The Lasagna Writer’s Journey, by Kristen C. Strocchia

     Ever made a lasagna? Satisfyingly warm layers of noodles, sauce and assorted cheeses. But no matter how deep the dish, every layer is the same as the one before.

     As I’ve reflected on my writing journey to date, I see that it is much like the lasagna. The same essential advice on writing, revision and market that I heard at my first writer’s workshop keeps repeating in some form at each new event that I attend. Write often—everyday if possible. Just sit and keep writing, don’t try to revise each sentence as it comes out. Find great critique partners and mentor texts. Know your genre. Read more to write better. And endless tips on agents, querying, synopsis writing, pitching, et al.

     But the repetition doesn’t in any way diminish attending another conference or reading another book on craft. On the contrary, it enhances the experience. Because each time I hear the essentials reiterated in a new way or from a different perspective, I come to understand craft at a deeper level, which in turn adds depth to my writing. But also because I am in a different place. I can more fully see the intricate facets of craft advice. A more detailed understanding missed, at first, because of focusing on mastering the basics.

     Think of it like a favorite vacation spot. The first time you visit, something about it grabs your heart. When the memory draws you back for another visit, you see the same sights you loved, but learn more about them as well. You can also step back and see other things around them. Things that were always there, but which escaped attention when your carefully planned first visit itinerary held your focus.

     Eventually, if you keep visiting, you truly get to know this vacation destination. You can avoid long lines and traffic-filled routes, know who serves the best of each local specialty and how to dress to be most comfortable. You know where to park and how much to budget.

     You get the picture. The more you sit under accomplished writers and publishing professionals, the better you will navigate the writing journey.

     And perhaps I will have the opportunity to enjoy a piece of lasagna with you along the way.


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True or False? There’s always good news to share in EPA, by Virginia Law Manning

TRUE! In fact, here’s some more inspiring stories from our chapter!

In 2017, our talented authors and illustrators signed contracts of representation and for new book deals.

TRUE! Just ask EPA member Patricia Kreiser who is now represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency, LLC.

Or our former EPA illustrator coordinator Adrienne Wright whose debut non-fiction picture book HECTOR ON JUNE 16 will be published by Page Street Books in 2019.

Last year, EPA members sold stories and art to children’s magazines.

TRUE! In addition to illustrating a reader for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a picture book for Penguin Random House, David Bucs illustrated two articles for Highlights magazine. Holy Smokes, Batman!

Our members published titles embracing multicultural themes.

TRUE! Sherri Maret’s book THE CLOUD ARTIST: A CHOCTAW TALE (RoadRunner Press, 9/17) is a Multicultural Book Day book. Don’t forget to celebrate on January 27th!

The Cloud Artist (1)

Last year, EPA illustrators brought back the dinosaurs.

TRUE! In October, RoseVallee Creations published DINOSAURS LIVING IN MY HAIR 2 written by Jayne Rose-Vallee and illustrated by EPA’s own Anni Matsick! In addition, Lightswitch Learning published THE BOY WHO OPENED OUR EYES written by Elaine Sussman, illustrated by Anni Matsick (2/2017). 

Some book creators just don’t know when to quit.

TRUE! Adam Lehrhaupt had five books released in 2017. FIVE! including:

  • I DON’T DRAW, I COLOR! illustrated by Felicita Sala (Paula Wiseman Books, 3/17)

i don't draw i color.jpg

  • CHICKEN IN SCHOOL illustrated by Shahar Kober (HarperCollins, 6/17)

chicken in school

  • WORD PLAY illustrated by Jared Chapman (Arthur A. Levine Books, 7/17)


  • THIS IS A GOOD STORY illustrated by Magali Le Huche (Paula Wiseman Books, 9/17)


  • CHICKEN IN MITTENS illustrated by Shahar Kober (HarperCollins, 10/17)

chicken in mittens

As you can see, our members are full of fantastic surprises! I hope you’ll share news of your achievements with our team. Illustrators, please send   announcements to Virginia Law Manning at Authors can send their news to ARA Lindsay Bandy at






