An Interview with Brett Duquette, Editor – Sterling Publishing

Posted on: September 14, 2017

By Korey Scott



brett duquette

We are happy to have Brett Duquette, Senior Editor at Sterling Publishing on our blog today.  Brett will be joining us on September 23rd for our conference. 


Before becoming and editor, Brett received and MFA in creative writing from Rutgers. He was a college English professor for several years until joining Sterling Publishing in 2009. His list is comprised of board books, picture books, novelty, classics, middle grade fiction, nonfiction, and licensed titles. He loves new stories and fresh perspectives and is always on the hunt for great writing and beautiful sentences.



1.      What brought you to this career path?


Like every editor I’ve ever met, I was an early reader. After earning an English degree in college, then an MFA in creative writing at Rutgers, I was an adjunct English Professor at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey. I loved teaching, but the adjunct life felt impossible. So, I began interning at Sterling Publishing. I loved it there and never looked back! I’ve been at Sterling for seven years now, I think, and have grown from intern to senior editor.


2.      Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?


I was born and raised in Nebraska and grew up reading Willa Cather, Dickens, and Steinbeck. I love literary fiction and short stories and spend most of my leisure time reading from that endless pool. Though, I also have a soft spot for science fiction, fantasy, and manga. Beginning in graduate school, I’ve attended conferences and literary events regularly, and I volunteer, acting as stage manager for the Story Prize, America’s largest annual award for new collections of short stories. If this says anything about me, one of my favorite courses in graduate school was on narratology, or the study of narrative structure.


3.      What are you looking for in a manuscript?


First and foremost I am looking for beautiful sentences that are clearly rooted in the world of the narrative. I like to see characters, who are clear and distinguishable, making choices in connection to their desires. To be honest, it’s not plot that often grabs me, it’s the construction of the narrative and the depth of characters.


4.      What are you looking for in a client?


Someone who is eager to work collaboratively and not afraid of revision. In my experience the best writers are the most willing to work with others.


5.      What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?


Read every children’s book that you can that has been published IN THE LAST 3 YEARS! I see so many people writing stories that would be appropriate for their own childhood, but not for a child in 2017. 


6.      We all have our favorite children’s books, ones that we can read over and over again. For me, I grew up with and can read Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Books and Richard Scarry’s books all the time.  With every read, there is always something more to explore. 


 What books are your favorites and why?


I love Peter Pan (the play—I’m not as fond of the novel), The Snowy Day, Last Stop on Market Street, and so many more! All of these examples have beautiful language and every word is delicately placed. Sentence construction and word choice in these examples create such an atmosphere. No word is wasted, and the depth of these works is formidable.


7.      Are you actively seeking submissions? 


Yes! Always!


8.      What are some things you enjoy doing outside of the publishing world?


I love basketball, seeing movies, going to the symphony, traveling. This is such a hard question! I love anything related to art, sports, and being social.



Looks like we are going to be moving the tables in the conference room for a game of basketball.  


Thank you Brett.  We look forward to meeting you soon!


Register now for the upcoming It’s Your Business: 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference!conference 2017 banner


Date(s) – 09/23/2017
8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Addison Conference & Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road – Addison, Texas 75001

An Interview with Jamie Weiss Chilton

Posted on: August 26, 2017

We are thrilled to feature Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Litrary Agency on our blog today. Jamie is one of our all-star faculty members at our fall conference this September.
Here's an exerpt from her own bio:

jamie chilton


Jamie Weiss Chilton represents all categories of children’s books, specializing in novelty books, 

picture books and teen novels with a special eye toward contemporary, thriller, science fiction, comedy, horror, and memoir.

She is actively seeking INTENSITY across all genres. She wants to feel like she's been kicked in the heart and smacked upside the soul. She's seeking manuscripts that stay with her and enrich her life. This could mean sweet-intensity, like crying at an "I love you" picture book, or shocked-intensity, like reading a YA that explores an essential part of the teen experience in a way she's never considered. Underrepresented, unique viewpoints and new takes on perennial topics interest her. In the younger genres, she always looks for the hook that will make a book a must-have parenting or educational resource.



