A Cafe Chat with Goodjelly Founder Christine Carron, by Rona Shirdan

Need help boosting your creative output? Managing time for your writing or illustrating? Taking charge of your own creative journey? Check out our first webinar of the new year, “Take Charge of Your Creative Adventure,” led by process improvement maven Christine Carron. This webinar will be sure to turn your New Year’s Resolutions for writing and illustrating into results. Then, as conference season approaches, be sure to check out our second webinar with Christine Carron in April, “Power Up Your Conference Experience.” In preparation for these webinars, our Co-Regional Advisor Rona Shirdan had a chat with Christine at our virtual EasternPennPoints café. Check it out!

A Café Chat with Goodjelly Founder Christine Carron, by Rona Shirdan

Rona: Hi, Christine! Thanks for joining me in our EasternPennPoints virtual café. I love this place! I’m going to try a caramel latte and an almond croissant. Let me know what you would like to eat and drink as we chat.

Christine: I’ll take the chocolate vegan cupcake and a cinnamon tea, please. Though once you get that in front of me, I may need a moment to refocus. That level of yum is going to be distracting. 

Rona: Can you tell us a little about Goodjelly and what brought you to create it?

Christine: Absolutely. It all got started at my first SCBWI conference in New York many years ago. A group of writers sitting nearby on a break were discussing challenges they were experiencing on the writing adventure. I’ve been a process improvement consultant and project manager for over twenty-five years, so whenever I hear anyone experiencing frustration about how something is working (or not), my ears perk up.

What struck me was that none of their struggles had anything to do with their writing or their craft. Instead, they were experiencing what I would call project management issues: managing work, managing mindset, managing time, etc. The thought that popped into my head was: the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. That with a little process- and project-management know-how, writers could make their writing adventures so much easier. 

That notion eventually became the driving premise behind Goodjelly, and this month marks our two-year anniversary of helping writers create more ease, confidence, and consistent progress, i.e., get their writing done, using project management fabulosity. 

Rona: Congratulations on the anniversary! What are the Goodjelly principles, and what results can we expect when we apply them?

Christine: Thank you! I would say at the highest level that Goodjelly is about helping writers take charge of their Process, their Power, and their Perspective. Those are big concepts, but at the simplest level, I think of them like this: When a writer, or any creative, has a set of practices (Process) that aligns with how they like to work (Power) and is in charge of the tone (Perspective) of their creative adventure, everything gets easier

Will you still experience challenges, disappointments, and frustrations? Sure, but any challenge is more easily met when you are rocking your perfect mix of Process, Power, and Perspective. 

Rona: Ah, so that’s why both of your upcoming webinars have a thread related to POWER. 

Christine: Yes. In everything Goodjelly does, the goal is to return writers to themselves, to their inherent power and trust in themselves. It’s a powerful thing to stand in the clarity of This is right for me. This isn’t. Yet that can be challenging (and scary at times) for many writers, including me, to do. 

But when we don’t do that—when we don’t trust what is right for us (which will be completely different than what is right for another writer)—that makes the adventure harder. We end up doing things that we don’t want to do, such as staying in a critique group that is no longer serving us, and not doing things that we want to do, like a writer who doesn’t write the vampire book that they’ve wanted to write since forever because an article in Publisher’s Weekly said that vampire stories are so yesterday. 

From a Goodjelly perspective, Power is both the inner knowing that you actually matter on your writing adventure, and the inner oomph to take the actions needed to align with that truth. That’s when writers really start creating adventures that they love being on no matter what.

Oh my. Did I get too carried away there? I’m a bit passionate about all this stuff. 

Rona: I like it. It’s good stuff. Do your concepts apply to illustrators too?

Christine: Absolutely. They work for anyone on any kind of creative adventure. 

Rona: Your April webinar focuses on the conference experience. We now know that Goodjelly originated at an SCBWI conference, which is a fun note, but how do the Goodjelly concepts play into attending a conference?

Christine: Yes, regarding the fun SCBWI connection with Goodjelly’s origin story, which also makes this interview a lovely full circle moment as well. 

As to conferences, those are actually a hotbed of possibilities for applying Goodjelly principles. We make big financial and time commitments to attend, we want to get our money’s worth, to learn everything we can, to have fun, to make important connections, to network, to pitch, and . . . oh my, it’s a lot. And that’s without even diving into all the emotional components of a conference experience like nerves, imposter syndrome, the extra stress those types of social contexts pile on introverts, etc.  

That all means that the Goodjelly principles can be applied in a myriad of ways. Process, for example, will help you to digest all the new information and inspiration you’re taking in. Power will help you navigate the experience in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. Perspective will help you balance the hope that something magical will happen, like getting a publishing deal on the spot, and the differently positive reality that “all” that might happen is that you grow as a writer or as an illustrator, make new connections, and are inspired to keep going. 

The conference presentation I’ll be delivering in April is actually one of my favorite ones to teach. The framework is really easy to apply and totally empowers folks to take charge of their learning experience. 

Rona: Are there any books that are currently helping you on your writing adventure? 

Christine: I am all over John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story and have been for a while now. Shoutout to Chris Tebbetts for recommending it to me. It took me a year to warm up to the process Truby outlines for crafting a story, but now that I have, I’m finding his approach extremely grounding and helpful. 

Rona: Thanks so much for spending time with us today. Before we close, what’s one fun thing you would like to share about yourself?

Christine: I once spent a month in Argentina dancing tango every day and every night until the wee hours of the morning. Fantabulous!

Rona: Excellent! Where can our readers learn more about you and Goodjelly?

Christine: Stop by at goodjelly.com. On Instagram @leagueofgoodjelly. If anyone wants a free audio lesson and worksheet on how to handle any block, get that here. Thanks so much!


