February's Inspirational Quote

"One Hour at a Time"
~ Laurie Wallmark.

Dear Laurie,
You might not recall saying this and perhaps I won't remember the specifics but you are our inspiration for the rest of February and maybe even March.

You and I were on the phone and talking about how hard it is to write a novel and as usual I was whining and feeling sorry for my long-a$$ journey. And you told me about how you were working and how busy you were so you wrote your novel one hour at a time. Astounded I said, "You wrote your novel one hour at a time?" And you said, "Yup." And I thought, "Wow... ... ..."

Often times we think we need - or I think I need - huge chunks of time set aside so I can write. Do you do that too? What if we gave ourselves one hour of each day? If it turns into two, well then fine, but if not, at least you still had your One Hour at a Time. So that is the motto of the month, thanks to ours truly, Laurie Wallmark.

We love you, Laurie!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our next Illustrator Meeting

We are all set for our next Illustrator meeting on Monday Dec. 8.*

Please bring:
Your goals from the last meeting; portfolios; dummies; questions and oodles of creativity for Monday night's discussion.

Topics to be discussed: Finding a style (but maybe you have more than one); Achievements from 2008 and where to head for 2009 plus preparing for upcoming conferences.

See you there 6:30pm sharp!

* This meeting is open to HCCWiG members ONLY.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Drum roll please........

If I count all words in this draft at this point, the total count is......


However, about 7,000 of those words are from a few chapters from my last version that I need to rewrite, but have now run out of time. So, if I only count all the words written from Nov 1 - 30 and don't count those two or three chapters I haven't rewritten yet, than my final word count is......


But, I am not upset at all that I didn't reach the goal of 50,000 words. I never thought I would meet that goal, although there was a moment when I did believe it was attainable. I have learned far too much to feel sad. I have learned I can...

...write through fatigue
...write through pain
...write through a cold
...write through sick children
...write through sleepless nights
...write after working with 3 year olds
...write while my family is home and doing loud activities
...write in the car with the radio on and the kids in the back seat watching a movie (My husband was driving... Oh and I cannot, however, write while my DH sings. Sorry, THAT is too much of a distraction for me!)

~But most of all, I have learned that I can finish this book and that I will finish this book.
~I have learned that 50,000 words is reachable and that my story will probably wind up being longer than 50,000 words.

I have learned a good set of earphones do a lot more than block out sound. They also work like blinders on a horse and help me to zero in my focus.

I have also learned not to share your story before it is finished and never, never, EVER revise until YOU ARE DONE! Repeat after me.... NEVER, EVER, EVER REVISE UNTIL YOU ARE DONE!

Writing my first novel has been a real up hill battle, learning simultaneously about my novel as I am learning how to write one! Not an easy task at all. But I love what I do. I can't not (double negative, I know...) do what I do. And one day I will make money doing what I do. I believe in my story and I believe in my dedication.

I would recommend NaNo to everyone and anyone who will listen. My suggestions are...
  1. write an outline before Nov 1. Write several. A long, detailed one and a short one. My long one was 31 pages full of detail - what characters were in that chapter, what props, what's foreshadowed, what was the mini conflict, mini resolution, and "disaster" that kept forever pulling my MC to that point of no return, or what I like to call the journey... My short outline was 2 pages long and basically was a few short words - no more than 3 - just sighting he crux of each chapter.
  2. Do your research before November 1
  3. Tell members of your writing group, you will not be sharing pages for the month of November

I want to thank all of you for following my journey and for cheering me on through this process. It was such a thrill to know you were all there behind me and I was behind all of my fellow NaNo writers as well.

My story will not reach The End at word 50,000. And although NaNoWriMo is over, many of us are not done. So, join me in setting a new goal - to reach 50,000 words or the end of your story by December 31st. Let's ring in the New Year with new MSs. So, whose with me?

Again, from the bottom of this writer's heart... thank you! December 31st, here we come!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaNoWriMo Day Twelve

And so an elm fell in love with a maple
and were locked in an
everlasting embrace.
NaNoWriMo Day Twelve Word Count

Goal: 1945 daily words

Actual: 2043 daily words; 15002 total words; 30% done!

Downside: I caught a bad case of the "let's read all my previous pages" bug today and completely lost track of time re-reading and revising! I was stuck, I tell you, stuck! I couldn't help myself. I felt like I couldn't remember all that I had previously written and so I couldn't write forward without first reading back. It's a bad habit, -- the way, I'm used to writing... First, revise yesterday's pages and then writing forward. I'm what I like to call a two-stepper. Only, I didn't just read yesterdays pages...

It all started because I was critiqued last night on the first four chapters of this WIP. Originally, I wasn't going to let anyone read it until it was finished and I'd had a chance to revise it. But these ladies have read my story since the very beginning and I wanted to hear if they thought, this new angle and new voice was putting my story on the right track. Their answer was 'yes,' happily.

I saw the piles of MSs on my desk this morning, and I tried to ignore them. I told myself to put them in my binder and read them December 1st. But they called me. They beckoned me. They taunted me with their remarks in the margins and squiggly editorial marks. And like not being able to turn away from an accident scene, I was pages deep suddenly in revisions!!!

Highlight: With that said.... I still managed to eek out 2043 words today, bringing my total word count up to 15,002 words!!!! *party horns sound* *confetti falls* I also felt very overwhelmed still that I was behind and kept saying, well, I should be at 20,000 words today. I should have written 6,000 words in order to catch up. And then I said, wait a minute... There are still 18 days left. 15,002 words subtracted from 50,000 words is 34,998 words divided over 18 days = 1944.3333 words a day, or just 1945. I really think that's possible! For the first time, I REALLY feel like I can do this! Like I can finish this novel. It might not be polished. It might have a lot of repetition and cliches, but I can write 50,000 words in 30 days! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Time is yet to tell, but I am feeling very positive and very good. And this NaNoWriMo business is AWESOME!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

NaNoWriMo Day Three

Today was a bit harder, only because I had a short time to write in the morning before having to go to the dentist. Then I had a short time to write before my kids got home from school, while I was still in a bit of pain and exhausted from the who dentist thing. Still, I managed to eek out over 1,000 words, so I am happy.

NaNoWriMo Day Three Word Count
Goal: 1667 daily words or 5001 total word count for the three days

Actual: 1516 daily words, 6072total word count

Highlight: I was in some uncharted territory today and that was exciting. The chapter I worked on today, was not just a re-write, but it included a lot of new material I added from my writer's retreat into my outline. Also, the highlight was just having a deadline. I love a deadline. I work very well with ridiculous deadlines. They make me push myself and work against pain and fatigue. If I didn't have this deadline, I wouldn't have written at all today. I probably would have taken some Motrin and a nap after the dentist, but instead I wrote. That feels great!

Downside: I didn't make my 1667 words for the day, but I am still ahead of the total word count needed for the first three days by 1,071 words, so I am not too upset about it. I'm off to a good start and I feel great. And yes, the NaNo website is still super slow!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NaNoWriMo Day Two

So far, this is exactly what I needed to kick my butt into gear. My family has been amazingly supportive, keeping the house quiet so I can write. Yesterday my DH took the kindelah out of the house so it would be super quiet.

Goal: 1667 daily words or 3334 total word count

Actual: 2577 daily words, 4554 total word count

Highlight: Fixing some things that were missing, wrong, or needing deletion from my 1.5 draft. Being VERY AWARE this time around of SHOWING and not TELLING.

