Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: San Francisco North & East Bay Region and Around.
As the Co-Regional Advisor for this region of the outstanding worldwide organization, check out my tips, suggestions and organization links!


Mentoring – a gift to writing and writers

It is a gift to have someone help you along a journey to improve, such as a coach or a counselor. But in writing, a published author who takes you under their wing, gives you critical, helpful commentary on your manuscript and provides guidance on revision is invaluable. The SCBWI Nevada Mentorship

Mentor, author Terri Farley (seated) and mentees l-r, me, Teri Stevens, Kay Inglis

program does exactly that. 12 published writers and illustrators select 2-3 mentees from the many applicants. For 6 months, after an initial meeting reviewing your entire work, the mentor gives you direction and advice to make your work stronger. This is an incredible gift and I am grateful to be in the program. There will be hard work in revising and redrafts, but what a special opportunity to have someone looking over to point me in the write direction!

Getting Away to Write

I’m a big proponent of getting away to write. I think I do some of my best work IMG_4213when I can solely focus on writing and take uninterrupted time to work out snarls and inconsistencies. Perhaps you are the same way.  For several years, our SCBWI region has done a creative retreat at the Green RoseGardenGulch Farm  Zen Center in Muir Beach near the Pelican Inn. The wonderful location and kind Green Gulch hosts help make the retreat stress free and productive.  So many writers and illustrators love the break from their schedule, kids, parents, duties, jobs, and work the whole weekend on their love – a new piece of literary work for children. The next retreat is in September. See you there!

Invest in Your Writing – Treat it like you are an athlete

I find the investment in writing is like developing an athlete. You need to find experts, lay out a training plan, run with others, get advice and help from others, and continue to pace and develop your skills. Writing is  like running.


Brett Wright, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Publishing SCBWI Oktoberfest 2015 Conference

The SCBWI conferences, intensives, meetings. and critique groups are my writing marathon training plan. There is an event for every level of need in your development plan.

For my running, I’m a member of San Francisco Road Runners Club. And it’s only with commitment to both writing and running that I will see improvement.

Why should writing be any different than any other athletic sport?

There is nothing more powerful than a kind, positive word

I attended the SCBWI Los Angeles Conference July 31 – August 3rd. I’ve attended many, many children’s writers conferences, intensives and programs. Perhaps the most outstanding program I’ve attended to date was done by Stephen Fraser, agent with De Chiara Literary Agency — He conducted a middle grade intensive.

He laid out his plan for us – we each were to come out of the session with a salable title, an elevator pitch that was strong, and a first page review for impact. We ran out of time for a synopsis review.

He worked with our group of 25 developed writers, taking time with each person, and asking for suggestions from our colleagues. Each person presented in front of the group. Each person received insight, inspiration, positive incentive and observation. Stephen was not overwhelmed by our questions, but gracious, helpful and directional.

He led by example. May each of us be the same way to one another in our peer critiques and observations. Let us help and inspire one another to exceptional writing, always with a smile and light heartedness.

May 16th Oakland Intensives Spot On


Novel Attendees at Connexion Conference Center, Oakland

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Faculty and Intensive team.

Our Oakland Intensives for Picture Book and Novel writers were spot on and sold out. The attendees were terrific and the faculty of authors Bill Konigsberg and Katheryn Otoshi, and associate editors Taylor Norman (Chonicle Books) and Susan Dobinick (FSG), complimented us on the fine work they read in the critiques. We billed the Intensives for developed writers — and we got them. They were attentive, inquisitive, experienced, thoughtful and probing. The faculty was outstanding. A hard day of craft, work and inspiration for all.

May 16 Intensives for Picture Book and Novel

Our SCBWI programs are blessed with many devoted volunteers and more join every day to help us put on terrific programs. Our May 16 Intensives sold out in a little over 3 weeks. There might still be room on the waiting lists. Intensives are small group workshops that help writers and writer/illustrators dig deeper into their craft and help diagnose changes or adjustments that might need to be made on their manuscripts.

