Monday, August 25, 2014

Crystal Kites UK/Ireland, Middle East/ India/Asia and Canada

By Susan J. Berger

The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.

This 5th Crystal Kite post covers the finalists and winners in three regions: UK, Ireland, Middle East, India, Asia and Canada. It's interesting to note that most of the Crystal Kite finalist's books are available on Kindle. 
Some first lines weren't available online. I tried contacting some of the authors, but was unsuccessful. I used the SCBWI Blurb in place of the first lines for those book. All links are to the SCBWI page. You can follow the page links to purchase sites. If I saw that SCBWI didn’t have a buy link, I substituted links where you could get the book.

Again: The Crystal Kite is a rather odd award in that there are no Categories. Therefore a picture book may be competing against a young adult novel.

UK, Ireland

Fractured by Teri Terry

Rain has many uses.

            Holly and beech trees like those around me need it to live and grow.

It washes away tracks, obscures footprints. Makes trails harder to follow, and that is a good thing today.

But most of all, it washes blood from my skin, my clothes.


Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, Book 2)
Rose Meyer Justice
August 2, 1944
Hamble, Hampshire

I just got back from Celia Forester’s funeral. I’m supposed to be writing up an official report for the Tempest she flew into the ground, since she’s obviously not going to write it herself, and I saw it happen. And also because I feel responsible. I know it wasn’t my fault – I really do know that now. But I briefed her. We both had Tempests to deliver, and I’d flown one a couple of times before. Celia hadn’t. She took off ten minutes after me. If she’d taken off first, we might both still be alive.



 Shine by Candy Gourlay

“Are you listening, Rosa?”

I stared at Yaya. Her eyebrows were knitted on her yellow forehead and her face was suddenly smaller, her eyes hard and burning like black coals.

I am going to add the Amazon link for this book so you can read the first few pages because those first lines don’t give a good idea of the story. And I thought it was rather wonderful. Link to Shine on Amazon


 Middle East, India, Asia

The party had just started and Jet stood in Amy William’ kitchen wearing the two-dollar dress she’d bought at the thrift store.
            “That’s such a cool outfit,” Amy told her, pushing a drink into her hand. The girsls gathered, staring as if trying to remember whether they’d seen the dress in a catalog or a store window. Still, Jet knew it would’ve been cooler to have a date or to buy clothing that hadn’t belonged to someone living in an old folks’ home.

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
 Chapter 1

Third time it happens

I’m crossing the bridge

Over a brown-green race of water

that slides through town

on my way to a long-term care center


to get my courage up


This is a story about Spider, who was born with seven legs. His friend, Ladybird, discovers what Spider can do and is amazed by his talents.

Tibby the Tiger Bunny by Emily Lim, Illustrated by Jade Fang

Tibby was an unusual bunny,

Sometimes he pounced.

Sometimes he hopped.

And sometimes he didn’t know if he should roar or squeak.


 managed to contact Emily and she sent me the first page.
She also sent me the rest of the fold-out cover.


Bonkers! by Natasha Sharma

‘I’m home . . WAHAAAAT? WOW!’

My father is standing before me holdng a wriggling, squirming mass of brown and white fur,

‘Pant! Pant! Pant! Chuuueeeee! Chuuueeeee!’ squeels the furball.

I’m sure it can’t be . . but it is! Eyes wide, I drop down on my knees, as Papa puts down my long awaited puppy. In a flash the fur ball shoots forward and Bam! rams into my face. My spectacles go flying off my nose. I fumble for them.

Lick! Lick! Slobber! Slobber!
I couldn’t contact Natasha Sharma. When I looked on Amazon, I saw that the Kindle edition was 2.00 and bought it. Bonkers is either a short mid grade or an easy reader. In either case I loved the first chapter and plan to finish it,


Brothers at War by Don Cummer

February 1811

I have been chosen first. M. Jacob Gibson. Hero-in-waiting.
Shoulders back like a soldier, Snowballs in my mitts. My faithful attack dog by my side, (Well, Ginger is actually romping about with the new boy.) And beneath my coat and shirt, my magic medicine bag to protect me,
First. Bravest. Best. 

