Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Nano Time. Quotes to keep you writing

By Susan J. Berger

It's NaNoWriMo time again.   I am following Dawn Knobbe's lead  and using this years' NaNo to make last years novel into a readable 2nd/3rd draft.
She also did a post on inspirational quotes for NaNoWriMo.
If you've never tried National Novel Month, it's a great way to get a first draft. Deadline is everything . You have thirty days to do it.

This isn't about being perfect. It's about getting the words out. If you get the words out, the story will come. I guarantee there will be lots of surprises.

"Here's the bottom line; writers write. Sometimes words flow easily. Sometimes it's like sloughing through mud. Either way a professional writer keeps writing."
 "A word after a word after a word is power." - Margaret Atwood

Dory and I have so much in common. I often stop to Google.

“Don't worry about what you're writing or whether it's good or even whether it makes sense.” 
Lauren Oliver
“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
Ray Bradbury.
Advice from a Hollywood NaNoWriMo coordinator.
"When all else fails, throw in a Zombie."
Will you revise after NaNoWriMo? Of course, but right now the trick is meeting the deadline.
"There's an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention.”
Chris Baty
“You can't edit a blank page”
Happy writing.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Dispatch #29: Time Travel

by Lupe Fernandez

This is a well-worn and well written subject in science fiction and fantasy literature with many conventions and paradoxes. So here’s my contribution. Facebook. Yes. Facebook. I do recall a YA novel that uses Facebook as a time travel device. But my story is real.

Sort of. I graduated from Sunset High School in Hayward CA in 1980. Thirty four years ago. Recently, alumni have been having a virtual reunion on Facebook. Comments about “hey remember when...” or “Whatever happened to…” or “what’s that fun…” and many oaths of fealty and promises of meeting. Whenever I look at their faces, aged though they may be, I see a time machine. I remember these people as they were, or rather as I observed them. I don’t know them today. I don’t know what forces, what emotional changes, what psychic wounds changed them, molded their political, spiritual and any other kind of attitudes.

I’m naive. I expected them to share my flaming liberal views. When I read comments of a conservative bend, I wonder “wait? Is this the person who smoked in the quad, made out on the band bus, drank copious amounts of liquor, picked a fight, dressed fashionable, danced salaciously…you get the idea. See, I’m naive.

I didn’t know them even when I was in school with them. I saw only the surface. I didn’t even know my own mind. It was too cluttered with regret, anger, longing, loneliness, lust, quizzes, homework, Corn Flakes, white bread, science fiction books and girls.

Now zoom across the decades, past Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, The Commies, New Wave, Grudge, OJ, Space Shuttle, 9/11, computers, Blackberries, Star mail, the Internet, DVDs, apartments, UCLA Extension, query letters, SCBWI, marriage, daughters, cats, etc…

I could not have foreseen that my wife was in my journalism class. That her maid of honor would be her best friend. That I would be related by marriage to a football player in biology class. That said football player’s son would date my stepdaughter in high school. That another alumnus would be an elementary teacher for my nephew. That another alumnus would officiate my marriage. That I would live in the shadow of Mt. Diablo with a million dollar view.

I am rich in memories. I still dream about high school. I’m late. I don’t know what class I’m supposed to be in. An important assignment is due, but I can’t remember what it is. When I’m awake, I still have unanswered questions about high school. Why did my first girlfriend break up with me after a week? Yes, I’ve written about this before. I still don’t have an answer.

I could list names of the Class of 1980, but they would be foreign to most readers. Yet, to me, their names are pregnant with a moment, a song, a noise and regret.

I’ve covered all the four basic food groups of high school. Girls. Class. Homework. Cafeteria. What this post needs is sensory detail, so now a paragraph of memory, back in time. 

I’m in line at lunch. Trays clatter. Stainless steel lids clang over heated lunch trays. It’s Sloppy Joes. Ground beef cooked in tomato sauce with spices. I’m a few people down from a marching band trombone player. He slides his tray in front of his ex-girlfriend serving behind the counter. Her plastic gloves crinkle as she hands him his lunch. He looks blankly at her. She won't look at him, thinking of what they were, what might have been and what they are now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Are You Getting Out There?

 by Hilde Garcia

For a while, I wasn’t. I just didn’t think anyone should be reading my work-in-progress or even would want to read it.  Then as I was cleaning out an old writing file, I found SCBWI’s Awards and Grants Flyer. 

