Thursday, November 16, 2017

Angie Karcher and the Rhyme Revolution

 By Janie Reinart
Pass the hot chocolate and celebrate the merry Angie Karcher. Her gifts to us keep on giving:
*Founder of Rhyme Revolution, formerly RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) in April
*The Best in Rhyme Award in February
*The RPB(Rhyming Picture Book) Revolution Conference in New Harmony, IN-October 12-14, 2018

Santa's checked and Angie is definitely on the nice list. Angie's goal is to guide those aspiring to write rhyming picture books through the process of learning the craft by offering resources, lessons, and writing prompts. She strives to improve the reputation and quality of rhyming picture books for children.

Archival photo of the Santa statue built for a Christmas bazaar in the 1970’s

Hang your stockings. There's going to be a giveaway as we find out about Angie's newest book, Santa's Gift. 

         Rafflecopter giveaway.

1. Who is your agent?

I‘m actually between agents right now. You know, author purgatory, where you seek an agent who is the perfect fit??? 

That’s where I am, although I am “dating” a few agents right now. I’m in no hurry to sign with someone, as I realize that this relationship is vital to my career and it’s SO important to find just the right person! Someone who gets me and my writing…That’s not easy to find. I think I have found this person but can’t share it yet.


2. How did you get the idea for your story?

I was traveling quite a bit in early 2016 and when I got home in June I heard that someone had found the Santa Claus statue! I knew immediately that this needed to be my next picture book. This statue was a huge part of my childhood and the story needed to be shared.

3. What is your favorite part of the story?

My favorite part was when the kids looked up at Santa and he was a giant! That’s how I remember him as a child and he is actually 35 feet tall so to a child…that’s ginourmous!

4. How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?

I wrote the story in a few weeks after I faltered with a meter that resembled the song, OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS… 

After a few weeks, I threw away everything I’d written and started over and finally came up with this story that had the exact rhythm to…OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS.  What a crazy business this is! I can sing it to this song word for word…

Brains are a complex organ!!

My publisher was the original publisher of my two other historical non-fiction books, M.T. Publishing.

Mark Thompson, my publisher was ready to take this ride with me and he supported this manuscript. He’s my hero! Along the way, he received a new liver, so that makes him a hero and a miracle man!!

Angie's office.


5. What is your writing routine? 

I typically start at 8:00 PM and typically write until the sun comes up. I sleep until my youngest son gets home from school at 3:00 pm and then do it again the next day. 

Why does my brain work best at night? Part of it is because I had 4 children under the age of 6 and it was out of necessity. The rest is because I hate mornings! I only get up early for book talks, book signings and conferences!

6. What is your favorite writing craft book?   

How to Write Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. This book is being updated and I can’t wait to get my copy of the new version!

7. What inspires you to write? 

The ideas are bouncing around in my head daily. The inspiration comes from the time spent as a Kindergarten teacher and a parent of four. The world needs more books that encourage positive thinking and living.

8. What are you working on now? 

I have two new rhyming picture books coming out next year with my illustrator Dana Karcher. One is about a world war two ship called the LST (Landing Ship Tank) which was built in Evansville, Indiana, the cornfield shipyard and credited for saving World War II. 

And the second picture book is about Bosse Field, the baseball field that was used in the filming of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, about the women’s baseball league during WW two. We are thrilled to be sharing these historic stories. I also have three non-fiction books coming out as well.

9. Words of advice for writers. 

Don’t quit! I have been at this writing gig for over 23 years and I’m just now beginning to break through the ice. 

It’s a tough job but only those writers who have a passion for the career will make it. Build a thick skin and keep writing and submitting!! One day… it will happen for you too!

Order Santa's Gift here. Also available at and Amazon.

Angie is a children’s author with over 20 years of teaching and writing experience. She is a former kindergarten teacher, developmental therapist and blogger.

 Find Angie on Facebook.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ten Tips for the Wanna-Be-Focused Writer by Tina Cho

One question I'm constantly asked is, "How do you it--writing and working full time with children?"
Me and my kids, 8 years ago!

I don't have a perfect formula, but I'll share my writing process and how I try to balance priorities with kids. This post has caused me to reflect back many years, as my kids are now in 10th and 7th grades. 