Process improvement maven Christine Carron has helped individuals and teams function more effectively for over twenty-five years. Her clients call her The Wolf meets Mary Poppins due to the rigor, focus, and fun she brings to whatever she does. Christine writes middle grade and young adult fiction and is the founder of Goodjelly, where she helps creatives use process, power, and kindness to unleash their creative progress.


Webinar Information

January 17, 2023 at 7:00pm Eastern time:

Take Charge of Your Creative Adventure with Christine Carron

Session Description

Much of the creative adventure is out of a writer’s or illustrator’s control, which can often make the process feel daunting, overwhelming, and even demoralizing. Hello, fifty gazillionth rejection. There are, however, ways to move forward with more ease and confidence no matter the twists and turns your journey takes. 

In this webinar, you will learn the important difference between taking charge of your creative adventure and trying to control it. You will also discover how to stay centered in your creative power, rather than inadvertently giving it away. This webinar includes a presentation along with interactive and reflective activities. You will leave with a renewed sense of confidence and possibility for the adventure ahead. 

Who will get value from this webinar?

Writers and illustrators at any level will benefit from this webinar. Research has shown “that when people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves.”* This webinar focuses on helping writers and illustrators maintain a positive mindset by staying centered in their creative power.

* Shawn Achor, Positive Intelligence, Harvard Business Review Magazine, Jan-Feb, 2012.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/take-charge-of-your-creative-adventure/.

April 20, 2023 at 7:00pm Eastern time:

Power-up Your Conference Experience with Christine Carron

Session Description

Do you have a tendency to go into overwhelm at conferences? Or perhaps you take reams of notes that you never refer to again? Or maybe you have the best intentions to integrate all the new ideas and techniques you learn but end up putting hardly any of them into practice? Maybe even none at all? Do you then feel guilty and frustrated, knowing you could have gotten more value and growth from your investment?

Enough with that. Let’s conference differently. In this webinar, you will learn Goodjelly’s Ground, Gather, Grow™ framework that you can use forevermore to power-up your conference learning experiences.

Who will get value from this webinar?

Writers and illustrators at any level will benefit from this webinar. The Ground, Gather, Grow™ framework will show you how to set yourself up for success before, during, and after a conference so that you get measurable and lasting value out of your conference investments. 

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-power-up-your-conference-experience/

Posted in Cafe Chat, General, Interviews, Uncategorized, webinar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2022 Banner Challenge Winners Announced

We recently held our third annual illustration challenge for new banners to grace the top of our website, blog, and our social media profile backgrounds. Our banner changes every six months on November 30 and May 31. Eastern PA illustrators were encouraged to submit banner entries for either Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer. We had many beautiful and creative submissions and we thank all who participated.

And now for the winners!

The banner chosen for the current Fall/Winter season was illustrated by Rebecca Hoenig!

A little about Rebecca:

Rebecca is a lifelong book lover and artist. Growing up in a family of English professors, surrounded by mountains and mountains of books and oodles of paper and pencils, it was inevitable that she would want to make her own books.

Rebecca has a BA in Art History and an MFA in Bookarts/Printmaking. After working in the commercial printing industry and museum publishing, she became an art teacher. She recently retired after over two decades as a Museum Educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where she had the opportunity to write many educational materials for children. She also illustrated a coloring book that has been reprinted several times and given to thousands of preschool students before their visit to the museum. 

Rebecca joined SCBWI in 2016 on the recommendation of acclaimed author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli who was her teacher at a class that she took at the University of the Arts. 

After actively participating in Eastern PA SCBWI events and working and reworking her portfolio and first manuscript, she is finally ready to take a leap of faith and begin looking for an agent who can help her realize her dreams.


The banner chosen for the upcoming Spring/Summer season was illustrated by Kaela Parkhouse!

A little about Kaela:

Kaela Parkhouse is an illustrator, painter, and enamel pin designer. Gesture and expression through line quality is her favorite way to convey thoughts and feelings in art. Her ultimate goal is to write and illustrate picture books and graphic novels that explore relationships and connections between people (or animals!).

Her largest achievement to date is not in illustration, but in science: She worked at the University of Pennsylvania and studied the mRNA vaccine platform before it was approved to be used in humans. She hopes her stories might help young people the way her contributions to science have helped people.

Kaela and her family live in Philadelphia with three cats and a blue-tongued skink named Kevin.


A big thank you to all who submitted artwork for our banner contest! We plan to change our banner every six months, so stay tuned for next year’s banner contest if youd like to participate.

Posted in Contests, General, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Member News—November 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org before December 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Book Release

Nellie in Knots: Talent Show Trouble by Amy Neeren

Author Amy Neeren’s chapter book Nellie in Knots: Talent Show Trouble, illustrated by Annia Leon, was published last month by Bushel & Peck Books (October 4, 2022). The book features an adorable and quirky girl who loves all things sparkly and gets through life with her adoring pet parrot, Larry; her beloved psychologist Dr. Neederburger; her family; and her quick-witted best friend, Emmie. Nellie Paparelli has an anxiety disorder. She worries about thunderstorms, car accidents, fires, and thieves. When her teacher, Ms. Rubinflaker, announces there will be a talent show, it’s officially too much! Nellie’s anxiety explodes like a volcano. Will Nellie be able to cope with her anxiety? Or will it be the biggest disaster of the year?


