A Visit to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Posted on: June 24, 2017

The journey of getting one’s children’s book published is filled with anticipation, excitement and downright disillusionment. I’ve never taken ‘no’ for an answer, so I focus on the blessings to date.

For the uninitiated, book publishing is a business. Once you plug into this world, as Dr. Seuss says, “Oh, but the places you’ll go.” 
An aspiring author must study the marketplace. So, I took a field trip to Madison, WI. There’s a little-known jewel located on the UW-Madison campus called the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). What’s that, you ask? As the website, informs, “a library of the department of education.” It’s a research library for anyone interested in the field of children and young adult literature.
I called the day before my trip and spoke to a librarian. “I’d like books set aside that cover the themes of the book I’m writing,” I said. “What’s that?” she asked. “Superhero, spy gadgets, science, particularly the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology… and civil rights, especially if a book has been written that deals with the superheroes of the civil rights movement,” I responded. Just kidding on that last part. My middle grade manuscript may be the first to imagine that link. Mighty Marty’s Granny does indeed perform some miraculous feats to help out Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I arrived at the CCBC to find a cart full of about fifty books reserved for me. I was like a kid in a candy store! Better, I was a lifelong reader and writer surrounded by books available in the marketplace and books about to be published and untouched by the public: advance copies. And better still, the careful CCBC library staff had notated inside the front cover of each book whether the book had won any awards, for which years and which award.
I set out to catalogue and read the first few pages of each book, noting a few things. Damn, this is a great first book by a first-time author. Wow, this author has written 30 books! Certain publishers are focusing on a certain style. How does my manuscript measure up? I also noted upcoming books that I intend to purchase. My ever growing list and membership in the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) means my reading pile continues to grow and impact the household budget. (All in the name of research, dear).
So, my day at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center was a day well spent. The marketplace knowledge I gained will undoubtedly impress an agent to the extent that they will eagerly offer representation. That’s the plan anyway. As I was packing up to leave on that cool February day, I remembered that the director Kathleen Horning had shown me to a bookcase filled with advance book copies, free for the taking. I decided to nab one to get a sense for how a final published book differs from the advance copy, prior to final editing, market positioning, etc.
So, my research continues.
You may be interested to learn that amidst all the delights of the job, the CCBC staff does some sobering work. Annually, they compile statistics on publishing works of authors and illustrators of people of color and first/native nations. Folks, there’s work to be done. Equity in publishing is not yet reality.
Why does this matter? Because children need to see themselves reflected in the books they read for their self-development and to know that they matter. A little brown boy superhero who loves science and spy gadgets could very well inspire the next scientist or inventor. Time for me to get back to writing.

A previous version of this essary was first posted here


Lora Hyler Chapman

Lora Hyler is a seasoned communicator, public relations and marketing expert. Founder of a 15-year PR firm, she is now on the journey to get her middle grade children books published. She has been awarded a 2016 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring for fiction, 2015 and 2016 residencies at the Martha’s Vineyard Noepe Center for the Literary Arts, and a May 2017 residency at Centre d’Art, Marnay Art Centre in Marnay sur Seine, France. 

Guest Post: A Marketing Experience from a Pair of First Time Authors

Posted on: April 16, 2017

We are pleased to welcome SCBWI-Wisconsin member Patty Grum to the blog today. She has shared with us an marketing experience many authors will encounter at some point in their careers. Marketing the book(s) you've devoted so much of your energy and imagination to can be overwhelming. It takes an entirely different skill set than writing or illustrating. Here are Patty's thoughts on the experience:

The WISCBWI listserv indicated that a vendor booth was available at the UW Whitewater Early Childhood Conference for $25.00. Was this the break we were wishing for? We self-published our first book, Brothers T(h)ree Fort, in late December of 2016 under our newly formed business, Nana Nana Whoo Hoo. Our first few months were spent selling 250 books and basking in the glow of success. It took a lot to get to print, and we were proud of our book. But the reality of how to self-market was crashing in on us, and we decided this opportunity might be the route to more book sales.

