Wednesday, March 30, 2022

4 Ways to Get Back on Track When Your WORK-LIFE Balance is Off-Kilter by Eileen Meyer


Most of my writing and illustrating colleagues in the children’s book publishing world have been in this same spot . . . when your work-life balance is temporarily out of whack and weighted far too heavily to one side. Too many deadlines or marketing activities for an upcoming publication, and your work hours take over your free time. (Your family and friends wonder when you will come up for air!) On the flip side, there are times that writing, or illustrating must take a back seat to other commitments. Important activities such as helping family members, unexpected travel, group project commitments (you can’t let others down)—all these things and more can eliminate dedicated time for individual projects. It can be frustrating . . .
but I have found ways to keep moving forward by focusing on a few things I can manage to squeeze in when I don’t have either time or the head space to write.

1. READ! 

This is a time that I like to go to the library and check out oodles of books in my genre. Even though I may not have the opportunity to write, I can always use a bit of my evenings for browsing and reading to fill my brain with wonderful words and phrases, admire beautiful illustrations, study interesting narratives, and meander through fabulous stories. Plan to stop by your favorite indie bookstore, or locate your library card and head over to the stacks for an afternoon of searching for useful selections!
Taago, 2006 - by El Anatsui



During this lull in my writing efforts, I found time to squeeze in a trip to a museum to see exhibits. The beautiful aluminum and copper wire art installation pictured above captured my attention at Atlanta’s High Museum. Ghanaian artist El Anatsui formed this beautiful textile from discarded bits of aluminum taken from the necks and tops of liquor bottles. His art celebrates the tradition of West-African strip woven cloth. Wow—what an incredible metal-cloth sculpture! It was a joy to behold. So, get out—fill yourself up with an afternoon at a museum, take a morning walk at a local park, or taste something from a new food truck in your neighborhood. Inspiration may be lurking where you least expect it.

3. THINK! 

Even though I don’t have time to sit down at my writing desk . . . I do have time to consider new project ideas and turn them over in my mind. How might I approach this new story idea? What will make my characters or plot unique? What else can I possibly do to learn more about a new nonfiction topic? So, think about it . . . can you jot down some new story ideas or list items that require more research?



I recently signed up for my first “in-person” conference in over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a few months, I can’t wait to put on my name badge, meet old pals, make new friends, listen to engaging speakers, and revel in all things kidlit! There’s nothing quite like a conference or workshop to keep you on track to submit existing projects for critique and feedback and push you forward. Why not take a look at the events in your region . . . and send in your registration today!
So even though I’m not actively working on a project this month, I’m still making progress. I’m reading, exploring, thinking, and soon I will be connecting, too! And yes, that list of commitments which have overtaken my writing time is being whittled down, one by one. Soon, I’ll be back at my desk diving into a few projects that I can’t wait to work on.
What do YOU do to further your writing / illustrating work when you’re not able to squeeze in dedicated project time? I’d love to hear your thoughts . . . and add your valuable tips to my toolkit! Please post your ideas in the comments section. Thanks for stopping in.
Find me . . .
on Twitter: @Writer_Meyer
on Instagram: EileenMeyerBooks
my website:






Wednesday, March 23, 2022

THIS COULD BE YOU: Craft Chat with Cindy Williams Schrauben and Book Review by Kathy Halsey

It's such fun to help writer friends celebrate their debut books. Like me, you may know of Cindy through her work over the years at ReFoReMo, which focused on mentor texts every March. Cindy had the Herculean task of organizing the picture book mentor texts by category or subject for the Facebook page files. After her years helping fellow picture book writers with comparative titles and mentor texts, it's so satisfying to feature Cindy Williams Schrauben with her own debut!

Book Review of This Could Be You

Educators and librarians, add this to your SEL, growth-mindset collection. Parents and grandparents, share as a fun read aloud with your children or grandchildren. This uplifting picture book from Cardinal Rule Press celebrates myriad of ways children can explore their world, dig into their passions, and help others. 


This Could Be You features avocations and careers traditionally explored for the K-second grade band, as well as other choices not as commonly known for the younger set. Readers are encouraged to see themselves as gardeners, farmers, police, teachers, along with writers and activists. The bright, engaging illustrations by Julia Seal ensure inclusivity as people of color, women, and the differently abled are included. Lyrical, rhythmic verse and internal rhyme make this a bouncy romp of possibilities enticing children to imagine who they could be.

