Saturday, December 3, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting November 2016

The November SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured an end-of-the-year PARTY!  Our members have worked hard all year long, so we decided it was time to kick back, snack, and have fun!

Holiday goodies were brought in by the Board and oh-so talented cookie baker, Holly Ruppel.  We were also pleased to present the official 2016 Notecard Contest sets, which were available for purchase.   

How gorgeous are Holly's cookies?!

The Board gave a little summary of the year, and boy was it a busy one!  With six workshops, meetings every month, multiple illustration projects, and an indy book festival, the year was practically bursting with children's lit awesomeness!

A sampling of the Board: Jody Casella, Kristy Boyce, Kathryn Powers (me), and Jodie Brohard.

While munching on holiday treats, we played "Tic Tac Know"--a getting-to-know-you game where members wrote down tidbits about themselves and searched for other writers and illustrators they have things in common with.  It was all sorts of silly and very fun!  (I also learned that many SCBWI members dislike tomatoes as much as I do!)

In addition to the party, the meeting was the last chance for members to see the gallery display at the Upper Arlington Library featuring art from the 2016 Notecard Contest.  The UA Library said our gallery was a big hit with their patrons, and we're already brainstorming another collaboration for 2017!

While November marked the last COSCBWI meeting for 2016, monthly meetings will begin again in January 2017.  The Board is busy planning another great year of events, so be sure to visit for updates.

I can't wait to see old friends and new faces at the meetings in 2017!  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Note: Photos taken by Kristy Boyce and Kathryn Powers.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016

Oh yeah, it's Time to Cram Your Doggy in a Silly Costume Day!

Each Halloween, I have way too much fun dressing up my pup for the big night.  This year, say hello to...


Penny says, "Why yes, I am adorable!"

Penny has quite an Ewok look to her even without the costume.  (Especially when she's due for a grooming!)  So I decided it was time for her to embrace her Star Wars counterpart.

Penny says, "Don't bother me!  I see kids!"
Penny doesn't mind wearing a costume each year; she's too excited about seeing all the Trick-or-Treaters!  Her tail kept wagging our rose bushes all night, and she gave out kisses to go with our bowl of candy.  (Although, the fuzzy-eared hood was not her favorite clothing item.  She earned extra treats for keeping it on her head.  ;) )  I'm not sure all of the neighborhood kids knew what she was dressed as, but we did meet one Stormtrooper who was pretty jealous that we own a pet Ewok.  

Happy Halloween! 

I hope your day is full of sugary treats, festive drinks, and the cutest pets and kiddos in the galaxy!

Friday, October 28, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting October 2016

The October SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured a library tour and discussion with Tracie Steele.  Tracie is a Youth Services Librarian at the Upper Arlington Public Library.  She gave a librarian's insight on writing for children and today's publishing market.

The SCBWI folk in Columbus know the Upper Arlington Public Library quite well--it's where we gather for our monthly meetings!  But many of us were unfamiliar with the children's and teen section, so Tracie began the night with a group tour.  The collection of books housed in the library is impressive, with sections for the littlest bookworms to mature YA readers.  There are even resources for dyslexic children and foreign-language readers. 

Tracie gave some insight into how the books in their collection are chosen and displayed.  The library has selectors who are in charge of picking which books are acquired, and those choices are influenced by reviews, requests, and trends in the community.  The librarians pick the "face-out" and display books for various reasons.  Sometimes they feature books due to popular trends or seasonal topics.  Other times, they showcase books that are new.  And often they just like to shine the spotlight on books that they found to be particularly wonderful.

Tracie made us a great display of popular books and trends!

After the tour, Tracie discussed some trends their library has noticed.  These include an increase in:

-Books with diverse characters
-Gender identity books
-Graphic novels 
-Books that feature characters who are usually under-empowered
-Narrative nonfiction
-Strong themes of empathy
-Historical fiction with magical elements
-Books with unique formats (like emails, ship logs, journals, etc.)
-For older readers, books that tackle deep, gritty issues
-Series, series, series!

Tracie also noted that the popularity of book genres often matches what is popular in movies and TV.  So if there's a big TV show about superheroes/time travel/detectives/whatever, you can bet books about those subjects will be flying off the shelves!

Lastly, Tracie had a very touching reminder for all of us.  She praised the importance of stories in bringing people together and assured us that writers and illustrators make a difference in the world.