Margaret Solberg, a 4K teacher for 26 years, knows kids, and she is great at creating things. We could do this! We were going to crush it! Everyone would flock to our booth. This is how excited we looked at the Friday 3:30 pm opening, despite the fact that we slept poorly the night before just worrying if our supply of 100 books would be enough.


The first group of teachers that approached our table were overwhelmed by our excitement and inexperience. “So the story is about a boy who has three brothers and a tree fort and he makes a marshmallow shooter and zombies come and he saves the day because of birds, but not really.” We both talked over each other. We were so excited and it sounded like a plot from hell. And it isn’t! The next day we decided to stick to a simplified sentence or two and keep our excitement under control. We calmed down.

Over our booth, we had signage that read FUN AND NEW GRANDPARENT BOOK. However, when we engaged the teachers in conversation they said they weren’t grandparents and they don’t do Grandparents Day. Oops. In our community, our schools celebrate grandparents so we assumed all schools did. We cut the word GRANDPARENT down on Saturday morning. We manage to sell 3 more books, including two books to presenters at the conference!

Author Janet Halfmann had a booth nearby, and she was pure wisdom and inspiration. She told us her story to publication and gave us some good advice. GET BACK TO WRITNG AND SUBMIT, SUBMIT AND SUBMIT SOME MORE! We adored her.


Author Pat Hall was there on Friday night. She too is self-published, and we loved hearing her story. She gave us her sales technique on how to get people to stop. She was sweet, kind and encouraging.


On Saturday we sat across from Ingrid Kallick, an illustrator. Ingrid spoke about her new role with WISCBWI illustrators and encouraged us to attend the Fall Conference. Again, another experienced, encouraging voice.   

We learned some valuable lessons on marketing.

1)  Research the event  

2)  Get the name of vendors from prior years and talk to them about traffic.  

3)  Know the market. 

4)  Be patient, you never know where contacts take you.

5)  This is harder than we thought it would be!

Lessons all learned for a mere $25.00! That’s a good value, right?

We walked away with love of our fellow SCBWI members. We must give a shout-out to member Barbara Britton too! She gave a presentation at the Waukesha Library several weeks before our book was published and gave us a huge punch list of things to do for marketing. 

WISCBWI is a great community, and we are grateful to be a part of it.

Patty Grum and Margaret Solberg



Patty Grum and Margaret Solberg are the authors of Brothers T(h)ree Fort, self-published under Nana Nana Whoo Hoo. Buy their new book on Amazon. Connect with Patty and Margaret on their website, nanananawhoohoo.net and Facebook at NanaNanaWhooHoo.

Craft Resources SCBWI Members Love: Part 3

Posted on: April 14, 2017

From the person who dreams of writing or illustrating a book someday, to the person who has already been published, developing one's craft is a journey. And while critique partners and mentors are invaluable, there is much to learn from people in the business. That's exactly what the SE Area Members concluded when they met and shared helpful resources with one another–people and organizations devoted to the craft …


Sandy Brehl: sbrehlhce@yahoo.com. Sandy is “on the pulse” with titles, industry news, etc.☺


Fiction Magic Card Tricks & Tips for Writers by Deb Lund


Scrivener: Valuable software tool for longer projects (novels, NF books, guidebooks, etc.). Free trial here: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php


From member and librarian Hilarie Kane:

The CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) in Madison has been very instrumental in this development. Located within the School of Education on the University campus, it is a children’s book library for adults studying children’s literature. To learn about it and all the resources it has to offer visit the website at http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu. A useful button on the home page is “Books for Children and Young Adult” which provides links to useful blogs, websites, and sources of information about children’s books and publishing. The CCBC has a long history of promoting an awareness of multicultural literature, books about diversity and by authors of diverse backgrounds.


