Eastern PA SCBWI Webinar Series: The Foundations of Story, with Eric K. Taylor


The Foundations of Story

February 1, February 15, and March 1, 2021
7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST

Join us for one or all three!

This webinar series is not to be missed for all children’s authors.

Monday, February 1

Part I: The Foundation of Emotion: Tension, Desire, Stakes, and Emotional High Points

We know action is central to scene. But action alone can result in what Gardner famously calls just “one damn thing after another.” Constructing situations, actions, and events in light of desires (what characters consciously and unconsciously want), stakes (what characters stand to lose if things don’t work), fears, controlling beliefs, misconceptions, and various other internal qualities makes for a richer story. Using all of this to create tension, and intersecting all of this with what Maas calls emotional “high moments,” makes our stories much richer. 

*Registration for the live webinar link closes at 5:00 a.m. the morning of the event.

Monday, February 15

Part II: The Foundation of Structure: Scene and Summary

Scene and summary are key elements of writing. Summary covers a longer period of time briefly. Summary is useful for giving background, for setting scene, for passing over time. You’ll find bits of summary sprinkled throughout a story. But the bulk of a story takes place in scene. In scene, we write about brief periods at length, where the camera zooms in close and we see what happens, real-time, blow-by-blow. Scene is where action and dialogue take place, where characters do things, where things change for the characters, where we find crises and turning points. This session explores scene and summary in more detail, examining when each is useful. And for scene, we’ll examine key elements and what’s needed to really make a scene move your story forward.

*Registration for the live webinar link closes at 5:00 a.m. the morning of the event. 

Monday, March 1

Part III: The Foundation of Opposition and Growth: Antagonists

We all want more compelling heroes. One key to developing our protagonist and requiring their growth is to create better antagonists, especially in light of your character’s inner and outer desires. This session explores why the right antagonists are critical to help make your protagonist their best self and how to design better antagonists. This includes not only hostile antagonists but also well meaning antagonists who have the character’s best interests at heart. There are even ways the hero can be their own worst enemy. We’ll consider internal and external tensions, how different types of antagonists stretch your hero in different ways, and how both emotional and practical opposition makes the character grow and change the most. A hero rarely if ever rises about the level of the antagonists.

*Series registration closes at 5:00 a.m. on Monday, March 1.

CRITIQUES: (at additional cost of $50) Submissions are due on or before Friday, February 5, 2021. For picture books, send one full manuscript plus a two- to three-sentence pitch in the same document. For CB/MG/YA, send up to 10 pages of your manuscript, plus a one-page synopsis.

Get to know your instructor: 

Eric K. Taylor is the author of Using Folktales (Cambridge) and editor of the contemporary language version of William Penn’s Some Fruits of Solitude (Herald). His adult poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in River Teeth (“Beautiful Things” series), English Journal, Whale Road Review, Plough Quarterly, and Poetica. Children’s poems have appeared in The Caterpillar and Imperfect—Poems about Mistakes: An Anthology for Middle Schoolers. His passion is writing for children and young adults.

Eric holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has taught college-level writing, editing, and ESL; has done readings and discussions in elementary classrooms; and has led classes and workshops at AWP, StoryMakers, Eastern PA SCBWI, the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Breadloaf, the Vermont Conference on Christianity & the Arts, the Northern Pen Young Writers’ Conference, the Gove Hill Writing Retreat, and elsewhere. He has also served on the steering committee for the Vermont Conference on Christianity and the Arts. Find out more about him at ektaylorbooks.com.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-the-foundations-of-story/.

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Two Upcoming Eastern PA Webinars: Crafting Picture Books and Crafting Novels, with Emma Dryden

Upcoming Webinars

Crafting Picture Books & Crafting Novels: Tips & Tools (and a Trick or Two!)

February 11, 2021 and March 25, 2021
7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST

Join us for one or both!

February 11, 2021 – Crafting Picture Books: Tips & Tools (and a Trick or Two!)

Lectures will be recorded for all registered participants. In this webinar, Emma will explore elements that make great picture books, focusing on everything from word count, read-aloudability, and how to use page turns for best effect to defining three picture book structures, the difference between plot and story, and how to create picture book dummies. Emma will be suggesting writing exercises and providing a variety of invaluable handouts/worksheets. 

