Monday, August 29, 2016

Waiting for a Book Release

by Susan J Berger

I am so lucky. I have two picture books coming out. That's a wonderful feeling. But the wait for their actual publication can seem forever. The timing varies so much.
Mom, is There a Santa Claus had a long journey. I think I wrote the original in 2004. After many trips to the critique group, I sent it to Jennifer James at The Los Angeles Times in 2009 
I was unsure anyone would publish a story asking  if  Santa Claus was real. Those of us who cherish Santa Claus do everything in their power to keep Santa alive. But  one day most children ask the question.
Jennifer expressed an interest and asked me to cut it to 600 words. I did so and it was scheduled for publication. Then Jennifer James left and so did the column.
In 2014, I sent it to Lynda Burch at Guardian Angel Publishing. Lynda asked for changes. I made them and I signed a contract with GAP in June 2014. I knew there would be a wait because the awesome illustrator, K.C. Snider always has a huge list of books to illustrate. I got the cover picture from K.C. in July of this year.
I love the picture. And I'm more excited than ever to see the finished book which has  a planned debut day for the end of September.  Twenty seven months is really not a long wait. It just seems like it.
My other picture book  Log on Log is still in the pipeline at Beach Lane Books. I signed that contract in September 2011.  I spoke to Andrea Welsh at Conference this year. She said she would get back with me after talking to the illustrator. I have an illustrator? Happy dance!

  Greg Pincus waited eight years with Arthur Levine his delightful mid-grade book The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.  His sequel to 14 Fibs is coming out much quicker. The Homework Strike will be out January 3, 2017
 Andrea J.Loney had a different journey. Her delightful book, Bunny Bear will be out on December 2016. I know that both Greg and I were in the group at the Westside Schmooze which critiqued Bunny Bear in April 2014.  She had 17 rejections.  Her agent, Jill Corcoran sold the book Sept 4, 2015 and it will be out December 2016.
Her first book, Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee, which won the 2014 Lee and Low New Voices award in 2014 won't be out till 2017.
In end, the length of the journey doesn't matter. The joy of the journey does.
I got a lovely rejection from Melissa Manlove at Chronicle Books for Nat the Rat and Fat Cat. I need to send that one out again. Tasha the Magnificent has been on an agent's desk for two months. The miracle is that the agent asked for the full. Tasha has had thirty-five rejections so far.
Two questions: If you are published, how long did you wait between contract and publication?
If you are on the submission circuit, how many times have you submitted your ms?
Write on!
Almost forgot! If you are a local author, Burbank Public Library is doing a Local Author event on Saturday, October 14th at the Buena Vista Branch Library. Here's a link to the Event Page and Application form.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Interview With Beth Navarro and Cami Abel

By Susan J. Berger

Beth Navarro has a new book coming out September 7th. Kiko is a charming picture book about a wave too scared to be big. When Beth told me about it, I couldn't imagine how you would humanize a wave. But illustrator, Cami Abel did a brilliant job. My review is on Goodreads. And Pen and Ink has a copy to give away. (US only, please since it is a hardcover.) There's a Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

Beth, Tell us about Kiko the Hawaiian Wave

Beth: I wrote Kiko after a trip to Hawaii. What a gorgeous place (to point out the obvious). Hanging out on the beach and watching the surfers carving up the warm crystal waters got me thinking about the connection surfers have with the ocean. So of course my mind leapt to, “What if a wave was too scared to leave the safety of shore to fulfill his dream of finding his surfer and becoming a big wave?” I wrote it without really thinking about the illustrations. When Cami signed on to do the illustrations I realized, oh this might be a challenge…. But she did such a beautiful job! Every page is a work of art.

Humanizing a wave looks to me like a huge problem. How did you get there? 
Cami: YES! this was tricky, my background is Scientific Illustration and Fine Art so going to the abstract was something I dabbled in in college but a leap for me professionally, it was really interesting to play and experiment. Because of how Beth described the waves, I worked to give them personality and maybe reflect the struggles that a new surfer would feel.

What do you want kids to get out of this book?
Beth: This story is really about taking the leap. Believing in yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone. What would you do if you had the courage? If someone reading this book gets that, I’ve done my job.

Beth and Cami, Are you working on anything else right now?
Beth: I am! I am working on a sequel to my first book, Grambo. It’s called Grambo and the Art Thief and this time it’s in comic book form! I’m also working on two different young adult books right now. One a contemporary story with a little bit of alien magic and another a historical fantasy. Very excited about all these stories!