Hoogie in the Middle by Stephanie McLellan, Illustrated by Dean Griffiths

Pumpkin was the first.
Tweezle is the newest.
Hoogie’s in the middle.


How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler

BFFs Grace and Kya, friends ever since Grace first moved in next door, are closer than sisters. Grace's dad, a former police officer, runs the town paintball center; the two girls are passionate about paintball and seeking coveted spots on Seattle University's Lady Grinders team. But not all is certain and assured, and when a terrible secret is reawakened from her past, Kya spirals beyond Grace's reach. Kya indulges in self-destructive behaviors: drinking, promiscuity, and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Their mutual friend, James, distances himself from Kya and rebuffs any of Grace's attempts to have them reconcile. Grace, who has always put her own needs second to Kya's, is torn between seeing her own goals realized and trying to save Kya. Gurtler, 

Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Sarah thinks she knows what fear is--until she's abducted. Now she must find a way to rescue herself.

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Meadows covers the walls of her bedroom with images of beautiful faces she clips from magazines--and longs for "normal." Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she's been plagued by stares, giggles, and bullying, and disgust. Why can't she be like Diamond, the comic-book hero she created? Diamond would never let the insults in. That's harder for Sarah.

But when she's abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had. Can she look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside, somehow becoming a hero rather than a victim? It's the only way Sarah will have any chance of escaping the prison--both seen and unseen--that this deranged killer has placed around her.

Winners. (It’s a tie!)

I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau

Yawns are sneaky. They can creep up when you least expect them.There you are, minding your own business, building the tallest block tower in the history of the universe or dressing up the cat when suddenly . . .

Sounds like my kind of book.

Skink on the Brink by Lisa Dalrymple, Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Stewie was a very little skink with a very blue tail.

That was the only sentence in the Amazon Canada preview. But they show material on the life cycle of a skink and some gorgeous illustrations. I wish we got more Canadian books in the US

 I hope you find some reads here that interest you. Happy reading and writing.
You might also like Crystal Kites  Atlantic, Mid South and Southeast
California Hawaii and the West



Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's Amore!
The 43rd SCBWI Summer Conference!!

by Hilde Garcia

This year's theme for the 43rd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference. This year, Tomie dePaola turned 80 and in honor of our successful flash mob from 2012, we serenaded Tomie on Saturday night with That's Amore.

Happy Birthday Tomie!
Tomie was ill and couldn't fly out to see it in person so a video was sent to him. He Skyped the closing Key Note with Lin Oliver as his moderator to a crowd of 1200 fans!  To conclude the incredible weekend, we had none other than the one and only Judy Blume give us an inspiring farewell.

My daughter sat in the front row, sketching Judy at the podium. She then walked up to her after her speech and gave her the illustration.  Judy was touched. I had no camera and I wish I had a photo of her drawing to share with you, but I will never forget the image of that moment when my daughter, brave enough to be in a room with 1200 people, walked up to Judy Blume and said, "I drew this for you.  I loved Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing."

Judy Blume
That to me was the quintessential moment of the conference.  Judy graciously took it and shared it with other noteworthy people who were gathered around her at that moment.  She was genuinely touched.  Considering how many books of Judy's have inspired me over the years, it was quite amazing to see my daughter make Judy smile.  Then Judy shook her hand. I was so glad I have taught my kids how to shake a hand!

I have attended this Conference regularly for the last 6 or 7 years and I must say that this year, I was inspired more deeply than in past years. Maybe it was the right mix of key notes, break out sessions, socials, piña coladas, and Judy Blume, or maybe it was that I was ready for a break through with the revision of my novel.  And when you are ready, the universe embraces you.

