Member News — November 2019

Member News is a new monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We hope to celebrate our 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 before December 20.

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


The Space Walk book cover

Author-Illustrator Brian Biggs recently launched his new stand-alone picture book, The Space Walk (Dial Books, October 2019). The Space Walk was accepted into the Society of Illustrator’s Children’s Book show (Original Art 2019). The show runs November 13-January 4 in New York City. In this book, Randolph Witherspoon, an intrepid astronaut, wants to go for a walk. But first he has to eat some lunch, clean his room, and do some chores. Sound familiar? Things take a surprising turn when Randolph does get outside. Visit Brian’s website at


The Grief Keeper book cover

Author Alexandra Villasante teamed up with fellow author Katherine Locke for an event at Yardley Borough Hall earlier this month. The two authors discussed the themes of their books and how they portray their characters, develop plot, and speak to young people through their stories. Alex is the author of  The Grief Keeper (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, June 2019), a YA novel that tells the story of seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales who is caught at the US border after she and her sister flee their home in El Salvador. Find out more at


Nadine Poper released TWO books this fall! Randall and Randall (Blue Whale Books, October 2019), illustrated by Polina Gortman, is the story of how one of the sea’s oddest couples, a pistol shrimp and a goby, depend on their symbiotic relationship for survival, overcome each other’s quirks, and become the best of friends. Porcupette and Moppet (Blue Whale Press, November 2019), illustrated by Alicia Young, is a comical story in which disaster is averted by reading a book. Find out more at


FINAL - cover MAGICIAN  AUG 19 2019.indd

Sherri Maret, author of The Cloud Artist (The RoadRunner Press, 2017), has a new picture book, The Magician, which will be released by The RoadRunner Press on December 3, 2019. For this book, Sherri teamed up with western PA illustrator Pamela Behrend (illustrator of The Survivor Tree by Gaye Sanders, The RoadRunner Press, 2017). Sherri and Pamela will be interviewed live on ABC Good Day, PA in Harrisburg. The book features some settings that Pennsylvanians may recognize! Visit Sherri’s website to find out more about her at

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Join Our Children’s Book Community at ALA Midwinter 2020


The American Library Association’s 2020 Midwinter Conference is coming to Philadelphia. Eastern PA SCBWI will be there, and we want our PAL members to join us! This is a great opportunity to meet teachers and librarians as well as other professionals in the children’s book industry.

We have thirty spots open for PAL members to share their books at our booth on Saturday, January 25, or Sunday, January 26. The cost to join our booth is $40. Those who sign up will be given a one-hour time slot for book signing. Signings will be announced in our program and on our social media channels, and authors participating in the signings will be listed in flyers for our READ LOCAL campaign for the 2020-2021 school year. Some session times will be in pairs, some will be solo.

At the booth you will decide how to use the one-hour signing time. You may sell your books, give away your books, distribute school visit materials and teacher guides, and more!

You will be responsible for your admission into the conference in general. There is a full pass option, with access to lectures and more, and also an exhibition hall pass, which is considerably less expensive. Here is a link to the ALA registration. If you only sign up for one day, please be sure to let us know so that your time at the SCBWI table can be set for that day. Update: In some cases, publishers may have additional passes for their authors. Many of the authors who have already signed up for booth space have received free exhibit hall passes from their publisher. If you have questions, please ask your publisher.

Registration for the Eastern PA SCBWI table can be found here: You must be logged in to your SCBWI account and listed as a PAL member in order to purchase booth time. If you are unsure whether your national registration is listed as PAL, visit this link:

If you are interested in reserving your spot, please do so soon. Our deadline for submitting author names to the program is December 5, 2019. Register soon so that your name can be listed in the ALA print program and digital version.

We hope to see you there!

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Eyes, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Write Angles LogoA Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks


image of an eyeIn October I had cataract surgery—first the right eye and then, two weeks later, the left eye. Part of the procedure involved the placement of a new lens inside each eye in order to correct my previous 20/400 vision to something closer to 20/20. The results were amazing and, well, eye-opening! I was able to see the world with a clearer focus, colors with an unexpected clarity, and small events with a depth of perception that was, at times, unfamiliar. In essence, I had new eyes and new opportunities to view scenes around me (both familiar and new) with lucidity and appreciation.