In no special order, here are 10 tips or behaviors that help me stay on top of my writing.

1. Deadlines & Support
When my kids were ages 6 and 3, I started writing. While my daughter was at school, I wrote when my son was occupied with his toys, nap time, etc...I started writing for the educational market as a freelance writer. This meant I had deadlines. And deadlines meant I needed to write. period. My husband helped out with the kids, taking them to the park or entertaining them so I could write peacefully without interruptions. And sometimes, I needed my kids to help me develop crafts for educational sites.

Paper & Pen All the Time
I kept a small notebook and pen in my purse. When I took the kids to the park, I carried a bag with a big notebook and pen. While they played, I wrote. And oftentimes, their play was my inspiration. I used every minute--waiting at a restaurant, riding in the car, riding on the subway. I thought and planned through stories. 

By solitude, I mean, being the ONLY one. As most of you know, I'm in another country, hardly speak the language, and so I don't go out as often as I would if I were home in the states. So that pretty much confines me to my office. I don't meet up with a lot of friends like I would if I were in the states. I think that has made a difference in the time I'm able to commit to writing. I'm not suggesting you need to move across the world to get writing time in, but limiting social outings does enable you to get more accomplished.

Order In or Go Out
One awesome thing about South Korea is that you can order anything, and it arrives via motorcycle--KFC, pizza, McDonalds, noodles, soup. So when I'm on a tight deadline, I don't cook. We either order out or go out. If I cook, the whole ordeal can take 1.5-2 hours because Korean cooking is a lot of chopping and marinating. I try to plan ahead sometimes and have meals prepared, but it doesn't always work for me. I'm not skilled in this area. And sometimes, my wonderful husband has supper ready when I come home :)
Lists, Baby!
I would be totally lost without my lists. I have notepads or Post Its that I list things that need to be written or accomplished for the day. Boy, does it feel good to cross something out. And for a writer who needs to be serious, it plans your day so you don't need to waste time thinking about what you're supposed to do. I know some writers have a writing calendar and schedule what needs to be done.

BIC & Stay on Task
You all probably know Jane Yolen's famous BIC, "butt in chair," wisdom. It's true. You don't get writing accomplished if you don't sit down. But taking it even further from a teacher aspect (I'm also a teacher), means you have to "stay on task." That's one behavior I have to grade my students on. How much do we writers stay on task without peeking at our email, notifications on Facebook or Twitter? So if I'm crunched for time, I let those things be my REWARDS for good behavior. Even today, I had horrendous revisions on my novel. I was BIC for 8 hours. (It's Saturday.) I critiqued a manuscript for a critique partner, then revised for the next hour and a half. Then I did a load of laundry and called family in Iowa. (You have to give your eyes rest periods. And that's how housework gets done!) After revising two chapters, I gave myself the reward of checking Facebook and email. Hubby took me to lunch--there's that no cooking thing. After that I wrote all afternoon with a 20 minute nap in the middle, more laundry, and more revising until my kids came home from a basketball tournament in Seoul at 6 pm.
I don't watch TV here. Frankly, I don't know what they're saying, and if there is a program in English, I'm not interested, nor do I have the time to watch it until school vacations. 

Keep Priorities Straight 
I've learned the hard way that it's important to keep priorities. For me, God must come first before I open my email. I spend quiet time reading the Bible and praying. I know others of you do similar things or meditate. Second, my family comes next. It's very easy for me to put work ahead of my family, and that's something I have to constantly work on. If my kids have a home volleyball or basketball game, I'm there. And if my husband planned something for us or with his dad, I'm there. I just have to be flexible and work around it. And since I also work full-time as many of you do, we have to use our time wisely, which is why I spent my entire Saturday revising my novel for my agent. It's impossible to do on weeknights when I'm groggy. Speaking of weeknights, I do write after supper. I have to. I have three educational clients. Thankfully, the work evens out so things aren't due at the same time.

Critique Groups
Being in three critique groups also keeps me on my toes. I'm critiquing throughout the week but even better, I have to work on my own WIP to send to them when it's my turn. This is excellent training for BIC.