Either way, I was in the zone and the weekend proved to be worth the time, money and effort to attend. (Communicating my crazy schedule to my husband who agreed to be Mr. Mom was nothing short of miraculous).  The intensives on Monday shook loose the problems with my plot, giving me a way out of the darkness.

The break out sessions that stayed with me included Maggie Stiefvater, Sharon Flake, Adriana Dominguez, and Linda Sue Park's Key Note.  (For full conference schedule, go to

Linda Sue Park
This year, I also participated in the Intensives that take place on Monday.  I went to Linda Sue's on Revision and took away fabulous techniques for tightening your novel and really finding the heart of the story.

                 Maggie Stiefvater
I also attend Maggie's intensive on Character - Specifics vs Details.  It was an eye opener and I noticed what is necessary and what is not in my story.

Meanwhile, during my intensives, I was getting calls from the twins' summer camp of a possible lice outbreak and a fractured finger- each kid with one of those problems, but yet, I managed to have a break through despite the joys of motherhood and was able to stay without darting to save either one!  (By the way, all was clear in the end, but talk about impeding your Main Character!)

Here are some highlights of advice and suggestions from some of the key note speakers and the inspirational words that they shared with us on the first morning of the Conference!
Meg Rosoff

Imagination has the possibility to make everyone better at everything except for politicians! -Meg Rosoff.

Young Judy Schachner
Bienvenidos, Benvenuti, Now, Chocolate, Fluffernutter, Reinvent, Heart, Rebel, Ready, Willing, and Able.

Become a collector not just of things, but of experiences too. -Judy Schachner

Challenged, Hashtagselfie, Stretch, Be, You, Wonder, Agog, Hutzpah, Serendipity, Diversity, SCAT, and Endure.

Everyone is a product of where they came from- they are either running away from it or running to it. -Maggie Stiefvater

This industry is cyclical. You cannot write to a trend. Write the book you are inspired to write, the minute you don't you loose your voice. -Justin Chanda
Justin Chanda

Patience, Focus, Botanical, Community, PLAY, and Supercaliforniaisterrific-I hope you get published.

The voices that first influence me were my family.
-Sharon G. Flake

Sharon G. Flake
Epiphany, Class, Overcome, Classic, Splinter, Astonishment, Common Core, Imgaination, and Gumba- just do it!

Diversity is your point of view! -Adriana Dominguez

Relationships, Friends, Entrepreneurial, La Cuna, Fierce, Visualize, Library, Authenticity, Eccentricity, Feel, Skyfarm, and Optimism

Don't bore the editor- make every word count. -Linda Sue Park

Persevere, Empathy, Unputdownable, Start, Hands-on, Deal, Awesome, and CONVICTION.

Memores are nothing until they turn into blood within you.  -Meghan McDonald

First line is the promise, last line is the payoff.
Lisa Yee


One technique discussed by Linda Sue Park was to re-write a line every which way you can.  Maggie discussed that the more realistic the characters' specific characteristics are, the least likely they are to become a duplicate in your story.

The biggest take away from the weekend seemed to be echoed by every key note and break out session-  what motivates us to write the story is the crux of the story that inspires us to tell it.

I guess the words that stayed with me the most came from Judy Blume, "Don't let anyone discourage you- if they try, don't get depressed, get angry. Writing didn't just change my life, it saved my life."

So go and let it save yours. Write the story that only you can write. And if you haven't attended a conference yet, make it a mission to do so.

It's a weekend that stays with you long after the autograph party is done.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dispatch #25: Why I Didn't Go
to the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference

by Lupe Fernandez

My brain floats down Yuba River.

Sure I could write that I went camping with my wife and kids along the Yuba River, got a tan, three days of rain, mosquito bites, snorkeling time, met fascinating Sierra County folk and stopped at Farrell's Ice Cream parlor on the way home.

Sure I could write - cue Sad Melody for Violin - that I didn't have enough money to pay conference fees and that I didn't win the WIP award.

