Indie Choice Awards

The Indies Choice Award winners were recently named.  The four awards most of interest to writers for children and young adults are:

Young Adult:  Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (Griffin)

Middle Reader: Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell (Illus.) (Candlewick)

Picture Book:  The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers (Illus.) (Philomel)

Indie Champion Award: This award goes to indie bookstore benefactor author James Patterson.

How many of these books have you read?  I have to admit that my total is 0. That’s right — zero.  That said, I am on the hold list at the library.  

My average is better if we add in the E.B. White Read Aloud Award Winners and Picture Book Hall of Fame inductees.

E.B. WHITE READ-ALOUD AWARD – MIDDLE READER: Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell (Illus.) (Candlewick)

E.B. WHITE READ-ALOUD AWARD – PICTURE BOOK: The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers (Illus.) (Philomel)

PICTURE BOOK HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES:  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle (Holt Books for Young Readers); Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (Illus.) (HarperCollins); and Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon (HMH Books for Young Readers).

Stellaluna is still a personal favorite.  What do you think of the various winner?

Read more about all of the awards here.  


Vote Now!

Voting is now open for Crystal Kite Round 2.

Yes, this means that if you voted a week or so ago, you get to (have to?) vote again.  Don’t fiddle around!  Voting closing on April 30.

Voting is open only to SCBWI members (all membership levels).  To vote, login to and then go here  It will take you directly to the correct region.  Note, this is not your Chapter/Region but a division created specifically for this award.

So exciting! (Yes, I have people who made it to finals.)



Wall Building: Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Happy Monday!   I spent a great weekend at the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat.  As always, it takes me a bit to process what I’ve learned.  Not to worry.  I’ll be blogging about that later.  To tide you over, here is a guest post by an amazing author, C. Hope Clark.  This first appeared in her newsletter Funds for Writers (April 18, 2014) If you aren’t a subscriber, you are missing out on many opportunities.

Hope is the author of the Carolina Slade mysteries — a must for mystery fans.


A couple of comments in emails, on Facebook, and yes, even in person, made me sad this week. When a person was confronted with an opportunity, they spoke first about how they could not do it. Without flinching. Without a thought about trying to find a way to learn.

They are building walls across a flat piece of ground that could lead to success.


“I am afraid to publish because I don’t understand the difference between self-publishing and traditional.”

“Darn, I don’t know how to write a short story to enter that contest.”

“Someone will tell me I’m bragging if I tout my writing in public.”

“I’m afraid someone will steal my idea.”

“I don’t have enough money to publish.”

So many writers see the obstacles before they envision the opportunity. They feel the pain before they get injured. They flinch before they are pricked.

As I told the Nebraska Writers Guild last week: “Go ahead and be afraid. Go ahead and hold back, fearful of what to do next, because that just gives me and all these other people the chance to pass you by and make something of ourselves.”

Whatever you think, do, or hold back doing, takes energy. You can infuse your energy into being proactive and learning how to proceed, or you can expend your energy worrying about what might go wrong. With the first, you might gain headway. With the second, you get nowhere.

Make a decision, then pursue the solution or march toward the goal.

Read short stories and learn how to write them. Study the difference between publishing opportunities until you are comfortable in your choice. Decide if you’re worried more about publishing or what people might say about you. Dare to submit, realizing the odds of someone stealing your work is miniscule. Save your money or start a crowdfunding project on and earn the money you need.

There are options. There are opportunities. But you have to reach out for them. They do not come to you.


Writing Retreat

I am on the road today with my writing buddy Jeanie Ransom.  We are journeying over the river (I think there’s a river) and through the woods to the Elfindale Mansion and the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat.  That means that our boys (she and I both have boys) have to hold down their respective forts without us.  Poor boys!  But we will be having a great weekend with our fellow writers.  To read more about this retreat and why I always go, check out my post tomorrow on the Muffin.

My event purse, full to the brim with must-haves of all kinds.


Query Letters

QueryI’ve been reading up on query letters lately because I’ve been writing query letters lately.  Ugh.  Not my favorite job.   There is so much that has to go into this one little bitty page.  Here are 5 tips to help you craft your own letters:

  1. E-mail header.  I love it when a publisher or agent’s guidelines tell me exactly what to include.  Mystery solved.  If not, remember that the subject of your email should include your book title and your name.  “Query” isn’t specific enough.
  2. Why this agent/editor?  Be specific about why you are contacting this person.  “You are next on my list” isn’t good enough.  Did you read an interview or hear this person speak at a conference?  Maybe you know one of their authors.  Let them know that you chose them with purpose.
  3. This is a book about…  Don’t leave the agent or editor wondering what your book is about.  Include a bit about your character including their name, their goal, and what stands in their way.  What is at risk if they fail?  You really need to make this section sing so include the most compelling facts about your story.
  4. Who is the expert?  This is for nonfiction writers.  If you aren’t an expert in your field, then give the editor some idea where you will get your expertise.  I recently landed a gig to write two ancient history texts.  Why?  Because I have degrees in anthropology and history.  I can evaluate the sources.  If you don’t have this kind of edge, who could you interview?  What sources do you plan to use?
  5. Writing credits.  So many writers through in everything but the kitchen sink when they share their credits with an agent or editor.  Only give them specifics about credits that matter.  You can include how many sales you have, but only list the publications that are in the same area.

