Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Current Scratch: Join Us, SCBWI Conference Recap, Why go to a Writer's Conference, Upcoming Events, Recommended Resources, What I'm Reading

  Hello, hello...

 Since there was no Scratch in February or March I promise this April Scratch will be filled to the brim with interesting news and helpful information. If you are a living, breathing being you are probably holed up in your house hiding from the pollen in an attempt to keep breathing and remain living. Hopefully the info in this Mega-Scratch will help you make the most of your writing time. And since April is national poetry month you can work on a nice poem about the yellow dust raining down from upon high (maybe that is where Phillip Pullman got his inspiration from!). Enjoy!

Join Us

Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 26th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble. April is National Poetry Month so we will be talking about, you got it, poetry. Please feel free to bring a poem to share and discuss. It can be one you have authored or one you enjoy written by someone else. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant afterwards.

Note: Our meetings are open to members and non-members. If you are interested in SCBWI or children's literature in general attending is a great way to meet our community and get your feet wet. 

SCBWI Brazos Valley Conference Re-cap (Brazos Valley Bloomed!)

I'm very happy to state that the Brazos Valley Blooms conference celebrating the first 25 years of the Brazos Valley SCBWI chapter was a great success. Many thanks to our RA Liz Mertz and everyone on the conference committee for all the hard work.  And thank you to everyone who donated items for the silent auctions. For those of you who were unable to attend, here is a quick recap of the day's events. 

Panel on the history of Brazos Valley's SCBWI chapter

Founding members Kathi Appelt, Donna Cooner, Debbie Leland, Kathy Whitehead and Liz Mertz told the crowd about how our chapter started out as a small writing group and then, at the insistence and persistence of the members was eventually incorporated into the SCBWI family. Pretty impressive considering that we are one of only five chapters in all of Texas and two of them are nearby Austin and Houston!

Character Matters - Kathi Appelt

SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference Brazos Valley Blooms, Kathi Appelt

Award winning author Kathi Appelt walked us through a dynamic talk about the importance of creating fully developed characters with controlling beliefs and goals. We broke out the whiteboard and markers for this one!

Writing with Pictures - E.B. Lewis 

SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference Brazos Valley Blooms, E.B.Lewis

"Artistrator" E.B. Lewis gave us an invaluable look into the way illustrators think about and perform their craft. He showed us several examples of "before and after" illustrations from students in his classes that helped clearly illustrate (pardon the pun) key factors illustrators should consider. He also cleared up one of the biggest misconceptions among would-be children's authors by stating that, if you go the traditional publishing route, you will not get to choose or directly communicate with the illustrator. 

Going from Idea to Manuscript - Karen Boss

Editor Karen Boss (Charlesbridge) spoke about avoiding major no-no's in children's books such as didacticism and nostalgia and led us in an exercise designed to have us think about our main character from a different angle. 

Lunch and Cake

During lunch people mingled and talked and we feasted on a 25th anniversary cake made by yours truly. A big anniversary for a group of creative people deserves an big and creative cake! It was so big we only ate our way through the 2 and the 5 was later served at the Twin City Mission soup kitchen in Bryan. 

The Journey to Writting a Buzz Worthy Novel - Donna Cooner

Founding member Donna Cooner gave an emotional talk in which she explained how she took personal experiences and shaped them into her novel "Skinny." She then gave us all a taste of life as an author in the social media age explaining how she turned the online attention she got from "Skinny" into her next novel "Can't Look Away." 

Perseverance through Process- Jennifer March Soloway 

SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference Brazos Valley Blooms, Jennifer March Soloway

Up and coming agent Jennifer March Soloway helped us see the publishing process from an agent's point of view. She hammered in what Karen Boss had previously stated: don't resist, revise! While we were waiting for the illustrator break out to wrap up Jennifer March Soloway held an impromptu Q&A candidly answering many specific questions about the submission process.