*Registration for the live webinar link closes 5:00 a.m. (EST) the morning of the event. 

March 25, 2021 – Crafting Novels: Tips & Tools (and a Trick or Two!)

(Lectures will be recorded for all registered participants.) In this webinar, Emma will explore elements that make great novels, focusing on everything from genres, the difference between MG and YA, and plot structure options to considering action plots and emotional plots, creating authentic characters, and how to world-build. Emma will be suggesting writing exercises and providing a variety of invaluable handouts/worksheets.

*Series registration closes 5:00 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 25.

Career Consultations available: (at additional cost of $60) Editorial and publishing consultant, Emma D. Dryden, will meet with authors or illustrators through 20-minute career consultations over Zoom or Skype to discuss or address any one of the following:

  • Career questions/concerns/conundrums
  • A draft query letter assessment
  • Synopsis (of fewer than 500 words) assessment
  • A digital portfolio or website review
  • Submission/query questions
  • Agent research/advice
  • Marketplace questions

Note: Emma will neither recommend nor refer specific agents/agencies. Emma will not be looking at manuscripts. In advance of the consultation, Emma will contact the author/illustrator via email to discuss their specific needs so she can determine what she’d like them to send to her prior to their consultation. She will also schedule a mutually convenient virtual meeting time.

Get to know your instructor:

Emma D. Dryden established drydenbks LLC, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm, after over twenty years as a highly regarded children’s book editor and publisher with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. During her tenure as VP, Publisher of Atheneum BFYR and Margaret K. McElderry Books, she oversaw the annual publication of more than a hundred hardcover and paperback titles. Over the course of her thirty-five-year career, Emma has edited more than 1,000 books for children and young readers, many of which have received numerous awards and medals, including but not limited to the National Book Award Honor, Newbery Honor, and Caldecott Honor, and which have hit bestseller lists in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly, as well as other national publications. Emma is a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ Board of Advisors; she teaches numerous writing and craft workshops around the world and online, and can be found online at www.drydenbks.com.

Webinars are $15 each/$25 for both for SCBWI members and $25 each/$40 for both for nonmembers.

To register for one or both of these webinars, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/craft-webinars-crafting-picture-books-and-crafting-novels/.

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Member News — December 2020

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 January 20.

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

Santa and the Cotton Tree (Covenant Books, June 2020) by Diane Campbell Green (illustrated by Linda E. Jones) recently won a Royal Dragonfly Award in the Holiday category. The book tells the story of the Christmas Eve adventures of four children in Yardley, PA, circa 1963 and includes an old Bucks County tradition.

Rissy No Kissies (Carolrhoda Books, March 2021) by Katey Howes (illustrated by Jess Engle) recently received a starred Kirkus review. The book is about a lovebird who doesn’t like kisses: Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. But kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. Can one little lovebird show everyone that there’s no one right way to show you care? Rissy No Kissies carries the message that “your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share.” A note at the end provides further information for kids, parents, and educators about body autonomy, consent, and different ways to show affection. The book is currently available for preorder.

A Teacher Like You (Sleeping Bear Press, March 2021) by Frank Murphy and Barbara Dan (illustrated by Kayla Harren) is available for preorder. Teachers have the power to change the life of a child with every new school day. Whether they’re discovering math or reading, practicing a new instrument or a new sport, or learning about our wonderful, diverse world, students can count on the kindness, innovation, and patience of a teacher. This is a wonderful celebration of all the ways teachers help their students bloom.

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.

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The Alien in Your Head, by Anthony D. Fredericks

A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

The Alien in Your Head


It was one of the scariest creatures in the history of science fiction movies (winning the Academy Award for best visual effects). Released in 1979, this classic film has been consistently rated as one of the best movies of all time. (The Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, [and] aesthetically significant.”) As some readers may recall, it is the story of a commercial space crew who make a detour to investigate a distress call from a distant moon. After a mysterious life form attaches itself to one of the team members, the entire crew is hunted by a malicious and malevolent creature with an unexpected life cycle.

