Monday, May 30, 2016

The SCBWI Summer Reading List ~By Suzy Leopold

Fifty stars and 13 stripes. The American flag is a symbol of the land that I love.

Our American flag not only symbolizes the thirteen original colonies and fifty states, it is a symbol of the millions of U. S. war veterans, those living and those who've perished. I salute all men and women in the US Air Force, US Army, US Coast Guard, US Navy and the US Marines, currently serving and those who have served. God bless America.
For many families Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer, even though the first day of summer begins June 20, 2016. As we gather together with family and friends for picnics, cookouts and outdoor activities, stop for a moment of silence and remember and observe the true meaning of Memorial Day and the many freedoms and opportunities that we have as American citizens.

Start the summer off right with baseball, apple pie, and books.
After listening to educators and librarians, SCBWI has published and released its first ever Summer Reading List. 
The list includes over 1,400 titles from 350 publishers by SCBWI members world wide. The summer reading list is set up into fifteen geographical regions [the same regions as Crystal Kites Award] and organized by genre and the following grade levels:

  • Kindergarten - Grade Two
  • Third - fifth grade
  • Sixth - eight grade
  • Ninth - twelfth grade

"The ultimate goal of this program is to give our PAL members more exposure, and to instill the love of books and reading in children, so they become life-long readers." 

A PAL publisher is a member of SCBWI who has published a book with a recognized professional publisher. You can find the list here: PAL Publishers.
April Issue.

The plan is to share one list in the summer and one list during the winter.

Share this Summer Reading List with readers, writers, librarians, bookstores, indie book store owners, and all consumers of literature:

SCBWI Summer Reading List 2016

Look for recommended titles of books for your state or the region where you reside. Check out other regions and compare the suggested titles listed for your state. 
What books will you read this summer? 

Help promote the joy of reading as well as the love of writing by authors from around the world.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

TRAINBOTS, Miranda Paul's Newest, Arrives June 7 by Kathy Halsey

TRAINBOTS sliding, TRAINBOTS gliding all the the way to Columbus town! The F&G of Miranda Paul's newest rhyming picture book arrived at my stop late February, but GROG readers board the train today. Stops include Kid/Parent Station, Teacher Terminal, and Writers' Railway. 

Spotted in the wilds of's TRAINBOTS

Look at this train's "jeep! (That's train talk for "engine.")  According to Amazon it's dimensions are:

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: little bee books (June 7, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 149980167X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1499801675
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
Kathy's Summary: TRAINBOTS is a rollicking, fun rhyming picture book that children from PreK-5th grade (classroom-tested with 5th graders.) will enjoy. Badbots meet Trainbots in a classic good vs. evil plot. Trainbots do deliver their precious toy cargo, and, in the process, readers learn about trains, the engineering/design process, and lessons on friendship.

Kid/Parent Station
Sketch-Final Art from F&G by Shane McG
This is a "read-it-again, please " picture book for child/parent audiences. The straight-forward plot and engaging bots will have little ones clamoring for more. Repeated exposure to rhyming texts scaffold reading development. As Tim Shanahan, Founding Director of the Center for Literacy, states on his blog,"...the idea of rhyming as a pre-requisite to reading; exposure to this kind of play with words and "word families" gives children another pathway to reading.

Teacher Terminal
Fifth graders in picture book critique groups
School librarians often use the material designator "E" for "easy/ everybody." TRAINBOTS is an "everybody" picture book that teachers and librarians can share with upper elementary students, too. Savvy educators will discover English/Language Arts, science, and maker spaces ideas in TRAINBOTS. Plot arc, engineering, and STEAM/STEM connections are readily apparent. 
Gifted fifth graders studying picture books in a class I co-taught had this to say:
  • "Just from the title, it sounds  interesting." - Cameron
  • "The story is has rhythm." - Rusty
  • The rhythm is like a train." - Emily
  • "Even though the vocabulary is pretty large, kids can tell what it means by the story's pictures and plot." - Libby

    Writers' Railway
My messy desk
It's no secret, I'm a big Miranda Paul fan. Rhymers can leaner so much from a study of her books. Although she doesn't write to trends, her books fill needed niches in school/library collections. The topics cover a myriad of disciplines. I'm also a student of Miranda's business/PR acumen. Study her web site, note the number of links I found before her book launch. (See below.) Miranda plans ahead; she even took TRAINBOTS on vacation with her family out West. (See first photo in this post!)
 TRAINBOT Review Links

As I review children's literature, I notice, too, the type of information and the method in which publishers reach out to  bloggers. I am impressed with little bee books and their publicity team. I'm adding this imprint to my publishing "wish list" for myself as I travel the writers' railway. Get aboard the TRAINBOTS express now.
Back cover TRAINBOTS F&G




Monday, May 23, 2016

The School Program - Pre-Pub Panic, Part 2 ~ by Patricia Toht

As I mentioned in a February post, next year is publication year for two of my picture books. That means that 2016 is officially my year of Pre-Pub Panic!

