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In This Issue
Leslie Connor Shares Her "Meat Sheet"
Can We Be "PALs"?
Hugs and Hurrahs
How Do SCBWI-MI Finances Work?
Follow the Rainbow
Harold Underdown
Ellen Hopkins
Tim Travaglini, Par for the Course
Jennie Dunham: Learning the Agent Swing
My Very First SCBWI Conference
Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List
Dear MichKids:

Woohoo for 2010! However the world looks back on 2009, our chapter of SCBWI can remember it as being an incredibly productive and exciting year. From the Spring and Fall Conferences to Networks Day to a greener version of the newsletter, our members came together to make our chapter even stronger and more active. Huge thanks go out to Gail Flynn and Cecily Donnelly for all their contributions, and we wish them the best as they venture into new territories. Big ol' welcoming hugs for Sandy Carlson, who joined AdCom - all the work of our chapter is done by volunteers, and we're grateful for them all.
On behalf of everyone who works to make our chapter so successful, I hope you enjoy the e-newsletter. If you'd like to contribute articles or art, if you have great news to share, or if you have any questions, please email me at

Kris Remenar, editor

P.S. If you update your email with the national chapter of SCBWI, please remember to let us Michiganianders know, too. We don't want anyone to miss out on all the good stuff!
By Monica Harris

Leslie Connor shared with the audience things that have funneled into her writing and asked participants to always be open for stories around us.  Having written a picture book, MISS BRIDIE CHOSE A SHOVEL, a YA novel in verse, DEAD ON TOWN LINE, and a tween novel, WAITING FOR NORMAL, it's obvious that Leslie lives by her words. Not only did she share how each of these stories funneled into her mind, but she also shared her "Meat Sheet" which was something she hoped participants could "chew on and put to work right away".  Some of these meaty tidbits were:


For beginners:

     Shorten sentences and reduce (omit) your adverbs.

     Write with fewer words - less words always  increases impact.

     Watch out for passive voice.

     Trust the reader.  (Remember, especially if they are children, they are smart!)


Feeling stuck or lost?  Try going back to whatever it was that drew you to the story in the first place.


Spinning in place?  Go forward or back!  If the scene you're working on is holding you up, type in these words:  SOMETHING BRILLIANT GOES HERE.  Then go write one of the scenes that you know more about.  Leslie Connor and Randy Bulla


The Third Path:  You've written something (first path) that doesn't resonate with your editor and he/she suggests changes (second path).  If this path doesn't resonate with you ask "What is the heart of the editor's reaction?"  Try coming at it from another pathway that feels more natural to you but pleases the editor (third path).


Mottos for Writers:

  The first line makes a promise.  Gain your reader's trust and then keep it.

  Write what you can't ignore.  It's that phrase or idea that niggles in your head.  The difference between successful writers and unsuccessful writers is that one takes the time to write it down while the other lets the idea wiggle away.

  Don't keep anything in your manuscript that you don't believe to be beautiful or useful.


Concerning these rough economic times:  Yes, the market is bad right now but use that time to write so when the market breaks, you've got a stack of things for consideration.


Monica Harris, who has been awfully nice, has added to her Christmas list a new muse for 2010.  The other one took up chain smoking and ran away with a motorcycle gang.

by Joni Sensel

Are you a PAL? You might be - or should be - if you're an SCBWI member and your work for children has been commercially published by one of the organizations listed in the SCBWI Market Surveys. Listed companies include "traditional" trade or educational publishing houses, magazines, religious publishers, and multi-media publishers.


Quick PAL facts:

      PAL stands for "published and listed."

      PAL is a relatively new SCBWI membership level, supplementing the Associate and Full levels

      SCBWI members at the PAL level are eligible for extra benefits such as inclusion in the SCBWI website's "Find a Speaker" listing and the option of having your books featured or sold at regional events

      To get the full benefits of your membership, you need to check and make sure your membership level is correct in the organization's database.


Why PAL?

As the number of people exploring self-publishing continues to grow, SCBWI wanted to be able to recognize and provide additional benefits to professional members who have achieved publication through the more stringent acquisition and editing process generally in place with "traditional" publishers and publications. The PAL level isn't meant to belittle self-published works, but is an attempt to recognize those authors whose work has achieved third-party vetting by industry professionals.