The entire process got me thinking about how our eyes may be our most important writing tools—how they offer us an array of ideas, possibilities, events, circumstances, and vistas that comprise the fodder for our stories . . . if we keep them open. For example, at workshops, book expos, or conferences, I’m frequently asked about where I get the ideas for my books. I often respond that I usually don’t get ideas; typically, they get me. The trick is to keep my eyes open and be ready to accept them when they appear . . . many times, right in front of me.

image of tree rings.jpgFor example, during a recent walk along a lakeside trail at Gifford Pinchot State Park in northern York County, I came across a tree that had been felled. I stared at the exposed rings and wondered how old the tree was before it succumbed to a ranger’s chainsaw. My eyes then swept upward and I noticed a small circular spider web lodged between a clutch of branches in a nearby tree. A few steps down the trail I saw an acorn plop into the lake and escalating rings moving outward. In just a matter of minutes I had seen three examples of circles in the natural world. As I took photos of those occurrences, I wondered how many more circles I would discover along the trail. When I returned home, my photo file and my notes revealed eighteen different examples of nature’s circles discovered in a 90-minute walk. I had the theme for my next book.

On the other hand, when I need scenes for a fictional piece, I stare at people in local restaurants, I observe the surge of crowds in an airport, I watch the interaction between kids at a nearby park, I scrutinize the way physically challenged folks cross the street, or I gaze at how teenagers queue up at a movie theater to get tickets for the newest blockbuster movie. I’m a “people watcher.” I actively look at common occurrences all around me—those that may offer behavioral traits, choice dialogue, poignant scenes, or basic plotlines. I don’t need to create something out of thin air; rather, my responsibility is to observe what is already happening and to put those events into words that will resonate with young readers.

The Tsunami QuiltSeveral years ago, I wrote a book entitled The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather’s Story. The theme of this work of fiction rested on the relationship (as well as a critical conversation) between a young boy and his elderly grandfather. I needed to see interactions between youngsters and their grandparents in order to bring this important element into sharp focus for readers. And so, I searched out locations where grandparents and grandchildren could be observed. I visited a friend in a senior citizen’s center, I sat on benches at the periphery of some local parks and watched families at play, I hung out in a toy store and the local Walmart, and I visited county fairs and amusement parks.

I watched how kids and their grandparents held hands, embraced each other, conversed in friendly tones (and, sometimes, not-so-friendly terms), walked together, stood side by side, or just tossed a frisbee back and forth. The more I looked, the more I began to see the outlines for my own characters; the more I saw how the grandfather and grandson in The Tsunami Quilt would need to relate in order to generate the compassion necessary for the plot to work. I didn’t have to create that relationship artificially—it was already in play in various environments around me. When the book won the Storytelling World Awards Honor, I knew my observations had been accurate.

image of cirular ripples on waterEyes. They take in so much over the course of the day. But, they also offer us, as children’s authors, unique perspectives for our stories, no matter whether those stories are fiction or nonfiction. They give our tales depth, interest, reality . . . but, most important, they validate our stories as visions of both the possible and the imaginary. Spend some time intently focused on everyday events and you may be surprised by what you see . . . and what your readers will be able to see as well!


Writing Children's books cover

Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books, including The Tsunami Quilt: Grandfather’s Story [Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year List] ( He is also author of the e-book Writing Children’s Books: 701 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love ( [“Wow! There are story ideas here for every genre and writing style.” —Amazon 5-star review]

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Meet Michael Rex—Author, Illustrator, Mentor, by Berrie Torgan-Randall


We are excited to have Michael Rex presenting at our “Digging Deep into the Picture Book Creation Process” workshop this weekend. Our Eastern PA SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Berrie Torgan-Randall, tells us a little bit about him.

Last year I received a self-addressed envelope in the mail. It was a letter I’d been anticipating all summer. The previous two summers I had received similar envelopes with polite rejection letters enclosed for my submission to the RUCCL (Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature) conference. This time the letter contained good news—after trying for three years to be accepted, I was finally invited. 

I had heard from other artists I’d met at SCBWI events that artists and authors were being “discovered” at the RUCCL event. I had submitted my dummy for Queen Tess and the Big Mess and other art samples required for the conference. I thought I was going to be matched with an agent or editor and got myself all worked up thinking that this would be my chance to find the perfect agent or, better yet, get a contract.

I was initially disappointed when I was matched up with author-illustrator Michael Rex because he is not an editor or an agent. But what I have learned through my years of trying to get published is, if you keep an open mind and go with an attitude of learning, you will grow. I learned more from Michael in that one-on-one session than I could have possibly imagined.

Mike is an incredibly warm person. He made me laugh, he made me feel good about my art, he had helpful suggestions to improve my dummy, and best of all, he encouraged me to continue to grow. Mike is a highly successful author-illustrator. He has written over 40 books including the New York Times best seller Good Night Goon and his latest book, Eat Pete. He has a chapter book series, he performs lively school visits, and his graphic novels have been turned into an animated series! I am honored that he was able to spend time with me at the RUCCL conference—I really could not have asked for anyone better.


Berrie's profile pic

Berrie Torgan-Randall is the new Illustrator Coordinator for Eastern PA SCBWI. She 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. You can visit her website at



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Member News — October 2019

Welcome to our first edition of “Member News,” a new monthly feature on the EasternPennPoints blog. We hope to celebrate our members’ good news and help spread the word far and wide. Send us your children’s book related news: book deals, 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 before November 20.

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

Pearl Goes to Preschool

Author/illustrator Julie Fortenberry’s new book, PEARL GOES TO PRESCHOOL (Penguin Random House, June 2020), is now available for preorder. You can find participating bookstores here: And while you’re there, you can also sign up for Julie’s newsletter!



Rebecca Thornburgh recently signed with agent Brent Taylor of TriadaUS Literary Agency. He’ll be repping Rebecca for a middle grade graphic novel that she wrote and illustrated while in grad school. And that brings us to Rebecca’s other news: She graduated this past July from Hamline University with an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults!


A time travelers theory of reletivity

Nicole Valentine’s middle grade novel, A TIME TRAVELER’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY (Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, October 2019), was released earlier this month and is now available wherever books are sold. Nicole will be signing books in Philadelphia at Shakespeare & Co. (1632 Walnut Street) on November 15.


Dark Moon

DARK MOON (Gripping Tales, September 2019), the third book in The Goddess Chronicles series by K. B. Anne (a.k.a. Kim Briggs) was released earlier this month and is available here. Kim also relaunched STARR FALL through Gripping Tales (check it out here), with STARR LOST set to re-release by the end of the month.


Cover image small

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson, by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Cannaday Chapman, will be published by Abrams Books for Young Readers on November 12, 2019. This picture book biography in free verse is a celebration of Wilson’s life from his childhood in Pittsburgh to one of America’s greatest playwrights. The book is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Jen spoke about her latest biography at the annual IBBY/USBBY in Austin, TX October 25-27 and will also appear at NCTE in Baltimore, MD November 20-24.



Award-winning author Adam Lehrhaupt will be teaching a six-session online workshop called “Character vs. Plot—The Battle of Writing a Good Book” through The Writing Barn beginning November 6.

This workshop will take writers on a detailed tour of these two writing techniques with lessons and exercises and plenty of personal attention from Adam. More details about the class can be found here. The first session is next week, and space is limited, so if you’d like to participate, hurry on over to register.

If you have good news to share, please send it to to be included in next month’s Member News column.

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A Cafe Chat with Editor Jes Negrón, by Nadine Poper


For our final faculty interview before the Fall Philly event this Saturday, author Nadine Poper had a chat with Boyds Mills & Kane Editor Jes Negrón. Here’s what they had to say.

Nadine: Welcome, Jes! It is a chilly, rainy evening here in eastern PA and I have a cup of hot red clover tea sitting here beside me. What would you be drinking on such a night?

Jes: As soon as the chilly weather rolls in, I stock up on hot chocolate and cayenne pepper. Spicy hot chocolate gets me through CT winters!

Nadine: And anything yummy to eat with that?

Jes: Probably a pumpkin pastry of some kind. Or cheese. Hot chocolate and cheese is great.

Nadine: Looks like Boyds Mills & Kane has some beautiful books. Do you have a soon-to-be-released title that you can’t wait for the world to read? Or a newly released title that everyone must read? And what is in that book that makes you feel that way?

Jes: I am beyond excited for a couple books on my list releasing very soon. BROWN SUGAR BABE by Charlotte Watson Sherman and illustrated by Akem (out January 2020) is a wonderful message of self-love and acceptance for all the beautiful brown babies out there. And LET’S DANCE! by Valerie Bolling and illustrated by Maine Diaz (out March 2020) is a fun, rhythmic showcase of dances from all over the world. I am so proud of these books and the impact they’ll have on kids who are searching for themselves on shelves!

Nadine: And along those same lines, can you share a book that made you laugh out loud?

Jes: HAIR LOVE by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison! When the hair tie snapped into Dad’s eye I choked on my cocoa.


Hair Love

Nadine: Cry out loud (or silently)?

Jes: It’s tough for a book to make me cry! I think the most recent one to succeed was ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas. Thomas’s writing is always real and raw, and her books never fail to get my eyes watering.

On the Come Up cover

Nadine: And one that you didn’t want to end?

Jes: I really don’t want THE SHADOW GLASS by Rin Chupeco to end. I am so enamored by this trilogy that I’ve forced myself to savor this book. I started it months ago and still haven’t finished because my heart can’t take more than a few pages at a time.

Shadow Glass.jpg

Nadine: What will your Fall Philly day look like?

Jes: I’ll be speaking on a panel discussing diversity in the publishing industry and sharing query critiques with a handful of writers! It’s always a pleasure to attend events where I get to interact with the amazing talent that makes the industry run. All of us would be lost without writers!

Nadine: I read that you have an unhealthy obsession with xenomorphs . . . LOL! Are they on your manuscript wish list? Just kidding. If a manuscript with xenomorphs crossed your desk, what elements would the story have to contain for you to say “YES”?

Jes: I would LOVE to see a “monster in the house” book in my inbox! The perfect submission would have a great balance between nail-biting suspense and clever character ingenuity. I’m all about unique creatures terrorizing crafty kids in small spaces, especially when the writer’s made the setting a character in and of itself.

Nadine: Jes, thank you so much for stopping by to chat. I loved reading all about you. Everyone looks forward to meeting you at Fall Philly in just a few days!


Jes-225x300Jes Negrón has worked in media in both the book and video game industries. Her biggest passion is elevating underrepresented voices, which is reflected in both her professional and personal projects. Jes currently works as Editor for Boyds Mills & Kane, where she acquires children’s literature. When she isn’t reading, writing, or editing, she is probably playing video games, binging TV shows, or singing karaoke. She has an unhealthy obsession with Xenomorphs and will fight you about the feminist themes in the Alien franchise.

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SCBWI BookStop: The Facts, by Laura Parnum

Bookstop LogoSome of you may have heard of SCBWI’s BookStop event, but maybe you’re not sure exactly what it is. BookStop is a promotional event that occurs every year in October and November. Members who have a book published in the current year, whether traditionally or independently, can create a BookStop page for their book, which will be hosted at in an online gallery through which the general public can browse and buy. BookStop pages can feature summaries, reviews, pictures, promotional videos, and of course, a link to purchase.

Do you like to buy or read children’s books?

Visit SCBWI BookStop at for an enormous selection of over 650 recently published books in categories such as Board/Novelty, Picture Books, Chapter Books, Graphic Novels, Leveled Readers, Nonfiction, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Resource Books. Find a new book for yourself, your school or library, or for the young people in your life. You can also simply enjoy browsing through all the BookStop pages and supporting your colleagues by adding positive or encouraging comments or adding “likes” to pages.

This year’s BookStop event runs from October 8 through December 3 and features books published traditionally or independently by SCBWI members during the 2019 calendar year. Why not get some holiday shopping out of the way?

Do you have a book that was published or will publish in 2019?

If you haven’t done so already, you can still purchase an SCBWI BookStop page any time during the BookStop period. SCBWI BookStop attracts not only members, but librarians, book store owners, parents, and publishers. For information on creating your own BookStop page, click here.

SCBWI will be marketing the BookStop gallery with paid advertising on Twitter and Facebook as well as posts on Instagram and LinkedIn through December 3. SCBWI’s social media platforms reach over 65,000 fans and supporters of children’s books. Last year’s BookStop gallery attracted over 55,000 consumers!

Having a BookStop page also makes it easy for you to do your own promotion during this time period. Simply boost your BookStop page link on all of your social media platforms for maximum exposure. Be sure to promote your page during popular shopping periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday when consumers are looking for great ideas for gift-giving.

Do you like to win prizes?

Throughout the BookStop period, SCBWI will be offering BookStop visitors the chance to win prizes! Every other Thursday, SCBWI holds a “Thursday Crawl” to encourage visitors to comment on individual BookStop pages for a chance to win one of twenty-five Visa gift cards. This incentive is open to both page presenters and page visitors. SCBWI promotes these contests on social media, so watch for those posts to find out how to enter. The final “Thursday Crawl” events will occur on November 7 and November 21.

Whether you’re a 2019 published author, a shopper, or a browser, be sure to visit BookStop at sometime before the gallery closes on December 3.

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