Check them out. And check out our other local and regional events coming up!

MayEvent_NovelFinal_rd3 MayEvent_PbFinal_rd1

Great Ending to 2014 and Blast Off for 2015

Our SCBWI Region ended the year with a terrific Faire and Holiday Mixer on Dec. 6th! Over 85 members and non-members joined us to learn all about our region and the opportunities, plus we had the greatest food brought by all! The Oakland Library was a wonderful midpoint location for our celebration. Everyone loved the time to ask questions, meet members and the advisory board (leadership volunteers) for our region, and chat it up with all their colleagues and friends. What a terrific celebration.

Without missing a beat, we launched into 2015 with a YA Bootcamp Intensive to be held on 1/10, which is sold out, and a Creative Retreat in Muir Beach on 2/27 (also sold out), plus our Napa County meeting on 1/31 on “Building Character” with YA Author Katherine Longshore (registration now open). Be sure to check all our programs regularly at

See you thereSCBWIann013115!

Our First FREE SCBWI FAIRE on Dec. 6th!

I have gone to many trade shows and managed many in my professional career, along with board meetings, seminars, conferences and more. It dawned on mesnowflkAdScbwi3 that there is no way for SCBWI members to get answers to their questions about the organization — so how about a trade show – where there is a person for each topic area at a table for all the major areas like:

New Members

Critique Groups

PAL (Published & Listed) Members

Member Services


Each County: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa & Alameda

So we are having our first SCBWI FAIRE and Mixer on Dec. 6th, that will do just that! Get answers to all your questions for members and non members. Don’t miss it. It will be a lot of fun! It’s Free.

Register here so we have a head count to plan on food and beverages.


When SCBWI Gets in the Way of Writing


Conference illustration by Jeslyn Cantrell,

It’s true. This can happen. We ran an exhausting Fall Conference and 3 Intensives in October, followed by preparation for our new year’s schedule, training of 2 wonderful new volunteers, looking for a new conference site, preparing for our first ever SCBWI Faire scheduled for Dec. 6th, and preparing for our January and May Intensives. The result, between work and SCBWI, no writing for the past nearly 3 months. It just gets disheartening. But when all seems dark, new inspiration sneaks in. And that new inspiration comes from the wonderful energy of other SCBWI members that offer to happily help. That’s right, happily help. Our new Illustrator Coordinator, Julie Bayless, offered to do an ad for Dec. 6th. Our assistant regional advisor, Keely Parrack, offered to help with even more, and other volunteers came forward to run county programs, welcome new members, and more. The lesson learned. Kindly ask for help. (That’s something that’s a bit hard for me to do.) Graciously accept it. And START WRITING. My sweet Della, in my new chapter book MS, Della Hates Dirt,  is nearly done (I hope.)

Our Fall Intensives and Conference 10/17 & 10/18

We have been in a huge whirl of the many, many preparations for this tremendous event. We expanded the conference and added a day of Intensives. So many of our attendees are registered for both days. We didn’t know what to expect. Our speaker lineup is really a blockbuster.  I find these events exhausting and stimulating at the same time. I have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful members that volunteer to help at the conference, and learn from so many terrific speakers (in between running around managing the event.) Join us if you can. I guarantee you will enjoy the content, camraderie and inspiration.

Learn more at

Karen Grencik, Co-founder, Agent, Red Fox Literary
Nicole Geiger, Editor, Beyond Words Publishing
Lauren Rille, Art Director, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schulster)
Natalie Lakosil, Agent, Bradbury LIterary
Leila Sales, Associate Editor, Viking Children’s Books, Young Adult Author
Gianna Marino, Picture Book Author/illustrator
Eric Elfman, Middle Grade Author, Writing Coach
Dana Reinhardt, Middle Grade/Young Adult Author
New Markets/New Readers Author Panel
Marissa Moss, Award-winning Author/illustrator/niche publisher
Malinda Lo, Award-winning Young Adult Author
Mitali Perkins, Award-winning Middle Grade Author

Jeslyn_Cantrell-3 Jeslyn Cantrell, illustrator, is the winner of 2014 Conference Masthead Contest! Congrats Jeslyn.