What you may need to do

If you're an SCBWI member who's been published, you need to confirm or correct the membership level in your SCBWI Member Profile. You may miss out on benefits - both from the International organization and in our region - if you don't.


Here's how: Go to


If you're already a member:

1.     Click Member Login in the upper right and log in. (Remember your password may now be all upper-case, even if it wasn't before.)

2.     Click Manage profile in the left-hand menu or Manage my Profile! on the right side of your member welcome page.

3.     Click View my Profile on the right.

4.     Check the profile information after "writer" or "illustrator." You should find "Full," "Associate," or "PAL" noted there.

5.     If that level needs correction, click Manage My Profile! in  the upper right.

6.     Confirm or correct any personal information as needed, then scroll down to the Professional Information section.

7.     Confirm that the answer to "Are you published in the children's literature market?" is correctly selected.

8.     If the answer is Yes, enter your most recent publication title and year. (Caveat: See Note 9A below.)

9.     Under Name of publisher, select the publisher of that book.

a.     If you have recently self-published, but have previously published traditionally, use your most recent traditional publisher, title, and year. Otherwise, your PAL membership level might be bumped backward to Full. This is a known bug with the website that will be fixed soon. (You can always list other publication credits in your biographical text.)

b.     If your publisher is not listed in any of the drop-down fields, enter the name of your publisher where indicated below them - then, when you're done with the remaining steps, click Contact in the upper right to e-mail the SCBWI office. Let them know that you've entered the name of an unlisted publisher so they can initiate the appropriate review. You'll remain at the Full membership level until your publisher is listed in a drop-down so you can select it. Check back every few weeks; more firms are listed regularly.

10.  Scroll farther down. Once you have selected a listed publisher, you will have the option to indicate whether you are available for speaking agreements. (You may need to continue to Step 11, save the publisher information, leave the profile page, and come back to is to see this option in a pink bar at the bottom of the "Professional information" section.)

11.  Scroll down and click Continue to save your changes. (While you're at it, you might want to update your bio, upload a photo, etc.)


If you're joining for the first time:


Follow the steps above, except click Join Now instead of Member Login in Step 1 and enter the necessary information to join, and then proceed to creating your Member Profile.

      If you enter the name of your publisher as in Step 9b above, you will be listed initially as a Full member, and an email to the PAL review committee will be automatically generated so they can verify your publisher for possible inclusion in SCBWI's market surveys.


Appeals process

SCBWI does have a formal process for those cases when a publisher is not listed but you'd like to appeal that decision. If you've completed the steps above, including e-mailing the office in Los Angeles, but find that your publisher still has not been listed after several months, contact your friendly neighborhood co-RA and Monica or Leslie can double-check the most recent lists or give you more information about potential next steps.


It's complicated, we know. But once the kinks are worked out, PAL membership will help SCBWI provide more benefits than ever to published members, as well as those still working toward publication. And having plenty of published members active in the organization and sharing their experiences and expertise benefits everyone.


Joni Sensel is the coRegional Advisor in Western Washington. She is the author of THE FARWALKER'S QUEST, THE TIMEKEEPER'S MOON, THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS, REALITY LEAK and two picture books, including the recipient of a 2001 Henry Bergh Honor from the ASPCA.


Write on, Crystal Bowman! MY READ AND RHYME BIBLE STORYBOOK, which she co-authored with Cindy Kenney of Veggie Tale, was released in September by Tyndale. She looks forward to seeing her picture book with Boyds Mills coming out next year.


Woohoo for Lisa Rose Chottiner! The first chapter of her novel TIA'S BETTER DAY won second prize in The Writer's Block Contest!


Carrie Clickard is shining brightly! Her picture book, with the working title of VICTRICIA MALICIA CALAMITY HIGGINS, was acquired by Flashlight Press! Who's Jim Hines


Jean Alicia Elster's book WHO'S JIM HINES? is a nominee for the 2009-2010 Great Lakes Great Books Award (Grades 4 - 5). This is a children's choice award sponsored by the Michigan Reading Association.  Great news, Jean!


