My Take on “A Year in the Life of a Self-Published Author”

Posted on: May 24, 2017

By Gaye Galloway


SCBWI’s May event, A Year in the Life a Self-Published Author, featured YA Dallas author, Jane Alvey Harris. Her presentation was intended to help us avoid some of the pitfalls she has encountered during her journey to publish, RIVEN, book one in her My Myth Trilogy. This series, per a quote on her website, is “a realm where fantasy and reality collide.” This book has several accolades including, Best Ebook, YA Fiction, 2016, YA Fiction winner of 2016 Publisher’s Weekly Booklife Prize in Fiction and 2017 Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Award.



I was especially fascinated by her daringness to tackle the subject of mental illness. This encouraged me since my character suffers through depression brought on by circumstances in her life. I have struggled with my decision to discuss this topic, especially in a book for children and young adults.  But it seems it has worked for Jane. It intrigued me that she used several fonts to identify the separate voices that were talking inside the character’s head. I purchased her book to see how this style worked and explore how the book all came together.


Edit! Edit! Edit! I was amazed at the number of rewrites Jane had done. I had imagined I was a Stephen King: that once I had written a scene, it was the best it could be. I expected to go straight to the head of the publisher’s line or self-publish and be through.  Now I can approach my writing from the new perspective that I may face many rejections and rewrites from the first draft to the “final” product, but that it is all just a part of the process. I also did not realize the number and types of editors available. I discovered that I do not have to get every comma and period in the right place. There are editors for that. Editors are also available, for a fee, for a variety of edits, including a broad stroke review, as well as line by line.


Passion, Stubbornness and Impatience are traits that Jane said helped her along the way. I had thought that my story might be too close and emotional, since it is about my grandmother’s life, but now I believe that this closeness may be an important factor in my determination to finish my project and see it through to publication, promotion and presentation to the public.


Okay, you have been published. Now what? I would have never guessed the number of things that must be done post-publication.  School visits and readings at bookstores were on my list.  But according to Jane, there are many more things that need to be done, including but not limited to a YouTube trailer. I now know I need a much longer list. I was astonished at the amount of money that could be spent to publish and promote a book.


Always! Always! Look ahead to your next project. Your ideas, while writing your first book, may jump ahead or spur ideas for subsequent books or a series. I learned that scenes may not occur linearly, but should be captured and possibly later woven into the current story or saved for later.


As you can see, this seminar proved especially helpful to me. I was encouraged to continue to write, to rewrite and not to expect my first draft to be my best work. There is a process and path to publishing, with lots of possible stumbling blocks along the way.


I left with these thoughts… Don’t get discouraged.


Write! Write! Write!


FullSizeRenderRetired Oil and Gas Accountant turned writer. BS in Elementary Education with a minor in English from McMurry University in Abilene, TX. Song writer now trying hand at children’s books.








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Leticia Garcia gets Schooled on School Visits

Posted on: April 10, 2017


When I checked my e-mails, my eyes were drawn to a message from North Texas SCBWI. I read, "Schooled on School Visits Workshop," and I devoured the information. It was Thursday night and the workshop would be on the following Saturday. I had already given my word to my beloved daughter to watch my little granddaughters, seven and three years old. I apologized and told her that I really wanted to go to the workshop with a big smile on my face. She understood, as she knows how happy mom is about my passion and dreams of becoming a published writer and illustrator one day.

I made planes to attend. I did not know if the location was near or far, but I didn’t care–even if it was two hours away. My imagination took me to the place and I saw myself perched on my chair, listening and writing. Things worked out in my favor. When I checked on google maps, it showed that the location was only fifteen minutes from where I live! This could not be better, I thought. 

On Saturday morning, I left early with the help of my friend "GPS," and I arrived early. I am here! I headed to the entrance of Bedford's public library feeling thankful and grateful. I proceeded to find the room where the workshop was going to be with the guidance and kindness of a nice woman at the front desk. I am where I belong! That’s what I thought, and I felt so special just to be there. 