This Could Be You by debut author Cindy Williams Schrauben and illustrator Julia Seal will be released April 1, 2022. 

Craft Chat with Cindy Williams Schrauben


Kathy: I know you’re a poet, but I’ve not seen the internal rhyme structure used as uniquely as you do in This Could Be You. Did early drafts begin this way? Did you suggest that the rhyme be bolded as an art note or did the art director suggest that?


Cindy: Actually, I used Give Me Back My Bones by Kim Norman as a mentor text. The first time I heard that fun rhyme scheme I knew I wanted to try it. Thanks, Kim. The format didn’t change, but early drafts were much different. The original title was Why Not You – thankfully that changed because a picture book with that title (written by an NFL quarterback and his wife) debuted this month. 


Bolding and hyphenating the phrases was my idea. I played around with other options such as italics before settling on this combination. Because many of the sentences are structured unconventionally, I wanted kids to realize the importance of stressing those phrases. I was thrilled when my seven year old grandson read it correctly right away.



Kathy: Your back matter focuses on changes readers can make to have a growth mindset and how parents/caregivers can engage young readers to think more deeply about their social emotional learning. Was this an add-on or an integral part of how you envisioned this book?


Cindy: I subbed This Could Be You with this back matter. The main text is important, but I wanted to include supplemental information for adults that will help them to adjust their own perspectives and tweak their everyday vocabulary, empowering their families/students with a growth mindset. It was always my hope to create a book that would have this kind of enduring impact.



Kathy: Tell us a bit about your journey to become a published author. What was surprising? Unexpected?

Cindy: There have been lots of surprises along the way. I had no clue how trying and long the journey would be, BUT I am so grateful that I was able to persevere with the help of the amazing kidlit community. The generosity and camaraderie is unlike anything I’ve dealt with. Another surprise is playing out right now – it is easy to think that once you get a book deal, you’re set. In reality, the marketing process has required a great deal of time and energy.


I was also blessed with a surprise after the book was printed. The reverse side of the jacket features a 27” x 11” poster – I love it. 


Kathy: I’m proud to be a member of your “street team” (folks who help spread the word about your debut). What are all the pieces, parts of your marketing campaign? How did your publisher, Cardinal Rule Press, help in this effort?


Cindy: Thank you! I couldn’t do this without my team. There are so many aspects to the marketing process. The key for me was finding ways to connect with my audience in a meaningful way – providing them with helpful content. I am lucky in that my book has a clear theme  – educating people about a growth mindset. I did lots of research regarding marketing a picture book, but ultimately had to pare my ideas down to those efforts that would be both effective and enjoyable for me – otherwise, I would have gone crazy. If you follow my social media you will see lots of silly things I have done like making felted bees, creating a six-sided puzzle with pages from my book, and painting a huge rocket photo booth. Will these things make a big difference? Maybe not, but it was fun and that is important, too.


I couldn’t be happier with the support and guidance I’ve gotten from Cardinal Rule Press. They offer Master Classes, Office Hours, and suggested timelines as well as extensive marketing efforts. The founder, Maria Dismondy and her team are phenomenal.


Kathy: What are you working on now?


Cindy: I am always working on several stories at once. I am a pantser for sure – I roll with whatever feels right at the moment. I never want to make my writing feel like work. I am looking for ways to give back to the writing community as soon as things calm down (after my launch). Besides that and marketing, I am working on an initiative I call, Partners in Literacy. It is a program in which businesses can sponsor my school visit by purchasing a book for each child from a local indie. I hope to kick it off soon. There is info on my website.



Cindy Williams Schrauben lives in Michigan where she writes books for kids that range from truly serious to seriously silly. Before embarking on this path, she held positions as a preschool administrator, teacher, and assistant director of a children’s museum -- always striving to empower kids. When not writing or honing her craft, Cindy might be found dissecting her grandsons’ shenanigans for story ideas, reading on the floor in the bookstore, or eating ice cream… ideally all at once.