First Impressions 

SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference Brazos Valley Blooms, Keynote speakers

Our guest speakers read several submissions of 150 words across all genres. Hearing honest critiques from authors, an illustrator, agent and editor was a great learning experience for the audience.  Afterwards the panel answered a variety of questions from the audience. 

And then we all left inspired and ready to read, write and draw. See you next conference!

 Why go to a Writing Conference?

Did the above re-cap pique your interest in attending a writing conference? There are a plethora of reasons to attend, whether you're just starting out or are an experienced writer and conference goer. Though the reasons below were written regarding our Brazos Valley Blooms conference they are applicable to most writers conferences. If you're interested in learning more about conferences, how to choose one and how to make the most out of one check out episodes 44 (March 24th) and 45 March 31st) of the Writing for Children podcast

SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference, Reasons to attend a writer's conference
A conference is full of a self-selected population that loves exactly what you love. What better place to make new connections and reconnect with old ones? Yes, you could potentially find an agent or get a contract at a conference. But more likely you will meet a new writing partner, someone to start a critique group with, or even a future mentor. Note:  It is best to go to conferences alone or at least with the tacit understanding that you will be breaking away from your conference buddy in order to make new connections. 
SCBWI Brazos Valley 2017 Conference, Reasons to attend a writer's conference

SCBWI Brazos Valley Romy Natalia Goldberg Bilingual Children's Writer

While many newcomers may be attracted to the larger conferences on the calendar (such as SCBWI's summer conference in LA and winter conference in New York) smaller conferences shouldn't be avoided. They can be less overwhelming and offer more opportunities to connect with fellow conference goers and talk directly with speakers (in the Writing for Children podcast the host points out that contact between speakers and the audience is purposefully restricted at larger conferences). 

Do you have any tips on choosing or attending writers conferences? Please share them in the comments or on our Brazos Valley SCBWI Facebook group! And check out Upcoming Events below for a list of upcoming conferences both near and far.

Crystal Kite Award Voting

Voting has commenced for this year's Crystal Kite Award. Check out this year's nominees and cast you vote (open only to SCBWI members) here: https://www.scbwi.org/crystalkite-results/

Upcoming Events

Community Events

Brazos Valley Reads: Jennifer Clement, Prayers for the Stolen­­—Clement will read from her novel on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, College Station, Texas. Clement will meet with readers and sign books following the event. More information at Brazos Valley Reads.

Meet the Authors Day at the Clara B. Mounce Public Library—Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10am – noon, 201 E. 26th St., Bryan, Texas. To be involved as an author, contact Peggy Noynaert at 979-209-5622 or email pnoynaert@bryantx.gov by April 24. 

Artist Reception for fellow member Candi Fite—5 p.m.-7 p.m.­ May 27, at Back Lot Gallery, 308 S. Park St, Brenham, Texas 77833.

Workshops & Craft

like i care – novel comprehensive with Lorin Oberweger—April 15, 
9 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Norris Center, 9990 Richmond Ave., Suite 102 - Houston, TX 77042. Register online here

Webinar: Beyond the Query Letter with Agent Carrie Howland—Tuesday, April 18, 7-8:30 p.m., $10 SCBWI members; $35 non-members. Register online here

Waco Critique Group—Saturday, May 6, 3-5 p.m., at Hewitt Public Library, free.
Monthly Meeting: Poetry—April 26, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., at the College Station Barnes & Noble. See Join Us above for more info.


Texas Library Association Conference—April 19-22 in San Antonio, Exhibits Only one-day pass is $25. SCBWI Texas chapters have booth #2405. Brazos Valley authors at TLA include Kathi Appelt, signing in the author area 10:30-11:30 April 20, and Sherry Garland, signing in booth #1232. More details here.  

Austin 2017 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference—May 20-21, register online here.

