BEST CONFERENCE EVER! New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference 2017

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I say this every year, but cross my heart it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference is the BEST conference ever!

What makes it great? I’m so glad you asked. Here goes my laundry list:

Critiques, first pages, workshops covering every imaginable kidlit topic from picture books to YA, pitches, connecting with editors and agents, and more editors and more agents, getting solid feedback on your stories and illustrations (the good, the bad, and the sad ugly truth), inspiration galore, and lifelong friendships. Shall I go on?

Here are a few photographic highlights:

Behind the scenes the day before the conference.

Opening Keynote with Stephen Savage

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Blake Hamilton and Matthew Winner

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Sheela Chari and Leslie Zampetti

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Me with Detectives Wilcox and Griswold on the job

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Anita Arakelian and me (Mawrters in the house – Anassa kata ’89)

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Virginia Law Manning, me, Leslie Zampetti

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Leslie Santamaria

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The Liza Royce Crew!

(Left to right: Me, Laurie Wallmark, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Liza Fleissig, Leslie Santamaria, Yvonne Ventresca)

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Me and David Lubar

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(Top row, left to right: Kathy Temean, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, me)

(Bottom row, left to right: Katey Howes, Jody Staton, Colleen Rowan Kosinski)

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Me and Hallee Adelman

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Cathleen Thole Daniels and Rosanne Kurstedt

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Anita Arakelian

 

 

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Heather Montgomery

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Stephen Savage, Mike Ciccotello, Annie Silvestro

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Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

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Cathleen Thole Daniels, Kirstine Erekson Call, me

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Closing keynote with David Lubar

I’d like to shout out a HUGE THANK YOU to the amazing, incredible, you-take-my-breath-away NJ SCBWI team, including but certainly not limited to, Cathleen Thole Daniels, Rosanne Kurstedt, Karen Romagna, Annie Silvestro, Kelly Calabrese, Charlotte Bennardo, Guy Olivieri, Mike Ciccotello, Linda Bozzo, Tami Charles, and to all the incredible volunteers.

And do you want to know a little secret? If you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and cross your fingers and toes and hope the publishing gods are on your side, you’ll notice the hint of publishing contracts in the air. How could any conference ever get better than this?

The 2016 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference—The Best Conference Ever!

 

Every year the NJ SCBWI Annual Conference gets better and better. This year did not disappoint.

Here are some photographic highlights: 

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Opening Keynote Speaker, David Wiesner

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My amazing agent, Liza Fleissig, and my fellow Liza Royce Agency peeps! 

Yvonne Ventresca, Cathy Breisacher, Laurie Wallmark, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Erica George, Leslie Santamaria, me, and Liza Fleissig 

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Diana Murray and me

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Johanna Bilbo Staton, Yvonne Ventresca, and Cathy Breisacher 

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Katey Howes

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Lauri Meyers

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Darlene Beck-Jacobson and Carole Lindstrom

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Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth

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Me and Cristina Ergunay (Mawrters in the house! Anassa kata!) 

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Beth Ferry 

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Julie Matysik and Yvonne Ventresca

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Jacki Morris

Liza Fleissig, Keisha Senter, Kathy Temean, Carole Lindstrom, Leslie Santamaria, me, Karl Jones, Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Marlaina Cockcroft, and Linda Patterson Kujawski

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Laura Sassi and Diana Murray 

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Leeza Hernandez

Me and Katya Szewczuk

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Tara Lazar 

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Lori Degman 

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Laurie Wallmark accepting the Crystal Kyte Award.

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Julie Gribble 

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Tish Rabe

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Jonathan Rockefeller 

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Guy Olivieri and Charlotte Bennardo 

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Closing Keynote Speaker, Suzy Ismail

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Me and Suzy Ismail 

A very big THANK YOU to everyone who made this year’s conference so special. I’m already packing my bags for next year’s conference. I can’t wait!

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A Magical Celebration for Hildie Bitterpickles at The Corner Bookstore

On Thursday night, there was magic in the air at The Corner Bookstore as witches, warlocks, friends, family, and even my favorite French bulldog, Matilde, came out for Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep’s big launch celebration.

Here are some photographic highlights of this magical night:

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Chris Ewald & me

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Me, Liza Fleissig & Chris Ewald

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My witchtastic niece & me

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Another witch-a-ri-fic photo of my niece 

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Early sketch of Hildie Bitterpickles by Chris Ewald raffled off during the party. 

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Another early sketch of Hildie Bitterpickles by Chris Ewald raffled off during the party.

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Cupcakes! 

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Cookies!