In a few moments, writers and illustrators were meeting. We introduced ourselves and prepared for the event about to take place. We were ready to learn. I was delighted to meet in person my North Texas SCBWI Regional Advisor, Jackie Kruzie. The workshop started with published author, Madeline Smoot, who shared her personal experience as a writer and provided extensive information on the workshop’s subject, presentations, and school visits. I was writing and writing; I did not wanted to miss anything! 

Thank you, Madeline, for sharing your time with us and for listening to and advising me! Jackie kept us entertained with her presentation about one of her books. We all participated in a raffle while she read and added sounds, voices, and questions with the help of her precious little girl. Jackie guided us through the steps of giving school visit presentations and shared what she carries in her small tote bag  to make school visits a success! Thank you, Jackie! I want to do that one day! 

Presenter and a published illustrator, Korey Scott, shared his talent with musical instruments and dance to make children enjoy his school presentations. I had the opportunity to talk with him and we agreed on the importance of taking care of children, and the need for support in this world of confusion. Especially those children from different cultures and backgrounds. They need guidance! 

Korey offered advice and answered questions about my portfolio. Thank you! My best wishes to you all at SCBWI North Texas. Special thanks to published illustrator, Carolyn Dee Flores, who I met at Irving Arts Center during her workshop in September 2016. And toMeg Medina, who gave a presentation at the school where I work. They are my pioneers in advising me to join SCBWI and told me, "Do not give up!"

Published or not at the present, I am so happy to be part of this wonderful experience and thankful for the opportunity to write and share my thoughts. 

Forever writer and illustrator,
Leticia Garcia


Leticia GarciaLeticia Garcia lives in Irving,Texas and works for Irving ISD. In her free time, Leticia reads, writes, draws, and does professional face painting. She also enjoys sharing time with her two little granddaughters, family and friends.









Don't miss North Texas SCBWI's awesome upcoming events. Click HERE to learn more.

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Sixth Annual Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival

Posted on: April 1, 2017

By Sandy Lowe


Don’t be confused. CALF is not one of Abilene’s world-class rodeos or stock shows. CALF stands for Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival. The name is a bit fancy but the party, hosted by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council and others, is a blast!



The first festival, held in 2012, celebrated Dr. Seuss. Six of his quirky characters now make their homes as bronze statues in Abilene’s Everman Park, directly across North 1st Street from the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL). Since then every sweaty, swinging summer has seen another influential picture book illustrator featured including William Joyce, David Shannon and Mark Teague.


This year Garth Williams, whose work brought us close-up looks at a little mouse named Stuart and an amazing spider named Charlotte, will be honored. An exhibition of his work will open at the NCCIL on Thursday, June 8, 2017.


One of the highlights, The Costume Contest, kicks off CALF on Thursday immediately followed by the Storybook Parade at 6:00 pm.  The brand new Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden opens at 6:30 and will include the unveiling of five statues of William’s characters. Next on the schedule is Wilbur’s Garden Party.


CALF attendees can download the Beacon app to hear story overviews of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Kittens and their Mother and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


At 7:00 pm, Leonard Marcus and Diane Muldrow will present an Authors Talk followed by signings of their books “Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books” and “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book.”



Marcus is well known as one of our country’s foremost experts on children’s literature and has published numerous books on the subject. Muldrow is the author of two Little Golden Books: “Where Do Giggles Come From?” and “How Do Penguins Play?” plus other picture book titles.


If you have one child or more handy, you’ll want to bring them along for the Festival daytime activities. Here’s partial list:


  • Ventriloquist performances
  • Petting zoo
  • Sculpture workshop
  • Write and Illustrate workshop
  • Hair chalking
  • Face painting
  • Digital character creation


Dramatic readings of books illustrated by Williams are scattered throughout the weekend as well as showings of movies based on several of those works at the historic Paramount Theater. Youngsters can collect a total of twelve buttons, one for each activity they attend.