Jackie Kruzie, our chapter's Regional Advisor, had the chance to e-chat with jamie and here's what they had to say…


1. What brought you to this career path? 
I think my career choices are due in large part to my mom’s love of books, and the abundance of books I had growing up. I was always encouraged to pursue my passion, which has been reading for as long as I can remember. Incidentally, I also think my love of rabbits has to do with the abundance of bunny books published in the 60’s and 70s — we had them all in my house growing up! 



2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?
I’ve been in children’s books, in one way or another, my whole career. I started out with an internship at Henry Holt, with Christy Ottaviano, in 1998, and I knew I’d found my calling! My first job after college was as an Editorial Assistant at Random House Children’s Books. I was at RH for four years, and then moved back to Los Angeles, my hometown. In LA, I worked at the SCBWI’s main office, as the conference coordinator for the LA and NYC conferences, and as the Golden Kite Award coordinator. Getting to meet and spend time with authors, illustrators, editors, and agents was fantastic, and I wanted to get back into the publishing side of the business. It was my first mentor, Christy Ottaviano, who suggested I talk with Andrea at ABLA, and here I am, ten years after that initial conversation! Our industry really is a small world! 



3. What are you looking for in a manuscript?
I’m looking for an emotional connection. I want a manuscript, and illustrations — in any genre — to make me feel something, to elicit an authentic emotional response. Joy, inspiration, amazement, sadness, shock…. Whatever your plot and themes, there should be emotion there. And I want an emotional response to be well-earned and subtly achieved. I’m looking for nuance, and I’m interested in the complex relationships between emotions.This all sounds very serious; I do love funny, clever, joyful books! 



4. What are you looking for in a client? 

You’ll see great examples in two of my clients who are presenting at this conference: Janee Trasler and Salina Yoon! I’m seeking professionalism, openness, strong communication skills, immense creativity, a positive attitude, and drive to succeed in this industry. 

5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?
If you’re attending this conference, and even just reading this interview, you’ve already taken an important step, which is to reach out into the children’s book community. The SCBWI is a terrific resource. It’s important to keep creating new work and not get stuck on just one a few projects. Every author and illustrator I work with has a lot of projects that, for one reason or other, get put in a drawer. That’s ok, it’s part of the process. And it’s important not to let that get you down. Everything you create builds your skills. In order to succeed in this industry, you must be prolific, and be able to put projects aside if they’re not working. 
6. What advice do you have for authors and/or illustrators doing pitches?
My colleague Laura Rennert has a great pitching (and synopsis) device that I’ll borrow to answer this question. She asks authors to answer these questions about their story: “Who, What, Where, and Why should I care?” For me, I especially want to get a sense of the emotional as well as plot hooks of your book, and the unique qualities of your characters. What’s going to make me (i.e. kid-me, or teen-me), relate to these characters and their story arc?
7. What are your favorite, could read over and over again books?
Oh, there are many! I’m a big re-reader! All of my client’s books (sounds cheesy, but it’s true!) You can see examples of my clients' books at our agency’s website,
8. Are you actively seeking submissions?
I’m open to submissions from conference attendees, yes! Put “SCBWI TX query” in the subject line of your email. You’ll see our submission guidelines on our website. 


Register now for the upcoming It’s Your Business: 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference!


Date(s) – 09/23/2017
8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Addison Conference & Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road – Addison, Texas 75001


An Interview with 12 X 12 Founder, Julie Hedlund

Posted on: August 5, 2017

By Emily Johnsen


One of the esteemed keynote speakers at this fall's North Texas SCBWI Conference will be children's book author and founder of the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, Julie Hedlund. I had the honor of e-chatting with Julie to find out a little bit more about how she so successfully and creatively made children's book writing into a lucrative business. With some out-of-the-box thinking, inspiration, and perseverance, you, too, can Make It Your Business. So without further ado, here's Julie: 


Julie Hedlund Head Shot

1. What brought you to this career path?


I took the circuitous route. I was a huge reader, always, and loved writing as a child. I never expected I could be a "real" writer though, so I spent many years in the banking industry before returning to my love of literature in a serious way. I was inspired by the books I was reading to my children and, of course, by their own antics.


