It’s July 22nd and I have one question:

Have you signed up for our region’s conference “On the Road to Sparkling Children’s Literature”? Yeah, I know it’s only been open for one day, but really, what are you waiting for?

Held on September 20 and 21, 2014 at the Claggett Conference Center in Buckeystown, Maryland, this will be a one-day event on Saturday with separate intensives on Sunday. Registration for the one-day conference is required before registering for the intensives. Critiques will also be available (registration for the one-day conference is also required to receive a critique).

Check out our amazing faculty:

Calista Brill, Senior Editor at First Second Books

David Teague, Authors and Co-Author

Kirsten Hall, Founder of Catbird Productions

Ella Kennen, Agent at Corvisiero Literary AgencyJennifer Laughran, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Emma Ledbetter, Associate Editor at Simon & Schuster

John Micklos, Jr., Author

Miranda Paul, Author & Director of Rate Your Story

Becky Shapiro, Associate Editor at Scholastic

Sarah Sullivan, Author

Marc Tyler Nobleman, Author

Ariane Szu-Tu, Asociate Editor at National Geographic

What a great lineup! I hope you all have plans on attending!

Happy writing and illustrating!


Posted by: Shelley Koon | July 18, 2014

Save Yourselves!!!

lsOr your work rather…

How often do you save your documents or illustrations?  Do you back your work up? If so how often? Is your backed up data stored locally or in the cloud?

I consider myself to be pretty good at backing my files up.  I have the hard drive on my computer that my work is backed up on, I have an external drive that I back up to and I also have two offsite “cloud” storage accounts.  Does that sound like a lot to you?  Welllllll, let me tell you a quick story about why I go to the lengths I do… Read More…

Posted by: Shelley Koon | July 14, 2014

The Name Game

scarlett1Names can help us convey who our characters are, where they’re from and, in some cases, even what they look like. One almost hisses when they say the name Katniss, a nod to her stealth and feline agility. Hannibal Lecter pretty much screams cannibal! And of course there is Scarlett O’Hara who we immediately know is a fiery force to be reckoned with. But did you know her name was originally Pansy? What if I told you Gandalf was slated to be the dwarf king and Bladorthin was to be the Grey? J.R.R. Tolkein played around with a number of names before landing on those we know so well today, but what if he had stuck to his original draft? Would it have made his characters less memorable? Read More…

Posted by: Laura Bowers | July 11, 2014

Lessons to learn from Author Anonymous: Read what you love

Author AnonymousHave you seen Authors Anonymous? I’ve never heard about it until I saw it at a Red Box.

When a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers accept Hannah into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success. Can these lovable misfits achieve their artistic dreams and avoid killing one another in the process?

It looked cute and–come on–it’s about writers, so I rented it despite my husband raising an eyebrow in his you’re really going to make me watch that kind of way. (For the record, I didn’t make him watch it. He’s not a big fan of mockumentary type movies, especially those with no car chases, explosions, or fight scenes.)

While this movie has been slammed by critics and was a tad slow at times, I still really enjoyed it! Chris Klein is adorable as John, the earnest Fitzgerald devotee who’s in love with Hannah, played by Kelly Cuoco. But mostly, I liked it because as an author, there was so much I could relate to!

  • The jealousy you feel when a friend is more successful.
  • The guilt you feel from being jealous of said friend.
  • How easy it is to allow personal issues to stifle your creative energy.
  • The pain of rejection.
  • The anxiety of success.
  • The humiliation of sitting through a book signing where absolutely no one has any interest in your book. (For me, this happened at 2007′s ALA, where Judy Bloom’s table was in the row beside me and her long, long line hooked all the way down my row with folks doing everything they can to avoid eye contact with me. Most. Uncomfortable. Hour. Ever.)

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Read More…

Posted by: Laura Bowers | July 7, 2014

More fantastic member news!

Happy (late) 4th of July, everyone! Today we have more awesomely wonderful REGIONAL MEMBER NEWS to start the week of!

