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Summer 2011


The Mitten

Dear MichKids,

Some of you are probably wondering why you received this newsletter in your email. "I don't subscribe," you might be thinking. We assure you, this is not a clerical error. In fact, there is a brief article in this issue from co-RA Monica Harris explaining the newsletter is now free to all SCBWI-MI members. Be sure to check it out.   


And speaking of free, I'm looking for something free that I was promised I would have this summer: time. Have you seen it? Because it never showed up. I keep checking the mail, but mostly I find coupons for Olive Garden (which I really don't like because when you're there, you're family, and really, who wants that?), or fliers for the most life-like baby dolls on the face of the planet.


I searched in the basement, where instead of free time I found boxes of clothes, books, and household items that I took to Goodwill. I searched in the yard, where I found a landscaping project (okay, three of them) that needed to be done. I searched under beds, where I found that my 23-year-old carpet needed to be replaced. (I am listening to the whack-whack-whack of that funky knee stretcher thingee at this very moment.) I searched in my daughter's bedroom, where I discovered that aqua paint is really not all that soothing, and was overcome with a desire to paint it a more relaxing color called Ballet, which is not pink, by the way.  


No, it is not to be found, this elusive free time. Unless...well, shoot. I've done it again, haven't I? Guess I needed that reminder that the only free time is what we make, and that our writing occasionally needs to be at the top of the to-do list. But I've still got August, right? Right?



Jennifer Whistler


P.S. This issue features the debut of our new "Member Profile." Our goal for each issue is to spotlight a member who has inspired you, someone who has clawed his or her way out of the slush pile, or anyone that you feel deserves to be shown off a little. If you have an idea for a future member profile (and are willing to write the article), please contact me with your thoughts.

God Caller ID

Kiddie Litter by Neal Levin

In This Issue
Newsletter is Now FREE!
Member Profile: Tracy Bilen
Book Review: Second Sight
Ask Frida Pennabook
Spring Conference Highlights
Brief Encounters with a Petty and Vengeful God
You're Never Too Old for Crayons
S.H.I.N.E. Highlights
Hugs and Hurrahs
Quick Links


Regional Co-Advisor: Monica Harris

Regional Co-Advisor:
Leslie Helakoski

Newsletter Editor:   

Jennifer Whistler

Hugs and Hurrahs & Opportunities Columns Editor:

Linda Dimmer

"Ask Frida Pennabook"

Newsletter Subscriptions:

Kristin Lenz

Volunteer Coordinator:

Monica Harris

SCBWI-MI's The Mitten Now Free to all Michigan Members


In an effort to enhance membership at the regional levels, SCBWI International has determined that regional newsletters will now be free to members. That's great news! 


What do you need to do? Keep your email updated on your SCBWI International profile through  This is the list we use to send the newsletter. Don't miss info about upcoming events, fabulous Michigan news, and inspiring articles.


If you are a current subscriber and have a balance on your account, you will be receiving an email notification from Kristin Lenz which will serve as a gift certificate towards SCBWI-MI merchandise at one of our events. 


So, enjoy your latest perk of being a SCBWI member and we look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event!


Monica Harris

co-Regional Advisor

Tracy Bilen

Tracy Bilen

Member Profile:

An Interview with Tracy Bilen

by Kristin Lenz 


Tracy Bilen's debut YA novel, tentatively titled Riding Backwards, will be published next summer by Simon Pulse.  I interviewed Tracy about her debut and path to publication.


KL: You were the winner of the SCBWI-MI novel mentorship competition for 2009.  Tell us about this experience and how it helped you meet your writing goals.

TB: This was such a fantastic opportunity! My mentor was the amazing Shutta Crum who read and gave me feedback on my novel five times throughout the year. We met every couple of months to talk about the suggestions Shutta had. She also shared with me some of her favorite first pages of other YA novels, and referred me to articles and books that addressed specific areas I needed to work on.


KL: In addition to SCBWI, what other organizations/conferences/workshops helped to develop your writing?

TB: I took two Writer's Digest courses, the Novel Writing course and the Advanced Novel Writing course, and found them invaluable. In the first course, I worked on the first 50 pages of a novel as well as a synopsis, and in the second course I received tons of feedback from both the instructor and fellow students on the first 50,000 words of a novel.

Belonging to RWA (Romance Writers of America) has also had a significant impact on my development as a writer. RWA chapters offer many contests that provide both feedback and a chance for finalists to get their work in front of agents and editors. My local chapter (Greater Detroit RWA) has monthly meetings featuring agent and author speakers. There is even an on-line chapter for YA writers.


KL: How did you find your agent?