My panic got off to a mild start. The first thing I thought about was the launch party, which was fun to consider - after all, it's a PARTY!

But more recently, I've been thinking about school programs. YIKES! What the heck do I have to offer???

Luckily, I spent a few years working for a literary events company that placed authors in schools for visits. I've seen some of the best in action - Brain Selznick, Jack Gantos, Megan McDonald, Carolyn Crimi, Kristy Dempsey.

I also peeked at my fellow authors' websites - critique buddies like Eileen Meyer, Heidi Bee Roemer, Darcy Day Zoells, Nancy J Cavanaugh, and Ruth Vanderzee, and authors whose dynamite presentations I have seen or heard about, like Aaron Reynolds and Miranda Paul.

Nancy J Cavanaugh at a school presentation.

Even more research helped. In my notes, I compiled a general list of topics for authors:

THE publishing journey
or how a book gets published

Your OWN journey
or the specifics of 
your path to publication

THE process of writing 
a picture book or novel, 
fiction or nonfiction

Your OWN process
or the unique way that you work

• A specific area of CRAFT 
(voice, character, world-building, etc.)

Image by
Your WRITING AREA of expertise 
(poetry, humor, etc.)
Your SUBJECT AREA of expertise 
(animals, medieval times, etc.)

A book about bugs? The presentation 
can be all about creepy crawly things.

which often focuses on where ideas 
come from or revisions. 

Of course, choosing a topic depends quite a bit on the age level of the group you will be seeing, so it's best to have more than one presentation in your repertoire. 

What makes for a good presentation? Tips are multitudinous! I love this collection of advice from Book Moot, including:

* Stick to 30 minutes for younger kids, and 45 minutes for older.

* Have water on hand to refresh your throat.

* Know where the toilets are (and turn off your microphone while you're using them!)

* Make eye contact. Acknowledge and involve your audience. See Janie Reinart's recent post about ways to make your school visit interactive.

* To maintain order, YOU, the author, can tell kids to sit, ask them to quiet down, etc.

* Do NOT start signing autographs at the end of the session or you will be mobbed. Arrange for book signing time and supply a signed bookmark to be copied for all.

I urge you to visit Book Moot and read all of the wonderful tips.

Now, wonderful GROG readers, you help educate me, too. 

What presentation topics have worked for you? 

What tips do you have to pass along? 

I'm always thankful for your advice!

** Thanks to GROG fans chiming in, I have two dynamite websites for school program advice -- Alexis O'Neill and Kim Norman.

(And a shout out to Tammi Sauer, a school program dazzler!)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Five Ways To Make Your School Visit Interactive

By Janie Reinart

I had a lovely time with the students from Immaculate Heart of Mary School with my program, Finding the Words. Writing poetry is a fail-safe way for students to improve confidence in their reading and writing ability. 

When planning your school visits, engage students by making your time together interactive.  Here are five ways to accomplish that goal.

1. Send a video to get the students excited for your visit!

I created a riddle and incorporated it into my presentation. The first student from each class, who answered correctly, chose a prize ranging from a new journal to stationery. 

 2.  "Catch" that thought

Use a beach ball and toss to students to encourage them to be part of the discussion. What is poetry?

3. Group participation

Use these props for students to do a choral reading. G is for girls. B is for boys. Held up together means everyone copies the line and how you say it. Each group stands separately or together and repeats the line.

4. Must have writing time! 

The eight graders were so quiet, all you could hear was the sound of their pencils as they wrote at the tables. Woohoo! Music to my ears! Share your writing with the students so that they will share their writing with you.

    This touching poem was written by Alayna to honor her little sister. The line "Your eyes never got old" is the most poignant to me. The detail of "brown eyes" placed before that line makes a direct connection with our hearts.

Where’d you go?
About 8 years old
Brown eyes so big
Your eyes never got old

About 8 years old
Why did you go?
Your eyes never got old
You’re more beautiful than gold

Why did you go?
I miss you so
You’re more beautiful than gold
Your laugh never got old

I miss you so
Brown eyes so big
Your laugh never got old
Where’d you go ?

5. Post workshop activity.

Make a graffiti wall from shelf paper for each class.  The "paper wall" is placed on a table or taped to the wall in the classroom. Students use the wall as a group journal. I wrote three prompts, answered each prompt and signed what I wrote. Students are encouraged to do the same. This quote is from Kai, a third grader.

"Poetry is like clay pottery, you set it out to dry and it hardens into history."