The Brazos Valley Book Festival is set for Sept. 23, 2017. We will have an SCBWI Brazos Valley table at the festival. Please contact Liz Mertz at brazosvalley@scbwi.com as soon as possible if you want to participate. The hours will be from 9 am to 2 pm, so we could set up shifts if we have several members sign up. For more details, keep an eye on the website http://brazosvalley.bookfestival.network/

The SCBWI Houston conference will be the weekend of October 7-8, 2017. The keynote speaker is Bruce Coville, who will also give a writing intensive on that Sunday.


#KIDPIT TWITTER PITCH April 5th, 9am-3pm Central, Pitch your board book, PB, CB, MG, or YA.

#DVPIT April 25, 8am-8pm Eastern, Pitch your diverse childrens/teen fiction or nonfiction  between 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Recommended Resources

Thanks to everyone in the group for sharing these resources over the past few months.   
Kid Lit 411 is chock full of information for writers and illustrators across all genres of kid lit. Check out the Facebook Group and sign up for the e-newsletter. 

The Creative Penn Podcast hosted by Joanna Penn. While she isn't a children's author she does offer good insights into writing and marketing. Also she is an indie publisher and has a great UK accent. Episodes can be heard via podcast or watched via Youtube. 

Writing for Children Podcast I mentioned this one earlier in the scratch. Covers lots of topics specific to kid lit and has lots of useful links in the episode notes. Episodes are short and to the point. 

The Horn Book free newsletters are a great way to stay up to date with the world of kids publishing. This falls under one of those "things every new author ought to know" category along with the School Library Journal enewsletters.

What I'm Reading

I came back from the National Latino Children's Literature Conference with a list and stack of books to read a mile high. Here are some of the one's I'm most excited about so far. 

Juana Y Lucas 

The 2017 Pura Belpré winner is a super cute chapter book about a girl in Colombia learning English (the book is written in English with Spanish words scattered throughout). Check out the SLJ review here. This book was recommended to me by Karen Boss who spoke at our Brazos Valley Blooms conference.  

The Smoking Mirror: Garza Twins Book One

When I asked around for authors that delve into indigenous culture someone suggested I check out David Bowles' Smoking Mirror series. Turns out David Bowles was actually at the conference! During his presentation he pointed out that many publishing companies that specialize in Latino literature have shied away from science fiction/fantasy, considering it a niche within a niche. The story works in a lot of Aztec mythology. This series works in Book One won the Pura Belpré Honor Award in 2016 and Book Two was recently released. Here is a review of Book One

I know the River Loves Me

One of the sessions I went to was about the work of author and activist Maya Cristina Gonzalez. We read through this bilingual picture book and I really enjoyed it. I love the environmental message in the book. It would make for a great read before Earth Day.

That's it for now. See you next Scratch!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Latest Scratch: Join us, Brazos Valley Blooms Updates, Industry News

Hello, hello...

It's 2017, y'all! Time to kick things into gear with preparations for our March conference and much more.

Join Us

Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble. We will kick off the new year by talking about "Defining Goals."  We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome. 

Brazos Valley Blooms Updates 

First and foremost, the website for our March 4th conference is: https://brazosvalley.scbwi.org/events/regional-conference/ Please share this link with anyone looking for more information on the conference and registration. 

 Help Spread the Word

 We have a poster! Help as many people see it as possible by sharing it via email and social media and posting/distributing printed copies at your local libraries, coffee shops, schools and universities. Download and share the image file below or email brazosvalley@scbwi.org for a PDF and printouts.

Critique deadlines

The submission deadline is Jan. 21 for critiques at our March 4 conference. Critiques with Karen Boss have sold out but there are still slots available with Soloway and Cooner.  Register today!