Thanks to the SCBWI-MI Fall 2008 conference, Kathy Higgs-Coulthard sold an article to Jack & Jill's editor, Danny Lee! "Artistic Animals" was published in the March/April 2009 issue. Woohoo for you, Kathy, and way to make connections!


Neal Levin's short story "Eggs For Mr. Raskin" won an Honorable Mention in the Writer's Digest national writing competition, in the children's/young adult fiction category. We're honored that you're one of our members, Neal!

How do SCBWI-MI finances work?
by Monica Harris

We often receive questions concerning how we finance our various SCBWI Michigan events, so let's examine some of the myths that are floating around.


Myth #1:  SCBWI Michigan receives money from the SCBWI headquarters to run events. 



In regions that have no funds to put on an event, SCBWI headquarters will provide seed money to pay some of the upfront fees.  At the end of the event, that region must repay the seed money to headquarters.  Here in Michigan, we are extremely fortunate to have a strong financial base so we finance every single workshop, retreat, and conference from our own budget. 


Myth #2:  SCBWI Michigan makes a large profit on each event.



For most events, our goal is to either break even or at least make a small enough profit to finance the next event.  Unfortunately, this does not always happen and we take a loss.  This may occur because of unforeseen circumstances like last minute travel rearranging or unanticipated facility fees.  This year, we've been hit a little harder due to our goal to keep conference costs the same as in years past and the unstable Michigan economy.  Although we were pleased to keep the costs low to our members, we will be forced to look at raising event fees slightly in the future in order to cover our costs.


Other events, such as Networks Weekend and the Ann Arbor Book Festival, as well as services like our website, are non-income generating services which we are proud to sponsor for our members in order to keep them connected to the children's literature industry. 



Myth #3:  SCBWI Michigan retreats and conferences are expensive for what you get.



Although it may seem like a lot of frivolous money when you write a check for the fall conference, for example, let's take a look at a breakdown.  For $300 (early bird rate), you receive 2 nights of lodging directly on site, 6 hot meals along with snacks and often 24 hour beverage service.  Add in presentation or workshops with 5-7 professional speakers who, in most cases, have traveled from all over the USA to spend the entire weekend with our group. That, my friends, is a fantastic bargain!  Other regions charge $300 for the conference alone - no meals and no lodging!


As an example of what great bargains we offer, the SCBWI Illinois region recently held a one day conference for $150 (ours is, on average, $100).  It included no breakfast, a cold boxed lunch, and 6 speakers in limited breakout sessions. 


Attending conferences is an investment in your profession.  It takes you from writing or illustrating as a hobby to a career. Surgeons, educators, and engineers attend conferences - why not you!  SCBWI Michigan offers some fantastic deals to further your career in children's literature so consider joining us for the next great event!

Myth #4: It doesn't really cost that much to put on a conference.


Naturally, this will vary depending on the location and the venue, but to give a glimpse of required expenses, SCBWI Adcom members must consider:

Location:                        $50 (workshop) - $21,000 (fall retreat)

Speaker honorariums:   $350-$450 per speaker

Travel expenses:           Average of $500 per speaker

Food:                             $10-$30 / person / meal

Supplies:                       $200-$300 (copies, folders, nametags, etc.)

Speaker gifts:                $250

SCBWI Michigan strives to minimize costs while still providing high quality events for our members.  Recently, we have found ways to reduce some of our expenses.  In the past, it cost approximately $1000 to print off and mail event brochures to our 550+ members.  Now, by using Constant Contact, an electronic email service, we can reduce that to pennies.  We're also using this service to handle our newsletter distribution, surveys, and event confirmation notices to conference attendees. 


If you have further questions concerning SCBWI Michigan events, feel free to contact Monica Harris ( or Leslie Helakoski (



by Wendi Jo Knape

I followed a rainbow home Sunday night. The gold lining of the SCBWI-MI Fall Conference weekend brought seven perspectives of the children's writing and illustrating industry together and filled my pot of gold.

Timothy Travaglini, senior editor at G.P. Putnum's Sons, painted his perspective on talent, mentoring/guidance, and dedication, in his session, "Par for the Course: How to Succeed in Golf, Life, or Creating Books for Chidren". Tim lit up the room talking about his favorite picture books like THE CLOWN OF GOD by Tomie dePaolo or when he read WAKE THE DEAD by Monica Harris, to the laughs and cheers of the breakfast crowd. Each showed his passion for this business, his encouragement to hone our craft and to not give up on what we love.

