SCBWI Community Corner with Patrice Karst: Learning About Kid Lit After Becoming a Best-Seller


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By Patrice Karst

I fell into the children’s publishing world by accident.

Doing well with my first two adult books, God Made Easy and The Single Mothers Survival Guide, I had sold 70K copies combined and was a popular speaker in the self-help, spiritual, New Age world. But I was also a single mom to my special needs son.

Elijah was so sad when I had to leave him in the mornings, I began telling him about an “invisible string” that connected us all day long. It so comforted him that we told his other friends. When I saw the calming effect, I thought, why not “put story to paper?” Continue reading


The LitMingle Minute: San Fernando Valley LitMingle Picks the Brains of YA Readers


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By Karen Sampson (SFV LitMingle Coordinator) & Jennifer S. Pitts (former SFV LitMingle Coordinator, current LitMingle Meister) 

Have you ever wanted to pick the brain of today’s Young Adult reader? The Minglers at the San Fernando Valley LitMingle did, which is why we invited five voracious teen readers to our June LitMingle to share what they read and why. As to be expected, their answers were as diverse as their backgrounds, but listening to them was extremely insightful. It would be impossible to summarize all the insight given by these bright young readers, but here are a few highlights*:

Social Media and Web

  • Teens have Facebook accounts but prefer Instagram, YouTube, and Snap Chat.
  • Adult discussions (rants) about politics and current events are of no interest to them.
  • Popular YA websites include IndieBound (Kids Next), Epic Reads, and others that cater specifically to teen readers

What Draws Them to Particular Books?

Continue reading

Illustrator Gallery with Kat Hubbs: Self-Promotion & Learning New Things


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By Kat Hubbs

When you are new to an industry, you have to find ways to promote yourself and get your work out there. I am not naturally inclined to self-promotion, so I decided to start a personal project that I could create and share quickly – something that was tangible, allowing people to interact with my art. To keep myself on track, I knew that I would have to enjoy the process and not have a demanding schedule. I decided a monthly calendar image would be just right for my goals.

I love learning new things, and have spent the last year creating and experimenting drawing digitally. I got an iPad Pro and threw myself into all the apps and tools. I find that the Procreate App is one of the best since it is easy to use and has great pencil brushes available. I am able to draw fast and loose, maintaining the expressive quality of my lines, while giving me the freedom to hit “undo”.  I still create on paper, and I know when I draw with my favorite brush pen I am more thoughtful as I work, and I get all the happy accidents that happen when you can’t erase. So I decided that I needed to merge the two: get the look and feel of my favorite brush pen, while having the freedom of digital drawing. Continue reading

Author/Illustrator Stan Yan on Quitting Your Day Job, Joining the Con Circuit, & Halloween Picture Book Scares


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I met Stan Yan, a Denver-based writer/illustrator, caricature artist, and instructor, at his booth at San Diego Comic this year. I’m a bit of a zombie-aficionado and could not resist checking out his kids’ picture book – There’s a Zombie in the Basement (Squid Works Kids). We got to talking, and, when I found out he is an SCBWI member, I knew I had to interview him. He went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he got his bachelor’s degree in accounting, but gave up on financial security to become a full-time freelance cartoonist. Stan also teaches summer camps, after-school programs, workshops, and helped to develop a degree program in graphic storytelling as an adjunct faculty member at the Community College of Aurora. His other recent credits include art and colors for Show Devils (Mother Mind Studios) and writing and art for Vincent Price Presents (BlueWater Productions / Storm Comics).

Sarah Parker-Lee: You’ve written and illustrated comics and books with horror themes for adults and older readers, but There’s a Zombie in the Basement is a picture book for kids. How did that come about? Were you worried it might be too scary?

Stan Yan: Even though I spent most of my life doing more adult-oriented comic book work, some of my major inspirations growing up were picture books, including anything Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. While many of my family continued to badger me to do children’s books, I had no interest until my son was almost 4 years old. One day, he wouldn’t come downstairs to my basement studio, and when asked why, he said he was afraid. When asked what he was afraid of, he started pointing at all of my zombie artwork decorating the walls. Over the next hour, I wrote the fast draft version of my rhyming bedtime storybook.