As you can see, there won’t be a dull moment in Abilene June 8th through 10th. Some of the activities require reservations, and you won’t want to miss a thing! So register now at If you register before May 15th you’ll receive a 30% discount.


While you’re at it, mark you calendar for June 2018. Oliver Jeffers is coming! Hopefully, he’ll bring those famous crayons along.

See you in June!



Sandy Sandy Lowe writes magazine articles for grownups and aspires to publish picture books. She has published one story for kids, “Patrick the Pickle” in Gannett Press’s Pennywhistle Press. Sandy hails from Abilene, Texas, recently designated The Storybook Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature.









Don't miss North Texas SCBWI's awesome upcoming events. Click HERE to learn more.

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Interview with Illustrator Terry Widener

Posted on: March 27, 2017

My Name is James Madison Hemings" written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by North Texas' own Terry Widener, was named by The New York Times as one of the 6 Great New Picture Books for Kids and listed as one of the Notable Children's Books of 2016. Most recently Widener's illustration work from the book has made him a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Awards. I interviewed him about his career, artistic process, and what he's working on next.

My Name is James Madison Hemings Cover

You started out in the advertising world, how did you land up illustrating for children's books?
I started out as a graphic designer. We had a graphic design class in high school that I did for 3 years that covered all areas of graphic design. When I went to college I majored in graphic design but it was very much doing what I had already been taught. I really had no intention of doing anything in art as I had a golf scholarship. So mainly I played golf during my college years.  I did take a couple of pottery classes and the basics like drawing, painting, printmaking but as far as graphic design classes there was nothing that I had not been taught in high school. High school was where I learned to do lettering with a brush, just in case I would want to be a sign painter someday.

When I graduated I took a job at Dillards's department store art department.  I stayed there a month before I left.  During that month we did the illustrations and layouts for the newspaper ads and I within two weeks work I had been promoted to drawing men's and women's shoes and received a raise. I was now making $.50 cents an hour less than the artist who had been working there for 15 and 20 years. I could see that there was not much of a future, so I left.

I got a job at a country club as an assistant golf pro, but before I started that job the head of the art department at the University of Tulsa wanted me to go on an interview for an art director at an ad agency.  The job paid $150.00 more a month, so I took it. Stayed there for a little over two years.  It was a small agency so the art department was two people and we did everything. Illustration, photography, whatever needed to be done. Because of my time there, and the awards I received, I was hired by the best design studio in Tulsa. This was some of the most fun I had in the ad business. There were four of us and we did some very good work that received lots of attention and recognition. However, after a three years there, the studio merged with another studio and it changed.

In 1979 the studio sent me to The Illustrators Workshop in Tarrytown, NY for three weeks to work with Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, Bob Peak, Alan E. Cober, Robert Hinder, and Fred Otnes. These were very much the superstars during the 60's and 70's. I came back and knew I had to make a change in my career.  I contacted some design studios in Dallas, came down to interview with them but only did one interview and was hired that day by the design studio branch of the Richards Group.  The design studio was Richards, Sullivan, Brock and there were twelve designers and we worked on our own projects and sometimes helped on projects that the ad agency part of the Richards Group was doing. I stayed there about a year and a half before starting my own business in 1981 doing illustration (editorial, corporate, and advertising) plus a little design work.

I did quite a bit of work in Texas my first couple of years, but after that I started to do work mostly out of New York and Boston. I had an agent in New York and she kept me very busy.  In 1995 an editor asked my agent if I would be interested in doing a picture book. She had seen my work around New York for several years and had a story. Without knowing what the story was I said yes. The pay wasn't much but it was something new to do and the editorial illustration business was going through some big changes. The story turned out to be the Lou Gehrig book. The book ended up receiving some major awards and that's how I ended up doing books. Within a year or so I began to work primarily on books.

2. You work traditionally, what are your favorite materials to work with?
I used to work with some oils and alkyds early in my career but taught myself how to do acrylics. I've started with Golden Acrylics and a few years ago Golden came out with Golden Open Acrylics and that's what I use now.

