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Written by Heather Banis and Ronna Mandel

Hot dogs! Peanuts!

The 2016-2017 WSGV Mingle World Series, led by Ronna Mandel and Heather Banis, is coming to a close in July with the annual, celebratory, planning picnic in the park. It may not be Dodger Stadium, but the plays we’ve seen all year have kept our fans coming back month after month. Starting in September with “The First Pitch,” minglers pitched new story ideas to one another in a workshop format. Racing ahead to “1st Base” in October, our focus was on the creation of a big-screen-worthy team of characters. As so often happens in the world of sports, unavoidable date and venue changes kept our minglers on their toes. In November, our plotting workshop moved us collectively forward to “2nd Base” and minglers with plotting problems were coached on ways to best remedy plot issues.

In December, Alexis O’Neill stepped into “the shortstop” position and led the entire, grateful group through a fabulous session of first-pages. January found us rounding the bases into “3rd” and our topic was editing. A special shout-out to fellow mingler, Christine Van Zandt, who generously shared her editorial expertise with us all.  “Stuck in Right Field” was our theme for February–the challenges and rewards of revising and revising again were discussed at length with all minglers sharing their best revision strategies.

Another highlight of the WSGV Mingle World Series found us in “Center Field,” captivated by the writing and illustrating talents of  Renée Graef. By April, we were “Out in Left Field” looking for creative ways to jumpstart our stories with a “what if…?” prompting workshop. As we write this in the “Panera Dugout,” where we have all our planning meetings, May finds us sliding into “Home Plate” with a focus on how-I-got-my-agent-or-book-deal stories. Heading into the “Play-offs” in June, the WSGV Mingle will return by popular demand to the pitching drills, bringing us full-circle to the place where it all began last September. Another successful season for the WSGV Mingle will be celebrated with our now-annual July planning picnic in the park! Ready for a much-deserved “7th Inning Stretch,” we will return in September 2017.

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Heather Banis is a clinical psychologist, a student of letter-press printing, and recipient of an SCBWI Central Coast Region “Honorable Mention” for her chapter book manuscript The Day the World Came to Lunch. She is a pre-published children’s book writer whose stories tackle topics like grief, 9/11, and resiliency in ways that rarely fail to make her writing group tear up. 

Ronna Mandel began her freelance writing career after returning to the U.S. following a ten-year stint abroad. She writes for LA Parent and Jewish Life magazines and also blogs about children’s books at GoodreadsWithRonna.com. While still a pre-published children’s book writer, Ronna credits SCBWI for all the helpful and enthusiastic pros she’s met on this inspiring journey to publication.

Images provided by Heather Banis, Ronna Mandel, WSGV Mingle member Terry Diefenbach.