You may wish to join the Friends of the CCBC ($10.00 a year) to support the library and especially to receive a free copy of CCBC Choices, a list many librarians (especially in Wisconsin) use to buy books. In Choices, the CCBC librarians have chosen the books they think are the best published during the past year and list them with annotations in categories such as Science, Technology, and the Natural World, Seasons and Celebrations, Concept Books, Picture Books for Very Young Children, Picture Books for School Age Children, Fiction for Young Adults and many more. Also includes an essay on publishing trends for the year. The CCBC is very supportive of Wisconsin writers in the state and nationally. You can attend some events and get to know the librarians.


The new bookshelf at most public libraries is a useful free and accessible tool. Stop in once a month or so and browse for an hour. Ask the children’s librarian what books have stood out to her/him and what’s most popular with parents and children.


Horn Book Notes – a free listserv from The Horn Book Magazine. The Horn Book is a bi-monthly periodical about children’s and young adult literature. If you aren’t familiar with it, ask your children’s librarian if you can see an issue. Horn Book Notes includes interviews and book reviews on different subjects. Some focus on fiction, some non-fiction, picture books etc. Search “horn book notes."


Librarian Betsy Bird writes an influential blog about children’s books. If you search her name you’ll find a reference to Fuse#8 production/SLJ blog – that’s the one.


American Library Association Youth Services book awards (think Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Alex etc.)– These are the best of the best so reading the books listed in these awards (many overlap) will help you know what is considered distinguished by librarians. Illustrators will see what is innovative. Find past and present lists here http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia.


Best Sellers. Want to know what’s selling? Look at the NYT bestseller list, link to other bestseller lists from your public library catalog. Check the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Look at Amazon’s best sellers. EarlyWord is the publisher/librarian connection. If you want to see what’s being talked about in the media, by librarians, or being optioned for movie rights go to http://www.earlyword.com.


How will this help you? You will see what others are doing in the area you are writing in and find mentor texts. You will be able to determine trends, get ideas for structure, level of books for specific age readers, gauge quality of writing, discover which publishers publish things you admire and which don’t.  Does your agent or editor want to know comparables? You will know them! Will your idea sell? Is it mainstream or innovative? Has it been done recently? You will know! How did another present a similar type of book? How does a specific publisher like to present non-fiction? What is considered distinguished versus what is selling and which are you aiming for?  You will know! Editors are always talking about “knowing the market.” You will!


RED OAK WRITING critique groups have been useful. These cost money and the other writers are often adult writers, but many of them are published, and the leaders have good writing credentials so I have found the criticism and experience constructive and worthwhile: http://redoakwriting.com

Craft Resources SCBWI Members Love: Part 2

Posted on: March 14, 2017

​From the person who dreams of writing or illustrating a book someday, to the person who has already been published, developing one's craft is a journey. And while critique partners and mentors are invaluable, there is much to learn from resources written and tailored for the creative soul. 


That's exactly what the SE Area Members concluded when they met and shared helpful online craft sites with one another. It's a great place to start, be it for no-nonsense information or blissful inspiration …



  1. 12 x 12 for picture book writers (www.12x12challenge.com). It’s like attending an online year-long conference for one affordable fee☺.


  3. Accelerated Reader Bookfind: Gives list of all published titles out there! http://www.arbookfind.com/UserType.aspx


  5. BeckyTara Books: http://beckytarabooks.com


  7. Children's Books Insider/Write for Kids: (http://writeforkids.org/about/) Membership fee–$49.95/year.


  9. Girl and Duck: https://girlandduck.com


  11. Picture Book Builders: http://picturebookbuilders.com


  13. Publishers Weekly/Children's Bookshelf: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/


  15. KidLit 411: http://www.kidlit411.com


  17. Kindle Unlimited: free access to e-books https://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1002872331


  19. Natural Readers: Takes your document and reads it back to you for FREE☺! https://www.naturalreaders.com


  21. Reading For Research (ReFoReMo): http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/what-is-reforemo.html


  23. Simon & Shuster Newsletter: http://newsletters.simonandschuster.com/signup


  25. Susanna Leonard Hill: https://susannahill.com


  27. Skillshare: How to video tutorials on endless topics for flat annual fee, including Scrivener HOW-TOs and videos on self publishing from David Ault: http://skillshare.com


  29. Story Storm (www.taralazr.com): challenge yourself to list one story idea every day throughout January (formerly PiBoIdMo; now inclusive for all genres).