Lurking in the back recesses of your brain is another alien—an evil, demented, and warped being who is secretly undoing all the things you are trying to accomplish as a writer. It’s an insidious extraterrestrial who wants to crush your spirit and squash your creativity. This monster wants to challenge you on every front. Whenever you design a scene or craft a character, the beast steps in to tell you what’s wrong with it. Whenever you establish a seemingly plausible plot line, the creature wants to tear it apart. Whatever you write, the critter whispers, “Hey, hot shot, you don’t have any idea what you’re doing, do you?”

This creature is your Editorial Alien!

Your Alien is a surreptitious remnant of your academic career. It is a metastasizing residue of all those writing assignments you penned in school—many of which were returned with a plethora of crimson condemnations that singled out disjointed sentences, dangling modifiers, incomprehensible plots, split infinitives, and all manner of grammatical and mechanical errors that would forever doom you to a life devoid of literary (common) sense. It is a voice—a most negative voice—that jumps in every chance it gets to tell you what’s wrong, what you shouldn’t write, and that you would be better off embroidering place mats for the local senior citizen’s center than you would in trying to write a children’s book. The voice restricts you, hinders you, imprisons you, and stops you in your literary tracks. The Alien keeps telling you, loud and clear, “Your best writing will be nothing more than a weekly grocery list or a tweet about your acrobatic golden retriever.”

When we decide to write a children’s book, this phantasmagoric critter awakens. Fueled by the negative comments penned on scores of writing assignments during our school years, it begins its cranial infestation—invading our creativity, attacking our innovation, paralyzing our intent, and destroying our inspiration. The Alien is on a mission to maniacally dissolve both our will and intent.

In fact, there’s a pervasive battle going on inside your head between the Alien and the Creator (a very nice soul). The Creator wants to generate an abundance of ideas while the Alien wants to censor everything you put down. Your Creator is active, involved, and dynamic; the Alien, on the other hand, wants to jump in every chance it gets to tell you what’s wrong and why you shouldn’t write. “Hey you,” the Alien implores, “you are absolutely crazy for thinking you’ll ever be an accomplished children’s author. I’m totally aghast about what you’re writing and, what’s more, you still don’t know the difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom!’”

The problem with the Alien is that if you listen to it, it will slow down or even stop your writing. It will take over your brain cells and slowly turn them into a pile of rancid gruel. You need to crush your Alien when you write. Get the ideas down on paper (or your computer monitor) without regard for their quality, impact, or intent. Just write—good stuff, bad stuff, garbage! Know that the real act of writing is not in the recording of words, but rather in their revision. The voice you hear in your head doesn’t know that. It’s trying to stop you before you create anything worthwhile . . . it’s judging you while you’re writing.

Silence it!

Ignore it!

Send it back to the far reaches of outer space!

Words to Write By

“To write is human, to edit is divine.” —Stephen King

“It is perfectly okay to write garbageas long as you edit brilliantly.” —C.J. Cherryh

“Hard writing makes easy reading.” —Wallace Stegner

“You fail only if you stop writing.” —Ray Bradbury

“Never censor yourself.” —Lucinda Williams

“Good writing is re-writing.”  (my personal mantra)

Tony is the author of more than 50 children’s books. In addition, he has written the celebrated Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/3ey0CsG).  [“. . . a must have for all authors writing fiction and non-fiction books. This is one of the best books I’ve seen on the market for how to get started from the beginning to end.” —Amazon 5-star review]

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Eastern PA Webinar Series: Query Grind, with Danielle Chiotti, Samantha Fabien, Reiko Davis, and Karly Caserza – Scholarships and critiques available!


Query Grind

3-Webinar Series for MG & YA authors

January 11, March 4, and May 20, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST

Join us for one, or all three!

Query package critiques and scholarships available!

Do you have a middle grade or young adult manuscript ready to query? Join us for Query Grind as three industry professionals take a look at how to put the final polish on your work before you submit.

(Presentations will be recorded and the recording link will be provided to all participants registered prior to the event.)

January 11: WRITING THE QUERY LETTER THAT GETS NOTICED with Literary Agent Danielle Chiotti, Upstart Crow Literary

This short class will walk you through all of the most important elements of a query letter and help you craft the perfect pitch to capture the attention of agents and editors. It will cover the crucial elements of a pitch and show you the four most important questions to answer in your book description. Danielle will be offering a limited number of query package critiques for this event.