Volunteers Needed

We are still in need of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering contact Liz Mertz at brazosvalley@scbwi.org. Task we could use help with include:
  • Gather door prizes and silent auction items
  • Stand watch over the illustrators portfolio showcase (during the conference)
  • Make name tags
  • Assemble gift bags
  • Prepare baked goods/snacks for the conference
  •  Stuff folders 
  • Greeters at the conference
  •  Drivers for faculty (or  you can donate fund for a shuttle ride)

Donations Needed

We will be putting together welcome gift bags for our five speakers before the conference. Donating the following items is the easiest way to help us out:
  •  Tissue packets 
  • Mini hand sanitizer 
  • Chapstick
  • Granola bars
  • Waters
  • Savory snack (cheese & crackers, nuts, etc) 

 Other Industry News

  • Julia Churchill, who heads up the children's division at A.M. Heath, is looking for new talent among children's and YA authors. More info at: http://amheath.com/childrens
  • Storey Publishing, based in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, is looking to grow their children's non-fiction book program with new titles that teach and inspire kids to explore, learn, cook, grow, and get creative. We publish books about nature, farming, animals, sustainability, self sufficiency, outdoor science, DIY, crafts, puzzles, games, and activities. We are looking for authors and author/illustrators or author/photographers with strong platforms and expertise and we are open to unique formats and interactivity. Submissions can be addressed to Deanna F. Cook, Storey Publishing. By e-mail: submissions@storey.com (We prefer email attachments as Word .doc files or PDFs).  Or, by mail: Storey Publishing LLC, 210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts 01247 (Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you would like your materials returned.)
    For full proposal guidelines, go to http://www.storey.com/proposal-guidelines/
  • Check out this December New York Times interview with authors Meg Medina and R.J. Palacio about diversity in children's books. 

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of the SCBWI.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Current Scratch: Join Us, (Mostly) Annual Conference, Local Events, 2016 Best Children's Books, Market Your Book

Join Us! 

Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble (if you'd like to see us before then come to the holiday party - see info in next section). Topic: Make 2017 Goals. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome.

Annual Conference

Brazos Valley Blooms -- SCBWI-BV 25th Annual Conference!

REGISTRATION BEGINS December 15, 2017.  You will want to jump in early for this one. Prepare for keynotes, manuscript consultations, portfolio showcase, box lunch, dinner(pay your own way)...

Date:  March 4, 2017
Time: 8 a.m. (registration) to 5 p.m.
Place: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 220 Rock Prairie Road, College Station, TX 77845


Kathi Appelt, award-winning author

Kathi's books have won numerous national and state awards, including the Irma and Simon Black Award, Children’s Choice Award, Teacher’s Choice Award, the Oppenheimer Gold Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Storytelling World Award, Growing Good Kids Award, Texas Writer’s League Award for Children’s Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Award, Best Books for Young Adults, VOYA Top of the Shelf Award, and a host of others. Kathi is a founding member of SCBWI Brazos Valley

Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the Pen USA Award, and was a finalist for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award.  www.kathiappelt.com

Associate Editor: Karen Boss, Charlesbridge Publishing

"Karen is an associate editor at Charlesbridge where she works on fiction and nonfiction picture books and middle-grade novels. She holds a MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and regularly acts as a mentor for their Writing for Children MFA program. Karen also has an MA in higher education administration and worked at colleges and in the nonprofit sector for the first 15 years of her career. She still works part-time in development at Hyde Square Task Force, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth in Jamaica Plain. Some authors she’s currently working with are David L. Harrison, Jane Yolen, Nancy Bo Flood, Rich Michelson, and debut author Tami Charles. Her favorite children’s book is The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, and she thinks that Holes by Louis Sachar is quite possibly the best thing ever written."

excerpt from www.highlights foundation.org. 
Hornbook Interview-podcast

Donna Cooner, award-winning author

Donna, a Texas native, is a three-time graduate of Texas A&M University. A former teacher and school administrator, she now teaches teachers and principals at Colorado State University where she is the director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her two labs and a cat named Stu. She's a big fan of chocolate and laughing (not necessarily in that order).

