Posted by: Laura Bowers | April 22, 2014

Happy Book Release Day to Rori Shay!

We’re always happy when regional members have book birthdays. Today is our stop on the blog tour for Rori Shay, so it’s with great pleasure that we get to say congratulations to Rori for the release of her first young adult sci-fi novel in a series of three, ELECTED!


ELECTED Front CoverIt’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. Aloy hopes to govern like her father, but she is inheriting a different country. The long concealed Technology Faction is stepping out of the shadows, and as turmoil grows within her country, cryptic threats also arrive from beyond the borders.

As she struggles to lead, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, meanwhile battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret – the boy who is somehow connected to her country’s recent upheaval. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust. She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.

Silence in the Library Publishing

Release day: April 22, 2014, Earth Day!

Amazon link: Click here!

headshot_Rori_Shay-202x300About the Author:

Rori Shay is an author living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, daughters, black lab, and cat – just not quite in the same exciting circumstances as ELECTED’s main character, Aloy. She enjoys running, gardening, reading, doing yoga, and volunteering with the Dwelling Place non-profit. Rori is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

For those who attended our recent Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft conference, you’ll remember that we did an interview with Rori that you can find here!

Here’s her other social media links:
- Website
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Goodreads

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

~Items seen in ELECTED such as a marriage binding (temporary tattoo)
~Hemlock soap
~Necklace as seen in ELECTED
~Signed paperback copy of ELECTED
~Optional FaceTime or Skype session with the author for 1/2 an hour (can be used one-on-one or at the winner’s book club, etc.)

Elected Giveaway


Again, congratulations, Rori! We wish you and ELECTED the very best. :)

Happy writing and drawing, everyone!

Likecoffeegirl_fin I said earlier this week, I’m in the midst of finishing up the latest additions to the critique group list and will soon be sending the updated info out. Add to that I’m working on the forum based groups and have a lovely volunteer who’d like to tackle the challenges of putting together an online real time option and it’s pretty exciting stuff!

When I meet a writer or artist that’s looking for a critique group I get all excited. Why? Because I realize I may be talking to the next J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman or Stephen King (and for you artist out there – the next Dave McKeane). As a writer or artist, looking for feedback is the next vital step in moving your work closer to publication. It shows you’re serious about your craft and dedicated to the process to reach your goal of publication. Bravo to all of you that are on the critique group list!

But it takes more than showing up week after week (or month after month) to a critique group to realize the magic that can happen, so to help you get some perspective on critique groups I’d like to offer you a few pearls of wisdom – the first of which is: Read More…

Posted by: Shelley Koon | April 15, 2014

New York 2014 Conference Buzz

Shelley Koon:

I don’t know about you guys but I’m still in conference mode after Springs Revised Draft! It’s actually a great frame of mind to be in as I find I’m most productive after basking in all the writer and artist energy – so thank you all for that. I’m now in the midst of tidying up all the new Critique Group members and getting ready to send the info out (by this weekend I promise!) so I’m going to take advantage of the generous offer from Sue Poduska to run her wrap up of the 2014 NY SCBWI conference! You know – to keep you all in conference mode with me…
Take it away Sue!

Originally posted on Childish Nonsense:


Big giant head in hotel lobby sporting Suess hat for the children’s writers

Another amazing SCBWI conference is in the bag. Just a quick run through of my notes. Hope this helps some who couldn’t be there, but there’s nothing like being there.

The overall theme was the seven essentials for children’s literature. Some speakers really took this to heart. Others did not.

I did not attend a Friday intensive though I did help with the registration for this event. I hear the intensives were great.

There was a party for industry professionals Friday night, along with the illustrator portfolio showcase. A lot of freaking talent in that room! My Co-Regional Advisor, Sue Peters, and I used the opportunity to start seeking speakers for regional conferences. (Sneaky RAs)

Saturday began with introductions by Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver. With 1085 registrants, 153 were men (up a little), 867 were women…

View original 790 more words

Posted by: Larissa Graham | April 11, 2014

Resources for Writers and Illustrators

I admit that I wasn’t feeling my best at this year’s spring conference.  A nasty case of bronchitis sapped my energy and left me recovering for weeks.  But, one of my goals was to ask members about our blog,  As the Eraser Burns.  We are always looking for ways to reach out to the SCBWI community and enrich the content that we provide for you.