A big thank you to Tracie for sharing her time and wisdom with us!  You can discover more about the Upper Arlington Public Library system at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Monday, October 3, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting September 2016

The September SCBWI meeting in Columbus featured Michaela Schuett.  Michaela has illustrated and author-illustrated several books, including Let's Count Fish!, The Prince and the White Tiger, and the forthcoming I am a Unicorn!  (The Columbus SCBWI members actually got to hear a draft of I am a Unicorn! at a group critique meeting, and everyone was thrilled to learn that it will be printed in 2017!)  Michaela shared her publication journey with us, as well as tips on how to find work in the competitive field of children's publishing.
Michaela started her career in graphic design.  She spent several years in the newspaper and magazine industry before taking the leap into freelance work in 2013.  Her first steps as a freelancer included joining many social media networks and mailing out promotional materials.  In 2014, a doodle she posted on Twitter piqued the interest of an author, which led to her first job illustrating a picture book with Omnibus Publishing.  While working on projects for Omnibus, she was contacted by people who saw her work on Instagram and the national SCBWI website, earning her even more illustration jobs.  During that time, Michaela also submitted her work the traditional way, mailing postcards and submitting her manuscripts to publishers.  As a result, she got an illustration published in Highlights magazine and scored a book contract for I am a Unicorn!  
Michaela credits her success to perseverance and sharing her art in as many ways as possible.  If she had only submitted her work one way (such as traditional postcards), she would have missed out on the opportunities she gained through social media networks--and vice versa.  But by taking advantage of the many avenues available to modern illustrators, she was able to connect with a wider audience.  Michaela also highly recommends taking the time to put together professional-looking promotional materials and a strong website.  You want to make sure you present yourself in the best way possible.  Lastly, she encouraged aspiring artists to be brave and consider every opportunity that knocks on your door--you may be hesitant to answer, but you never know where that opportunity may lead. 

A big thanks to Michaela for sharing her journey and publication tips!  You can find out more about Michaela and her books (as well as her graphic design work) at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Note: Cover image is from

Saturday, August 27, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting August 2016

This month's COSCBWI meeting in Columbus featured illustrator Joe Sutphin.  Joe creates illustrations for middle grade novels, including the Doctor Critchlore's School for Minions series and the forthcoming Word of Mouse.  He shared his publication story and gave the group a behind-the-scenes look at how internal art is created for children's novels.

Joe's path to publication was long and winding.  When he realized he wanted to illustrate children's novels, he read widely to study different art styles.  The Spiderwick Chronicles especially appealed to him, so he contacted the illustrator of the series, Tony DiTerlizzi.  As Joe practiced his craft, Tony became a friend and mentor.  He encouraged Joe to submit his work to publishing houses, and in 2012 Joe was contacted by Simon and Schuster to illustrate a piece in a John Carter of Mars anthology.  Joe attended the book release in New York and took the opportunity to meet with art directors at various houses.  Although the trip didn't result in immediate work, it allowed him to make professional connections.  He stayed in touch with these art directors over the years, and eventually Abrams came to him with the Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions project. 

As Joe got more books under his belt, more opportunities came his way and he signed with an agent, too.  He took the leap and decided to become a full-time illustrator.  His big surprise came when he learned that two artists recommended him for a book they each couldn't take on.  The publisher was Jimmy Patterson Books, and Tony DiTerlizzi was one of the artists who had recommended him for the job.  The book, Word of Mouse launches in late 2016.  Joe feels lucky to get to do what he loves and can't wait to keep illustrating books!

Joe shared some interesting facts about the illustration process for middle grade and chapter books.  His contracts state how many illustrations he is required to create per book, but he usually gets to suggest where he thinks the pictures should go throughout the text.  The art and editorial teams either approve or give alternative suggestions, and he creates the art from there.  He almost always illustrates the cover first since publishing houses need it for catalogs and promotions.  The art creation is a surprisingly collaborative process, too, and he often speaks with the editors (and even the authors) so he can be sure to draw the details as accurately as possible.

After giving the group a peek at the illustration process, Joe shared a few words of wisdom including:

-Make all the contacts you can.  You never know where  a relationship will lead!

-Be tactful and kind when reaching out to professionals.  Be the type of person you would want to work with.

-Don't shy away from opportunities, even if they seem small.  Projects you accept early in your career will give you practice for bigger opportunities down the line.

A big thank you to Joe for sharing his story!  You can find out more about Joe and his art at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Note: Cover image is from

Monday, August 1, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting July 2016

The COSCBWI July meeting in Columbus featured author Michele Jakubowski.  Michele writes early readers and chapter books.  She has two series published, Sidney & Sydney and Perfectly Poppy, and two forthcoming series to be released in 2016, Ashley Small and Ashlee Tall and The Sleuths of Somerville.  With so many books under her belt, it was exciting to hear Michele talk about her journey to publication and offer advice for aspiring writers.

