Monday, May 30, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting May 2016

The COSCBWI meeting for May featured guest speaker Sally Oddi.  Sally is the owner of Cover to Cover, the only independent children's bookstore in Columbus.  With over 20,000 titles in stock, the store has been connecting children and books since 1980.  Sally is also very encouraging of local writers and loves to support the community with book launch parties and other author events.  She took some time from her busy schedule to talk to the COSCBWI members about the state of the market and what it's like to be an independent bookstore in a world full of "big box" stores.

Sally began her talk by happily exclaiming that physical books are NOT dead!  In fact, her experience has proven that they are alive and well, and kids and teens frequently tell her that they prefer reading a book with pages rather than anything on an e-reader device.  The ever-changing technological world keeps her on her toes, though, especially with competitors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  As an independent store, Sally said that she enjoys working on a personal level with customers and promoting the books she feels strongly about.  Her biggest challenge comes with snagging author appearances.  She explained that this is a much more difficult process than it was in the past, especially as the big publishing houses merge and restructure their priorities.  Nowadays, publishers are more interested in how many books will sell at an event rather than getting exposure for an author.  It's a tough line to walk, but Sally said she tries her very best to bring great programming to her customers and community.

Sally also talked about many interesting trends she has noticed in the publishing market.  Some of these include:

-The resurgence of longer, more literary picture books in the market instead of only 300-500 word stories.

-The popularity of non-fiction books on unique topics, like The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller.  She noted that with so many titles published on Thomas Jefferson and other common subjects, it's a breath of fresh air to see these books on new, unusual topics.  And kids love them!

-The popularity of board books, especially for baby showers in lieu of cards.  On that same note, Sally said that she thinks there are some holes in this market and would love to see new early-concept books (like the seasons, feelings, etc.) instead of popular and classic stories just being condensed to a smaller format.

-The boom of middle grade series and lack of stand-alone titles.  She said that more and more, middle grade books seem to be stretched out unnecessarily just so they can be packaged in a trilogy or longer series.  (Sometimes at the expense of quantity over quality.)  Sally said that she adores strong, stand-alone books, though, and hopes the market will come back to publishing more of these in the near future.

-The growth of books that fit with Common Core Standards.  Sally explained that many teachers come into her store looking for new books for their curriculum, so if your book happens to align with Common Core Standards, it can only benefit you.

-The continued increase of self-published titles.  Sally noted that if you're planning to self-publish your book, be sure to do your research on distributors and wholesalers.  (She recommended becoming familiar with Ingram and Baker & Taylor distributors.)  Doing so will give you access to more stores and ultimately a bigger market of potential customers.  She said that you can't hope to sell your book if stores can't buy it for their shelves.

Sally finished the chat by reminding the COSCBWI members to keep reading and pursuing publication.  There's a child somewhere in the world who needs the book you are writing.

A big thank you to Sally for sharing her knowledge!  You can find out more information about Cover to Cover at  (It's a wonderful store--I highly recommend stopping by!)