Get to know your instructor:

Danielle Chiotti has worked in publishing for eighteen years. Formerly an editor, she joined Upstart Crow when it was founded in 2009, specializing in young adult and middle grade fiction as well as cookbooks and select nonfiction. Thanks to her extensive editorial background, she enjoys working closely with authors to develop projects. She welcomes first-time authors with a unique voice and point of view.

March 4: TACKLING FIRST PAGES with Literary Agent Samantha Fabien, Laura Dail Literary Agency

In this webinar, Samantha will discuss the intentions and goals for the first pages of manuscripts. She will share tips to achieve those goals across various genres and age ranges, including examples from published books. Attendees will leave the webinar with actionable feedback and more confidence in how to start their manuscript whether it’s for the first sentence or for the first chapter. Samantha will be offering a limited number of query package critiques for this event.

Get to know your instructor:

Samantha Fabien is a literary agent and international rights manager at Laura Dail Literary Agency. After attending the Columbia Publishing Course in 2016, she went on to intern and work part-time at three agencies: Ayesha Pande Literary, Writers House, and Chalberg & Sussman. From there, Samantha fostered her love for sharing diverse, lasting, and inclusive stories with the world. Samantha also works with events and organizations like DVcon, #Edits4BlackSFF, and The New York Writing Room among others.

May 20: NAVIGATING THE AUTHOR/AGENT RELATIONSHIP with Literary Agent Reiko Davis, DeFiore & Co. Literary

You’ve written a wonderful manuscript, crafted a query letter that you’ve submitted to agents, and now you’re fielding interest from an agent who wishes to discuss representation with you. What are the next steps? This seminar explores the ins and outs of the relationship between author and agent, beginning with the preliminary conversation you have with one. We will discuss the process of signing with an agent, preparing a project for submission to editors, and more. We will cover communication, author/agent agreements, the editorial process, contract negotiation, and the agent’s role once a project is sold to a publisher. This seminar will be a 60-minute presentation followed by 30 minutes of Q&A with attendees. Reiko will be offering a limited number of query package critiques for this event.

Get to know your instructor:

Reiko Davis has been an agent at DeFiore and Company since 2016, prior to which she was a literary assistant at Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency. She focuses on literary and upmarket fiction and narrative nonfiction, as well as middle grade and YA literature. A graduate of Brown University and the Columbia Publishing Course, she grew up in Kansas City and now lives in New York. Her award-winning clients include Devi S. Laskar (The Atlas of Reds and Blues), Genevieve Plunkett (Prepare Her), Shannon Sanders (PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize for Emerging Writers), Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Running Wild), Lindsey Klingele (The Truth Lies Here), Andrea Debbink (The Wild World Handbook), Brittany Geragotelis (The Infamous Frankie Lorde), Alan Gelb (Seven Steps to Confident Writing), and Micah Perks.

QUERY PACKAGE CRITIQUES with Associate Literary Agent Karly Caserza, Fuse Literary

Karly will be offering query package critiques only.

Get to know your critiquer:

Associate Agent Karly Caserza was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Northern California as a child. She obtained her Business Marketing degree and has been a Freelance Graphic Designer for over 10 years. In addition to designing a wide range of print and web promotional material for clients, Karly creates book covers for Short Fuse and promotional graphics for Fuse authors. Professionally, Karly began her career in the publishing industry as a reader for Tricia Skinner at Fuse Literary. Her responsibilities quickly grew and she was promoted to Literary Assistant, a role that also included a spot on the production team of Short Fuse. Karly is also the Marketing Coordinator of the San Francisco Writers Conference, held every President’s Day weekend. In her spare time, Karly is an Adobe Technical Trainer, freelance graphic designer, Young Adult author, video game geek, and art noob.

Karly has a deep love for characters with a strong voice and seeks out stories she can get lost in. Diversity in genre fiction is a major bonus. She specializes in picture books (fiction and nonfiction), middle grade, and young adult genre fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary).

Scholarships Available

The Equity and Inclusion Team of Eastern PA SCBWI is honored to announce two full scholarships with the complete 3-query critique package to be awarded to story creators whose work promotes the mission of the Equity and Inclusion Team. These stories should allow all children to embrace and celebrate their own experiences as well as foster appreciation for the richness of other cultures in our world.