Downside: The downside remains the NaNo site itself. When it is time to update my NaNo word count, the site is excruciatingly slow and it doesn't show yesterday's word count at all. I mean it does on "My NaNo," (when I can get to that page) but not at the top right on the home page... I guess someone has to verify, and how can they when I still can't cut and paste my scrambled text in that spot... ARGH!

But I don't want to end on a sour note, so I will repeat my total word count instead...

4554 words in two days!

NaNoWriMo Day One

Follow my journey through the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. If you are also taking the NaNo challenge, please post your progress too.

NaNoWriMo Day One Word Count

Goal: 1,667 words

Actual: 1,977 words

Highlight: Passing my goal with ease

Downside: Can you say S l O W . . . The NaNoWriMo site could not have been slower. I think I grew old waiting for pages to open. And I couldn't download my daily excerpt for verification. At first, I was not going to download my text for fear of stealing, etc. But then I figured out how to scramble my text so I thought, maybe I will download today's writing. However, I couldn't get my cursor to even click on that spot. Did anyone else have this problem.

Question for NaNo Writers: Are you going to download your excerpt each day for word count verification?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

November is National Novel Writer's Month

Did you know, November is National Novel Writing Month? Well, it is and our friends over at NaNoWriMo organize a novel writing contest each year for the month of November. But this is no ordinary contest.

This contest is really a contest against your own stamina, dedication, and will to hash out a story and not care about anything other then word count. If you've been trying to finish that novel, or wanting to begin one, or have always thought about writing one, now's the perfect time and NaNoWriMo can help you reach your goal.

See, their goal is for your to flesh out your story beginning on Nov 1 and reach 50,000 words by November 30. Sound daunting? Well, the thing is, they don't want you to care one iota about quality, just quantity. They want you to write, and write freely. Don't stop yourself to edit or go back to revise, just write forward... push yourself to write, write, write the whole month through. You can use this time between now and Nov 1 to write notes, an outline, a sketch, etc. But pages begin on Nov 1.

Each day, you will post your total word count and a small excerpt. You will get to read buddies' entries and your buddies will get to read yours. (You accept who your buddies are) You will each cheer each other on to that 50,000 word finish line.
Cindy Pon used NaNo to get over the "middle" hump of her story, Silver Phoenix, and now it is waiting to hit book stores! I am not saying that what she wrote was publishable when NaNo was over. Because, again, beautiful prose is not the objective of NaNo. But she used NaNo to get her unstuck and to reach her personal goal of completing her then, first novel. She then spent the next year, or so, polishing it until it finally sold and incidentally, Cindy has currently sold another two book deal. She will be using NaNo to help write a rough copy of the Sequel to Silver Phoenix and her story has inspired me to get me over my "middle" hump of my story.
Won't you join me? We can cross that finish line together!

To give you a brief idea what 50,000 words are... One page, in correct formatting, is about 300 words, depending on if the page is heavy in dialogue or narration (narration would be wordier). So, 50,000 words is about 166 pages and the average length of, I believe, an early to mid-level MG novel.

I just signed up today. I am nervous and not sure if I will reach the goal of 50,000 words in one month, but as long as I am writing, the word count doesn't really matter to me. I have been striving to finish my current WIP for a long time now and I am going to use NaNo as a tool for me to reach my goal of hashing out large chunks of my story I have really been struggling to write.

So, the folks at NaNo might have a goal for each of us to reach 50,000 words, but I have my own goal. In other words, don't let the word count scare you. Let NaNo be a goal for you to just get that burning novel out. And if you decide to sign up, let me know what your user name is so we can sign up as buddies for one another and cheer each other on.

Good luck my wordy friends and write, write, write!

XO, Sheri

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alan Gratz on MG novels vs YA

So, a lot of us have wondered from time to time if our novels should target an MG or YA audience. We wonder, how can we really know? What are the differences? Where is the line drawn in the sand?

We hear a lot of conflicting info that makes us ponder, and question, and agonize over this... am I writing for a 9 - 12 year old or a 13 - 17 year old? And what really is the difference? What can I write about for a 13 year old, that I can't for a 12 year old? And what about this "new" age range, the 'tweens????

Sometimes the lines are very blurry and it's hard to truly know. If you attended the June conference for NJ SCBWI, then you might have heard the editors discuss this new age range, the 'tweens, which is really the grey area, bridging MG and YA, and more specifically, meant for the later end of the MG spectrum - kids who want to be a teen, but aren't ready 100% to let go of childhood.

Well, Beth Revis, over at Writing it Out, has recently sat down with YA author Alan Gratz to ask him these burning questions on behalf of novelists everywhere. She attended one of his workshops and then interviewed him on his career and the YA industry. Alan did a superb job answering all her questions (and one of mine too).

To follow her 4 part discussion of the workshop, the interview and the answer to the 'tween market, follow the below links...
Part 1; What's the Difference
Part 2; Challenges in YA vs MG
Part 3; Know Your Audience
Part 4; Sell Your Book
The Interview...
and literally, My question answered... I wonder what Alan would say about this "new" age range they are calling the 'tweens, the official grey zone bridging MG and YA?

Beth did a great job capturing the workshop and Alan helped define the line between these two (now three) age ranges. I hope you enjoy this info as much as I did! Thanks Beth!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Doris Ettlinger Visit Hosted by HCCWIG

Doris Ettlinger delighted an intimate crowd at the Hunterdon County Library on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. While we made some additional preparation for our guests, Doris sketched on the whiteboard, saying it always calmed her before speaking publicly.

Doris' informative talk certainly belied any pre-visit jitters as she presented a well-prepared slide-show which covered her background as an artist, her current books as well as her thoughts and feelings about them. We learned about Doris' various techniques that she has developed along the way to bring to life the rich characters she has created in her illustrations. Whether drawing children or famous people like Abe Lincoln or a cat that came over with the Pilgrims, Doris brings a lovely, luminous quality to her work through watercolor and colored pencil.

She chatted about her favorite books, and some of the personal touches, (such as the occasional appearance of her dog, Bruce Wayne), that appear in her books. She also discussed the entire illustration procedure from first receiving an offer to do a book through receipt of the manuscript through the actual illustrating process. Doris also gave some great tips on how she illustrates using aerial views, two page spreads and collecting small animal figurines to help her with perspective on animals.

Many of these were readily noticeable in the collection of books Doris had brought for sale. After a question and answer period, Doris signed books and chatted with us.

A big thanks to Doris for being the guest of HCCWIG and sharing her experiences in the illustration of children's books.

On hand to welcome Doris Ettlinger and guests were three of HCCWIG's facilitators, from left to right, Jeanne Balsam, Leeza Hernandez and Cathleen Daniels. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Picture Book Group II News

Its always nice to be able to celebrate group members successes:

The Art of Game deck of cards featuring Diana Patton's illustrations.

Diana Patton's illustrations have been published in a deck of cards (there are 100 cards by different artists) for International Game Developers' President Jesse Schell's publication "The Art of Game Design." Jesse's book -- also named "The Art of Game Design" -- is out, as well as T-shirts featuring some of the cards. Diana's "The Lens of Unification" appears on one of the tees. The cards are a way of brainstorming to invent and/or improve a game -- whether video, board, TV, or amusement park. For more details, click here. Go Diana!

One of Diana's illustrations also made it on to a T-shirt.


Facilitator Leeza Hernandez just signed her first illustrated picture book deal with Charlesbridge Publishing. How to Eat Your Math Homework by Ann MaCullum is due for release in 2010.