Tons of Action in SF North & East Bay Region

SCBWI SF NorthEast logoWe have been bubbling over with new SCBWI events, new speakers and lots of new volunteers helping out. Children’s writers and illustrators are the most kind and welcoming crowd. How could we not be? We write for the best audience in the world – CHILDREN.

We have some great meetings coming up with top local speakers on craft and taking your work to the next level. Check out our events calendar, and pick out a meeting that is right for you. Coming up: The JOY of Revision, with Summer Dawn Laurie on June 28th at Corte Madera Town Center Community Room, and July 19th with award-winning author/illustrator/publisher Marissa Moss at Laurel Bookstore, Oakland.

Plus, we are launching our illustrator contest for the 2014 Fall Conference Masthead. Don’t miss out on participating!


Gennifer Choldenko Will Speak on 9/12 at Mill Valley’s Depot Bookstore

I saw Gennifer speak at one of my first local SCBWI meetings many years ago at Redwood High School. She was lovely, helpful and encouraging to all. She went on to publish several books, including the bk_spilldelightful Al Capone series. So it is really wonderful that she is able to come back to our local Marin meeting to speak once again, after so many award-winning books. She is just now, on a book tour, for her newest book, Al Capone Does My Homework, a wonderful middle grade book about a boy who grows up on Alcatraz Island during the time of Al Capone. I couldn’t put down her first two Al Capone books, and I doubt I will be able to put this one down, too. Join us at The Depot Bookstore and Cafe on Thursday evening, September 12, 7 – 9 pm to hear her speak on “Tricks of the Trade – Fiction Writing for Tweens.” To learn more, go to

SCBWI L.A. Conference – Wow!

The Los Angeles SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) Conference was packed with over 1200 people. SCBWI Los Angeles 13 Like a conference in any industry, you need to have a plan to tackle getting the information you need. I introduced Melissa Manlove, editor with Chronicle Books, as one of my regional advisor  (RA) duties. She was terrific. Check out Chronicle’s site for submission guidelines. They take un-agented work, although 80% of their publications are agented.

My other  RA duty was to be the official PAL (Published and Listed) reception schmooze. This was a great job. I visited all the authors and chatted with them when they didn’t have someone around them ready to buy their book. I definitely stopped in to chat with member Corina Vacco, as she sold out her debut book, My Chemical

I also attended Steve Sheinkin‘s (wrote the The Bomb) workshop on Research Techniques for Writers. Outstanding. Then on to Peter Lerangis about writing a series. He had super tips on how to approach publishers and get your thinking straight!

Brodi Ashton, the delightful YA author of Everneath, held a workshop on World Building. Her 10 questions to ask yourself were great to help you build a world for a young reader or a teenage reader. The amazing woman, speaker, best-selling author and Scholastic editor, Andrea Pinkney, stole the show. She could laser in on how to improve your writing and find your “twinkle”.

Now to get writing!!!!

Doing Queries for Children’s Magazines

At the SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles 4 years ago, I attended a wonderful workshop by SCBWI regional advisor Sue Ford. (She writes under Sue Uhlig. She was RA in Kansas at the time and is now RA in Oregon!) While I’m published in other industries like health care, I did not have published work in children’s literature. (And it looked like it would be awhile with my chapter books.) Sue taught the basics and how to get started. (She has hundreds of articles published!)  Then when I attended a Writer’s Retreat three years ago, I roomed next to SCBWI member and author Natasha Carter Yim.  She was working on a magazine query and reminded me of the magazine websites and their submission guidelines.

That got me hooked. It was those connections that helped me get started. I’ve done many queries and have had 3 articles published to date. Magazine publishers receive hundreds of queries for a single issue. When it’s time to prepare the issue, they look at all the queries and create their focus to select the articles that fit with their direction.