Sure I could write about this poor writer who is down to his last quarter and has to decide between a can of tuna or a can of cat food. Four cats. Count 'em. Four.

Yeah, I could write about that.

Or I could write about the choices I made. The choices I made to become the Foreign Correspondent in the Northern Hinderlands. The choices I made to fall in love, get married and be a step-father. I could write about my car breaking down and needing to buy another car suitable for my new family. Finance payments superseded writer conference tuition.

I could write about the big gamble I took to write and suffer the slings and bank statements of this profession. The dice are still rolling.

I'm sure I missed a lot of swell breakout sessions, keynote addresses and manuscript submission opportunities.
I decided to jump in the river and float on an black, rubber doughnut. Two currents ran downstream to the shallow end of algae slimy stones. But a few eddies curled back upon the river and kept me in place, in case I wanted to paddle upstream, buck the rapids and go back to the beginning.

And start over.

I'll be back next year.

The Yuba?

The Conference?

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2014

First Line/paragraphs from Crystal Kite Finalists Part 4

By Susan J. Berger
The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.
This post covers the finalists and winners in the Atlantic, Mid South and Southeast regions. It's interesting to note that most of the Crystal Kite finalist's books are available on Kindle. 
Some first lines weren't available online, but I was able to contact Timothy Young and Rhonda Hicks Rucker and they gave me their first lines.
I have no first lines for My Blue is Happy, but it felt wrong leaving out any of the finalists. I used the SCBWI Blurb in place of the first lines for that book. All links are to the SCBWI page. You can follow the page links to purchase sites.
Again: The Crystal Kite is a rather odd award in that there are no Categories. Therefore a picture book may be competing against a young adult novel.

 Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)

City Cat by Kate Banks, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Wake up, City Cat. It’s dawn.

Watch the day put clothing on in city colors,

Brown black, rust and gray.
The pictures show a cat going through the landmarks of Europe. Looks like great fun.
I Hate Picture Books! Written and Illustrated by Timothy Young

I Hate Picture Books! I never want to read another Picture Book! So I’m getting rid of ALL of them . . . ‘cause all they do is get me in TROUBLE. 

I couldn’t find the first page, so I searched for Timothy Young on Facebook and he sent me a PDF of the book. I loved it so much that I wrote a review on Amazon and Goodreads. I love Timothy’s sense of humor and his illustrations.

Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman, Illustratrated by Keith Campbell

Cub was playing in the woods then he smelled something delicious. He followed his nose through the bushes and found . . .Cookies! And another bear.

The Monstore by Tara Lazar, Illustrated by James Burks

At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gumballs, there’s a trapdoor. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside THE MONSTORE.

Oh yes!  Want to read this one.  Thanks to Tara for sending me the first page.

“Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.”

A kid named Vanessa tells me this in the morning before school. She springs out with no warning and blocks my way, her textbook held at her chest like a shield. She’s tall like me and caramel. I’ve seen her in the lunchroom, I think. Or maybe in the halls. It’s hard to remember.

This one’s on my TBR list. It was also a 2014 Cybil nominee



Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

Prologue: The Sometime Long Ago Root of Revenge.

“Help me – help!” A weary voice from outside. A fist hammering on the door.

            The boy turned from the fire and the potion he was stirring. Who would call at this hour, before dawn had yet dusted the town rooves? He ran to the door and flung it open.

 The author put me in a far-gone time with that one phrase “before dawn had yet dusted the town rooves.” I kept reading the preview and it’s definitely on my TBR list.  

 Mid-South (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana)

Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
Chapter 1
A Siamese cat crouched on a tree branch, peering down at Gaby with brilliant blue eyes. It cried out. The cat was stuck in the tree in front of her house and, as luck would have it, she had on the nicest sweater she owned. Gaby pulled the cardigan sweater tighter around her. This was her last good school sweater until who-knows-when her father would have enough money to buy her a new one. The poor cat cried again. Gaby looked back at her small yellow house. If her mother were here, that cat would already be out of the tree and purring – safe and sound in her mother’s arms.

