Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Portage HoosierLinks Meeting

Wow, I can't believe it's been close to two months since I've blogged! Where does the time go?

Last spring I took over the position of HoosierLinks Coordinator for the Indiana chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Basically, that means I (try) to coordinate all the members in our state into smaller groups or 'links', and have them meet three times a year, so all our illustrators/writers can stay in touch in between our big conferences and events.

I also lead the Portage link and we just had our summer meeting last weekend. There were only two other members in attendance (Northwest Indiana members, I need you there!). Happily, the two members in attendance were very excited, energetic, and willing to participate. They are both dedicated writers and we had a successful and informative meeting.

Our meeting room was wonderful. Located at the Portage library, we met in the room off of the children's department. It was a cute room with glass double doors and a nice kitchenette, not to mention a bathroom right around the corner. Perfect, really. What more could you need? We started off with sweet morning treats and hot drinks, discussed our areas of writing, and then got down to business with our guest speaker, one of the children's librarians. She gave us a rundown on what is popular/not so popular with her patrons, along with what the librarians would like to see more of and what they don't want to see!

Our next portion of the meeting included sharing resources for finding agents/editors/and market information in general. We then concluded with questionnaires about what types of events would be beneficial for the future.

Overall, it was a great success and we look forward to our fall meeting. Thanks to Joan and Marcy for their participation. And woo-hoo Marcy, for getting started on that query letter!

Thanks for stopping by,
Katie M.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

I ran into a friend at my local library last night and she told me about this. Check out the summer reading program at Barnes and Noble where your child can earn a free book just for reading eight books and the parents are entered into a contest to win a Nook Color.

I'll do a longer post later in the week, when I've got some time.

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Finding an honest person or good in the world is much harder these days than finding ugliness and violence, unless you're really looking. It's the media as a whole. The news, reality t.v. shows, opening up a paper.... there's always fighting, greed, and badness. But, I found a video on Mary Kole's Kidlit website about Josh Ferrin, an honest guy with integrity. He found over $40,000 in his new house and returned it to the previous owner's family. This is amazing. Go to Mary's website to watch the video. It's a feel good story for the day.

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hold Still

Hold Still by Nina LaCour....what a haunting book. It was recommended by Lisa Yaskowitz at the IN-SCBWI conference a few weeks ago. Talk about drawing you in. If you ever hear from an agent or editor, "We're looking for a good voice" this is a prime example. The characters in this story will resonate with you long after you put the book down.

I started reading the book last night (right before Emma's science fair at school, bad idea because I didn't want to put it down) and just finished. I took it to the soccer game with me this morning and had to quit reading it there because I kept crying (and it's kind of weird to be crying at a youth soccer game and not watching your child). It's not a sobby, boo-hoo read. It's just such a sorrowful, hopeful, true tale. A story that grabs you. A voice that speaks to you. A tale about adolescence and hardships and finding your way.

Read it, you won't be sorry. But be sure to have tissues handy.

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Edgy Middle Grade Fiction

I just finished reading Jenny Han's book, Shug. Literally, I finished it like, about three minutes ago. Great read...I loved it. The story was a recommendation from Mary Kole, from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who was at our IN-SCBWI conference last weekend.

During one of Mary's sessions, she talked about middle grade (which is what I'm working on) and the importance of friendships getting complicated, characters starting to make tough, sometimes wrong, choices, and also the edginess that comes with YA, but making it not quite as edgy, and reserving those major problems for secondary characters.

Han's book did just that. I struggle with that edginess and working it in correctly to the story. Jenny Han took her secondary characters and made them come to life, showing their faults and their strengths through scenes so real I could hear the fights between Shug's mom and dad, see the tears on Shug's face when she walks home because Mama forgot her after school, smell the dinner Mama cooked up as an apology....the list goes on.

After I let this one sink in for awhile, I'll go back and reread, taking notes as I go. If you're after a great novel with excellent voice and characters that will stay with you long after you're done reading, Shug is the book to get.

Thanks for stopping by,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


This past weekend was our Indiana SCBWI conference. We always have a large conference during the year and it is usually held in Indianapolis. No exception this year, so I packed up the car, met my friend Peggy along the way, and with beautiful driving weather and good company, made the journey.

Except.... errr...... did I say good company? Two is company, three's a crowd. And there was a third passenger in my car. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted movement. At the same time, Peggy says, "Uh, Katie, there's a spider in your car."

Hold the phone. I don't do spiders. And apparently, neither does Peggy! So I replied with, "We have to pull over. Now."

The nearest (and only) place to pull off the highway was a tiny cemetery. How appropriate. So I pulled in and we quickly got out of the car to assess the situation. Big (the size of a grapefruit), thick, hairy, fast moving spider and no one brave enough to kill it.

After trying to get it to climb onto a piece of paper, which wasn't going to work because the thing has eight eyes and can clearly see us, I decide I've got to be brave. I grab the Kleenex (five, so there will be a cushion between the spider and me), give myself a pep talk, and go for the kill. Only, I'm not brave, and I miss. And the thing falls under my driver's seat, which prompts me to scream my special spider call.

