Thursday, March 23, 2017

BEST BLOG POSTS OF WEEK: Tips for Writers and Other Creatives

Dear Alison and friends,

Reusing is recycling. Or wait, what was that word you like to use...Repurpose. Repurpose is smart and efficient, especially when other writers have created such helpful and though provoking posts this week. I wonder if Stella caused a rift in the atmosphere that allowed writers to tap into the storm of genius. Hmm, that might be a future story idea. Or maybe because March 20 did not provide us with a first day of spring that should be celebrated. Sure some snow melted. Maybe 6", but we got 30" inches! 6" inches is the top coat. It's the layers underneath that we'd like to melt, and how will it melt when it's 15 degrees with winds up to 20 MPH? It's not. We will have this white stuff for at least another week if not 2~~Wow, I used a lot of numbers in that rant, but no matter. The numbers segue nicely into the first post from EasternPennPoints, the blog for the Eastern PA SCBWI Chapter. Our Pocono Retreat celebrates it's 25th Anniversary year this April. Our theme, By the Numbers, celebrates not only our success as a chapter but our success as creatives, and as Co-Regional Advisors, Alison and I share a lot of numbers. I decided to tease you with them. If you want to read more, visit the blog but come back, because I have more blog posts to tell you about.

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

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

1 incident
100s of children killed
40 years later
0 books written for children about the incident
1 iconic photograph of
1 child who was the first to be shot inspired me to write and illustrate the story

Lindsay Bandy, Assistant Regional Advisor and Co-Blog Master
I’m super excited for the Pocono Retreat this year – seeing faraway friends, meeting new writers and illustrators, learning from our fab staff, and gaining insight and inspiration for my current Work-In-Progress. The theme of NUMBERS is perfect for me right now, because my working title happens to be: THREE.
If my engineer of a dad is reading this, he’s surely laughing that his math phobic daughter is choosing to work with numbers. Any other Math Phobes out there? I may actually be better with numbers than I am with maps, but that’s another story. Anyway, I’m working with a small number – 3, which I think I can handle. The story is based on the Roman/Greek myths of the 3 Sisters of Fate, and it takes place in 3 different time periods.
Aside from the 3 Sisters, there are 3 recurring characters: 1 Boy, 1 Girl, and 1 Cat, who ONCE upon a time, disobeyed these fearsome 3 Sisters. They were given 3 punishments in 3 different lives/times: (In case you thought I could only count to three, look below to see that I also work with elevens!)
 Alison Green Myers, Co-Regional Advisor
This is the fastest draft to revision to “Hey, I think I might actually like this thing?” feeling I have ever had about a novel. (Don't worry, the crippling self-doubt isn't too far behind.)
It’s my 7th completed novel.
The first draft had 37,091 words.
The second major revision has 54,961 words. (I’ll let you know after the 100th revision.)
It takes place over 1 summer
where a group of 4 girls
cross over 2,000 miles together,
while working on a traveling carnival.
It’s their final summer together (the 5th that they traveled in all.)
The word egg appears 52 times in the novel. More than “love” or “family”, which are the major themes of the story.
I wrote versions of the first 500 words for an editor/agent round table at mid-winter SCBWI in February 2017. I really like the 1 that I kept.
This story feels like 1 long apology letter to the characters in the pages because they were the real characters that I traveled on a carnival with 20+ years ago. I cut 1 beloved character from this version of the novel and sent another 1 to the hospital. I love the real people who inspired this novel more than any number I could copy onto this page.
See you soon at Pocono 2017!
Can’t wait to celebrate 25 years with all of you!
 Kim Briggs, Co-Regional Advisor
November 24, 2010, the night before Thanksgiving, husband bought 1 laptop, and I began writing Starr Fall, my young adult series.
500,000 words later 1 draft of the story complete.
Broke into 3 books.
Edited Starr Fall: Book One 1 time before sending to agents.

By Fall 2011, switched tense of Starr Fall from past to present.
Edited new draft 1 time before sending to 10 agents (many repeats of 1st round).
Joined SCBWI October 2011.
Attended NYC SCBWI 2012.
1100 attendees.
1st Writing Conference.
Met Alison Green Myers.
Formed Critique Group meeting every weeks for 2 years.

Attended free writing craft sessions,
Highlights Foundation Workshops and Unworkshops,
read DOZENS of craft books and young adult novels,
and wrote all the time.
Did not sleep or clean.
Ate chocolate.
Drank chai.
Nov. 4, 2016 Starr Fall: Book One released.
Jan. 6, 2017 Starr Lost: Book Two released.
February 14, 2017Avalanche released as a novella with Valentine Kisses: A Kiss to Last a LifetimeAuthors contributed to the anthology with 6 sweet and sizzling romances.
(Coming soon… June 2, 2017 Starr Gone: Book Three.)