TB: I used to identify agents that represented YA authors. As a member (it's free to join), I was able to track on-line who I'd submitted to and what their responses were. I actually met my agent, Kevan Lyon, at a RWA chapter meeting. She also represents several others in my chapter, all of whom have nothing but good things to say about her (as do I!)


KL: What has it been like working with your editor?  Tell us about your revisions.

TB: We started with an editorial letter with all of the "big picture" changes that needed to be made. After that came line edits, which included reshuffling of words and sentences as well as questions in the margins like, "Really?", "Why?", and "Is that possible?" I've been amazed at all the details that my editor (Annette Pollert) has picked up on. Right now, the manuscript is with the copy editor. The time frame from receipt of my first editorial letter to copy edits was about three months.


KL: That was lot of work to complete in three months.  You have a full-time day job as a high school French teacher and two young kids.  How do you find time to write?

TB: Actually, being a teacher has probably helped, because I'm used to having to work at home. Once the kids are in bed, I usually do something that I find relaxing like watching a favorite TV show or reading, then I head to my office to write. Since I've sold my novel, the editing process has been more intense. I feel fortunate that my kids are a bit older now (five and ten), so they can handle my having to work quite a bit on the weekends.


KL: What's next for you?

TB: I'm currently working on a YA novel set on Mackinac Island, one of my favorite places! I hope to be able to attend the SCBWI-MI Fall conference for some extra research.


KL: Any advice or inspiration you'd like to leave us with?

TB: Once you start querying, try your very best to start your next novel right away! (I know, it's really, really hard advice to follow!) I did this while I was querying a book that didn't sell. The new book was the one that won the SCBWI mentorship competition and that Simon Pulse bought. And if you do sell the book that you're querying? You will already have a head start on your option book, which you'll appreciate when you're working on edits for the first!


Editor's Note: It is once again time for the Novel Mentorship Contest. The winner will be announced at the 2011 Fall Conference on Sunday, September 25. Applications are available by clicking on this link. You can also learn more about the fall conference on beautiful Mackinac Island by visiting our website at  


Learn more about Tracy at and  


Kristin Lenz contributes to the YA Fusion blog with Tracy and other debut YA authors.  Check them out at


By Jennifer Rumberger


Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. Asterisk Books, 2011.


Have you ever wondered what thought processes run through an editor's head when reading a manuscript? How they are able to determine which manuscript could flop and which could be a hit? Cheryl B. Klein is senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and her book answers those questions. It is an amazing collection of transcripts from Cheryl's speaking engagements and blog and web posts over the past few years. Each chapter represents a different presentation or post, one being Cheryl's presentation to our very own Michigan SCBWI at the fall conference in October 2007.


Examples are one of the most helpful aspects of this book. Throughout the chapters, Cheryl refers to books she has edited and even goes into early revisions to clarify her points. Two chapters that can be especially helpful and fun to read are simply titled "The Annotated Query Letter from Hell" and "The Annotated Query Letter That Does It Right." She takes two letters point by point and shares how the letters are either a put-off or entice her to want more from the author.


Another large portion of the book is broken down into the four major elements of fiction: Point, Character, Plot and Voice. Great detail and time are spent on each element including discussion points and exercises meant to strengthen the writing of any manuscript. Picture book authors will benefit greatly from the chapter that details the process of writing a picture book, going so far as to create a manuscript and turn it into a picture book dummy.


She ends the book by summarizing information from previous chapters and pulls it all together into a wonderful revision guideline meant to encourage revision and provide simple goals that are achievable, not scary and unattainable. The book then ends as it began with a look into an editors' heads and the relationships they hope to form with their writers.


I recommend this to all children's writers on any part of the writing journey, whether it be young adult, middle grade or picture books. Definitely time well spent.


Jennifer lives in Livonia with her husband and two boys. She enjoys her writing time as the calm among the busyness of everyday life.

Frida Pennabook

Image courtesy of FCIT

Ask Frida Pennabook 


The world of children's literature is a lonely one, and sometimes it's helpful to tap into the expertise of a fellow writer or artist. Got a question? Need advice? Just ask Frida.  


Dear Frida,


At a recent conference, I read on the website that it is a good idea to print and bring business cards so that I can connect with people at the conference. When I gave my card to one of the presenters, he seemed a bit put off. What's up with that?

Eager Beaver


Dear E.B. (Such an appropriate abbreviation for a writer!),


It is definitely a good idea to bring business cards to a business function. Networking with other attendees is an important part of any gathering. However, only in rare circumstances would it be appropriate to give a card to a speaker. Think of it this way: wouldn't it be a bit awkward if you were at a school visit reading a story to a room full of school students, and afterward each of them gave you their Twitter handle? What would you do with all of them? Unless you are trying to sell them all something and plan to build a potential customer list, you would probably toss all those little scraps of paper. Most speakers do not have time to keep up with contacts in this way. They are here to inform and inspire, not to sell us a product or pick up pen pals.