This one if for Kathy MacMillan‘s two-book deal with HarperTeen as announced by Publishers Weekly:

kathy_1-170x143Alexandra Cooper at HarperTeen has bought, in a two-book deal, an untitled debut novel by Kathy MacMillan. The first book, which is scheduled for winter 2016, is described as “a sweeping fantasy in the tradition of Megan Whalen Turner and Diana Wynne Jones.” It follows a girl from the underclass who is chosen to be one of four in the kingdom to learn the language of the gods, and unwittingly uncovers a secret that goes back to ancient times. Steven Malk at Writers House did the deal for world English rights.

Kathy is also the founder of The Sweet Sixteens, a group for Young Adult and Middle Grade authors debuting in 2016.

Congratulations and a mighty woo-HOO, Kathy, this is wonderful news! I’m looking forward to reading your books.


And remember, if you have good news–big or small–please submit them us to As The Eraser Burns can share! Submission Guidelines are in the menu bar above.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone!

Posted by: Laura Bowers | July 2, 2014

Member News & Conference Scholarship Info

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today, I have some awesome, amazing …


… to share, so let me jump right in by giving a HUGE congratulations and mighty woo-HOO to Laura Shovan for her recently announced two book deal with Random House!

From Publishers Marketplace:

Poet and educator Laura Shovan’s debut middle-grade novel in verse, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, in which a class of fifth graders learns that their school will be torn down and replaced by a supermarket, and then takes their teacher’s 1960′s political teachings to heart as they fight to save it, to Wendy Lamb at Random House Children’s, at auction, in a two book deal, by Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).

Wow, congratulations, Laura, that’s wonderful news!! :)

I’m also happy announce that Ann McCallum will soon be hosting three launch events celebrating the August 5th release of her book, Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds!

Eat_Science_HomeworkHungry readers discover delicious and distinct recipes in this witty companion to Eat Your Math Homework. A main text explains upper-elementary science concepts, including subatomic particles, acids and bases, black holes, and more. Alongside simple recipes, side-bars encourage readers to also experiment and explore outside of the kitchen. A review, glossary, and index make the entire book easy to digest.

Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds is the second in the Eat Your Homework series. Here’s some praise for Eat Your Math Homework:

A yummy way to get parents and kids to more deeply understand math . . . and spend some time together in the kitchen.”—Kirkus Reviews

Mischievous, gap-toothed bunnies rendered in mixed-media collage explore math in the kitchen in this clever activity book.”—Publishers Weekly

Bring math learning into the classroom or family kitchen in a lively way.”—School Library Journal

Witty and smart, this unusually upbeat math book offers edible rewards for learning.”—Booklist

In celebration of the launch of Eat Your Science Homework, Ann will be hosting 3 separate events. Please come to one or all if you can– appropriate for children ages 6-12, their adults, or readers of any age. Rumor has it that there will be free giveaways including some tasty math and science recipes. Hope to see you there!

  • August 9: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History 1:00 p.m. (Located at the corner of 10th and Constitution, Washington, DC)
  • August 10: The National Children’s Museum 1:00 p.m. (Located at 151 St. George’s Street, National Harbor, MD 20745)
  • August 12: Kensington Park Public Library 6:30 p.m. (Located at 4201 Knowles Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895)

Congratulations on your upcoming release, Ann!


In case you didn’t receive the recent email sent by co-regional advisor extraordinaire Sue Poduska, here’s the information it contained:

[ETA: Oops, it was actually our other co-regional advisor extraordinaire Sue Peters who sent the message. Sorry, Sue!]

In memory of longtime volunteer Jack Reid, the MD/DE/WV SCBWI Region offers two scholarships (one for a writer and one for an illustrator) to the annual 2-day September conference. This year’s event will take place Sept. 20 and 21, 2014.

Writers wishing to apply should send up to 10 double-spaced pages of a work for children. Illustrators should send up to 3 jpg selections of their work. A cover letter, stating reason for applying, should accompany all entries. When entering, state the year in which you are applying for a scholarship.

Please include your name on your cover letter, but NOT on your actual manuscript or illustration. Submissions will be judged anonymously by the scholarship committee.