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Donna Marie

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Francoise Newman & Matilde 

Hildie Bitterpickles and I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to The Corner Bookstore for making this evening so special.

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THE CORNER BOOKSTORE

 

Look What Arrived in the Mail!

 

BOOKS! SPELLBINDINGLY BEAUTIFUL BOOKS!

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I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to Marissa Moss, publisher and editor extraordinaire. THANK YOU for taking a chance on my quirky little witch; to my very special agents, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris-Dontzin, whose magic touch heralded Hildie Bitterpickles to Creston Books; to Chris Ewald for making Hildie Bitterpickles more adorable than anything I could have ever imagined; to Simon Stahl, whose design magic never ceases to amaze me; and to my amazing critique group for helping me persevere during those really awful rough drafts. THANK YOU!!!

Guest Post by Laurie Wallmark: Writing About Strong Women

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I am thrilled to have Laurie Wallmark as my guest blogger today. Laurie and I met many moons ago at one of the NJ SCBWI conferences. In the interest of full disclosure, we are both represented by same incredible agent, Liza Fleissig, and we also have the wonderful connection of being fellow Creston Book authors.

Laurie’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books), releases on October 13, 2015, in conjunction with the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day. She was the world’s first computer programmer.

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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is one of the most beautiful and inspiring books that I have read in a very long time. The illustrations will take your breath away. This is a book that will be cherished for generations to come.

Now, without further ado, here’s Laurie:

People often ask me why I choose to write biographies of strong women like Ada Byron Lovelace. Here are three events from my life that contributed to my interest in doing so.

  • In grade school, I played the snare drum in the school orchestra. When it was time to graduate to junior high, I wasn’t allowed to continue with this instrument in school. I was told it wasn’t ladylike to play drums. Instead, I had to switch to playing bass fiddle, because, as we all know, that’s a much more feminine instrument—not! Of course, when the orchestra needed an additional percussionist, they didn’t seem to mind I was a girl.
  • In seventh grade, boys and girls had no choice in the classes they took for electives. Boys took wood shop, auto mechanics, metal working, and mechanical drawing. Girls took sewing, cooking, and art. In eighth grade, since I was interested in architecture, I signed up for intermediate mechanical drawing. The administration wouldn’t let me, since I hadn’t taken mechanical drawing in seventh grade. Luckily for me, I had parents who fought for their children, even their daughters. Because of them, I was able to take mechanical and then, in ninth grade, architectural drawing. Of course, I was the only girl in either of these classes.
  • When I was about to enter high school, my mother asked the principal about the availability of higher-level math classes. He wanted to know if she had a son or daughter. When my mother answered a daughter, he told her the courses didn’t matter because a girl would never advance that far. By the way, he was wrong

Even though I went to school years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, many girls still experiences these types of prejudices in their schooling. This is one of the reasons that fewer than 15% of computer scientists are women. I want girls (and boys!) to read my books and realize they can follow their dreams, no matter where they lead.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.

2015 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference—THE BEST CONFERENCE EVER!

Every year NJ SCBWI’s annual conference gets better and better, and this year was no exception. Here are some photographic highlights:

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Opening Keynote Speaker Denise Fleming

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Annie Silvestro, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Kim Pfennigwerth

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Lori Degman and Liza Fleissig

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Me, Laurie Wallmark, Jody Staton, Darlene Beck-Jacobson

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Artwork by Patricia Keeler 

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Susanna Leonard Hil and Lori Degman

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Ame Dyckman and Adam Lehrhaupt

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Me and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

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Meet the Newest Missing Food Investigators on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake.

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Detective Newman

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Detective Allegra

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Detective Cockcroft

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Detective Zampetti

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Detective Degman

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Detective Silvestro

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Detective Hernandez and Detective Bardhan-Quallen

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Mafalda Cardim, me, Ellen Grogan

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Closing Keynote Speaker John Cusick

Many thanks to everyone at NJ SCBWI who made this weekend so very special. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference.

An Evening of Celebration at The Corner Bookstore for The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake

The old adage, “Good things come to those who wait,” is definitely true in my case. It took just about eight years for Wilcox and Griswold to make their first public appearance. A very big THANK YOU is due to everyone who helped Wilcox and Griswold on their journey, especially Creston Books, Marissa Moss, Deborah Zemke, Liza Fleissig, Ginger Harris-Dontzin, my critique group (Jill Davis, Jacki Morris, Joanne French, Ellen Grogan), and my family. Many thanks to The Corner Bookstore for making the celebration extra special!

