A Cafe Chat with Agent Zoe Sandler, by Laura Parnum


Have you signed up for YA/MG Day in Lancaster, PA, on November 3? Did you know you can also sign up for a ten-page critique from one of the faculty members? Critique submissions are due this Friday, October 5. Sign up here if you haven’t done so already.

Zoe-Sandler-Headshot-wpcf_240x319I recently invited Zoe Sandler, anther of the YA/MG Day faculty members, to stop by for a chat at the Eastern Penn Points Café. Zoe is a literary agent at ICM Partners. Here’s what she had to say.

Laura: Hi, Zoe! I’m excited to welcome you to the Eastern Penn Points Café. What would you like while we settle in for our chat?

Zoe: Thanks, Laura, I’m excited to meet you and chat! A café au lait with whole milk would be lovely.

Laura: Coming right up! First, let’s talk books. Tell me about a recent middle grade or YA book that you fell in love with and why.

Bone GapZoe: This book isn’t super recent, but it bears mentioning because it utterly influenced my taste in kid lit and my desire to represent authors who write within those categories: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (represented by my esteemed colleague and dear mentor, Tina Dubois). The exquisite writing, the subtle use of magical realism, and its overall sophistication just blew me away and exposed me to a more literary side of kids publishing.

Laura: How about movies or TV? Have you binge-watched anything recently?

Zoe: Not kid-friendly, but I inhaled the BBC series Killing Eve. That combination of dark edginess and biting humor is my exact (adult) fiction taste, and I also love how female-dominated that show’s cast and creators are. Switching tones entirely, I’m also a huge fan of The Bold Type—the premise is nothing new (three girls work at a women’s magazine in NYC and navigate life in their twenties), but the amazing chemistry between the protagonists and the depiction of female friendship and workplace relationships are the major draw for me and, in my opinion, unparalleled amongst similar shows that came before it.

Laura: I definitely see a trend: Strong female protagonists all the way! What brought you to ICM Partners, and what has it been like working for them?

ICMPartnersLogoZoe: I started working at ICM almost seven years ago as an assistant in the royalties department, which was a great introduction to the agency side of the publishing business. So much of what I learned that first year—more numbers than reading!—I still use when representing my own clients. After that, I worked for an agent for nearly five years, during which time I learned from the best and started developing my own client list, and in the time since then I have been actively growing my roster of authors. I’m one of about a half dozen agents who were homegrown here as assistants first, so something I’ve come to love about ICM is the blend of being at a big, established, well-reputed agency, but in the books department especially there’s such a collegial, family feel, which makes for a wonderful work environment in which to grow my career.

Laura: When you’re reading through your query inbox, what gets your attention and what kinds of things are a major turnoff?

Zoe: The more pointed the query, the better—mentioning one of my authors or an #MSWL post will definitely get my attention. One major turnoff is referring to me as Ms. Sanders or some other typo associated with my name—this may seem like a small gripe, but attention to detail can be quite revealing about the care an author takes with his or her work.

Laura: All right, that’s S-A-N-D-L-E-R, everybody! Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be sharing with us at our upcoming YA/MG Day in Lancaster?

Zoe: I’ll say that my session will focus on where business meets craft—the art of querying, pitching, submitting, and selling.

Laura: I can’t wait! Thank you so much for chatting with me, Zoe. We’re looking forward to seeing you in November.

Zoe Sandler, Agent, ICM PartnersZoe joined ICM Partners in October 2011, and is actively building her own list of author clients with a mix of fiction and nonfiction books for kids and adults. For middle grade fiction, she is drawn to quirky humor and voice-driven contemporary novels. For YA, she is seeking subtly executed speculative fiction or novels with hints of magical realism, especially those helmed by no-nonsense female protagonists. She accepts queries and can be reached at zsandler@icmpartners.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @zosandler


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A Cafe Chat with Quirk Books Editor Rick Chillot, by Laura Parnum


I was recently able to chat with Rick Chillot, editor at Quirk Books in Philadelphia. Rick will be presenting at YA/MG Day in November, and he’ll also be doing critiques, so be sure to sign up here.

rick chillotLaura: Hello, Rick. I’m so excited to welcome you to the Eastern Penn Points Café, a virtual café where you can virtually order anything you want. What can we get you?

Rick: A black bottomless abyss of coffee please.

Laura: That just so happens to be our special today. While it’s brewing, could you tell us about the path that brought you to Quirk Books?