Awards and Honors

Last month, several Eastern PA SCBWI creators were recognized at the Pennsylvania Library Association’s annual meeting in Harrisburg, PA. Alison Green Myers received the Carolyn W. Fields Award for her middle grade novel in verse, A Bird Will Soar (Dutton Books for Young Readers, October 2021). The award was established in 1983 by the Youth Services Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Honorable mentions for the award included Eastern PA members Hilda Eunice Burgos for Miosotis Flores Never Forgets (Tu Books, October 2021) and Judy Schachner for Stretchy and Beanie (Dial Books, November 2021). Click here to see this year’s winner and honorees as well as past winners and honorees: https://www.palibraries.org/page/CWFWinners.


Cover Reveal and Publication Announcement

Salat in Secret by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow revealed the cover for her upcoming picture book, Salat in Secret, which is due to release on June 6, 2023 through Random House Studio. The cover was illustrated by Hatem Aly. In this beautiful story of community, family, and acceptance, a boy named Muhammad receives a special salat rug on his seventh birthday. Seven is the age when Muslim children are encouraged to pray, and Muhammad is determined to do all five daily prayers on time. But one salat occurs during the school day—and he’s worried about being seen praying at school. His father parks his truck to worship in public places, and people stare at and mock him. Will the same thing happen to Muhammad? In the end, with help from his teacher, he finds the perfect place to pray. Salat in Secret, by two highly acclaimed Muslim creators, is a poignant and empowering look at an important facet of Islam that many observant children cherish but might be scared to share.


Book Release

Author Katey Howes recently released her picture book A Poem Grows Inside You, illustrated by Heather Brockton Lee, from Innovation Press on November 22, 2022. We all hold the seed of something wonderful inside us, just waiting for the right moment to bloom. In A Poem Grows Inside You, the seed of an idea waits for the rhythm of the rainfall to awaken it, then takes root and begins to grow. At once a celebration of the deep connection creatives have with their art and an acknowledgment of the courage it takes to let it into the sun, this beautifully illustrated picture book encourages readers to nurture their talents and boldly share them with the world.


In the Right Lane by Stephanie Henson

Author Stephanie Henson of West Chester, PA will be releasing a children’s poetry book on December 3, 2022 through Experiments in Fiction. In the Right Lane is an SEL-based poetry collection that includes many confidence-building and motivational pieces for the middle-grade audience. Every kid should have a dream, a plan, a path, and a future. This collection of poetry is meant to inspire a new way of thinking to help kids find their lane through poetry and help them navigate life on the road to happiness. Coping techniques, managing emotions, and finding your place in the world are points that are explored. These pieces also capture the pure joy of being a kid. Experiencing nature, feelings of love, and—of course—acceptance of self. This book is a guidepost for upper elementary and middle school-aged children on those topics. The book will be available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.


Publication Announcement

The Way We Say Hello by Andrea Denish

Author Andrea Denish has announced the upcoming publication of her picture book The Way We Say Hello (Starry Forrest Books; February 7, 2023), which is illustrated by BlueBean. In this book, a young child searches for the best way to welcome a new baby to their family as they ask, “A special day. A special place. How will you greet a special face?” With rhyming text, heartwarming art, and educational facts about cultures and customs around the world, The Way We Say Hello takes you as far as Tibet and as near as your front yard as you learn greeting after greeting. Along the way, you’ll also discover how to welcome the world into your heart in different languages, gestures, and places. You can say “namaste,” “howdy,” or “annyeong.” You can use a traditional greeting like the Māori hongi or European cheek kisses. You can use sign language to greet those who are hard of hearing or send a card to someone far away. Perfect for new big siblings, baby showers, and kids curious about different cultures and languages.


Award Nominations

Nominations for the 2022 Cybils Awards have been announced. The Cybils Awards are organized by a group of readers passionate about seeking out and recognizing books that portray diversity, inclusion, and appropriate representation for children and teens and work to recognize books written for children and young adults that combine both the highest literary merit and popular appeal. The following Eastern PA SCBWI members’ books have been nominated for the 2022 Cybils Awards: author-illustrator Berrie Torgan-Randall for Bella and Blue; author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow for Abdul’s Story, author Hallee Adelman for Way Past Afraid and Way Past Lonely, illustrator Kate Garchinsky for The Secret Life of the Sea Otter, author Adam Perry for Ghosts Come Rising, and author Alison Green Myers for A Bird Will Soar.


SCBWI Recommended Reading List—November 2022

The Cloud Artist: A Choctaw Tale by Sherri Maret

Each month, SCBWI features books written, illustrated, and translated by members from across the globe and every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! SCBWI PAL members are invited to submit their books to the SCBWI Recommended Reading List according to each month’s theme. This month SCBWI featured books that celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native people including The Cloud Artist: A Choctaw Tale by Eastern PA SCBWI member Sherri Maret.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Posted in General, Member News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Working on Holidays, by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington

When we spend time with family and friends for the holidays, sometimes inspiration comes from the best places. Look for comics by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington on the third Friday of each month here on the EasternPennPoints blog.

Working on Holidays


Christopher-James Bolognese-Warrington is an illustrator/graphic designer who, along with his wife, owns Kelsey and C.J. Creative Studio. Prior to starting their own studio, C.J. graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as an in-house graphic designer and illustrator. C.J. creates whimsical illustrations with bright colors and quirky characters, which offer a glimpse of his view of the world. When not at his drawing desk, C.J. can be found on long walks with his wife and dog, debating whether pasta or pizza is best.

Posted in Comics, General, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Interview with Literary Agent Stefanie Molina, by Joy Ogbonnaya

We’re so excited to introduce Stefanie Molina, our final fabulous faculty member for Submission Shine, the online critique intensive coming in January. So you have a handful of manuscripts or illustration styles ready to query. Which one should you lead with? Is your other work strong enough to hook an agent if they request to see more? And what will an agent think about the variety of work you bring? Whether you have multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, write across age categories, have a variety of illustration pieces and illustrated works, or a combination of all of the above, Submission Shine is an opportunity to talk with one agent about four submission-ready works and your writing/illustrating career as a whole. The deadline to register is November 30, so please click here for all the details: https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/.