  31. Harold Underdown’s website: A children's book editor's site: writing, illustrating, publishing children's books

Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Juana Martinez-Neal

Posted on: February 28, 2017

Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Juana Martinez-Neal.


Juana Martinez-Neal

Juana Martinez-Neal is a mixed media, traditional artist born in Lima, the capital of Peru. Juana illustrated LA MADRE GOOSE (Putnam 2016), and LA PRINCESA AND THE PEA (Putnam 2017) both written by Susan Middleton Elya, and SWASHBY AND THE SEA (HMH 2018) written by Beth Ferry. ALMA, her debut picture book as an author illustrator, will be published by Candlewick Press in Spring 2018 Juana was named to the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Illustration Honor list in 2014, and was awarded the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Grand Prize in 2012. Juana now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her family.


You grew up in Peru. In what ways did your childhood influence your work as a writer and artist?

"I moved when I was 24. Peru influences my work in every single way. Maybe the way a mom carries a baby, how a character is wearing a blanket, the patterns, the landscapes, my palette, the way I portray and represent family. Our work is what we know and after 22 years living in the US I still find Peru in me every day."


Your debut picture book as an author illustrator will be published in Spring 2018. What inspired you to branch out into writing for children?

"I knew for a while that I wanted to become an author-illustrator, and with that in mind I was exploring different ideas for books. In fact, I had the initial idea for ALMA in 2011 but it took several rewrites and more character versions to get to what the book is now.


"Most of the time it takes time to get a book contract when you are a new illustrator. Being an author-illustrator, you are creating the stories for your art."


What is your artistic process like?

"I always start with character sketches. I can make between 20 and 40 versions of my main characters. The more I work on books, the longer I’m taking finding my characters. Once I found them, I move on to thumbnails and then to full size sketches. I tend to sketch in order from spread 02-03 to 32. My sketches are very tight so taking them to final art is easy. I’ve figure out palette, backgrounds, textures and even how much of my drops and splashes I need on each spread while I’m sketching them.


"I’m a mixed media, traditional artist. I prepare my surfaces, and tend to tweak my technique a little bit on every book. Both to keep me interested and to stretch my abilities. I (most of the time) work with acrylics, gesso, colored pencils and graphite."


How has SCBWI helped your career?

"SCBWI has made my career! I joined SCBWI in October 2004 - the week I decided to go back to illustration. I attended my first Regional Conference a few weeks later. I have met great friends, my editors and art directors, my agent Stefanie Von Borstel from Full Circle Literary, and even my baby’s Godmother! Thank you, SCBWI!"


Who are some of your favorite artists and illustrators?

"Here are some: Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin, Rebecca Dautremer, Isabelle Arsenault, Ana Juan, Sean Qualls, Erin Stead and Beatrice Alemagna."


Juana Martinez-Neal’s’ talk at the spring luncheon will be “I Am You. I See You.” Accurate Representation in Children’s Books. Learn more about Juana at her website and follow her on Twitter: @juanamartinez.


Rochelle Melander


Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.

Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Alicia Williams

Posted on: February 22, 2017

Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Penny Moore.


Alicia Williams

Alicia Williams is a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. She is excited to announce her middle grade novel, GENESIS RISING, with Atheneum/S&S will debut fall 2017. She started her storytelling as a folk storyteller and captivates audiences young and old with the Breh Rabbit and Breh Fox tales. She also writes and performs one-woman historical plays, featuring the likes of Sojourner Truth, Margaret Garner (slave that Toni Morrison based BELOVED on), Mamie Till (Emmit Till's mother), to name a few. Alicia is also a Master Teaching Artist, combining her love of storytelling and acting, to teach writing based on an arts-integration pedagogy.