3. What led you to doing non-fiction illustration work and what are some of the challenges?

The non-fiction just happened with my first book but I have done quite a lot of fiction books also. You can see some of those on my website or on Amazon. I also do lots of baseball themed books due to my first book. The biggest challenge in doing non-fiction is making sure your research is as accurate as possible. I do my own research and I don't depend on the author's research. Most of the time my research comes out the same as the author, but there have been occasions when I find some differences. When that happens I contact the editor and let her make the decision about what to do.  But there are always reviewers out there who are looking for mistakes and if they find one it can ruin a book. I normally have two to three sources for my research. That way I have plenty of backup if an editor should have a question.




4. How has your work evolved over the years?
I began my illustration career doing pen and ink and watercolor cartoons. They were very popular but I wanted to do "real" illustration, not cartoons. And clients in New York did not want cartoons. They wanted illustration and a unique style that was different from other illustrators.  They were looking for strong conceptual art.  If they wanted cartoons there were plenty of very good cartoonist in New York.
I liked the work of Paul Davis so I began to study his work closely and met with him a few times. There was not a "secret" that he told me. He said I should keep doing what I was doing and my style would develop on it's own, and to go to museum's because that's where you learn how to paint. I saw an exhibit of N.C. Wyeth's work and I liked it. His technique was very much how I was taught to paint when I was 12 and 13 years old. It was just refining my technique and learning how to handle values and composition.
5. What do you paint/illustrate for fun? 
Western and Native American themes. I am also in the process of learning how to do better landscapes to work with those themes.
Terry Widener Willie Mays
6. How do you market your art?
I have my two websites and my agent. The fine art business is very different than the illustration business. Right now I'm not in any galleries but maybe someday. It's very much a "game" you have to play and it can be frustrating. I have sold a couple of prints though just because someone has seen my work and they were interested in purchasing a print.
7. What piece of art are you most proud of?
My cover for James Madison Hemings turned out exactly like I wanted. There was an expression on his face and a look in his eyes that I had wanted to achieve. It's hard to describe but it was getting the expression of a 13 or 14 year old boy but still have a sadness in his eyes. Probably one of the only times something has turned out like I visualized it.  My newest piece of fine art turned out good. I use to not be able to paint a person's face very well at all. Over the years I have worked very hard to solve that problem.  I think that's why I like both of these pieces.

lou-gehrig8. What challenges have you encountered in the business of Children's Book Illustration?

Being "pigeon holed" as a only being able to do baseball. Before I began doing books I illustrated many different subjects.



 9. Are you working on anything new that you can share?
 I am working on something new, but I haven't signed the contract yet, tho I expect to get an email soon. I can say it is baseball related.


Terry has been an SCBWI member for many years and often attends our local North Texas events. When he's not illustrating and researching for a book, he paintswestern themed artwork and recently won an award for his acrylic painting titled "Dog Soldier". 

For more of Terry's Illustration work, information on school visits, and to see artwork from the books he's worked on you can visit his website at  

Terry's Art website can be viewed at:

Terry Widener

Terry Widener is an award-winning illustrator whose picture books include My Name is James Madison Hemings (New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2016, Junior Library Guild Selection, Oklahoma Book Awards Finalist) The Kite that Bridged Two Nations (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award CA/HI, California Reading Association Eureka! Honor Award) You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! (New York Times Editors Choice, Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book Award 2013) Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man (a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book) Mr. Widener lives with his family in McKinney, Texas.












The Most Valuable Nickel

Posted on: January 15, 2017


By Sandy Lowe



There’s never been a better year than 2017 to visit the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene. The “Nickel” (NCCIL)as it is affectionately known, will celebrate twenty years in 2017 and there will be a birthday party every month.