Donna is the author of over twenty picture books and was a founding member of the Brazos Valley Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators. She has also written children's television shows for PBS and textbooks for future teachers. SKINNY was her debut novel for young adults, followed by CAN'T LOOK AWAY. www.donnacooner.com

E.B. Lewis, award winning-Artistrator

E.B. has illustrated over seventy books for children, including Nikki Grimes’ Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner; Alice Schertle’s Down the Road, an ALA Notable Book; Tolowa M. Mollel’s My Rows and Piles of Coins, an ALA Notable Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Bat Boy and His Violin by Garvin Curtis a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side, a 2002 Notable Book for the Language Arts.  www.eblewis.com

Associate Literary Agent: Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Agency

Jennifer works closely with Executive Agent Laura Rennert. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult.

Jennifer is a suspense junkie. She adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries, full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! She’s a sucker for conspiracy plots where anyone might be a double agent, even the kid next door. She is a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined. But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. In such stories, she is particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative.

Nearby Lodging:

La Quinta Inn & Suites College Station South
1838 Graham Rd, College Station, TX 77845
Phone:(979) 704-6100

Sleep Inn & Suites
Address: 1846 Graham Rd, College Station, TX 77845
Phone:(800) 424-6423

Courtyard Bryan and College Station
3939 Texas 6 Frontage Rd, College Station, TX 77845
(979) 695-8111


2016 Best Children's Books

Market Your Book

Manuscript Wish List   --  The official website. 

Hope you are ready for a fabulous new year!!!!

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of the SCBWI.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Current Scratch: Join Us, Local Events and Brazos Valley Blooms Volunteering, The Snowy Day

Time to scratch that holiday itch! 'Tis the season for books about snow, celebrations and, if you're from around here, Christmas tamales...yum. Hope 2016 ends well for everyone. Great things are going to happen for SCBWI Brazos Valley in 2017! Read on...   

Join us

Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble (if you'd like to see us before then come to the holiday party - see info in next section). Topic TBD. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome.

Local/Regional Events 

SCBWI Holiday Party! - Dec 6th
Please join us at the Olive Garden on Tuesday, December 6th at 7pm. Spouses are welcome. We'll play some games, catch up, and wish each other a new year full of brilliant ideas and the time to put them in print!
Please bring a wrapped book for the gift exchange and blankets and new and gently used books for children for our annual donation. Follow this link for more info about Books and a Blanket. Each participant pays for his or her own food and beverages.

Brazos Valley SCBWI Conference - March 4th
Yes, you read that correctly, we will be hosting a conference here in March! The conference name is "Brazos Valley Blooms: Celebrating Our First 25 Years Creating for Kids." Registration will open soon. See below for ways you can help us make it a great success. 

Brazos Valley Blooms Volunteering

Have you been searching for a new year's resolution? How about resolving to help with the upcoming SCBWI Brazos Valley regional conference? Signing up early for a volunteer task or position will help the organizers plan in advance and keep things running smoothly. 
We have volunteer opportunities for all types:

  • Gather door prizes and silent auction items
  • Stand watch over the illustrators portfolio showcase (during the conference)
  • Make name tags
  • Assemble gift bags
  • Prepare baked goods/snacks for the conference
  •  Stuff folders
  • Greeters at the conference
  • Drivers for faculty (or  you can donate fund for a shuttle ride)
  • Bookstore liason
More money than free time? You can donate funds for
  • Airport shuttle for our speakers
  • Snacks/food, coffee & tea to server at conference
Minimalist with too many Christmas presents?
  • Consider regifting presents that were nice but just not your style to our silent auction
Don't live near B/CS?
  • Help spread the word about the conference in your town/community. Please sign up to put up flyers in your local bookstores, coffee shops, schools, etc and share the conference info throughout your social circle via email, social media, etc.
Stay tuned for more info!

The Snowy Day

This morning NPR aired a wonderful story on the story of the story behind the classic children's book "The Snowy Day." Sorry, I couldn't help myself. To clarify, the piece was about "A Poem for Peter," written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, which covers the life of Ezra Jack Keats and the creation of "The Snowy Day." Give it a listen here.

That's it for this month's Scratch. Happy holidays!

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of the SCBWI.