You’re a playwright, storyteller, teaching artist and actress. In what ways have these roles influenced your work as a writer?

"Just yesterday I came across this quote in Creating Fiction: '…authors are not unlike actors, needing to dig into the depths of their own experiences to understand the emotions their characters might feel.'


"This is so true. As an actress and storyteller, I conjured old memories and even created false ones to tap into certain emotions. Using voice, facial expressions and body movements, actors are taught to remain true to the character. As I worked on my story, writing what I knew, I would delve into my own past experiences in order to connect with my protagonist. I'd read the scenes out loud to find the voice of my characters and the flow. That technique seemed to help a bit; although, I'm still learning how to bridge the different art forms. But still, all of it works together, everything artistic and creative. Like, some writers are musicians and the rhythm of words just come naturally, right? So, we artists tap into all of our gifts, they overlap."


As an advocate for diversity in children’s literature, what do you see as holes or needs in the market?

"The holes? The obvious hole is the lack of diversity in publishing. The excuse of not being able to discover 'talented, diverse writers' is just that, an excuse. Too many testimonies exist of editors and publishers stating that they 'can't connect to the story.' If the difficulty is not in the writing, but in the setting or characters, then there is a problem. That means the gatekeepers of literature are willfully holding back narratives that would allow readers into worlds beyond their own. And it is of the utmost urgency that those doors be open, that we become a more inclusive society. Often, the door is closed to marginalized writers, but the stories are then published by white writers. I'm sure you can name a few titles yourself. Anyway, when other authors are allowed to tell these stories, not only does it take away from a writer with the authentic experience–BUT also, the stories tend to rely on stereotypes and be offensive. The Twitter world is quick to call out these novels, but the damage is already done. The book is published, and marginalized readers (children) will be hurt by the characterizations, and white readers will believe the falseness to be true. Not understanding that we all are responsible for the images we put (and not) into the world is a major disservice to our readers."


In a recent blog post, you posed the question: What are some qualities that makes a strong female protagonist admirable for girls? What makes them enduring and heroic? How would you answer that question?

"I love a flawed character, and believe that it is important for girls to be okay with being flawed, too. We ladies are told to be perfect in so many ways–looks, studies, disposition, etc. 'Act like a girl!' What the heck does that mean? We have to give girls permission to mess up and find ways to express their individuality. Female protagonists should offer discovery and growth. Boys are allowed to discover all they want, they're encouraged to be adventurous, brave, STEM wise.


"In grad school at Hamline, I wrote about the lack of female role models in kid lit. For research, I interviewed my daughter's Girl Scout troop. Guess what? All of the girls admired Harry Potter's Hermione, but none of them wanted to be like her. Why? The other characters shunned her, describing her as an 'annoying know-it-all.' Initially, none of the other characters (Ron and Harry) liked her, they only tolerated her. They preferred Ginny, she was likeable. Well, thank heavens for the following books in the series because Hermione blossomed into a brave, knowledgeable, resourceful girl, and plenty of young readers want to purchase her wand!"


"Oh, and another thing …. YA novels featuring girl protagonists almost always include a love interest. This predictable narrative is overdone. The girls in the troop were tired of that thread, especially when boy books didn't include it. Boys get to focus on saving the world. Gender roles and stereotypes are most often reinforced in literature with girl protagonists. I'd love to see more girls who are witty or plucky, and who can cleverly figure out how to overcome challenges.