To apply, please email the following with “Query Grind Scholarship” in the subject line to epa@scbwi.org:

  • A brief letter of introduction, explaining how you/your manuscript connects to the mission of the Equity and Inclusion Team
  • A 5-page sample from your middle grade or young adult manuscript

Scholarship application deadline: December 27, 2020

Current SCBWI members who reside in Eastern PA will be considered first, but current members from other regions may also apply. Please note that if no applicants meet the requirements, Eastern PA SCBWI reserves the right not to award the scholarships for this event.

For more information and to register for Query Grind, click here.

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Eastern PA SCBWI Announces Winners for our Website Banner Contest

The results are in for our website banner contest!

This fall we announced a contest for Eastern PA SCBWI members to submit artwork for a new banner for our website. The entries were anonymously judged by an Art Director, and two banners were selected, one for the fall/winter seasons and one for the spring/summer seasons.

And now for the winners!

The banner chosen for our fall/winter seasons was illustrated by Beth Bogert!

A little about Beth:

Beth Bogert is pretty lucky. For as long as she can remember she has loved to read, draw, and write. Beth now is happily working on writing and illustrating books and childrens magazines. She would like to thank SCBWI for enriching her life with other kindred spirits. And she sends a heartfelt thanks to the volunteers at SCBWI. www.bethbogert.com

The banner chosen for our spring/summer seasons was illustrated by Berrie Torgan-Randall!

A little about Berrie:

Berrie Torgan-Randall has been passionate about children’s literature since she was a little girl and has fed her desire by becoming a children’s librarian and by pursuing a career as an illustrator and writer of children’s books. Berrie’s professional experience includes illustrating books for various businesses and academic institutions. Berrie has also illustrated a book through Dorrance Publishing, and she was a selected participant in the Highlights Foundation Super Boot Camp for Writers and Illustrators. Berrie is currently working on polishing her dummy book, “Olivers Monkey Business” to submit in 2021. Berrie is the Eastern PA SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator. www.berrietr.com

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.

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Member News — November 2020

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 e-mail Laura Parnum at epa-ara@scbwi.org before December 20.

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

Two members from our region, Sophia Ezomoghene and Nkuchia M’ikantha, received the SCBWI New Voices in Nonfiction grant. Their work was among 25 entries selected by judges from a pool of 200 applicants to receive full tuition to attend the SCBWI/Smithsonian Nonfiction Online Workshop (November 6-9). The grant was intended for BIPOC creators who have never published a nonfiction book in the children’s book market.

Dr. M’ikantha was able to share a little about his work in progress for which the grant was given: “As an epidemiologist, I often think about ways to encourage children to use water to keep microbes away, a message that is necessary for everyone now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, many of us take water for granted but according to the United Nations, one in three people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. With the increasing surface temperature of the earth, we will likely see increased rainfall in certain parts of the world, like here on the East Coast, while the western parts of the United States will become even drier. [This story] is about a Kenyan boy’s quest for water and an orchard and is based on my personal experiences.”

Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Innovation Press, July 2020, illustrated by Luisa Uribe) has been named one of Time Magazine’s 10 best children’s books this year, one of New York Public Library’s 2020 Best Books for Kids, Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best for 2020, and Kirkus Review’s Best Picture Books for 2020. Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name Is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.

Linda Oatman High’s new middle grade novel As Far As Birds Can Fly releases on New Year’s Eve from Koehler Books. First there was Bird. Then there was Bird-Bird. And now, Third Bird. Magnolia’s daddy won the beloved cockatiel Third Bird at a carnival, just before he died in a car accident. Magnolia promised to always take good care of Third Bird . . . but then she loses him. Magnolia’s grief, for her father and for her lost bird, opens up a whole new world of friends as they search not only for Third Bird, but for acceptance and healing for all. Helping her mama to see that physical beauty is not important (even in a family that comes from “a long line of beauty queens”), Magnolia becomes the star of her small Southern town as she finds hope and light in the healing of her grief and learns that sometimes when you go looking for one thing, you find what you really need. Preorders are available at independent booksellers, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Author Sherri Maret recently launched her latest picture book, Lela and the Butterflies (illustrated by Merisha Sequoia Clark). Sherri worked with her husband, Shippensburg University biologist Tim Maret, to write this picture book about butterfly conservation. The book includes a guide to planting your own butterfly garden. It was published by Muddy Boots Books (September 2020). Educational activities are available at https://www.sherrimaret.com. The Marets bought an old farm in Pennsylvania and have turned it into a conservation area for wildlife with a focus on monarchs and other butterflies.