In preparation for Submission Shine, Eastern PA SCBWI Equity and Inclusion team member Joy Ogbonnaya had a chat with literary agent Stefanie Molina of Ladderbird Literary Agency in our virtual café. Here’s what they had to say:

An Interview with Literary Agent Stefanie Molina, by Joy Ogbonnaya

Joy: Hi, Stefanie! Thanks for joining me at the EasternPennPoints Virtual Café. How are you feeling today? 

Stefanie: I’m great! It’s Monday, so I always take a slow start and try to set a good tone for the rest of the week. 

Joy: Awesome! Every time I have an opportunity to speak with a literary agent, I am literally in awe. I see agents as being the door writers and illustrators need to go through to get their “breakthrough” like we say in church . . . LOL. What does it mean for you to be in this industry, especially as a woman of color?

Stefanie: It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. I came into this industry wanting to do everything to help everyone, especially communities of color. I think as women of color we are absolutely conditioned to give and give, and that’s the mentality I came in with. The industry, and some incredible mentors, quickly taught me that in order to keep serving my communities, I needed to first care for myself. It’s been hard to accept that I can’t help everyone, or make everyone happy, because that’s a big part of why I became an agent: to give people the good news and make their days. And I still feel the pressure of trying to fix all the things for BIPOC myself and with the way that I do work. But I’ve learned to focus on what I can do with the space I have, and that has led to being able to offer more and better support to individuals than I would have been able to otherwise. 

Joy: Wow! Stefanie, thanks for your honest response to that question. I guess we need more people of color in the space advocating for and looking out for creators. Querying can be a hard, long process, and I have heard people say, keep developing other manuscripts as you query. Do you agree with this, and why do you think this is important?

Stefanie: I agree, for a lot of reasons! First, I think it makes business sense. The story you’re querying may not be the one to get you an agent, and it’s good to have some in your back pocket. Plus, your craft will continue to develop, and you can continue to improve as you work through other manuscripts. Second, and more importantly, I think it is a way to care for yourself. Like you said, querying is a long, hard process, and if you’ve hung all your hopes on that story, and it’s all you’re thinking about, you won’t get to spend time in what you love. Working on other manuscripts during querying helps to distract you, remind you that there is always a next thing, and remind you why you’re here in the first place: because you love writing. That’s something our very flawed industry makes people lose sight of.

Joy: What advice do you have for writers and illustrators who have been querying for so long and haven’t gotten their breakthrough?

Stefanie: This is something I struggle with as an agent. It frustrates me so much to not be able to give an exact answer, especially to people who I know are wondering: is it them (is it prejudice?) or their writing? Especially for people of color. The fact that I can’t answer that question has been a source of so much grief and anger for me.

I think the most helpful thing I can say here is to keep working on your craft, because there is always something to improve. Set boundaries around your writing and around how long querying is sustainable for you. 

And find your people. Find people you trust deeply to answer for you: is it your writing or is it prejudice, something outside your control? Because it gets to us after a while—that question. It really does. You need people to give you that clarity and keep you on track. 

I hope in my career I will get to see that question become obsolete.

Joy: Can I throw in an AMEN! right there? Fall is here! Oops! I can’t believe I am even saying that. It is amazing how fast this year is going by, and here we are, only a few weeks before a new year. What would you say was a major highlight this year for you as a literary agent, and what are you hoping for in 2023?

Stefanie: I made my first sale this year, with a gorgeously talented client, to a dream imprint! That was huge. Emotionally, I feel more at peace with what I am capable of, and more at peace with setting boundaries at work. I’m more confident. I know in my bones that if a potential client decides to accept my offer of representation, they are making a good decision. 😉 And, I’m proud of how I’ve been able to care for my current incredible clients this year.

In 2023, I’m hoping for more of the same, which feels good to say. I know there is still more to learn, and I can’t wait.

Joy: What are you most looking forward to in the online critique intensive, and how can participants best prepare for the sessions so they can make the most of it?

Stefanie: I’ve never worked within this structure before, so I’m most excited to have multiple meetings with each participant in order to give them deeper support. In the past I’ve found it difficult to give meaningful advice to folks in typically shorter meeting times. I feel like with Submission Shine I’ll be able to get to know the authors behind the stories, which is always a pleasure.

I think participants should bring all the questions. I love answering questions and demystifying the industry as much as I can! So don’t be shy to ask any and everything. No question is too small. Come with specific questions about your work, too, if you have them!

Joy: Thank you so much for spending this time with me. Any last words from you?

Stefanie: I’m so excited to mentor some wonderful writers! Thank you for the opportunity!

And to my writers of color and other marginalized writers: I pledge to continue to do my best for you every day.

Joy: Thank you so much, Stefanie! 


Stefanie Molina is an agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. Prior to becoming an agent, she spent her career advocating for marginalized folks in publishing as a technical editor at a national laboratory, senior editor at the literary journal F(r)iction, and book coach and editor for women of color. She is Asian Latina (Mexican, Japanese, and Irish) and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, both from the University of California at Davis. Aside from reading, she enjoys hiking, swimming, baking, and playing the piano. Her favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park. Stefanie is looking for BIPOC stories, inclusive of intersectional identities. She especially adores adventurous stories and works that incorporate food, animals, the outdoors, and intergenerational relationships. She’s open to cookbooks and baking books, picture books, MG, YA, and adult; her favorite genres include contemporary fantasy, mystery, thriller, character-driven horror, empowering historical fiction, and coming-of-age stories. Bonus points for steamy romance in any adult genre!