"Okay, okay, one more thing! Last year I was on a panel about feisty female protagonists. Anne Ursu shared how her character, Hazel, from Breadcrumbs, was criticized as not being feminist because she wasn't decisive. Really? What elementary aged girl is decisive? Obviously, Hazel made the decision to rescue her friend, which in itself was a heroic act. The bravery of facing your fears, going out of your comfort zone, wavering in the act, and determining that 'yes, yes I can do it, even though I'm scared to death'–those are heroic and memorable qualities for girls."


How has SCBWI helped your career?

"SCWBI keeps me connected. I'm at the beginning of my career, so my journey with the organization is still sort of new. I remember going to my first conference here in Charlotte. I was still a graduate student, and it felt like home. I was amongst like-minded individuals, and we all wanted to write great literature for children. And now, SCBWI is offering me this amazing opportunity to share my experience and knowledge! So, I can't say that the organization has 'helped' my career, but rather that it is 'helping' it."


What are some of the books you loved as a child and teen?

"Believe it or not, I was a huge Judy Blume fan. I devoured her book. My brother called me fat, my granddaddy called me squatty, and my mom comforted me by letting me know that I was just 'pudgy.' So naturally I was drawn to Blubber, and of course Fudge and Super Fudge. They were hilarious. And, I’ll never forget Margaret’s talks with God and the secrets to increasing my bust size. When I was a teen, I found a stack of my uncle’s books in my grandmother’s basement. They were raw and full of grit, nothing that I should’ve been reading. One was Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. As a girl growing up in Detroit, it really opened my eyes to what life was really like for Black men, and truthfully, there weren’t any books that reflected me or my environment."


Alicia Williams’ talk at the spring luncheon will be Mocha, Caramel Latte: The Risks and Rewards Of Writing POC. Learn more about Alicia at her website The Uncut Opinions of Alicia Williams and follow her on Twitter: @storiestolife.


Rochelle Melander


Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.

Spring Luncheon Speaker Interview: Penny Moore

Posted on: February 20, 2017

Spring is just around the corner, and with it—the Spring Luncheon: Creating Richer Narratives. We’ve put together an interview series to introduce the speakers. Today we welcome Penny Moore.

Penny Moore


Penny Moore has always had a love of books, especially young adult and middle grade. While completing degrees in Linguistics and Japanese Language & Literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle school TESOL teacher, which is where she solidified her passion for publishing and kids lit in particular. Penny joined Empire in 2016 as an agent after working at FinePrint Literary and while she’s interested in all genres, she’s specifically seeking inventive works featuring breakout voices and compelling plot lines.


You’ve studied in Georgia, Japan and South Korea. Can you talk a little bit about where you grew up and what led you to seek an International education?

"I was an Army brat growing up. I lived in Korea and Japan as a child due to my dad’s job. We were always moving around during my childhood, so after he retired, I wanted to go back an experience both countries on my own as an adult during college."


In your bio, you talk about how your work as a middle school TESOL teacher solidified your passion for publishing and kids lit. What did you see and learn in that experience that ignited your passion for literature?

"I’ve always loved kid’s lit, and when you’re teaching children a new language it’s often times difficult to get them interested in the subject matter. Learning a second language can be daunting, especially when English has so many crazy grammatical exceptions. So I found choosing universal favorites, like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (for my young students), and Harry Potter (for my older advanced students), was a great way to get them excited when it came to improving their reading comprehension. It was the power of books and their ability to transcend language barriers that made me think I’d love to play a hand in shaping the marketplace for kid’s lit."


When you look at the kid lit market today, what excites you?

"Diversity. I think in the last few years, publishing has been making more of an effort to introduce diversity into the market, knowing full and well that they need to reach young readers of all backgrounds."


What is missing?

"More diversity, specifically own voice diversity. It’s great when any writer wants to include diversity in their stories, while doing it in a thoughtful and well-researched manner. However, if you see the ratio of marginalized voices in comparison to those who are white, able-bodied, straight, and cis-gendered, the numbers are pretty sad. Not to mention there is a lot of poor representation of minority characters that majority-authors and big publishers didn’t stop to properly research before sending a book to print."