Leeza also illustrated a boy's chapter book, called Twin Formation -- independently published by Golden Ram Press. (Pictured below).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Subjects for Magazine Articles

The Hunterdon Library subscribes to a database index magazine articles. It's searchable, so for example, you could search within Highlights and see if they've published any math articles. (Now who might want to do such a search?) You can see if your topic's been done to death or is brand, spanky new.

It's easy to use:
1. Log into your library account at http://ipac.hunterdon.lib.nj.us/
2. Click on "E-Sources"
3. Under E-Source Targets, click on "EbscoHost"
4. Enter you library card number again and click "login"
5. Make sure MasterFile Premier is checked and click on "continue"
6. If you only want to look in one magazine, click on "publications" at the top
7. Otherwise, just enter your search

I know, I know. As usual, I've given the directions in excruciating detail. But really, it's easy to do. Laurie

Friday, September 12, 2008

Not an Outliner, but Must Succumb...

So, (I start a lot of sentences this way... must break the habit) I have mentioned many times before that I am not an outliner. I blame it on Mrs. Oken - my 9th grade English teacher...

I had a habit (yes, I have many) of letting my English teachers read my poetry and short stories as a way of getting on their good sides. Hey, I struggled for my grades. I needed to use anything I could to get an advantage. Anyway, Mrs Oken, after reading a compilation of poems and stories, asked me to stay after class one day. She wanted to know what my outlining process was and I said... "Oh, I don't outline." And she said, "What? You must! Real writers outline and if you want to be a real writer, you must outline too." Well, I grabbed my papers and puffed out my chest and said, "I just write," and left.

Obviously, this had some affect on me, if here I am still writing about it some er... harrumph... well, a few short years later... And so, I have carried on in my stubborn (but adorable) way of 'just writing.' I hang my head low and must admit defeat... Yes, Mrs. Oken, real writers outline... *sniff, wiping tears*

Truthfully, real writers do a myriad of things. And every writer's process is completely and utterly unique. I have written many times, about owning your process and being proud of it. And I still hold that I am. However, I must admit, the "just writing" process can only take you so far when you are writing a novel, especially if you wish your novel to be one of many in a series. You NEED to outline.

And not that you need to adhere to this outline like the gospel, or that your characters don't have the right to change your outline... but you need a plan, a road map, if you will, something to drive you forward, something so that when you are in the dark, murky depths of novel writing, you can say, AHA! Wait a moment, don't I have that nightlight somewhere! Ah, yes! Here it is, my outline! (I picture saying that in the superhero stance and for some reason I am wearing a cape - I don't know why...)

So, I have begun a pre-outlining process. I actually began it over the summer. Here's what I did...
  1. I read from the beginning to my current latest page (pg 85 - which is as far as I got w/o an outline, trying to remember everything in my brain, instead of in an outline...). I took copious notes. I included every time a new character was introduced and on what page. I wrote down sentences that sounded like foreshadowing, or that I definitely wrote as foreshadowing on purpose. I wrote down any objects used by my MC that could have significance and be used later. I wrote down holes in my plot, questions that seemed unanswered, and things that led to questions in general. Finally, I wrote down things I must add/delete/change for subsequent drafts and things I must research.
  2. Then I pretended I was each major character and jotted down all the questions I could think of off the top of my head for that character to answer.
  3. This week I have been answering all these unanswered questions. Anytime I came to a plot hole, I began by asking more questions... what could T do to stop LB from succeeding? What would happen if T did this... what would happen if T did that... And I wrote it out until I felt it was a satisfying answer to this plot hole or question.

I am just about finished with this ever-growing brainstorming session. Next, I will begin to outline. I will be outlining chapter by chapter, summarizing the ones I've written already and truly outlining the ones I've yet to write. I will want to capture certain aspects, such as... what characters are in the scene, does the scene move the story forward, is there an emotion rise and fall to the scene, does it raise the stakes, does it present more obstacles for my MC or solutions to previous obstacles, has anything been foreshadowed, any objects used or hinted on, etc.

I have read about some choices for outlining on many of your blogs . Now I want to know, what forms work particularly well for you? I've heard of a friend who buys those large desk calendars, you know - the ones teachers use... and he uses each month as a sequence of scenes (this is based on screenplay writing though) There are 12 sequences of scenes in a movie. Each sequence is made up of a number of scenes. I think this could relate though, somewhat to novel writing too. I am a visual learner, so I like the idea of having the whole story laid out before me visually like this... So, let's share... what outlining techniques have worked for you time and time again. Or... what outlining techniques have not worked for you...

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Illustrator Meeting for HiccyWigs...

August 19, 2008 — Our first meeting devoted to illustrators of the HCCWiG was a success. In attendance: Lisanne Bartram, Cathy Thole-Daniels, Jeanne Balsam, Diana Patton, Leeza Hernandez and special surprise guest children's book illustrator and Hunterdon resident Lena Shiffman.

The members spent the evening discussing the industry and business of illustrating books for young readers, then had an opportunity to share their portfolios and any works in progress.

Lena, known for her beautiful watercolor works in many Scholastic titles, offered advice and suggestions to each member to help improve their work.

And, despite the difficulty and competitive nature of the market for picture books, Lena encouraged us to keep at it and continue to strengthen our abilities to draw and perfect our portfolios.

Attending meetings, conferences, workshops and seminars are the best ways to get your foot in the door of publishers, she suggested and when sending samples or a dummy, make sure to send to editors (and meet editors) also — because ultimately, they are the ones who make and offer the contracts.

With our first meeting off to a great start, HCCWiG would like to continue illustrator meetings every four months with goals for each illustrator to track progress and stay motivated.

Jeanne: Finish her first draft dummy of her √Čtoile story.
Diana: Send out her three dummies for submission to multiple publishers.
Lisanne: Create four new pieces for her portfolio based on the speckled egg and bird pieces already in her portfolio.
Cathy: Complete her dummy for the Princess and the Frog story.
Leeza: Revise her draft dummy of her Milly Moppet story along with three color samples as finished art for Milly Moppet.

The next meeting is scheduled for: Monday, December 8, 2008. (Right before the holidays!)
Illustrators of HCCWiG are welcome, but please RSVP if you plan to attend. The number of people in attendance determine the nature of the meeting. Bring portfolios, sketches or any works in progress to brainstorm and discuss.

Hope to see you at the next meeting.

Until, then - happy art love and happy Labor day!

HCCWiG would like to extend a very warm and special thank you to Lena Shiffman for volunteering her time to come to our meeting and offering such invaluable advice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Writing for Children course

I'm going to be teaching this course through the Hunterdon County Adult School. http://www.hcesc.com/joinusweb/Courses.asp?hIdCCat=937

Here's their blurb about the course:
Learn how to write children’s books, both picture books and novels, to maximize your chances of publication. We will discuss: hints for revising, writing a query letter, getting an agent, self vs. traditional publishing, avoiding scams, researching the market, contracts, and more. This course includes a critique of your manuscript by the instructor.

If you have any questions, just give me a holler at
laurie@www.newjerseyscbwi.com. Laurie

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Our Latest Illustrator Event-Meet Doris Ettlinger!

The HCCWIG is pleased to present a special visit by award-winning children's book illustrator, Doris Ettlinger on Saturday, September 20th at the Hunterdon County Library's Main Branch on Route 12 in Flemington.

Doris has been illustrating all her professional life following her graduation from Rhode Island School of Design, and is a master in the media of watercolor and pencil. She is very well known for her illustrations of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, and so many more including Pilgrim Cat, Morris and Buddy, and a familiar title to us, G is for Garden State: A New Jersey Alphabet.