And it got me thinking.  Why not? Why not have someone read my work-in-progress?  Why not apply again?  I had a long, long time ago, when my story was in its infancy, and I wasn’t selected, so in a drawer went the file and the flyer and possibly some of my hope too.

I didn’t realize how many other options are available now and what a huge opportunity to jumpstart the publishing process for me.

Therefore, whether you knew about them or not, here are SCBWI’s Awards and Grants!  With so many ways to make a difference in your writing, why not take the plunge?

SCBWI’s guidance and support makes publication a tangible reality.  I’m so honored to be a member.

I'll be submitting before the year is done, hope you do as well.

Happy Submitting!

The SCBWI established the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award in 2012 with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation. The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.

Applications accepted between September 15th and November 15th, 2014
Two writers or writer/illustrators will each receive:
1. All-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA: August 1-4, 2015 (transportation and hotel)
2. Tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference
3. A manuscript consultation at the Summer Conference with an industry professional
4. An additional meeting with an industry professional
5. Tuition to the Summer Conference Writers or Illustrators Intensive6.
6. A press release 

Any writer or writer/illustrator from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America. (American Indian, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander)
The manuscript must be an original work written in English for young readers and may not be under contract.  The applicant must be over 18, be unpublished, and should not yet have representation.
All applications will be accepted via email only between September 15th and November 15th at and must include the following:
In the body of the e-mail:
1. An autobiographical statement and career summary in less than 250 words.
2. Why your work will bring forward an underrepresented voice in less than 250 words.
3. A synopsis of your manuscript in less than 250 words. 

Attached to the e-mail:
4. A PDF of your entire manuscript.  If the manuscript is not complete, it is not eligible.

The winners will be announced December 19, 2014 and the award presented at the 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 1-4.  
When your work is published the author/illustrator should include in the acknowledgement "This book was made possible in part by a grant from SCBWI."


The Work-in-Progress Award showcases outstanding manuscripts from the members of the SCBWI. The selected works will receive a special platform to be showcased to the most prestigious publishing houses in the field.  We will choose 1 winner and up to 5 honorable mentions in each of the following 6 categories.

      Picture Book Text
Chapter Books/Early Readers
Middle Grade
Young Adult Fiction
Multi-Cultural Fiction or Nonfiction

The works submitted by winners and honorable mention recipients will be made available on a secure webpage and presented to a hand-selected group of editors for their consideration. Although this is not a guarantee of publication, the opportunity to have your work presented to acquiring editors, along with an SCBWI endorsement, is a rare and much prized opportunity.

Applications may be submitted March 1-March 31, 2015. Winners will be announced in September.

  1. You must be a current SCBWI member when your work is submitted and when the award is announced in September.
  2. You may not submit a work that is under contract.  If the work becomes under contract before the award is announced, you will become ineligible.
  3. You may submit to only one WIP grant category per year.
  4. The grant is open to authors with a current work-in-progress. Illustrators can apply for one of the Don Freeman Grants.

1.     You must submit your application electronically in the form of ONE PDF.


1. A first page that contains:
  • Your name
  • Manuscript Title
  • Grant Category
  • A double-spaced synopsis, max 250 words

2. The first 10 pages of your completed manuscript.
  •  Your manuscript must be double-spaced and cannot exceed 10 pages.