Rick: I’ve been working in publishing for 20+ years, and found myself freelancing from home once again, and pretty much figured I was done with staff jobs. But it never hurts to keep an eye on the job listings, so when I saw Quirk was looking for a writer/editor, I figured I had enough experience on both sides of that “/ ” to make a move.

Laura: Quirk Books is an independent publisher that’s had some exciting and unconventional successes. What do you look for when acquiring books?

Rick: We want to give readers something they haven’t seen before, but something we’re confident they’ll like. It’s not enough to be unconventional, it has to be an idea that has a clear audience. People send me plenty of unconventional book ideas, but many of them are things that nobody in their right mind would want to buy!

Regrettable SuperheroesLaura: In the spirit of one of Quirk’s books, The League of Regrettable Superheroes (or its companion book, The League of Regrettable Supervillains), what superpower, regrettable or otherwise, do you wish you had?

Rick: Those books, soon to be joined by The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, reveal that there used to be plenty of superpowers that never hit the big time the way flying and super strength did. I might pick The Eye’s power to turn into a giant eye … except I’m not sure he could turn back to normal, so maybe that’s not so good.

Laura: Quirk also tends to publish some pretty wild mashups, including the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. If you were to create your own mashup what would it be?

Rick: I wish someone could mash up a cake and a pie into one delicious dessert.

Laura: Coincidentally, that’s next week’s special here at the Eastern Penn Points Café. You’ll have to come back. In the meantime, can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be sharing with us at our YA/MG Day in Lancaster?

Rick: I’ll be sharing everything I can think of about how to pitch your book idea to a publisher. All the stuff I wish I’d known.

Laura: I can’t wait! Thank you so much for chatting with us. We’re looking forward to seeing you in November!  

Rick: Looking forward to it!

Register for YA/MG Day by October 5 to sign up for a critique from Rick or one of the other fabulous faculty members.

Rick Chillot is an editor at Quirk Books, a small, independent publisher located in Philadelphia, PA. In his 25+ year publishing career, he’s been a writer, editor, and content planner for magazines, books, newspapers, websites, newsletters, specialty publications, and other formats. Titles he’s worked on at Quirk include the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, the Nick and Tesla series of middle-grade novels, and Garrison Girl, a new YA novel set in the world of the popular Attack on Titan anime series. Nick and TeslaQuirk Books favors fiction that supports an interesting design (The Nick and Tesla books include instructions for creating the gadgets used in the stories), fiction that intersects with pop culture (our Pop Classics picture books reinterpret favorite movies like Home Alone and E.T.), and fiction that reinvents familiar tropes (Geekarella is a YA novel that retells the Cinderella story at a science fiction convention). Whatever the genre, we want ideas we haven’t seen before and authors with enough command of their craft to make their weirdest stories entertaining and accessible to readers hungry for something different.

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Part 2, by Anthony D. Fredericks

Navigating clip_image002[2] (1) Nonfiction

A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks

lightbulb-1875247__480You may recall that in last month’s edition of this column we talked about where to discover ideas for children’s books. I shared some of my own inspirational sources including my coffee cup, the daily newspaper, and popular magazines. This month we’ll tackle some other resources that can fire up your creative engines, generate mental lightning bolts, and get sparks flying across your computer keyboard.

Here are some more places for you to explore:

Daily walk

Something as simple as a daily walk can produce many new ideas for your writing. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you might be surprised at all the things that would incite a new story. Here are just a few I found on my walk yesterday afternoon:

What I Saw Possible Book Idea
A tall tree What are some of the tallest trees in the world and where do they live?
An antique car driving past What are some classic antique automobiles?
A hawk flying overhead Sports teams with animal names (Falcons, Bears, Tigers, Hawks)
An ambulance siren Emergency vehicles around the world
A runner along the road Long distance running—Is it for you?

student-849825__480It makes no difference whether you live in a rural area or an urban environment, you can put on a new set of eyes and ears every day during a walk around your neighborhood. In so doing, you’ll discover some topics that will keep your fingers dancing across the computer keyboard.


One of the things I enjoy doing whenever my wife and I are on vacation is to collect travel brochures, visitor’s guides, and other printed literature focusing on the places and sites we visit. I see many ads for restaurants, leisure activities, sporting events, art and museum shows, cultural celebrations, and all sorts of happenings geared for the tourist trade. Quite often, there will be the germ of a book idea tucked into all of those promotional efforts. For example, beside me is the current Visitor’s Guide for Ocean City, Maryland—where my wife and I recently spent a long weekend with some very good friends. Here are a few items, display ads, articles, and promotions from that guide and the children’s book topics that might result:

Item in the Visitor’s Guide Potential Book Topic
Best seafood restaurant in town Everything you ever wanted to know about clams
Parasailing adventures The history of flight from a child’s eye view
Miniature golf Unusual miniature golf courses around the country
Condo rentals What are all the different types of dwellings that humans live in around the world?
A Day in the Life of a Lifeguard What kind of training do you need to be a lifeguard?