Leslie Connor's idea funnel overflows constantly, evident in MISS BRIDIE CHOSE A SHOVEL (a picture book), DEAD ON TOWN LINE (a YA novel), and WAITING FOR NORMAL(a midgrade novel). Her ideas became filtered and in her session, "Shifting Your Stance: A Primer for Genre Hoppers", she said if her funnel gets full and overflows, she squeezes the udder until empty. She doesn't write an outline, she does what's right for her. And through Leslie's partnership with her agent, Jennie Dunham at Dunham Literary, Inc. she learned communication is the key even when paralyzing deadlines near. The writer needs to trust their agent to do what's best and vice versa.

Harold Underdown, an editorial consultant, gave his color perspective on the promise writer's share on 'first pages'. His sessions, "The Key to Follow Through: Keeping the Story True from Start to Finish" and "Reading the Green: Using Your Reader to Help You Write", gave several examples to learn from. Each grabbed the reader to turn the page. He challenged us to deconstruct other's work and our own to learn why it worked or didn't. In another two examples in the second session, he asked how each made us feel. The first wasn't familiar but the second was. Did it make us feel differently about characters or remember something from childhood that brought an emotional response?

Had I never met Ellen Hopkins, I would have never known full-length novels could be beautifully written in verse. In her session, "What Rhymes with Bogey?" Using Verse to Improve Fiction", CRANK, which she referenced, engaged the perfect words in every line. She focused on the importance of each word, so in an exercise writing verse she asked us to write a pivotal experience in our adolescence that exposed the sensory details wrapping us in the moment.

Loraine Joyner, Art Director at Peachtree Publishers, took us from the first spatter of red to the last drizzle of purple in picture book illustration in her session, "Out of the Rough and Into the Green: How to Turn Your Illustration into the Big Bucks". After author, illustrator and art director decided where page breaks were and what look Peachtree wanted, research began. Each picture had to be accurate in time, place, subject matter, point of view, and then the illustration process started with page layouts. Story boards came to life. Thumbnails and rough sketches danced across the page, and working drawings and final paintings, which Loraine called 'uber' realism, came to life.

Concerned about my own portfolio's quality, I asked Loraine the following morning, what she expected in illustrator's portfolios. Her ingredients were: consistency, control of medium, character development, interesting color palette, light and shadow, P.O.V., logical image transition and finally a good surprise at the end.

Matt FaulknerMatt Faulkner strayed a bit from the rainbow by beating on an African drum to start his session, "Changing Courses: From Picture Books to Graphic Novels" and demonstrated writers and illustrators shouldn't bend to the industry. We should find where our own color belongs on the rainbow and then pursue the logical place in the industry. Because the technological CEO's are steering consumers away from tactile forms of books doesn't mean we should buy a Kindle or Sony Reader. Our love of storytelling and illustration shouldn't be dampened. Strive for the perfect home for our work.

Many people contributed to my rainbow. Had my stay not been extended because I locked my keys in my car, that rainbow wouldn't have existed for me, giving me the inspiration to write this narrative. Inspiration can come from anywhere, be it through invited speakers, journaling - which a group of us did with Jennie Dunham - from being around talented people. SCBWI-MI is my rainbow. Each color was like a moment at the conference and why attending the fall conference was a great start to my writing new year. Happy writing!

Wendi Jo Knape loves snatching crazy comments from her children and making them into a story. She also genre hops from picture book to middle grade and young adult formats. It keeps things interesting.




Calling All Published Michigan Authors and Illustrators! The Michigan Center for the Book (through the Library of Michigan) wants more listings from SCBWI members in its database. This is a database maintained by MAME. (Michigan Association of Media in Education - the school media specialists & librarians group). It includes all types of Michigan authors, juvenile as well as adult authors. It is a fundamental place to be listed - especially if you are interested in getting school speaking gigs. (Many public librarians and school media specialists search this database first). We have such a large membership, our published members should really be represented here as well as on our home site at can check out the MIAI database at:


February 6, Illustration Worshop! Don't miss the Illustration Workshop being offered at the Orion Township Public Library, 825 Joslyn Road, Lake Orion, MI 48362!The wonderfully talented Matt Faulkner will be leading this one day workshop that focuses on the craft of illustrating children's books. The workshop is $80 for members, $95 for nonmembers, and includes lunch. Please see our website for details and registration at  The deadline is Jan. 20 and attendance is limited to 20, so don't put it off - reserve your space now!

