Posted by: Shelley Koon | February 27, 2015

Coffee & Conversation with Kate Angelella

Conference is officially a month away now!  So who”s excited?  This girl (I’m waving my thumbs toward me)!!!  I’m really excited to see many of you again and to meet and listen to all of our amazing presenters. I had the pleasure of catching up with one of our presenters today, Kate Angelella.

Kate&CoffeeKate Angelella is a freelance writer and editor. She recently moved to Baltimore from NYC, where she had spent several years as an editor for Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, and reading for Donadio & Olson. Kate acquired many books at S&S– including 2009 Coretta Scott King /John Steptoe award-winner, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon. Kate has written work-for-hire books, such as Nancy Drew, and is currently at work on a new original YA novel.



Let’s get to the questions!

First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

I am a huge fan of beauty in simplicity: dark-roast coffee, black or with a little cream.


And your favorite snack?

There has never been a day that hasn’t been brightened by a plate of nachos. Especially the Drunken Sweeney nachos from Holy Frijoles. About 15 years ago, my husband brought me to that restaurant for our first Baltimore date (he’s from here). And 15 years later, that place is still standing—and thriving! It was one of our first meals the week we moved to Baltimore for good (a few months back).



(Adds Holy Frijoles to my list of places to check out!) What was your favorite book as a child?

JALAWTThere were so many! Early on, I was definitely obsessed with Just As Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. Then, when I was in high school, I read Francesca Lia Block’s The Hanged Man—that’s the book that really made me fall in love with writing.


I love Francesca Lia Block as well! So, what’s your favorite book as an adult?

I’m still completely in awe of both Francesca Lia Block and Judy Blume. So . . . not much has changed! Anything by Lauren Oliver, Holly Black, and the Wings trilogy by Aprilynne Pike are recent favorites.


You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

RodererEstateBrutNVHmmm. Well, I definitely like to spend money on events more than objects. So . . . I don’t know if this is necessarily frivolous . . . but I would most definitely get a bottle of Roderer Estate Brut Non-Vintage Champagne, some takeout I normally couldn’t afford, and bring it all home to share with my husband!






You’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open? 

That episode made me cringe! I would probably read something that I’m intrigued by, but that isn’t my usual cup of tea. Something like Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—which I bought years ago and still haven’t gotten around to reading.


If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now? 

I’d be a print journalist.


What’s your favorite motivational quote?

I’ve been really into C.S. Lewis lately. I love his quote about courage:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point. ”


If you could sum up your best advice for new writers or illustrators in only four words, what would it be?

Practice your craft.


Thanks again and we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

Thank YOU!!! J


Posted by: Shelley Koon | February 24, 2015

When critique groups go bad…

critique_groupsI talk quite a bit about the usefulness of critique groups and why both artists and writers need to seek them out.  From getting feedback to hone your craft, to forging strong relationships with your peers, the benefits of a good critique group are truly endless.

But what if you find yourself in a group that’s not assisting you in your growth? Or maybe you have a great group but have one member that, despite loving nurturing and support, continuously presents work with the same issues? How do you gracefully bow out? How do you let a member know they are not a good fit  while still remaining supportive and positive? Read More…

Posted by: Laura Bowers | February 20, 2015

Coffee & Conversation with Susan Raab of Raab Associates


Happy Friday, everyone! With our Spring: From the Bay to the Mountains Regional Conference now five weeks away … wow, seriously, only five weeks? … we’re kicking things off with our first Coffee & Conversation interview! First up is Susan Raab, president of Raab Associates which is dedicated to marketing children’s books and family products and working to promote the arts!

*But first, a brief reminder that today is the critique deadline! More info on that later.*

Susan photoNow, back to Susan Raab! She’s a Marketing Adviser to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; writes the “To Market” column for SCBWI’s Bulletin; and she’s the author of An Author’s Guide to Children’s Book Promotion.

Susan also consults on marketing and branding and reports on marketing trends on TV, radio, and in the press.

Susan Raab

In short, the lady knows her stuff and I can’t wait to take pages and pages of notes during her two sessions: Read More…

Just a quick heads up that tomorrow, Friday the 20th, is the deadline for submitting manuscript critiques, marketing consultations, and portfolio reviews for our upcoming Spring: From the Bay to the Mountains regional conference!

For instructions on how to submit, go here.

Also note that registration for the conference will close on March 19, 2015, for those who are not planning on getting a critique.

Happy writing and drawing and I can’t wait to see you at the conference!