Submission Shine Critique Intensive

Whether you have multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, write across age categories, have a variety of illustration pieces and illustrated works, or a combination of all of the above, Submission Shine is an opportunity to talk with one agent about four submission-ready works and your writing/illustrating career as a whole.

Registration includes 

  • Four 20-minute Zoom critiques with one faculty member of your choice
  • One additional 20-minute Zoom meeting with your same faculty member to be used as either a career consultation or an opportunity to pitch additional work
  • Five peer cohort critique group meetings
  • Access to the webinar “Take Charge of Your Writerly Adventure” with Christine Carron

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/

Registration deadline is November 30!

Posted in Cafe Chat, General, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Member News—October 2022

Member News is a monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We want to celebrate our Eastern PA SCBWI members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book–related news—book deals, releases, awards, author or illustrator events (signings, launch parties, appearances), etc. If you’d like your news to be included in next month’s column, please email Laura Parnum at epa-ra2@scbwi.org before November 20, or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Here’s some exciting news from our members this month:

Book Release

Bella & Blue: Bella Meets Blue by Berrie Torgan-Randall

This month, author-illustrator Berrie Torgan-Randall released her debut book, Bella & Blue: Bella Meets Blue (Blue Bronco Books, Jr., October 1, 2022). Bella & Blue is a graphic early reader series that celebrates life’s everyday struggles, silliness, and surprises. Eight-year-old Bella has anxiety. Small things aren’t so small for Bella. But with the help of her colorful dog, Blue, and her grandma, Gigi, who has a flair for all things French and over-the-top hats, Bella can handle every day’s twists and turns. Blue is the companion children dream of having. He’s the therapy dog that plays pat-a-cake to calm Bella’s nerves and take away her blues. Celebrate the beauty of being blue in this first of the graphic early reader series, Bella & Blue. Book 1 contains three short stories, perfect for the stamina of emerging readers. And check out this interview with Berrie on Critter Lit: https://www.critterlit.com/blog/2022/10/6/interview-with-author-and-illustrator-berrie-torgan-randall


Book Release

Hold Them Close by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow released her picture book Hold Them Close (HarperCollins) on October 4. As affirming as it is touching and warm, Hold Them Close encourages young children to hold close their joy, the words of their ancestors and elders, as well as their power to change the world. A perfect book for shared story time, this book will inspire young people to march forth with pride, glow, and happiness. With artwork by Patrick Dougher and photographs by Jamel Shabazz, Hold Them Close is a picture book celebration of Black past, present, and future—a joyful love letter to Black children.


Book Release

Ghosts Come Rising by Adam Perry

Author Adam Perry’s middle grade historical fiction novel, Ghosts Come Rising (Yellow Jacket), released on October 11. Ghosts Come Rising is set in the mid 19th century, when a religious movement called Spiritualism spread across America. Spiritualists believe that the living could communicate with the dead. Complete with ghostly black-and-white photographs, this suspenseful book tells the story of twelve-year-old Liza Carroll and her little brother as they try to find answers and hide a secret while staying at a spooky Spiritualist commune.


Cover Reveal

Calling the Moon: 16 Period Stories from BIPOC Authors with a contribution by Hilda Eunice Burgos

Author Hilda Eunice Burgos is a contributor in the middle grade anthology Calling the Moon: 16 Period Stories from BIPOC Authors, edited by Aida Salazar and Yamile Saied Méndez (Candlewick Press, March 28, 2023). The cover for the anthology was released this month and was illustrated by Fahmida Azim and designed by Matt Roeser. This anthology is an essential, highly relatable collection of short fiction and poems around the topic of menstruation, written exclusively by authors who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color. Other contributors include Veeda Bybee, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Saadia Faruqi, Nikki Grimes, Leah Henderson, Mason J., Erin Entrada Kelly, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Elise McMullen-Ciotti, Yamile Saied Méndez, Emma Otheguy, Aida Salazar, Christina Soontornvat, Padma Venkatraman, and Ibi Zoboi.


Cover Reveal

Peril at Price Manor by Laura Parnum

Author Laura Parnum recently revealed the cover for her debut middle grade novel, Peril at Price Manor, which is set to release next summer from HarperCollins. The cover was illustrated by Pauliina Hannuniemi in collaboration with designer Catherine Lee and art director Jessie Gang. Halle Thompson is determined to someday play the Damsel in Distress in a horror movie. She takes acting lessons, practices fainting, and has the most perfect of all perfect horror movie screams—something her mom and classmates could do without. When she seizes the opportunity to deliver flowers to Price Manor, home of the famous horror movie maker who lives just outside of town, she is sure she will get her big break. Meanwhile, at Price Manor, a strange creature is attacking the household staff. The movie maker’s 12-year-old twins are sure it’s just another one of their father’s elaborate pranks. But when Halle shows up and discovers the very real horror scene, she must stop thinking like a Damsel in Distress and start thinking like a Heroine.


SCBWI Recommended Reading List—October 2022

Each month, SCBWI features books written, illustrated, and translated by members from across the globe and every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment! SCBWI PAL members are invited to submit their books to the SCBWI Recommended Reading according to each month’s theme. This month we celebrated Hispanic Heritage with books celebrating the people, histories, culture, and/or traditions from the U.S. Latinx community, Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and/or South America. The list featured Ana María Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos and There’s a Lion in the Forest! by Mônica Carnesi.


If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ra2@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column or fill out our “Good News Survey.”

Posted in General, Member News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Interview with Literary Agent Sean McCarthy, by Joy Ogbonnaya

As we continue to ramp up our excitement for “Submission Shine,” our upcoming online critique intensive, we’re having a blast inviting our outstanding faculty members to chat with us. Submission Shine is an opportunity to receive critiques for multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, novel chapters, or portfolio pieces with one of five participating literary agents. The event will be happening January 19-21, 2023. To learn more and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/. Registration closes November 30!