Need I say more?  :)

Actually, I will. Eating chocolate means I need to exercise. While riding my exercise bike, I listen to writerly podcasts or catch up on blog posts about writing because I'm still learning. #killing2birdswith1stone

And at the end of the day, I still tuck my kiddos in bed and kiss them goodnight. I write in my thankful journal and go to bed. Yes, I do have pen and paper nearby.
Mother's Day 2017
I hope some of these tips might help you in your writing process! If you have other tips, please list them.

You can find me at, @TinaMCho

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Make Writing Challenges, Contests, and NaNoWriMo Work for YOU - by Kathy Halsey

NaNoWriMo, Storystorm, ReFoReMo, PBPitch, Susanna Leonard Hill's contests and Would You Read It Wednesdays... I know you can recite the writing alphabet with me if you are serious about this industry. So many opportunities and such a finite amount of time so what's a savvy writer to do? My answer is to customize these events so they work for you! 

In the Beginning

We'll begin by using my track record as a newbie. As a beginner, I joined every challenge possible. That was a huge mistake as my time was so fractured, I had no time to spend on my own work. I followed all directions given by the moderator/group leader. I worried if I was doing it "correctly," if I had to use a certain form, or if I had really met the requirements for the challenge.
I still see comments that illuminate my first attempts in forums now, and I know the anxiety these writers feel. If you are asking questions such as "How do I prove I wrote 30  ideas in 30 days?" or "What's the best way to organize ReFoReMo research?" you need to relax and think about YOUR goals and what you need this challenge to do for you.

How to Thrive

  • Your time is precious so pick your challenges wisely. If you are on deadline or juggle writing with another career, an event like StoryStorm (a new idea each day) or Halloweensie (a story of 100 words or less) is more doable than NaNoWriMo (a complete novel in one month.)
  • Survey your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and choose accordingly. Since I had less knowledge on writing chapter books than picture books, joining ChaBooChaLite proved to be just what I needed. If you need help crafting a pitch, help others craft theirs or submit your pitch to Susanna Hill's "Would You Read It Wednesdays." It's great practice.
  • If you are intent in connecting with other writers, finding critique group, or submitting, 12x12 will satisfy your needs. 
  • When beginning a new conest/challenge, look for files with resources contest rules and forms. Review past years' challenges and see how they worked. Don't be afraid to ask questions of moderators and long-time members. These tips will save you time.
How to Customize

These anecdotes from my past will explain how I made events work for me after I'd spent a year or two following all instructions to a "t."

  • NaNoWriMo: This is year two for me, and I'm considered a "rebel." ( I love that NaNo has a nomenclature for what I do.) I am writing 10,000 words, not the recommended 50,000. I am using a picture book plot as my outline and am transforming it into a chapter book. I still get the motivation and camaraderie NaNo provides but on my terms.
  • Contests such as the Halloweensie, the Valentiny Contest, and 50 Precious Words: Word count is crucial in these contests, the lower, the better. I find WIPs that may not be working and  shave them down to the required words. I have saved time and haven't sacrificed a new story. An added bonus for me is these contests have taught me how to write in rhyme, a form I tend not to use.
  • ReFoReMo: Reading and learning from the copious mentor text lists is always a fun challenge. Now I peruse the lists, and select the texts that fit my current work  be it humor, science, circular stories. I also try to read a stack of books from specific  publishers/imprints if I am querying them in the future.
As writers, we all the same amount of time given to us each day to hone our craft. Find ways to make contests and special writing month authors create for us work to our advantage. Make the process a win-win.  Please share in the comments ways you've modified challenges to fit your needs. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

WALK, DON'T RUN INTO YOUR KID LIT CAREER- By Mike Malbrough, Posted by Sherri Jones Rivers

I fell in love with Mike Malbrough's cat book Marigold Bakes a Cake. It was clever and cute and I was drawn to the illustrations. It was his debut book and I thought it would be neat to find out how he got there. So, Mike, it's all yours!


    Have you ever heard of Tabata?

     Tabata is a popular form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training where you basically exercise as hard as you possibly can for 30 seconds and then rest for 10. Then you repeat that a bunch of times.

     I've tried it and you would never guess that 30 seconds could seem like such a torturously long time. I'm not a fitness geek, but there is apparently research that argues the benefits of this form of intense bursts of activity, with rest in between, when compared to something like jogging at a steady pace over the course of an hour.

