BEST CONFERENCE EVER! New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference 2017


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


Blake Hamilton and Matthew Winner


Sheela Chari and Leslie Zampetti


Me with Detectives Wilcox and Griswold on the job


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


Virginia Law Manning, me, Leslie Zampetti


Leslie Santamaria


The Liza Royce Crew!

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


Me and David Lubar


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

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


Me and Hallee Adelman


Cathleen Thole Daniels and Rosanne Kurstedt


Anita Arakelian




Heather Montgomery


Stephen Savage, Mike Ciccotello, Annie Silvestro


Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen


Cathleen Thole Daniels, Kirstine Erekson Call, me


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?



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


Opening Keynote Speaker Denise Fleming


Annie Silvestro, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Kim Pfennigwerth


Lori Degman and Liza Fleissig


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


Artwork by Patricia Keeler 


Susanna Leonard Hil and Lori Degman


Ame Dyckman and Adam Lehrhaupt


Me and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen


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


Detective Newman


Detective Allegra


Detective Cockcroft


Detective Zampetti


Detective Degman


Detective Silvestro


Detective Hernandez and Detective Bardhan-Quallen


Mafalda Cardim, me, Ellen Grogan


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.

Princeton Children’s Book Festival

Celebrating its 9th year, the Princeton Children’s Book Festival provides children, and bigger children like myself, the opportunity to meet some of their all-time favorite authors and illustrators, to learn about their craft, and to pray that their credit cards won’t exceed their credit limits because they’ve bought so many books. 🙂


And here are some photographic highlights of this year’s festival:


John Bemelmans Marciano


 Laurie Calkhoven


Ammi-Joan Paquette


Floyd Cooper 


Me & Leeza Hernandez 


Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 


 Zachariah Ohora


 Peter Brown 


Corey Rosen Schwartz


Dave Roman 


Sophie Blackall


Dan Yaccarino


Brian Floca 



Tad Hills


Lauren Castillo


Adam Lehrhaupt


 Shhh! You didn’t see me.


Ame Dyckman


Donna Marie 


Charise Harper 


 Debbie Dadey 


Nancy Viau


Matt Phelan 


Michelle Knudsen 


Jon Scieszka




Maryrose Wood


Alison Ashley Formento


Tommy Greenwald


I had an awesome, amazing, super, wonderful, very, very good day at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival! And I’m looking forward to next year’s festival—especially as an author with my own books on the way in 2015! Woo-hoo! 🙂

2014 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. And I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to everyone who made this year’s conference so very special.

Volunteer Committee

The Incredible and Amazing Volunteer Committee 

Me & Leeza

Me and Leeza Hernandez

Rosanne Kurstedt

Rosanne L. Kurstedt

Lauri Meyers & Tara Lazar

Lauri Meyers & Tara Lazar 


Mike Allegra perfecting his “I won the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest” look. 


The good old “thumbs up.” 


And of course, the “I can’t believe I won” look! 

Floyd Cooper

Opening Keynote Speaker Floyd Cooper 

Sheri, Annie

Sheri Oshins, Annie Silvestro & Laurie Wallmark


Corey Rosen Schwartz 


Kami Kinard 


Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 

Ame and Adam

Adam Lehrhaupt & Ame Dyckman 

Creston Authors

Laurie Wallmark, me & Darlene Beck-Jacobson 


Rachelle Burk 


Kim Pfennigwerth  

Robin Fox

Comedian Robin Fox 


Closing Keynote Speaker Rachel Vail 

Not to sound preachy, BUT if you are a writer or illustrator considering doing one conference this year, this is THE conference! It is invaluable for making professional connections, getting editorial and agent feedback, and best of all, it’s just a ton of fun!


Are You Ready for Moose Day?


Blog reader:  Moose who?  Moose what?  Moose where?

Me:  So, glad you asked.  Tomorrow, January 7, 2014, is THE DAY that moose fans from around the world have been waiting for since . . . like . . . forever.  It is the most moose-a-rific day of the year!  It is a day of celebration.  A day to put on your antlers and go dancing with a duck or two or three.

Blog reader:  Really?  Why?

Me:  Why?  How can you ask why?  Because it is THE DAY that Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Noah Z. Jones’s most adorable book, Duck, Duck, Moose!, hits the bookstores.


And if you’re like me, and you just can’t wait till tomorrow, you can pre-order your copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or go to one of the super-cool independent bookstores.

As we all know, life is always better with a moose.  Happy Moose Day!

Ducks, Chicks, Orangutans, and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Oh My!

sudipta and moose

Giggles, squeals and questions abounded from the library yesterday when Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen stopped by to read Duck, Duck, Moose!, Orangutangled, and Snoring Beauty to the kindergartners at my son’s school.

sudipta and o

And there were even more giggles, squeals and questions when the kindergartners learned that these books were so new that they weren’t even in the library or the bookstore!

sudipta and orang.

Sudipta shared some super cool facts and secrets with the children.

  • Chickens have hips.
  • In Chicks Run Wild, the five chicks represent both hers and the illustrator’s children, and there’s even artwork in the book done by each of their kids!  How cool is that?
  • Sudipta loves mangos.
  • Everything is better with a moose.
  • It does not take Sudipta 100 years to write a picture book. 🙂


It was a wonderful afternoon.  And we’re all hoping (fingers and toes crossed!) that she’ll come back for another visit.

p.s. Please click here to visit Sudipta at her website.  And don’t forget to check out her awesome blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule, which she shares with Kami Kinard and Mary Zisk, by clicking here.