Today we have Eastern PA SCBWI’s Equity and Inclusion team member Joy Ogbonnaya in a chat with literary agent Sean McCarthy of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency in our virtual café. Here’s what they had to say:

An Interview with Literary Agent Sean McCarthy, by Joy Ogbonnaya

Joy: Hi, Sean! Thanks for joining me at the EasternPennPoints Virtual Café. How are you feeling today and how are you enjoying the fall weather? 

Sean: Thanks so much, Joy! This is one of my favorite times of the year (I tend to wilt in hot weather), though I was hoping that my New York Mets would make a deeper run into October (though I am now gritting my teeth and rooting for the Phillies, as my wife is a fan).

Joy: Yes! Let’s Go Phillies!! *Laughs*

Joy: From reading your bio, it seems that you are mostly drawn to character. Can you give some examples of unforgettable characters that pulled you in right away? How does having a niche help you as a literary agent in selling a creator’s work?

Sean: I’ve now been working in publishing for 15+ years, and one of the few constants has been the demand for character-driven work. It will always help your work stand out, because even if someone else has a similar concept/premise, no one will ever have your specific character. Some of my recent favorite client character-driven books are Peanut Gets Fed Up by Dana Wulfekotte; the Unicorn and Yeti early reader series by Heather Ayris Burnell and Hazel Quintanilla; and the Cookie & Broccoli early reader graphic novel series by Bob McMahon. One big hint that they are all character-driven is the character’s name is in the title!  

Joy: When you think about signing on a creator, do you usually focus and decide based on the material they are pitching or are you more likely to request to see more of their work before deciding? And why?

Sean: For me, the work itself is the most important thing, so I always want to see manuscripts or dummies that are as strong (if not stronger!) than what is pitched to me. I also like to work with creators that are prolific and are comfortable working on different projects at the same time (since this is an industry where we often face rejection and have to move on from projects, even those that we loved and spent many hours working on). This is especially true for text-only picture book authors, since the trade market is so tight at the moment, and I want to make sure that we have multiple opportunities to place your work with the right editor. 

Joy: What are you most looking forward to with the Submission Shine critique sessions, and how can participants best prepare for their sessions with you?

Sean: I truthfully enjoy all the time that I get to be with writers! Sometimes publishing feels like a solitary endeavor (most of my days are spent in front of the computer reading and responding to emails, redlining contracts, or on the rare super fun days, giving feedback to clients), so the chance to connect directly with writers will be a blast. I’m also looking forward to getting the chance to see different projects (which isn’t something I usually get to do with critique sessions). I’ve found that the best critique sessions are when writers bring in a project that they know needs work and are open to different revision possibilities. 

Joy: Thanks for spending this time with me. Any last words from you?

Sean: Thanks so much, Joy! I’m so excited for the event and cannot wait to do a deep dive into everyone’s work and really explore the depths of their writing! And (sigh) Let’s Go Phillies! 

Joy: *Laughs* Whoop Whoop! Let’s Go Phillies!!! 


Sean McCarthy founded his own full-service literary agency in 2013 after working at Overlook Press and Sheldon Fogelman Agency. His clients include Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner Hyewon Yum, Mark Fearing, Dana Wulfekotte, Heather Ayris Burnell, Bob McMahon, Margaret Chiu Greanias, and Junghwa Park, among others. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota. He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and character-driven stories or smartly paced mysteries and adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in message-driven writing or query letters that pose too many questions.


Submission Shine Critique Intensive

Whether you have multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, write across age categories, have a variety of illustration pieces and illustrated works, or a combination of all of the above, Submission Shine is an opportunity to talk with one agent about four submission-ready works and your writing/illustrating career as a whole.

Registration includes 

  • Four 20-minute Zoom critiques with one faculty member of your choice
  • One additional 20-minute Zoom meeting with your same faculty member to be used as either a career consultation or an opportunity to pitch additional work
  • Five peer cohort critique group meetings
  • Access to the webinar “Take Charge of Your Writerly Adventure” with Christine Carron

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/

Posted in Cafe Chat, General, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview with Literary Agent Sera Rivers, by Jenny Krumrine

Ready for another sneak peek at the faculty for our upcoming Submission Shine critique intensive? Today we are featuring an interview with Sera Rivers, a literary agent at Speilburg Literary. Jenny Krumrine of our Eastern PA SCBWI Equity and Inclusion team conducted the interview. For more information about our January online critique event, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/. Registration closes November 30!

An Interview with Literary Agent Sera Rivers, by Jenny Krumrine

Jenny: Hi, Sera! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints virtual café, where your order is limited only by your imagination. I think I’ll go with a literally bottomless latte and a blueberry scone. How about you?

Sera: I’ll go with a triple shot iced Americano (black, no sugar), a bottomless refillable water bottle, and a brownie. Cheers!

Jenny: Thank you so much for your involvement in our upcoming Submission Shine online critique intensive! Can you tell us about your career path and what drew you to becoming an agent?

Sera: I’ve always been a book nerd; reading and writing feel just as vital to life as breathing. 

When I was a child, I lived in imaginary worlds more than the real world. I often snuck a flashlight into bed so I could read after bedtime; I could never wait until morning to see what adventures my “friends” got themselves into next. I wrote my first story at age six. It was about “three little old ladies” who were best friends their entire lives. (I think it was called THREE LITTLE OLD LADIES—very original, I know.) I’ve written ever since—more stories than I could ever count!