2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?


All of my experience is self-generated. Meaning, I didn't study English in college or get an MFA. I did take many children's writing courses, joined organizations like SCBWI, and read hundreds (literally) of blog posts and other material about writing for children. I am proof that you don't need a degree or a lifetime of writing to be successful. You do need LOTS of patience and perseverance.  


3. 12 X12 is a challenge to write 12 picture books in 12 months. What initially inspired you to create this challenge?


What initially inspired me to create 12 x 12 was MY need to generate more picture book drafts. Picture book authors need to be prolific in order to succeed, and let's just say I was not at all prolific before I created 12 x 12. I would write maybe one new draft a year, then spend a year revising. Not a recipe for success. For full disclosure, I have never written 12 drafts in a year. I am averaging between 5-7 though, and revising like crazy every month. I'm not only a much stronger writer, but in that time, I signed with an agent and have had multiple manuscripts go on submission (including two right now!). 


4. I believe 12 X 12 is in its 6th year. How has it changed from your original vision? And how has that changed your life?


First, I could never have imagined how big it would become, or that it would turn into a family. I call it "The Greatest Writing Community on Earth" because the level of support and camaraderie we give each other makes all the difference in our careers. Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember all of my 12 x 12 members and how we're not only all in it together, but that I need to find the strength and energy to keep THEM going when they're down. If 12 x 12 disappeared (not likely since I run it – LOL), I'd probably have to give up writing picture books. 


The original vision is still there – a place of support, encouragement, and accountability for writing. It's just gotten bigger to include more specific kinds of support and education, such as manuscript critiques, webinars, submission opportunities, book studies, etc. 


5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?


I always want to think I can come up with an original answer to this question, but the truth is, the recipe for success is the same for all children's book writers – new and established. Read, write, revise, repeat. And never, ever give up. 



Thank you, Julie! I look forward to meeting you face-to-face in September!



conference 2017 bannerRegister now for the upcoming It’s Your Business: 2017 North Texas SCBWI Conference!


Date(s) – 09/23/2017
8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Addison Conference & Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road – Addison, Texas 75001


An Interview with Susanna Hill

Posted on: July 22, 2017

By Jennifer Judd



Susanna Hill is a picture book writing dynamo, a generous supporter and champion of picture book writers, and one of our featured faculty members at our “It’s Your Business” fall conference. 


Her blog features the popular “Would You Read It? Wednesdays” pitch challenge and “Perfect Picture Book Fridays” book review, as well as the well-loved Halloweensie, Valentiny, and Holiday writing contests. Susanna is the creator of “Making Picture Book Magic,” an acclaimed online picture book writing course. She is also the award-winning author of over a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children's Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (a Children's Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom's Choice Award Winner and an Itabashi Translation Award Finalist.)  


Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one forthcoming in Chinese.  Her newest books, When Your Lion Needs A Bath andWhen Your Elephant Has The Sniffles just debuted this month by Little Simon (click here to find out more). She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs. We are thrilled she took a few moments to answer some questions for our blog today.

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1. What brought you to this career path?


When I was 3, I had my career path all laid out.  I fully intended to drive a steamroller.  "What will you do if you have kids?" my mom asked.  "Oh," I replied off-handedly, "they can ride on the seat next to me!"  Shockingly, however, by the time I was 3 1/2, I had new career goals.  "I'm going to be a fireman," I announced.  "Firewoman," my mom corrected.  Well, THAT didn't sound nearly as good.  I didn't want to be a firewoman.  Women were old people…like my mother! 


I decided to be a band (not in a band, mind you – none of my preschool friends played instruments –I planned to be the whole band.)  I could play Chopsticks, Hot Cross Buns, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  My audience lost enthusiasm quickly. 


It wasn't until I was 4 that I found a career path I could really stick with.  I lay on my stomach on the kitchen floor with a green crayon and a piece of paper. "I'm going to be writer," I told my mom while she shucked corn, not at all deterred by the fact that I was not yet sure how to form all the letters.  And my mom must have known that was the real deal because evening after evening she patiently told me how to spell things while she cooked dinner.