Her most recent illustrated titles are Abe Lincoln Loved Animals, and The Orange Shoes. The illustration shown here is from the latter, where you can see her own dog, Bruce Wayne, just happening to come down the stairs.

Doris's talk about the creative process and her own work will begin at 11:00 am, followed by a question and answer session, and a book-signing and sale. Please join us to meet this wonderful, local children's book illustrator! You can see more of Doris's work at her web site!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Calling all Illustrators


Just to fill all members who have a passion for illustrating children's books, there are two events coming up you might be interested in:

1. HCCWiG's first Illustrator meeting to be held on Monday August 18, 2008 at the Llbrary from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (In the main meeting room). Here is a chance to meet and greet with fellow illustrator members, talk about the industry and share portfolios and/or book dummies. Don't miss our special surprise guest that evening. E-mail me to RSVP. leeza(at)newjerseyscbwi(dot)com.

2. The First Annual New Jersey SCBWI Illustrator's Day! Sunday, November 9, 2008. Sign up early to spend the day with some industry professionals including an art director from a leading publishing house (TBA soon). The day will include portfolio critiques, discussion of work and a possible advance assignment for critique. Numbers are limited, so reserve your spot now! Details will be posted on the NJSCBWI Web site as they are confirmed — I will keep you posted! if you want to be added to the mailing list for the official announcement, just e-mail me as per my e-mail address above.(Or leave me a comment here).

Make it a great Tuesday everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Buddy Goals Week Four and The Winners Are...

Today was the big day that Jason announced all the winners for his flash fiction contest. I am so sad to say I did not win... not a place anyway. Philosophically speaking, I won in other ways. I met lots of new writer-bloggy friends, I tried something new, I came up with a new idea for my next novel, and I read over 40 positive comments for my contest entry (well, some were my replies...). Thank you so much for all of your supportive comments. They meant so much to me.

So the winners are...
1st Place--SARAH HINA, And Miles to Go Before She Sleeps (#27) Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Running Wind" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

2nd Place--SEAN FERRELL, Reversal (#56) Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate

3rd Place--JOSH VOGT, Time is a Road (#49) Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate

4th Place--PAUL LIADIS, Ar'n Man (#39) Prize: $10 Amazon gift certificate

5th Place--JEFF B, You Can't Get There from Here (#61) Prize: $5 Amazon gift certificate

Honorable Mention--CHARLES GRAMLICH, Precious Cargo (#1)

Honorable Mention--SCOTT SIMPSON, Blurred Vision (#6)

Honorable Mention--POSOLXSTVO, Anywhere But Here (#19)

Honorable Mention--SCOTT ELLIS, Freebird (#32)

Honorable Mention--AERIN, Dreamland Eyes (#62)

READERS' CHOICE AWARD:Readers' Choice...
CHARLES GRAMLICH, Precious Cargo (#1) Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Running Wind" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

1st Runner-Up--SARAH HINA, And Miles to Go Before She Sleeps (#27)

2nd Runner-Up--JOSH VOGT, Time is a Road (#49)

Congratulations everyone! This was an awesome adventure with lots of talented writers.

Last Week's Writing Buddy Goals...
Last week, one of my goals was to write an outline from page 85 to the end. I am happy to say all I have left is the second half of the last chapter to complete and I feel fan-tas-tic! I really do. Who knew an outline could be such a freeing experience? Not me! I am always, down with outlines, let your story come organically. Well, not that I tell others what their process should be, but I feel most of the time, that is the best process for me... up until a certain point, that is.

What I learned is, I can do that for the first draft up until about the second half of the middle. I can throw out all the foreshadowing and seeding and laying the ground work in an organic, free, no-outline, kind of way. But, then I hit a point in the story where all of that needs to be tied up in a neat little bow and resolved. It is at this point that an outline needs to be written. In fact, it was downright mandatory. And now that I've written one, I really do feel unclouded.

What was Learned During my Writing Buddy Discussion...
Today, Cathy and I conferred... (sorry, just had to use that word - don't know why...) and I would say the unifying theme for both of us was all about something I recently read in Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now. (I actually posted more about this subject here.) I think we both discovered that we are using the thinking brain while we both need to use what Tolle calls the unthinking brain.

Cathy and I were talking about, how right now, in our careers as writers, we don't feel, or at least I don't feel I have any control over this process. We likened it to exercising. When you don't exercise for a while, you are rusty and out of shape and it takes a while to get "into" it. So ,we both are on a mission on how to be able to control slipping out of the thinking brain and into what I would like to call instead, the artist brain (you know - that trance-like state you get into during a really good writing session).

I would like to open a discussion here... How do you get into that trance-like state where the writing just flows and you are not intentionally thinking, or analyzing what you are writing? The words just pour out of you and you are more like a passenger on a ride. Have you been able to master going between these two states when you need to? How do you engage that artist brain and tell the thinking brain it is time to quiet down?

Goals for this Week...

  1. complete outline (I am on the last chapter)
  2. go through all my notes of things I had seeded and foreshadowed and make sure they are all resolved in my outline notes.
  3. WRITE
  4. WRITE
  5. WRITE
  6. (unrelated to writing) I am in the process of refinishing my daughter's old dresser. My dad and step mom just gave one of my daughters all this great furniture for her bedroom. But now her old dresser sticks out like a sore thumb. So far I have sanded it down to the natural wood. Next, I have to paint it black, then apply a thin coat of crackle, then white paint, then pink accents, then new knobs.

Those are my goals for this week. Wish me luck! And happy writing to all of you!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jason Evan's Running Wind Short Fiction Contest

Hey Everyone,

If you've never joined in on a short fiction contest, I highly recommend it. This was my first one and it has been a blast! 45 entries in all, flooded the pages of Jason Evan's blog Clarity of Night .

Tomorrow is the last day for submitting. You have until July 16th at 11 PM. (I don't recall if that is eastern standard...) Click here for details on rules...

At some point Jason will pick a winner and a few runners up. But there will also be an award given to reader's choice. So here are a few links to my favorite stories, in no particular order...

Entry #32 Freebird by J. Scott Ellis
Entry #27 And Miles To Go Before She Sleeps by Sarah Hina
Entry #22 Crisscrossing Over by James R. Tomlinson
Entry #21 Riding to Extinction by Linda Courtland
Entry #16 Winnie Rides Again by Amy T.
Entry #13 Visiting You In Ward B by K. Lawson Gilbert
Entry #1 Precious Cargo by Charles Gramlich

Luckily, it is not up to me to pick a winner, but if I was forced to choose only one, I think it would have to be K. Lawson Gilbert because hers was written in such an interesting and unique style that was both powerful and emotive. She vacillated between what the MC was thinking (written in italics) and what the MC actually said out loud. I thought it was brilliant mixed with moments of just beautiful writing.

My favorite stanza would have to be...

Are your eyes looking at my face?
Are you really seeing me?
Your lips are as soft as rose petals.
They taste like 1963.
Oh and here's my entry...
So , wish me luck everyone. The winner, I think, is announced maybe July 17th. Oh and I believe anyone can vote for the Reader's Choice Award, so even if you don't enter, you can participate by reading the entries and voting for your fav.
Happy Writing!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So, as you may or may not know, Cathy Daniels and I have decided to become writing buddies for one another this summer. Our common goal - to finish our MG fantasy novels.

Each week we phone conference and talk about any triumphs or tribulations, brainstorm where needed, and help set weekly goals for the up-and-coming week.

