Guest Post: Book Club for Kids by Kitty Felde

Mid-week greetings everyone! Today we have a guest post from SCBWI member Kitty Felde, who is the founder of an amazing program Book Club for Kids. Makes me almost want to be in middle school again! Here’s Kitty telling us all about it –

I’m an SCBWI member, but also the creator and host of a free new podcast called the Book Club for Kids. It’s the place where middle grade readers meet to talk about the books they love!

The show was inspired by conversations I had with young readers at the LA Times Festival of Books. These were kids trapped in mom’s carpool, forced to listen to public radio, desperate to hear young voices or conversations about things that interested them. I created Book Club for Kids and it became one of the most popular events at the LA Times Festival of Books

First we started on radio. For nearly a decade, I hosted a talk show in Los Angeles where we would set aside half an hour to listen to middle school students talk about the book of the month. (I believe Book Club for Kids was the reason I was named Journalist of the Year three years out of four by the LA Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.)

A live, on-stage version of Book Club for Kids became an annual tradition for half a decade at the LA Times Festival of Books. Every spring, we’d spend a full hour onstage with half a dozen young readers, discussing one of the books nominated for an LA Times Book Award. The author would listen from the back of the tent, and then was invited onstage to participate in the discussion, answering questions from the kids and the audience. We’d even have a “celebrity” reader to kick off the conversation.

Here’s a couple of video clips from a couple of LA Times Festival of Books appearances:

Book Club for Kids tackles “How I Live Now”

Book Club for Kids tackles “Black Juice” by Margo Lanagan

As you can see, the show moved to cable TV. Here’s a link to one of the programs:

Now that I’m here in Washington, DC, Book Club for Kids has become a podcast.

The show features a conversation with a trio of young readers about the book of the month, a short conversation with the author with questions from kids from around the country, and a reading from the book by a “celebrity.” Past shows have featured the FBI’s special agent for weapons of mass destruction, two LA mayors, and Washington DC Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Here’s a link to our latest show featuring Newbery winner Kwame Alexander and LA Laker Tarik Black:

Already, the show has gotten some buzz: it made the front page of DC’s local newspaper:

Book Club for Kids has also been invited to participate onstage at Virginia’s Fall for the Book this autumn.

Want to help grow the show?

ITunes gives new podcasts about six weeks to establish a name for itself. Apple measures this three ways:

• How many SUBSCRIBERS there are to a podcast

• How many RATINGS there are for that podcast

• How many REVIEWS there are for that podcast

Here’s how YOU can help!

• SUBSCRIBE to the Book Club for Kids podcast

• Rate it – like you do on Yelp, give it some stars

• Review it – write a sentence or two about the show

If you’re one of us adults who hate technology and haven’t yet downloaded a podcast, no worries. There’s help on our Facebook page!

Questions? Email us at

Please share this on your own social network!  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest!

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Illustrating Children’s Books


If you want to be an illustrator of books for children, how do you go about it? I recall that I hadn’t a clue as an art student regarding the path to that goal, and it took several years of trial and error — and a dose of good luck — for me to find my way to publication and (semi-)regular assignments from art directors. Continue reading

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Cover Reveal: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

I’m so happy to pass along this exclusive cover reveal for area member Laura Shovan! The blog of the School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes, announced the good news:

“You know what’s fun? Sharing something new. Today is especially new – a cover reveal for a debut author.

It’s a middle grade novel-in-verse about a group of kids on a Save Our School mission. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary arrives in spring of 2016.”


Love. It.

Congratulations Laura! We’re so looking forward to your novel’s publication. Can’t wait to read it!

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Five for Friday: Five Awesome Books for Writers

Seems like whenever the topic of favorite books for writers comes up, I always recommend Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II by James N. Frey and The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus because they’re beyond amazing. And in every single list of “best books for writers,” Stephen King’s On Writing is always listed because–again–it’s beyond amazing.

But today, I’m deviating from my broken record ways and putting the spotlight on five books that I’ve truly enjoyed this year. So let’s begin already!

Five Awesome Books for Writers!

War of Art1. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield.

I’ve heard many mentions of this book throughout the years, but I haven’t read it until recently. Fantastic book. Just fantastic. And it gives all those horrible fears, doubts, and anxieties a name: Resistance. Don’t like resistance? Read this book to find out how to fight it. Continue reading

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Write with the door closed. FIRMLY closed.

Door ClosedI’m 46 years old. You would think that someone who is 46 has gathered enough wisdom throughout her lifetime to know better than to keep making the same mistake over and over again, right?

Like, for example, the mistake of not keeping the door closed while fleshing out a new story idea or writing a rough draft. That’s what Stephen King suggests in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.

Continue reading

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Coffee & Conversation with Shadra Strickland!

Happy Friday, all! Since our theme for July is Illustrators Show Us Your Independence, I’m happy to kick things off by featuring an interview with illustrator extraordinaire, Shadra Strickland!

Shadra has illustrated many books such as Please, Louise by Toni Morrison, Eliza’s Freedom Road by Jerdine Nolen, White Water by Michael S. Bandy, and most recently, Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby!

Sunday Shopping

Sunday nights are special for Evie and Grandma. That’s when they go on their weekly shopping spree. Grandma flips open the newspaper to see what’s advertised, and the imaginary tour of neighborhood stores begins. Toting a wallet filled with colorful pretend bills, Evie and Grandma take turns “buying” whatever catches their fancy. A big chunk of ham, a “sofa with a secret,” and a dress with spangles are just a few of the treasures they “purchase.” Most special of all is the jewelry box Evie chooses for the gold heart necklace Mama gave her before leaving to serve in the army—and the bouquet of flowers Evie leaves as a surprise for Grandma.