Here’s the current line-up of participating authors and illustrators:


January 20-21: William Joyce


February 16-18: James E. Ransome

March 6-7: David Small and Sarah Stewart

March 31-April 1: Robert Sabuda

May 5-6: Mark Criley

June 8-10: Leonard Marcus and Diane Muldrow

July – David Diaz

August – Denise Fleming

September 14-15 – David Macauley

October 14: Marla Frazee, David Shannon and Mark Teague

November 9-10: Melissa Sweet


A few of the events include a manga drawing class with Mark Criley, an adult painting workshop with David Diaz and a pop-up program with Robert Sabuda.


William Joyce’s picture book, Santa Calls, started the ball rolling with its publication in 1993. Because one of the book’s settings is a ranch near Abilene, then mayor Dr. Gary McCaleb invited Joyce for a visit. Joyce had never visited Abilene and didn’t know anyone who lived there. The idea for a gallery honoring the work of artists for children’s books came out of their meeting.


Since 1997 the NCCIL has hosted more than fifty exhibitions of original art. About 200,000 elementary school students have visited and over 10,000 books have been donated to local schools. Admission to exhibitions is always free.


Due in large part to the NCCIL and the annual Children’s Art and Literacy Festival (CALF) held in June, the Texas Legislature named Abilene the Storybook Capital of Texas in 2016.


One of the delights connected with the NCCIL is the continuing addition of children’s book sculptures to the Abilene landscape. You can “meet” characters from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax to Mark Teague and Jane Yolen’s “dinosaur saying good night” to Santa himself while Joyce’s Dinosaur Bob peers down at you from a nearby roof.


The current exhibition, titled “Travels with Brian Floca,” includes original art from his books Locomotive, Moonshot, Lightship and more. It will continue through January 28, 2017.


Watch the NCCIL’s website at for details about the 2017 event. Besides this pearl of children’s literature Abilene boasts the Grace Museum (, Frontier Texas (, the Abilene Zoo ( and much more. Plan a road trip. Pack books for the trip to Abilene. On the way home,  you’ll have plenty of new ones.

Sandy Sandy Lowe writes magazine articles for grownups and aspires to publish picture books. She has published one story for kids, “Patrick the Pickle” in Gannett Press’s Pennywhistle Press. Sandy hails from Abilene, Texas, recently designated The Storybook Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature.

Reflections on the Round Table Retreat

Posted on: October 24, 2016

By Jimmy Mustion



Going to the NT-SCBWI Knights of the Revision Round Table Retreat, I didn’t know what to expect. I have never been to any type of conference before. Not including the money for the conference itself, this was going to be an expensive trip. Traveling six hours, two nights in a hotel, plus food, and all with a two year old, I wondered, was this going to be worth it? 


I am happy to report that it was worth every penny.



I am not an illustrator, so when Will Terry presented to the group I didn't know how it would relate to me. The single thing I took away from Mr. Terry's presentation was passion. I was blown away and enthralled with the talk. Will has so much passion for what he does, so much passion for others to succeed, so much passion for the final, finished product being the best it can be. I can't draw but I was ready to pick up a pencil and go to work.


Tricia Lawrence talked to us about Character. Specifically, taking our characters and delving deeper into them. Listening to her, I realized how easy it is for me to keep my characters flat and one dimensional. It would benefit my writing to take the time, be patient, and get to know my characters on a deeper level. Tricia completely won me over. If other agents are a half amazing as her then I will be so lucky.

IMG_1061 (1)

Keynote speaker and Agent, Tricia Lawrence, (center) hobnobbing with NT-SCBWI members


We were treated to a wonderful talk about Voice from Editor Christian Trimmer. Mr. Trimmer has been in the literary world for many years and has worked with some of my favorite writers. The wisdom he presented really made me realize that when you are creating a story you need to always keep the "big picture" in mind. Making sure my story connects throughout the story, not just in that particular scene.


We wrapped the day up with all three of our speakers taking time to answer questions for the group. They offered so much advice and encouragement during this time. Not a single question was asked that wasn’t met with sage and sometimes snarky advice. All day each of the guest-speakers took time to chat with retreat attendees. All were personal and approachable. 