After each conference I am going to post my weekly goals. I find that when I post something I become accountable for it. So, here are my weekly goals for this week...
  1. re-read my middle grade novel to become better acquainted with it. It's been a while since I've read it from page 1 to page 85. It's also been about a month since I've worked on it seriously and I feel reading it will help freshen things up.
  2. While reading, take notes for improvements for the next draft. But no messing around with it this time. I keep changing and making big edits and I believe this is why I haven't finished.
  3. Make a daily schedule with my kids so I can include time to write my novel, time to view houses and write my copies (the freelance work I do), and time for us to have fun together or with their friends.
So far I have already tackled number three. It felt good to have the girls be a part of this planning and they felt good to have input into our summer. A win-win situation.

I always struggle in the summer because there is so much I want/have to do. I want to write. I have to work. I want to be with my girls and have fun together. When I write, I feel guilty I am not with them. When I am working I feel guilty I am not with them. When I am with them, I feel pressure I am not writing or working. So coming up with a schedule showed all of us there is plenty time in the day to do all three.

I am going to be waking up early and getting my creative writing done while they are still sleeping. They have a more relaxed bed time in the summer which means they are sleeping later in the morning. Plus, it is vital for us writers to know what time of day we are most effective. I write best in the morning. I must write as soon as I wake up and keep at it till lunch - during the school year, that is. In the summer I won't write until lunch, but this way, at least I still write in the mornings for two and a half hours and the house will be still and quiet - another necessity.

The bonus is, I won't be riddled with guilt that I am not with the girls because they will be sleeping anyway.Then we decided on a two hour chunk of time they would want me to do my copy writing and what activities they can do while I work.

Once all this was figured out, we found we were left with the whole afternoon and evening to be together so we can do all the fun things we love to do together in the summer... go on bike rides, go on adventures, have friends over, throw a pool party...

Life lesson #679: it's never fun to go through the pain and struggles of life, but you always come out the other side with the most growth and learning. After all this is what we do to our MCs too, right?!

a flower from my garden...

Friday, June 27, 2008

October 2008 Mentoring Workshops

We have two mentoring workshops scheduled for this October. Both of these workshops include a professional critique and one-on-one time with an editor/agent.

The annual two day workshop in Tom's River is on October 4/5 with Tamra Tuller from Philomel and Nadia Cornier from Firebrand. Sign up early, as attendance is limited to 14 people.

Our first one day workshop of the season is on Sunday, October 26. So far, we've lined up Erin Molta, a senior editor from Scholastic. There will be three other editors/agents. Again, sign up early, as attendance is limited to 28 people.


Monday, June 16, 2008


So what is this lovable creature??? Yes the long awaited reveal is finally here... I promised you this would be a quick exercise on perspective and indeed it is. You all had some thoughtful ideas, butterflies, stick bugs, etc.

This is not a chrysalis or a cocoon, believe it or not. And the creature inside is not so lovable either. At least not to a tree. It can decimate a tree in a single season.

So what is it??? The suspense is killing you isn't it... It is a....

So what's a bagworm? Well, they are quite destructive, cunning, little creatures really. Their homes look like the tree they are living on, or feeding from really. The femails are wingless insects who rarely leave the shelter of their strange homes.

They are rarely ever seen out of their homes and rarely have ever been seen in full form. The females never leave their homes and carry them with them as they feed on the tree. I guess their foot, or whatever, is attached inside the bag and only the front half emerges to feed.

The best time to find these little buggers is when winter is turning into spring. Then as you see them, promptly remove the whole thing and place in plastic bag and discard.
My daughters and I discovered this one on one of our beloved crab cherry trees and waited patiently for it to reveal itself. We had others on pine trees that were made out of pine needles instead of bark.

When a tree expert came out to help me with a sickly tree he saw the bagworm and said, do you know what this is? I was so excited to finally find out, sure it would be some beautiful butterfly or Luna moth or some exquisite creature like that. When I found out it was a very destructive insect, I was thoroughly grossed out and my perspective was never quite the same again.

And so there in lies the lesson on perspective. At first we might look at something with understanding, sympathy, respect, reverence. And then we can shift our perspective and look at the very same thing with sickness, disgust, maybe even hatred.

Do you use this tool in your writing? Have you ever thought about your story from each character's perspective and how that might really change the scene, or your story in general? Are you stuck creating a distinct voice for each character? Try this exercise.

Pick a scene you are struggling with and re-write it from each character's perspective. If you truly are creating individual characters, each perspective should vary. Give it a try and see.

Regina Griffin at the NJ SCBWI June Conference

OK onto the next topic from the NJ SCBWI June Conference...

Anyone out there attend Regina Griffin's session?

Regina Griffin has been an editor for about 25 years. She is now starting up the US portion of Egmont, a well known UK publishing house.

Regina Griffin, laughing along side agent, Linda Pratt

She is actively seeking MG and YA novels. And check this out... she WANTS debut writers! Exciting news for many of us! However, according to their web page, they are not taking unsolicited MSs. So all of you out there who attended the NJ SCBWI June conference, consider this an open door that would otherwise be closed and send, send, send. Make sure to write in the subject line you attended the NJ SCBWI June conference.

Books she recommends: Harriet, the Spy... The Penderwicks...

What attracts her: a distinctive voice.

What interests her: quirky, inventive, interesting characters

Query No-no's: I read it to my kids and they loved it! (I agree, blech!)

One of her favorite first lines: "Where you going with that ax dad?" (Fern from Charlotte's Web)

She said imagine if it had been instead... " Fern had long brown hair and an inquisitive nature..."

Ratios to keep in mind: although the remainder of your novel might be requested, 80% of those are then rejected. :(

The one thing she said that haunts me is this... "When I first started in this career, we used to get, say, 30 manuscripts and 27 of them were really bad, so 3 got published. Now, say, I get 30 manuscripts and 27 of them are excellent, but still, only 3 can get published."

It makes you realize how far children's writers have come in 25 years. We have honed our craft, recognized that this is a separate and different talent than writing adult novels, and as a result, have made it incredibly difficult to become published! But as I was once told, if you never give up, you will prevail...

So what about you? What were your take-aways from Regina Griffin? Please share...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Still Reeling from the NJ SCBWI Conference???

NJ SCBWI RA, Kathy Temean with Jerry Spinelli and his Stargirl, Eileen Spinelli

It was so wonderful to see so many of you representing HCCWIG at the June conference this year (we've added the I to our name for all our Illustrators out there, btw) .

I thought it would be really fun to open up a session at a time to discuss here in the comments section. After I feel we've had a scintillating enough discussion, we will move on to another session, etc.

So please, DO NOT FEEL SHY. We want to hear about your experience conference-goers.

So let's start with Friday - Jerry and Eileen Spinelli. What an adorable writing duo and so down to earth and not full of themselves one bit. They could have said, "We're gardeners," with the same amount of non-egotism then we are multiple award winning authors...
For me my top three take-aways were...
  • when Jerry said he doesn't do rewrites. He begins each day by reading yesterday's pages and then writes forward and repeats until the end. And only then will he read the whole thing. I loved this because it validated for me my process - well at least the reading of yesterday's pages and then writing forward. I have read and re-written my story countless times and I still haven't reached the end. But hey, maybe I'm a Spinelli in the making...

  • when Jerry said, it is a different market now. Writers today are smarter about their craft so it is harder to break in. (I don't know if that made me feel relieved or like throwing up!)

  • and when Eileen read her book aloud to us. I was moved to tears!
  • Oh and (I know I said three, but...) the fact that I probably have one of the coolest end-of-school-year gifts to give to my daughters' teachers - autographed Jerry Spinelli books. How cool a gift is that for a teacher?!