As I worked on the artwork I wanted it to be a bit unsettling at the beginning, not unlike Sendak’s Wild Things. And, it was precisely my fascination with these unsettling Wild Things that kept me checking that book out from the library as a kid. Of course, by the end of the story, they’re no longer scary, which is what I was going for too.

SPL: As a writer and illustrator, you’ve spent a lot of time with “horror” themes, monsters, and the like. Any advice for other kid lit writers/illustrators looking to translate some of these things into spooky stories kids can enjoy?  Continue reading

Volunteer Spotlight: How Volunteering Helped Me Save Myself from Myself


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by Karol Ruth Silverstein

Editor’s Note: A “changing of the guard has taken place recently at LA SCBWI, with our wonderful Contest Coordinator, Marcelle Green passing that baton to our equally wonderful Mingle Meister, Karol Ruth Silverstein, who has, in turn, passed the Mingle Meister baton to, yes, another wonderful volunteer: Jennifer Pitts. Read on as Karol explains the change-over, and why the contest-addiction struggle is real! Many thanks to Marcelle for all her hard work over the year. We wish her the best of luck on all her future endeavors! And welcome to the team, Jennifer!

I have a confession: I was addicted to entering contests.

Unlike casual contest entrants, who may really benefit from the manufactured deadlines and bravery required to put their work out there (not to mention the potential cash and prizes — woohoo!), it became an unhealthy obsession for me. Writers Day events weren’t about the great faculty and enjoying a fun day with my fellow children’s book writers and illustrators. Increasingly, they became about the contest. If my manuscript won — which a few have — I was high as a kite. If I didn’t win or place in the contest — which is what happens more often than not — the day felt like a total waste. Never mind the inspiring keynotes or illuminating panels. Even if I came in second or third, the initial high of being “a winner” was soon replaced by the disappointment of not having been deemed “the best.”

I’d literally dream of winning contests. Any addiction specialist will tell you that the cure for obsessive compulsion is complete abstinence. But could I do it? Could I really walk away from entering all the SCBWI LA contests voluntarily? I wasn’t sure I could. Continue reading

SCBWI Central Coast Regional News, Fourth Quarter 2017


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By Ann Rousseau Smith, SCBWI CenCal News Liaison

SCBWI Summer Conference Report, by Tricia Candemeres

The 46th SCBWI Summer Conference was quite a special one. I won an SCBWI grant that covered the expenses, and I wanted to both live up to the honor and embrace the opportunity.

Vanessa Brantley Newton started us off and lifted us up – first with the hokey pokey, then with her stories of diversity, adversity, and dreaming bigger, and ended with the most stunning rendition of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

From that high bar, it became one amazing keynote or breakout after another. My friends and I split up and compared notes later.

Some highlights:

  • Sean Qualls reminding us to keep showing up.
  • The “Transforming Life into Art” writers sharing tough, deeply personal stories.
  • The sneak preview for the movie based on “Shades of Gray” by Ruta Sepetys.
  • Marvin Terban’s funniest words for kids: underpants, poop, and fart!
  • The awe-inspiring Portfolio Showcase.
  • And of course, tea with Judy Blume.

Illustrator Raúl Colón demonstrates his color layering technique during his intensive.

So much to take in. I’ll just fill in some of the gaps with favorite conference quotes:

  • “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Vanessa Brantley Newton
  • “Teach children humor as a vital life skill.” – Marvin Terban
  • “The secrets that make you feel alone in the world are the very things you need to share in stories.” – Kat Yeh
  • “Storytellers have been part of the human experience from the very beginning – and I truly believe that even the ones drawing the pictures on the wall of the caves had imposter syndrome.” – Zareen Jaffery
  • “Your story matters. Great minds don’t think alike.” – Nancy Paulsen
  • “Will I still love this manuscript AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN?” – Rubin Pfeffer
  • “Kids are ready to take stuff on – go there.” – Alex Gino
  • “Make the Mommy Promise. Mommy will not save the day in my story.” – Tammi Sauer
  • “You can have all the talent in the world, and if you’re not determined, you’re going to let something stop you from doing it.” – Judy Blume