If, however, on the off chance that a speaker actually does want to be your pen pal, your bosom buddy, your new best friend, then they will (you know what's coming, don't you?) give you one of their cards. If and when that happens, you can politely accept it and then be sure to follow up.


Need a little expert advice? Send your questions here, and Jennifer will send them on to Frida. 

Spring Conference
CRAFTfest Highlight:
L Wheeler Boot Camp

Lisa emphasizes a point during

Boot Camp

Picture Book Boot Camp  

with Lisa Wheeler

by Leslie Helakoski


One of the highlights of the recent spring conference, CRAFTfest, was Lisa Wheeler's Picture Book Boot Camp. Her day-long instensive workshop is an ideal way to shape up, and incorporates all the main picture book issues, such as openings, voice, POV, rhyme, focus, style and inspiration. It could take years to accumulate all the information that Lisa goes over with expertise and her trademark humor. As part of her camps, she also critiques manuscripts for up to 20 lucky participants. This helps her see which points the group needs to work on most.


Cleverly written examples of what not to do underscore the points she makes. In this way, it is easy to see what works and what does not. My favorite tip from the CRAFTfest bootcamp had to do with the words themselves: Every word counts. So, if you are using a refrain in your book, don't repeat the exact same refrain each time. Make those words count, too! Try tweaking them slightly each time you use the refrain to crank up an element of the story. Show something new happening or building with each repetition.  


I went home and applied this concept to a work in progress right away-- AHA! It made the work more fun and added tension!


If you missed this boot camp or want to participate in one again, (there is so much to absorb!), then then be sure to visit Lisa's website because she is planning another boot camp somewhere in Michigan soon. Her website is  


Leslie, one SCBWI-MI's Co-RAs, writes and illustrates picture books from her home in Mattawan. Visit her website at  

Pete Hautmann being petty

"That's Mister Petty and Vengeful to you."

Brief Encounters with a  

Petty and Vengeful God

by Catherine Bieberich


If you've ever read a Pete Hautman novel--and there are over 20 from which to choose--then you know what a crazy journey it is, with amazing twists, turns, and wry new ways of viewing the world. If you were fortunate enough to attend the Spring CRAFTfest on May 14th, you met the man behind the books, and instantly understood why his novels are so cunning and quirky.


Pete Hautman is an unassuming man. He is approachable, seemingly unaware of the fact that any respectable YA author would give their left earlobe (or first born child) to write even one book that captures the imagination, keeps you reading, and makes you think as deeply as Godless does, or Mr. Was, or Invisible. Without pause, he answered any and every question posed regarding his books and his creative process. It was particularly fascinating to discover how he comes up with his seemingly impossible story ideas: How to Steal a Car, in which a fifteen-year-old suburban girl spices up her life by 'borrowing' cars for joy rides, is only one example.


In Pete's intensive workshop, he shared with us the epiphanies that have kept him from throwing in the towel when the going got tough. His words were encouraging, and those epiphanies--from the "contract" he makes with the reader, to understanding that he will never understand all of the prior knowledge the reader brings to the book--were invaluable. He also challenged us to engage in several writing activities that mirrored the relationship between reader and author.


Pete's presentation was as sophisticated and brilliant as the author himself. The dry humor that wove itself throughout the afternoon kept us on the edge of our chairs...that, and the knowledge that Pete is, by his own admission, a petty and vengeful God.   


Cathy hopes to one day give Pete a run for his money by publishing all 30-something drafts she has lying around her office. In the meantime, she practices being petty and vengeful with her middle-school students.

Wendy Workshop by L TaylorYou're Never Too Old for Crayons

by Lori Taylor   


Just as I expected, my excitement about meeting artist Wendy Anderson-Halperin and trying her medium--crayons--did not disappoint me. It was not "coloring" like in the days when my mother used to give me crayons in my playpen to keep me entertained as a tot, or when I colored with my kids or my granddaughter. This was magic. This was different. This was serious art business!


Like Wendy, drawing is my favorite thing to do, and "Crayolas" (as my grandmother used to call them) are just the ticket for an artist-on-the-go like me. Workshop participants were supplied with a very handy tool for carrying crayons when traveling, a specially designed box or cardboard palette for our crayons. It was nothing like the old green and gold boxes in which the crayons get stuck and clumped up. This is a flat box with room for pencils. Now if I can just find one that is hinged and made out of wood.


