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!

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Contests …

… are always great as an exercise regardless of winning.

If you happen to be a member of SCBWI, but don't go to the national site that often, you might not be aware that every month or so, they post a contest for writers and illustrators. They are fun to participate in — of course, winning is always nice — but the point of them is to encourage you to exercise your skills ... how marvelous! Free to enter for all members, so, go check out the latest contest:
Writers, click here.
Illustrators, click here.

SCBWI NJ Writer's Workshop Follow-Up

Lunch time for authors and editors at an SCBWI NJ Workshop. The perfect chance to bug editors will all your questions you have been dying to ask.

If you haven't yet attended a New Jersey SCBWi workshop, or joined SCBWI for that matter, might be good to check out what happens at one to see what you are missing. I know Sheri posted information about the recent February workshop — so if you didn't see her write up - go check it out now! I posted about the day also, so you can take a peek at that too, if you like. Both have photos to look at if you don't feel like reading! Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. jeanne was there also AND Cathy — that's quite a few HCCWG facilitators to tap the brains of, all with what I am sure are very different perspectives about the day. I believe there were a number of HCCWG members there as well — Kim, Lori, Lynette. Anyway, I am sure they will all tell you it was worth the money, especially if you are serious about becoming published in children's literature.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Short and Sweet

Dear Fellow Writers,

If you have not yet been to Cheryl Klein's website please take some time to visit. It will be worth the trip.

By the way, Cheryl Klein is an editor with Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic and is scheduled to attend the upcoming June NJ SCBWI conference.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Inspiration Yields Results!

Joining the Hunterdon County Children's Writing Group has been paying off for its members. The critique groups have helped us start and/or keep writing, learn how to do it increasingly well, and find out more about the children's book writing field and how to negotiate it. And many of us have found more than fellow writers, we've found friends.

The whole process has also been inspirational in another way to one of our group members, Diana Patton. Diana has been digesting everything she's learned as fast as she can, and has written a special page on her web site that provides insight into her own working process and summarizes some of the most salient points writers in the children's book field need to know.

Check out Diana's web page and expand your knowledge!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Interview with Loren Spiotta Di-Mare

Hi Loren! We are very exciting about having you come to the HCL on March 15 to share your experiences with us about being a published children's book author. I thought we could provide our members with a teaser of the day to come. So...

Sheri: How old were you when you decided writing would be the career path you would take?
Loren: Had my first article published at 19 and my first book at 22.

Sheri:Did you always know you would write for children?
Loren: No, actually I was a magazine journalist for about 17 years and had written two pet-care books. I was looking for a new creative challenge and took a class in writing picture books for children at Seton Hall.

Sheri: What is your favorite subject to write about?
Loren: Animals. In fact, I consider myself an animal writer whether I’m writing a magazine article, adult pet-care book, children’s picture book or promotional material.

Sheri: What was your first book you published? Was it self-published or published by a traditional publishing house?
Loren: My first book, Macaws, was published by T.F. H Publications in 1979. My first children’s book, Caesar: On Deaf Ears, was published by The Benefactory in 1997. (They’re a small publisher devoted to producing true animal stories in picture book form.) I didn’t start self-publishing until recently.

Sheri: In your opinion, what is the benefit of self-publishing, or of traditional publishing?
Loren: At this stage of my career, I enjoy self-publishing because I have complete control of the story, illustration, design, printing etc. However, I’m also a publicist and enjoy marketing. Marketing skills are the key to success in self-publishing. With traditional publishing you are paid for your work (always nice) and receive the “respect” of being published by a traditional publisher. I promote all of my books regardless of how they are produced. Your members should know not all publications will review a self-published book.

Sheri: About how long does it take for you to write a book from idea to final copy?
Loren: A pet-care book can take up to two years. A children’s picture book a few months.

Sheri: About how long until the final copy is in print on shelves?
Loren: From the time I wrote my first children’s book until the time it was published took 11 years. That was Chelsea & The New Puppy. During that time, I had two other picture books published. Two to three years is not uncommon. And btw, no guarantee it will be on shelves.

Sheri: Good point, Loren. What do you think is the number one mistake of new writers?
Loren: Not realizing what a really tough business publishing is. It may appear glamorous to those on the outside but it is a long, hard journey for those who make a career of it. You must love the process and appreciate the benefits other than financial gain. In my case, readers have contacted me to let me know they have brought a certain breed of dog into their family as a result of reading one of my books. It’s extremely rewarding to have that kind of impact.

Sheri: What do you do to avoid or deal with writer's block?
Loren: Haven’t experienced it in years. My problem is having so many ideas and juggling numerous projects at once. Always feel I must improve my time management skills.

Sheri: Ready for the speed round now...
What's your favorite color? Yellow
Which do you prefer, writing at home, or on a writer's retreat? Home
Favorite adult book? Marley and Me
Favorite TV show? Wildfire (new series revolving around a race horse)
Favorite Movie? The Black Stallion or Black Beauty
What author inspires you? Albert Payson Terhune He wrote a series of children’s books about Collies that I’m sure had a great impact on my career.

Thanks, Loren. I think March 15th is going to be a lot of fun, informative, and inspiring! So please join us at the Hunterdon County Library on March 15 from 1 - 3 for a discussion about the children's book industry, traditional publishing, and self-publishing, and a book signing event! Oh, and bring a friend! We are presently recruiting new members to HCCWG, especially picture book writers.

See ya Saturday! Until then, happy writing everyone!

Sheri ks, ks