And finally:

“Team Marla” and friends: Top row: Danielle Heitmuller, Heidi Aubrey, Gail Buschman, Nicole Allin, me (Tricia Candemeres), Judy Faulkner, Molly Ruttan, and Nina Moldawsky,  Front row: Helen Yoon, Joy Dabby, Annelouise Mahoney, and April Zufelt

• Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher, as quoted by Laurie Halse Anderson in her closing keynote.

On Monday, the Illustrator’s Intensive was an information packed day of demonstrations and hands-on activities, featuring Ramon Hurtado, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Marla Frazee, John Rocco, Leuyen Pham, Raúl Colón, and Javaka Steptoe.

Over the past few years I’ve connected to a tribe of incredibly supportive SCBWI illustrators and authors, (we all met through a Marla Frazee workshop, so we call ourselves Team Marla), and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this conference with them. We really are all on this journey together!

Tricia Candemeres is a children’s book author and illustrator living in southern California with her husband and two children. She worked in broadcast and graphic design before making the leap to illustration. A NYC transplant, she studied at FIT and School of Visual Arts in NYC as well as Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. You can visit her work at and follow her on Instagram @tcandyart.


CenCal Writer Retreat 2018:

Bravely Crafting Picture Books with Heart
January 12-14, 2018
La Casa de Maria Retreat and Conference Center, Santa Barbara

Join Tammi Sauer, award-winning author, for a productive and fun picture book retreat. She will unveil her favorite picture book writing secrets. You will delve into the most important picture book components (character, conflict, word choice, among others) through discussion, examples, and engaging exercises.

Learn to build heart and humor into your manuscript.

For more information, go to



For information, go to

December 2, 2017
Holiday Party, Bakersfield

December 10, 2017
Holiday Party, Santa Barbara

January 12-14, 2018
Writer Retreat: Bravely Crafting Picture Books with Heart, Santa Barbara


Book Talk is a monthly book discussion group taking place on the SCBWI Central-Coastal California listserv. Discussions begin on the first of each month, facilitated by Lynn Becker. To become a member of the listserv, go to:

NOVEMBER: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, by Rita Williams-Garcia (MG)
Clayton wants to play harmonica in Cool Papa Byrd’s band but, when his grandfather dies, his mom forbids him to play the blues.

DECEMBER: My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier (YA)
Che loves his brilliant younger sister, even though he seems to be the only one who knows how dangerous she really is.

JANUARY: Leave Me Alone! by Vera Bristol (PB)
An old woman wants a quiet place to knit, but grandkids, goats, bears, and aliens won’t leave her in peace.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Images provided by SCBWI Central-Coastal Region and Tricia Candemeres.

Author and Illustrator Mary Ann Fraser’s Lessons After 60 Published Books and Counting


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mary_ann_fraser_400Mary Ann Fraser is the author/illustrator of 60 fiction and non-fiction books for children. Her latest picture book, Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call (Charlesbridge), was published in August.

Fraser is also the Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s Central-Coastal Region. She talks to Kite Tales about her prolific career and shares lessons learned over the years.

Erlina Vasconcellos: Congratulations on your new book, a nonfiction look into the childhood of Alexander Graham Bell. How did you choose him as the subject?

Mary Ann Fraser: First, thank you for the opportunity to share my journey toward this latest book. As always, I am so grateful for the support and encouragement of my friends and peers that make up this amazing community we call SCBWI.


In 2012 my husband and I visited the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. I was amazed at Bell’s endless curiosity, inventiveness, and desire to help others, particularly the deaf, and was struck by how his life’s work seemed inevitable from the time he was a young lad. His mother was deaf and his father and grandfather were speech therapists. At the museum bookstore, I asked if they had any picture books on Bell. The cashier said they didn’t but wished they did. That’s when bells (excuse the pun) started ringing, and I realized I had my next project.

