Helping Special Needs Kids and Breaking the “How to Get Published” Rules


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by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh

Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh’s daughter

You may have heard these rules about getting published: Don’t pitch as a team with an illustrator. Don’t pitch directly to the publisher. And do not write in rhyme. I followed those rules until I didn’t. Here’s why breaking the rules was so good for me.

I started as a rule-follower. I joined SCBWI and formed a writers group. I read most of THE BOOK, SCBWI’s definitive guide to kid lit, agents, and publishers. I thoroughly researched agents and I penned cover letters.

Then I waited for responses. Continue reading


Meet Your Audience and Help Kids Tell Their Own Stories


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By Susan J. Berger Continue reading

LitMingle Minute: Westside Writers Say Goodbye to Lori Snyder, Hello to Rebecca Light


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By Laurie Young

After two-plus years as our marvelous co-coordinator of the Westside Writers Mingle, Lori Snyder stepped down in December 2017. We are so grateful for her invaluable energy and spirit, and her contributions to our group. She leaves us with these parting words: “I’m happy to say that it was really fun to do and to work with you, and I’m excited to get to come as a participant again.”

When Lori and I were thinking about who could fill her very large shoes, we immediately thought of Rebecca Light. Her intelligence and enthusiasm, as well as an eagerness to volunteer, made a big impression on us from her first Mingle. Rebecca was a natural and obvious choice. Continue reading

SCBWI Members Help the Getty Bring Art and History to Life for Young Readers


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Each year, the J. Paul Getty Museum hosts more than 100,000 children on field trips to view the vast art collection at its two locations: the Getty Center atop the Santa Monica Mountains and the Getty Villa in Pacifica Palisades. Add to that those who visit with their families and take part in family-centered events and activities.

The effort to make art interesting and digestible for children extends to Getty Publications, which in recent years has increased its efforts to publish for the youngest readers, said Getty Senior Editor Elizabeth Nicholson.

“The goal is to support understanding and appreciation of art for all audiences — art, archeology, humanities, ancient world,” she said.

Although some books are published to accompany a Getty exhibit, they’re all meant to be readable on their own.

“They’re not meant to be didactic,” Nicholson said. “They’re meant to be fun.”

The books, available through the Getty and also distributed by Abrams, range from picture books to young adult graphic novels. They include two picture books by SCBWI members: author Julie Berry and illustrator Michelle Thies.

Berry is writing the picture book Don’t Let the Beasties Escape This Book! to be published in conjunction with the exhibition, Book of Beasts, a major display of medieval bestiaries — illustrated volumes about beasts real and imagined. It will open in May 2019 at the Getty Center. Berry, has experience with history and research. Her young adult novel, the Printz Honor book The Passion of Dolssa (Viking Children’s Books), is set in the thirteenth century.

Thies, a background artist for the Cartoon Network show Unikitty!, illustrated the picture book Cleo and Cornelius: A Tale of Two Kitties and Two Cities. The book, co-written by Elizabeth Nicholson, Janine Pibal and Nick Geller, was published in conjunction with the exhibit Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World, currently on view at the Getty Center.

Berry and Thies answered our questions about their books via email. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.


ERLINA VASCONCELLOS:  Congratulations on the Don’t Let the Beasties Escape This Book! How did you become involved with this project?

Continue reading

Dealing with Grief and Loss Through Writing


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By Michael Thal

My hearing loss wasn’t gradual. I went to sleep one night with good hearing and awoke deafened. Six years later the virus returned making my “good” ear clinically deaf and leaving me with a severely dysfunctional left ear. Grief for my lost hearing hit hard.

According to David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler Ross in their book, On Grief and Grieving, there are five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Channie Amato, LMFT, puts it in perspective, “The stages don’t occur in an orderly progression. Grief affects each individual differently.”

Normally a highly-motivated individual, I sank into depression. I was a teacher who couldn’t understand a word his sixth-grade students said, and as a father of two young daughters, I needed to set a positive example. Prior to my hearing loss I never raised my voice to my girls. Now I was screaming at them daily. Things needed to change, and fast. Continue reading

Need Help Finding a Critique Partner or Group – Peer2Peer Critique Day Can Help


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Writers and illustrators, if you’re ready for the first step to taking your work in progress public, Peer2Peer Critique Day (formerly known as Critiquenic) returns Sunday, June 3 to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

It’s an opportunity to connect with other SCBWI members, and you may even find a critique group or partner to continue with after the event.

Peer2Peer Critique Day is free, but registration is required and is open until Sunday, May 27 on the SCBWI Los Angeles website. It’s for current SCBWI members only. If you’re not yet a member, you can sign up here.

The event runs from 10:30 AM to 3 PM. Bring a lunch or purchase food at the Skirball’s café.

Critique Day coordinator Daka Hermon gives us the scoop on how to prepare and what to expect:

critiquenic2Erlina Vasconcellos: How will Peer2Peer Critique Day be structured? Do participants meet individually or in groups?

Daka Hermon: When registering, the attendees will choose a category: illustrations, picture book dummy or text, chapter book/middle grade, or young adult/new adult. Upon arrival, attendees will be placed into groups. The size of the groups will vary based on attendance, but it’s normally about five to six members.

EV: Writers and artists are notorious introverts. How are you hoping to coax them away from the solitude of their desks and creative caves?

Continue reading

Toot Your Horn!


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SCBWI members’ publishing news is something to celebrate! Check out whose book is coming to a platform near you or around the world:



Los Angeles Is, by Elisa Parhad, illustrated by Alexander Vidal, Cameron Kids, ages 0-6, Board Book, ISBN: 978-1-944903-23-7, released 04/24/2018. Continue reading

Great News!


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SCBWI loves celebrating our members’ successes and noteworthy news, and there are many! Read on to find out who’s got something to shout about. Digital high-fives welcome in the comments!



“The Jackpot,” a memoir by Karen Gorback, has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul My Amazing Mom (March 2018).

Joan Bransfield Graham’s poetry is featured in two recent Lee Bennett Hopkins anthologies: “Teacher” in School People (Feb. 13, Wordsong) and “Great Indian Fruit Bat” in World Make Way (March 27, Abrams, a book in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.)

Shireen Hakim blogged for NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month), a motivational writing community site with 250k followers. She wrote her tips for getting traditionally published, based on her experience writing and publishing her children’s refugee story, Rabbi the Rabbiti.

Continue reading

Target Marketing: Writing for the Whole Family


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by R.S. Mellette

While the publishing world argues over what’s Middle Grade, what’s Young Adult, and what’s New Adult, I’m asking; whatever happened to “good for the whole family?”

Target marketing has been around long enough that most people think it’s the only way it’s ever been, but if you take a longer view of commercial art, you’ll see that excluding the majority of your potential audience is a brand new concept. Yes, I said “excluding.” If you write, or edit, or make acquisitions, or shelf for one specific age group, then you are limiting your audience. And by “brand new” I mean since the turn of the previous century. Continue reading

Community Corner with Susan Lendroth: From the Sue Alexander Grant to Publication


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By Susan Lendroth

In 2010, I submitted the picture book Not So Loud, Natsumi! to the Sue Alexander Grant contest sponsored by SCBWI-LA. Little did I realize the winding road my story and I would take over the next eight years from contest entry to manuscript submission to eventual publication. Continue reading