After speaking with several conference attendees, it was brought to our attention that many members would like to see more posts about the resources that we find useful.

So-here goes.

In the way of websites and blogs, I like:  This is a great blog that spotlights children’s books, authors, agents, and all things publishing.  It has great advice about submitting work and current trends in the market.    This blog covers all things related to the craft of writing and fiction.  I really like the personal quality of the posts.  It is nice to hear that other artists sometimes struggle in their journey, too. Writing for Kids While Raising them is an incredible blog chocked full of useful information.  How lucky we were to have Tara Lazar at this year’s conference.  Her blog is a wealth of information for picture book writers and anyone interested in the craft of writing.  The site of an anonymous editor who provides great advice.  Really, you don’t want to miss it.  And, another valuable resource comes from our own regional member, Sarah Maynard.  On her website, you will find her 2014 Local Book Festival Calendar.  There are a lot of interesting upcoming book events in our area.  Check them out.

 Some books that I have found helpful:

Save the cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need- Blake Snyder

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step by Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling- James N. Frey

Writing the Breakout Novel- Donald Maass

The Emotion Thesaurus:A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression- Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

I write young adult fiction- as my favorite resources may reflect.  If you have a great resource, please feel free to comment on this post.  I have only selected a few of my favorites and I know there are so many good tools/resources out there.  As we are a sharing community, I urge you to comment about your favorite blogs, websites, books, and writing tools and/or methods.  Let’s start a conversation about the crafts of writing and illustrating.  You never know when something you share will inspire others on their artistic journey.

Happy creating.




SCBWI has been a great source of inspiration to me over the last several years.  I feel blessed to live in a region that is so rich with talent.  At the conferences, I’ve been able to connect with authors, illustrators, editors, agents, and other industry professionals.  The support that I’ve received has been priceless to me as a writer and as a person.

It is with great respect that I encourage you to support the writers and illustrators in our region by voting for your favorite book in the Crystal Kite Awards.  The Crystal Kite Award is one of the only peer nominated book awards that recognizes the exceptional books from all the SCBWI divisions around the world.

Chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, the award is given each year.  The most exciting thing is that each one of you can play a vital part.  Every member of SCBWI can cast a vote.  That’s right-I mean you.  First round voting continues until April 14th.  So, vote for your favorite book from this year’s nominated authors.  As Sue Peters posted on our member Facebook page, our regional nominees are:

Cindy Callaghan

Vonnie Winslow Crist

Debbie Levy

Diane Kidd

Jennifer O’Connell

Kelly Fiore

Lauren Castillo

Lulu Delacre

Melissa Stanton

Sarah Sullivan

Shawn K. Stout

Susan Stockdale

Timothy Young

WOOHOO!- Major congratulations to our regional members.

 If you are reading this blog post, I’m assuming you are an SCBWI member, so go ahead and cast a vote.  Voting is simple — just log in to your SCBWI account and click on the awards tab.  Scroll down until you see the, “Crystal Kite” tab and click on it.  A list of nominated titles with cover pictures will then be available and you can choose your favorite from the list.

I would like to take another second to express my gratitude for everything that SCBWI does to support and recognize the writers and illustrators of the world.  I can’t (and don’t even want to) imagine a world where beautiful books don’t exist.  I wish each of the nominees the very best of luck.  You are all rock stars:)

Happy creating everyone.








Posted by: Laura Bowers | April 7, 2014

Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft guest recap by Sarah Maynard!

I hope everyone who attended our recent Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft conference had a wonderful time and that you went home inspired! I certainly did, so many thanks to the following planning committee ladies for making it happen:

  • Sue Peters and Sue Poduska, our fearless co-regional coordinators
  • Sue Detwiler, regional illustrator coordinator
  • Loretta Carlson, critique coordinator
  • Linda Jeffries-Summers, registration coordinator
  • Shelley Koon, critique group coordinator
  • Larissa Graham
  • Edie Hemingway
  • Susan Mannix
  • Lois Szymanski

Headshot-fullAs Sue Peters announced during the opening comments, we would love to receive more input from regional members to share on the blog. We will soon be posting submission ideas and guidelines but until then, we have guest contributor, Sarah Maynard sharing her summarized thoughts about the conference!