March 5-7, Network's Weekend SCBWI will be held in different locations throughout Michigan.This year our theme will be based on the 60's: Peace, Love, and Publishing. Generous SCBWI-MI members will open up their homes to published and aspiring authors and illustrators. Please visit our website at for the details, hosts, locations, and to RSVP for this free event. For questions, please contact Julie Chase at 269-330-2366 or email:


March 15 the Michigan Reading Association Conference will be in the DeVos Place Convention Center and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


May 1 Our Annual SCBWI-MI Spring Conference; The Tortoise and the Hare: Journey to the Finish Linewill be held in Lansing, Michigan,at the Lexington Lansing Hotel.The day will be filled with workshops on craft (picture book, middle grade, and young adult). Speakers include: Jay Asher, YA Author of the New York Times Bestseller THIRTEEN REASONS WHY; Beth Fleisher, Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency; Donna Gephart, mid-grade Author of AS IF BEING 12 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! and winner of the Sid Fleishman award for humor; Ruta Rimas, Editor at HarperCollins; Jim Tobin, Author, and Dave Coverly, Illustrator, of the picture book SUE MACDONALD HAD A BOOK. Dave is also the Author/Illustrator of three SPEED BUMP cartoon books and a nationally syndicated cartoonist whose Speed Bump cartoons appear in more than 200 newspapers; and Lisa Yaskowitz, Editor at Dutton Children's Books. Questions? Contact Janice Broyles at or Rachel Anderson at



Cedar Fort, 2373 W. 700 S., Springfield, UT 84663, is a book publisher of over 100 books per year. They are affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, although they also sell to a national audience. They are now seeking fiction and nonfiction for adolescent and teen titles. The manuscript should have a purpose of enriching lives and being uplifting. Please send complete manuscript to Acquisitions Editor, along with the new manuscript submission form found under submission guidelines at




Bumples is an online interactive magazine for children target age is four to ten. It is published ten times per year and uses 60% freelance material. They specialize in illustrated fiction about children and animals in genres such as mysteries, sports, fantasies, poems, puzzles, games, and activities. Bumples wants fiction for ages 4-7 (up to 800 words) and for ages 8-10 (up to 2000 words). Please see the website for all of the details at: Illustrators send low resolution pdf. file sample, and writers send work via email to They also accept children's work. Payment is .20 cents per word, $3 per line of poetry, art varies.


Mysteries Magazine, P.O. Box 131, Waynesville, NC 28786. This 80-page quarterly magazine is dedicated to a wide range of weird and strange subject matter. They are looking for articles on the unexplained, wonders of the universe, spiritualism, archaeology, science, technology, UFO's, ghosts,etc. Mysteries subject range is not limited to these few categories. Editor, Jeremiah Greer, prefers complete manuscripts, but queries are welcome. Mysteries welcomes new writers who send polished work. Please become familiar with the following websites before submitting: and Email submissions to Greer at They pay 5 cents per published word and $5 per published image. Sending high-resolution images to accompany a piece are a bonus.




Susan Hawk has joined the Bent Agency as a literary agent seeking YA and MG nonfiction, fiction, literary fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, and mystery. Susan Hawk was previously a marketing director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Before Henry Holt, Susan was the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. Email Susan Hawk at:




Want to research more agents that would be compatible with you and your work? Go to





If you are interested in starting or joining a critique group, in your area or online, please contact Susi Walter at


By Gail Flynn

After traveling from New York to California for his father's funeral, Harold Underdown still kept his word to our chapter and came to our conference.  As soon as he arrived, he was whisked away to the pub and told to relax!

Harold UnderdownSaturday morning, he appeared on time looking fabulous in a blue suit.  He spoke about first pages and how they need to "grab the reader", "establish key elements to the plot" and "make a promise to the reader that the author then keeps".  That promise should give an indication of the conflict, he said.  He then read the first pages of some very popular children's literature to illustrate these points.