So what about you? What was your take-away from that session?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gallery Exhibit, ‘In & Out’

Gallery Exhibit, ‘In & Out’
Selections from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Visual Artist/Educator Fellows.

I was invited to exhibit my illustrative work recently in a show at St. Elizabeth College in Morristown. The show is up until June 28th. The opening reception was on May 16th and I have included some photos of my piece and my daughter running around having a great time. Over 70 artists in the Foundation submitted and 36 were selected. I was chosen to exhibit a picture book illustration I had done for a story that has since expanded into a middle grade novel. I’m still working on the novel and the illustration is now a portfolio piece.

Thanks to the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation I was able to kick start a new career as an author/illustrator of children’s books. I received their summer grant last June of 2007. Among other things, I spent it on summer day care for my daughter while I used that precious time to work on a picture book idea that had long been shelved. Since I currently teach commercial art full time I thought I would have to wait until my daughter grew up before I could find time for my own work. The grant changed my life. I had an amazing summer doing what I had always wanted to do and I wanted more.

As kismet would have it, I found out about the HCCBWG, became one of the facilitators based on my previous incarnation as a published fantasy illustrator and began my dual journey as illustrator and author in the children’s market. I reactivated my SCBWI membership and have been flying towards my goals ever since, at a pace I never would have dreamed possible!
Thanks to the grant money I now have a website, a new camera, lighting equipment for photo-shoots and a hoard of art supplies. My ‘day’ job ties in really well with my publishing aspirations too. This year, again thanks to Geraldine Dodge, I won a school grant and used it to teach my seniors how to create their own children’s picture books, from concept to dummy book to the final stage of a printed bound book.

Things are happening! Currently the Geraldine R. Dodge foundation is using another illustration of mine for the cover of their Annual Report which goes out to about 700 national foundations and will also be displayed on their website. I have been interviewed for the next upcoming issue of SPROUTS (the New Jersey chapter SCBWI magazine) and my SCBWI logo was selected as the winner of the illustrator contest for NJSCBWI, which will be featured at this year’s conference on June 6 & 7. This past April, I attended the SCBWI NY portfolio conference and received interest in my work from Highlights Magazine and a number of artist’s agents. I am excited about NJSCBWI’s June conference this weekend and look forward to editor feedback on my novel, a first page on a picture book and another portfolio review. I’m also looking forward to seeing many of the HCCBWG members there! Good luck to everyone!
Cathy Daniels

Monday, June 2, 2008

June's Writing Exercise... The Mystery Critter

I can hear the moans from here. June's a busy month, I know, I know! I am up to my eyeballs in it too, believe me. But this little exercise will literally take you minutes. Not even.

So, if you have not tried one of these babies yet, now's your chance to get off easy.

This is a two-parter. Take a look at the pretty picture below and tell us what you think is inside.

That's it. Plain and simple.

NOW NO CHEATING OR SNOOPING AROUND ON THE INTERNET FOR THE ANSWER, YOU SAVVY WRITERS! Just look at the cocoon and make a prediction. What is your perspecitve on it? Who lives inside? Who will emerge? It doesn't have to be a story. Just a sentence or two. Even just a few words will suffice. That's it. Really.So what's part two? Part two is on me --- The reveal. (que music - dun, dun, dun, daaaaa). I will give you all until June 16th to write a sentence or a few words just sharing your perspective on this mystery critter. Then on June 17th, I will post what it is...

Easy, schmeezy...

Happy Writing

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tips from the top!

Thought illustrators might be interested in reading some advice from Scholastic's Creative Director and VP, David Saylor. He recently gave a talk at Parsons and talked about what makes a good dummy as well as what he looks for. You can read it by clicking here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fifteen Things to Consider about Writing

Judith Lawrence, the organizer of the River Poets Journal and Artsbridge, emails newsletters periodically. Most of teh time they are riddled with dates for all sorts of writer's contests - mostly for poets, but not always. In one of her latest newsletter, the below was featured. I thought it was very poignant and wanted to share it with all of you...

By Alice Wootson
Fifteen Things to Consider about Writing

1. The only things you need in order to write are an idea, something to write with and something to write on.

2. Take as many writing workshops/classes as you can.

3. Write every day even if it's only for ten minutes.

4. Write because you have to, not because you want to.

5. Know your characters as well as you know yourself.

6. Place yourself in the scene and pull your reader in with details.

7. Visualize the scene, but don't ignore the other senses.

8. Don't rush to the next scene until you have developed the present one fully.

9. If a character and a story idea are on your mind, write them down, otherwise they will bug you until you do.

10. Write and revise, then write and revise again. Then edit.

11. Know your weakness and work to correct it. Spelling counts. So does grammar.

12. Finish the piece. There is no market for perfect partials.

13. Unl ess you receive rejections, you aren't submitting.

14. You have to send your work out. Nobody will come knocking on your door to ask if you have anything you would like published.

15. It only takes one editor to like your work.

Alice Wootson has published ten novels, and is a member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference board. The Philadelphia Writers' Conference will be held June 6-8. See details at the above link, or this link...

So, let's see if we can add to this excellent list. What would your number 16 be? Add it in the comment section...

Happy Writing!
Sheri Ks, ks

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May's Writing Exercise

This month's writing exercise is all about layers and meaning. I am going to give you a few sentences, and you will throw in some layers to give the sentence meaning and dimension. In other words, you may use gestures (let's keep this PG-13 rated, OK), one or more of the five senses, props, etc.

My favorite example of this I know I have used before, but I think it is a point well taken...

The simple scene is this... a man and a woman... girl and boy... frog and turtle... You decide.

"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she replied.

Can you say, BORING! It is not the words alone that paint a scene, it is all of the above mentioned that give a scene it's meaning and tone - the layers. So what if the lines were set up and delivered like this...

The gymnasium was disguised, but not well. The streamers and balloons, disco ball hanging from the ceiling, the D-class garage band on the stage, it was all supposed to make us feel we were anywhere but in the HS gym. But we were not fooled. Well, maybe I was... just a little.

Maybe it was the low lighting, or maybe Peters really did spike the punch, but when Cindy pressed her way through the crowd and made her way next to me, my heart leaped to my throat.

Act cool, I told myself, but I just couldn't.

She was there for punch. Not me. Her dress, the lighting, the way her silky, blonde hair cascaded downward as she reached for a plastic, pink cup... I don't know what came over me.

Actually I didn't mean to say it out loud. I only meant to think it, quietly, in my head. But there they were - my words fell heavy, like a ton of bricks, and remained thick in the air, "I love you," I squeaked.

She froze. Stood straight. Turned and looked me in my eyes. I froze. Panic surged from my toes to the tips of the hairs on my head. Her cell phone rang. She reached in her purse and checked to see who was calling.

"How nice," she said flatly as she flipped open her Envy. "Oh-my-gawd, Jen, you'll never believe what just happened..."

OK so now's your turn. The phrase is...
"I love you," he said.
"How nice," she said.

How could you set this scene by adding layers. Don't worry about the word count. It can be tailored to fit a PB, MG or YA novel, or don't even be concerned with your target audience. How can you put the meaning behind those simple words. It could be requited, unrequited, or not even heard... you decide.

Post your short story in the comments section. Oh and the due date... let's say by May 20th.