(For Sarah’s complete, four-part summary, visit her blog.)



by Sarah Maynard

Read More…

Posted by: Laura Bowers | April 4, 2014

Schoolwide, Inc. submission opportunity!

Here’s some info about Schoolwide, Inc.’s submission opportunity that was recently shared on the SCBWI MD/DE/WV page by our lovely co-regional advisor, Sue Peters!


Submission opportunity from Susan Tierney, longtime Editor in Chief of Children’s Writer and the Institute of Children’s Literature’s Writer’s Guide and the market directories. She has now become Acquisitions Editor at Schoolwide, Inc. and shared this with SCBWI:

Schoolwide, Inc.
4250 Veterans Memorial Highway, Suite 2000W, Holbrook, NY 11741. (Click here for their website.)

This educational publisher of reading, writing, and grammar curriculum products, and professional development resources, is looking for submissions of books, stories, and articles that support reading and writing for children from kindergarten to grade eight for a digital classroom library.

Of interest are fiction and nonfiction picture books, concept books, early  readers, chapter books, middle-grade and early YA books, articles, essays, short stories, poetry, poetry collections, and plays. Fiction may be contemporary, realistic, historical, multicultural, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, adventure, fairy or folk tales, verse novels, or rhyming books. Nonfiction sought includes informational/expository, biography/profile, narrative procedure (how-to), creative nonfiction, personal narratives or memoir, essays, opinion pieces, primary sources/reference  books. Subject categories include science, history, social studies, language and literature—and any subject that is age-appropriate and would encourage independent reading. Not interested in preK or older YA.

Email only to, with author contact information; website address, if any; title of the work; word or page count; targeted age/grade level; and a brief synopsis or outline in the message body. Attach (Microsoft Word only) the completed work and a résumé or list of writing credits. Indicate if the submission is unpublished, self-published, or previously published, and if so, by whom. Place “Manuscript Submission, SCBWI” in the subject line.

Schoolwide will accept (1) previously published materials for which the author holds rights. For these book, story, or article submissions, please also indicate the publisher, date of publication, and if applicable, whether an illustrator holds rights to the artwork (illustrators would receive the same royalty arrangements, if interested); (2) completed manuscripts of original, unpublished work.

Royalty. Responds in six months, if interested.


Good luck to those who submit! Happy writing and drawing, everyone! :)

For those of you who are starting Camp NaNoWriMo today, GOOD LUCK! Also, for those who attended this past weekend’s awesome Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft, I hope you had a fantastic time. We’ll be posting pictures from the event soon, but first:

Happy book birthday to regional member Jeri Smith-Ready for today’s release of THIS SIDE OF SALVATION! Jeri is the author of several books including her young adult Shade Trilogy and she’s joining us today in the cyber chair for some coffee & conversation on her latest young adult novel that takes a turn for the contemporary:

TSOS_blogEveryone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure:  The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined….

[A] smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale…bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self—while never being heavy-handed. — Booklist, **Starred Review**

This is a frighteningly realistic story that delicately handles the issues of religion and family—an emotional mystery sure to be popular and perfect for discussion. —VOYA, **Highlighted (Starred) Review**

THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is impossible to pigeonhole. It’s a mystery, a love story, a tale of friendship, of prejudice, and of a family overcoming tragedy; and at its heart, it’s a difficult conundrum for our time, exploring the fine line between true faith and exploitative fanaticism with humor and sensitivity. I fell hard for David’s inspired, likeable voice. Throughout the book I found myself alternately aching for his family and their suffering, wanting to kick them for their stupidity, and breathlessly hoping they weren’t all going to end up dead. David’s remarkable spiritual journey is painfully believable—and what better way to contrast the otherworldly mysticism of religion than with the physical mysticism of baseball? Jeri Smith-Ready has her finger on the pulse of American youth. — Printz Honor winner and NYT Bestseller Elizabeth Wein

Read More…

Posted by: Susan Mannix | March 28, 2014

Pre-Conference Wrap-up

I can’t believe it’s here! This time tomorrow Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft will be underway.









Are you ready?