 Thank you to the charming students and wonderful staff at IHM . We had fun writing and "Finding the Words". Share how you interact with students for your school visits


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summer Schedule for GROG

Dear GROG readers, 

GROG will be heading into summer with a twice per week schedule, so please look for our posts on 
Mondays and Thursdays, through the end of June.

Happy reading, writing, traveling, recreating, and frolicking outdoors to you all.

~Team GROG

Monday, May 16, 2016


posted by J.G. Annino

To finish a longer walk than our everyday
neighborhood amble of about 40 minutes, my hubby & I
mosey 40 miles south out of town through pine and oak forest.
There we breathe salt air of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
& also, the earthy aroma of cypress swamp in this park of many habitats.

The shore here at the Gulf of Mexico is sand marsh. And that marsh
and that shore make all the difference, in spring & fall.

For some birds, the St. Marks Refuge is the first
landfall after a punishing migratory haul across water.

And so it was that recently we ventured on an
old path at the St. Marks refuge, old but never before trod by us.
The grassy way was busy with plant & insect inhabitants,
but not with visiting uprights.

                                          c. Jan Godown Annino  all rights reserved

We admired everything, including water lilies opened to the sun
in still pools, the last pom pom bursts of purple thistle spikes
and assorted small yellow and orange beauties.
 We found adult butterflies and juvenile grasshoppers.

When we met one particular critter, I couldn’t help but wonder –
Who are you?

We uploaded the photos from my Canon camera
at home to share with my writing partner, who is also my
dear/near neighbor & a frequent birder. She congratulated us on
spotting a long-distance migratory traveler.

A male, this creature smaller than a robin, had flown
here from winter residency in South America, possibly

After the trip I read that children’s author Laura Shovan 
SCHOOL) suggested the writing prompt of creating a poem in the
voice of an object, or in the voice of something living, by using an image
and not memory. I was glad I had the photo image.
This is the work-in-progress, revised two times.

                                                                                   c. Jan Godown Annino all rights reserved

by J.G. Annino

Dear bird watcher,

Ah! You saw a flash, pale yellow
I heard you - What a pretty fellow
Do not think me here for show
I face treacherous miles to go

While you watch me on this spent thistle
Think – he had to stop and wet his whistle
Think - what other creatures has he seen
Think – what is his perch,  when humans dream

Flash! I lift my wings - I’ve seen seeds
After drink and rest it’s food I need
While wings beat steady steady again
Go write a poem, be my friend

I must fly,

Bob, traveling bobolink

c. Jan Godown Annino 2016

Writing a persona poem brings the writer inside the
head of  a character. I think I may find another
character for a persona poem, soon. Can you see
how it’s a boost to those of us who are always seeking
to understand characters?

Some afterstory
Bob O’Lincoln is the call some birders
attributed to this bird.  Over long time that name
evolved to the lyrical way we say it today.
A tagged bobolink once traveled 12,000 miles in migration.
In a day a bobolink can fly up to 1,000 miles. Without a
suitcase! Bobolinks like rice fields, to glean the grains, such as
in Louisiana &  South Carolina. I feel fortunate to have now seen
my first bobolink.
Sources: Cornell Ornithology Lab online
My Dictionary

Plus, a thank you chirp for bobolink identification of this photo –
which I took May 7, 2016 on our walk at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge –
chirped out to my birding/writing pal, dear/near neighbor, Ann Morrow.

And two chirps of thanks to Michelle H. Barnes of the delightful
blog Today’s Little Ditty, & to Laura Shovan, for the persona poem prompt.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Opportunities in Writing for the Educational Market — by Christy Mihaly

Many of our readers who are writers have asked GROG to post more information about educational writing, or work for hire (WFH).  And no wonder: Getting paid to write? Knowing that your editor wants your manuscript and will get it published it on schedule? Not having to worry about promotion or marketing? What's not to like? 
In today's post, I'm passing along some choice tidbits from the world of Work for Hire: news of two upcoming events, and words of wisdom from a bevy of WFH veterans.

Opportunity Knocks! If you're interested in writing for the educational market, check out two excellent opportunities—a conference and a workshop—happening next month. I attended one of these in 2014, and the other last year, and I highly recommend both. Though they're quite different, both offer high quality instruction and a chance to make great connections. At both, I've met wonderful folks, learned tons about the market, and made contacts that led to book contracts.
In chronological order:

June 10-12: The 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference, now in its fourth year, is a three-day event offering a huge selection of workshops and panels on children's nonfiction.  It will be held this year at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Topics range from new nonfiction formats and specialized niches to audiobooks and video markets. Workshops cover educational innovations, magazines, science standards, incorporating greater diversity, the publishing process, and how to find work. Co-chairs Sally Isaacs and Lionel Bender have recruited forty-plus faculty members, including established editors and agents, best-selling authors, book packagers, educators, librarians, and marketing gurus. There are opportunities for paid consultations on manuscripts and proposals; there's plenty of time to schmooze with other serious nonfiction writing professionals; and the atmosphere is exhilarating. Fellow GROGger Todd Burleson and I attended in 2014 and blogged about it here. 