The retreat was a fabulous event. North Texas SCBWI Regional Advisor, Jackie Kruzie, and her crew did an amazing job.  Their desire to see this retreat and all chapter events be the very best will do nothing but help us all get published.  I just wish I didn't live 6 hours away!



Jimmy Mustion writes under the name James Arthur. His lives in Claude, TX, with his wife, Christiana, and their lovely daughter, Noelle. They are the owners and operators of The Claude News, the town's newspaper. Jimmy has been published in the English children's magazine Rainbow Time. Rainbow Time is a magazine and radio show produced and aired in Taiwan. Jimmy is currently working on his picture book manuscripts–revising and gearing towards submission. You can read his blog at



Yes, You Can Write Nonfiction and Make Your Manuscript Just Right!

Posted on: September 6, 2016

By Sandy Lowe




Come on, admit it. You’re just a little confused by all those nonfiction and “near nonfiction” terms. Like “creative nonfiction” and “historical fiction” and “narrative nonfiction.”


On Saturday, August 27, Pat Miller cleared up all the confusion for us at the Nonfiction Matters workshop. Pat is the author of “The Hole Story of the Doughnut” recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as well as twenty books for school librarians and five additional books for children.


As a former school librarian herself, Pat has a great grasp on what kids enjoy as well as what publishers are looking for in nonfiction. She shared with us secrets for creating an emotional response in our nonfiction manuscripts and recommended a long list of picture books to help us hone our craft.


Pat’s compelling quote from Peggy Thomas, author of Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children that “You are eight times more likely to be published as a nonfiction writer than you are as a writer of fiction,” got my attention! 


Pat also walked us through her research process and shared a list of resources that I’m keeping right on my desk. I know it’s going to make finding the right information so much easier.


The afternoon session, led by Penny Parker Klosterman, focused on taking your picture book manuscript from “Not Quite” to “Just Right.” Editors, like Goldilocks, want your story to be “just right,” and part of making that happen includes using poetic techniques to choose the perfect word every time.


Penny’s debut rhyming picture book, “There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight,” came out from Random House last year. Next year, Random House will publish “A Cooked Up Fairy Tale.”


We sampled over thirty picture books as Penny led us through examples of hyperbole, imagery, onomatopoeia (Yes, I had to look it up to spell it correctly.), and more poetic techniques. When I looked at the work in progress I brought to the workshop it was easy to see where I could use Penny’s poetic techniques to bring more fun and feeling to my story.


Have you ever “speed-dated” picture books?  We did and it’s a great way to identify how outstanding books use sound devices, figurative language and imagery to draw us in and touch our hearts.


Penny’s resource list included books on writing for children, online references and tools and podcasts. She also encouraged us to read and write poetry to make poetic techniques part of every day.


One of the greatest things about an SCBWI North Texas Chapter workshop is direct access to successful writers like Pat and Penny who are so open, helpful and encouraging.


On top of all that, lunch was super tasty and there were nice gooey cookies.


Brave new Regional Adviser Jackie Kruze and her superhero sidekick Assistant Regional Adviser Jen Judd, did a great job of organizing the day.


So don’t miss the next North Texas Chapter opportunity to learn from successful writers. On September 24 you can attend the 2016 Publishing Knights of the Revision Round Table Retreat, a one-day event that combines elements of a mini-conference and a retreat. There will a track for picture books, middle grade/young adult and illustration. See the web page at for more information and Write On!


Sandy Lowe

Sandy Lowe writes magazine articles for grownups and aspires to publish picture books. She has published one story for kids, “Patrick the Pickle” in Gannett Press’s Pennywhistle Press. Sandy hails from Abilene, Texas, recently designated The Storybook Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature.