During our visit, we took a long walk on the beach one day.  Here are some of the things we saw or found along with the book ideas I generated as a result of those findings:


Discovered on the Beach Book Idea
Seagull feather How do birds (and airplanes) fly?
Empty shell A hermit crab searches for a new shell (a new home)
Piece of driftwood How many different shorelines has a single piece of driftwood touched in its oceanic journeys?
Lighthouse What would it be like to live in a lighthouse?
Old man fishing on the shore Fish that live along the Continental Shelf


I usually discover that a visit to a different place (like a tidepool at the beach) resets my brain cells and helps me create fresh ideas simply because I’m seeing some familiar things with new eyes.


Next month: Even more places to discover book ideas!




Tony is an award-winning author of more than fifty children’s books, including In One Tidepool (https://amzn.to/2vvKQZN). This blog post was excerpted and modified from Chapter 9 in Tony’s latest writing book: Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2tREKCa).

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A Cafe Chat with Abbey Lee Nash, by Laura Parnum


I am getting very excited for YA/MG day, which will be held on November 3 in Lancaster, PA. I was able to speak with YA author Abbey Lee Nash, one of the faculty members for this event, at the Eastern Penn Points Cafe this week. In addition to leading one of the breakout sessions, Abbey will be doing manuscript critiques, so be sure to register for the event and a critique here.

Abbey Lee NashLaura: Welcome back to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe, Abbey. We’ve got some peanut butter cookies here just for you. Can we get you something to drink as well?

Abbey: Yum! I’ll take a decaf coffee, please, with lots of cream.

Laura: Absolutely! The last time you came by, your novel, Lifeline, had just released. Now that it’s been out for several months, what has surprised you the most about having your book out in the world?

Abbey: Even though I wrote Lifeline with teenagers in mind, it’s been interesting to see how many adult readers have resonated with the book. Even people who haven’t had experience with family addiction seem to relate to the book’s themes of forgiveness and hope.

Laura: That’s wonderful! I’m sure your readers are eager for more. What’s next on your writing horizon? Can you divulge anything about any new projects that you are currently working on?

Abbey: I love writing about realistic characters overcoming real-life challenges. While my next project is a departure from Lifeline (hint: it’s a romance), readers will still find that common thread of real teens with relatable struggles, searching for, and ultimately finding, light and hope and love in a situation that at first glance seems hopeless.

Laura: You’re also a writing instructor. What have you been able to learn from your students that has helped you in your own writing?

Abbey: Great question! As a working writer, I think it’s easy to focus too much on the end result of a project rather than enjoying the process. Before an idea has even been tested on the page, working writers begin to think about where it will fit in the current marketplace or which agents might have it on their wish lists.

Student writers, on the other hand, particularly beginners, write because they love it. They have no idea if the words they’re jotting on the page are going to turn into a short story or the first chapter of a novel; they know only that words are bubbling out of them in response to a prompt, and they need a place to write them down. A classroom of new creative writers is buzzing with pure, unjaded creativity.

As the lucky teacher of these students, I’ve tried to put just a fraction of that energy into practice where I can, focusing on the process rather than the outcome, remembering that I write because I love it, and hopefully, if I approach my writing that way, my readers will ultimately love it, too.

Laura: That’s great advice for all writers. Now, let’s go back in time. Growing up, what was your favorite …

Picture book? The Tawny Scrawny LionThe Giver

Chapter book or middle grade book? Bridge to Terabithia and Tuck Everlasting

Young adult novel? The Giver

Laura: We’re looking forward to seeing you at our YA/MG Day in Lancaster in November. Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be talking about that day?

Abbey: My presentation is called “Write What You Know (Or What You Wish You Didn’t): Addressing Tough Topics in YA Literature.” Readers who follow me on social media know that the premise of Lifeline was inspired by personal experience. Similarly, my current project deals with issues relevant to my personal life. On YA/MG Day, I’m looking forward to talking about how to mine your personal experiences and create authentic stories for teenagers without agenda or didacticism.

Laura: I can’t wait! Thanks so much for stopping by.

