Come to the Next Buck’s County Meet & Greet on April 4th! by Virginia Law Manning

Bucks County Meet & Greet–Free Event for SCBWI Members!

EPA member Anita Nolan and I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday April 4th from 9:30 to 11:30 AM at the Artists of Yardley, 949 Mirror Lake Road, Yardley, PA 19067. We’ll discuss the upcoming EPA SCBWI Pocono Retreat and other spring/summer conferences and children’s book events. In addition, since many authors and illustrators struggle with daily distractions that take us away from our creative time and make it difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment, at this meeting we’ll write individual plans to carve out an hour or more each day to work on our writing or art. My father had a motto, “Will One Thing.” Let’s each pick one goal to make our priority to focus on between the April 4th and the June meeting. We’ll end the session with a serious group pinky promise to stick to our plans!

***Please RSVP if you plan to join us,


(Artists of Yardley Janney House – image courtesy

If you cannot attend the meeting but would like to officially verbalize a goal, you can do so on the ‘SCBWI EPA Bucks County Meet & Greets’ group Facebook page if you are a member. If you’d like to become a member, please send me a message on Facebook or email me.

I hope we’ll see you there!


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A Café Chat with Illustrator and Author Kelly Light, by Lori Ann Palma

As March slowly comes to an end and April begins, we grow closer to this year’s Pocono Retreat! Today, as part of our interview series with our fabulous faculty, I chat with Kelly Light.

kelly-128x150Kelly Light lives in New York but grew up down the shore in New Jersey surrounded by giant pink dinosaurs, cotton candy colors, and Skee-Ball sounds. She was schooled on Saturday-morning cartoons and Sunday funny pages. She picked up a pencil, started drawing, and never stopped. Kelly is the author/Illustrator of the Louise series. Louise Loves Art (Fall 2014) and Louise and AndieThe Art of Friendship (Spring 2016) are the first two books in the series. Kelly has also illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and The Quirks series by Erin Soderberg.

Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for joining us at our virtual café. We always like to offer a treat before we start, so what’s your beverage of choice?

I would love a cappuccino, thank you very much!

Louise Loves Art, your first published picture book as author and illustrator, celebrates the idea that there’s an artist inside all of us. How did you come up with Louise as a character and this message?

louise loves artI had been trying to get published for about six years and felt like I was spinning my wheels. One day, I was just doodling. I was thinking about how much my daughter had grown to love art and about the way I was when I was a seven. I just drew her and put her up on my blog and immediately, people liked her. I then started drawing her a lot and put her in my portfolio and took her off to SCBWI LA in 2011. Again, she got a great response. I started to think about her and who she was and wrote down a few lines into my writing notebook. “I love art, it’s my imagination on the outside.” That line and one of the drawings went on a postcard and was mailed in Spring 2012. The very next day, my phone rang all day long, my email inbox filled up. So many editors and art directors wanted to talk to me about this character.

I still scratch my head over it.

Louise developed more after I signed with Balzer and Bray to make Louise Loves Art.  I wanted her passion for art to be infectious. Her enthusiasm for drawing and creating was boundless but tempered by one thing, her love for her little brother. All artists need to snap out of their own heads sometimes and her little brother just wanted some attention.

It was all very organic and magical the year I made that book.

That does sound magical! Did illustrating books by other authors assist in preparing you to write your own book? How did the opportunity come about?

I illustrated early readers and chapter books before writing Louise. Yes, it helped a lot. I read the manuscript and images immediately start to appear in my brain. Creating images to correspond to text involves endless possibilities and developing the ability to choose just the right visual for just the right moment in the story.

It was an invaluable experience to work through another author’s books before writing my own.

The chapter books that I illustrated came about from going to SCBWI conferences for years and putting out my portfolio and postcards. I learned that art directors had my cards tacked to the walls in many publishing houses. They had hung there sometimes, for years. Little did I know, I was already on many art directors’ radar. I thought I was getting nowhere and I was actually taking steps towards getting work in children’s publishing.

Louise is determined to create a masterpiece in Louise Loves Art. Did you share her aspirations when you were her age, or did your artistic interest appear later in life?

My earliest memories of drawing are from about 4. I was obsessed with cartoons. I would lie on my tummy in front of the TV and draw Andy Panda, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and on Sundays, Snoopy from the Sunday funnies. I always knew I would be an artist. It’s who I am.

Louise was also made into a doll recently! What was it like seeing (and squeezing) her for the first time?

Oh Merry Makers did the best job on the Louise doll! I used to work in animation and cartoon licensing. In those fields, there is a term “off model”—that is when you get the character wrong. The features and proportions are off.

When they sent me the prototype, I assumed it would be off model, because it was the first try. I opened the box and was knocked over! They had captured Louise perfectly. Right down to her crooked smile!! The clothes! The sneakers! Sigh.

It is a great feeling to have a doll of my character. I have one that travels to book events with me. Her hair has gotten messed a bit and she looks even more like the character.

You’ve illustrated for middle grade novels, including Elvis and the Underdogs, and The Quirks: Welcome to Normal. How different is the process of collaborating with an author versus writing and illustrating your own books?

The Quirks was the first book I collaborated on. I loved those characters so much. The difference between the two experiences is that a map of another world is being given to you by another author. The rules are already written.

When acting as both the author and illustrator, I have to create the world and write the rules and make the map.

The different experiences are, hmmmm…kinda like if someone hands you a 1000 piece puzzle in a box. You can follow the picture on the lid when just the illustrator.

But if you are writing and illustrating…. you have to make the box, create the picture on the lid, cut the pieces up, mix them all up and put them all back together.

You are the very first artist chosen to be an International Ambassador of Creativity for The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. Can you tell us about the Center and your role with them?

I am a huge Chuck Jones fan. When I was a kid, I would watch the credits and title cards on all of the cartoons and memorize names like Walter Lanz, Bob McKimson, Tex Avery, Frank Hanna and Joseph Barbera and Chuck Jones. It just so happened that most of the Looney Tunes that I loved were made by Chuck Jones.

Years later, in my twenties, I worked for the Warner Bros Stores as a character artist and I got to meet Mr. Jones at an event. I told him how much I loved drawing his characters for my job. He sat me down and talked to me about creating my own characters.

I have since found out that Chuck Jones took time with a lot of young artists and visited schools to teach and encourage.

I learned about the Chuck Jones Center and all of the great work they do inspiring new artists and the artist in everyone to create. The spirit of creativity and the encouragement of expressing what is in ourselves is their focus. It is the torch that Chuck passed on that has been carried so well by his family. I followed the center online and got to know Craig Kausen, chairman of the Center and Chuck Jones’s grandson.

When I got published with Louise Loves Art, I sent Craig a message and got invited to come out and do a workshop with kids out at the Center. When it was finished, I was asked to be an ambassador.

It is my honor and privilege to tell people about it and the wonderful work that they do. They do outreach to schools with to art programs and work with senior citizens in retirement homes and hospitals to help spur creativity and wellness. I love that place.

Plus—it is filled with Chuck Jones’s original artwork!!! They are a non-profit and are having their Red Dot auction fund raiser soon! Check them out:

louise and andiePrior to publishing, you had a full career drawing cartoon characters for licensed merchandise. Did this fast-paced environment teach you how to juggle your workload now?

For sure! I would have to fill a wall with concept drawings in one day. I would do the concepts, the sketches and maybe the clean line art, but not the finished art. It was all brain storming.

Working as a production artist forces your imagination into assembly line mode. All ideas are produced onto paper and shown. There is no time to over think. If you pump out a ton of images, there is a good chance that one will be a gem. The process, I imagine is like working in an advertising agency. Creating a singular image that has the strongest impact possible.

I developed the ability to brain storm on demand and get into the “zone” that is—when the imagination is firing on all cylinders. The tight turn around’s kept me on my toes.

Juggling work with books is harder. There is a lot of hurry up and wait. The deadlines are further away and when making books, there is also marketing, promotion, online presence and school and library visits.

But the end result of connecting my OWN characters with kids—makes this the ultimate best job ever.

Every artist and writer experiences large amounts of rejection alongside moments of encouragement. When you were working towards your first contract, how did you tune out the rejection and focus on the encouragement?

I think if you want to make children’s books, you have to reach deep inside and hang on to the belief in yourself, or no one else will believe in you. Rejection is part of the process. It makes you take a good, long, hard look at your work—at the market place—at the industry… and it can narrow your focus to see more clearly, just where you fit in.

Through rejection, you can educate yourself on the tastes of art directors, of an imprint or editor and on where your work just has to get better.

I don’t think you should tune out the rejection. I think you should use it. I think it can fuel your drive to prove someone wrong, to prove you are ready. To keep you moving forward. To create new work, better work and just keep leveling up.

That being said, I benefited from a lot of encouragement from more experiences authors, illustrators and some amazing art directors. I would make connections with them at conferences and a few would reach out to me on my journey to let me know that they thought I was making great new work or to help with finding an agent or who to submit my work to.

I always tried to refocus after some negative feedback and just pick up the pencil again and keep drawing through the rejection. New work is everything. Plus, rejection does not ever stop. Not even after you are published. You always have to come up with the next book idea and get the next job.

That’s this life. So buckle up.

If you could share one piece of advice to aspiring illustrators, what would it be?

Never apologize for your work. Never show your portfolio and apologize, over explain or speak of what is missing or what you wish you had done. If you are showing it, support it and believe in your work and yourself. Project that you have your act together even when your insides feel like jello.

Cultivate “owning” the idea that you have something to say in this world of children’s books that is uniquely you and it will find a place on the book shelves.

Thank you so much, Kelly! We know you’ll have great feedback to share with attendees at the Pocono Retreat!

To read more about Kelly, visit her website at




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A Cafe Chat with Executive Art Director, Designer, and Illustrator Giuseppe Castellano, by Lindsay Bandy

Cafe Chat Cup

IDA Design

It’s Pocono Retreat Interview Season! Today we have our first faculty interview of 2017 with Giuseppe Castellano – an award-winning Designer, Illustrator, and Executive Art Director at Penguin Random House. Giuseppe also offers personal guidance for illustrators through classes and critiques via The Illustration Department. You can catch his many helpful #ArtTips by following him on Twitter @PinoCastellano. And here he is!


LB: Hi there Giuseppe, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! We’re so excited to have you as part of the faculty for our upcoming Pocono Retreat. As we settle into our comfy booth, can we offer you a drink?

GC: Bourbon. Neat. Wait, what time is it? Ok, I’ll have a black coffee in a white mug. Coffee always tastes better in white mugs.


LB: Black coffee in a white mug coming right up….and if you want it Kentucky-style, we can stir that bourbon right in.  It’s five o’clock somewhere.


So, can you tell us the last book you read that made you:

british poetryLaugh out loud?

GC: Well, that’s a tough one. I write my own children’s books in rhyme. So, I read classic British poetry for research: Keats, Tennyson, Brontë. None of these folks were known for their humor.

interaction of colorGo all warm and fuzzy?

True story: I’m reading Josef Albers Interaction of Color. It’s a must-have for illustrators. The reverent way in which he discusses color reminds us of its beauty and mystery.

Cry (or at least sniffle)?

It’s just allergies . . .

LB: As an art director, I’m sure you see tons of gorgeous portfolios. So, imagine for a minute you are waltzing (literally or figuratively – your choice) through a portfolio display when suddenly, a beam of light rests upon one. Ooh, is that harp music? A choir of adorable children is singing! What makes this portfolio stand out above the rest?


GC: It’s not quite an epiphanic experience. And, I don’t really see them as “standing out”. Portfolios keep my attention when the art is well-executed and the decisions made with concept, color, composition and character design are good ones. When I get a sense that you are creating art that is important to you—as opposed to art that feels uninformed or highly derivative—my interest is piqued.

LB: What’s one thing picture book authors can do to make their illustrator’s job easier?

GC: Give them room. Room to experiment. Room to provide subtext. Room to interpret your world, and enjoy the necessary act of discovery when illustrating your text.

LB: Through The Illustration Department, you offer various classes and portfolio critique opportunities for illustrators. I was really impressed by the online portfolio showcase and the glowing testimonials of your students. For example:

Giuseppe gave the most thoughtful and useful critique I’ve ever received. I came away with a crystal clear sense of what was working for me and what wasn’t, how to move forward to create work that is true to my voice and point of view, and where I can go from here. —SF

What’s your favorite part of educating aspiring illustrators?

GC: The Showcase is a point of pride for us at the Illustration Department. For agents, editors, art directors, and other art buyers, it’s a one-stop shop of talent. For me, it’s a reminder of the hard work and growth we’ve seen with our alumni. Many of them have gone on to sign with agents, get book deals, and perhaps most importantly: see a less arduous, more creatively fulfilling, path on their journey as illustrators. Favorite part? Hearing them say, “This really helped.”

LB: What are you seeing too much of right now, and what would you like to see MORE of in the future?

file000459925508.jpgGC: I see too much of this, all the time: Illustrators create art they think art directors will like. They create work for the market, instead of for themselves. First, the “market” isn’t a thing with ideas or interests. The market is too big, and too diverse, and far too fickle for anyone to truly know what to create for it. So what are we to do, as illustrators? Well, there are constants that have always and will always navigate the turbulent sea that is the market: honesty and excellence. I want to see more illustrators create excellent work that comes from a place of honesty.

LB: Okay, Giuseppe, it is now time for rapid-fire favorites. Take one last sip of that coffee and tell us your favorite…

Color combination

Gray and Gray (they differ in value and temperature)

 TV Show

I watch TV, but I don’t have a favorite show.


Whichever one helps people.

Place to read

The R Train

 Books growing up

As a kid, I didn’t read books for fun. I read video game booklets for my original Nintendo. I read Nintendo Power. I read some Garfield comics. I had to become an adult before I started reading children’s books

.  Garfield  Vacation spot

My sister-in-law’s lake house in the Catskills—not too far from Highlights!

LB: Thanks so much for taking the time to join us today, Giuseppe! We look forward to learning more from you at our 2017 Pocono Retreat!

GC: Thank you for inviting me. This was good coffee. I’m looking forward to the Retreat!

So are we! And if you didn’t register yet, just hop on over to the registration page!


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Writerly Advice—Get Involved, by Eva Polites


Writing is solitary, and after a while, loneliness and doubt may set in and lead to a slump. To overcome this obstacle, I recommend joining a writing group such as our very own SCBWI. As a member, you can get as involved as you want by attending workshops, conferences, volunteering, joining a critique group, or simply staying current via the blogs and membership magazine.

Critique Groups
Joining a critique group has many benefits, most of which I did not realize before I joined. As a member of a local critique group, I have found a group of writers that I can bounce ideas off of. So even if I am not writing, I am at least reading, providing feedback, and supporting another writer. One aspect of joining a group that I did not expect was how much I would learn about the craft of writing by reading and commenting on the drafts of my fellow writers. What was especially helpful was to be an observer of the drafting and revision process of other writers. So often we, as readers, are oblivious to the effort that goes into a finished product. As critique partners, we push each other to revise, revise, revise. More than anything, joining a critique group has provided me with a social outlet–a network of friends who have the same interests, the same doubts, and the same struggles as I do.

Writer Workshops
Beyond joining a critique group, there are workshops where writers can improve and hone their craft. The regional and national arms of SCBWI offer these throughout the year and by being a member, writers are kept informed of the opportunities. These programs are either stand-alone classes held by local groups or part of a regional/national conference. These workshops range in price, and information is readily available on the blogs.

Online Courses
A number of colleges and universities offer free or reduced online courses and workshops. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are easily accessible and offer courses appealing to and geared to both beginning and experienced writers. For two years in a row, I have signed up for and completed the MOOC offered by The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. By completing the online assignments and paying a small fee, I earned certificates for How Writers Write Fiction 2015 and How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women. What is remarkable about this particular program is that I could have choose to participate for free—the fee only applied because I wanted the formal certificate.

I found the online courses to be a valuable experience. I got to look at my writing through the lens of a student of fiction writing. The two MOOCs I signed up for offered lectures, assignments, and opportunities for peer generated feedback. Each week’s lesson covered a specific area of craft, provided reading material, and writing assignments. The best part of the courses was that I got to practice different writing techniques.

Writing is not about just putting words on paper. Writing is about honing our craft and one of the easiest ways to do that is to reach out to the many different writing communities and get involved.



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A Newb Hoping To Give a Little/Get a Little (Advice, I Mean), by Joanne Vencius


I’m a newb (a newbie).

I’m not new to writing—I have a 20-year career in corporate marketing communications, but the idea of me writing for children is only a little over a year old. One night in my sleep, I dreamt up a fairy tale. I was so excited about it the next morning that I told my husband and my oldest son all about it. My son said, “Mom, that sounds really good.” (And I replied, “I KNOW!”)

Now, all I have left to learn about being a published writer of children’s literature is, well, everything. So I can’t offer any of you advice on that, but I hope I can offer some motivational advice on writing.

  1. Be patient. Not every undertaking is meant to produce a big outcome—some projects are just stepping stones. I knew decades ago that one day I would write about my life experiences, but I didn’t know what about my life was so interesting that anyone would care to read about it. So I was patient. One day, three or four years ago, I was talking with a close relative about some of my adventures, and suddenly I realized what I was going to write. Before I was half-way through writing it, I realized that project was just a precursor—it wasn’t going to turn into something big. It was just there for me to get my feet wet, so I could gain confidence in my talent from the kind feedback of my family and friends.
  1. Be inspired. Don’t try to muscle out writer’s block. If you try to force thoughts from your head onto paper or the computer screen, the results won’t be genuine. Time and time again I have faced a work deadline but felt uninspired, so I chose to hold off from writing. Then when I’d finally felt inspired, it seemed as if the words had floated down out of the air and landed in an order that was destined to become a great product. That’s true inspiration, and it’s worth the wait.
  1. Be resourceful.Regardless of your goals: in order to achieve success, find the experts and ask for advice or feedback. Last summer I unexpectedly finished writing a poem about bonding with my infant sons that I had started 10 years prior. (See what I mean about being patient and inspired?) When I decided to pursue the goal of having the poem published as a picture book, I thought about the authors who had written the standout books I read to my sons when they were infants. I recalled one of my favorites, looked up the author and found her contact information, sent her an email to thank her for being an inspiration to me, and I asked her for advice. Graciously, she wrote back to me in just a few days, and guess what she told me? Her advice was to join SCBWI!

So here I am: an SCBWI member for about a month, a writing newb with just one inspirational poem and a fairy tale in the works. I’m grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received from a few SCBWI members, and I’m open to everyone’s advice and feedback.

Thank you for being part of my journey!

Joanne has achieved a fulfilling 20-plus-year career as a corporate marketing communications writer. It has only been recently that she’s endeavored to become a writer of children’s literature. In 2016, she checked off the bucket-list item “write memoir” when she self-published Sometimes Heaven Whispers Through a Megaphone; Sometimes Heaven Nudges Us With a Catapult. It is a collection of short inspirational stories based on her personal experiences. Joanne lives in South Jersey with her husband, two sons and dog, Rosie. She also enjoys gardening, bird watching and arts.

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BY THE NUMBERS with Adrienne, Lindsay, Alison, and Kim

This year is the 25th Anniversary of our Pocono Retreat. We thought what better way to celebrate this milestone than by the numbers! Just look at some of the numbers we found about our region:

On the first night of the retreat we ask that our members introduce themselves BY THE NUMBERS. You can introduce a work-in-progress or give us numerical facts about your writing/illustration career. We thought you might like a few examples. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is your advisory team BY THE NUMBERS.


Adrienne Wright, Illustrator Coordinator

As Neil Young said in Powderfinger“…numbers add up to nothin’…” although I prefer the Cowboy Junkies cover, but here goes:


1 incident

100s of children killed

40 years later

0 books written for children about the incident

1 iconic photograph of

1 child who was the first to be shot inspired me to write and illustrate the story

1 submission to SCBWI WOOP award led to

1 WOOP win! Gave me the courage to revise and submit and revise and submit to

12 agents and editors for

12 critiques at various events including

3 Pocono retreats over the past

3 years. I believe that

2017 will be the

1 when someone says yes.

It just takes 1!



Lindsay Bandy, Assistant Regional Advisor and Co-Blog Master

I’m super excited for the Pocono Retreat this year – seeing faraway friends, meeting new writers and illustrators, learning from our fab staff, and gaining insight and inspiration for my current Work-In-Progress. The theme of NUMBERS is perfect for me right now, because my working title happens to be: THREE.

If my engineer of a dad is reading this, he’s surely laughing that his math phobic daughter is choosing to work with numbers. Any other Math Phobes out there? I may actually be better with numbers than I am with maps, but that’s another story. Anyway, I’m working with a small number – 3, which I think I can handle. The story is based on the Roman/Greek myths of the 3 Sisters of Fate, and it takes place in 3 different time periods.

Aside from the 3 Sisters, there are 3 recurring characters: 1 Boy, 1 Girl, and 1 Cat, who ONCE upon a time, disobeyed these fearsome 3 Sisters. They were given 3 punishments in 3 different lives/times: (In case you thought I could only count to three, look below to see that I also work with elevens!)




If these 3 can beat the Fates at their own game, they just might get to live happily ever after….

I currently have 21 documents in my story folder, including ragtag drafts, character development, and files sent to friends for critique. I tried the book in 1st person and 3rd person, and it’s now a mix of the 2. And there’s poetry!

I’ve been working on it for 7 months.

I’ve changed my female main character’s name 4 times.

And it’s driven me semi-crazy at least 7 times. Maybe more!

But who’s counting?!


 Alison Green Myers, Co-Regional Advisor

This is the fastest draft to revision toHey, I think I might actually like this thing?” feeling I have ever had about a novel. (Don’t worry, the crippling self-doubt isn’t too far behind.)

It’s my 7th completed novel.

The first draft had 37,091 words.

The second major revision has 54,961 words. (I’ll let you know after the 100th revision.)

It takes place over 1 summer

where a group of 4 girls

cross over 2,000 miles together,

while working on a traveling carnival.

It’s their final summer together (the 5th that they traveled in all.)

The word egg appears 52 times in the novel. More than “love” or “family”, which are the major themes of the story.

I wrote 9 versions of the first 500 words for an editor/agent round table at mid-winter SCBWI in February 2017. I really like the 1 that I kept.

This story feels like 1 long apology letter to the characters in the pages because they were the real characters that I traveled on a carnival with 20+ years ago. I cut 1 beloved character from this version of the novel and sent another 1 to the hospital. I love the real people who inspired this novel more than any number I could copy onto this page.

See you soon at Pocono 2017!

Can’t wait to celebrate 25 years with all of you!


 Kim Briggs, Co-Regional Advisor

November 24, 2010, the night before Thanksgiving, husband bought 1 laptop, and I began writing Starr Fall, my young adult series.


500,000 words later 1 draft of the story complete.

Broke into 3 books.

Edited Starr Fall: Book One 1 time before sending to 8 agents.

0 Requests.


By Fall 2011, switched tense of Starr Fall from past to present.

Edited new draft 1 time before sending to 10 agents (many repeats of 1st round).

0 Requests.


Wrote New Book with werewolves and magic.

Edited draft 2 times before submitting to 15 agents (many repeats of 1st & 2nd round).

0 Requests.


Joined SCBWI October 2011.

Attended NYC SCBWI 2012.

1100 attendees.

1st Writing Conference.

Met 1 Alison Green Myers.

Formed 1 Critique Group meeting every 2 weeks for 2 years.


Received 1st Writing Scholarship and attended 1st Highlights Foundation Workshop with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson.

Told Werewolf and Magic Book needed to be 3 Books.

Put 1 Werewolf and Magic book in drawer.


Returned to Starr Fall.


Submitted again.

0 Requests but positive feedback.



Discovered category called New Adult.

Wrote And Then He with intention to self-pub.

Attended Unicorn Writing Conference.

1st time formal critiques with 2 agents.

Received 1 Scholarship to attend Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Retreat.

Met 1 Donna Boock. (Added her to our 1 Critique Group.)

Met 1: Isabel Bandeira, Adrienne Wright, Leslie Helakoski, Kathryn Erskine, Marilyn Lorenz, Wendy Greenley, Chrissa Pederson, Ellen Ramsey, Reid Bramlett, Kristen Strocchia, Kit Grindstaff, Gayle Krause, Wes Loder…


Attended Eastern PA SCBWI Fall Philly.

1st Writing Conference that I volunteered to help facilitate.

2014 Winter. Became Assistant Regional Advisor of Eastern PA SCBWI.

2014 Summer. Became Co-Regional Advisor of Eastern PA SCBWI.



Met every 2 weeks with critique group, now called INKSisters.

Attended free writing craft sessions,

Highlights Foundation Workshops and Unworkshops,

read DOZENS of craft books and young adult novels,

and wrote all the time.

Did not sleep or clean.

Ate chocolate.

Drank chai.


Rewrote beginning of Starr Fall 23 times.

Edited Starr Fall at least 10 times.

Submitted to targeted agents only.

Received FULL Manuscript Requests.

Wrote Starr Lost (Book Two) in 1 month.


Rewrote and edited And Then He upwards of 10 times.

Pubbed And Then He: A Psychological Thriller, October 15, 2015

(My Birthday. Ate 1 cake.)


Wrote new New Adult: Avalanche in 2 weeks.

Put in drawer.


December 26, 2015 received 1 Offer of Publication from Inkspell Publishing.

January 5, 2016, 1 signed contract for Starr Fall series.


Rewrote and edited Starr Fall with 1 Vicky Burkholder 3 times.

Rewrote Starr Lost (Book Two) in 1 month. (Edited multiple times)

Wrote Starr Gone (Book Three) in 5 months. (Edited multiple times)

Edited Starr Lost with 1 Vicky Burholder 3 times.

Edited Starr Gone with 1 Vicky Burkholder 3 times.

Nov. 4, 2016 Starr Fall: Book One released.

Jan. 6, 2017 Starr Lost: Book Two released.

February 14, 2017: Avalanche released as a novella with Valentine Kisses: A Kiss to Last a Lifetime. 6 Authors contributed to the anthology with 6 sweet and sizzling romances.

(Coming soon… June 2, 2017 Starr Gone: Book Three.)


Currently working on the Werewolf and Magic book turned Celtic Mythology retelling with Original Mythology of werewolf.

5 beginnings attempted by

3 different characters,

3 POVs,

and 2 tenses.


# of Dark Chocolate Bars consumed per year? 36 (give or take)

# of rooms cleaned since I began writing? 0

# of friends, contacts, and opportunities since joining SCBWI? Googolplex (I love that word!)


Hope our introductions got your creative minds flowing.

We can’t wait to hear your BY THE NUMBERS intros at the

2017 Pocono Mountain Retreat.

Click here to register now.



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Second Career Writer, Part 2: Revising Life, by Kristen C. Strocchia


While my Time Ferrets Anonymous post championed making the most of every moment for moving a writing career forward, there’s something to be said for revising life. While it’s generally a New Year tradition to make positive changes, why not consider whether it’s possible to make room for more substantial writing time today?


2. To reconsider and change or modify:

Definition courtesy of:

Freelance editor Harold Underdown defines revision as re-envisioning what is. When we need to find more money in our budgets, we often need to examine our current spending habits to see what can be changed. For example, a $5 specialty coffee a day habit is a $1,825 coffee habit per year. But at $5 a pop it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And so it is with time.

Look at what some daily habits cost over the course of a year:

  • The 5 minutes it takes to stop and get that specialty coffee: 1,825 minutes (a.k.a. 30.4 hours; OR 1.3 days)
  • Hitting snooze for 15 minutes: 5,475 minutes (a.k.a. 91.25 hours; OR 3.8 days )
  • Playing Candy Crush—or some other game app—for 30 minutes: 10, 950 minutes (a.k.a. 182.5 hours; OR 7.6 days)
  • Checking social media for 30 minutes…which turns into a whole hour: 21,900 minutes (a.k.a. 365 hours; OR 15.2 days)

All totaled, that’s 27.9 twenty-four hour days—almost the whole month of February (provided you don’t sleep)! Not to mention how much time is lost by not keeping my pen moving with my actual writing time. (Time may vary.)

That’s not to say that these things should never be done, but they’re worth re-envisioning if you’re looking for more writing time in life. Bonus points if you can string these 10, 15, 30 and 60-minute time finds into one almost 2-hour long session for the day.

There are bigger schedule changes that can be made to prioritize this second career too. Can you take a weekend for a workshop? What about trading the coffee money  (and time) to make it happen? The life revision possibilities are endless, and personal to your actual life circumstance.

Bottom line? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

What life revisions can you think of?



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Second Career Writer, Part 1: Time Ferrets Anonymous, by Kristen C. Strocchia


Overloaded? Overwhelmed? Voices screaming inside your head demanding to be written while actual voices scream outside your head demanding to be taken care of?

I know the feeling.

By summer, I fancy myself a full time writer, but the other ten months of the year? Well let’s just say, when writing isn’t your first career, finding the time to nurture idea seeds can be like finding matching socks in your preteen’s room. Enter Time Ferrets Anonymous.

ferret something out/ ferret out something

Fig. to get, remove, or retrieve something from someone or something, usually with cunning and persistence

to discover something after careful searching

Idiom definition courtesy of:

As the idiom goes, getting writing time usually takes cunning and persistence. Discovering how to make this work often takes careful searching. So where do I ferret writing time out of life?

All day long.


1) Take a bath: Just as Archimedes is famed as solving a royal problem while taking a bath, a lot of my plot works itself out while I’m getting ready for and driving to work, waiting to pick my kids up from activities, grocery shopping etc. If I have a plot or character question to solve I keep the question in front of me, talk it out while I’m showering, making breakfast, driving, etc.

2) Carpe logos: Cease the answers as they present themselves. Catch details when they come to mind. At home or out and about, I text myself or voice-record my spoken thoughts and jot these down into my notebooks the next time I get a chance. Then, when I sit to write, I can retrieve all my captured thoughts and plug them into my WIP (or notes/outline for future WIP).

3) Multi-task: Family time is family time. No compromise for me. But when the kids get TV time, I can snuggle up on the couch, monitor what they’re watching, and nurse my manuscript a little further. On my nights to cook, I keep my manuscript on the counter and add sentences between stirring, flipping, et al.

4) Keep it accessible: I haven’t met many others who still write with an old fashioned pen and notebook, but for me it’s the only way to keep my work accessible. If I had portable technology, maybe that would work too, but I don’t. My husband I share a laptop that doesn’t have WiFi access in most of the parking lots where I wait for my children. Even when I’m revising, I find more time if I have a hard printed copy that I can carry with me—in full or a few chapters at a time—to work on when a spare moment presents itself.

On work days, all this time ferreting sometimes amounts to no more than a few sentences to my credit. But a sentence a day can keep me making forward motion and frequently blooms into an unexpectedly inspired paragraph or even a page or two.

But I know that I’m not the only Time Ferret out there.

So, how do you eek writing time out of your busy schedule?

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A Cafe Chat with Marcus Sedgwick, by Lindsay Bandy + SAINT DEATH Giveaway!

GP 1

IDA Design

I’m so happy to host author Marcus Sedgwick at the Eastern Penn Points Café today! He’s the winner of a Printz Award for MIDWINTERBLOOD and two Printz Honors for REVOLVER and THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN, and his books have been shortlisted for over forty other awards. Marcus is here to talk about the upcoming US release of his YA thriller, SAINT DEATH.

saint death

I’ll be giving a FREE copy to a random commenter on May 1, 2017, so be sure to enter yourself to win SAINT DEATH, which is already getting rave reviews!

The Times UK’s Alex O’Connell says….

Marcus Sedgwick’s timing is immaculate. This gripping thriller set on the Mexican-US border — I read it in one glorious gulp — asks the questions of our day: what sort of country do we want to live in; can we have a free market without freedom of movement; is it better to die a good man than live as a bad one? Yes, this isn’t a larky read, although the heavy subject matter could not slow down the pace if it tried.


LB: Hi Marcus, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! Thanks for traveling all the way from the French Alps to spend time with us today. As we settle into our comfy booth, can we get you something to drink?


MS: I’d love a cup of black tea, it’s still a little chilly out.

LB: And a little something to munch on?

MS:I see they have some of that excellent lemon polenta cake, and I won’t say no since you’re offering.

LB: I’m so happy to finally have you as a guest at our virtual cafe! Many of our readers know how much I admire your work, and I’m really excited for the opportunity to chat with you about your newest YA novel, SAINT DEATH, which releases in the US on April 25, 2017. 

 Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you into telling Arturo’s story?


A shrine to Santa Muerte

MS: That’s a simple question with a massive answer. I’ll try to be brief. The book came about largely as a result of two things. First, I’d seen at first hand the immersing number of refugees and migrants arriving in Calais, trying to get to the UK. I felt something was stopping me writing about this issue, until the second thing came along; a chance meeting with a Mexican academic and writer who told me about the cult of Santa Muerte that’s on the rise in Mexico.


That was fascinating, but it was when I started really researching Mexico and things connected to drugs, migrants, the border and relations with their Northern neighbour, that I really felt there was a story to be told. There were many interesting things about Mexico I wanted to draw on, but the main thing was this: I believe that there’s a chain of causality between rich ‘developed’ countries and what occurs in the financially poorer nations of the world. In any cases, the chain is long, complicated and hard to unpick. In the case of Mexico, while things are of course complicated, I feel the chain of causality can be more easily seen – and it’s a story of the imbalance between a rich nation (like the US) and the poorer nations of Central and South America (where the majority of the migrants heading to the north come from). Mexico stands between them, and many of its problems arise form its geographical position. It is not in itself a poor country, and yet it has very many people living in extreme poverty, as a result of which arise all sort of desperate situations, the drug industry being just one of them.


LB: I know you especially love the research aspect of writing. What kinds of resources did you consult as you were writing? Did you travel to Mexico yourself?

MS: I spent a very long time research at arm’s length – all the usual stuff: books, magazines, articles, blogs, vlogs, youtube videos, first hand accounts, google earth, and so on and so on. In particular I found the work of Charles Bowden and Julián Cardona, and fell for their anger, painful honesty and ability to cut through the obfuscation to something closer to the ‘truth’. But eventually I was able to go to Juárez and see things at first hand on the ground, to stand, for example, by the fence on midsummer’s day in the Colonia de Anapra, feel the stillness and heat and see border patrol in their white trucks just on the other side. Of course, such an experience is only a drop in the ocean of knowing, but I am glad I had the opportunity.


image courtesy Britannica Kids

LB: I found the story’s interludes particularly fascinating. At the end, you have a note stating that the book was inspired by the writings of Chomsky, Marx, and Freud to name a few – are any of the interludes direct quotes or paraphrases? 

MS: I wanted to introduce a range of views and feelings and quotes about Mexico and the place it finds itself in in the opening of the 21st century. Some of these interludes are my own, some are paraphrases of the writings I cited, and a few are verbatim quotes, such as Victor Hugo’s open letter about Benito Juárez. The couple who run the bar where Arturo hangs out are of course Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and much of what they say is taken from their writings.


LB: You portrayed the complexity of the situation in Mexico so heartbreakingly well. Clearly, there is no quick fix or simple solution, and responsibility rests on many different shoulders. What do you want readers to take away from this story, particularly those – like me – who close the book and ask, How can I help

file0001491768926.jpgMS: The first step to solving anything is understanding the problem. That means dispensing with dogma and the sort of lies and half-truths that are often spoken about a situation like that in Mexico. For example, almost no one seems to be aware that since 2008 more Mexicans have left the US than have migrated there, according the best figures that the Pew Research Center can deliver. The reason for that is obviously the financial crash of the western world in 2008, and it helps us to understand why migration occurs. People are poor and look for work. For me, it’s a massive issue about how global capitalism works; the solution lies in our children’s hands. So any conversations that help younger people see the world as a collaborative venture rather than zero-sum game of aggressive trade are to be welcomed.


LB: You have a gift for writing page-turning suspense blended with thought-provoking themes. Any time I pick up a book of yours, I find myself finished with it in a day or two, and thinking about it long after. Any tips for writers seeking to hook readers both emotionally and intellectually?

MS: Well, I could either write a book in answer to that one, or just offer one (apparently!) simple idea: in order for anyone else to be hooked by your book, you yourself have to be obsessed by it. I don’t write anything until I feel an extreme level of obsession set in. It’s not guaranteed to work, but I’m sure that without it, no writing can hope to obsess other people.

LB: This makes me feel better about my googling habits! And also, feel free to also write the book! 

All right, now imagine that you’re snooping around a flea market when you find an unusual lamp. You take it home, polish it up, and POOF!! Your very own genie pops out, offering you a round-trip ticket back in time. When and where do you go?

MS: Oh boy. So many answers come to mind. I love history and there are so many moments… Since Mexico is on my mind I will try to avoid the obvious of choosing something related to that, such as the pre-history of the various empires of Central America, or hanging out with Malcom Lowry as he wrote that book… Instead, I’m going to choose the nights on and around the 2nd of June, 1816, in the Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva. I’d like to be a spooky presence, ducking out of sight in the candlelit corridors and passages, never quite seen fully, and eavesdrop on Byron, Shelley, Shelley and Polidori as they wove their ghost stories, from which were born the world’s first vampire novel, and the monster that became the legendary creation of Victor Frankenstein.


LB: And now, it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Finish up that last bit of lemon polenta and get ready to tell us your favorite…..

Writing music (as of this very minute!) – Max Richter, Three Worlds

 Place to read –The bath

 Midnight snack-Yogurt with cornflakes and raisins. And honey if I need it.

Research trip-Aaaargh…! Too many! Okay, this time I’ll say the obvious; Juárez, Mexico.

 Snowy-day activity-Scandinavian hot tub with a book and a friend

 Quote-“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing’ I’m not wild about who said it (Werner von Braun) but I have to remind myself of it almost all the time…

LB: Thanks so much for joining us to talk about SAINT DEATH, Marcus! We wish you the best.

MS: Thanks Lindsay! I’ve had fun  – thanks for having me visit the virtual cafe 🙂

Comment before May 1, 2017 for a chance to win your own copy of SAINT DEATH!

saint death

Good luck and happy reading!


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PROOF OF LIES Giveaway, Weekend Wrap-Up & More! by Lori Ann Palma



The last few weeks on Eastern Penn Points have been a whirlwind of magic, giveaways, upcoming events, and amazing interviews! In case you missed any of the action, or want to revisit some of our posts, check out the links below:

#BelieveInMagic Art & Poetry Show
If you missed any of our show last month, the following link will connect you to the list of posts, as well as the giveaway winners, and a round-up of stats.

2017 Pocono Retreat
On Monday, we announced details for our 25th Annual Pocono Retreat and opened registration. You can find the dates and faculty information here, or connect directly to the registration page. Also, be sure to read up on the Scholarship opportunity!

Bethlehem Writer & Illustrator Event—Hone Your Craft, Learn from the Pros
Not only did we announce the upcoming Pocono Retreat, but we added another event to the calendar as well! In March, SCBWI EPA will visit the Lehigh Valley for the first time with a full day event for writers and illustrators. The date, proposed schedule, and faculty are listed here, or you can connect directly to the registration page.

New Blog Themes
As we shake off winter and head into Spring, we announced new blog themes for April, May, and June. As always, we invite you to submit a post. You can read about our themes and our submission guidelines here.

Author Interviews
We had not one, but TWO amazing interviews recently! The first was a Café Chat with Diana Rodriquez Wallach, YA author, who released her latest novel, Proof of Lies, on March 7th. Diana was kind enough to offer a giveaway to a lucky commenter. The winner has been chosen and contacted, so check your email inbox to see if you won!

Our second interview was with debut picture book illustrator, Kate Garchinsky. Her book, The Secret Life of the Red Fox also released on March 7th.

And More!
With all this amazing stuff, you might be wondering what’s coming up on the blog. You won’t want to miss out on what we have planned:

  • Lindsay Bandy has an interview with a very exciting author…you’ll definitely want to see this post!
  • Interviews with our Pocono Retreat faculty—get to know them before you attend the retreat!
  • Posts on “practical advice” by our very own SCBWI EPA members.

That’s the latest, and we hope you stop back in the coming weeks to share your thoughts with us through the comments!

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