In addition to our usual variety of agent, editor, and author talks on Saturday, the fall 2014 conference will feature morning-long workshops on Sunday on picture books, illustration, YA and MG, and Nonfiction. The scholarship will cover these intensives as well as the Saturday activities. We will announce full program and faculty in mid-July. Meanwhile, here is a sneak peek at our Saturday program:

  • Senior Editor Calista Brill, First Second Books, will tell why “This is the Golden Age of Graphic Novels.”
  • Cecily Kaiser, publishing director for Abrams Appleseed, will present, “Bullseye! Making Books that Target the Young Child.”
  • In “Heroes without Capes” author Marc Tyler Nobleman will share his adventures researching and writing about Batman and Superman.
  • Agent Jennifer Laughran will reveal the truth behind many publishing myths.

Please note that applicants must be current SCBWI members, live within our MD/DE/WV region, and not be currently represented by a literary agent or with a project (manuscript or illustrations) currently under contract. Please email entries to The application deadline for this year is Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Winners will be announced in mid-August.

Please save the Sept. 20 and 21 dates. We look forward to seeing you then.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone! :)

Posted by: Susan Mannix | June 26, 2014

Your Library of Ideas

Happy Thursday! Why is it happy, you ask? Because fellow MD/DE/WV SCBWI member Michael Karg has sent in a guest post, thus making my job shamefully easy!

Michael is a veterinarian and picture book writer. You can learn more about him on his website and by following him on Twitter at @michaelkarg.

Take it away, Michael!

Your Library of Ideas

“It’s my head, Schwartz! It’s my head!”

John Malkovich rages against trespassers entering a secret portal to joyride inside his mind in the wonderfully absurd movie, Being John Malkovich (1999). Falling victim to a puppeteer, Malkovich cedes control of his body and mind.

Faced with the blank page, writers should beware of such passivity. Maybe you won’t be unceremoniously dumped alongside the New Jersey Turnpike, but idly petitioning a muse to whisper magic words is a pale and feeble choice compared with seizing inspiration by yourself.

The expression “butt in chair” is for actual writing. Daydreaming counts too, if you’re writing in your head. But simply staring at the white screen will not bring any answers. In those cases, get your butt out of your chair. Your head is a limitless library. When you’re out of ideas, it is time to go out into the world with the library door open. You mean like a giant bookmobile? Um, yeah, OK.

Stuff comes through the door in new music and nature walks and heated dialogues and digging in the dirt and learning how to juggle violins on a unicycle. Forget about getting another copy of the same old books you know by heart. And, forget about the things you forgot, since those tattered memories have outlived their usefulness. Filling up the brain by adding new stuff is the only way to get more ideas.

New ideas don’t come from routines. They come from new experiences within familiar structures. So, let’s keep routines of personal hygiene, consistent shelter, chocolate consumption, staying hydrated, and most importantly, sleep.  Sleep is literally essential for life. Sleep deprivation is torture ending in death. Do whatever it takes to sleep well. Exercise. Buy a better mattress. Kill your TV.

This library of yours gets a lot of use during the day and the books end up on piles on the floor, misfiled or waiting in tall stacks of new releases. Sleep is closing time for your library and everything must be put back on the shelves, or else you’ll trip over some, failing to find the ones you need or being crushed under the fallen heaps. Rejuvenation comes to us as dream, and to sleep well is to dream well. Dreaming well leads to an organized, tidy library in the morning. Peruse the aisles of your library, mixing and matching thoughts and ideas into today’s story.

It’s your head. Use it or lose it.

Thanks so much, Michael! Remember friends, you too are welcome to submit a guest post. Check out this post by Laura for submission guidelines.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Posted by: Susan Mannix | June 23, 2014

Frederick Book Festival

Well, it’s official! I can finally say Happy Summer!!!!!! We’ve been having some drop-dead gorgeous weather lately.  Now that school is out, everyone’s summer plans can really get humming. For those of you who live in or near Frederick, might I suggest the Second Annual Frederick Book Festival this weekend?


It’s being held June 27th & 28th at the Hampton Inn on Buckeystown Pike. Friday is Writer’s Day (gotta love that!) and it offers various workshops. The next day is the actual book festival, with authors from different genres, including Young Adult and Middle Grade/Children’s. For more detailed information and registration, go to their website. This looks like a great event – they’re even having a costume ball on Friday evening – so check it out!

Have a great Monday!