Here are some photographic highlights:

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you!!! xoxo

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: Bringing Stories to Life

I am thrilled to interview my friend and fellow Creston Books author, Darlene Beck-Jacobson.

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Teacher, speech therapist, and freelance writer, Darlene’s stories have appeared in Cicada, Cricket, and other magazines. Her debut historic middle grade novel, Wheels of Change (Creston Books), hits bookstores on September 22, 2014. She has also been working on another historic middle grade novel, A Sparrow in the Hand, exploring the coming of age of two sisters growing up in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania during the 1920’s. A chapter from this novel appeared in the March 2001 issue of Cricket magazine. You can also read this story on her website: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com 

Here’s what Kirkus has to say about Wheels of Change:

Changes fomenting both locally and nationally during the final year of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency are seen through the eyes of feisty, bighearted Emily Soper, daughter of a carriage maker in Washington, D.C.

Twelve-year-old Emily loves helping her father in his barn; she even dreams, in futility, of becoming a blacksmith like her father’s beloved employee, Henry. She and her best friend, Charlie, ponder such things as gender roles, women’s suffrage and “horseless carriages.” She dutifully tries to become a lady even while working on a secret that uses her “masculine” skills. As the year progresses, Henry falls ill, and Emily and her family are subjected to the uncertainties of changing times as well as some nasty treatment from white supremacists. Resemblances to To Kill a Mockingbird are strong, especially during a tea party hosted by Emily’s mother. A nice touch: Throughout much of the book, Papa teaches Emily—and vicariously, readers—new vocabulary words. The strength of the text lies in Jacobson’s ability to evoke a different era and to endear readers to the protagonist. The prose is straightforward and well-researched, heavily peppered with historical references and containing enough action to keep readers’ attention.

Readers will empathize with Emily as she goes through her own changes, and they will applaud her heroism in more than one chapter. (author’s note, photographs, recipes, bibliography, websites) (Historical fiction. 8-11)

Darlene, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.

It’s my pleasure, Robin.

Let’s start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer, and more specifically a children’s book author?

I’ve loved writing since I was a girl. I wrote letters to everyone I knew and made up stories in my head. Even as a student, throughout school, I was crazy enough to actually enjoy the writing or essay portions of exams. I began writing short stories in the late 1980’s into the 1990’s. Even though the stories were for adult publications at first, there was often a child narrator or main character. I think it may have been my own inner child directing me. There’s something about giving a voice to young people that appeals to me. It was a natural progression to want to write a book for young people.

How did you end up gravitating toward middle grade historic fiction?

It just seemed like a good fit. I love hearing stories of the past from people who lived it. I grew up listening to my dad recount his WWII experiences as a POW in Japan. I listened to my mother tell her childhood stories of life as a coal miner’s daughter during the depression. These are the personal stories you don’t read about in history books. Creating characters in those long ago settings brings the era to life for me.

I think Middle Grade kids like to hear about kids from the pastwhat they ate, wore, the games they played, and what they worried about. While many of the things seem strange to modern children, there is much that remains the same: friendship, family, getting along, fairness, righting wrongs and fighting injustice.

I LOVED Wheels of Change! I could not put it down. It has a timeless feel, akin to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, and from page 1 found myself rooting for 12-year old Emily Soper, who unlike some of the adults in her life, was unafraid to take a stand for what is right. What makes Wheels of Change even more special is that it was inspired by the real life experiences of your grandmother, Mary Emily Soper. When did you realize that you wanted to tell her story?

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There were two family facts I discovered while researching my family tree. One was that my paternal grandmother’s father was a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The other was that grandma received an invitation to a reception held at the White House by Theodore Roosevelt. She attended that reception and met TR. The story grew from there.

While this was the catalyst for Wheels of Change, I want readers to know the story is NOT a biography of my grandmother’s life. Everything else that occurs in the story is made up. I like to think of it as a re-imagining of grandma’s childhood. The grandmother I knewand the Emily Soper in WOCare two entirely different people.

You also explore the socio-economic, political, and industrial changes facing the United States in the early twentieth century. Was this your intention at the outset?

It was. I wanted to show how change affects us all and can bring welcome and unwelcome things into our lives. It’s up to each of us to decide the importance of those changes. We can’t stop changeit still happens all around us. But, if we make it work for us, we can see a better outcome.

From start to finish how long did it take you to write and research Wheels of Change?

It took about five years from the “idea” to a picture book that was too long and complex, and then to the final middle grade manuscript.

I’ve been fortunate enough to read your picture book, Together on Our Knees, about a young abolitionist, Matilda Joslyn Gage. Can you tell us how you became interested in her story?