Next, Wendy had us all practice loosening our grips and lightening up on the pressure of our crayons. Keeping it light and layering color, or "thickening the soup" as Wendy said, makes for better art and less smearing.


Another important practice often overlooked by artists, Wendy said, is "bone work." Everything from quick sketches, to setting the stage of double-spread pages and perspective is all pre-illustration skeletal structure. All work begins with bones, which support the structure, be it in story, art, or a living breathing body or plant.

W Halperin workshop

Wendy helps a workshop participant (notice the handy carrying box)


Finally, near the end of the day while Wendy was demonstrating, she shared a quote from Twyla Tharp that stood out for me: "Work is what you do to prepare yourself for the day you make it." Wow! As an artist, writer, and illustrator, that bit of inspiration for me was the icing on this workshop cake.  


We all work hard at what we do and love. And from the looks of Wendy's work and books, she has certainly put in her work and time. This advice, and seeing what Wendy and others have done, will keep us all going.  


Lori is planning to spend some time this summer in elk and bear country, where she plans to tote along her crayons for plein air studies and bone work. No turpentine, no water, no brushes, no mess. Just pure color and pure fun.


Spring 2011 Conference:

Were You There, or Were You Square? 

CRAFTfest speakers

Carolyn Yoder, Monica Harris, Pete Hautman, Vicky Lorencen, Leslie Helakoski, Wendy Anderson Halperin

Monica and Vicky at CRAFTfest

Conference Organizers Monica Harris and Vicky Lorencen

SHINE group

S.H.I.N.E organizer Michelle Bradford, Presenters Monica Harris, Ruta Drummond, and Vicky Lorencen

SCBWI-MI Members S.H.I.N.E Downtown at July Conference
by Lisa Healy

On Saturday, July 16, SCBWI-Michigan members came together to shine at the Michigan Public Library in Lansing.  The 45 attendees were there for four major reasons: Submissions, How-To's, Inspiration, and Notable Essentials.


The morning session opened with Monica Harris, SCBWI-MI Co-Regional Advisor, and Vicky Lorencen, Adcom Member and SHINE presenter, shedding light on the basics of the children's publishing industry, a must for those attendees new or relatively new to SCBWI.  A fun round of "Translating Children's Publishingese," a Q & A discussion, tested everyone's knowledge of industry jargon by presenting insider statements for translation, including, "I saw the F&Gs of my new PB today."  Translation:  "I saw the folds & gathers (sheets) of my new picture book today." 


Ruta Drummond, Associate Publisher of tiger tales (an imprint of ME Media LLC), spent part of the morning with individual manuscript critique lottery winners conferring on their manuscript submissions.  Her afternoon feature presentation, "Catch That Tiger by the Tail -- Books for Young People," focused attendees on the direction quality picture books, board books and novelty formats are going, how they differ from 10 years ago, how technology is changing the face of the book, and what tiger tales is seeking out in manuscript submissions.


Attendees honed in on SHINE-talk with a lot of curiosity during the Q & A sessions with both Adcom presenters and Drummond.  "Children's books are still one of the most lucrative genres in the market," said Drummond. "Somebody has to write them so it might as well be you."


Thanks to the leadership of conference chair Michelle Bradford, SHINE was a major building block for "Strength Training," the more extensive fall conference being held at the Mission Pointe Resort on Mackinac Island September 23-25. (Editor's Note: See the conference listing below in the Opportunities column for more information on the Strength Training conference.)


Lisa is a new member of SCBWI-MI's AdCom team. She listens to "Publishingese for Dummies" CDs in her home in West Bloomfield.  

Games Magazine cover



Neal Levin has several publishing announcements: he illustrated "Gymnastics Grandma" in the April/May 2011 issue of Hopscotch; he wrote the poem "The Bookworm" in the April/May 2011 issue of Boys' Quest; and his hidden picture puzzle, "Lonely Lion," was published in the "Kids Stuff" section of Games Magazine in July 2011. Many congratulations to you, Neal!


A Warm Winter Tail, a picture book about animals' winter adaptations, written by Carrie A. Pearson and illustrated by Christina Ward, will be released in fall 2012 by Sylvan Dell Publishing. Now that's a happy tale!


Monica Harris' "Monster Mansion" will be published in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of Humpty Dumpty. It will be featured as a Build a Book project! She has also sold "Mixed-Up Animal Groups," a puzzle activity, to Highlights Magazine. That's some monstrously great news, Monica!


Lisa Rose Chottiner won second place in the Winter Flash Contest from Looks like you've got the write stuff, Lisa!