Another chase ensues, with me pulling the car seat forward and backward, and Peggy sticking a pencil under the seat trying to get this creepy thing to move. Under the car seat, by the way, we find all sorts of unspeakables...old food, a flashlight, wrappers, pens (sorry for the mess, Peggy). And luckily, in those yuckies under the car seat is an old white water bottle cap. And the black spider crawls on that white cap so we can see him.

This time, brave as I can be, I pick up my Kleenex, count to three, and..... I did it! I got him, tossed the remnants into the cemetery, and gave myself a loud cheer.

Somehow, we managed to make it to our meeting (almost on time) and I learned a great deal, which I'll share in future posts.

Thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting Started

Recently my daughter and I took a trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum (go if you can, it's a great place). In the midst of the excitement, noise, and exhibits, I heard someone call my name.

"Katie? Is that you? Do you remember me?"

I turned around and there was Lori B., a college friend from IUSB. Of course I remembered her! Although we hadn't seen each other in years, we quickly caught up and realized there were some eerie similarities in our lives.

Once we discussed our current jobs, Lori asked me a question that I think lots of writers get asked (I know I get this question a lot)... How did you get started writing? I sent her a detailed email with how I got started, but here's a shorter synopsis for anyone truly interested in writing for children.

Take a class or two. I'm not going to post the name of the class I took, because I'm not sure I would recommend it. The class worked for me, but I can see how it might not work for everyone. Knowing what I know now (7 years since I started writing full time) I would probably take a class from the Institute of Children's Literature. Everyone I personally know that has taken a class with them has been happy with it.

Join organizations. I recommend the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI has great information available to authors and illustrators. They have a helpful website, offer support and grants, and put on wonderful conferences, among other things.

Attend conferences. Immerse yourself in what you want to do. Attend conferences about writing and children's literature. Learning the ropes of the business and staying on top of market information is key.

Read books (for writers). The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market is a great book to find all the market information you need for any kind of publisher out there. It is packed with conference and award information, grant and scholarship information, and articles on writing.

Read books (for children). Know your audience. If you want to write for children, make sure you read the books your audience reads, whether it may be picture books, middle grade novels, or YA. Take note of what you like, how authors make characters come alive and grab your attention, story arcs, etc.

Write, write, write! Most important, just start writing.

Being a children's author takes dedication, persistence, and a really thick skin. But it is so fulfilling to see your work in print and watch a child read and enjoy what you wrote!

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brunch & Bookfair in Carmel, IN

I've been a member of a magnificent organization for 5 years now, the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI is a national organization, but the great part is, all the states in the U.S. have different chapters and my chapter, Indiana SCBWI, is very active. Every year we have several conferences and events which bring publishers, writing professionals, and the latest market information to a location close by for a reasonable cost.

This Saturday is something new though. IN-SCBWI is hosting a Brunch & Bookfair in Carmel, Indiana to celebrate the recently published books of 15 Indiana authors. At the brunch, Saundra Mitchell is going to speak about online marketing and then the bookfair is held in town at Barnes & Noble. You don't have to register for the bookfair, so if you're in the area, check out the talented Indiana authors and illustrators, get a book signed, and hear the short presentations that are going on from 12:00 - 2:00.
Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Website additions

I added a new feature to my blog. Links to my writing friends' blogs can be found on the right side of my page. Check them out to see what my fellow writers are working on. Here is a little bit about each of the links you'll visit.

John Robert McFarland and I met in 2008 (has it been three years already?!) at the Midwest Writers Retreat, after both of our novels were selected for fellowship positions. We worked together in a group on revising our novels, and I felt an instant connection to John and his work. He is an exquisite writer. His use of words draws the reader in instantly and his novel has stayed with me all these years. Check out Periwinkle Chronicles at

Peggy Reiff Miller is a fellow Indiana writer. We belong to a writing group that meets every other month in Michigan City. Peggy saved a piece of history when she created A Tribute to the Seagoing Cowboys, a DVD documentary, which took her many years to research and compile. Her YA novel, on the same subject, has turned into quite a masterpiece. Every time she sends me chapters for revision, I cannot wait to read more. Her story is powerfully captivating and hopeful. Visit Peggy's site at

Peggy Archer, another fellow writer from my Michigan City group, is an established picture book author and has made the New York Times bestseller list, among many other accomplishments. Peggy's use of words and rhyme always makes me smile. My daughter is crazy about her books, and has Name that Dog! and Turkey Surprise memorized!! Learn more about Peggy A. and her work at

As I add more links, I'll post a little info about my writing friend and the work he/she does.
Thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to blogging

Wowie wow wow! I haven't blogged in forever. Good excuse this time, my daughter's teacher had surgery and I took over the class for awhile. My schedule was a little wacko, working the teaching job by day and my editing job in the early morning and late night hours. Things are back to normal (whatever that is) for the moment.

Going back to the classroom reminded me of several things. First, kids are full of great ideas and they are such an inspiration to a writer. I don't care if it's a first grade or a fifth grade classroom, kids are funny and clever and smart. This latest teaching gig turned up at the right time to renew my writing spirit.

Second, I am reminded that classrooms are full of germs! Again, doesn't matter what the age (although younger students tend to hug and touch more), the sneezing, coughing, nose picking, etc. leads to lots of sickness. I felt like I was back in my first year of teaching after all the colds/flu I brought home.

It's good to be back blogging. Thanks for stopping by,