3. Title the PDF with your name (first_last.pdf)
  • Email your completed application to:
  • Put the category you are applying to in the subject line of the email
  • Put your full name and the name of your manuscript in the body of the email.
  • Send the PDF as an attachment to your email

Email your completed application to:
Karen Cushman


The Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award is for authors over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children’s literature field. The grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Karen published her first children’s book, The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists.
"This award was established to encourage and celebrate late bloomers like me, who didn't start to write until age fifty.  But then I bloomed, and I'd love to see others do so as well,” said Karen.
SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver agreed, “One of the great aspects of writing children’s books is that it’s not age-restrictive. The SCBWI hopes an individual’s creative expression can make a valuable contribution, no matter what his or her age.”
The award is open to unpublished children’s book authors or author/illustrators over the age of fifty, and one winner will be chosen from the pool of those who have submitted material for the SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grants. 
About Karen Cushman
Karen Cushman is the author of The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), Catherine, Called Birdy (a Newbery Honor book), The Ballad of Lucy Whipple (winner of the John and Patricia Beatty Award), and her latest book,Will Sparrow's Road (Clarion 2012). Karen lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington.  To learn more about Karen visit

Submitted through the Work-In-Progress application from March 1-31.

$500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference anywhere in the world.

1. You must be a current member.
2. The award is open to unpublished writers and writer/illustrators fifty years of age and older.
3. Applicants send an additional email with the same Work-in-Progress grant application they have already submitted to: with "Cushman" in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email. (You will be sending two emails to the same address with the same attachment but different subject lines.)
4. The applicant cannot have been published or have a project under contract in the children’s book field. 
All Work-In-Progress Grant guidelines apply.
The final judging will be by a committee including Karen Cushman and Lin Oliver.


Book Launch Award- Provides authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to help the promotion of their newly published work and take the marketing strategy into their own creative hands. 

Crystal Kite Award- Peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. 

Golden Kite Award- Instituted in 1973, the Golden Kite Awards are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. The Golden Kite Awards recognize excellence in children’s literatures in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration. 

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen MId-List Author Grant- Critically acclaimed children’s book author Jane Yolen created this grant to honor the contribution of mid-list authors. 

Magazine Merit Award- For original magazine work for young people in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, illustration, and poetry. 

Martha Weston Grant- The Martha Weston Grant was established by the Hairston Family to remember author/illustrator Martha Weston. The grant helps authors and illustrators who want to switch children's book genres.

Martha Weston

Sid Fleischman Award- Given with the Golden Kite Awards, an award for exemplary writing for children in the genre of humor.

Sid Fleischman
Spark Award- An annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.

Work-In-Progress Award- To assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the publication of a specific project currently not under contract. Given in the categories of: Picture Book Text, Chapter Books/Early Fiction, Middle Grade, Young Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, and Multi-Cultural Fiction or Nonfiction.

Amber Brown- The Amber Brown Grant commemorates author and beloved school speaker, Paula Danziger.  Two schools are awarded each year with an author or illustrator visit and new books to continue Paula’s love of connecting children with creative influences.
Paula Danzinger

Tribute Fund- The SCBWI Tribute Fund commemorates members of the children’s book community, their lives, and their work by funding all-expense scholarships to the SCBWI International Summer and Winter Conferences for the general membership. 

Not a member of SCBWI?  Join and take advantage of the opportunities that await you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spooky Good Reads for Halloween

by Kris Kahrs and Susan J. Berger

Gather round Chickens! The Pen and Ink Blog has compiled a list of spooky good reads for you and the kidlets this Halloween. So, chuck the candy, pull up a stool, grab a swig of apple cider and read on...

Monstore by Tara Lazar, Illustrated by James Burke (2013)

Monstore, a Crystal Kite finalist, is currently 1.99 for your Kindle App on Amazon. (Hurry)
We read this last Saturday at Reading to Kids. Big hit with kids and readers.

The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her.
But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.


Ten Little Tricksters by Penelope Cole, illustrated by Kevin Collier. 2014

The art of learning how to count both backwards and forward is a milestone for children. Pair it with the antics of Halloween and a classic children’s book is born. Each group of Halloween characters approach a different house at various times, each clustered in the number they represent. Find out how the fun-filled adventure concludes for these Halloween creatures in Ten Little Tricksters.
Also available as a PDF for 5.00 at Guardian Angel Publishing

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley (1992) 

Pre-K and up. This die cut book is a lot of fun to read to kids. As you turn the pages, the monster grows piece by piece and as you keep going, the kids get to interactively tell the monster off and it disappears bit by bit.