I love stories.  I love to hear them.  I love to read them.  I love to write them.  When I was little, most of my stories were about horses or Nancy Drew.  As a teen, there was a horrifying romance period   But it wasn't until my first child was born that I remembered my passionate love of Make Way For Ducklings, Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, Harry The Dirty Dog, Bread And Jam for Frances, and everything Dr. Seuss.  With my tiny daughter in my lap, a picture book open before us, I knew at last what I REALLY wanted to do!



2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?


I grew up in a family of readers in a house full of books.  Shelves lined the walls of hallway, library, and bedrooms, with the overflow stacked on the floor.  I loved being read to, but was impatient to be able to do it myself, until at last in the fall of first grade I finally cracked the code that let me, unaccompanied, independent, into the extraordinary world of reading.  I was shy, always more at home with a book than in the company of people I felt unsure of, so I read.  And read. 

And read. smiley  I also wrote, empowered by the ability to create my own worlds where my characters could be better, braver, smarter, stronger than I felt myself to be.  I double -majored in English and Psychology in college, and went on to pursue working with dyslexic children, partly because I enjoyed helping kids who had been defeated by their uncooperative brain wiring find joy and confidence in discovering their capabilities, and partly because, though I wanted to be a writer, I lacked confidence in own abilities. I always, always wrote for myself, though.  Writing is my first language – the one that comes most naturally – much more so than speech. smiley After my first child was born, I discovered the Institute of Children's Literature and got my first formal education in writing for children and the rest, as they say, is history… smiley 



3. What are "stand out" qualities of a great picture book manuscript?


The "stand out" qualities of a great picture book manuscript are much the same as for any story – great characters, a compelling plot that makes you want to turn the page and find out what happens next, an ending that leaves your reader satisfied.  But I think the A-Number-One stand out quality of picture books – the one that is unique to picture books – is re-readability.  A story that is so good, that touches you emotionally in such a meaningful way, that you want to read it over and over and over again.



4. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?


Ah.  I'm afraid my advice is much the same as everyone else's! smiley  It's hard to reinvent the wheel!  


1.     Read.  Read a lot.  Read what's current.  Immerse yourself in published examples of what you want to write.

2.     Learn your craft in any way you can – through excellent books on writing, attending classes in person or online, going to writing conferences, studying how great authors do things well.

3.     Write…

4.     Write…

5.     Write…!

6.     Join a critique group, in person or online, and learn from your peers both by taking in what they have to say about your writing and evaluating and articulating what works and what doesn't in their writing.

7.     Write some more!  smiley

8.     Eat chocolate.  It always helps. smiley

9.     Seriously. wink



5. Tell us a little about your blog and classes that you offer on your website.


I am very fortunate that my blog has become a lovely little community of people who like picture books.  Regular features include Oh Susanna (your questions about picture books answered) on the 1st Monday of the month, Short & Sweets (writing fun) on the 3rd Monday of the month, Would You Read It Wednesday (pitch practice) every Wednesday, and Perfect Picture Book Fridays (reviews of great picture books including resources on how parents and teachers can expand on the books' use at home or in the classroom), as well as several writing contests a year… and whatever other hare-brained schemes I come up with when the fancy strikes. smiley  I also teach an online class called Making Picture Book Magic which (I hope!) is fun, manageable, affordable, and comprehensive instruction on how to write picture books.



6. Some books have "huggable" status, meaning, they are ones that you reread again and again and want to wrap your arms around, like an old friend. Is there a book (or books) that are "huggable" for you? Which one (s)?


This is an unfair question! smiley  I love way too many books to list them all here!  And it's practically impossible to choose a top three… or five… or ten!  I love books that make me laugh – like Z Is For Moose by Kelly Bingham, Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, Here Comes The Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, and I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! by Jill Esbaum.  But I'm also really a sucker for books with the "awww" factor like The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Penguin And Pinecone by Salina Yoon, Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper, and Officer Buckle And Gloria by Peggy Rathmann and Sophie's Squash by Pat Zeitlow Miller (which a little bit fit both categories!)