June 19-23: The Highlights Foundation workshop, Writing for the Educational Market, is a five-day program taught by two seasoned educational writers, Jan Fields and Paula Morrow. Held at the idyllic facilities of the Highlights Foundation, it covers fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction. In this intimate setting, a select group of writers learns about the practicalities of working for hire (creating and sending out writing samples, juggling multiple assignments, evaluating contracts), the craft of educational writing (with writing exercises and individual critiques), and the details of WFH niches including writing leveled readers and test passages. This year, visits with special guest editors are scheduled. The invaluable personalized attention at this workshop includes an expert review of participants' resumes. And the price of admission includes optional morning yoga! Last summer, I gained a better understanding of the educational market, some great ideas for getting work, and a circle of excellent WFH friends and colleagues.

So if you can find room in your schedule and your budget, consider signing up, and prepare to learn from the masters.

Not convinced yet? Wait, I have more. I asked a group of WFH writers to answer two questions for GROG readers. Here are their generous replies:

 Q: What do you love about Work for Hire? 
The writers I surveyed agreed on several themes:
  • Variety: Many writers enjoy switching back and forth between WFH and "passion writing." And there's lots of variety within the WFH work. Observes writer Jen Swanson: "I get to write about really cool technical topics in STEM. I get to work with a bunch of different editors  who have their own formats and structures, which I think makes me a better writer."

  • Money: The money is less than we'd make collecting royalties on a best-seller, yes. But the pay is reliable and can be steady once we're receiving regular assignments. So if you want to make a living as a writer, WFH has great appeal.
  • Clarity: With WFH, the writer knows precisely what the editors want. "What I like is that it's clear-cut," says writer and mentor Laura Purdie Salas. As she describes it, with work for hire, "many of the decisions are already made, and my job is to solve the puzzle of doing the best writing I can do that meets the criteria already set."
  • Publication: With trade books, you write and submit, wait, get rejected, submit, wait, revise, wait (you get the picture). This process may eventually result in publication, but it often seems to take forever. Many of us can't stand the waiting and rejection. With WFH projects, when you submit a manuscript, you know that although you may need to revise, you'll see that book in print before your toddler hits high school.
  • Educating kids: People who write for the educational market love knowing that their work is read by students and appreciated by teachers and librarians.
  • Educating ourselves:  Many WFH writers cited the joy of learning about new subjects, including, as Joanne Gise Mattern says, topics "I would never investigate on my own." Author Lisa Amstutz adds, "I love research, especially when I come across interesting tidbits that I know kids will love."

Q: What are your top tips for writers new to Work for Hire?
I'll just let these experienced writers speak for themselves: 

Study catalogs and get to know other people who work in this niche. 

Laura Purdie Salas 
Put together a great WFH package. Make sure you mention what topics you'd like to write about in your cover letter.  Your writing samples should reflect the age and topics you wish to write about. Most importantly, they need to "sparkle and shine", meaning they should be your best, most energetic, descriptive writing. The writing samples are what will land you the job!Jennifer Swanson 
Identify potential markets and approach them as they request on their website.  Jane Heitman Healy 

 My best advice for breaking in is to carefully study your target market and tailor your writing samples to their style. Your samples should reflect the age level and genre of the writing you want to do (e.g.,nonfiction picture books, middle grade fiction, etc.) 
 My top tips would be to research and investigate new markets and network, network, network with other writers and editors! Word of mouth is an amazing tool to finding new jobs.
—Joanne Gise Mattern 

And on that note, about-to-be published writer Annette Whipple shared this inspirational tale about getting her WFH start at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference: 
As an unpublished writer, I was thankful to make a contact through the 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference. I sent her my resume and writing samples. A couple months later she asked if I wanted to write a book about insects. I only knew the general topic, word count, due date, and payment. But I said "yes," and the editor explained the specific topic and more detailed requirements for the book. I researched and wrote it in less than two months. Insects as Producers will be out in August. 
Congratulations, Annette!

For Further Reading: 

Writing for the Education Market provides an excellent community forum and job board. 
Evelyn Christensen generously compiles and updates an online list of Educational Markets for Children's Writers. 
At Mentors for Rent, Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard offer many resources including a how-to book for writers, Writing for the Educational Market.

And here are past GROG pieces introducing the basics of the educational market, and sharing more WFH stories: 
  • Tina Cho's 2014 informative posts about writing for the educational market, parts one and two; plus her review of Nancy I. Sanders' instructional book, here, and her interview with Ev Christensen, here.
  • My 2015 interview with Jen Swanson about her book Brain Games.