Janet Heller's one-act play The Cell Phone won fourth place in a national contest sponsored by the Fenton Village Players. Her drama was performed twice at the Fenton Village Players One Act Play Festival this past June in Fenton, Michigan.

In addition, Janet's new poetry book, Traffic Stop, was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2011. For more information about Traffic Stop, visit Congratulations, Janet!

fortune cookie


(Note: Events and opportunities are not necessarily sponsored or endorsed by SCBWI-MI. We try our best to list only high-quality notifications through reputable sources. Please confirm all information with the source whenever possible. )




August 14  

Shutta Crum invites you to her 11th Annual Summer Schmooze for writers and illustrators of children's books. The schmooze will be held in the playhouse from 2-5 p.m. You do not need to be a member of SCBWI. If you have friends who are interested in writing for kids, or in joining the organization, please feel free to bring them along and to repost this information. What to bring: a munchie to pass (beverages provided); anything you want to share (an f & g, art, new book, announcement, etc.); freebies you'd like to pass on to other writers (writing magazines, books, catalogs, etc.); and like new books to donate to the Martin County (KY) Library. Shutta's family supports the library through book donations. Please no yellowed, ripped, or torn books. RSVP appreciated via email to shutta AT shutta DOT com.   


August 22-Dec 4

University of Michigan Hospital is hosting a photography exhibit by Phyllis Perry at the Cancer Center. The show, entitled Nature's Art: The Poetry of Photography, includes brightly colored photos of animals, nature, bridges, and country scenes, all with poetic verses alongside each photo. For more information, visit  


September 23-25 

The SCBWI-MI Fall Conference, "Strength Training," will be at Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island. Presenters include publisher Beverly Horowitz, editor Tamra Tuller, author Kristin Wolden Nitz, author/illustrator Matt Faulkner, author Donna Jo Napoli, agent Barry Furrow, picture book author Boni Ashburn, author/illustrator Ryan Hipp, and author Chris Eboch. For questions, contact Leslie Helakoski (lelhel AT hotmail DOT com) or Pat Trattles (trattles AT yahoo DOT com). More details, including registration forms and the novel mentorship application are available on our website at .  



Story Pie Press is currently seeking health related/special interest picture books.

Submit queries to If they are interested in your manuscript, you will be asked to send it in full electronically. For more information, please go to


Medallion Press, which publishes books and e-books for adults and young adults, is actively seeking YA submissions of 60,000 words or more in the following genres: Mystery, Mainstream Fiction, Historical Fiction, Christian, Romance (including paranormal), Horror, Thriller, Suspense, Science Fiction, and Literary Fiction. Nonfiction is limited to agented manuscripts. Detailed submission guidelines are at


Tu Books, a new imprint of Lee & Low Books, is launching this fall. It publishes speculative fiction for children and young adults featuring diverse characters and settings.
They are looking specifically for stories for both middle grade (ages 8-12)
and young adult (ages 12-18). Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director, is particularly interested in seeing: Asian steampunk, any African culture, Latino/a stories, First Nations/Native American/Aboriginal fantasy or science fiction written by tribal members, original
postapocalyptic worlds, historical fantasy or mystery set in a non-Western
setting. For Tu Books' submission guidelines, please see



Lightspeed, the online science fiction magazine, is looking for all types of science fiction and encourages authors and illustrators to push the envelope. Submissions are accepted only through their online submission form at


Dig magazine focuses on archaeology--recent discoveries; techniques used in the field and in the laboratory; archaeologists past and present; innovative 'dig' programs for 9- to 14-year-old readers. See submission guidelines at  



2011 Family Circle Fiction Contest: Enter an original, fiction short story of no more than 2,500 words. Entries must be unpublished and may not have won any prize or award. Up to two entries per person will be accepted, but each entry must be a unique short story. Entries must be postmarked on or before September 9, 2011, and received by September 16, 2011. The winner will be selected around October 15, 2011. See the rules, prize, and entry information at


Children's Writer Poetry or Verse Story Writing Contest: The contest is for a single poem, collection of poems, or verse story for children of any age, up to 300 words. Entries may be serious or humorous, and take any poetic form. Entries must be received by October 31, 2011. Current subscribers to Children's Writer enter free. All others pay an entry fee of $15, which includes an 8-month subscription. Winners will be announced in the March 2012 issue. Prizes: $500 for first place plus publication in Children's Writer, $250 for second place, and $100 for third, fourth, and fifth places. For more details, please go to



Green Genre Poetry is a blog that covers paying markets for poetry. For more information, click on


The Write4Kids Blog is a newsy blog covering all kinds of things of interest to kidlit writers. To check it out, go to