The cover reveal for Hilda Eunice Burgos’s picture book The Cot in the Living Room was featured on the Las Musas blog last month. The book and cover are gorgeously illustrated by Gaby D’Alessandro. The Cot in the Living Room is a celebration of the ways a Dominican American community takes care of one another while showing young readers that sometimes the best way to be a better neighbor is by imagining how it feels to spend a night sleeping on someone else’s pillow. The book is available for preorder and will be published in June 2021 by Kokila.

Hilda will also be appearing on the panel “Using the Power of Story to Fight Anti-Blackness, Racism, and Colorism” in the upcoming Latinx Kidlit Book Festival. This virtual event will be held December 4-5 (https://www.latinxkidlitbookfestival.com).

Nicole Wolverton’s YA short story “The North American Guide to Animal Slaughter” will be appearing in the upcoming anthology Slashertorte: An Anthology of Cake Horror (Sliced Up Press, December 2020). The digital version is now available for preorder, with the print version coming soon. The anthology features sixteen sweetly sinister stories, which might make you think twice before ordering dessert…

Middle grade authors Nicole Valentine (A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity) and Jennifer Robin Barr (Goodbye, Mr. Spalding) will be appearing in a virtual event hosted by the Working Writers Group. The event is called “Past Present: Time Travel and Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers” and will feature readings and discussions. To register for the event click here.

Nicole will also be speaking at the Writer Igniter SFF Summit (https://writer-igniter-sff-summit.heysummit.com), an online conference from November 30-December 5. Nicole’s session is on “Cracking the Code of Middle Grade Sci-Fi.”

If you have good news to share, please send it to epa-ara@scbwi.org to be included in next month’s Member News column.

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Eastern PA Webinar—Focus Your New Year Writing Goals: Books that Transcend, with Melanie Castillo


Focus Your New Year Writing Goals: Books that Transcend

Thursday, January 7, 2021

7:00-8:30 p.m. EST

Editor and agent wishlists often include books that surprise them and put a fresh twist on something tried and true. But as so many writers know, that’s easier said than done, and the pursuit of doing so can stop creativity in its tracks. In this webinar, we’ll explore the art of crafting a high-concept story, discuss exercises you can do to develop this skill, and look at real-life examples of books that transcend trends, tropes, or formulas to dial down on what it really means to be part of the conversation and break out in a crowded market.

Can’t make the live session? The recording will be available for two weeks following the event.

A limited number of critiques are available.

For more information and to register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-books-that-transcend/.

Get to know your instructor:

Melanie Castillo is a literary agent at Root Literary. She represents middle grade, YA, and adult fiction along with select nonfiction titles. What she loves most about the job is the balance of creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating with a masters in writing and book publishing from Portland State University, she worked as an editorial project manager at Quarto and then as a freelance editor for several years before joining the agency in 2018. Melanie was born and raised in Southern California in a multicultural, blended family, so she has a soft spot for books that shine a spotlight on the nuances of relationships and identity. She currently lives in Long Beach and can be found on Twitter at @wellmelsbells.

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Daydream for Creativity, by Anthony D. Fredericks

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A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

Daydream for Creativity

“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.”

Steven Wright

Go into your memory bank and recall a time in school when you were daydreaming. Perhaps it was during a particularly boring lecture in a history class. Or, maybe you were drifting off while your teacher shared some incomprehensible information about photosynthesis. Or perhaps your mind wandered all over the place during a required school assembly.

Maybe you recall an incident or two as an adult when you daydreamed during a “necessary” and “very important” staff meeting (and you drifted off to a tropical island). Or, what about that time you were sorting through some mundane paperwork at your office desk (and you began thinking about an expensive sports car). Or how about the time when you were sitting by yourself in your department’s conference room, aimlessly toying with a container of Greek yogurt (and thinking about winning the Powerball lottery and moving to a tropical island with your new sports car).

All too often we think of daydreaming as something negative. (“Young lady, isn’t it about time you rejoined our little discussion here?”) The thinking is that people who daydream aren’t paying attention, they aren’t mentally engaged, and they aren’t processing any of the “required” information. But, what if I told you that frequent daydreaming may be a sign of creativity . . . authorial creativity?

When kids daydream, they conjure up imaginary plots that have them sailing pirates ships across uncharted seas, galloping over a frozen tundra to challenge an evil ruler, piloting a rocket ship to a distant world populated by pulsating blobs of purple protoplasm, or assuming some incredible super power. When adults daydream, we often think about escapes to faraway places.

But, how does daydreaming aid our creative impulses? According to psychologist Eric Klinger, it may be because the waking brain is never really at rest. Klinger posits that floating in unfocused mental states serves an evolutionary purpose. That is, when we are engaged with one task, mind wandering can trigger reminders of other, concurrent, goals so that we do not lose sight of them. Other researchers suggest that increasing the amount of imaginative daydreaming we do (or replaying variants of the millions of events we store in our brain) can be creatively beneficial simply because it allows our minds to wander across imaginative landscapes not normally a part of our logic or normal habits of convergent thinking. In short, daydreaming expands our horizons.

Daydreaming is an important mental activity, especially if we pay attention to it. In one study, researchers asked 122 students to read a children’s story and press a button each time they caught themselves tuning out. The researchers periodically interrupted the students as they were reading and asked them if they were “zoning out” or drifting off without being aware of it. They concluded that “. . . people who regularly catch themselveswho notice when they are doing itseem to be the most creative.” The results also demonstrated that individuals scored higher on a test of creativity in which they were asked to describe all the uses of a common object, such as a brick.  Daydreamers were able to compile longer and more creative lists. “You need to have the mind-wandering process. But, you also need to have the meta-awareness to say, ‘That’s a creative idea that popped into my head.’”

But, there’s a cautionary note here.  Research demonstrates a significant correlation between our daydreaming and creativity, not a cause and effect. There may well be other variables at work. However, it’s fair to assume that daydreaming, from a creativity standpoint, is a good thing. It’s not something we should exclude from our authorial pursuits. Having our heads in the clouds is an opportunity to let our creative powers develop and flourish. This is mental play at its finesta potent exercise in which innovative thinking is supported and celebrated.

Raised in an environment of “Stop daydreaming and get back to work,” we often get the message that we shouldn’t be using our minds to think creative things. Thus, daydreaming is frequently viewed as something to be avoided; something that has little place in a writer’s repertoire. The implication is that it’s something bad for your brain. The message is clear: When you’re not paying attention, you’re not . . . well . . . you’re not paying attention! How can you possibly write?  How can you possibly engage in any productive and meaningful work?

Think about it. Or, perhaps, you might want to daydream about it.


Tony is the author of 10,000 Writing Ideas: Essential Strategies for Every Writer (https://amzn.to/3o1vEgP) [“The title is no lie. This book truly will help you get 10,000 writing ideas. Each chapter is dedicated to . . . generating ideas to help writers expand their minds and exercise their brains.” 5-star Amazon review] 

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Eastern PA Webinar: Writing About History for Kids, with Lisa A. Crayton


Writing About History for Kids

Monday, November 16, 2020

7:30-9:00 p.m. EST

Historical fiction and nonfiction offer information and entertainment opportunities for kids. Learn about the creative pitfalls to avoid and success strategies. This webinar covers research, market needs, mentor texts, and other aspects of writing effectively—and truthfully—about the past.

For more information and to register, click here. (Please note, critiques for this event are sold out, but you can opt to be placed on a waitlist for a critique if any critique spots open up.)

Can’t make the live session? The recording will be available for two weeks following the event.

Get to know your instructor:

With more than 30 years’ experience, Lisa A. Crayton provides freelance editorial services (including manuscript evaluations, sensitivity reading, and collaborative writing) to publishers. An award-winning freelance writer, she also is the author of 16 nonfiction books, including 15 MG/YA titles. Her latest title from Capstone Press is Wangari Maathai: Get to Know the Woman Who Planted Trees to Bring Change. A Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing 2020 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference Fellow, she will teach a workshop at the 2021 conference at Arizona State University. The PAL Coordinator for the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region, she earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from National University, and a B.S. dual degree (cum laude) in public relations and journalism from Utica College.

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