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Submission Call for Art and Poetry! by Lindsay Bandy

It’s that time again! #LoveMadeVisible is right around the corner, and I’m hoping to fill all 28 wintry February days with the warmth of YOUR artwork and poetry. Whether you’re a beginner or a published member, an illustrator for baby books or a poet for brooding teens, we want to enjoy and share your work! The theme is LOVE in any and every form – light or dark, happy or sad.

dr. seuss.jpg

A few things to remember:

elizabeth broun.jpg-Send submissions or questions to Lindsay at by January 30! (The earlier the better, but hey, you can’t rush art.)

-We won’t own copyrights to your work. If you’d like it to be removed when the month is over, just let Lindsay know.

-Wanna include a giveaway? You can give a random commenter a print, a book, or even a free e-mail critique. Lindsay will select the winners and pass their info on to you. Postage is your responsibility.

-You don’t have to be a published member to participate. This is a month for celebrating members wherever they are in their journey, and encouraging each other along the way. So be brave! We love you! And only nice comments are allowed.

art is love


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Dragon Reading, by Laura Marinakos

Hello, everyone! It’s crazy to think that fall is now behind us. Although the temperature has fluctuated greatly over the past few weeks, the bitter cold we are now experiencing is a foreshadowing, I believe, for many snowy days ahead.

Much like a book, I view seasons as a new chapter – an almost “mini beginning” to a fresh view of life and all its possibilities. As we continue into this new chapter of the winter season, I felt a new blog post was most appropriate.

As mentioned in my initial post back in June, I am a huge fan of picture books. In my house, you can pretty much find them in every room. Yes, we have that many! It’s important to me that my girls always have access to books, and really, who doesn’t love a good picture book? But more importantly, who doesn’t love one that screams READ ME ALOUD (figuratively, of course), while also being laugh-out-loud funny? Not all picture books fall into this category, however, and that’s okay! They don’t all need to. But boy do I love those that do!

In the past month, I have been lucky enough to read two picture books that meet these criteria, and what makes them even more fun, is that both are about dragons! Yep, that’s right – dragons! Dragons to me bring an element of quirky humor that you can’t find in just any story, and both stories hit the nail on the head in this regard.

The first of the two I want to highlight, and a personal favorite of mine by the way, is Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin.


dragons love tacos

This book shouts from the rooftops just how much dragons do, in fact, love tacos! Dragons love tiny tacos, gigantic tacos, crunchy tacos, and chicken tacos, really, any and all tacos you can think of. They even love taco parties! But here’s the thing – dragons despise spicy salsa. In fact, one bite of spicy salsa will turn dragons into a flaming fiery mess! Whatever you do, do not feed dragons tacos with spicy salsa, or you’ll be sorry! This hilarious tale is full of delightful humor with its rhythmic narrative and hilariously colorful illustrations, which truly capture the absurdity of it all. I promise that if you love laughing, and you love tacos, you will love this story – trust me!

The second book, another fantastic one, is There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann. Of course, upon reading this story, the title reminded me of another hilariously engaging tale There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and Klostermann does a fantastic job of mirroring this humor. If you are a fan of Simms Taback’s classic book, you will be a fan of this one!


In this story, the reader is introduced to a dragon that has quite the large appetite! So large, in fact, that he decides to not only swallow a knight, but a steed, a squire, a cook, a lady, a castle, and a moat! But don’t worry, the dragon soon realizes that enough is enough, and before you know it, the entire kingdom that is floating around in his belly comes up in one big BURP – or two. Either way, they all get out unscathed. Well, maybe not all of them.

Feel free to share some of your favorite picture books. I’m always looking for new ones to immerse myself in. In the meantime, enjoy some dragon reading!