     Maybe in fitness, but not, in my experience, when it comes to breaking into the world of children's literature.

     If I could jump through a black hole and go back in time like Matthew McConaughey did in the underappreciated film Interstellar,

 I would tell myself to take it easy. I wasn't going to SCBWI Conferences back then, but I was going to a ton of Comic-Cons trying to be the next Batman penciller, and every experience was marked by a mad dash of frenzied and desperate preparation about a week out from the convention date. My work was never ready, my spirit never settled and my confidence never high, and yet I would go into the fray of the show floor and come away defeated.

     The hunger and courage were to be commended, but I learned so little because I wasn't prepared. Not only had I not put the proper time into my work, but I wasn't ready to receive feedback and talk about my work, let alone talk to others about theirs. So I would come home dejected and not touch a pencil for weeks. Then after a rest I would start the next interval.

     Breaking in as an Author or Illustrator is a haul. It takes time. Mainly because it is about relationships. You have to meet face to face and build rapport. The most wonderful aspect of the kid lit industry is that the professionals who make up the industry are, with very, very few exceptions, remarkably warm, giving, and supportive. Every chance that you get to shake someone's hand

or have a conversation is an opportunity to get someone in your corner as a fan or someone who wants to see you grow and succeed, personally, artistically, and professionally. It can be hard when you want to break in so badly, to take your time, breathe and be in the moment with every hurdle, every not-so-good critique or round table session.

     Here are a couple of practical ways to do this:

     Plan out a year of work.  Pick a conference, class, or workshop that you are going to attend and use that as the start date.

That's where you begin. Even if it's months away. Then plan out what a year of working will look like with that same event NEXT YEAR as the finish line. The first conference is about collecting information, starting a relationship, finding inspiration, analyzing, etc.

     Create right after failure. This is really hard to do. But worth it. Plan to make something the day after a conference or critique. Notice I'm not saying get back to your dummy or manuscript. The key is getting back to why we all are drawn to this life. Make something that wasn't there before. Play the piano. Bake a cake, or go for a walk and imagine.

     Be patient with relationships. Finding an agent or publisher is like dating. There is definitely some magic involved and everyone has a unique experience, but most matches take time and a delicate hand. When wanting to display genuine interest, don't be pushy, but follow up and ask questions. Show gratitude and be polite. Most importantly, take your time.

Best wishes and happy strolling!


Mike came to the world of children's picture books from a twenty-year career in comic books, graphic design, performing, and teaching. He lives in Orange, New Jersey with his wife, and two adventurous sons. He is presently illustrating a chapter book series for Viking called Warren and Dragon by Ariel Bernstein, which will be out next summer. He is working on a sequel to Marigold in which Marigold has a little trick up his sleeve. 


Thursday, November 2, 2017


Nonfiction writers, today is a REAL treat, prolific science writer Jen Swanson shares craft tips and how a fabulous book like GEOENGINNERING came to be. And if you comment on this post, you'll be entered to win a copy of GEOENGINEERING! Plus I'll review Jen's newest noting the exemplary writing techniques she uses. Finally, Jen's up to even more with the launch of a new blog! Over at From the Mixed-Up File of Middle Grade Authors comes STEM Tuesday beginning November 7 with the topic of zoology. Middle grade books will be highlighted along with resources for teachers. Look here to meet the STEM team of writers.

Book Review via a Writer's Lens
It takes a special skill set for an author to make a complicated topic like geoengineering accessible and interesting for tween/teen readers, but that is Jen Swanson's writing sweet spot. Via Jen's clear, concise yet captivating style, I've learned about and reviewed brain science, Brain Games, nanotechnology, Super Gear, and now geoengineering, the science of human interference to counteract climate change. This is a controversial topic and choosing to use the author's note in front rather than back matter was a smart move. Students will know upfront that Jen is discussing a "hot" topic that is at the forefront of our headlines today. (Think hurricanes such as Maria, Harvey, excessive flooding, and the Central Mexican earthquake, among others.) Yet Swanson delineates the pros and cons of every method she discusses so young readers will easily distinguish the facts and opinions stated. Writers new to expository nonfiction would do well to study Jen Swanson's craft throughout this book. Fun titles, the use of onomatopoeia, short chapters, examples kids can understand make this subject come alive. Teachers will appreciate the plethora of back material: source notes, bibliography, glossary, further information, and an index are all provided. I highly recommend this book for intermediate and middle schools as well as writers who wish to write curriculum-related nonfiction. (Jen speaks more about her craft in our Q & A below.)