You can connect with Cindy at or

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Guest post: The Power of Imagery by Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson is back with us this time with another new picture book biography--Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence, published by Calkins Creek, February 1, 2022. Beth shares her expertise, this time, in the area of imagery. 

I’m a big fan of imagery – as a teacher, reader, and writer! Imagery elevates the narrative, invites lyricism, strengthens theme, and enhances heart. It’s a much used tool in my writer’s toolbox.


What exactly is imagery? defines it this way:


Imagery is a literary device that refers to the use of figurative language to evoke a sensory experience or create a picture with words for a reader. By utilizing effective descriptive language and figures of speech, writers appeal to a reader’s senses of sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound, as well as internal emotion and feelings. Therefore, imagery is not limited to visual representations or mental images, but also includes physical sensations and internal emotions.


Wow! Makes you just want to pour it on! But…imagery should be subtle and not waste words. It should flow naturally and not feel contrived. It should be sprinkled, like spices or herbs, to enrich what’s already there. 


In AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, I placed “battle” words throughout to reinforce the idea that a revolution is more than a military battle. “Breaking free of old ways” involves many areas of our lives.


The imagery in TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE was also in word choice. I powered the story with his wriggle as an irrepressible force of energy. This doesn’t rob him of his dignity or impose a negative judgement for the reader. 


In SMELLY KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, I interwove super-hero imagery with details, words, and phrases. Sensory images abound for this character with super senses.


In LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, imagery went deeper than word choice. Footsteps echo through the story—a ticking clock, heartbeats, a stranger’s approach, and, in the culmination of the heart thread, others stepping up to carry forward social justice.


I think everything I write uses alliteration, onomatopoeia, and sensory language. But when a story lends itself to using a metaphor, that’s something special! And REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT invited the opportunity…  


When I dive into a story, I try to think about the different angles I might tell it from, or look for something in the setting that might ring through the story. Then I consider those ideas along with themes and the heart thread, and I start generating word lists that I can draw from as I write. This preps my brain and frames my thinking.  


As I researched Prudence Wright, I collected words and phrases in my spiral, beginning with those related to revolution and independence.  One of the first items I wrote was the Thomas Paine quote that starts the story: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I saw it as a truth, but also as leaving out women. Thus, the addition of “and women’s” seemed to fit Prudence and her story perfectly. That’s where her voice first emerged.

I created a word bank of military and revolution words. I wanted to show that the women’s actions were as powerful as the men’s.


Since the main event occurs in April, one of my first ideas for the “big picture” imagery of a metaphor was that of spring, gardens, and planting the seeds of independence. But, though it fit the home front idea, I knew immediately that it didn’t fit the concepts and had the wrong tone.


One of my Pepperell contacts had shared photos of a few artifacts from Prudence’s life, including her love box and lantern that could easily be used in the story. Prudence designed and created beautiful quilts, but there were no pictures available. Learning about and seeing personal items from my subject’s hands connected me in a special way. Could I use them in the story?


I listed words associated with a lantern and fire, and I also jotted down words about quilts. Could either serve as a metaphor? The idea of quilts really fit the story, not only because Prudence made them, but because they are from the hands, often involve a community of women, are made from remnants of lives, and handed down as family history.


Metaphors fall into place as I write. Lizzie’s footsteps came through during the revision process when I realized I had the pieces and just needed to connect them better. Prudence’s story was about women bound together as community and breaking old patterns. And as I worked to transition scenes, I realized that their boycott actions were like scraps for a quilt, of little consequence until joined with others. Organizing the pattern of resistance was like the larger design of a quilt. Suddenly the quilt idea popped and became powerful! And paired with the scene of the women quilting, it emphasizes that this rebellion is coming from homes. Yahoo! Don’t you just love it when it all comes together!

Illustrator Susan Reagan brought back the quilt image in the art at the end, reflecting the simile on the page, “The women weren’t organized and trained like the men, but they were bound together, like blocks of a quilt.” Use of imagery also opens up potential with illustration, and the merging of art and text tightens and strengthens the story.

 The image of a quilt fit every aspect of the story. The metaphor brought abstract concepts “home,” comprehensible in a concrete and beautiful way.


Though we think of imagery as evoking images, as the definition above says, imagery is more than visual or sensory. It touches us internally, emotionally. No wonder it’s so powerful! 