Laura Marinakos joined SCBWI in February of 2017, and finds being part of such an incredible community both motivating and inspiring. She is a lover of children’s literature, writing, and coffee. Laura studied children’s literature while going for her Master’s at Penn State, and over the spring of 2017, took Susanna Leonard Hill’s course, “Making Picture Book Magic,” which she found to be a wonderful experience! Writing is not new to Laura, as she has spent the last ten years working in Marketing related jobs, where a primary part of her roles have included writing, editing, and proofreading. Laura is enjoying her new journey toward hopefully one day publishing a great picture book of her own. Right now, however, she is just having fun with the whole process! Laura lives in Eastern PA with her husband, two girls (ages 1 and 3), and stepson (age 16).

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How I Found the Courage to Write a Novel (And It Does Take Courage!), by Janet McLaughlin

Today, we’re so happy to host author Janet McLaughlin! Janet is the author of the Soul Sight Mysteries series, including Haunted Echo and Fireworks, and a longtime SCBWI member. She’s here today to lend you some inspiration and courage as you kick off a new writing year!

JML Author Photo 2.17.17.jpg

About fifteen years ago, I met a brilliant, German-born biochemist. At the time, I was editing and publishing three local magazines with my husband. I suppose the biochemist thought that if I could edit a magazine I could edit his book. When he told me it was about getting and staying healthy, I was intrigued. I said yes.

If a foreign-born biochemist asks you to edit a book, be forewarned — it’s going to take a long time. Not only is the terminology going to be challenging, so is the syntax. Sentences are structured differently in different languages. So, throughout the book, I was changing “Throw Mama from the train a kiss” to “Throw a kiss to Mama as you leave on the train,” figuratively speaking.

That experience, which took almost nine months to complete, gave me the courage to explore the possibility of writing my own book. But what kind of book did I want to write? To decide, I took an inventory of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

My strengths: I’d been an avid reader all my life, so I intrinsically understood the structure of a novel. I had a logical mind and loved mysteries. I’d been drawn to the paranormal all my adult life, as well. And, in my capacity as editor of our magazines, I had met and interviewed several psychics, or intuitives as they prefer to be called. I knew I wanted to write for children. I had direction.

My weaknesses: I’d never written anything longer than an essay or article. Did I have the talent to write a novel? Did I have the discipline to finish one? The answers to both were self-evident; I’d never know unless I tried.

Before I began, I searched the internet for help and advice. That’s when I stumbled upon the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. What a find! I’m not sure what would have happened to my writing career had I not had the help of the many people I met there, but I doubt my publisher, Absolute Love Publishing, would be waiting for me to finish the third book in my Soul Sight Mysteries series.

The journey hasn’t been an easy one, though. I could paper my walls with the rejections I got. The early ones were especially well deserved. In those days, despite what I was learning from the SCBWI conferences I was attending, I still sent my manuscripts out too early. But that’s okay. Every rejection was a lesson. Every rewrite was a mini-college course in writing.

I have had the privilege of being a member of two SCBWI critique groups over the past 15 years. The first group consisted of women who were mostly at my level — struggling newbies sharing the tidbits of knowledge we gleaned from our own experiences. It lasted years, but there was one woman who was the soul of the group. She passed away suddenly and the group, bereft of spirit, gradually fell apart.

After that, I joined an SCBWI online group. I hadn’t realized at the time that it consisted of women writing historical novels. It wasn’t the right fit for me, but I did meet a kindred soul, and we stayed in touch and critiqued each other’s work online. When we discovered we lived only an hour apart, we met mid-way for lunch and talked for hours. She belonged to a critique group that was breaking up and asked me if I wanted to join a new one that was forming. I’m so glad I said yes. This association with five talented, exceptional writers who don’t mind traveling an hour each way has helped me grow in my craft and has blessed me exponentially.

My online-friend-turned-critique-partner is Augusta Scattergood, author of the fabulous book Glory Be. She was still a struggling writer when I first met her. Knowing Augusta as well as I do, I know she’d say today that she’s still a struggling writer.

Which brings me to my point: When is enough, enough? How long do you continue to struggle, sending out queries, anxiously waiting for answers, knowing in your heart that even if you get an answer it will be a “thanks, but no thanks”? When is one more rejection one too many?

The answer to these questions may be in the asking of new ones. Why are you writing? Is it a chore or a joy? Yes, you’d like to see your name in print on the cover of a beautiful book jacket — I get that. But if it doesn’t happen or hasn’t happened yet, do you quit? Or do you keep on writing, getting better and better with each rewrite, each workshop, each critique (and if you can afford it, each professional edit)?

My advice is to never give up the creative activity of writing, whether you’re the only one who reads your work or it goes out to millions. The real joy is in the creating. If you have children or grandchildren who love to read, well, there’s no better audience than that. And if you’re fortunate enough to find an agent or publisher who “gets” your work, then you can dream about the other children who read your work and get a few hours of freedom from the world of technology. Better still, you might even have a positive impact on a child’s life. Is there any better reason for staying the course? I don’t think so. Do you?

Janet McLaughlin is the author of the Soul Sight Mysteries series, including Haunted Echo and Fireworks. She has been involved in the communication field most of her adult life as a writer, editor, and teacher. Her love of mysteries and the mystical are evident in her novels. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Florida Writers Association. She lives in Florida with her husband, Tom, and along with her writing, enjoys playing tennis, walking, traveling, and meeting people.

You can reach Janet on Facebook and Twitter

Image result for haunted echo book cover  Fireworks-front-cover.png

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2018: A New Beginning by Diane Hanington

2018 (1)
As the New Year dawns I begin to think about my writing goals and what I would like to achieve. It’s always a good time, an opportune time, to reflect on the year past and look forward to the New Year, a clean slate so to speak. I think back on my writing accomplishments, how small they may be, and hope to do better. I remember my frustrations and what I wished for, what new stories I wrote and the old stories that still need finishing or that need many more rewrites. All I can do now is to start fresh and see what this New Year brings. Many of you may feel frustrations. Maybe you are still working on unfinished works that you had promised yourself they would be complete by now.
I want to start this New Year off with the following goals and stay focused in trying to attain them. Here is what I will strive towards:
1)     Completing unfinished stories. I have a request from an agent to see one of my middle grade manuscripts when it’s complete so my goal is to finish it. This in itself should be enough to spur me on but I haven’t completed it because I have a writer’s block with the middle of the story. How have I tried to get past this?  I have written out the general plot, but there are a few areas I haven’t tied up yet. I am reading articles in books and magazines about world building, as my story is a fantasy. On the negative side I spend a lot of time worrying about making my world different enough from what’s already out there that I freeze up trying to write it.
So this year I will attempt to quiet my mind and just write it and see what comes out of that. I will remind myself that I can always change it, always rewrite parts that may seem too common. I will write out a timeline for the plot. I will not write in chapter sequence if a certain chapter stumps me. I will create a map of my fantasy world. I will continue to read articles about world building and try the suggestions noted. I will just write.
2)     I will persist. I will allow my doubts to surface and talk to me but then I will send them away. I will listen to encouraging songs such as “Unwritten’ or ‘The Climb”. I will reread my finished stories and be proud of those and know that I have it in me to write good stories. I will not let frustration stop me in my tracks.
3)     I must be patient. This business of writing takes patience. Patience in writing a story, patience with the many rewrites it takes to make the story as good as it can be before submitting, and patience in waiting for an agent or editor to get back to you once you
have submitted to them. To be patient with writing and rewriting a story, I must know and acknowledge that it takes time to create something good. Ideas are out there to be tapped into. I think the best way for me to have patience while waiting to hear back after a submission is to be busy doing something else. Write a new story or finish an old one. Prepare for other submissions. Research. Read. Clean my house. Whatever will distract me from waiting for that email or phone call.
4)     Continue to learn the craft and further develop my writing skills. I have attended many conferences and listened to a few webinars so far. But I would like to increase my participation in both of these, including attending workshops. I know I still have much to learn and each event I participate in teaches me and assists me in growing the writer within me.
This also includes reading magazine articles, website articles and blogs. The problem I have is that there is so much out there to read online that it would take hours each day to read everything. I need to pick specific websites to concentrate my time on, maybe choose three or four different sites each week to stay updated on so that in a month I can cover about twelve. That way I won’t become overwhelmed.
5)     To become more active in social media. This is an area I really fall short on. One reason being I’m not tech savvy. This appears to be an important element as you become published and so I realize that I must spend time learning and participating in this. Since I am not yet published I do have the time to put forth an effort in creating a website, learning Twitter, and being more active on Facebook. I’ll start with this.
6)     And for my last goal for the New Year (although I may add more during the year) is to have faith. Faith in my abilities, faith in my passion for writing, faith in the process, faith in the critiques I receive, and faith in the dream. This dream of writing children’s books was put in me for a reason. And I must believe in it, even when discouragement hits and tells me to stop and try another career because nothing is happening here. I must resurrect the dream and build it back up. I must continue to work hard, rewrite gobs of times, submit more and hope always. I must chase this dream and not let up.

Do you have goals for the upcoming year? Are you dealing with frustration and disappointment? What are your tricks to keep going?

Best Wishes for a Prosperous New Year to all the writers out there!

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It’s Been A Great Year for EPA Illustrators! by Virginia Law Manning

As the year comes to a close, let’s take some time to celebrate our members’ accomplishments! Illustrators, I apologize if I missed your news, and I definitely don’t want to do it again, so please send your future illustrator related announcements to Virginia Law Manning, EPA Illustrator Coordinator, at  vl_law@yahoo. Thank you!

Congratulations to Eastern PA illustrators who had new books on the shelves this year, including:

My Special Word, by Dwight Smith with our EPA Co-RA Alison Green Myers, and illustrated by EPA logo-contest-winner Beth Bogert! We’ll be hearing more about this amazing book on the blog soon!

Boyds Mills Press published THE SECRET LIFE OF THE RED FOX by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by EPA member Kate Garchinsky, (3/2017).RED FOX_CVRGB.jpg
Purple House Press published “HI PIZZA, MAN!” written by Virginia Walter, illustrated by EPA member Ponder Goembel. (August 1, 2017)
pizza man
Ripple Grove Press published GRANDMOTHER THORN written by new EPA member Kate Howes, illustrated by Rebecca Hahn (8/2017).
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Little, Brown Books for Young Readers published READ THE BOOK, LEMMINGS! written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by EPA member Zachariah OHora (11/2017).
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Disney-Hyperion published THE TEACHER’S PET by Anica Mrose Rissi and illustrated by EPA member Zachariah OHora (6/2017).
 Image result for the teachers pet
Roaring Brook Press published WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? written by Scott Menchin, illustrated by EPA member Matt Phelan, (5/2017).
 Image result for what are you waiting for phelan
Balzer + Bray  published I LOVE YOU LIKE A PIG by Greg Pizzoli, (9/2017).
 i love you like a pig
*Disney-Hyperion published THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Greg Pizzoli, (9/2017).
12 days
Viking Books for Young Readers published THE QUEST FOR Z: THE TRUE STORY OF EXPLORER PERCY FAWCETT AND A LOST CITY IN THE AMAZON by Greg Pizzoli(6/2017)
Image result for the quest for z
Dial published SARABELLA’S THINKING CAP by Judy Schachner, (9/2017).
Image result for sarabellas thinking cap
Bloomsbury Childrens published THE ADVENTURES OF CAVEBOY (8/2017) and CAVEBOY IS A HIT! (12/2017) written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by EPA member Eric Wight. (August 29, 2017)
Image result for the adventures of caveboy  Image result for the adventures of caveboy
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books published THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK written by Julie Segal-Walters, illustrated by EPA member Brian Biggs (11/2017).
Image result for this is not a normal animal book
*Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) published Lauren Castillo’s A BOY, A MOUSE, AND A SPIDER: THE STORY OF E.B. WHITE written by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by EPA member Lauren Castillo, (10/2017).

Stay tuned for more good news!!!

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