7.What contests, news, other tidbits, etc., would you like to share with us? 


Hmm… well, in news, I have three new books coming out this summer – WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH, WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT – which is very exciting for me. smiley …  In contests, I plan to run the 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest at the end of October, and the 7th Annual Holiday Contest at the beginning of December – both for children's writers.  Other tidbits… I cling stubbornly to a fond hope that I'm going to get my new class written and start up my tons of fun newsletter… and hopefully at some point those things will come to fruition!  Other than that, I can't really think of anything…though I'm sure I will as soon as this is posted!


Thank you so much for hosting me today, and for inviting me to be part of the North Texas conference in September!  I look forward to meeting you all!


And we can't wait to meet you, Susanna! Thanks for joining us here on the blog. We'll see you in September!

An Interview with Melissa Edwards

Posted on: July 16, 2017

By Jennifer Judd



We are thrilled to feature Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency on our blog today. Melissa is one of our all-star faculty members at our fall conference this September. Melissa joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a 40-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa represents authors of children’s fiction, adult commercial fiction, and select pop-culture nonfiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and accessible young adult fiction. She also manages a select picture book list. Here's the scoop on Melissa!



1. What brought you to this career path?


I was a lawyer first and I found it really unsatisfying. I knew I wanted to work in a more creative field, and I wanted to work with books. I ended up working at my first agency by emailing Harlan Coben's literary agent and asking about her job. She told me they were looking for an assistant and I jumped at the opportunity. It was challenging to learn a whole new industry from the ground up, but starting from the bottom gave me the building blocks to understand the art of being a literary agent. 



2. Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?


I have been working in publishing for over 4 years. I started at the Aaron Priest Agency solely assisting for the first 9 months, and then I took over foreign rights for Aaron's clients including David Baldacci and Robert Crais. I started building my a domestic list two and a half years ago and moved over to Stonesong to work exclusively on my own list in September 2016. Stonesong has been an incredible place to work because it's so collaborative, especially for children's books.


3. What are you looking for in a manuscript?


I am looking to be captivated in some way–captured, enthralled, thrilled, swept away. That can occur in any genre and for any age group–it's the immersion that speaks volumes. If I am standing on crowded train, ignoring the huge mass of people around me, because a submission has me glued to the page… that's the ultimate sign. I tend to gravitate towards contemporary realistic YA and heart warming middle grade (sometimes with a magical element), but I am looking for other genres as well. 



4. What are you looking for in a client? 


I want someone who has done their research about the business. I like answering specific questions, especially during the offer of representation phone call. I like a curious client who wants to be engaged in the publication process. And with the amount of self-marketing an author has to do to be successful– it's nice to know early on if a client is going to be willing to put in the time and effort to really hustle for his or her book.



5. What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?


Google. Twitter. SCBWI. Talk to people– published authors, querying authors, industry professionals (if possible.) Curiosity is your friend. You might get differing or opposing advice, but at least you'll have a breadth of knowledge to apply to your own circumstances. And of course, read, read, read. Read in your genre. Read in your age group. Read a book from the bestseller list; read a backlist book that was successful 2-3 years ago; read a debut. Understanding what's happening in your chosen market can only be helpful. (I would not recommend writing to trends, but rather understanding what the trends are and why.)



6. What are your have favorite books–the ones you want to read again and again? 





7. Are you actively seeking submissions? 


Yes x100. I am constantly on the hunt for voice-driven, smart, beautifully-written, sometimes funny, sometimes sad middle grade and young adult literature! 



Thanks for chatting with us today, Melissa, and sharing a little about yourself with our North Texas SCBWI family!  If you’d like to learn more about what Melissa is looking for in a manuscript, she can also be found on Twitter @MelissaLaurenE, where she often tweets her active Manuscript Wishlist requests under #MSWL. Melissa will be presenting  "THE CALL: What to Ask When You're Offered Representation," at our fall conference, as well as holding a limited number of individual pitch sessions, so be sure to register soon.



What Agent Marisa Corvisiero Taught Me About Persistence

Posted on: July 13, 2017

Writing, for me, has never been hard. I look forward every day to immersing myself in the worlds I create. What is hard, though, is what comes after a work is finished—being disciplined to consistently get my work out and enduring whatever response comes after.