I found Matilda’s name on a poster of The Alternative Alphabet For Big and Little People under the letter G. When I researched her online, I discovered she was a prominent abolitionist and suffragist who worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, yet few people know about her. There are some wonderful books written about her adult life: She Who Holds the Sky by Sally Roesch Wagner, and Sisters in Spirit also by Sally Roesch Wagner. There is nothing featuring her as a child. Together on Our Knees is my attempt to rectify that.

Can you share some insights into your writing process? What’s a typical writing day like for you?

One of the few consistencies in my process is the first draft which I always do with pen and paper. I lose a measure of creativity trying to get the original ideas down on a computer, so I don’t use one until I have a written draft. That frees me up to make mistakes, scribbles and jot down ideas in margins or on sticky notes as I go. I try to write something every daywhether it’s a blog post, letter, a few pages of editingand on days when I can’t or don’t write, I read or review ideas or plot points in my head to keep the story going, and to work through problems I’ve encountered.

How did you meet your agent?

I am especially happy to answer this question for you Robin since you and I share the same agent: Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. I met herand her co-agent Ginger Harrisat our NJSCBWI annual conference in Princeton, NJ in 2010. I pitched the idea for WOC to Ginger who requested 30 pages. Liza then asked for the full manuscript and made an offer of representation not long after that.

Liza selling the book to Marissa Moss of CRESTON BOOKS is another serendipitous thing we share, since your books, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery (illustrated by Deborah Zemke), and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep (illustrated by Chris Ewald), will be coming out with CRESTON next year. It’s fun having that connection.

I couldn’t agree with you more! 🙂

Do you have any words of wisdom for new writers?

Two things always come to mind and have become a sort of life philosophy with regards to writing: Nothing ventured, nothing gained, which means you can’t be afraid to dive in and write, edit, pitch, ask for critiques, and do what needs to be done to get your manuscript out into the world. The second is, persistence. How many times did Edison fail before he got a light bulb to work? How many other authors faced multiple rejections before a success? If you learn your craft, do the revisions that are necessary and keep trying to improve your writing, YOU WILL GET PUBLISHED.

Lastly, how can your fans get a hold of you if they would like you to do a school visit?

Twitter@dustbunnymaven

Website: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

Blog: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com

If anyone is interested in pre-ordering Wheels of Change, it is available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and at a number of independent bookstores.

Darlene, many thanks for doing this interview. And congratulations and much success with Wheels of Change.

It’s been a pleasure Robin. Thanks for having me.

And to learn more about Darlene, Wheels of Change, and toys and candy from the early 1900’s, please don’t forget to stop by Tara Lazar’s awesome blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), www.taralazar.com, on September 19, 2014.

Three Cheers for Tori Corn and Nancy Cote’s, Dixie Wants an Allergy!

Yesterday The Corner Bookstore was buzzing with excitement, as eager fans came out in droves to celebrate the launch of Tori Corn and Nancy Cote’s picture book, Dixie Wants an Allergy.

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“Dixie Wants an Allergy provides a comical and engaging approach for children who are beginning to learn about and who are coping with allergies—and who also have trouble finding what makes them unique. Corn’s playful text and Cote’s inviting illustrations encourage children to accept those with differences while learning that wanting what others have is not always a good idea.” (Source: Sky Pony Press)

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Julie Matysik, Nancy Cote, Liza Fleissig, Tori Corn, Ginger Harris 

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And check out these adorable, not to mention delicious, cookies!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Dixie Wants an Allergy, please stop by The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Avenue, at the corner of 93rd Street, New York, New York. (If you stop by, I promise you’ll have a hard time leaving! 🙂 ) You may also contact The Corner Bookstore at (212) 831-3554, or via email at info@cornerbookstorenyc.com.

Dixie is also available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Congratulations Tori and Nancy! What an amazing evening!

An Evening of Celebration and Success for Amalie Howard’s Waterfell

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Books of Wonder was buzzing with excitement, as YA fans of all ages came out to celebrate the launch of Amalie Howard’s novel, Waterfell, and to meet Amalie’s special guest authors, Kristi Cook (Eternal), Page Morgan (The Beautiful and the Cursed), and Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14: Sky on Fire).

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From left to right:  Amalie Howard, Page Morgan, Emmy Laybourne and Kristi Cook

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Amalie Howard & Liza Fleissig

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Page Morgan

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Liza Fleissig & Ginger Harris-Dontzin

Congratulations Amalie!  What a wonderful evening!