My Weekend at the SCBWI LA Conference

Posted on: August 14, 2016

This year I attended the 45th Annual SCBWI LA Conference and had a blast! The conference was packed with amazing keynote speakers, the golden kite awards, a portfolio showcase, and lots of opportunities to meet with and talk to authors, illustrators, agents, and reps from the industry from all over the world. It was almost overwhelming how much information is packed into a few days in Los Angeles, but I made the most of it. I learned so much and met so many great people at the conference. 

The Summer Conference was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel was built in 1923, and besides being a favorite location for shooting movies and television shows over the years, is well known as the early home of the Academy Awards. In fact, the Golden Kite Awards were given in the same room that weekend. It is a beautiful hotel and quite the elegant backdrop for the awards and conference.

The keynote presentations were inspiring as well as motivating. The speakers were very diverse, knowledgeable, and had different paths that got them where they are. What stuck with me was they all spoke about not being afraid to tell a story in your voice, as you are the only one with that voice. They talked about their individual journeys, peppered with funny tales about childhood (with photos), as well as what it took to get them where they are now. The keynote speakers were our cheerleaders for the weekend, pep talking us into writing that next draft or re-editing our stories and imagery. There were talks about needing diverse books, bucking trends, and pressing on even after rejections. Everyone laughed when one of the speakers brought out a giant scroll of rejection letters and had help unrolling it the width of the ballroom. 

Then there were the workshops and panels – the hardest part was picking which one to attend! I was sadly lacking a time-turner like the one Hermione has in Harry Potter, so I was stuck having to pick workshops. As an illustrator, I gravitated towards the ones geared towards illustration, but there was at least one writing workshop I went to by Marie Lu (Legends Series) on building characters that I found very insightful.

Saturday night arrived and it was time for the portfolio showcase, happy hour hangouts, and the big gala – The Red Carpet Ball. The showcase was like nothing I’ve seen before – multiple rooms filled with portfolios in alphabetical order with stacks of postcards or business cards to take. Some of the portfolios themselves were works of art with custom printed fabric hand stretched onto covers and bound by hand. Others, like mine, were standard store bought portfolios – end to end they lay in rooms so the hundreds of people who were there could look through them. As we all filtered out of the portfolio showcase, there were open hangout sessions to meet and greet editors and agents, or meetings for specific genres of writers, and a book sale. Then it was time to have dinner and party at the Red Carpet Ball (where some people dressed up as red carpets).

For me the weekend wrapped early as I had a Sunday morning flight, but I’m really happy I could get in all the workshops and keynotes that I did. Overall I feel I learned a lot over the weekend that I will definitley utilize in my own work, and the connections that I made with other writers and illustrators at the conference alone is worth the price of attending the annual LA Conference. 


Book Talk, Mentor Texts, and a Whole Lotta Links

Posted on: July 26, 2016

by Emily Johnsen

Last Saturday’s “Using Book Talk to Guide Revision” event was a fun afternoon of comradery, mentor-text sharing, and information book_talk-01swapping. Thank you to everyone who attended! I think I speak for all of us when I say we enjoyed getting to know one another a bit better.  


The event kicked off with a lively discussion of the why’s and how’s of learning from mentor texts and a read-aloud of a few picture book favorites. After that, we all enjoyed a spontaneous Q and A session during which a wide range of information was shared and many links were promised. So without further ado, here's a heapin' helpin' of bookmark-worthy links. May they serve you well:



NT SCBWI links:


Regional NT-SCBWI. Since you are reading this blog, I assume you have found your way to our regional page. But just in case, here’s the link to our home page– North Texas SCBWI

Public Facebook page– SCBWI North Texas – a group for children's writers and illustrators

Members Only Facebook page–SCBWI North Texas (Closed Group)

Members Only Swap Stop Facebook page. This is the place to go to find a fellow SCBWI member to swap manuscipts for critique. We encourage you to use this page to find contacts, but please do not share manuscripts on or through the page itself.–SCBWI North Texas Swap Stop (Secret Group)

Critique Groups. Are you looking for a critique group? We want to help! Go to this page to get started.–North Texas Critique Groups (Members Only)