Whether you are or not, here are a few quick things you can do this rainy day to help you get into the conference mindset. Review our amazing faculty and sessions one more time over at the regional website. And to get to know each presenter a little better, here are links back to the interviews we posted over the last couple of months:

Leslea Newman

Sara D’Emic

Debra Hess

Christa Heschke

Alex Arnold

Alyson Heller

Giuseppe Castellano

Tara Lazar

Rori Shay

Shelley Koon

Don’t forget to get your own house in order! Laura’s blog post from yesterday on perfecting your book pitch is a must read. I also loved Larissa’s advice for pre-conference polishing. Digging back into our archives, here is a workshop for those of you looking to survive your first critique, which also gives some timeless conference tips.

So, get excited and get ready! For our first-timers - relax, have fun and take it all in. I promise you’ll leave energized, inspired and assured that, yes, you are where you belong! We’re all looking forward to meeting you, as well as seeing old friends.

Have a great Friday!

Posted by: Laura Bowers | March 27, 2014

Conference Tip: Perfecting your Book Pitch

I’ve been asked to dig up the following previously posted article on book pitches for those who might need a little help before this weekend’s Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft conference! Of course it wouldn’t be if I didn’t give it some tweaks and fusses since I’m a chronic tweaker/fusser. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please leave them in the comment section below and I can’t wait to see everyone this weekend!


First, a description:  What is a book pitch?

It’s a brief statement that explains the premise of your book.   In other words, it is what you say when an editor, agent, bookstore owner, librarian, friend or neighbor asks, “So, what’s your story about?

And second, a disclaimer:  I hate writing book pitches.

I have to admit that they really, really stress me out.  Especially the one-sentence kind my agent wants me to write for manuscript submissions. Seriously?  I’m supposed to condense 300-some pages into just one sentence, is she out of her mind?  Oh, no, I need at least five sentences.  Six, max.

But that’s my problem.

A pitch isn’t supposed to be a complete summary that explains every single detail.  No, it’s supposed to be a brief statement that will make people want to read your book and find out every single detail.  And in order to create a successful one, I need to stop thinking like a writer:

And start thinking like an advertiser:

A good way to get a feel for book pitches is to study movie descriptions and novel blurbs.  So let’s start off by heading over to the Internet Movie Database and seeing how other marketing pros described movies that we’re all (hopefully) familiar with, like:

“An animated film about a young deer, Bambi, growing up in the wild after his mother is shot by hunters.”

“Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry.”

[I really like that one!]

“Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.”

“A coming-of-age story about a shy, young boy sent by his irresponsible mother to spend the summer with his wealthy, eccentric uncles in Texas.”

[Love, love, LOVE that one!]

“Three ex-girlfriends of a serial cheater (Metcalfe) set up their former lover to fall for the new girl in town so they can watch him get his heart-broken.”

[I must admit that I like this from Amazon better:  "An unlikely sisterhood plots a girl-powered revenge in John Tucker Must Die."  Nice, huh?]

EAsy A

“A clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.”



“Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.”

Hmm, this one seems a bit wordy compared to the other ones, no?


“While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.”

Now, that’s more like it! Can’t wait to see this movie.


Okay, it’s your turn.  Look up the blurbs and descriptions used for books or movies that are similar to yours.  See what they included, and what they didn’t.  It’s not copying, it’s learning!

Once you’ve done that, it’s now time to write your own pitch.

And don’t you dare cringe.  It won’t be that bad. :)

First, step back and take a good look at your book in its entirety.  What is it really about?  What is the core issue?  What event changes your protagonist’s life for better or for worse?  This is not the time to get bogged down by the plot and every single twist, turn, nook, and cranny.  This is not the time to be poetic, intriguing, or witty.  Just write down one simple sentence.

    A girl’s horse goes permanently lame.
    A boy inherits a fruit farm.
    Twin boys discover they’re psychic.
    A girl discovers her boyfriend is a cheating louse.

If you’re having trouble with this, ask someone who has read or critiqued your story. Maybe they can point you in the right direction. For JUST FLIRT, I had a hard time identifying the core because there’s two points of view and SO much going on. But then Jeri Smith-Ready reminded me how the problems for both characters are caused by a secret Superflirt blog. Bingo! So my rough sentence would be:

    A secret blog causes a lot of problems.