Jen and Kathy Chat
What drew you to the topic of geoengineering? Did Twenty-First Century Books ask for a proposal? Did they require a set number of resources/websites? What about photos, infographics? Did you have to provide those? 
How this book came about is kind of a funny story. I was at the 21st Century NF conference and went to go get some tea for breakfast. There, I ended up speaking with Domenica DiPiazza, the Editorial Director of Twenty-First Century Books. We got to talking and I told her that I was writing engineering books. She asked if I knew anything about geoengineering. (I said no, because I didn’t). Then she said she was looking for an author to write a book about this very important topic. I quickly googled it and a few weeks later, submitted the proposal. It was a “right time, right place” sort of thing.

Every proposal requires the amount of research it needs. Which seems weird to say, but it’s true. There isn’t a set  of  “I need 10 resources” sort of thing. For me, you research until you know enough about your topic to write an amazing book about it. As for the photos, Twenty-First Century Books provided them for this book. That is not always the case. Every publisher has different requirements for photos.

I know you’ve done great nonfiction work with National Geographic. Is there a point when publishers began contacting you with proposals once you’ve established yourself? 
Once you establish a good working relationship with an editor, you may have chats about book topics they are looking for and/or ideas of your own to discuss with them. Sometimes these develop into actual projects and eventually books.

Your nonfiction is fun and understandable for its intended audience. What writing techniques do you employ to engage readers?
First, I imagine myself as a kid who is really interested in learning about this topic. I ask myself questions, such as: What is really cool about this process/topic/technique? How does it work? Why is it important? Is there something I can do to help? Any connections to the real world that I can make?

I use active words, kid-friendly descriptions and exciting information. For example, if I were going to talk about distance or size, I might say “it’s as big as a football field”  or “as small as a baseball” or maybe “sticky like a piece of tape on a hot summers day”. Something like that puts in immediate picture into the readers’ mind of exactly what you are describing. That allows them to then make their own connection to size and shape.

It’s immensely helpful when explaining difficult concepts, like geoengineering. In my geoengineering book, I made it easy to understand because every process scientists are looking at is something kids know: the rock cycle, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, etc. If you break it down into easy to understand concepts, then your readers will get it right away.

At what point in the research/writing process do you involve experts? How do you find them or does the publisher do that?
I usually look for experts right away. I don’t contact them until I am well-conversed in the subject, though. I approach them through email and sometimes do everything that way. Occasionally, I will ask them for phone interviews, but not always. I find them at universities mostly. The majority of my research is found in reading professional papers written by university professors. I just pick the experts from there. 

What projects are in the publishing pipeline for you now?
I am excited about the three books I have releasing from National Geographic Kids in 2018. Two are series books: Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System is about a planetary geologist who studies rocks on other planets (She has even driven the Mars Rover!). It’s some really exciting space stuff  and every chapter opens with a graphic novel spread. The second series book is a relaunch of Nat Geo’s famed Everything series as Absolute Experts: Dolphins which again features a National Geographic Explorer who studies and works with real dolphins. It’s a fantastic peek into the mind of one of the smartest creatures on the planet.

Finally, there is  Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. I am VERY excited about this book. It’s a compare-contrast of how astronauts and aquanauts live, learn, and train for their environments. I spent many hours tracking down experts from both fields to include their actual experiences in this book. I had a blast writing this book!

What does a typical work day look like for you? How do you keep to such a tight schedule?  
Well, there is no such thing as a “typical” day for me. I’m very much a by-the-seat-of-your-pants type writer. I work best when I’m under deadlines, which is why I probably have so many. Most of my research takes place on the computer since I do a lot of technical books, I have to read A LOT of professional papers. I also head to the library. There are days when my 12-seat dining room table is covered with books stacked 3-4 high.

I love being a children’s author. It is a dream come true. And I am lucky enough to keep getting jobs so that’s what keeps me going, well, that and paying college tuition for two kids.

Remember to comment below to win a copy of this fabulous book! Wiley Corgi will be choosing a winner.