Happy Writing,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

NJ SCBWI Events Schedule 2008-2009

June 26 - New Beginning, 1:00, Tibetan Museum
July 15th - New Beginning, 1:00, On Green Pond
September 17 - First Page session with dinner, 4:00, MacKay Center
October 4/5 - Mentoring Workshop, Toms River
October 26 - Mentoring Workshop, all day, Stuart Hall
November 9 - Mentoring Workshop, all day, Stuart Hall (illustrator's day)
November 19 - First Page session with dinner, 4:00, MacKay Center
January 14, 2009 - First Page session with dinner, 4:00, MacKay Center
February 22, 2009 - Mentoring Workshop, all day, Stuart Hall
March 29, 2009 - Mentoring Workshop, all day, Stuart Hall
April 22, 2009 - First Page session with dinner, 4:00, MacKay Center
June 5/6, 2009 - Annual Conference

For more information about these events, go to http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com/. Laurie

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy days!

Hi everyone,
I am really excited and happy to announce that I just signed with Prospect Agency in New York. I love my agent, Rachel Orr, who has some great ideas on how to take me and my work to the next level. YAY!

Thanks to Pat Cummings for bringing us together and to everybody who I have ever had the pleasure of working with, learning from or knowing to help me get to this point.

I see it as a small victory on the path to children's book success and can't wait to really get stuck in...

Thanks to you all!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NJ SCBWI June Conference


JUNE 6th and 7th 2008

Princeton Theological Seminary Stuart Hall

Princeton, NJ

For directions, click here...

Just a brief reminder, the postmarked deadline for the NJ SCBWI June Conference is swiftly approaching. Be sure to have your materials to Kathy Temean with a postmark date no later than JUNE 26th. Any later and you will be charged extra fees.

Mail to: Kathy Temean, 203 Stowe Ct Mullica Hill, NJ 08062

Please do not request a signature on delivery

Good luck and see you there.
So... are you attending the June Conference this year? Will you be participating in the speed pitch? If so, let's practice here. Post your speed pitch in the comment section, if you dare...

Happy Writing,


Thursday, April 17, 2008


Ray Mathis is a Buck's County artist who suffered great loss when a fire broke out this week in his Bucks County studio claiming his life's work, tools, and so much more, at the tender age of 50. A tragic and incomprehensible loss.

Another Bucks County artist, Materese Roche, a friend of Mathis', would like to step up and help and so can you. She is holding several art sales where proceeds are set up to go to the Ray Mathis Fund. For more information go here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks one year since that rainy April evening when we all first met to form the Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group. So, I wanted to say...

I also wanted to thank all of you because without you, there wouldn't be the HCCWG.

Also, I think we must all give a special blogger round of applause for our wonderful and talented facilitators. They didn't ask to lead a group. They, like you, wanted to join a group on April 16, 2007. But with the group of 60 eager people, they rose to the challenge. So, please join me in saying, THANK YOU to Cathleen, Jeanne, Laurie, Leeza, Pat, and now our newest facilitator - Tina. Thank you ladies, from the bottom of this writer's heart, thank you!

WRITING EXERCISE NUMBER I - They Say Fairies Live Here... Don't worry, there is still time to get your Fairy stories in by the May 1st deadline. We have received a few. Please check them out under Writing Exercise I in the comments section. And be sure to leave yours. It does not have to be a perfectly developed story. It can be 50 words... 100 words... And it is fun. It is writing for writing's sake. So no pressure, no stress.

But now it's time for WRITING EXERCISE NUMBER II - and this one's meant to make you think in just one, single sentence... If you can't do this with one of your own stories, see if you can do it with one of your favorite children's stories published by one of your favorite authors. Here is the challenge... Can you tell your story in just one sentence? One sentence, simply stating the main character, his/her problem, and the resolution. Sometimes it's easier if you use the words When.... then.... until....

Here are a few to get your started...

Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton (PB)
When Russell the Sheep can't fall asleep, he tries several techniques that don't work, until sleep finally comes.
One Hungry Monster by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe (PB)
When (the boy) feeds one hungry monster, he must feed all ten, until he finally figures out how to settle his now chaotic home.
The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck (MG Novel)
When Jiya's left orphaned after a tsunami claims his family and village, he must choose between living a poor life with love, or a rich life without love, until he ultimately chooses his own path and discovers spiritual wealth out ways financial wealth any day.

Stating your story in its simplest form will put you once again in touch with your original message. It is then easy to build on that simple statement. When it becomes too convoluted, so does your story. It's a good idea, once you have encapsulated your story into a single sentence, to print it out and clip it to the top of your computer, or on a bulletin board. So, as you start to complicate things, you can glance up at it and remember to stick with your simple sentence. That's not to say that our stories can't change and develop, but once we lose touch with the simplicity of our statement, it will begin to show up on our pages.
So, give it a try... Write you story in one sentence and post it in the comments section.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Sheri ks, ks

Thursday, April 10, 2008


When I was a teacher, we had this thing we would start every morning with called a DO NOW. We would write some little brain teaser, math problem (don't worry, there will be no math here...) sentence starter, etc. on the board, and as the kids were unpacking and getting ready to begin their day, they would do the DO NOW. The idea was to wake the kids up and get their motor started.

Well, as writers, we could use a DO NOW every so often as well. So I am beginning this new segment for all HCCWG members and non-members alike. Once a month, or maybe more often, I will post a sentence starter to inspire you (hopefully) into writing a short piece of fiction. Hopefully, I will also include a picture to jump start your imagination too.

Here is what I want you to do. In the comments section write a short story (no more than 250 words) and post it there. If there is enough interest in these flash fiction segments, then I will keep this going. I think it can really help sharpen and hone your skills. Do not worry about anyone stealing your work in the comments section. Just write fresh off the top of your head.

Another writer I know of, Christine Elden, does this on her blog and, although I always complain about her tight 150 word count, it is really fun and gets my brain buzzing. I do agonize over the limited word count, as I am more prone to writing novels, than flash fiction. But, you picture book writers, may really have the upper hand at this. So give it a try. I think we can have a lot of fun. Also feel free to leave brief comments about the entries you read. But it does not have to be critique-y. This is for fun and to keep those juices flowing. So here it goes.

They say fairies live here. Some say they've seen them late at night, dancing in the moonlight. Some say...

Now, you take it from here. Try to make your entry no more than 250 words. (Perfect for you picture book writers.) Just remember, the comment space does not have formatting, so you can not indent. Just separate paragraphs with an extra space instead. Oh, and feel free to begin your story however you want. If you have another first sentence you want to begin with, fine. Mine was just to motivate you those creative story-tellers not so deep inside all of us...

The deadline is May 1st. So don't delay! We say we're writers, so let's write!

Happy Writing!
Sheri ks, ks


Kathy Temean, RA of the NJ Chapter of SCBWI, has unleashed her new webiste. Check it out!

It is chock full of handy information, not to mention ge-or-jee-ous illustrations! Just gorgeous! Great job Kathy! I love your new site!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rutgers One-on-One Conference 2008

Just giving everyone a heads up about another one-day conference happening on Oct.18, 2008. The Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature will be hosting its 37th Annual One-on-One Plus Conference. Details will be posted on the Website mid-April which is right around the corner.

If you haven't heard about it before, it's a day when 65 individuals (authors and illustrators) get to spend "One-on-One" time with 65 editors, agents and other industry professionals. During lunch you have the opportunity to approach any of those professionals as well to ask questions, obtain business cards and network out of the wazoo!

Last year's cost was $150, and the process is by application only. I encourage everyone and anyone, who wants to get their foot in the door of some of these big-name houses who don't accept unsolicited work, to apply. To be in a room with that many contacts and potential 'contracts' is priceless!