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 to Cover image is from

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring 2016 Update

Spring is a whirlwind season for me!  I feel like my blog is always extra-quiet this time each year, but that's just because I'm always extra-busy.  This year was no exception, and now that busy spring is winding down to wonderful, slow-paced summer, I figured I ought to let you all know what I've been up to!
The biggest--and craziest--thing about spring for me is my day job at the Ohioana Library.  While most of the year the library is quiet and calm, each spring the place gets turned upside as we plan and prep for the annual Ohioana Book Festival.  It's a fantastic one-day event celebrating Ohio authors and illustrators with fun for the whole family.  This year was the milestone 10th anniversary festival, and it was definitely the best one yet!   
The 2016 festival poster designed by illustrator David Catrow.
After the festival, I jumped into preparing for my very first workshop presentation called "Photoshop 101" for my local SCBWI group.  We went over the basics of Photoshop, as well as some of my favorite digital art tips and tricks.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I made my first digital illustration almost five years ago.  (That seems like FOREVER ago, and boy was it a struggle!)  Although I'm still learning more about digital art everyday, I've come a long way since 2011 and really enjoyed sharing what I know.  I was pretty nervous to get up and teach a whole group, but all the familiar faces in the room made me feel right at home.  (And I don't think I said anything too stupid!)  
A screenshot I used to show what my Photoshop files look like.  Lots of layers!
The festival and workshop have been the meatiest things on my plate, leaving little time for my personal art and writing.  (My bum shoulder has also flared up from time to time, but hopefully that problem is being nipped in the bud.)  It's been a bit difficult, but I've tried my best to stay creative and dabble in some projects here and there.  One of my dear writing buddies asked me to do some illustrations for her "whimsical life" book proposal (it's such a fun concept!), so I created a few pieces to accompany her manuscript.
Accompaniment for "The Dawn of Whimsy" chapter.
Personification of the voice in your head that says you stink at picking colors.
I'm also still working on the special project for my nephew's Disney-themed room (which has proven itself to be a bit more elaborate than I originally anticipated.)  But I am making progress on the series, so I'll share the work-in-process piece my sister has already seen.
"It's a small, small world!"
One of my other close writing buddies decided to challenge herself to a "NaNoWriMo"-style goal for May.  (For those not in the know, the official "NaNoWriMo" is a project where you write a whole novel during the month of November.  How anyone can accomplish such a task in the midst of the holidays is always beyond me!)  She asked if I wanted to join, and while I don't have a new novel I want to draft, I'm participating in my own way by creating a quick sketch at lunch everyday.  (It feels good to get that pencil moving!)  I'm also working on editing Pirate Ferret, which has been collecting dust during the past few months.  In addition to the sketches, my goal is to revise at least two chapters by the end of May.  These may seem like itty-bitty tasks, but baby steps are still better than no steps!  And what is our reward if we accomplish our goals?  Food, of course!  We're both getting oh-so close to a victory Chinese buffet.  :) 

A teeny tiny mouse sketch.

Last but not least, I've been dragging my tushie to the gym to get in shape for my upcoming trip to Disney World!  While I don't love all the time that exercising gobbles up, I do like the benefits of walking without limping.  Plus, it gives me a good opportunity to watch Disney movies on the treadmill!  (The Fox and the Hound II is a surprisingly decent movie.  ;) )  

Gotta get in shape so I can eat all that delicious Disney food!
And that's what's been keeping me busy!  Now that it's almost summer, I hope to spend more time on my writing and illustrating, and relax a bit.  I hope everyone has had a great spring and is looking forward to lazy days ahead!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting April 2016

The COSCBWI meeting for April featured middle grade author Jennifer Maschari.  Jen's debut novel, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, just released in February 2016.  We were excited to have her speak to the group about her writing journey and hear her advice for aspiring authors.

Although The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price is Jen's first published book, she explained that it wasn't the first book she wrote.  Jen loved both reading and writing from an early age, and had encouragement from her teachers that she would become a writer someday.  Jen first chose a career in teaching, but decided in 2010 that she wanted to give writing a serious try.  She enrolled in an online writing class, which helped her stay focused with deadlines and assignments.  The class also introduced her to fellow writers who would go on to become her writing buddies and support group. 

While she loved the book that she wrote during the class and queried it to many agents, it didn't snag her a book deal.  She sorted through the encouragement and discouragement, and ultimately wrote a new book.  Happily, the second book was The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, which won the attention of an agent and sold to a publisher more quickly than she expected.  Jen said it was a serendipitous situation, and that she feels her second manuscript was successful because she both worked hard and was very lucky in how everything lined up.  She has two more forthcoming books to be released in 2017 and 2018, and is so pleased that she gets to share her stories with middle grade readers everywhere.

Jen knows how hard the journey to publication can be and had a lot of great advice for the COSCBWI members.  She encouraged everyone to write for the age group they love.  For her, she feels that the middle grade years are such a powerful, memorable, and tender time in a young person's life.  She also encouraged each COSCBWI member to not shy away from the story inside them--even if it isn't the easiest story to tell.  Jen writes about serious topics, but aims to create a safe space between the pages for kids to experience big emotions.  Your story may be just what a child needs to help them deal with their own difficult situation.  Lastly, Jen encouraged everyone to never, ever give up.  While it may be a long and winding journey, you just have to believe that whatever you're working on will one day be great.  

A big thank you to Jen for sharing her road-to-publication story with our group!  You can find out more about Jen 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 is from Jen's website at