Thank you, Beth! I love this new story and the image of the quilt since my mom quilts. I love how you find unique angles on all your picture book subjects.

You can find more about Beth here! And more blog posts from Beth here and here.

Bio: Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. Beth has two more picture books on the way in 2022: FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, illustrated by Caroline Hamel, and CLOAKED IN COURAGE: THE STORY OF DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER, illustrated by Anne Lambelet.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Celebrating MOMMY'S HOMETOWN with Hope Lim

By Suzy Leopold

Welcome once again to the GROG Blog Hope Lim! It is my pleasure to share your upcoming book Mommy's Hometown with our readers.

Mommy’s Hometown
Written by Hope Lim
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
April 12, 2022

Share your inspiration for Mommy's Hometown.

MOMMY’S HOMETOWN was inspired by real-life experiences. Since moving to America, I have periodically visited my parents in Korea, and am struck by the continual changes that have slowly altered my hometown. When I became a mother, I took my kids and husband to the river where I used to play as a child. While watching them play and catch minnows and crawfish in the river, I was overtaken by a sense of nostalgia for the time and scenes from my childhood, for everything around the river had changed so much. In the distance, glimpses of mountains brought me back to a time that is long gone. At that moment, I wanted to write something that captured the passage of time and changes that took place. That became the seed for MOMMY’S HOMETOWN.

On our way home from the river, my husband asked if I would still come back to the river or my hometown if my parents weren’t here anymore. I thought about the question and realized that the presence of my parents and their love, which have stayed the same throughout the years of change, are what make my hometown so special. Like the old river that runs through the city unchanged, my parents’ presence and love are steadfast. So that sentiment became the theme of MOMMY’S HOMETOWN.

Did you have a critique group (literary agent or editor) who helped and supported your vision for this story?

I have to say all of them, critique groups, my agent, and my editor helped me with each revision.

My editor, Kate Fletcher, really helped me to focus on the mother-child connection in this story. At first, I was too ambitious trying to weave a different layer into the story, such as Grandma’s steady presence in parallel with the old river. Then following my editor’s advice and focusing on the mother and child connection flushed out the extra elements and made the story as it is now. I am very thankful for Kate for her vision and support. 

What are some activities and events you are doing (or plan to do) to launch and promote your book?

I am doing lots of blog tours for Mommy’s Hometown, and my writing group, Soaring20s, is supporting all the writers and their books coming out this year. 

When did you become interested in writing children’s literature? 

Two things came together. First, I kept a daily journal of my children when they were younger. It was filled with my observations of their daily activities, funny things they said, and my thoughts on parenting. Second, I was constantly reading to my children, all different types of books. I was drawn to the power of picture books, where a single word or illustration can convey deep emotions. The power of picture books and my observations on my kids came together to inspire me to write my own books and share them with the world.

Hope Lim, Author

Time for eight fun rapid-fire questions.

Describe yourself in five words.

Optimistic, creative, thoughtful, sensitive, and idealistic. 

What item displayed on your desk gives you inspiration?

Stacks of books I want to read.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Climbing the mountains behind my parent’s house and catching dragonflies. 

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. Only because I see it more often and I love the colors

When are you most productive?

At night when the house is quiet, and I am the only one who is awake. 

Riding bikes or jogging?

Jogging. I run every day! 

What surprises you?

People who are not kind. 

Favorite place to be.

A place with people who have known me for years.

And now for some writing advice from Hope:


My general advice is read and write and read and write. Reading nourishes your mind and writing strengthens your ability and helps you find your own voice. Writing is hard but we all know what it is like to experience that rare Ah Ha moment that makes our story sing. That blissful moment makes us feel alive and can come to us when we spend lots of time with our stories by writing and reading and thinking about them. 


One specific piece of advice is to make a dummy to see the pacing of your story and how the page turns will work. Making a dummy is my favorite stage because I can envision it as a final product and often draw rough sketches along with text. 

Thank you, Hope. The kidlit community looks forward to celebrating the release of Mommy’s Hometown on April 12th. It’s always a pleasure to have you on the GROG Blog.