When I got laid off from my day job due to the recession in 2009, I took the opportunity to reinvent my career. After getting an MFA in writing for children, I worked in educational publishing for seven years and launched Avenue A Books, a children’s book imprint at Center for Responsive Schools. As Avenue A’s acquiring and managing editor, I worked with new and established children’s book writers and illustrators to create picture books and middle grade graphic novels from concept to publication. When I left educational publishing, agenting felt like a natural fit because it allows me to work with writers and illustrators on a wide variety of genres, formats, styles, and stories. Agenting is my dream job—I live in imaginary worlds every day!

Jenny: It’s inspiring to hear the passion in your voice! In Submission Shine, you’ll be providing online intensive critiques helping authors get their work submission ready. What are some elements that really make submissions shine?

Sera: Generally: Submissions that shine draw me into a world/story so deeply that I forget I’m critiquing and need to reread with my editor brain (I always read a submission at least twice before critiquing). These submissions have a compelling hook/premise, nuanced characters that I love (or love to hate), and a plot that has universal themes but from a distinct perspective.

Specifically: Polished pages. I’m not talking about a typo here or there; that doesn’t make or break a submission. I’m looking for a narrative that flows smoothly without clunky sentences; dialog that feels natural and distinct to each character; exposition that drops background clues and plot points without “info dumping”; and details that are pertinent to the plot, not just used for flowery language.

Jenny: What do you hope the creators will gain from participating?

Sera: My goal is to help them create a clear strategy for revision, as well as provide additional tools and resources that will help the creators hone their craft. I will also help creators prioritize their writing career goals.

Jenny: Submission Shine will also be a venue where prepublished creators will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their author/illustrator career as a whole. Drawing on your career as an agent, editor, and author, what are some insights you can share with us?

1. What I’ve learned throughout my career is that publishing is a very subjective industry. Here’s an analogy I liken to publishing:

You walk into your local bookstore. A staff member hands you a nonfiction book that they chose about the life of a prominent historical figure. They say, “This is the book you’re buying. You must read it at least ten times.” The book may be well written with a compelling plot; it might even be a bestseller! But if you walked into that bookstore hoping to peruse the young adult thriller section, the staff member’s pick will sit on your bookshelf unread for all eternity. 

However, if you walk into that same bookstore and the staff member says, “Feel free to look around,” you’ll venture into every section that piques your interest. You might walk out of that store buying several books that you will read over and over again. 

Publishing is the same way. Agents and editors must feel passionate about the books they represent/acquire to give that book the special care it needs to come into the world shining as it’s meant to be.

2. Ignore trends. What you’re seeing on bookshelves today were purchased two to four years ago. Write the book you feel most passionate about. Your passion will shine through your words and bring the story to life. 

3. Remember that the tortoise wins the race! Publishing is the long game. Continue to hone your craft, learn writing and revision strategies, and accept feedback for revision. Your writing will only get better with time. If you’re passionate about your stories, you’ll find others who will connect to them as well. We all have a story (or two or a hundred) to tell. It just takes time to get it into the right hands.

Jenny: You have a passion for stories that address hard topics. As you say on your webpage, you look for stories with the “power to change lives.” What do you love about helping bring books with this kind of impact to young readers?

Sera: Children and teens may not feel comfortable or safe talking to the adults in their lives about tough topics that they or their peers experience. Books allow young readers to navigate tough topics safely and privately, while also broadening their knowledge of the resources and services available to them. As an agent, one of my top priorities is to help shepherd books about tough topics into the world to help young readers feel seen and validated. My hope is for young readers to learn they are not alone and to seek out trusted adults to get the help they need. 

Jenny: Thank you so much for hanging out with me today! You’ve honestly uplifted me with your passion. It’s contagious!


Sera Rivers is a literary agent at Speilburg Literary. She represents picture books through young adult novels, including graphic novels, and is actively seeking stories by authors and illustrators who identify as BIPOC, LQBTQIA+, and other underrepresented and marginalized identities. She is especially looking for: graphic novels by author-illustrator creators only; MG/YA —horror; psychological thrillers; speculative fiction (no high fantasy); LGBTQIA+ romance; tough topics. Select picture books—historically excluded stories; tough topics; horror (author-illustrator only for horror). She does not represent adult fiction/nonfiction. Sera holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She worked as an editor in educational publishing for seven years and launched Avenue A Books, a children’s book imprint at Center for Responsive Schools. Now, as an agent, Sera provides editorial feedback to help clients get their manuscripts submission ready. At this time, Sera only accepts queries through referrals, conferences, and pitch events. Check out her full MSWL and status updates at SeraRivers.com.


Submission Shine Critique Intensive

Whether you have multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, write across age categories, have a variety of illustration pieces and illustrated works, or a combination of all of the above, Submission Shine is an opportunity to talk with one agent about four submission-ready works and your writing/illustrating career as a whole.

Registration includes 

  • Four 20-minute Zoom critiques with one faculty member of your choice
  • One additional 20-minute Zoom meeting with your same faculty member to be used as either a career consultation or an opportunity to pitch additional work
  • Five peer cohort critique group meetings
  • Access to the webinar “Take Charge of Your Writerly Adventure” with Christine Carron

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/

Posted in Cafe Chat, General, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Karly Dizon, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

We’re getting excited for our upcoming “Submission Shine” online critique intensive event in January. This event allows participants to meet with one faculty member for multiple critiques. They can choose to submit several picture book manuscripts or dummies, successive ten-page sections of a full novel, several batches of portfolio illustrations, or a combination. To learn more about this event and to register, please click here.

Today on the blog we’re please to introduce one of our Submission Shine faculty members, literary agent Karly Dizon from Fuse Literary. She and our illustrator coordinator, Berrie Torgan-Randall, had a chat in our virtual EasternPennPoints Café. Here’s what they had to say.