Posted by: Shelley Koon | June 19, 2014

Website Question Roundup

blogqsI had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on writer/artist websites at the past conference, a totally awesome gig as it bridges two of my fave things: design for communication and writing/illustrating!  Hmmm, maybe that’s three…. Anyway, after holding said seminar I’ve had a few questions asked of me that are pretty common so I though I’d share the answers here!


1.) Do I really need a blog?

There are scores of pros and cons on who does and doesn’t need a blog and staunch proponents in both camps, but when looked at strictly from marketing standpoint I’d say the only groups of children’s writers that truly need to have a blog are YA writers. Here’s why, while the target audience for picture books are young children who have not yet started to read, the majority of marketing is done to adults who will purchase the book for a child. These adults may or may not have access to the internet and even if they do they aren’t necessarily going to follow an author or artist blog.  They will visit a web site, and it’s a good idea to have said site updated on at least a bimonthly basis to encourage return visitors, but they will not be stopping by once or twice a week to see what you’re up to as a rule.

Middle grade writers should also have a website but the need for a blog is minimal unless it is something you really want to do. Which leads us to YA writers and why they need a blog. The target audience is pre-teens and teens, with some overlap into college age readers. This demographic group is technologically savvy and highly skilled in social communication and will want to know not only more about your characters and their world, but more about you as well. The mroe you can connect with your readers, the more your fan base will grow, the more books you will sell.  The math is easy. YA writer = have a blog!

2.) Do I need to secure the domain names of my current and future books and create websites for each of them?

Ugh. No. Talk about a marketing nightmare!

Let’s say you end up writing 20 books during your career as a writer, that would equal 20 websites that need to be maintained and paid for. So if we roughly estimate your domains and hosting at $100 a year (and that is a very low estimate) you’ll be at $2,000 a year in maintenance fees alone. That doesn’t count the cost of paying a developer to create and edit the sites if you aren’t doing the work yourself. If you are doing the work yourself, how much time for writing are you losing?

In addition, you want your readers to come to one location to view all of your work, not hop from one site to another.

Create an author and/or artist site and make the domain your name if you can, or some form of your name (for instance, Sally Jones is a pretty common name so might be an option). Give each of your books their own page on your website.

3.) I have a business website, can I hook it to that.

Unless your business is directly related to your story (for instance you have a bee business and you write picture books about a family of bees), no.  A website is a marketing tool and needs to be focused on your writing without any distractions or deterrents to the writing. In other words, your entire site needs to be relate to who you are as writer and/or artist.

4.) What do I blog about?

Whatever is relevant to your current book. The idea is to build a reader audience and not a writer audience. Again – a website is a marketing tool and while your fellow writers will most certainly buy your book to support you, the bulk of your sales should come from your target audience. Speak to your readers.

I had a friend who wrote contemporary YA and one of her books dealt with anorexia. She had marvelous blog posts about girls and even some guys who suffered from eating disorders and had beat the disease. She also posted information on how to find help if you or a friend had an eating disorder. Find the common thread in your book and search the web for on topic stories. Post excerpts from relevant articles and discuss your thoughts and invite your readers to share their thoughts.


That’s it for now!  Got a question about websites?  Feel free to email it to me and I’ll post  an answer in the future.

Posted by: Shelley Koon | June 17, 2014

What running has taught me about writing

As many of you know, and for those who do not, Laura recently made a post about contributing to The Eraser Burns and I am honored to be posting the very first submission!  Please help me welcome Katharine Manning to the blog!

What Running Has Taught Me About Writing

By Katharine Manning

A few years ago, after a long break, I took up running again. Not long afterward, I began writing my first novel. I have been surprised by how the two endeavors dovetail and inform each other. Here are seven things I learned about writing from my running.

1.     Run your own race.

When you’re running a race, there are a lot of other people around you. Some of them are faster, some are slower. They are right next to you. You are very aware of who is passing you. But if you get too caught up in that – try to catch up with someone, or beat yourself up because that kid just passed you – you will hurt yourself in the long run. Everyone has his or her own pace. You need to run yours. I remember a really hilly course I ran. On one particularly steep descent, I heard footsteps behind me, loud and fast. My immediate impulse was to try to match them. But I held on, repeating my running mantra, run your race run your race. She flew past me. But on the next hill, guess what? She was walking, and I cruised right up and passed her. Some people go fast and then slow, others keep an even pace throughout, some fly past and just keep going. Know your pace, and trust it. Some people are going to write more. Some are going to get recognition that you won’t. Some are going to sell many more books. Trust your own path. They’re running their race, you run yours.