Award winning Dallas author Ben Fountain once told a friend of mine about his experience with the challenge of rejection before he finally hit it big with his short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, and later his novel, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk. Day after day he’d toil at his craft, send his work out—and watch the rejections roll in. I believe the term he used was ‘soul crushing.’



Lately, even when I’ve gotten promising news, there’s still a mini Debbie Downer perched on my shoulder, telling me how the odds are against me and I might as well give up—in between warnings about anthrax and mad cow disease. Since I attended North Texas SCBWI’s workshop facilitated by literary agent Marisa Corivisiero, I find myself flicking Debbie off before she gets in another negative comment. (Don’t worry; she bounces.)


What I learned from Marisa is that if we want to make our dream of publication come true we have to break free of a negative mindset. There was a time years ago when I often found myself curled in the fetal position on my couch after receiving a rejection. Thankfully I’m well beyond that useless activity, but just before the workshop, I’d had some moments of serious doubt. The workshop came at the perfect time for me. Now I’m making plans and dreaming big, and not letting any of that pesky ’stinkin’ thinkin’ get in my way of moving toward seeing my dreams come true.


Marisa shared these words from Einstein to set us on a path away from rigidity: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Never stop learning new things. Talent isn’t enough; we have to put in a lot of effort if we want to see our work in print. And effort combined with flexibility are the keys to being resilient and moving ever closer to success.



Kim Batchelor

Kim Batchelor writes stories incorporating magical realism for children and adults. She is the author of The Island of Lost Children, a contemporary reimagining of the story of Peter Pan and Wendy, and Golondrina and the White Butterflies, an environmental fable, both for middle grade readers. Her young adult novel-in-progress is Gem of the Starry Skies.


10 questions with Salina Yoon Plus a Contest!

Posted on: July 5, 2017


Salina Yoon's characters reading a bookI interviewed author/illustrator Salina Yoon about her unique path to becoming the author/illustrator that she is today. She has published over 150 childrens and novelty books, created the popular pengin picture book series, and will be one of the keynote speakers at this year's North Texas SCBWI Fall Conference. She is holding critiques during the fall conference, so make sure to register for this great opportunity today. Salina Yoon has also generously given some signed copies of her books to send to one lucky winner. See the end of this post for contest information!


1. You were an art director/designer before becoming an illustrator/writer. What were your biggest challenges when making that change? And what advantages do you think having been an art director has had on your book process?

As an art director and designer at a small publishing house, I worked with a team of creative people who collaborated with me on every book project. The biggest challenge of working as a freelance children’s writer and illustrator is having to make all of the decisions on your own when creating a book for submission, including art, design, editorial, and format decisions without anyone to bounce ideas off of. While I liked the freedom to make these decisions, I struggled with self doubt often.

The biggest advantage of having been an art director is my ability to direct a project from start to finish, and design it. Once I come up with a concept or idea for a book, I consider the target audience, the publisher I’m intending it for, and the current market before I decide on how I will illustrate the book. I know how to put together a book with art and lay out the text, and make a mock up in physical dummy or in digital form. Graphic design skills are very helpful for any author/illustrator!


2.  Do you work on multiple book ideas at a time or just like to focus on one? 

I prefer to focus on just one project at a time. But often, multiple ideas compete for my attention which makes focusing on any one idea very challenging!


3. Can you share a little bit on what your illustration/writing process is like?

It always starts on paper, whether it be in my notebook, a sketchpad, notepad, sticky note, or even a tissue box. I start with words or a doodle of whatever inspired me. This could be a book title, an ending to a story idea, a must-illustrate scene, a character sketch, or any other bits of a loose idea. From there, it grows outward to more bits and pieces until I have something to work with and refine. Most ideas never make it past the bits and pieces phase! I drop projects often that I don’t feel are special enough.sketches


4. What step(s) do you find the most difficult aspect of preparing a book to submit?

Finishing it! Or I should say, knowing when it is ready. I rely heavily on two close writer friends (one published, and one not), my literary agent, and my gut. And even with these trusted allies, self doubt creeps in and makes it difficult to move forward. My brain and my gut are sometimes at odds.