My little disclaimer: The links below are not endorsed by or affiliated with SCBWI. They are merely links that the author of this blog hopes will be helpful to those seeking information on the following topics:



Links to writing challenges:


12 x 12 is a year-long writing challenge where members aim to write 12 complete picture book drafts, one per month, for each 12 months of the year. Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12

ReFoReMo or Reading for Research Month Challenge helps picture book writers reform writing by reading and researching mentor texts in the month of March. Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo

PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month is a challenge is to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days. Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo

NaPiBoWriWee or National Picture Book Writing Week is the annual event in which we attempt to write 7 picture books in 7 days. Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee

RhyPiBoMo or Rhyming Picture Book Month is a month dedicated to the art of rhyming picture books. Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo



Picture Book Layout/ templates:


Links about using/not using art notes:


Plot/Story Arc:


Writing in Rhyme:


Great on-line resources:



…And of course SCBWI!

You can find more great links on this resource post from a workshop on June 22, 2013. 

If I've forgotten a great link or you'd like to add to this list, feel free to mention it on facebook.


Looking forward to visiting with everyone at our next big event, workshop with Pat Miller and Penny Parker Klosterman!Double_P_workshop

Register now:

SCBWI Shortens the Learning Curve

Posted on: June 30, 2016

by Christine Kohler

When I was a writing instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL), I recommended joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to all my students. I believe it can take years off the learning curve of navigating the publishing business.


By the time I discovered SCBWI in 1998, I was published in multiple formats. After writing across the board from newspapers to journals and magazines to novels and picture books, I decided to specialize in children's literature. Later, when I was an ICL instructor and wrote books for the educational and library markets, I came to understand just how specialized children’s lit is. It is much more difficult to write for children when considering cognitive levels, age-appropriateness, and child/age sensibilities and viewpoints. The standards are higher. There are less markets and less money than writing for adults. The few times new students said they planned to write for children, implying it was easier, and then graduate to writing for adults, I suggested they dis-enroll from ICL and take the adult market course instead.


I’m a big believer in becoming active in SCBWI, a nonprofit organization run by volunteers. Children’s lit authors, editors, and agents are a small tight-knit worldwide community. The friends and contacts have been wonderful. Contacts can end up as contracts, if you continue to build relationships. This has happened to many writers I know. If you volunteer it increases your opportunities to get to know editors, agents and published authors.


I also urge writers to join critique groups. SCBWI is an ideal place to form critique groups, teaching groups, retreat groups, and goals groups, either in person or online through the SCBWI website.  In recent years there has been a cry for workshops focusing on advanced craft. Children’s lit is a very competitive field and children deserve only the best. So, no matter how good of a writer or illustrator you may be, or how unique the concept, often the work, or level of craft, needs ratcheted up a notch. SCBWI is a great organization to tap into resources to get that boost up.


For published authors like me, SCBWI gives me the opportunity to teach writing, to network with authors to write grants with for panel presentations at library and education conventions. Through these fellow author connections, I’ve also been introduced to bookstore publicists and librarians, which led to program bookings.


In our field, writing and illustrating are solitary acts. SCBWI is a wonderful safe place where we can go and have stimulating interaction with like-goal-minded folks.      


And here are just a few of North Texas SCBWI's events – coming up soon :







NSS cover 450 pix

CKhead 330pixcropChristine Kohler is a graduate of the University of Hawaii, and lived in Japan and Guam, the setting for her debut novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER (Merit Press, 2014). She was a foreign correspondent and political reporter for Gannett. Kohler has 17 fiction and NF books published in ABA and CBA trade, mass, education, and library markets. Kohler lives in Granbury, Texas.

The American Library Association nominated NO SURRENDER SOLDIER as a YALSA Quick Pick for reluctant readers. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER was awarded a bronze medal by the Military Writers Society of America. Kohler’s nonfiction book MUSIC PERFORMANCE: VOCALS AND BAND (Rosen, 2012; paperback 2013) was a Junior Library Guild selection.