2.     You have to work as hard as you can. And then work harder.

Long distance running has taught me so much about pushing myself. When you’ve been running for two hours or more, your body is aching, you’re hungry and so, so tired. Really any excuse to stop sounds good. But you have to push through that and keep going. You will be stronger for it. Right now I’m editing my first novel. It is darn hard. I’m tired. I’ve been working on this book for almost two years, and I’ve also got three kids, a marriage and a demanding job. I write in the early morning, before everyone is awake, which is also when I run. That means I am tired all the time. But it’s worth it to get this right. This book is what I am offering the world of myself. It is worth it to spend the time to make it worthy of the world. Of me. So I’m going to keep going.

3.     Give yourself treats along the way.

Now, one thing I noticed as the runs got longer was that a little treat partway through helped keep me going. I like gummy bears. I keep them in my pocket, and when I’m really struggling, I get a gummy bear. I try to space them out, no more than one per mile, and I don’t start them until at least mile four. It makes them more special that way. Similarly, chocolate really helps the writing, I find. I also like to chew gum. I have a pretty writing space, which I spent time and a little money to decorate in a way that is pleasing to me and only me. I have favorite pens and notebooks, and I keep them around me. These little rituals around writing make it more special to me, and make me feel good about the process of it. They help me keep returning to the page when it gets hard and I’m tired and just want to stop.

4.     Notice what is around you.

To me, one of the best things about running is being outside. I run on a trail near my house, through woods with big old trees, lots of birds and squirrels. If you’re running and you’re not paying attention to the world around you, you can get hurt. You can trip and fall. More common, you can miss the best part of running – being out in nature. I try really hard not to spend my run ruminating over problems. It’s great for that, too, of course. But I also want to see what is happening right then. Is there a deer? Are the crocuses starting to peek through? Staying in the moment is the best way to enjoy a run and coincidentally, the best way to enhance my writing. It’s no surprise that large parts of my novel take place in the woods. All that is happening around you in the world is great fodder for your creative mind. Let it in.

5.     Take care of your body.

When I’m running long distances, I have to drink lots of water, all the time. I have to eat good, healthy and filling meals. I have to get lots of rest. If I don’t do those things, my running suffers. The impact is immediate – had a stressful day at work and didn’t drink enough water? The next morning’s run is miserable. Similarly, if I’m sick or not getting enough breaks, my writing suffers. My mind isn’t as sharp, and I don’t have the energy to do what I need to do. Taking care of my physical health is essential to getting good work out of me.

6.     Set interim goals.

Two years ago, the idea of me running 13 miles was laughable. I was running a few times a week, 1-2 miles each time. Then I decided to run a 10K, which is about 6 miles. It seemed really far and scary, but I gave myself interim goals. I had a running plan. I increased my runs each week, in number and length. And because the course was hilly, I made myself run lots of hills. Once I’d done the 10K, a half-marathon didn’t seem out of reach. Again, I came up with a running schedule that seemed ambitious but not impossible. I scheduled the runs for times that worked for my life, and increased my mileage each week. Similarly, with writing my book, I gave myself monthly goals. I set these based on what I thought I could accomplish, pushing myself just a little. I didn’t beat myself up for not writing more; as long as I was hitting my targets, I was doing what I needed to do.

7.     Acknowledge accomplishments.

When you finish a race, sometimes you get a medal. I know it’s kind of silly; “everyone’s a winner!” But it’s nice to see those medals hanging from the mirror in my bedroom, reminding me of what I accomplished. I ran my last race with my two best friends, and afterward we got massages, took naps and then had a fantastic dinner. When I finished the first draft of my novel, I also took a nap (notice a theme here?) and that night, opened a bottle of champagne. Celebrate these moments. I think tangible reminders of what you’ve done are great. When I sell my novel, I’ve decided that I get a piece of jewelry. I don’t know what it is yet, and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I want something that I can look at and say, “I got that when I sold my first book.”

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