5. Have there been any particular submission wins/rejections that stick out in your memory? What did you learn?

One of my first submissions to a major publishing house in New York was an exclusive submission. That exclusivity was given for no good reason, but I naively thought it would be rude to not wait for an answer before sharing it anywhere else. I waited a full year for a definitive answer (after several emails of interest) only to get a rejection. I learned NOT to offer exclusive submissions unless there’s a very good reason for it! (The project was then submitted to another major NY publishing house and was sold within 6 months).




6. As illustrator/writers we like to focus on the creative aspect of making a book, but eventually also have to deal with the business-end of selling, such as contracts and promoting our books. What do you think you do well to promote yourself, and what business-side aspect of publishing are you still growing in? Do you have any resources you go to when you have business-related questions?

For the first 12 yrs of my career, I did not have a literary agent so I submitted books, negotiated contracts, and networked with editors on my own which lead to about 130 published books up until that time. I was very good at selling books to publishers, but not at all good at promoting them. In fact, I did very little promotion (online or in person) and believed that it was the publisher’s job to promote, market and sell them. After all, they have a whole department who does that! But now is a different time. And I also have a literary agent! 

The best way that I promote my books is by creating more books. Publishing momentum has been key for my success. I’ve regularly published for the last 19 years. My publisher also sends me on book tours and book festivals all over the country, and I also do school visits in order to promote them. I’m not the best online—but I’m accessible to my readers. When I have business related questions, I ask my brilliant agent!


7. If you could go back in time and give yourself some tips back when you started out as an illustrator/writer, what would you say? 

Breathe! It will all work out, and it will be SO worth it! Also, find yourself an agent! (At the time, my current agent was not an agent. So I would tell myself to wait for her, because she’s worth waiting for.)


8. What illustrators/writers currently inspire you?

I’ll name 7, because 7 is a good number. Philip and Erin Stead, Brendan Wenzel, Randy Cecil, Pamela Zagarenski, guojing, Amy Krouse Rosenthal


9. You worked for a while without being repped by an agent – what factor(s) helped you decide you needed an agent and what are the benefits of having a good agent?

I decided I needed an agent when I wanted to pursue picture books because I was unfamiliar with this world. I had mostly published novelty or concept books on my own at the time. For picture books, I wanted editorial help with my manuscripts, editorial contacts specifically for this genre, expertise in negotiating these contracts, and any other opportunities that I may not know about in this genre of publishing. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Our first picture book submission lead to many rejections but I learned a lot from it. Our second one was Penguin and Pinecone, and that sold at auction to Bloomsbury. Since that sale in 2011, we’ve sold an additional 12 picture books, 3 early readers, 6 novelty books, and numerous licensing and foreign edition deals. I’m not sure I would have sold my first picture book without the editorial help and support of my agent from start to finish.

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10. Your career has spanned quite a few ventures, from art director/book designer, to being a prolific writer (over 150+ books) from novelty to picture, so what's next? Can you share what you're working on or are excited about?

My nearly 20 yr career has certainly evolved over the years. Even within a single genre, there are challenges with each new project. After doing lots of picture books in recent years, I wanted to try something new. I created a dialogue only early reader chapter book series titled, “Duck, Duck, Porcupine!” Writing short stories through dialogue-only text was a unique challenge, but so much fun to illustrate. The third book in the series, “That’s My Book! And Other Stories,” will be released in the fall of 2017.

I’m excited about traveling all over the world and connecting with readers! This excitement is something new for me because I had been terrified about public speaking in my earlier years and travel gave me anxiety. In fact, just 6 yrs ago, the thought of speaking at a school or at a conference made me feel ill inside. I didn’t think I’d ever get comfortable with it, but after being put in the situation of having to do it over and over (through book tours in particular), I now feel I’ve overcome this fear for the most part! I still do get nervous from time to time, but it’s no longer anxiety filled, and I look forward to wherever my events might take me. I’ve gone as far as Hong Kong to visit schools, and the experience has been life changing.