To visit the Web site, click here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Page Session

There's still room in the NJ SCBWI First Page Session on April 22. In these sessions, two editors listen to the opening page of your manuscript and give their quick impressions about--dialogue, voice, age appropriateness, does it draw them in, genre choice, etc. Optionally, you can pay extra and stay for dinner with the editors. For more information, go to http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com/firstpages.shtml. Laurie

Monday, March 31, 2008


Hey everyone, just a reminder that the deadline for the June conference is swiftly approaching.

Your completed PB manuscript, or the first 15 pages of your novel, are due postmarked by April 26. This year a $10 penalty will be imposed on anyone who sends a MS after that date.

Now you will be really grateful for the HCCWG Handbook because in the back are a few pages on correct industry standard formatting. If you are still unaware of this standard, use the handbook to help prepare you. If you are not meeting with your group in time for submitting, ask a friend to proof read it before sending it out. When you "live" in a piece, sometimes you just don't see your errors.

But if the timing is right, then this is the time to step up and use your critique group to help prepare your pages for this annual event. I know a lot of groups are meeting a few times this month or have moved their date up earlier in order to compensate for the early deadline. So take advantage. Submit to your group and sign up for the conference.

Best of luck!

For more information visit NJ SCBWI events page online.

Friday, March 21, 2008


If you recently attended our latest speaker series event with Loren Spiotta Di-Mare and signed up to be a new member, then this posting is for YOU!

I have been trying to get in touch with all of you but some of your email addresses have bounced back to me. If you haven't heard from me, this could be why. Please leave a comment here and we can get in touch with each other from here. Or click my name
below for another link to me. Sorry for any


Thursday, March 20, 2008

NJ SCBWI Conference - June 6/7, 2008

Our New Jersey SCBWI conference is fast approaching. Many of us from Hunterdon will be attending, so you'll see a lot of familiar faces. Register before the end of March and save money with early bird pricing.

For more information, http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com/eventsjune.htm Laurie

Monday, March 17, 2008

illustrator's contest-deadline April 28

This post is for the many talented illustrators in hccwg. (Believe me, I'm not one of them.)

New Jersey SCBWI is looking for a design to use on bags and t-shirts for our June Conference. The prize is a yearly membership to the SCBWI. The design should be sent into kathy@newjerseywcbwi.com with a carbon copy to Laurie@newjerseyscbwi.com. The winning entry prize will be awarded on Saturday June 7th and showcased in the September issue of Sprouts.

Submissions must fit in a 10 inch by 10 inch square and sent in a .jpg file at 300 dpi resolution. Please submit illustration in one color. You may present the same illustration in two colors, but it will most likely be printed in one color. Deadline for submission is April 28th.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

HCCWG Hosts Loren Spiotta-DiMare at Library

Saturday, Match 15, brought well-known local author, Loren Spiotta-DiMare to the Hunterdon County Library, hosted by our own writing group. Prior to our guests' arrival, Loren and Sheri took a moment for a few "photo ops" along with Loren's published works.

Loren brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her talks, and spoke to an interested group of aspiring children's book writers about her history as a writer both in children's books as well as her start in writing non-fiction books about animals.

The afternoon began with an introduction by Sheri, above left, who first informed visitors about our writers' group, the benefits of belonging, and then a brief intro for Loren.

Loren first discussed her background as a publicist for an art association, author and practiced marketer of her own books. She offered some background in her own life and why she was drawn to children's books and animals as her subject.

Next, Loren discussed the progression of her efforts to get published, her successes, and her decision to self-publish her last three children's books. One of the points that was stressed was the need for perseverance in the publishing market where it can take, as it did in the case of one of her books --11 years to become published -- or in another, less than 2.

Loren's 3 self-published titles with toy "mascot" of Daniel, one of the book's heroes.

After her talk, Loren opened the floor to a question and answer session. The session covered many topics including submissions to publishing houses, need for an agent, information on self-publishing, school visits and the need for investment of time in marketing one's own books regardless of how they are published. It became clear as the visit went on that being successful in the children's book field is much more than just the writing itself!

At the end of the Q & A session, Loren autographed books and answered additional questions in a one-on-one as time permitted. Thanks, Loren, for an informative and fun afternoon.

To learn more about Loren and her career or to purchase her books or set up author's visits, please visit Loren's web site.

Happily, the afternoon ended with a number of interested writers signing up to join HCCWG!

Something to Think About ...

Do your stories have a charm and freshness that will stand up to repeated readings? Or could they be written better? Did you use the words of a skilled writer or a less-skilled writer. Check out Volume III: Figures of Speech (from the "How to Write a Children's Picture Book" series by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock) for keen insight into this area.

Habits and Taxes

Today I wanted to post about two kind of disjointed topics, and yet, can be connected if you squint and tilt your head to the left...

First habits... I read this article recently about habits and willpower. The study said that people are unsuccessful in changing their ways, even those facing death, when they try to change their ways alone and based on sheer willpower. And I started to think about my own life... trying to lose those stubborn 10 – 15 pounds... I was never successful at this. Except for one time when I joined a gym with a very pushy friend who wouldn't take no for an answer. Well, sure enough when I went back to reading, the article said, real success in change comes from seeing someone you admire make that same change and you think, "If she can do it, then so can I."

And then I thought about my writing... and about HCCWG... And I thought, yes, this is why it is successful! See, about a year ago, I constantly complained that there wasn't enough time to write, that I didn't have enough energy, that I didn't have enough stick-to-it-ness. And yet I said I wanted to be a writer. But I barely put in the consistent time. Then I met my friend - you might all know her - Leeza. Anyone who knows Leeza, knows she is full of energy! She gets so much done. When tou are with her, you can't help but catch it when. She really inspired me to dig deeper, to make a commitment once and for all, no excuses.

So, then, as you all know, I started the Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group, where I've made such special connections and friendships. And suddenly, BAM! I'm writing every day (unless I have a "percolation period" - I will never call it a writer's block again - too negative a connotation).

But the astonishing thing was once I surrounded myself with writers, I truly became a writer. I write every day. I read every day. I have a job where I am paid to write. It is incredible! The study is true. If you want to change a habit, surround yourself with people who are living the way you want to live, and before you know it, you will barely remember your old and tired ways.

Now what about taxes... Well, incase you have been living under a rock - It's tax time boys and girls and our government can be very kind to us artists. So, if you haven't spoken to your tax guy (or gal) about legitimate write-offs, maybe you should! As writers, we are allowed to claim a loss until we get published! I did not know that until today. I mean I knew we could claim a loss for a couple years, but not until we get published. Personally, I don't claim a loss because I am paid as a freelancer (not much, but... it's not a loss).

You can also write off dues to professional organizations, like SCBWI, and any workshops or conferences you attend. The purchase of The Writers and Illustrators Market, postage for submissions. Paper. Ink. Office supplies... I even learned today, if you need daycare or childcare because of your writer/artist ways, you can write a portion of that off too. You needed a new printer, computer... write-off.

But be careful.

Find a tax accountant who really knows the law for us creative folks. Don't do anything shady and save, save, save those receipts. You can NEVER be too careful. Every little bit helps when you are in a profession where you may never see a substantial paycheck.

And here's how habits can tie in to this topic... you should make it a habit of collecting your business receipts and reporting miles to workshops, etc. I have a folder I keep on my desk labeled 2008 Expenses. Every time I need to purchase something writing related, it goes right in the folder. Then before I meet my wonderful tax guy, I total them all up and put them on an excel spread sheet (Yes, Laurie, an excel sheet. I said it!).

It doesn't take much to organize your expenses this way, but the benefits can be huge. So habits and taxes can go a long way.

Sheri ks, ks