Posted by: Laura Bowers | February 17, 2015

Guest Post: Authorial Doldrums by Mike Crowl

Oh, how I love it when regional members submit articles for us to share! After all, this blog represents everyone in the MD/DE/WV region, so it’s awesome being able to share different and fresh voices. If you’d like to contribute, check out our submission guidelines. We’re waiting to hear from you!

Today’s fresh voice comes from Mike Crowl, who not only crushed NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month,) by cranking out over 76,000 words … wow, that’s amazing! Congratulations, Mike! … he also shared what he experienced afterwards in the following post!


Authorial Doldrums

Coping With Post-NaNo-Withdrawal by Mike Crowl

I am a fidgety person. I have to keep my hands busy, or they might get bored and do something stupid. So, I build furniture, I try to play guitar, I draw, I work on my family tree, and of course, I write. Lately though, I find that the fidgets have found their way into my head. My mind has always wandered, but over the past couple of months, I’m not even sure where it has taken me. But alas, I think I have figured out what causes my malaise. It is withdrawal.

I scoffed at NaNoWriMo (Yes, I do accept that I am wrong about that now). How could I get excited about trying to write a whole book in a month? Seriously, no thank you. NaNo is not for me. Oh yeah? Well, I had an idea. I thought it through to the end. I outlined it. I entered that outline, chapter by chapter into Scrivener. And then, I sat there at 23:59 on Halloween, laptop balanced precariously between my knees (My eyes need the extra distance… I’m over fifty, you know.), fingers on the home keys, ready to go. I am prone to exaggeration from time to time, by the way.

I finished at just over 76,000 words by the time I was done with NaNo, and after my first revision. But as you all well know, I am not done. Oh no, I am not done. My manuscript is resting, like a roast waiting for the juices to distribute evenly throughout, bringing out the savory bits that taste oh so good. In other words, my wife has read my manuscript. My daughters (24 and 27) are reading it, and my manuscript is hanging out with a few of my colleagues in my critique group. I just can’t wait until I get feedback. In every case, I am sure their perspectives will help me make better gravy. (I shouldn’t write when I’m hungry.)

But all of these things take time. I was very excited about finishing my manuscript. I even enjoyed the first edit, the first revision, and even making a big ol’ change to one of my characters after my wife gave me that look. You know the one. But, it now must rest. How do I stay pumped up about my story? How do I keep up my energy level, so when my friends and colleagues come back with suggested changes, I don’t just say, “Whatever.” I have a few suggestions.

Design Your Book’s Cover

You can do this. I believe in you. I personally find this step REALLY satisfying, because I have something that I think is more tangible to me than a big ol’ Word file. Don’t get me wrong. Having that Word file makes me feel really good inside, because it represents a lot of hard work. I love that file. I back up that file. I open the file just to look at it. But it ain’t no book yet. If I make a cover, I get to start visualizing what my book could look like. I think having this visual lets me see what my book might look like on the shelves of Target next to Divergent or Mockingjay. Dream big! Target!

But believe me, this can be a real boost for those of us who are still writers, and not yet authors. And if you’re self-publishing, this step could save you millions of dollars! But the bottom line is, I want to know that this dream is achievable, and that someday, my name might be out there in public. Seeing that book cover with MY name at the bottom (because that’s where I chose to place my name on my cover) is motivating. I found some images in Google that suited my theme, picked one, cropped it, fiddled with it, found a font I liked for the title, and made it look like a real book.

And then, there’s the back cover. The back cover is where I get to practice telling people what my book is about. It’s good prep work for your query letter, to write that description of your book that you will see on the back of your dream book. I found that coming up with that description is one of the hardest parts of the process, but once I saw it on the back of my book, it was energizing. I had to get that right. I now find myself just looking at the covers (which I printed and slid inside the front and back covers of the loose-leaf notebook that houses my printed copy) to admire my work.

If you find this process daunting, there are a few websites out there that guide you step-by-step through the process. I found the one listed below to be very helpful, because Roseanna White, who happens to be a historical fiction author, does an excellent job of leading you through her thought process—why she chose a certain image, why she picked the colors she did, how she manipulated the image. It’s downright fun! Give it a look if you want to take a crack at making that cover.

Roseanna White: Book Cover Design: A Fair to Remember

Take Yourself to an Imaginary “Meet the Author” Event

No, I’ve not been drinking. So here’s where my mind has wandered for the past couple of weeks. I picture myself pacing at the edge of a stage, hundreds (okay, a dozen) of my new fans waiting for me to expound on my fictional world, telling the back story of how my characters met, or whatever. When I pause to take a breath, some guy in the back yells out, “Do you expect me to believe that your antagonist wouldn’t just shoot the hero?” Or maybe the teenage girl three rows back next to the guy in the Fozzie Ozborne T-shirt jumps up crying, “You fiend! I can’t believe you killed off Justin! He was my favorite character!”