Abbey: Thanks for having me!

lifelineBorn to parents with a serious case of “wanderlust,” Abbey Lee Nash has lived in some pretty interesting places, including on a Christian farming commune in rural Georgia, above a third-world craft store in Kentucky, and on a Salvation Army retreat center in the Pennsylvania mountains. She currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, two daughters, and one very rambunctious Australian Shepherd. She received her MA in English from Arcadia University in 2011 and currently works at Bryn Athyn College where she teaches writing and literature. She is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Lifeline is her first novel.

You can visit Abbey’s website at www.abbeynash.com and follow her on facebook, twitter, and instagram.

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A Meet & Greet in Williamsport on September 29, 2018

You are invited to a Meet & Greet in downtown Williamsport on September 29, 2018, at the historic Otto Bookstore. SCBWI members and nonmembers are encouraged to attend. Attendees will learn about SCBWI resources available to support their craft and interact with authors and illustrators of children’s books.

Otto bookstore
Date: Saturday, September 29, 2018
Time: 3:00-4:45 p.m.
Location: Otto Bookstore
107 West Fourth Street
Williamsport, PA 17701
Contact: For more information, contact Aaron Barth at aaron.barth@gmail.com.

Visit the Otto Bookstore website at www.ottobookstore.com.


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A Fond Farewell from Kim Briggs


Dear Eastern PA SCBWI members,

Hi! This weekend EasternPennPoints announced that I’ve stepped down as Co-Regional Advisor of the Eastern PA chapter of SCBWI. Over the past four years, the chapter has grown significantly both in terms of active members as well as events. We went from hosting two large annual writer/illustrator events per year, plus one illustrator day, to multiple events per month. This growth is both exciting and exhausting. For each event, even the small ones, there are hours of planning and prep work, along with financial recording before and after for not only our chapter’s bookkeeping but also for SCBWI National. For those of you who love words as much as I do, working with the numbers was a bit of a drag.

That said, the events themselves were incredible, and our members are top-notch! More and more members are stepping up to help our chapter, and that is awesome. Member help is invaluable. As the chapter moves forward, they will be relying on your help even more.

I’ve made some amazing friends over the years, and that’s what Eastern PA SCBWI is all about—finding friends who nourish your creative side. Who understand why you listen to the voices in your head. Who get why you spend hours by yourself. Who laugh at your quirky literary humor about Quidditch matches, Gryffindors, and mockingbirds. Who will read your pages and offer feedback. Who will be the shoulder to cry on and your happy dance partner. Who feed you dark chocolate and cupcakes because those words don’t write themselves. (That last one might only be my friends, but that’s why they’re so special to me.)

The e-mails I’ve received from this past weekend’s post have been overwhelming. Thank you for all your kind words, your love, and your support. Please keep in touch: KimBriggs (@) KimBriggsWrite.com.

To Alison, Lindsay, Rona, Virginia, Heather, and Laura, best wishes!

Good luck to all of you, and remember…

Write on,


You can keep up to date with all of Kim’s activities on her website at http://www.kimbriggswrite.com and follow her on twitter.

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Hello, Goodbye – Changes in Your EPA Regional Team! by Lindsay Bandy

Hello School, Goodbye Summer! This time of year is all about beginnings and endings. The same is true here in Eastern PA, as we are shifting responsibilities a bit, welcoming new team members, and saying goodbye to others (though there are no real goodbyes around here – just See Ya Later!) Read on, and be sure to add warm welcomes and warm virtual hugs in the comments!



Goodbye, Kim Briggs!

kim-20-1That’s right, Kim is stepping down as co-RA after a glorious four-year run. She’s going to be spending more time on her writing (woohoo!) and we’ll continue to see her around and celebrate her successes. Thanks, Kim, for making our region such a fun and amazing place to write and illustrate!

Hello, Lindsay Bandy, co-RA!


I’ll be trying to fill Kim’s great big shoes as co-RA, partnering with Alison, and saying goodbye to my roles as blogmaster and ARA.

Hello, Laura Parnum, Blogmaster!

Laura P

You’re going to love the very talented and funny Laura Parnum – and if you’ve been around Eastern PA, you probably already do! She’ll be the new contact person for blog submissions – we’ll get all of the submission and contact info updated shortly. Stay tuned!

Hello, Rona Shirdan, Assistant Regional Advisor!


Rona’s going to be our new Assistant Regional Advisor! Hooray! We’re so excited to welcome her to our team!



We’d also like to say…

Hello, YOU!!


We’re always looking for volunteers at events and submissions to our blog. You don’t have to be published or agented. Just willing to get to know some awesome people and further your knowledge of the industry and better your craft. Win-win!

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