I know I’ve just scratched the surface on how to write a query letter.  Here are three really good blug posts on the topic:

How Diet Mountain Dew Helped Me Sell a Story by author Kelly James-Enger

Making a Good Impression with Your Query Letter by agent Gemma Cooper

The Complete Guide to Query Letters that Get Manuscript Requests by editor Jane Friedman

Happy querying!


Writer’s Digest: Kids and Teens issue now available

Just a quick heads up to let you know that the Writer’s Digest special issue on writing for kids and teens (May/June 2014) is now available.  It is packed with a wide variety of information including the following articles:

Sell Your Picture Book acknowledges that this market is growing and shares tips on how to break in by agent Lara Perkins.

Middle-Grade vs. Young Adult: Making the Grade covers the most important differences in writing for these two audiences.

Standout Series Characters for Young Readers explains how to build series characters with staying power.

Your Web Presence by web-guru Lee Wind explains the key elements to connecting with your young readers.

The WD Interview with Dave Barry

Exploring the World of Steampunk by Jay Lake is the column that I’m really looking forward to reading.

You can purchase your copy online today.


Most Banned Books

The ALA just put out their list of the 10 most banned books for 2013.  Here is the list with a few details and my own comments:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.  Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.  I have to admit that I was more than a little happy that my son never got into these, but if they get kids to read . . . isn’t that a good thing?
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.  Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.  Hmm.  Wasn’t it published for adults?   That said, the objections probably came because it was on a high school reading list.  Still.  Soon, they will be out in this harsh world and wouldn’t it be nice if they had learned how to not only cope but thrive within the safety of a book? 
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.  Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.  I adore this book.  Adore.  It is all of the things they say but it is also real and that what teens, especially teen boys, demand from a book — gritty reality.  
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.  Again, this is an adult book.
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.  Another one I adore, in part, because it is an amazing social commentary, realistic and oh so gritty.  
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.  I love this one for the same reasons that I love #3.  
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya. Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith. Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence.

Admittedly, I haven’t read some of these such as the Bone series.  My son tried those out and was ho hum.

Especially when the readers are teens, I’m amazed at the amount of effort that goes into book banning.  We can’t sanitize the world — why then do we try to sanitize books abut the world.  Instead, we should give them tools to understand, consider and act.  The best tools for this job?  Books.

Bet you didn’t see that coming…



Call for Manuscripts

Call for Submissions

Suddenly Lost In Words is once again open for submissions.  They want the best that you have to offer the young adult reader (13-years and older).  Not yet published?  Not a problem.  They want material from both published and pre-published writers.  

What they want:  

  • Unpublished original work in any genre.  
  • Short stories, memoirs and longer pieces they can serialize.
  • Word length:  3000 words or less. 

Suddenly Lost In Words pays 5 cents/word for First Worldwide Electronic Rights and First Serial Rights. Payment on publication. 

You can find the complete guidelines here.  

Good luck!  


Why Write: As explained by poet Naomi Shihab Nye

I’m not going to lie.  If I was going to be a fan-girl, I’d tag along after Naomi Shihab Nye.  Her poetry speaks to me and, as she explains here, that’s exactly what poetry is meant to do.

As she discussed how poetry works to help us see what all people’s have in common and as a means to distill and understand your day, it hit me.  Writing for children can, if you allow it, work in much the same way.  It’s up to you the writer.  If we choose to do so, we wield great power.


Off to go noodle that one over for a while.


Mentorship: Here’s the chance to learn from picture book author David Harrison

Do you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with your picture books?  You’ve read all there is to read about writing picture books.  Your critique group likes your work. Yet, you still can’t sell.

David 2013One of the best ways to get past this point is to work with a mentor.  A mentor is an more advanced author who works closely with you to help you develop.  The good news for picture book writers is that the Missouri Region the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has an annual mentorship.  The mentor for 2015 is picture book author David L. Harrison.

Frankly, I’m jealous.

He is the author of eighty-nine books including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers as well as educational books for teachers. He is the poet laureate of Drury University, and David Harrison Elementary School is named for him. You can find his work in 120 anthologies, 12 languages, sandblasted into a library sidewalk, painted on a bookmobile, and presented on television, radio, podcast, and video stream. His poetry collection, Pirates, was the Missouri book at the 2013 National Book Fair in Washington, D.C.

pirates book coverJealousy.  Not of David but because I want to work with David.  (Hear me whine.)

If you are an SCBWI member in the Missouri Region, you can win the chance to work with David.  Sorry, but if you’ve already published a picture book, you aren’t eligible.  But if you’re still trying to break into the market, this is a great learning opportunity.

Applications are accepted from May 1 through June 30, 2014.  Your application must include one full-length picture book manuscript and a brief cover letter that gives the judges a taste of your writing style, your writing habits, and reasons why you want the mentorship.

There are more rules to this but I’ll let you read them for yourself here.  If you live in Missouri but aren’t an SCBWI member, you have time to join.   You probably even have time to smooth out the wrinkles in a manuscript that is almost ready.  Take advantage of this opporunity.  You owe it to yourself.