Children’s Author Blog Hop

This week I am participating in the Children’s Author Blog Hop.  For this Blog Hop, participating authors were asked to answer four identical questions and then invite three more children’s authors to join in the “Hop.”  And I am thrilled that my fellow Creston Book author, the incredibly prolific Darlene Beck-Jacobson, was kind enough to invite me.


Me & Darlene (2013 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference)

Darlene’s first novel, Wheels of Change (Creston Books), is hitting bookstores in 2014.  Many of Darlene’s books, including Wheels of Change, explore how family and history converge through children’s eyes.  In Wheels of Change, a young girl’s attempt to save her family’s business leads her on an adventure that lands her a visit with Theodore Roosevelt.  Darlene is also working on a current, contemporary middle-grade novel, The Art of Imperfection.   A chapter from her middle-grade novel, Sparrow in the Hand, which explores the coming of age of two sisters growing up in a coal mining area of Pennsylvania during the 1920’s, appeared in the March 2001 issue of Cricket Magazine.

Darlene blogs about kidlit, crafts, recipes, and activities for children.  You can follow her wonderful blog at: and follow her on Twitter @dustbunnymaven.

My invitees to the Blog Hop are three of my favorite authors:  Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Anita Nolan, and Rosanne Kurstedt.  (See more about my amazingly talented invitees and their awesome books below.)

Here are my answers to the questions.

What are you working on right now? 

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on revisions to my early chapter book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery (Creston Books, release TBD).  It is the first book in the series about two hard-nosed mouse detectives, who are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators.  In their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s carrot cake.  (Please note the names of the animals have been changed to protect the innocent.)

I’ve also been working on a number of picture books, including one about three mischievous peacocks who reside on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York.

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

Generally speaking, I try to write books that appeal to kids of all ages.  My early chapter book detective series brings the humor and fun of old cop shows to the elementary school crowd.

And in terms of my peacocks, there’s only one other picture book to the best of my knowledge (fingers and toes crossed it stays that way!) about the peacocks.  And it is a very different picture book from the one currently on the market.  There’s mischief and plotting and even the world’s best mac ‘n cheese.

Why do you write what you do?

A few years back, I started working on a YA novel, but somehow I always seem to gravitate back to picture books and early chapter books.  I am also a foodie and a fractured fairy tale fanatic.  (The Big Bad Wolf and I go way back. :))  Somehow food, fairy tales, and lots of silliness seem to seep their way into many of my writings.

What is the hardest part about writing?

Once I know where I’m going, the actual writing is easy.  It’s the rewriting, tweaking, and re-tweaking of the manuscript that is always hard for me.

Now for the best part!  Here are the amazingly talented writers that I’ve invited to the Blog Hop.


ddm-coverSudipta Bardhan-Quallen has over 24 published titles under her belt, running the gamut from picture books to fiction and non-fiction for both children and adults to an upcoming middle grade chapter book series, Spectacles of Destiny, and to speaking and teaching engagements.  Her latest picture book Duck, Duck, Moose! illustrated by Noah Z. Jones is coming out January 2014.  You can visit Sudipta at, or at her blog,, which she shares with author Kami Kinard, and on Facebook,, and on Twitter too! @SudiptaBQ

Anita Nolan writes middle grade and young adult novels and speaks frequently on the writing process at writing conferences, the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center and other venues.  She is the author of a historic fiction chapter book written for an educational publisher and articles for children’s magazines.  She was editor for Sprouts, the magazine of the NJSCBWI when it was published and has edited children’s fiction for an e-publisher.  You can visit Anita at, or her blog,, and on Twitter too! @anitanolan


And I thoughtRosanne Kurstedt has a Ph.D. in education and is the acclaimed author of the self-published book, And I thought About You (illustrated by Lisa Carletta-Vietes), an honorable mention recipient at the New England Book Festival and the New York Book Festival.  She was also the recipient of a 2013 Barbara Karlin Grant Letter of Commendation.  In addition, she’s the author of a professional book for teachers, Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000). You can visit Rosanne at, or at her blog,, and on Facebook,, and on Twitter too! @rlkurstedt

Let the Blog Hopping continue!  Happy writing and reading!

Happy Birthday Blog!


Today marks my blog’s one-year anniversary.  And what an amazing year it’s been!

Originally, I didn’t want the blog.  What to put on it was a big concern.  If you have one, you have to put something on it—even if it’s the word “something.”  And I seriously wondered how many times I could do that.

But the great Kathy Temean, who designed my amazing website and blog, convinced me it was important.  I’m so glad she did.

The blog’s taken me out of my comfort zone.  And as a writer, it’s good to get out once in a while.

Some highlights from the past year include:

  • Interviews with The Rockdoves, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Jill Davis, Tara Lazar, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Doreen Cronin, Summer J. Hart, Rosanne Kurstedt, Becca Zerkin, Tori Corn, Monica Wellington, Ame Dyckman, and Adam Lehrhaupt;
  • Meeting Mara Rockliff and William Low at their book signing for Me and Momma and Big John at the Bank Street Bookstore;
  • Tori Corn and Danielle Ceccolini’s book launch for What Will It Be, Penelope?;
  • The 2013 NJ SCBWI annual conference; and best of all,
  • Learning that my two hard-nosed mouse detectives, Wilcox & Griswold, were heading to Creston Book for their first adventure, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake (release date, TBD).  Woo-hoo!

After all of this, I just want to shout out a very big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me through this adventure.


Please stay tuned . . . there’s more to come!