Is there anything specific you’re looking for from new authors?

"I always looking for anything that’s high concept with a stellar voice. My main passions are YA SFF and YA contemporary, but I’m pretty much open to anything if the author has a fresh take and compelling voice. I’m also looking for contemporary MG that will make me ugly cry. My list is pretty heavy on YA right now, so I’d love to represent a standout MG project as well."


What are you reading now?

"I’m currently reading The Reader by Traci Chee and it’s so incredibly engrossing. Exactly what I’d love to find in a YA fantasy."


Penny Moore’s talk at the spring luncheon will be Building a Richer World through Diversity in Books. Learn more about Penny at empireliterary.com and follow her on Twitter: @precociouspenny.


Rochelle Melander


Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for children and teens in Milwaukee. She regularly interviews authors and publishing professionals at her site, writenowcoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @writenowcoach and Facebook at WriteNowCoach.

Craft Resources SCBWI Members Love

Posted on: February 14, 2017










​From the person who dreams of writing or illustrating a book someday, to the person who has already been published, developing one's craft is a journey. And while critique partners and mentors are invaluable, there is much to learn from resources written and tailored for the creative soul. 



That's exactly what the SE Area Members concluded when they met and shared helpful craft books with one another. It's a great place to start, be it for no-nonsense information or blissful inspiration …




  1. Martha Alderson: The Plot Whisperer


  3. Paul Brians: Common Errors in English Usage


  5. Jennifer Bryant: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus


  7. Josefa H. Byrne: Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words 


  9. Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way


  11. Lisa Cron: Wired for Story


  13. Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas: Anatomy of Nonfiction


  15. Captain Francis Grose: A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1963 edit.)


  17. Diana Hacker: A Writer’s Reference


  19. Krisit Holl: Writer’s First Aid (Getting Organized, Getting Inspired and Sticking to It)


  21. Stephen King: On Writing


  23. Cheryl Klein: The Magic Words (Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults)


  25. Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird


  27. Alijandra Mogilner: Children’s Writer’s Word Book


  29. Uri Shulevitz: Writing With Pictures


  31. William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White


  33. Harold Underdown: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books


  35. Orson Scott Card: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy


  37. "Time-Period Books": Scour antique stores/used bookstores for titles from the era that reflects your character(s) to get a true sense of language, grammar, etc.​ Ex. Marcus Zusak: The Book Thief  

Tips: How to Get an Agent & Avoid the Slush Pile

Posted on: January 3, 2017

On December 2nd, the Southwest area writers gathered for a panel discussion on "How to get an agent and avoid the slush pile." While the query letter is still the main way to get an agent's attention, more success stories are happening every day with a writer finding an agent through an online contest, conference, or mentorship.

In case you missed the event, a few of our panelists offered to share helpful tips.


Consider applying to a mentorship program: 

Apply! My mentorship with Ann Angel was a life-changing experience. She gave me in-depth feedback about making the voice and point of view in my novel more consistent, cutting unnecessary scenes and words, and raising the stakes for my character. Melissa Hammond

For those currently involved in a mentorship, here are some tips:

"Be proactive. Your mentor wants to read your work, but you have to send it to her. Don’t wait for her to prompt you for more pages.

"Involve your mentor in multiple stages of the process. Your mentor can help you with a lot more than just sentence-level edits. Talk with her before you dive into a big revision or new project, and she can help make sure you’re heading in the right direction. She can also help you with query letters and synopses.

"Learn about your mentor’s journey. I asked Ann about her own writing journey. She gave me a great perspective on how to make time for writing, how to make sure an agent is a good fit for you, and how to work with an agent once you have one.

"Get lunch. Lunch is just the best." Melissa Hammond

What’s one or two main tips you have for writers who have never pitched at a conference?

"Pitching is a high-stakes situation, so your body will naturally be in a state of high arousal. Instead of trying to fight that, you can take control of the feeling by reinterpreting high arousal as 'excitement' rather than 'anxiety.'