Salina Yoon's Bio

salina yoon

SALINA YOON is the award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of over 150 books for young children, specializing in formats that are unique and interactive, including the popular Penguin picture book series. She studied art and design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and now lives in San Diego with her family.


Twitter: @salinayoon








giveawaySalina Yoon is generously giving away a set of signed books! All you have to do to enter is to comment on the link posted about this interview on either our Facebook page or our Private Facebook Group Page (for SCBWI members only). If you have trouble with commenting, you may also email me at northtexas-ic 

A winner from those who have commented will be picked randomly from entries after 8:00 pm CST on Wednesday, July 12th and will be announced on this blog and our social media. Good luck!




Meet Literary Agent: Natascha Morris!

Posted on: June 22, 2017


BookEnds Literary Agency

Hello NTX SCBWI. Good news! An awesome new agent has rolled into town — Natascha Morris has joined BookEnds Agency. Natascha is actually returning to her home state of Texas — WELCOME BACK, NATASCHA! She returns to us from Simon and Schuster's Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books. Here's a little info from her own bio:

Natascha spent most of her childhood in a leather chair with her nose in a book. Formerly an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster, her passion for books across genres and her desire to finding amazing talent drove her to make the transition from editorial to literary agent.

Her editorial philosophy stems from the idea that all books should be well written and entertaining.  Some of her favorite authors include Molly Idle, Sherwood Smith, Ann Rinaldi, Sabaa Tahir, and Meg Cabot. Check out her Pinterest for a quick look at her favorite books.

A Texas native, Natascha can often be found hunting for the best Tex-Mex in New York. Outside of reading, she is interested in urban farming and cooking.

You can contact Natascha at or follow her on Twitter at

Natascha is primarily looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is also looking for artists that speak to her creatively.

She is not a good fit for adult literary fiction, horror, true crime, or serious nonfiction.


Jackie Kruzie, our chapter's most excellent Regional Advisor, had the chance to e-chat with Natascha and here's what they had to say…


Jackie: What brought you to this career path?



Natascha: I always knew I wanted to work with books. I love shaping stories, and fan girling about them. After being in editorial, I found myself limited to what the imprint brand was. Being an agent let’s you follow your passion and the books you love, no matter what they are.



Jackie: Can you please tell us a little about your background and experience in the literary world?


Natascha: I took a bit of an untraditional route. I interned at a ton of different places, everything from agenting to editorial to digital marketing. Everything informed my role as an agent. At the same time, I was getting my Master’s Degree in Publishing (I’m a uber-nerd when it comes to publishing). After all of this, I knew I was meant to work with authors to shape their stories.



Jackie: What are you looking for in a manuscript?   


Natascha: The number one thing for me is writing. After that, it’s the hook. What will make it stay in my mind? What will pull me in and make me want to live in the world? I run the gamut from literary commercial hybrids to straight commercial so hook is big for me. And ultimately, do I love this manuscript?



Jackie: What are you looking for in a client?      


Natascha: Fit is big. I like people who understand that this process can take time and are patient. I’m impatient by nature so it’s nice to have a client who knows patience is needed. Also Team Nat is just made up of cool women, so I am looking for someone who fits in with them.



Jackie: What advice do you have for new children’s book writers?


Natascha: Research. Research your market, read as much as you can, and never stop. Publishing trends change and since trends start changing up before the books hit the market; if you as a reader have a feeling, then the industry is having the same. And when you are querying, research the agents. Know their quirks, and what they like and don’t like. It will save you time.



Jackie: I often talk to kids about having a book best friend, that one book that you can read over and over again. For me it is Charlotte’s Web. What book is your book best friend?        


Natascha: Hard one. I have so many! I tend to re-read Ella Enchanted and Alana a lot. But it depends on the mood I am in.



Jackie: Are you actively seeking submissions? 


Natascha: Yes! Right now my focus is on YA and MG, but I am open to everything from PBs, to graphic novels, and illustrators. Query me here at: http://QueryMe.Online/1067



Would you like to learn more about Natascha? Click HERE.


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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.









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