends and markets by reading magazines and newsletters, specifically those for children’s writers.

5—Submit to magazines
A good way to feel instant gratification is to get something out in the mail. Stories, puzzles, or jokes for magazines are shorter, and take less time to write. Children’s magazines are usually quicker to respond. Rejections may pile up, but they also show that you’re writing. And acceptances help your writing credits, validate your writing, and boost your enthusiasm.

6—Join a critique group
Writing is a lonely profession. Critique groups keep you in touch with other children’s writers. In a critique group you can get feedback on your writing, get a push to get something finished, and share marketing news, writing experiences, and good news. If possible, join a group of children’s writers. The process of writing for children is different than writing for adults, and feedback from writers who write only for adults can sometimes be off the mark.

7—Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)
SCBWI is the only international organization for children’s writers and illustrators. It opens up many excellent opportunities, such as grants, and conferences. SCBWI provides more information than you can get from any other source, and includes the bi-monthly SCBWI Bulletin, the yearly updated market survey, and many other publications. It offers opportunities to connect with children’s authors and editors from around the globe.

8—Attend conferences and events related to writing for children
Choose your conferences carefully. Attend those that are specifically geared for children’s writers. Networking with other children’s writers, both published and to-be-published, meeting editors of children’s books and magazines, and opening up markets for your manuscript that are otherwise closed to submissions are benefits in addition to the information gained from speakers’ presentations and handouts.

9—Find opportunities to attend other local events related to children’s books and writing
In addition to conferences, find out when children’s authors will be speaking at libraries and schools in your area, and plan to attend. If you speak to a school librarian ahead of time and explain that you are a children’s writer, they are usually happy to let you sit in on an author’s presentation. If a national event such as Book Expo or an ALA event is planned in your area, don’t miss the opportunity to attend.

10—Enter contests and apply for grants
You won’t get published if you don’t submit, and you won’t win if you don’t try! Besides the possibility of winning a contest or being awarded a grant, there are some hidden benefits. Getting something completed within a deadline, gathering tips on what editors and judges are looking for and tips on ways to promote your work are obvious. But earning a letter of merit, or placing in a contest is something you can put in a cover letter. And you never know when one of the judges, perhaps an editor, might take an interest in your manuscript and ask for your submission!

11—Set realistic goals
Begin with a goal that you can accomplish. Once you’ve reached that goal, re-evaluate and set higher goals. Starting with small, attainable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment rather than a feeling of failure. Re-evaluating and setting higher goals along the way will give you a push to keep moving forward. When you reach a goal, reward yourself with a small treat—a piece of candy, an outing, time to yourself or with friends.

12—Volunteer
Check with your library, your child’s school, and in your community to find opportunities to help with events where you will be surrounded by children and children’s books. Go a step further and volunteer to help with events planned by your local SCBWI. Besides the good feeling you get from helping others, and the vast writing material you get from working with children, you never know who you might meet that will help you along the way in your career as a children’s author or illustrator.

The following puzzle describes all of us who write for children:
proworkgress
No matter what stage we’re at in our quest to be a part of the children’s book world, we are always a Work in Progress!
pro-work-gress
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Another New Year and Resolutions

Is it 2011 already?! I'm still catching up with 2010!

It seems like my New Year's resolutions never change. At least not very much. I fall short of my goals. But each new year I start over. Some recurring resolutions include:

Read more
Write more
Submit more
Read all of my newsletters as soon as I get them
Read more blogs, author sites, etc.
Update my wesite more often and more fully

But maybe I should look a little closer at what I DID accomplish last year. Some things were:

Read a few books.
Wrote a few first drafts and revisions.
Submitted and had a poem published in Humpty Dumpty magazine.
Eventually read all of my newsletters.
Kept up with my weekly blog, most of the year.

And things accomplished, not on my list of new year's resolutions:
Joined Verla Kay's message board
Joined JacketFlap
Signed up for google analytics
Joined the speakers directory on SCBWI
Made a speakers video for the SCBWI directory (still waiting for that to be added)
Joined twitter (I don't know if I'll ever post there, but I'm on!)
Had my first Book Launch Party!
Did numerous author visits since NAME THAT DOG! was released in April
Attended the National SCBWI conference in LA (WOW!)
Signed up on GoodReads and posted my first book reviews.
Had my first online author interview on Janet Fox's website (http://bit.ly/9h0zPI), and again on the IWC website (http://www.indianawritersconsortium.org/).
Changed email service (a big job)

Personal events:
Our 6th grandchild came along!
Our daughter's wedding!
Branson with my sister and her husband
Las Vegas for the first time

Looking back over all that I DID acomplish is inspiring! So look out 2011! I'll be seeing you there.  Read More 
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What Are Your Stories?

On Saturday Indiana SCBWI hosted Esther Hershenhorn, who talked to us about ‘Getting Your Stories (plural) Right.’ The Character was Esther herself, former Regional Advisor for Illinois SCBWI and current board member for SCBWI, award-winning author, speaker, and writing coach. The setting was the beautiful Benton House in Indianapolis, IN. The Plot…

Esther talked about the two stories you tell as an author: the story you have to tell your readers, and the story you’re living as a writer. These stories need to intersect meaningfully.

There are 3 elements of story: character, setting and plot. Of these, Character is everything!

I Character—Who?

Get to know your character. Ask yourself ‘What’s on his iPod?’
You need to know two things that about your characters (yourself and your story character): what your character wants (the physical plotline), and why he wants it (the emotional plotline).
Ask yourself: Why do you write for children? What do you want out of it?

II Setting—When and Where?

You live in the character’s book world, but you also need to stay current in the children’s publishing world. Learn from others, through libraries, book sellers, teachers, editors and others. Read children’s literature. Keep a reader’s journal. Write down the books you read.

III Plot—How?

Plot is characters in action, overcoming obstacles, by cunning and craft. Events are linked by causation. Things happen for a reason. Every scene, every character, etc., matters.

Esther’s description of plot, put simply, is:
Oh—Oh, my!—Oh, dear!—Oh, no!—Oh, yes!

In story, there must be action. The character must act against an obstacle. Then he re-acts with accompanying emotion. This is the emotional plot line.

Your plot as a writer asks three questions:
What do you want?
Why do you want it?
How do you get it?

In conclusion: Write from who you are. Write true to yourself.

Finally: Never throw out the beginning pages of your writing—it’s where the heart of your story is.

More on the ‘rest of the day’ later!  Read More 
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