"There was something that inspired you to write your project. Be excited about it! Be so excited that your passion is contagious. You don’t want your audience to think 'hmm, that story might have some cool nuggets.' You want them drooling the way you do when you see a delicious new book ready to read."  - Jacob Turner

"You don’t need to have your pitch memorized BUT have it rehearsed to the point where you feel so comfortable with it, you could recite it from memory anyway. This way, you’ve built up muscle memory. You’ll know which words to put emphasis on and where to take your pauses for breath. In the week leading up to a conference, I love practicing my pitch in the car on my way to work (so no one thinks I’m weird when they hear me talking to myself). Also, read your pitch sloooowly. Agents are trying to listen and if you speed-read through (this happens when you’re nervous), it’s harder for them to catch the details of what you’re saying. Practice, breathe, and enunciate." Ashley Hearn

Enter online writing contests:

"Do them! 

Announcing: Spring Releases 2017

Posted on: December 7, 2016

It’s that time again… not just the holidays, but time to celebrate the upcoming release season for books by our members. If you’re not among those with a book(s) coming out between January and June, why does that matter to you?


It matters because when your turn comes, (and it will) what else would you love to see our members doing to help support your launch season?


You can now view the flier on our regional page here.


Due to a website glitch, you currently cannot download the several versions of the SPRING 2017 release flier. However, I’ll notify via social media and the listserv when the release link is working properly. Downloading is precisely what you’ll hope everyone among us is doing when your name is among those on the release fliers in the future. For now, if you plan to see/contact significant folks before the download works properly, just email me directly and I’ll send them to you as an email attachment.


Let me count the ways:


1.  Share the download link on social media, more than once, throughout the spring, shouting out specific titles, authors, topics, illustrators, publishers to increase spontaneous circulation.


2.  Send direct emails with links to your family, and friends, suggesting which of the titles featured you can imagine would be “just right” for ________________.


3.  Asking those among your contacts who are involved with libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. to print and hand-deliver a copy or two to those who make book-buying decisions.


4.  Print out copies for yourself and use the power of eye contact and word-of-mouth to deliver to those you know personally in schools, libraries, bookstores, etc.


5.  Check these titles out at your local library, even if you don’t plan to read them. Books that circulate stay in stock.


6.  If your library system doesn’t stock the titles, request them then check them out. It will raise awareness and could result in a system purchase. It also means the librarian would read it, which could result in it being featured in a book group or staff recommendation.


7.  If you see a selection that really does seem perfect for someone you know, consider gifting it. If you know a reader, you know that books are always welcome gifts.


8.  Use those school, bookstore, and library contacts to suggest potential author / illustrator visits.


9.  Don’t forget about any of the above after doing these things the first time.


“Kidlit” books have a greater potential to stay in print than books for adults, sometimes over decades rather than only months or years. That’s because there is always a new audience being born and growing into our books. Those incoming audiences/readership will find these titles through teaching/librarian fans who find them now.


That, of course, is a good thing.


On the other hand, each book has one and only one “LAUNCH” window. The current release season is the time and opportunity to really “party hard”, making key readers and decision-makers aware of the books. Just as we hope the books will live long and prosper among their target audiences, we know that those decision-makers are bombarded by a new series of releases each and every season ahead. Unless books make a memorable splash in early days, or find avid fans among readers who book-talk the titles among friends and young readers, it is all too easy to slip out of the main current and become beached among the rocky shallows.


Well, that emptied my bag of trite metaphors and overused expressions, so Ill end with this: The best possible gift is the one we receive all year long: the support and encouragement of our friends and families.


Have a wonderful holiday season and 2017.



Sandy Brehl


Sandy Brehl is the PAL Coordinator Facebook administrator for the Wisconsin chapter. She is also the author of Odin's Promise. Find her at sandybrehl.com and on Twitter @SandyBrehl & @PBWorkshop.