Michele began her love of books at an early age and was most inspired by her literary hero, Judy Blume.  She studied English and always wanted to write, but her dreams got pushed aside for a while.  It wasn't until Michele had her own children that she was inspired to start writing.  She was disappointed that her son's books were all "boy books" while her daughters books were all pink, so she set out to write a story that they could enjoy reading together.  Sidney and Sydney was the result of this idea, a book with alternating chapters told from male Sidney's and female Sydney's perspectives.

Michele sent over 100 queries to agents and editors, eventually finding a home with the publisher Capstone.  During the process of publishing the Sidney and Sydney series, Capstone offered her the opportunity to write a new project with them, which became the eight-book series Perfectly Poppy.  They are publishing her upcoming series, too, and Michele has been thrilled for the opportunity to work with multiple projects and different editors within the same house.  When she isn't busy writing, Michele loves to do author visits at schools and Skype visits.

After Michele shared her publication story, she answered questions from the group and offered advice.  Some of her tips included:

-Send queries in small batches.  She regrets sending so many at once since she couldn't implement helpful feedback into work that was already on submission.  Michele recommended that writers send a few queries at a time, then consider any feedback received (and revise if needed) before sending more.

-If you're not going to work with an agent, you need to be comfortable with asking for what you want.  You need to do contract research, too.  Michele learned a lot navigating her first contract, but is currently happy with her decision to work on her own.

-Make sure to write down your ideas when you have them!  Michele shared a humorous story about how she came up with the idea for Sidney and Sydney while falling asleep one night.  She dragged herself out of bed to jot down all her thoughts, and the notes were a wonderful surprise when she found them the next morning.  (She had, indeed, forgotten her ideas overnight!)

A big thank you to Michele for speaking to COSCBWI!  You can find out more about Michele and her writing at /

And if you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting! 

Note: Cover image compilation is from

Friday, July 15, 2016

Celebrating All the Things

Normally around this time each year, I get a little panicky that summer is slipping by too fast.  This year is no exception, but I'm happy to say that it's been a blast so far!
Since summer "unofficially" starts on Memorial Day weekend (you know, when all the pools open), that's where I'll start, too.  Memorial Day weekend happened to coincide with the 30th birthday of yours truly.  I *may* have mourned the loss of my twenties for a day or so, but then my hubby took me to The Wilds for a weekend getaway.  If you haven't been there before, it's a wildlife conservation center in Ohio where the animals roam free Savannah-style.  (Well, as close to "roaming free" as they can.  The herbivores and carnivores are still very much separated--it's not "The Circle of Life: Live on Stage!")  I've wanted to go there for pretty much forever, so we packed our bags and stayed overnight in one of their super-fun Yurts.

We even splurged for a "Wildside" tour, where you travel the park in a small truck to get up close and personal with the animals.  It did not disappoint.
Shortly after the holiday weekend, my little sister graduated from high school.  (Sniff.  Now I really do feel old!)  To commemorate, we all headed to Disney World for a week of family festivities.  The revelry also included birthday celebrations for two of my sisters, and an honorary birthday celebration for me.  (Did you know that Disney cast members wish you "Happy Birthday" all day long when you wear a birthday button in the parks?  I sure didn't, and got startled more than once!)  It was an awesome week featuring:
Epic EPCOT desserts!

We almost got everyone to look at the camera.


Mmmmm....waffle sandwich....

Holding hands is required.


And of course, I had to embarrass everyone by demolishing one of those ginormous turkey legs in public.  (If you recall from my 2013 trip, it's tradition!)  

My little sister said I looked rather primal devouring the thing, with my scrunched-up nose and meat-tearing head jerks.
I've been to Disney many times, but this is the first trip where we got to experience the "Magic Bands."  I must say, the technology was really neat--even spooky at times!  (Like when the mirror ghosts smashed my little sister's face with a cake on her birthday at the "Haunted Mansion.")  However, the bands kicked me out of the family on our very last "It's a Small World" ride.
After all of that merrymaking around the Magic Kingdom, there was still more celebrating to be done post-Disney.  As I mentioned in my last update post, one of my writing buddies and I challenged ourselves to some writing/illustrating goals in May.  The endeavor carried on into June so we could both kick our goals in the butt.  My target was to edit at least two chapters of Pirate Ferret (check!) and to doodle something every day. (I had to make up a few sketches at the end of the month, but double-check!)  Here are some of my favorite sketches from the challenge:


Kristy finished her goals, too, so we marked the occasion by stuffing our faces at a delicious Chinese buffet.  Trophies and medals are nice, but you can't beat all-you-can-eat dumplings and egg rolls!

And lastly, that dash of Disney magic inspired me to finish one of the "It's a Small World" illustrations for my nephew!  I still have several to finish painting, but I'll celebrate accomplishing one!  :)
The rest of the summer is chalking up to be pretty darn busy, but there are also plenty of exciting plans ahead.  I hope you're all having a fun and sunny season!