EV: After 60 books, how do you stay inspired and keep things fresh? Is your method for generating ideas different from when you began?

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HarperCollins’ Alyssa Miele: Critiques, Word Blizzards, Queer Representation in Middle Grade, & Music to Edit By.


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HarperCollins Associate Editor, Alyssa Miele, loves fiction chock-full of strong, flawed, and loveable characters whose stories stay with her long after she’s earmarked, underlined, and reread the heck out of them. From commercial to literary, queer to straight, and everything in between, Alyssa loves books that inspire, haunt, and captivate. Alyssa’s recent projects include Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone, Confidentially Yours: Vanessa’s Design Dilemma by Jo Whittemore and The Arrival of Someday (working title) by Jen Malone (Summer ’19). Alyssa was on faculty for this year’s Los Angeles Working Writers Retreat and spent a weekend in Encino with our members as they dove into their writing and tweaked, polished, and maybe even dismantled their projects. For tips, insights, and music to edit by, keep reading!

Sarah Parker-Lee: As faculty for the WWR, you gave feedback on attendees work, but you also had to share space with them for a weekend. Did that change how you approached critiquing? What is your critique style?

Alyssa Miele: Meaning, is it hard to critique someones writing when they could potentially be sleeping next door to you? Ha! I don’t think that occurred to me until after the first few group critiques, when, heading back to my room, I saw some of the writers walking to their rooms along the same walkway as mine. And of course we share meals and social hours, which really turned out to be a rewarding experience for me. But to answer your question, no, it didn’t change my approach. We’re all adults and, whether writer, agent, or editor, we’re all there to get better in some way or another. I got a very good vibe from the writers. In between critiques, everyone was conscious of giving you your time and space to recharge for the next critique group.

My “style” is pretty laid back. I tried to avoid ever sitting at “the head” of the table. I tried to have the writers open up the conversation before I would give my two cents…I very much believe that I was a guest, allowed into their sacred writing retreat environment, and I wanted them to feel like I came with the upmost respect for their time, their writing, and their process. I didn’t want anyone to feel or think I was the end-all be-all of advice, because the truth is that everything they do, and everything I say, is subjective. So I’m very much of the mind that — here is what I think, but if that doesnt track with what your vision is, lets hear some other opinions. I know I bring marketplace and publishing experience to the table, so I hope they could find helpful takeaways in that part of my critiquing, but other writers at the table provided helpful insight, too.

SPL: Critiques can be a hard experience for a writer, to give and to receive, but are super necessary. Any tips on how to stay open, be honest, and choose wisely?  Continue reading

Working Writer’s Retreat 2017 Recap: Plot Problems and Muddy Middles


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By Andrea Custer

IMG_5103Every year in September, a handful of writers lucky enough to have secured a spot at SCBWI LA’s Working Writers Retreat gather at a retreat center in Encino. This year it was my immense honor to attend as the recipient of the Sue Alexander Grant.

No one could have done more to set a positive atmosphere at the event, held September 15-17, than Co-Regional Advisor Nutschell Windsor, who began the opening session with this simple promise: all your needs will be met so you can relax and focus entirely on your writing. They delivered on that promise right away, assembling an outstanding First Pages Panel (authors and freelance editors Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon, and author Catherine Linka) who provided sincere praise interwoven with meaningful feedback.

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Mentor Program Dynamic Duo Delivers on Ambitious Goals


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By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator Emeritus

Carmel O’Mara-Horwitz & Cassandra Federman

Whether you’ve thought of mentoring, or dreamed of having a mentor – this year’s mentorship team demonstrates how a seasoned professional working with a promising newcomer benefits everyone involved.

Mentor Carmel-O’Mara Horwitz started working with selected mentee, illustrator Cassandra Federman, on May 1st, and they set an ambitious goal: improve Cassandra’s portfolio, including the creation of a new piece, and update her website before the SCBWI Summer Conference. They had two months and six days. Continue reading