Maybe you published authors out there have experienced this. But the reason I am going into the dream sequence is because I think there are some nagging questions inside my skull that are trying to tell me something. It’s those off-the-wall questions that my imaginary fans keep asking everywhere I go. They make me stop and think about it. What if I am in this predicament someday and someone does ask me a question like this? If I know my book, I can answer this question on the spot, no stammering, no hemming and hawing, no need to fake a heart attack—I can just answer it. If I can’t do that, maybe there is more work for me to do when I get my manuscript back from my colleagues. Maybe they will ask me the same question.

Now for some real entertainment, try to imagine what an elementary school class might ask you. Or, when you are in your metal folding chair trying to get comfortable at the library, what are the patrons saying to you while you are vandalizing their book with your signature? If there are imaginary parents with their children in line waiting for you to sign, what do you overhear them telling their kids about you? How many of those fans have dressed like your character to meet you in person? It’s fun. Go on, try it!

Cast the actors who will play your characters in your movie

You’re almost famous now… I have been wrestling with my manuscript as I get feedback from folks. “What does your character look like?” Well, I could describe him or her, but I chose not to. Now true, if my character has a fro-hawk, yellow eyes, and a scar that reaches from his ear to the opposite side of his mouth, I might want to mention that in my text. But, I can also let my reader decide, and that’s what I settled on for my manuscript. The question still bounces around in my empty cranium like a super ball though. What does my character look like?

I think, while I was writing my book, I started developing my own mental image of my protagonist, my antagonist, my friendtagonist, the parentagonists, and all the other agonists. That said, I couldn’t necessarily describe any of them in any detail. Hmmm.

Here’s something to do while you’re watching the Blacklist or American Idol—Go to your Google images search bar and type something like, “teenage boy hairstyles 2015,” or “girl,” or, “outdated,” or, “futuristic,” you get the idea. You will be presented with a wide array of images auditioning for the lead in your movie, and you will now know what your characters look like. Think of it as a police lineup. Your antagonist slapped you in the back of the head and stole your wallet. You are now standing behind the one-way glass while a plethora of characters is paraded in front of you. “That’s him!” you shout. “The second from the right, third row down.” See? It worked, didn’t it?

Try to contain yourself. . .

Now that you are suitably pumped, oozing with enthusiasm for your manuscript, ready to hit ‘Send’ on fifteen emails to agents, you need to just put down the Pinot and chill. Just a little while longer, I promise. Your colleagues, your friends, you family members, all want you to do well. They are taking very good care of your little manuscripts. They are picking up after them, changing their diapers, wiping their noses, and holding them after they’ve whacked their little manuscript heads on the corner of the kitchen counter. Be patient. Be cool. Be calm. But also be ready for their update when you get back from the movies. “You will not believe what your little manuscript did as soon as you walked out the door,” they say. And then, you can get back to work. The difference is, now you have something more tactile to aim for. Happy daydreaming!


Fantastic, thanks again, Mike, for this fantastic post! I’m looking forward to trying these suggestions after finishing my current work in progress.

Happy writing and drawing … and as Mike says, daydreaming, everyone! :)

Posted by: susandilldetwiler | February 13, 2015

Caldecott Winner

Dan and his family watching the ALA Awards

Dan and his family watching the ALA Awards

Winning the Randolph Caldecott Medal is a particular honor for an illustrator, and a personal fantasy of mine. THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated by Dan Santat, is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Dan Santat and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. I heard Dan speak at the SCBWI 2012 Winter Conference in NYC. He is charming and entertaining, and very, very talented.


So I thought I’d share with you an interview with author and illustrator Dan Santat, the 2015 winner of the Caldecott, on KPCC, public radio of Southern California in which he discusses his inspiration for the book, and the origin of the word “Beekle.”

Posted by: susandilldetwiler | February 10, 2015

ALA Awards

Hello, fellow writers and illustrators… it that time of year again: We can learn about what the industry thinks are the best books for young readers by reading and examining the books on this list — what a fun assignment!


As you may know, the American Library Association announced their 2015 Book and Media Award Winners at their recent Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.

Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, ALA awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s experts, the awards encourage original and creative work.

Here is a partial list of the 2015 winners:


John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

“The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander, is the 2015 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named:

“El Deafo” by Cece Bell, illustrated by Cece Bell and published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS.

“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.


Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

“The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” illustrated by Dan Santat, is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Dan Santat and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Six Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

“Nana in the City,” illustrated by Lauren Castillo, written by Lauren Castillo and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

“The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

“Sam & Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett and published by Candlewick Press.

“Viva Frida,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Yuyi Morales and published by Roaring Brook Press, a Neal Porter Book.

“The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

“This One Summer,” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki and published by First Second.


Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Three King Author Honor Books were selected:

Kwame Alexander for “The Crossover,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

Marilyn Nelson for “How I Discovered Poetry,” illustrated by Hadley Hooper and published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Books (USA) LLC.

Kekla Magoon for “How It Went Down,” published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

“Firebird,” illustrated by Christopher Myers, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Misty Copeland and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Two King Illustrator Honor Books were selected:

Christian Robinson for “Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” by Patricia Hruby Powell, published by Chronicle Books LLC.

Frank Morrison for “Little Melba and Her Big Trombone,” by Katheryn Russell-Brown, published by Lee and Low Books, Inc.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award:

“When I Was the Greatest,” written by Jason Reynolds, is the Steptoe winner. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Deborah D. Taylor is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton.

Taylor’s career in public service began more than 40 years ago with the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where she is currently coordinator of School and Student Services. Her career has been spent as mentor, educator and literacy advocate for young adults. As an inspiring young adult librarian, leader in national associations and university instructor, she has been distinctly effective in introducing young people and her professional colleagues to the outstanding work of African American authors.


Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

“I’ll Give You the Sun,” written by Jandy Nelson, is the 2015 Printz Award winner. The book is published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, a Penguin Random House Company.

Four Printz Honor Books also were named:

“And We Stay,” by Jenny Hubbard, and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., a Penguin Random House Company.

“The Carnival at Bray,” by Jessie Ann Foley, and published by Elephant Rock Books.

“Grasshopper Jungle,” by Andrew Smith, and published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, a Penguin Random House Company.

“This One Summer,” by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, and published by First Second.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:

“A BOY AND A JAGUAR” written by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, wins the award for children ages 0 to 10.

“RAIN REIGN” written by Ann M. Martin and published by A FEIWEL AND FRIENDS BOOK, is the winner of the middle-school (ages 11-13).

The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is “Girls Like Us,” written by Gail Giles and published by Candlewick Press.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The 2015 winner is Donald Crews, whose award-winning works include “Freight Train,” which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1979, and “Truck,” a Caldecott Honor Book in 1981. He has been consistently excellent with a wide range of titles, such as “Harbor,” “Parade,” “Shortcut” and “Bigmama’s,” all published by Greenwillow Books.


For the complete list and for more about the American Library Association, please visit their website.



Posted by: Susan Mannix | February 4, 2015

Mid-week Reminders

Happy Wednesday everyone! I trust you all are recovered from your Super Sunday parties and are back at it, pouring your all into your craft. I had a living room filled with teenage girls who ate their fair share of junk food and hung on just about every play. I actually heard someone say recently that most women only watch the big game for the commercials. Not in my house!

Now that it’s February, we can officially say our conference is next month.


Have you registered? You better! We wouldn’t want you to miss out on our fabulous speakers and the lovely setting at the Bishop Claggett Center.  Remember, the deadline for submitting materials for critiques, marketing consultation and portfolio reviews is February 18th. Reviewers will be assigned on a first-come first-serve, so don’t wait until the last minute. You can find all the submission guidelines on the registration page linked above.

Now get to work and get those submissions in!

Posted by: Susan Mannix | February 1, 2015

Super Sunday Reminder

Tired of Deflategate? Or are you completely stoked for the Seahawks-Patriots matchup? Either way, before you settled in to watch the big game, don’t forget to head over to our friends at the SCBWI Eastern PA blog. As Shelley told you last week, the EasternPennPoints will feature artwork and/or poetry by their members everyday for the month of February. In the words of blog coordinator Lindsay Bandy, “The theme is LOVE in any and every form!


Have a great day!

Posted by: Shelley Koon | January 29, 2015

Love’s in the air at the SCBWI Eastern PA Chapter

I get the honor today of making an exciting announcement from one of our neighboring SCBWI chapters!  Lindsay Bandy, blog coordinator for the SCBWI Eastern PA Chapter, has sent an invite on behalf of her chapter to come check out their February art and poetry blog event, #Love Made Visible.


They will be featuring art and poetry from their members each day in February that will follow the theme of love in any and every form.  There will also be a few giveaways, so go check the Eastern PA chapter event out starting February first at EasternPennPoints.


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