Currently working on the Werewolf and Magic book turned Celtic Mythology retelling with Original Mythology of werewolf.
beginnings attempted by
different characters,
and 2 tenses.

# of Dark Chocolate Bars consumed per year? 36 (give or take)
# of rooms cleaned since I began writing? 0
# of friends, contacts, and opportunities since joining SCBWI? Googolplex (I love that word!)

Hope our introductions got your creative minds flowing. 
We can't wait to hear your BY THE NUMBERS intros at the 
2017 Pocono Mountain Retreat. 
Click here to register now. Then come back to learn about the rest of the posts.
There are still some spots at the Retreat, and we'd love to have you...Okay, onto the rest of the Helpful Posts this week: 
Writerly Advice by Eva Polites: Eva discusses ways a writer can expand her universe and stretch her writing through critiques groups, writing workshops, and online courses. Super helpful and specific, especially to beginning writers who haven't stepped out of their comfort zone yet.

A Newb hoping to get a little/give a little (advice I mean) by Joanne Vencius: Yep, the post is about exactly what the title suggests. I love it because Joanne has learned things, but knows she still has more to learn, as we all do, no matter what stage we are in the writing process.

Spring Clean Your Writing Space (Or Don't): As if I needed another excuse not to clean...Actually the post encourages the writer to decide for herself what she needs. If she needs clutter or towers of books surrounding her so be it. If the desire to clean is a means to avoiding writing DON'T DO IT, but maybe you need to straighten up your space to straighten your mind...That's okay too. 

Read for Pixels 2017--International Women's Day Edition: Julianna Spink Mills is the author of Heart Blade and a friend of mine. She's contributed a copy of Heart Blade to this fantastic event. Loads of authors have donated books, critiques, swag, etc. to this cause. Donations are still open, so you can read Julianna's post then clink onto Read for Pixels 2017. Let's make this world a better place.

Writing a Synopsis? Read On by Alison Green Myers: Yes Alison, I wanted to share this Highlights Foundation Blog post with everyone because we all need help writing a synopsis. You provide such useful tips that I need to spread the word about it. The Highlights Foundation Blog provides helpful and insightful into the craft of writing and illustrating. If you're not subscribed to receive their posts, you should be. 

How to Produce an Emotion in Readers: Inner Mode, Outer Mode, and Other Mode: Donald Maas, THE Donald Mass guest posts on Jane Friedman's blog. He examines the issue of emotion and the reader. He discusses the three methods to address emotion in story and shares pieces that do it well. He addresses what writers shouldn't do, and those insights are especially helpful. 

If I could pick one blog to subscribe to (other than INKSistersWrite), it would be Jane Friedman's blog. Jane shares guest posts, business insights, self-publishing, indie publishers, writer concerns, creative outlook, you name it her blog addresses it. I may not read everyone of her posts, but I read most of them. 

So my friends, I hope you find these blog posts as useful as I did. I'd love to hear about your favorite blogs. I'd love even more to hear some of your numbers. Comment below!

Sharing the writer love one letter at a time,

Monday, March 20, 2017

Workshop for Educators: The Art and Design of a Picture Book

Dear Kim,

Saturday, March 25th at the University of Scranton, a small group of children's book writers will meet with educators to discuss mentor texts, writing for children, and the power of the picture book.

What am I saying? You already know this. You'll be there presenting with Linda Oatman High. Your session about the creation of character is sure to be lively with you and Linda at the helm.

Interested in signing up for the program? Email Donna Salva at 

I wish I could see the two of you together, but I will be next door talking about my favorite artistic form: the Picture Book with one of my favorite picture book creators, Lindsay Barrett George.

Lindsay and I met yesterday to finalize our talk. Do you even want to guess the number of times I shouted, "I know the perfect picture book for that!" when Lindsay shared design elements like gutters, endpapers, or typography? It was a lot. I was very interruptive...

Just like David Ezra Stein's INTERRUPTING CHICKEN 
(I couldn't resist one more interrupting title.)

We used Megan Dowd Lambert's READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN as our anchor for this presentation. I talk about this book all the time. It's such a gem. In it, Megan explores picture book design, and invites educators to use the visual components of the whole book during read alouds.

Lindsay and I created a presentation that also highlights the importance of picture book design. Our focus is on how the design of the picture book controls the experience based on how the child considers what he/she sees. Like, Megan's model, we also explore ways educators can use the picture book and its visual elements in the classroom. We have hands on activities to share. We also have MOUNTAINS of picture books to show as examples.

One of the elements that I can't wait to talk about is style. We'll discuss ways illustrators like Paul O. Zelinsky, Denise Fleming, and Jerry Pinkney select styles for books.