For more information about Hope and her books visit her website.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Writing Work-for-Hire by Tina Cho

New book alert: My work-for-hire chapter book, Asian American Women in Science: 15 Inspiring People You Should Know, published with Rockridge Press, an imprint of Callisto Media, yesterday, March 1st, right on time for Women’s History Month!

As I begged, politely asked, people to review it, some asked what work-for-hire means, so I thought I’d explain.

A work-for-hire book is one in which a publisher, most often an educational publisher, finds writers to write books on a quick time table, according to an idea usually thought up by the publisher, and in which the copyright is in the publisher’s name. So that means they will pay the writer a one-time, agreed upon amount. The writer will not receive any more funds, no matter how well or poorly the book sells. Also, since the copyright is in the publisher’s name, they can do whatever they want with the book. The writer is giving them all rights to his/her work.

Pros of work-for-hire:

·       quick turn-around in getting books published
·       sometimes faster payment for your writing
·       a nice side gig if you want to earn some money (paying for child’s college, hehe)
·       a good way to add to your writing resume
·       a great way to get into the writing business working with an editor

Cons of work-for-hire
·       one payment, no matter how well the book does
·       giving up rights
·       fast turn-around of manuscripts, meaning it can be stressful doing lots of research and writing in a short amount of time

My experience

I started writing in 2008 for the educational, work-for-hire market. Most of you know, I’m an elementary teacher and still am. You can see my work-for-hire projects here. Lately, I haven’t pursued projects, but rather clients come to me. If I have time, I’ll accept.

The summer of 2021, an acquisitions editor from Rockridge Press emailed me. She had seen my bio in SCBWI and of course, my website. (Another reason to keep those bios current!). She asked if I was interested in this project—Asian American Women in Science. I was interested in the topic, but because it was so close to school starting, I wasn’t sure I could dedicate enough time to research. The editor said if I was interested I’d need to do a writing sample test on one of the women. So I thought, ok. If it’s meant to be, then…if not, that’s my answer. Well, it so happened, the editor chose me, out of the others in the running. So I prayed and told God, if He wanted me to write this book, He would have to help me. School was starting soon, and I had a daughter to move in to college.

So from July 26-Sept. 10, I was extremely busy writing 15 biographies, basically every two weeks, five stories were due. I paced on my calendar about how many days to write for each lady. I bought a new notebook (it’s the little fun things that count!) and added tabs for each scientist. I got into a groove of research and writing up my stories. The hardest part was finding enough information on some of the scientists. I wish I could’ve done interviews with those who are still living, but when I tried to contact them, there was no response. Or, I was told not to. 


What I learned:

·       I can write a chapter book of 15 biographies in a short amount of time.

·       Check You Tube for interviews of your source.

·       Be activists. I was amazed by the women still living and carrying out their mission. At the time of the writing, one of the women, Alice Min Soo Chun, was back in Haiti, carrying out her mission because they had just had another earthquake.

·       Women are unstoppable. We leave legacies for our children. They are watching us, even if we think they aren’t.

·       Never underestimate yourself and what you can do with your writing!

back cover

So maybe you’re thinking, I’m interested in doing work-for-hire. What are the next steps?

·       Here is a work-for-hire writing course from my author friend, Annette Whipple. Annette is graciously offering a discount: code KIDLIT25 for 25% off any of our courses

·       And here’s a handout from SCBWI.

·       Or you can jump in yourself. Go to the library and find the children’s nonfiction shelves. Write down the publishers, check the copyright. Look at the publishers’ websites and how to submit ideas or a sample packet.

For more information, see my posts here.

There are all kinds of work-for-hire writing assignments. Besides nonfiction, my husband and I translate and proofread Korean books for Tuttle Publishing. I’ve written guided reading books for schools, lesson plans, reading passages, devotions, and stories for magazines.

There’s a whole world of writing out there waiting for you to explore. Have fun!

Tina Cho is the author of four picture books with 2 more unannounced-- Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books 2018), Korean Celebrations (Tuttle 2019), My Breakfast with Jesus: Worshipping God around the World (Harvest House 2020), and The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story (Kokila/Penguin Random House 2020). Her lyrical middle grade graphic novel, The Other Side of Tomorrow, debuts from Harper Alley in 2024. After living in South Korea for ten years, Tina, her husband, and two teenagers reside in Iowa where Tina also teaches kindergarten.