Cami: just finished a project for the City of San Diego, doing trail signs for Tecolote Nature Center. This summer Im working on a kids nature trail guide as part of a collaboration for the Clairemont Mesa Education Foundation and Tecolote ESCAPe program, connecting local school kids with our neighborhood canyons. I also work for a local wine company designing their domestic wine labels, and I'm a family/ lifestyle photographer.

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
Beth: Thrilling! To hear someone else get as excited about your story as you are is exciting. When I heard from Mary and Allison at Be There Bedtime stories I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down.

Cami: I have to 'ditto' Beth, it was super thrilling to get the call from Be There Bedtime Stories! I jump from one project to another rather quickly so I was really excited to be able to come back to Kiko and work with the publisher for fine tuning. Be There Bedtime Stories has been fantastic to work with.

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?
Beth: My favorite PB writers… oh man there are so many. Drew Daywalt, Chris Van Allsberg, Samantha Berger and Dan Santat, anything he writes or illustrates I love (Beekle, you are are the very best.)

Cami: I truly love the artwork of Jim Kay, he is such a inspiring and gifted artist, I really study his drawings. I also follow Russ Cox of Smiling Otis Studio and Alice Tillotson Ratteree who provide me with constant inspiration via Facebook and Instagram, they are all tremendously talented.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
Beth: When I’m not chasing my daughters around I love cooking. I obsessively watch the Food Network. (Chopped!) I also love anything nerdy. San Diego Comic Con is the land of my people.

Cami: I chase kids too! I have two boys (10 and 8) and we spend the vast majority of our time in the water and on the beach here in San Diego, we swim, snorkel and the boys are becoming really good surfers. I have been an open water swimmer in La Jolla for over 20 years.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
Beth: It takes work. There is no secret formula. No short cut. If you want to be a writer, you have to get your butt in the chair and write. And if you want to get into children’s book writing, join SCBWI. Starting out that helped me in so many ways. Meeting other writers, hearing amazing speakers, just getting into that world. It taught me (and continues to teach me) so much.

Cami: Suggestions for new Illustrators-Draw Draw Draw, take classes, study the experts, experiment. I bring a sketch book everywhere with me. I think the more diverse an illustrator is the more work there is out there, but classical training seems to usually be the best place to start. Be brave and be humble.

And finally, where can we find you?
Beth: You can find more about me at Sign up for my email newsletter and quarterly I’ll send you cool links about writing and reading and share a little bit of writing you won’t find anywhere else.

Cami: My websites are: and
Other stuff!

To preorder Grambo, go to Get a signed book and special deals when you preorder through Be There Bedtime Stories!

Thank you for being here, Beth and Cami. Enter to win a hardcover of Kiko, the Hawaiian Wave below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dispatch #56: Writing In The Field Part II

La Nuestra Senora de La Guadalupe Iglesia
by Lupe Fernandez

I sit on a hard bench in La Nuestra Senora de La Guadalupe Iglesia mid morning. I like the quiet, the cool breeze from the side door, the natural diffused light, an occasional echo of whispering women, a toot of a traffic copes whistle a block away. Birds chirp on trees outside, distance laughter of school children.

And nobody bothers me.

Sunday afternoon I had attended mass. I had a paper pamphlet to read along with my Tia and my mother. Spanish in an echo chamber is difficult to understand; I contented myself with admiring the interior. Even though we sit in the back of the church, the mass of bodies made the place humid. Perhaps a wink of drowsy eyes or an unconscious nod of my head, but I swore I saw the statue of Juan Diego, perched above the altar in adoration of La Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, move.

Established Mexican legend states in December 1531, ten years after the destruction of the Aztec Empire by Hernando Cortez, his Spanish soldiers, local allies, gun powder, Toledo steel and small pox, a converted indigenous young man baptized Juan Diego had a vision of the La Nuestra Senora in the hills of Tepeyac, outside of Mexico City. He gave evidence of this vision to doubting priests in the form of the image of The Virgin imprinted on his clothing.

Forward five centuries and a plaster mannequin is positioned in a kneeling reverence at the painting of La Nuestra Senora bordered by two Mexican flags. All in sight of the faithful attending mass.

But what if Juan Diego moved? What if the censor smoke drifting above the altar made him sneeze?

Juan Diego is conscious. He stands on a high perch, sees the astonishing throng below, shouting, pointing at him in a language foreign to him. Not Nahuatl, dialect of the Aztecs. Not Spanish Castilian. Not Latin.

Screams. Shouts from the audience. A woman faints. Others pray frantically. The priest is furious. Some pendejo is playing a very disgraceful, sacrilegious joke. The priest orders one of the church’s volunteers, a young boy in a white shirt, black pants and a satchel slung over is shoulder to get that miscreant off the ledge. Our young volunteer rushes up the back staircase leading up to the painting and opens the access door.