Think style in Paul's RAPUNZEL or Paul's style in Z is for MOOSE. How does each story's tone reflect Paul's style? Or the style reflect the tone?

Think style in Denise Fleming's IN THE TALL, TALL GRASS and GO, SHAPES, GO! and SHOUT! SHOUT IT OUT! Can we see "voice" visually?

Think style in Jerry Pinkney's THE LION AND THE MOUSE and LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. (Think about every Jerry Pinkney book. That is a day well spent!)

Can't wait to talk books with teachers and librarians on Saturday! Now back to packing up all those picture books.

Much Love,

Thursday, March 16, 2017

BOOK RELEASE: Princess...I Think Not by Ashley Brooke Robbins

Dear Alison and friends, 

Outside my window, there is more than 30" of white stuff and it's 15 degrees with a real temp feel of -2--MINUS TWO. 

 While we wait out the Stella snowpocalyse...

I'll share a new book by fellow Inkspeller, Ashley Brooke Robbins.

Princess…I Think Not
A Princess Series Novel
By Ashley Brooke Robbins
ISBN: 978-1-945910-10-4

Buy Links:

The Royal Family Just Got a Little Bigger….
My name’s Baily King and I’ve always considered myself different—liking dead roses, cemeteries, reading fully clothed in the bathtub, and howling at the moon whilst dancing naked under it. But, when my grandma, a woman I scarcely remember, comes for a visit, she opens her mouth and my weird world crashes down all over my combat-booted feet.
See, dear Gram is dying and wishes for me to accept my royal name. Turns out she finally left a small village south of Ireland—a village that her and her husband rule. Pfft. No pressure.
Bam, you’re a Princess. Wear your tiara and shut up.

Sounds fun, right?!?!

Excerpt 1:

“Will that be all?” The lady beams like they put a thousand sunshines into her coffee. Everyone turns chipper when they see such a pretty man then they turn bitter when said pretty person leaves. I know from experience.
“Dimitri,” I growl.
He smiles. “Yes, thank you.” Coming back over to me, he gives me a smug, beyond-sexy smile. Hell, I bet when this man sneezes, it’s still bloody attractive. “Baily?”
I cross my arms over my chest.
“Will you please let me—Dimitri, your friend—do something nice for you? Something friends are allowed to do, even in the South?”
I narrow my eyes, but when he just stands there, I give in. “Fine,” I grumble, holding my hand out.
He makes a circular motion with his finger, signaling for me to turn around. With a huff, I do. “Every now and then…” he rumbles in my ear, and I tense when gooseflesh rises on my skin. It’s eighty-degrees, I’m sweating like a pig, but in this moment, I don’t mind the body heat radiating off him. What is this sorcery? “You deserve something for yourself. I’ve only known you for a short time, and in that time, you’ve only thought of others. Promise me you’ll think of yourself upon occasion, too.”
“I make no such promise,” I grumble, turning back to face him. “But thank you.”
“Aww,” the girl behind the register says. “I wish my boyfriend did something like that for me.”
I smile at her, not in the mood to try to explain he’s not my boyfriend but bodyguard. Because my grandma’s kinda a queen of a village called MacAleese, which is on the south side of Ireland and I’m of the royal family. I just didn’t know about it until…bam, you’re a freakin’ princess, wear your tiara and shut up. Yeah, that might make someone ask a few questions or draw a little bit of unwanted attention.

About the Author:
Ashley’s favorite thing to write about is basically anything to do with myths, supernatural, paranormal…which might be easier for her considering ghosts constantly roam her house. She’s seen into their realm a few times because her third eye likes to remain open—she’s psychic. But upon occasion she’ll be forced to write about mundane, young adult life. It comes somewhat naturally to her considering she’s twenty herself.

If she still hasn’t met a vampire or other supernatural being, you’ll most likely find her with her computer or a notebook, working on whatever story plots invaded her mind or an article for An organization that supports the LGBT+ community, mental health sufferers, and body positivity. Like most young adults, she’s still unsure of what all she wants to do with her life. Become a marine biologist, graphic designer, editor, own a clothing line, become a mermaid, join the circus as a psychic? Or, do it all?  Only time will tell.

She hopes to one day explore the world and all its nooks and crannies; delve into its secrets and rich history. Take her mom to swim with the dolphins, let her sister finally visit Graceland, and, her own dream, swim with sharks, doesn’t matter what kind… Mom probably won’t come for that adventure. She currently lives in North Carolina with her mom, sister, and four crazy, spoiled dogs who think they’re human.

You can find her on her, or on pretty much any other social media site as JustThatWeirdoNextDoor, or ThatWeirdoNext, except Snapchat (ash_lllranting). You can probably find those links on her website.

Happy Digging! (Or curling up with a book by a fire...)

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,