At meal times, he was engaging and a receptive host to those sitting at his table.  His relaxed attitude, intelligent comments, and ready smile made his approachable and comfortable for our members.  Just before his manuscript critiques, Harold ventured to the "crow's nest", a little room at the top of the lodge with an incredible view.  On the way down, he stumbled and twisted his ankle.  He iced it and kept going throughout the rest of the weekend.

Limping in his workshop, he read excerpts from more classic children's literature and had attendees write down the emotions evoked upon hearing them.  He then broke the assembly into groups of two or three.  Members swapped manuscripts and performed the exercise on each other's work.

Throughout the weekend, Harold gave his expertise to our membership and never once asked for anything for himself.  The grace by which he conducted himself, despite the pain in his ankle and the loss of his father, showed integrity and humility rarely seen in any individual.

Gail Flynn enjoys writing about those she shadows in everything but spraining ankles.

By Kristin Lenz

To prepare for the fall conference, I read the novel-in-verse, CRANK, by Ellen Hopkins. I was sucked into the story within the first few pages, horrified yet fascinated by the fuel of addiction.  The story pulled me along at a rapid pace, yet I paused to re-read, absorb, and appreciate the poetic images.

During her conference workshop, "Using Verse to Improve Fiction," Ellen explained that CRANK originated from her own daughter's story of addiction.  When her honor student daughter went to prison, she needed to understand why, how this could have happened, so she tried to write her story.  Her first attempts were in prose, but the story stalled, and she put it away.  Then Sonya Sones led her to writing in verse, and the story flowed.Ellen Hopkins

Ellen talked about how it's important to condense your words in your prose, and writing poetry helps you do this.  The beauty of language is as important as the message it's trying to convey.  Prose uses a lot more words to accomplish its job.  Verse can make storytelling unforgettable.

She discussed many elements of verse and how writers can incorporate poetry into their own work.  If an image is effective, it allows us to understand the emotion being conveyed in the poem.  She emphasized the importance of using fresh metaphors, to use something in a new or more meaningful way.  The theme is the purpose of the poem, expressing the unity of human experience.  It tells us what is true.  What do you know, and how will you tell it?

Line breaks can add multiple meanings and interest to your poems.  However, a verse novel is not about breaking prose into short lines.  Poetry is about how the poet views the world, and verse lends itself well to first-person storytelling.  Ellen stated that first-person narration is what most teens like to read.

At the end of her workshop, Ellen led us through an exercise.  She asked us to create a story using poetic devices and minimal words.  Using sensory details, imagery, and making every word count, she encouraged us to write about a moment from our childhood or teen years that changed our life, the way we looked at the world.  The room was quiet as we pondered and scribbled, and later, a few brave participants shared their words and touched our hearts.

Ellen said, "Don't back away from what you want to write about."  Her books have been banned, but she persists in writing about difficult subjects - the stories that need to be told.  Teen readers are seeking these stories that tell the truth; Ellen's novels-in-verse are flying off the shelves in bookstores, libraries, and classrooms.

Kristin Lenz lives and writes in Royal Oak, and strives to tell the truth in her young adult novels.

How to Succeed in Golf, Life, or Creating Books for Children
By Rachel Anderson

Our opening speaker Friday evening was Tim Travaglini, senior editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group). Wearing a bow tie with his sports coat, Tim was possibly the most laid back speaker we've had present at a conference. He spoke on three main points to success in creating books for children: talent, mentoring, and dedication/perseverance.

Talent may be God-given or it can be learned. If you find you're working really hard to write your stories, you're with the majority of writers who are learning as they go, strengthening their craft the more they read and write.

Tim told us to stretch our brains by writing - all the time. Do writing exercises, enter contests, journal, blog, create your own greeting cards (buy blank cards and write your own verses - what an idea!). And always be reading to learn/improve your craft. Read voraciously! If you write MG, read MG so you know what's being published. Re-read books you love a second and third time and deconstruct them.

We all need someone to show us the way, someone to offer a constructive critique. If you aren't in a critique group, join one now. Attend conferences, sign up for workshops or go on retreats. Form your own retreat at your house with others who want to grow in their writing.