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Karly Dizon, by Berrie Torgan-Randall

Berrie: Hello, Karly! Welcome to our café chat and happy Filipino American History month! My favorite Filipino food is lumpias. My daughter’s classmate brought lumpias to share with her class, and they were the most popular among the kids and adults! 

Karly: Hi, Berrie. Thank you for having me! I love lumpias. I have many memories sitting at the dinner table, rolling lumpias with my mother.

Berrie: What would you like to choose from our virtual café? I heard the avocado toast is pretty good—although the avocados are not as fresh and the sourdough bread is not as good as the sourdough you can get in Northern California where you live. 

Karly: California is known for our avocados as well as our sourdough! I’ll take an avocado toast please.

Berrie: It looks like you are a fan of mythology and folklore. My current favorite is The Six Swans collected by the Brothers Grimm. I like how the sister is the heroine of the story, saving her six brothers from her evil stepmother. Are there stories you are drawn to from countries that are underrepresented?

Karly: I am a fan of mythology and folklore in general, though I have a sweet spot for stories that I’ve never heard before.

Berrie: On the Fuse website, it mentions that you are looking for imperfect characters. What is your definition of an imperfect character, and can you give an example of an author who did this well?

Karly: Perfection is so overrated. I want to see a character get messy, make mistakes, and grow—but not necessarily into what’s considered normative “good.” I love to see stories that speak to the authentic truth and experience of human beings, and that means imperfection. One book that comes to mind is Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez. 

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berrie: On your manuscript wish list (MSWL) page, it mentions that you are looking for a submission that will make you laugh out loud or cry. What type of humor makes you snarf your milk, and what type of sad story makes you grab a box of tissues?

Karly: There is no one type that’ll evoke the stomach-hurting, tears-forming laughs or chest-wracking, headache-inducing sobs. One thing I can say, though, is it has to be organic to the character, the emotion wrapped up in their character’s core as well as the arc of the story. These elements all work to make those emotional moments that much more impactful. 

Berrie: You also mention on your MSWL page that you want to learn about and are interested in STEM-related topics. How can an author-illustrator or author write about a topic without being didactic? Which books do this well?

Karly: It depends on the genre. Nonfiction of course is much more straightforward and can be more forgivingly didactic; however, what keeps that dryness away is remembering to infuse the text with that sense of wonderment and awe. If we can share that emotion, it’ll make the text more accessible to the young reader. For fiction, the balance is much much harder. Young readers have a very sensitive BS meter, and if you’re trying to teach them a lesson, they will sniff that out immediately. The emphasis needs to be less on the “lesson learned” but more so on the journey of learning that lesson, because that’s what’s most relatable: the emotion, the experience. 

Berrie: When an author-illustrator or illustrator sends you a submission, what art style catches your eye? Are there hashtags that you follow on Instagram or Twitter to find illustrators?

Karly: I’ve loved art ever since I found my dad’s stack of graphite art as a kid. I’m a fan of all art styles and am in absolute awe at people’s talent. I don’t skew in any particular way. I appreciate hyperrealism and the details as well as the softer, more fluid art styles. I actually do not have any hashtags I specifically follow because I would hate to limit the kind of art I’m exposed to.

Berrie: I see that you are a fan of video games. What is your favorite video game? Mine is Mario Kart—I enjoy taking my time and admiring the graphics and evidently coming in last against my super-competitive family.

Karly: Video game nerd BFF?! YES!!! I enjoy good ol’ Mario Kart (especially at the arcade), but I’m primarily a FPS player, though I have been playing League of Legends a lot lately. We should Mario Kart sometime, mwahaha.

Berrie: Thank you for meeting with me at our virtual café, and I look forward to learning more about you and your agency during the Eastern PA SCBWI Submission Shine event.

Karly: Thank you for having me! Can I take an avocado slice to go?


Karly Dizon is an associate agent at Fuse Literary, building KidLit universes with stories that matter. She first joined the agency in 2016 as a reader for Tricia Skinner and then was promoted to literary assistant soon after. In 2019, she was promoted to associate agent. Karly has built a career with a strong background as a freelance editor as well as extensive experience with graphic design and marketing. She is looking to develop long-term career authors and nurture their entire writing journey as a strong editorial agent with marketing, social media, and design support. Karly is also the KidLit track coordinator for the San Francisco Writers Conference.


Submission Shine Critique Intensive

Whether you have multiple submission-ready picture book manuscripts, write across age categories, have a variety of illustration pieces and illustrated works, or a combination of all of the above, Submission Shine is an opportunity to talk with one agent about four submission-ready works and your writing/illustrating career as a whole.

Registration includes 

  • Four 20-minute Zoom critiques with one faculty member of your choice
  • One additional 20-minute Zoom meeting with your same faculty member to be used as either a career consultation or an opportunity to pitch additional work
  • Five peer cohort critique group meetings
  • Access to the webinar “Take Charge of Your Writerly Adventure” with Christine Carron

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/submission-shine-online-critique-intensive/

Posted in Cafe Chat, General, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trick or Treat, by C.J. Bolognese-Warrington

Our comic for October is an all-to-familiar Halloween tale. Look for comics by C.J. on the third Friday of each month here on the EasternPennPoints blog.

Trick or Treat


Christopher-James Bolognese-Warrington is an illustrator/graphic designer who, along with his wife, owns Kelsey and C.J. Creative Studio. Prior to starting their own studio, C.J. graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as an in-house graphic designer and illustrator. C.J. creates whimsical illustrations with bright colors and quirky characters, which offer a glimpse of his view of the world. When not at his drawing desk, C.J. can be found on long walks with his wife and dog, debating whether pasta or pizza is best.

Posted in Comics, General, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments