Let’s Make #LoveMadeVisible in 2018! by Lindsay Bandy

You’re invited to submit artwork and/or poetry o Eastern Penn Points Blog for our annual February celebration…. #LoveMadeVisible 2018!

“Painting is love made visible.”

-Pierre Auguste Renoir

renoir1  renoir2  renoir3

L-R: Gabrielle and Jean; Two Girls Reading; A Couple Reading, all by Renoir

“Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.”

-William Hazlitt

Once again this February, Eastern Penn Points Blog will feature artwork and/or poetry by Eastern PA SCBWI members – published or pre-published. The theme is LOVE in any and every form!

This is always a special month for showing off our regional talent and spreading the word through social media.

You can submit poetry and/or art by yourself, or team up with another writer/artist to create something together. Create something warm and fuzzy, heartbreaking, cutesy, abstract, romantic, realistic, magical, anthropomorphic, hilarious, touching….the possibilities are endless! Let’s show our full range, since we represent those who write and illustrate for babies through teens.

A few little rules….

  1. All submissions must, of course, be your own work.
  2. Poetry must be limited to 500 words or less
  3. Submissions should be sent to Lindsay Bandy by Friday, January 26th, 2018.
  4. You may include a giveaway with your submission, but this is totally optional. For example, if you are a PAL member, you might want to do a signed book giveaway to a random commenter, or offer a free online critique. If you are an artist, you may want to give away a signed original or print of your work. People like free stuff, and this can boost your engagement! You will be responsible for any postage, but I will randomly select winners and get their contact info to you.
  5. Include any social media info you’d like! You can also include a sentence about yourself.

E-mail your submissions or questions to Lindsay Bandy at LKBandy84@yahoo.com, and join the fun!

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Congrats to these Award-Winning EPA Authors/Illustrators!

We’re excited to announce that Becky Birtha’s book, FAR APART, CLOSE AT HEART has been selected as a Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2017 to Give Readers Strength! Congratulations, Becky!

far apart.jpg

We celebrate you, Brian Biggs, Lauren Castillo, Greg Pizzoli, and  Judy Schachner for having your work selected for the 37th Annual Society of Illustrator’s “Original Art” exhibit*Illustrations from these 2017 picture books were selected for the show:

Brian Biggs.jpg

twenty yawns.jpg A BOY, A MOUSE, AND A SPIDER.jpg

i love you like a pig   12 days.jpg


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Today! A Christmas Book Launch with Greg Pizzoli in Philadelphia!

Please join author-illustrator Greg Pizzoli TODAY, Saturday, December 9th, from 3-5pm at The Print Center, 1614 Latimer Street in Philadelphia. Greg will be reading and signing books and warmly welcoming all SCBWI members who come to visit him despite the snow. Refreshments will be provided. He hopes to see you there! 

Greg Pizzoli image (1).jpg

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Happy Thanksgiving from Team EPA!

This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for all of our members. You inspire, energize, and encourage us.

May your turkeys be tender, your pants be stretchy, and your relatives behave!

giphy.gifhttps://giphy.com/embed/3oriO4iF2T0V30GDQYvia GIPHY



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A Cafe Chat with Diana Rodriguez Wallach, by Lindsay Bandy


IDA Design

It’s our last interview before the big day….Fall Philly/PA Author Day is Sunday! And today, a familiar face is back. We’ve got a Cafe Chat 2.0 with Diana Rodriguez Wallach, giving us an update on the author life, post-hurricane Puerto Rico, and book #2 of Anastasia Phoenix!

LB: Hi there, Diana, and welcome back to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! How about a drink and munchie?

DRW: Thank you! Since it’s Fall, I’ll have to go with a nonfat salted caramel mocha. Never been much of a pumpkin spice girl, though I do love the muffins.

LB: A lot has happened since last Fall Philly! PROOF OF LIES, Book One in the Anastasia Phoenix series, debuted and I know you’ve been busy developing your readership. We’re looking forward to hearing more about that in Philly, but can you tell us, what was one thing that surprised you in the process?


DRW: To quote The Beatles, “You get by with a little help from your friends.” The most successful pieces of marketing to come out in support of PROOF OF LIES, came from my personal network—friends and colleagues who were willing to place the book in their magazine, on a major list, or simply on their blog. Don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help with your marketing efforts, you never know who’s a friend of a friend of a friend with a connection to Star Magazine. (More on that during my Fall Philly speech!)

LB: If you go back in time to Fall Philly 2016, what would you tell yourself in preparation for the year to come?

eagles logoDRW: That the Eagles would win the game I was going to see at the Linc immediately following my talk. But seriously, take time to appreciate each little milestone as it happens—whether it’s the most mentions you’ve ever had on Twitter during your launch day, or seeing your book featured in your alumni magazine, or going to Barnes & Noble and showing your kid your book on the shelf for the first time.

We all have our moments, so enjoy them as they happen.

LB: Writers can sometimes feel like we’re waiting in the wings, daydreaming about that moment in the spotlight when our first book dazzles the world. But what can pre-published writers do right now to get ready for the challenges of marketing and growing their readership?

DRW: Build a following on social media. It’s not easy and there are tricks to hike those numbers, but ultimately you need time. So if you’re not published yet, or you’ve still got a year until your book comes out, get on Twitter and Instagram. Start carefully following people, craft posts that align with the trends, and be active. This way when you do get that book deal, you have an audience to cheer your accomplishment—and hopefully buy your book.

LB: I know you’ve also been busy helping out family and friends affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico. How is everyone doing?

diana in pr.jpg

Photo credit: JORDAN WALLACH
Diana Rodriguez Wallach, during a previous visit to Puerto Ricio, with her cousin, Ventura Batista, in Utuado.

DRW: It’s been a month, and the island is pretty much as devastated today as it was the day after the hurricane. Outside of San Juan, running water is not available, electricity is non-existent, and communication is down—so if you need help, it’s nearly impossible to let anyone know. I recently wrote an Op Ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer about my family’s efforts to help our relatives there. Much like my book marketing experience above, our most successful efforts have come from our personal network—an alum from BU checked on my cousin, a colleague of my brother’s delivered a package of medicine and supplies, and a father in my daughter’s elementary school is working to send medical help to the town of Utuado. They say in times like these, it takes a village, which makes that the one positive of this disaster, my family got to see just how large our village is.


LB: Is there anything we here in Eastern PA can do to help?

DRW: Donate. There are several funds set up to help rebuild the island: the Hispanic Federation, United for Puerto Rico, and the Salvation Army’s disaster relief fund, to name a few. (The Salvation Army of Philadelphia has many people on the ground in PR, and personally, it has been the most willing to try to directly help us.) If you’d like to learn about the Rodriguez Family of Utuado, specifically, you can read about it here: https://www.youcaring.com/therodriguezfamilyofsanjuanandutuadopuertorico-961404.


LB:  When is Book 2 of Anastasia Phoenix set for release? Can you give us a little teaser about what’s next for Anastasia?

DRW: LIES THAT BIND, Book 2 in the series, comes out on March 6, 2018! I can’t wait. The story will take Anastasia to England and Rio de Janeiro, through a festival of fire to an elegant wedding. In addition to unraveling many of the mysteries surrounding her family, Anastasia will also have to decide what, and who, she’s willing to fight for, especially when she lands in a confrontation that quickly turns deadly.



Thanks so much for stopping by! We are looking forward to seeing you in a few days, Diana!


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An Interview with Christine Kendall, by Laura Parnum

Take a few minutes to get to know another one of our fabulous PA authors, Christine Kendall! She’ll be speaking at Fall Philly (on Sunday!!), and Laura Parnum took some time to chat with her about the process of researching her debut YA novel, riding chance. Take it away, Laura and Christine….

LP: Hi, Christine. Congratulations on the well-earned acclaim you have received from your debut novel, Riding Chance. I just finished reading your book, and in addition to finding it a heartwarming narrative full of hope and perseverance, I also enjoyed learning about the Work to Ride Program in Fairmount Park.

I understand that you were inspired to write this book when you heard about the Work to Ride Program in Philadelphia. Did you do a lot of research about the program up front, or did you delve into the plot and do your research along the way?

CK: I found a photo of a young boy from the Work to Ride Program on a polo pony in a Ralph Lauren Magazine that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the most magnificent image I had ever seen. That photo inspired the story. So, in terms of the writing process, I started with a plot and then did research about horses and the game of polo.

LP: How much time did you spend with the Work to Ride Program? Did you spend a lot of time getting to know the program organizers and participants? And, of course, did you try mucking the stalls?

CK: I got up on a horse but, no, I didn’t muck any stalls. I actually didn’t spend any time with the Work to Ride program organizers or participants although I went to the stables to see what it looked like. I needed details about how stables smell, how horses respond to insects, etc. My goal was not to tell the story of the Work to Ride program. I was simply fascinated by an image and moved to create a character.

LP: To what extent did you try to keep the Work to Ride program true to life in the book, and how much of it was fictionalized?

CK: Basically everything was fictionalized. Work to Ride was just the source of my inspiration.

 LP: You’ve included a lot of details and terminology about horses and the game of polo. Did you speak with experts or did you mostly research these topics through books and other media?

 CK: I didn’t know anything about horses or polo when I began writing but I found people who were knowledgeable about one or both topics. Besides reading a ton of books and articles, I interviewed people who work with horses including a neighbor who gives horseback riding lessons. I also attended several polo matches and had the opportunity to speak with a polo player.

CK: What advice can you give aspiring authors about the process of researching for a novel?

 CK: I was extremely naive in that I didn’t realize how much research I would need to do, but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. Research is much more than reading. It includes site visits, interviews, and maybe even re-enactments. I would advise aspiring authors to choose a topic that they’re really interested in so they can delight in the work. And after they’ve done all of their research, they’ll have to be very discerning about how much of what they’ve learned actually makes it into the book.

LP: Thanks so much, Christine. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Fall Philly/PA Author Day event.


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A Cafe Chat with Rachel Skrlac Lo Ph.D, by Lindsay Bandy


IDA Design

This year at Fall Philly, we’re broadening our horizons by featuring an academic perspective on kidlit! Rachel Skrlac Lo is a professor of education at Villanova and an advocate for accurate and diverse representation in children’s literature. I asked her my burning questions about diversity, and she graciously answered them over a shiraz. I hope you’ll come to Fall Philly to learn even more about how YOU can contribute to an inclusive, sensitive, and positive environment in children’s literature!

And now, here’s Rachel!


LB: Hi there, Rachel, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our comfy booth, what can we get you to drink?

RSL: A nice shiraz, thanks!
LB: And a little something to eat?

RSL: Surprise me.

LB: Surprise!! Our culinary experts say that dark chocolate and fruit are the perfect pairings for shiraz in the morning, particularly in donut form.

LB: We’re really looking forward to having you speak at Fall Philly about family representation in children’s literature, and it will be awesome for our writers and illustrators to get the perspective of an educator-of-educators! Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you teach at Villanova?

villanovaRSL: Currently, I’m teaching graduate students Philosophy of Education. In this class, we think about how we think about education. We read historical texts by John Dewey. Many people know for the Dewey Decimal System in libraries, but he was a renowned philosopher of education and his work encourages educators to put the child at the center of learning. His work, for me, connects to children’s literature because children’s literature is all about creating engaging literary experiences for children. We read other scholars too and students are required to create their own philosophy of education. It’s so important to understand our own beliefs about childhood, education, and the social roles we adults play in children’s growth and development especially when our careers are intimately connected to children’s lives!

I’m also teaching an undergraduate course on literacy and English language learners. I love bringing foreign language and wordless picturebooks into this class and asking my students to imagine they are the language learner. My students plan to teach a range of subjects – math, science, social studies, Latin, Spanish, English – and for most this is the first time they think about teaching students who may not speak English fluently. We spend a lot of time exploring the connection between language and culture in order to welcome all learners into our classrooms.
LB: What is one misconception you come across regularly when it comes to diverse representation in children’s literature?

RSL: A frequent misconception is that diversity can be addressed simply by changing the color of the skin of a few characters. Diversity should mean acknowledging that our differences are more than skin deep. While I believe stories that celebrate universal experiences of the human condition have value, when they are the only stories, they tend to overlook, ignore, or misrepresent perspectives of those who do not make up the dominant group or majority.

LB: In a divisive political climate, how can writers and illustrators contribute to positivity and inclusiveness?

RSL: Wow, that’s a great question. There are a few things to do:

  1. If you write/draw a story that isn’t from your culture, do lots of research and then seek the advice of people from that culture. Be open to their critiques and learn from them. Also, if you can, pay them or show appropriate appreciation for their labor. Creating a story that is accurate is as important as creating one that is well written and beautifully illustrated.
  1. If your work, once published, is critiqued for its representation of diversity, then express appreciation for that feedback and learn from the experience. We all hate to receive criticism – but our work is always in progress. We grow by being open to new information. See the critique as an opportunity to do better next time. (And also recognize that even though the book may have passed over dozens of eyes at the publishing house, many publishing houses lack diverse staff, so they may not “catch” a problematic passage or image.)
  1. Don’t try to tell everyone’s story, but enjoy the story you are creating. We don’t all experience life the same way – imagine how boring the world would be if we did – so don’t worry about your story needing to have a checklist of diversity.

LB: In light of the #ownvoices movement, do you think there are any “rules” about who can or can’t write/illustrate underrepresented characters? I’ve had discussions with agents/editors who are saying that a white author can NEVER write a biracial or minority character, and that POC authors can ONLY write from the point of view of their own group. Others suggest sensitivity readers, combined with considerable experience with the group in question. There has been a lot of buzz about this, particularly amongst white writers who want to be a part of representing minorities in a positive and sensitive way.

RSL: I am torn on this. My answers above indicate that I think you can bring elements of different cultures into your writing but when you do, you must make sure you are doing it exceptionally well  (see #1, above). This is a little trickier if you are writing from a first person perspective or the central characters are not from your group. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Chains and a white woman, did a lot of research and worked extensively with different experts to ensure her representations were accurate and fair. She recognized that while she could write the story, it wasn’t hers to tell alone. She was open to being told she was wrong and she was extremely conscientious about how she approached the work.

We all have to be sensitive about who gets to tell whose stories. Recent research by CCBC and Jason Low show that books continue to underrepresent all groups except white children and there is a lack of diversity of staff in publishing houses. This translates into a lack of opportunities for minoritized groups to enter the publishing industry. If our goal is to increase the number of diverse stories without considering the identities of the authors/illustrators, then author identity shouldn’t matter. But our goal should be broader and more inclusive than this in part because increasing diversity of storytellers means we have access to more stories and perspectives. This is good for everyone.

#weneeddiversebooksLB: What is your dream for the children’s literature of the future?

RSL: I love the work being done by #WeNeedDiverseBooks and their efforts to raise awareness of the diversity of human condition through books. I hope we can agree that children’s books can be fun, irreverent, and entertaining and safe places for all children to see the world as it really is.

LB: Okay, Rachel, it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Take a deep breath and tell us your favorite….

Breakfast food:

Cereal and a smoothie

Quote about education: 

Too many to choose but one I used in class last night and related to which discourses we chose to engage in:

feminisms“The general refusal by male academics to engage with feminist theory, and to self-reflect on their own work from the perspective of a male reading of feminist critiques, seriously undermines whatever gender(ed) messages they claim to have for women about women.” Carmen Luke in Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy, 1992, p. 40

We need to be willing to read, listen to, and understand those who are unlike us if we claim to understand their perspective. Otherwise, we are silencing them.

Book you’ve read recently: 

the watchtower

The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, an Australian author writing about two sisters in post WWII Sydney. Written in the 1966, this truly is a timeless tale about power, oppression, and how the oppressed can become complicit and codependent. Even though it is 50 years old, there are truths in the book that will haunt me for a long time.

Way to pass the summers as a kid:

Hanging out with my sister and friends. Road trips through northern British Columbia and Alberta.
Animal (real or fantastical) to tame as a pet:

My cats have tamed me.

Thank you so much for joining us today! We are looking forward to seeing you in Philly!


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