Now let’s make that sentence sing by brainstorming some keywords about your story. You won’t be using all of them–they’re just jumping off points. So grab a pen and paper and write down the answers to these following questions:

What kind of book is it?

    Coming of age? Paranormal? Thriller? Fantasy?

What is the genre?

    Young adult? Mid-grade? Picture book? (Don’t you love easy questions?)

How could you best describe your protagonist in one or two words?

    Outgoing overachiever? Ambitious show-off? Paranoid wreck? Wallflower? Shopaholic drama queen? Snotty heiress?

What happens to your protagonist that changes their life?

    Your answer here will most likely be a repeat of the sentence you wrote above.

How could you best describe your main character’s antagonist?

    Devious twin sister? Corrupt biology teacher? Controlling mother? The snotty heiress’s arch-rival?

What is your story’s main setting and time period?

    Is your setting an important element, like the diner in the book, HOPE WAS HERE by Joan Bauer, or New York City in the TV show Sex in the City? Does your story take place in the past, like the 1950′s? If so, write it down.

What makes your story interesting?  

    Look closely at your plot and subplots and pull out keywords that makes your story stand out.  Like an ancient secret, historical intrigue, ghostly hauntings, denied love interest, damaging gossip, etc.


By now you should have a lot of keywords and phrases to work with.  Take a good look at them.  What jumps out at you?  What perks your interest?  What combinations can you use to best describe your novel?

Let’s take a closer look at the one-sentence description for Secondhand Lions:

    “A coming-of-age story about a shy, young boy sent by his irresponsible mother to spend the summer with his wealthy, eccentric uncles in Texas.”

What did they use?  The kind of story, (coming of age,) a description of the protagonist, (shy, young boy,) the antagonist’s, (irresponsible mother,) what happens to the main character that changes his life, (he’s sent to spend the summer with his wealthy, eccentric uncles,) and the setting, (Texas.)

Using my novel, JUST FLIRT, as an example, here’s my answers for all the above questions:

    -  Coming of age.
    -  Young adult.
    -  Self-proclaimed superflirt.
    -  A secret blog causes a lot of problems.
    -  Popular bully.
    -  Struggling campground.
    -  Summer, lawsuit, love interest, secret blog, meddling mother-in-law, sworn enemy, revenge flirting, misunderstandings, a lying con artist.

By putting together the more interesting key elements, here’s what I first came up with for my one-sentence pitch, (with Jeri’s help!):

    A secret blog brings a summer of lies, lawsuits, and love to a self-proclaimed Superflirt, and her sworn enemy at a struggling campground.

(What can also be effective to is compare your book to a popular movie, like my agent did for my first novel, BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT.  She described as “A Steel Magnolias for the younger set.”  Very clever!)

Now it’s your turn! Pick and choose your most interesting key elements and create your book pitch.

Once you’re done, Read it out loud.  How does it sound?  Too wordy?  Too complicated?  Does your tongue trip up over certain parts?

For mine, I love how this looks on paper, but sometimes I have a hard time saying it out loud, especially when I’m nervous.  So if I go into panic-mode when asked what my book is about, I’ll change it to:

    JUST FLIRT is a young adult novel about a secret blog that brings a summer of lies and love to a self-proclaimed Superflirt and her sworn enemy.

Maybe it’s not as interesting without the “lawsuits” and “struggling campground” elements, but hearing me stumble and mumble through a pitch doesn’t make a good impression, either!  I also added “young adult novel” to clarify my genre.

Once you’re satisfied with how your pitch sounds out loud, it’s time to memorize, memorize, MEMORIZE! Practice your pitch in front of the mirror, to your cat, or to your writing buddies.  Ask them what works, and what doesn’t.  And then prepare yourself to answer the question, “Cool, sounds good.  Tell me more!”

And finally, if you’re feeling nervous when it’s time to deliver that pitch to an editor, agent, bookstore owner, librarian, friend or neighbor, remember to:

    Take a deep breath.
    Quickly repeat it in your head before speaking.
    Speak slowly if you have a tendency to babble too fast like me.
    And above all . . . Be confident!  Be bold!  Be brave!

Good luck!

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