Overflowing with whimsy and a sweet grandmother-granddaughter relationship, this picture book is a joyous celebration of imagination, family love, and making a lot out of what you’ve got. Continue reading

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“I’m going to be the next Dr. Seuss!” … seriously?

How unbelievably arrogant! Oh, the audacity, what kind of egotistical fool would dare claim that they’re going to be the next Dr. Seuss, a true genius and one-of-a-kind storyteller??

Um, well …

It was kind of me.

But before I get beaten up … let me explain.

See, it happened about … oh, fifteen years? sixteen? … let’s just say a very long time ago, about two years after I had decided to be a writer. I was sitting on my mother’s front porch, watching my children play on a jungle gym and thinking about my failed attempts as a mystery writer when it hit me:

Why don’t I write picture books??? Continue reading

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Guest Post: A Delaware Writer’s Excellent Adventure at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference By Loretta Carlson

For only the second time ever, I ventured out of the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia region to attend an SCBWI event. When I decided to try the New Jersey SCBWI Annual Summer Conference, boy, did I pick a winner!

Over two days (June 13 and 14), the conference provided seemingly nonstop opportunities for writers and illustrators to improve their craft, learn about marketing, and mingle with faculty and fellow SCBWI members. New Jersey is a bigger region than our own, and the conference reflected that, boasting 300 attendees, 46 faculty members, 78 sessions, and an illustrators’ intensive.

In addition to the many craft and marketing presentations, attendees could participate in First Page sessions, Agent Pitch sessions, and Editor/Agent Panels. We also could submit manuscripts and portfolios for one-on-one critiques with agents, editors, and published authors and illustrators. On Saturday evening, attendees who signed up ahead of time met for Peer Group Critiques.

I’m exhausted just writing all that!

A Few of My Favorite Things Continue reading

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Guest Post – Reading at Charmington’s by Tracy Gold

Area member Tracy Gold has sent in a guest post about a wonderful opportunity she has organized. Check it out!

Reading at Charmington’s with Kate Angelella from Sounding Sea July 2nd

When I started writing fiction seriously, I struggled to find ways to learn more about the craft. Of course, I joined SCBWI, but with events and conferences scattered all over three states, it was hard to find a consistent, personalized way to learn. I ended up enrolling in University of Baltimore’s Masters of Fine Arts program, which is wonderful, but it’s practically a full-time job and requires a tolerance for accruing student loans.

So I got together with some friends at UB and started Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop to offer writing classes and tutoring in Baltimore.

Everyone is invited to our launch party and reading on July 2nd from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Charmington’s in Remington. SCBWI MD/DE/WV conference faculty member Kate Angelella will be reading, as well as local poet Tracy Dimond, and local fiction writer Michael B. Tager.

Come early for a delicious dinner at Charmington’s, if you like, and then catch up with Kate, socialize with other writers, and maybe even meet your next critique partner.

We are also giving one scholarship per class to a Baltimore City public school student. Feel free to spread the word if you know any students who love to write!

We are hoping to have 15-20 courses per year, and we would love your suggestions for topics, locations, and professors. If we get enough interest, we will make it happen! Please write to me at with your ideas.

Hope to see some of you on July 2nd!

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What A Character!

Hello everyone, I hope you are staying cool through this mid-June heatwave.

In keeping with the picture book theme this month, let’s explore the very important element of character development. I’ve recently read a couple of helpful blog posts on this subject, which I will share with you. But first, I want to go to one of my favorite guides, Ann Whitford Paul’s book Writing Picture Books, A Hands-On Guide From Story to Publication. In chapter 6, Creating Compelling Characters, Ann writes,

BookWritingPictureBooksPhoto1       “The best characters stay with readers and listeners long after childhood is over. That’s why some books stay in print for generations…






She goes on to list many examples, such as Ferdinand from The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Madeline from the series by Ludwig Bemelmans, Frances from the Russell Hoban books, and then brings in contemporary characters like Fancy Nancy created by Jane O’Connor and Ian Falconer’s Olivia. Here are her guidelines for a compelling character:

  • Someone the reader cares about
  • Likable
  • A child, adult or animal who is childlikeOlivia 2
  • Imperfect
  • Someone who behaves in believable ways
  • Active, not passive
  • Able to solve his own problem

But, even though this is an easy-sounding list, the creation of a compelling character takes time, thought and work. Ann Whitford Paul says you must know your character inside and out, even the parts that don’t relate directly to the story. To enrich your understanding and connection with the character, you need to explore all aspects of his personality, his relationship with others, his appearance, desires, etc. She gives questions for you to answer before you can be sure that you’ve created a unique and engaging character.



I read a new post on a blog I follow, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) by Tara Lazar, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Guest contributor Tammi Sauer discusses some of the same points I outlined above, with pictures and examples. It’s titled How to Create Irresistible Picture Book Characters by Tammi Sauer (plus a giveaway on her book birthday!)




And, of course since we are talking about picture books, the illustrations are every bit as important as the words, when it comes to memorable characters!


Artist Agent Christina Tugeau of CATugeau shares her insights for illustrators on how to demonstrate consistent skills in the area of character development, which was featured on the Directory of Illustration blog and illustrated with images by one of my favorite illustrators, Patrice Barton, who is represented by Christina Tugeau. She points out that a series of illustrations showing sequential action is essential in a good portfolio. It’s also a great exercise for any illustrator; one of the first things an art director may ask from you is  sketches of the main character, in multiple poses and from various angles.

So, happy character development to you — make it real! Please feel free to share your own tips on this subject. I look forward to reading them.



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