Meanwhile Juan Diego is in a panic. Too high to jump down. He must escape.

A man in short pants, striped shirts and scarf yells at Juan Diego, calling him a trick of Satan. Ten the phones come out and the flashes begin. Juan Diego is dizzy, ready to fall when the access door opens and the church volunteer appears. Juan Diego sees his escape and rushes the door. The volunteer grabs Juan’s arm and feels the cool smooth touch of painted plaster.

Everything happens so fast.

Juan Diego is gone. The church is searched from this perceived prankster. The audience rushes the altar, demanding answers. Others flee the church to spread the Good Word. A Sign. Juan Diego is alive. This is the work of La Nuestra Senora.

The situation escalates...

Mass is over. I remain in the church playing the story in my head. A volunteer just paused by the bench to ask me what I was doing. I tell him in the American Spanish I am studying La Senora and Juan Diego and writing my thoughts. Even if I could communicate my true intent, I suspect he would politely ask me to leave or question my sanity. But he leaves to prepare for mass at one pm.

I remain on the hard bench, sweating to finish a synopsis. When I return home, I will type up my scribbles, save the file Juan Diego Sneezes in my premise folder, waiting for the day to written.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Getting Motivated - Writing Accountability

by Susan J. Berger

Best saying I took away from the 2016 Summer Conference: Everything's been written. But not in your voice.
If you are the human who never lets day to day interruptions interfere with your writing  and submitting goals, go away and come back next week. No. Scratch that. Please leave us a comment on how you do it.

I am not that human. Work, babysitting, auditions, various curve balls life throw at me take me out of my writing game. And I haven't submitted to anyone in two months even though I do have three perfectly good query letter, thanks to my critique groups.

The only thing that keeps me writing is accountability. For me, that's my critique groups. Going to a critique group with nothing to critique is not acceptable to my ego.

My friend and critique partner Andrea Loney belongs to several critique groups in the children's book market. I currently belong to two active ones. I write in the children's market and the romance market.

I also need a query butt-kicking and submission group.  The Pen and Ink one seems to be slumbering. Oh how I miss them!. Without their butt-kicking, I don't submit. Anyone want to join that kind of group?

You can start a critique group with the business cards you picked up at conference. Email the authors. See if they are interested.
Or go to online to the SCBWI yahoo group and announce you want to start a group. Be specific about what you are looking for. Here's a link to an article from SCBWI  4 Questions to ask a critique group.

Other ways to be accountable:


I've written five books with NaNoWriMo. One is published. Two I am currently taming into presentability. NaNoWriMo is about finishing a first draft. It's fantastic, but it's no good for picture books.


12 x 12 Picture Book

Both Andrea and Sue Ganz Schmidt (also a critique partner) have used 12 by 12 and I am interested in doing it next year. The cost is 137. Once  you have been on the program for  a year, you can up the ante to and have special submission opportunities.
12 x 12 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once you join, you will be encouraged and supported by the friendliest writing community on earth as you attempt to write one picture book draft a month.
  • Receive advice from published authors, literary agents & editors
  • Motivation and accountability
  • Worldwide Membership
  • Encourage & support from the friendliest writing community
  • Little GOLDen Book members* will have an additional opportunity to submit one polished picture book manuscript to an agent each month February – November
  • Monthly guest post  & fabulous prizes from a talented, multi-published picture book author
  • Members-only 12 x 12 Facebook group, which serves as a support network, a question and answer pool, and a place to share resource
  • Robust Membership Forum
  • I've emailed to inquire about next year. Hey it's cheaper than a conference. I need to write more picture books. 
    If you Google "Writing Accountability" You can come up with either online groups, or an accountability partner. An accountability partner my be what I need to force myself into submission mode. Cause it sure isn't happening on my own.

    What about you? Got some suggestions for me? Anybody know a free picture book group?
    This is worth repeating. Everything's been written. But not in your voice.  Write on!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pictures from the SCBWI Summer Conference

Happy Birthday, Hilde Garcia.
Hilde isn't in a place where she wants to post anymore. Right now Lupe and Susan are posting. We would welcome some guest posters. Email us at
In the meantime Here are some pics from the conference
Hilde and Susan

Bruce Coville

Andrea Loney

Hilde, her husband Dave Kroll and ?

Richard Peck and me. Oh joy!

Gotta love that hat/

Ann Whitford Paul

Lin Oliver

Sue Ganz Schmitt, wolf and woodsman