I read on. Another TBR.  My reading list is expanding beyond my ability to keep up.
Ice Cream Soup by Ann Ingalls  (This is a level one reader)

Look at me.

Look at What I can make.

I can make and Ice Cream cake

Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos

When Baby Billy was born, his family noticed something odd: He had a mustache.

What does this mean?” his mother asked.

Well, it all depends,” the nurse said. “You’ll have to wait and see whether it’s a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache.”

Yes! Must read.
My Blue Is Happy by Jessica Young

Follow one girl’s journey through her neighborhood as she explores what colors mean to different people. ls red angry, like a dragon’s burning breath? Or brave like a fire truck and a superhero cape? ls pink pretty or annoying? What about black and orange and green? ln her picture-book debut, author and art teacher Jessica Young challenges common assumptions about colors and celebrates individual perspective. Brazilian-born artist Catia Chien provides her own interpretation in this ode to colors—and the unique ways we experience them.

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet by Rhonda Hicks Rucker
Chapter 1: Rebel Rumors
South Carolina, 1863

Big Mama stood at the table, stirring cornbread batter. Ben tiptoed along the rear of the cabin, turned the handle of the back door, and opened it. Creeakk!! 
“Yes’m.” He had forgotten to grease those hinges.
“You finished out in that barn?”
“You sure?”
“Where you going now?”
Here it comes. “Thought I’d go fishing for a spell.”
Big Mama quit stirring the batter for several seconds. She turned and looked at Ben. “Remember there’s cottonmouths and gators out there.”
“I remember.” Big Mama was always worried about the swamp creatures.
“Well you just mind yourself and be careful, you hear?”
That was easier than he thought. Maybe she realized he was getting older, or maybe she just wanted some fish to cook. 
He dug out his line and pole from the shed and made his way to the Combahee River. There were still a couple of hours of daylight left, and he might get lucky.

 Thanks to Rhonda for sending the first page. Love her style. Another TBR

The 13th Sign by Kristin Tubb

Sagittarius: Your bubbly personality and effervescent style make you a shoo-in for “Most Likely to Be the Center of Attention at a Party. Straighten that tiara, flash those pearly whites and dance for your admirers, superstar.’”

Madame Beausoleil finished reading my horoscope form the ancient book in her lap. She raised her gaze to mine. Madame’s eyes were foggy with age, though she claimed her cloudy eyes helped her to “see.”

I am going to assume this teaser from the SCBWI Website was also part of her query letter. I would personally have asked for the ms.
What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. What about the rest of the world? What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs? 

Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it.

Southeast (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama)

Anubis Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Greetings, Mortal. Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Anubis – the Egyptian god of the “Mysteries of Embalming,” the “Guardian of the Veil of Death,” Opener of the Ways of the Dead,” and if you are “bad” . . .Your. Worst. Nightmare.

Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes

“Thus, a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odor of a flower, or the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never were . . .”

-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist


I should be used to this by now – the emptiness that fills me when I become homeless for the stretch of a car ride. I’ve don’t this more times than I can count. But the truth is that it sucks. Every Time.

Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals by Heather Montgomery

Dear Explorer

Scientists have identified almost one million different animals creeping, peeking and sneaking across this earth! That number blows my mind. When I realized that there may be as many as six million new one waiting to be discovered – and that they are all a bit wacky –I couldn’t wait to write this book!


The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock


Sometimes when the kerosene lamp casts shadows, I think I see Ma’s ghost. If she were still alive she’d say, Jessie Pearl, you keep on studying. Not everybody is cut out to be a farm wife. We’ll find a way to pay for teachers college. Leave your pa to me.

 I hope you find some of your own “must reads” here. Happy reading and writing, my friends.
You might also be interested in the other Regional 2014 Crystal Kites posts: