Dedication, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write Angles LogoA Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks


Tubby, our cat of eighteen years, passed away on August 22, 2019.

Tubby was my constant writing companion. Each morning at 5:30, he’d wait for me by the bedroom door. As soon as it opened, he led me into the kitchen and parked himself beside the pantry door. He had to be fed before I could turn on the coffee machine. While he was munching away, I would prepare a scrambled egg or a bowl of yogurt. When Tubby finished his morning meal, he waited patiently until I grabbed my coffee cup. He would then guide me past the living room and upstairs to my office where he’d wait by my chair. When I settled in, I would stroke him several times. As I began reviewing a manuscript or tending to other writing duties, he would crawl to a special space under the computer table (and just in front of my feet). In short order, he would curl up and begin a snooze that lasted throughout the morning.

I would talk to him about synonyms and run-on sentences, shout at him when a book project was accepted, ask him for advice about the direction of a manuscript, or complain to him about a rejection. He took it all in stride with his usual air of feline indifference and soft snores. He instinctively knew what his job was, and he accepted his responsibilities without complaint or protest.

He was truly dedicated!

training-3185170__480In writing workshops and presentations I am often asked about the “secrets” to writing success. I always mention dedication as one of the most important elements of any writer’s philosophy. Indeed, if we are not dedicated to our craft—to informing, educating, illuminating, entertaining, energizing, or inspiring our readers—then we are shortchanging them. Young readers of any age demand literature that is both powerful and professional. And, there is certainly nothing more professional than putting your whole heart and entire soul into a piece of writing—one that completely captures the imagination and interest of a reader. Anything less is an affront to why we write and what kids need to have in their hands.

Dedication is much more than a commitment to write a book. It also involves the time—day after day, month after month, and year after year—sitting in front of a keyboard generating ideas, crafting words, producing sentences, drawing characters, inventing dialogue, and revising plot lines dozens of times . . . hundreds of times . . . and then doing it all over again with equal measures of enthusiasm and energy.

writing-828911__480Dedication should be a passion! Like a job, it’s something that must be done systematically, religiously, and completely. Dedicated writing is not a hobby. It is an obligation to yourself and your craft. It is an embrace of persistence, work, and duty. It is not something we do occasionally, but rather regularly. It’s like brushing your teeth; it has to be done every day, or it is incomplete and insufficient.

I’m currently editing and revising a picture book manuscript geared for youngsters in kindergarten and first grade. It’s about some of the amazing shapes they can see along a forest trail or beside a quiet pond. Right now, there is a total of 194 words in the manuscript. But, I’ve spent almost six months inserting, deleting, modifying, changing, altering, amending, reworking, and improving those 194 words. The manuscript is now in its 24th draft and is likely to go through another half-dozen drafts before I send it out. Each word must be the precise word, each sentence must convey an exact mood, and each thought must be carefully crafted to inspire young readers to joyously investigate their own environments. I’m committed to this process simply because I know readers will demand nothing less.

boy-2604853__480Dedication . . . constant attention . . . may be one of the most important literary attributes we share with readers. It will surface in our characters, shine with their dialogue, and fascinate with the details. It’s writing our best so our readers can embrace the journey.

Day after day, my cat Tubby shared his dedication.

I miss him terribly.


Writing Children's books cover

Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books, including the 2018 CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Tall Tall Tree ( He is also the author of the ebook Writing Children’s Books: 701 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love ( [“. . . one of the best guides that I have found with prompts for creative children’s book ideas.” —Amazon 5-star review.]

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A Cafe Chat with Award-Winning Author Donna Gephart, by Susan North

Eastern PA SCBWI is gearing up for this year’s Fall Philly event on November 2. We are planning a packed day, including keynotes, breakout sessions, lunch, and optional critique add-ons with our phenomenal faculty members. In preparation for the event, we will be featuring faculty interviews on our blog in the coming weeks. For more information about the event and to register, go to We hope to see you there!


Today at the EasternPennPoints Café, one of our contributing members, Susan North, had a chance to speak with award-winning middle grade author Donna Gephart who will be joining our faculty at the Fall Philly event on November 2. Let’s hear what they had to say!

Susan: Hi, Donna. I have been given the honor of interviewing you for the EasternPennPoints blog and am so excited to have you join me at our virtual café. Before we get started, may I offer you something to drink?

Donna: Hi, Susan! I’d love a cup of hot tea. Thanks. ☕️

In Your ShoesSusan: You cover a diverse range of topics in the books you’ve written. Where do you get your inspiration?

Donna: I follow my curiosity and choose topics I want to learn more about, such as life in a funeral home in In Your Shoes, what it’s like to appear on Kids’ Week on Jeopardy! in Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, and how it might feel to have an incarcerated parent in The Paris Project. I explore themes I’m trying to understand, like grief, family relationships, societal pressure, mental health, gender identity, financial insecurity, etc.

Susan: You describe your middle school years as being awkward and uncomfortable and yet you write middle grade novels that are full of humor as well as heart. How do you explain this?

Donna: I want to give young readers a place to go where they feel less alone in their awkwardness, and I do that by writing with emotional honesty about those challenging times in life. Humor makes those hard things easier to digest.

Susan: Your success has no doubt been the result of hard work. What advice do you have for a writer juggling work, home life, and writing?

Olivia BeanDonna: It’s hard. I always wished someone could tell me the secret to managing it all. Surprise. There’s no secret. Creating novels requires intense focus and more time than you think it will. There’s no shortcut; you have to invest the time. Even the novel I wrote most quickly—Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen in 29 days as a NaNoWriMo novel—required months and months of intense revision work.

Susan: What middle grade books were your favorites growing up?

Donna: I loved Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Hundred Dresses. Later, I fell in love with A Bridge to Terabithia and, later still, A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Granny Torelli Makes Soup. Whenever I go to a bookstore or library, I’m drawn to middle grade novels. They resonate deeply with me.

Susan: Can you give us a hint about an upcoming project?

Paris ProjectDonna: The Paris Project comes out in October. I love this book. It’s about a girl who deals with financial insecurity, an incarcerated parent, strong family bonds, and a friend with an important secret and learns to bloom where she’s planted, even if that’s in the scorching, uncultured town of Sassafras, Florida. I’m working on the book after that and falling in love with Abby Braverman, who will have to drag her introverted self through tough things to learn exactly what she’s made from.

Susan: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I look forward to hearing you speak about Tickling Your Reader’s Funny Bone at our upcoming Fall Philly Event. The faculty panel discussion you’ll be participating in is sure to be thought provoking.

Donna: I have a lot of fun talking about writing humor. Can’t wait to meet everyone at the event! Thanks so much.

Susan: See you then!

donna-gephart-author-photo-1_1_orig.jpgDonna Gephart’s award-winning middle grade novels include Lily and Dunkin, In Your Shoes, Death by Toilet PaperHow to Survive Middle School, and her latest, The Paris Project. Her first novel, As If Being 12¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President, won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Award for humor. She’s a former creative writing teacher and a popular speaker at schools, book festivals, and conferences. After 21 years in South Florida, Donna has returned to the Philadelphia area with her family and is enjoying soft pretzels, WaWa hoagies, and vegan cheesesteaks. You can visit her website at to find out more.

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The Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award

Announcing: A Scholarship Award for Writers!

writing contest

What is it?

The Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award will provide full tuition to the Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA, to the author of a promising children’s book manuscript. Every other year the award will alternate between a picture book manuscript and a middle grade/young adult novel manuscript. This year, submissions are open to picture book writers for the 2020 conference.

What is included in this year’s award?

  • Full tuition to the 49th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference, July 24-27, 2020, in Los Angeles, CA. (Travel, meals, accommodations, and optional conference add-ons are not included.)
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with literary agent Tracey Adams from Adams Literary.
  • A 20-minute phone consultation with children’s editor Andrea Welch from Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster.

Who can apply?

  • Applicants must be current members of SCBWI and must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Applicants who show a dedication to honing their craft and expanding their writing community, but who are experiencing a financial barrier to attending the conference, will be considered.
  • The manuscript submission must be original and unpublished and must not be under contract at the time of submission.
  • Limit one entry per person.

How do I apply?

  • For complete award information and submission instructions go to
  • The submission window is open now through 8:00 p.m. PST on October 31, 2019.



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The Storyboard Renaissance: A Graphic Novel Approach to Storyboarding, by Kristen C. Strocchia

cat display

Are you ready to take your manuscript to the next level? Would advice from the professionals be helpful to your process? Or maybe you’re ready to submit but worried that you’ve missed something.

Even if you haven’t started storyboarding yet, there’s still time to join us for the Storyboard Renaissance event in September. Register here to reserve your seat, then start digging into your manuscript.

Have fun playing with simplifying the format.

Here are some pictures of my attempts to streamline my Storyboard visuals into a graphic novel format (even though my novel is not a graphic novel). The process was easy:

I started with the setting backdrop pictures that I already had. Here is one example.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 9.49.12 AM

Next I found line drawing character images on Google or Bing images and overlaid the setting with the character images.


And finally, I overlaid each setting image with character images, phrases, main scene action, and emotion.


Note that for emotion, I searched Google for line drawings of emotion faces, then superimposed these over the characters themselves.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 10.03.03 AM

Then I printed the images and pasted them on the Storyboard along the plot line.


This graphic novel version makes the main story idea easy to follow visually, yet incorporates all of the major elements—setting, character, and plot—and it even gives space for voice.

What other formats can you imagine? How will you showcase your story? I look forward to seeing everyone’s storyboards in September!


Join us for The Storyboard Renaissance event on Saturday, September 21, 2019, in Scranton, PA.

At this event you will spend the morning with one of our three faculty members: agents Marlo Berliner (Jennifer de Chiara Agency) and Melissa Edwards (Stonesong Agency), or award-winning author Sandy Asher. Together with your chosen faculty member and a small group, you’ll move through three roundtable sessions, where you’ll give and receive feedback on your first pages, hook, and voice, as well as the story arc and character development information you display on your trifold Storyboard. In addition to the roundtables, you’ll enjoy an opening and closing keynote with our knowledgeable faculty.

Registration is only $60 for SCBWI members. The deadline for submitting pages for critique is SEPTEMBER 7, 2019. Click here for more details or to register.

Don’t miss the previous posts in this series for step-by-step help with your Storyboard.


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The Need to Read, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write Angles LogoA Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

WELCOME: What was formerly known as the “Navigating Nonfiction” column for this blog has now been transformed into the “Write Angles” column. Our intent is to offer readers a wider range of topics and a more inclusive view of writing children’s books. Not only will we provide insights into a plethora of challenges and concerns; so too will we examine a range of philosophies and strategies that will inform, instruct, and inspire. In so doing, we invite readers to share this column (via social media) with friends and colleagues beyond the range of Eastern PA SCBWI. We also solicit your views and questions. Do you have a pressing issue, an unanswered question, or an unresolved concern? Let us know ( We’ll do our best to respond in a future column. Once again, welcome aboard!

The Need to Read

reading-925589_1280I’m not a big fan of stories with talking animals. Giving various critters anthropomorphic qualities is a cheap way of getting a message across. But, I read them! I don’t particularly enjoy dystopian novels where great suffering or injustice is the driving force behind the plot. But, I read them! I’m not crazy about picture books that try to press a philosophy or moral on kids. But, I read them! Why do I read books I don’t like? It’s a way of researching what I don’t enjoy to help me write books that I will enjoy . . . and that readers will, too.

Not long ago, in a writing workshop, someone asked me if there was a secret to becoming a successful children’s author. I replied that there were actually several secrets to success: treating writing as a job rather than a hobby; making writing a priority every single day; staying in perpetual contact with your audience (walking around playgrounds, talking to kids regularly, visiting schools, etc.); and reading! Reading everything you can get your hands on—the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly!

It’s often the “ugly” books that make the biggest difference in your writing.

kindle-For me, there are two types of “ugly” books—those that deal with topics or themes I don’t find interesting or compelling, and those that are just plain bad. And, trust me, the market does not suffer from a lack of very bad books. The opening of multiple self-publishing venues has given a wide swath of the American public permission to pen a children’s book and get it “in print” without the need for editorial intervention or professional proofing. Scroll through children’s books currently online and you will encounter a rash of titles that are beyond boring, beyond review, and beyond comprehension. They give new meaning to the phrase, “OMG—I can’t believe someone actually wrote this!”

But, why subject yourself to this bad literature? (I use the term “literature” very loosely.)  Simply because it helps you realize the need for a higher level of writing in your own work. By sampling all the books out there that (1) you don’t enjoy, and (2) are unprofessionally written, you get a sense of what not to do and what you should be doing as an authentic children’s author.

classroom-2093744__480When I do school visits, kids will frequently ask, “How long does it take to write a children’s book?” When I respond that it often takes me two years and between 25 to 30 drafts to craft a children’s book, their eyes expand into saucers and their mouths are agape. “He must be the slowest (or dumbest) writer in the world,” they undoubtedly say. But, my underlying philosophy has always been that I won’t put a book out there that I wouldn’t want to read myself . . . or read to my children . . . or my grandchildren. How do I know if a book is good enough? Easy! Is it comparable to the “ugly” books out there, or has it risen above?

Reading a wide range of children’s books might be the most important practice you can integrate into your writing routine. In that vein, don’t confine yourself to the books in your local public library (librarians are quite knowledgeable about the criteria for good books and won’t waste their limited financial resources on second-rate literature). Visit “big box” bookstores in your local area. Book buyers for those stores often have insufficient backgrounds in children’s literature and will often include marginal literature in their displays. Spend an afternoon a month in those stores and you’ll see what I mean.

laptopAlso consider spending time surfing the Internet to see what people are putting online. Kindle will have a wealth of “ugly” children’s books that scream “amateur” via two-dimensional illustrations, sagging plot lines, undistinguished characters, and a clear lack of focus.

Yup, reading “the good, the bad, and the ugly”—on a regular basis—will give you both perspective and insight into what should (or shouldn’t) be in your book. You’ll definitely know what to leave out . . . and what to put in!


Writing Children's books cover


Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books, including the 2018 CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Tall Tall Tree ( He is also the author of the ebook Writing Children’s Books: 701 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love ( [“. . . one of the best guides that I have found with prompts for creative children’s book ideas” —Amazon 5-star review].



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How Can SCBWI Help You?, by Laura Parnum

Many times, when members of the kid lit community are asked to give advice to aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators, one of the top recommendations is to join SCBWI. If you’re following this blog, you’ve probably already done that. Maybe you’ve attended an SCBWI conference or workshop. But are you getting all the benefits of your SCBWI membership? For example, have you discovered SCBWI’s webinars, masterclasses, and podcast? There may be some resources you’re missing out on!

Local Resources

Our Eastern PA chapter works hard to offer programs throughout the year that will benefit our members, including the Annual Pocono Retreat, Fall Philly, Illustrator Day, workshops, field trips, studio tours, and other opportunities to meet publishing professionals and fellow authors and illustrators. Check the Upcoming Events links on our website at and here on this blog.

In addition to our programing, members can plan and attend Meet & Greets. There’s no registration fee to attend these gatherings, which are often held at coffee shops or bookstores and are a fantastic opportunity to connect and network with other authors and illustrators. Details are posted on the Upcoming Events and Meet & Greets pages on our website. Meet & Greets throughout the region are planned by YOU—our members. Simply contact our Meet & Greet coordinator. Once you’ve planned your Meet & Greet, we’ll post the information and send out an e-mail announcement. Our members have hosted nine Meet & Greets in the past year, with more in the coming weeks.

Another popular feature of our Eastern PA chapter is our ever-growing list of local critique groups. Critique groups are a way to exchange useful feedback with other members. We have a variety of groups to choose from (online groups, in-person groups, picture book groups, novel groups, illustrator groups, and varying combinations of each). Critique groups are available in many locations throughout our region, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact our critique group coordinator to start one up. Or if you’re looking for a one-time critique swap, join our EPA Critique Swap Facebook group (Eastern PA members only). More information about this group can be found here.

Our chapter’s homepage ( has all the information you need for upcoming events, critique groups, and Meet & Greets. Just check out the green bar on the right side of the homepage screen. You might want to consider bookmarking this homepage so you can check back frequently!

EPA SCBWI Homepage - resources

Neighboring Chapters

Another benefit of being an SCBWI member is having the opportunity to participate in events in neighboring chapters as well. Our region is located near several other active SCBWI regions, including Western PA, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia. These chapters host events throughout the year that may only be a short car or train ride away. Click on the links below to find out what’s happening, and follow them on social media to stay up to date on nearby events.

National Resources

At the national level, SCBWI offers some extremely useful resources for members. The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children is SCBWI’s definitive publication for children’s book authors and illustrators. It covers everything you need to know, whether you’re just starting out or have already launched your book. Topics include

  • Standard manuscript formatting guidelines
  • How to write a query letter and synopsis
  • How to prepare an art portfolio and book dummy
  • Information on self-publishing
  • Publisher listings
  • Editor listings
  • Magazine listings
  • Directories of literary agencies, independent editors, book reviewers, and writing courses
  • Listings of grants, fellowships, residencies, and retreats
  • Information on publicizing and promoting your book
  • School visits
  • Legal questions

The Book is updated each year and is available for all SCBWI members to log in and download from the SCBWI website (

In addition to The Book, SCBWI produces a podcast featuring interviews with award-winning authors and illustrators as well as industry professionals. The podcast is available free for members at SCBWI also offers two masterclasses on DVD, featuring instruction from Tomie dePaola and Richard Peck. These are available for purchase at

SCBWI holds two national conferences each year—the summer conference in Los Angeles and the winter conference in New York City. But sometimes the cost of a large conference and the inconvenience of travel make it hard for members to attend. That’s why SCBWI has been expanding its programing through webinars. Webinars are online seminars that you can attend from the comfort of your own home or anywhere you can connect to Wi-Fi. Regional chapters throughout the US and abroad are hosting webinars featuring a variety of topics with expert faculty. Webinars are open to SCBWI members and nonmembers for a fraction of the cost of a conference or an in-person workshop. In addition, each webinar is recorded, so registrants who are unable to attend the live event have access to the recording. A list of current and past webinars has been compiled by our friends from the Nevada chapter, which can be accessed via this link on our Eastern PA homepage.

EPA SCBWI homepage - webinars

Whether you’re new to SCBWI or have been a member for years, whether you’re just starting your children’s book journey or have fifty published books, we hope all of our members can get the most out of SCBWI’s plethora of resources and opportunities. And if you’d like to get involved, we are always looking for volunteers to help us with the behind-the-scenes magic that makes it all happen. Send us an e-mail at if you’d like to help out.

EPA SCBWI homepage - Volunteers


Version 3Laura Parnum writes quirky and humorous middle grade novels and is a freelance fiction copyeditor. Almost everything she does relates to books and writing, from maintaining EasternPennPoints (the official blog of the Eastern PA chapter of SCBWI) and leading an SCBWI critique group to assisting at an elementary school library. She has also provided reading and writing support to kids from kindergarten through high school. Laura and her family live in Philadelphia with two lovable reptiles. You can visit her website at and follow her on Twitter (@LauraParnum).

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#LA19SCBWI, Here I Come! by Lindsay Bandy

Hello out there in Eastern PA land! I’m getting packed and ready to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow for the 2019 LA SCBWI conference, and I’d love it if you came along for the ride. The official hashtag for the conference is #LA19SCBWI, and I’ll be tweeting @bandy_lindsay and posting on instagram @lindsayfisherbandy.

image-from-rawpixel-id-429315-jpegAs many of you know, there are changes afoot in our leadership team, and I’m excited to attend my first RA training day to collaborate with and learn from other regional leaders. We’ve got some exciting ideas for the upcoming year, and this will be a great opportunity to learn about how other regions are instituting mentorship programs, doing more to support their PALs, and organizing events that offer more of what members need right now. I’m so excited to share what I learn with all of you!

A few highlights on my list are a keynote with M.T. Anderson, various editor panels, and a chance to get some Narwhal and Jelly books signed by Ben Clanton for my girls. I’ve promised my daughters a few specific photos from the Walk of Fame, I’ll be teaming up with Western PA to eat legendary guacamole, and there may even be a tattoo involved….*cough*….so you’ll just have to wait and see what sort of extracurricular excursions I end up on. Can’t wait to represent Eastern PA on the west coast!

See you all soon!



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