And last but not least, be dedicated to your writing. Very few authors sell the first manuscript they've written. There are lots of examples in the world of people who did not publish right away. You won't sell a manuscript unless you are dedicated to the process and outcome, and your perservere until it's out the door and on the desk of an editor or an agent.

Tim Travaglini

Rounding out his stay with us, Tim stood on a chair at breakfast on Sunday and had everyone laughing as he read WAKE THE DEAD by Monica Harris. Thanks for being with us at Yarrow, Tim.

Rachel Anderson is working on the dedication/perseverance part of his talk in Gaylord, Michigan.

by Sandy Carlson

At the Fall SCBWI-MI conference at Yarrow Golf Resort, literary Jennie Dunhamagent Jennie Dunham had us teeing off each morning, and working on our swings. Jennie has been a NYC literary agent since 1992. In August of 2000, she founded Dunham Literary, Inc. Her agency represents children's books for all ages, from novelty and picture books through middle grade and young adult, as well as literary fiction and non-fiction for adults. Besides doing several paid critiques at our Fall SCBWI-MI Conference, Jennie participated in a panel of speakers to critique first pages, gave a forty-five minute workshop on giving pitches, and demonstrated Morning Pages.

"The Swing Clinic: Perfecting Your Pitch" - The Workshop

Jennie gave some no-nonsense activities for us to do with our completed manuscripts, and she had a stopwatch to prove it! Receiving about 10,000 queries each year, Jennie said a query letter or pitch needs to jump out at her. You must make the pitch specific and it needs to really grab the agent or editor. After all, she told us, you only have one shot at the first impression.

For the workshop, we were divided into pairs. There was no need to be friends or even have written in the same genre or age group. The important thing was being able to verbalize your pitch. Our first assignment was for each member of the pair to name our book title, format, the age range for its intended audience, and word length. Jennie gave us twenty seconds to accomplish this. She then took us through (with her stopwatch in hand) from thinking and sharing general information about our characters and plot to more specific details. We had to write and present to our partners a seven-sentence pitch, then a three-sentence pitch - each timed by minutes, of course.

Jennie closed her workshop by listing important things to include in the one-page query letter: 1) our first twenty-seconds what the book is about; 2) anything personal, as meeting at a conference; 3) your three-sentence pitch; 4) a short and informative biography, including writing credits, personal experience and marketing statement; and 5) closing, including a SASE, if mailed by postal.

"Teeing Off: Morning Pages Journaling"

Jennie writes in her journal every morning for thirty minutes. During the conference, she encouraged attendees to journal along with her early on Saturday and Sunday mornings. She referred to writing her morning pages as "logging in the miles," and assured us that the benefits from long-term journaling was a lot cheaper than therapy.

So... set the timer. On your mark. Get set. Write!

Visit the Dunham Literary website at for further information.

Sandy Carlson is a writer, a blogger, and a welcome addition to AdCom. Check out her blogs at and

By Jeff Jantz

My mind was reeling with all that had happened as I headed for home after my very first SCBWI conference. So when I got stuck by a train ten minutes into my journey, I immediately jumped out of the car to grab my note book so I could organize my thoughts to write this.

The people I met and conversations I had with them at the conference were alone worth the price of admission. I don't think I have ever talked with so many interesting and creative people in one weekend. I had breakfast with a real literary agent, ate lunch with a renowned author/illustrator and got a really helpful critique with him. I talked with published and unpublished authors about life, philosophy, education, publishing and even a little politics; everything except for the weather because there was no need for small talk.

Coming to the conference, I had one big burning question: what should a dummy book look like when sending it to a publisher or agent? This was something I researched in books and online but I couldn't really find satisfactory answers until I went to the conference. There, I was able to talk with several illustrator/authors who explained to me in depth and even took the time to look at the three mockups I already created. Everyone there was open and generous with their time, knowledge, ideas and suggestions. This set the perfect tone for all of us to learn and grow.

Now that the conference is over, I have my work cut out for me with revising my dummy books. I will be writing and drawing with a new sense of direction and a renewed faith in my talents. I hope others felt as inspired as I do.

Jeff Jantz is an illustrator/writer. He reads to his two children every night and draws inspiration from them every day.He lives in Mt. Clemens.

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