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and S.D. Schindler (Aug 9, 2005)

Ages three and up. You can just imagine the problems of a skeleton with hiccups. Now imagine how difficult it would be for him trying the various methods of getting rid of the hiccups and you'll have an idea how visually funny this book is!

The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey (Sep 1, 1999)

Ages four and up. Oscar the Dachshund gets a special costume from his mom to wear for Halloween. One problem -- it a hot dog costume and guess who's supposed to be the wiener that goes inside the bun? By the author of Captain Underpants.


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Aug 25, 2003)

Ages four and up. A rhyming story of a witch and the friends she picks up as she flies through the night. Is there room for one more? You have to read it to find out!

The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo (Aug 3, 2010)

Ages Kindergarten and up. Rhode Montijo is the author and illustrator of this superhero story of The Halloween Kid and how he keeps Halloween safe for all. The retro illustrations are the real treat.

Bone Soup by Cambria Evans (Sep 8, 2008)

Ages 6 and up. This is the Halloween version of the old tale "Stone Soup". A story I still tell to my son at night. In this retelling, Finnigin the always hungry skeleton is looking for his next meal on Halloween and needs to convince the townspeople to share a meal with him.

Sounds Spooky by Christopher Cheng and Sarah Davis (May 1, 2012)

Ages 5 and up. SCBWI homeboy, Christopher Cheng's book Sounds Spooky is the perfect read for Halloween. He uses the Onomatopoeia of words to help the reader hear the sound as well as set the tone for the story.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt) by John Bellairs and Edward Gorey (Aug 3, 2004)

Ages 8 and up. A deliciously chilling tale for the older crowd, John Bellairs writes a couple of different series for this age group that are thrilling but not too scary and that have an upbeat resolution. At 179 pages, you won't finish reading this to the kids on Halloween, but the good news is that they'll keep coming back night after night asking you to read more.

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham (Aug 7, 2012)

Ages two and up. This is a charming, funny read. Being a ballerina is every girl's dream, especially so for Vampirina, but this little dancer has the extra challenge of also being one of the undead.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown (Aug 21, 2012)

Ages 4 and up. How would you feel if your favorite snack all of a sudden became alive and started stalking you? That will give you a good idea of what happened to Jasper Rabbit one day while noshing on his crunchy treat. There's some lovely illustrations you'll enjoy, parodying cinematic classics. Put down the cupcake and back away slowly.


In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories (I Can Read) by Alvin Schwartz. Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer (1985)

An oldie, but goody. This level two reader was my second grader's favorite chapter book.
From The School Library Journal: This collection of short stories (HarperCollins, 1984) retold by Alvin Schwartz are just creepy enough to give youngsters shivers without causing nightmares. The seven tales were collected from a variety of sources and include some classics such as "The Green Ribbon" (holding on a severed head) and "The Night It Rained" (a man discovers that his hitchhiker was a ghost)

Margot Finke just reminded me of The Revenge of Thelma Hill by Margot Fink. Illustrated by Algy Wilson. While not strictly a Halloween book, it's a spooky enjoyable ghost story.
Also Anne Loader McGee is having a signing of The Mystery at Marlatt Manor on Sunday October 26, 2014 from 4-6 PM at the “$10 or Less Bookstore” 9054 Tampa Ave, Northridge 91324, Tel: 818.701.0047. The store will also be hosting their VILLAIN Storytime from 2:30-3:30 PM with some really exciting special guests. Do pop in and say hello if you are in the area, we would love to see you. And we also wouldn't mind it one bit if you wore a costume.

There are lots more spooky reads out there. Please add to our list and share your favorite Halloween Stories.



One More thing:

Scary Mommy Blog is coming out with a new book. The Scary Mommy Guide to Surviving the Holidays, It comes out November 17th from Simon and Schuster and has a wonderful collection of writers. Your purchase of this book (2.99 eBook) goes to help Scary Moms help moms in need. Their blog is wonderful and I love this project.