My latest set of queries is for an issue on SNAKES. I was totally clueless on snakes. Like all my queries, I totally immerse in research, and am always amazed how totally ignorant I am on these topics. I love the immersion to come up with compelling topics for children. My latest was discovering Twinkie,

Twinkie, World's Largest Albino Python

Twinkie, World’s Largest Albino Python

the largest Albino python in the world! My next query drew me into the horrifying python slaughterhouses and the black market for snake skins supplying the billion dollar skin industry for European fashions.

Hope the queries are selected. But whether they are or not, it was an enjoyable writer’s journey!


Fall Conference “Spin A Magical Story” – Registration Now Open

Whew! The conference team has been working on the preparations for months and we are so excited about this workshop-based conference. Be prepared to work, be inspired, and meet new colleagues on October 19th, 8 – 5, Preservation Park, Oakland.

The masthead illustration is perfect!

SCBWI Masthead final

Alice Feagan is the winner of our masthead contest. I am an autumn girl and I totally love these colors and characters. Truth be known, my favorite colors are purple, orange and lime green! So how could we go wrong!

The speaker lineup is terrific and their topics are right on target. Get to right away and register to get the workshops you want! They are going fast. Plus if you register online by August 15th, the conference fee for members is only $119! See you there.

Pumpkin Head

Two Great Regional Meetings on the Same Day – Whoops & Wow

On May 18th, we held 2 local region meetings, one for illustrators in Oakland, and the other for writers in Walnut Creek. It was just one of those scheduling things where one speaker could only do that day and we had already scheduled the other event. We weren’t sure if there would be torn allegiances — the desire to attend both, and there was. So we learned, DO NOT schedule events on the same day, even if we think one is for illustrators and one is for writers — those writer/illustrators are caught in the middle.

Both events were terrific and we had the largest local meeting turnout ever. For both events, we had nearly 100 total attendees. Pretty great.

We were especially overwhelmed by the generosity of Dr. Terry Rawls at Patten University, patten-campusOakland, who let us use his outstanding facility. The room was lovely, professional and had great tech, which we are so very appreciative. This a great article about the co-founder of UniversityNow and owner of Patten University!

Diving in for a Complete Edit

images-1I have completed 2 chapter book manuscripts. I’ve been submitting both a bit to agents and editors. Then I rewrite, then a new critique,  then a new rewrite, then I submit. I’ve received complimentary rejections (which is way above a postcard, or check- the-box-of-no-suitability) and also postcards or crooked copies of “no thanks” form letters or just no response. So I have decided to take the plunge and hire an author that spoke at our SCBWI Summer Retreat two years ago to do a complete edit of both manuscripts.

My heart is torn. I love the characters and plots. What will happen now? Will she completely redraw the lines again? But I have decided I need to get off the plateau and get them into fighting shape from a published expert. If my characters now have the best chance to see the light of a child’s eye, it’s totally worth it. I know a true athlete re-frames their training when something is not working — so I am getting my writer images-2athlete into new shape.

I hope my characters stay strong too. They are jumping in with me!

Getting Local, Familiar and Out of “Shy-Space”

half shyEven though I have spoken nationwide and consulted with firms around the world, children’s writing is a totally different animal. It has taken me awhile to absorb and take to heart the wonderful advice and experiences from other published writers. It’s not that I don’t believe them, nor didn’t understand how to implement their good advice.  I think there was a bit of shyness in putting myself forward in a new industry, new endeavor, and new role.

images-1I’m sure many of you are in the same “shy-space.” Your day job is one persona, your writer life may be another.

So at last, with the help of my work with SCBWI, I’ve introduced myself to my local librarian, local independent bookstore, local Girl Scouts, etc. SCBWI is a wonderful resource and tool to use. Plus since I decided to do promotion for Ginger Wadsworth’s Girl Scout bookstore meet & greet on 4/18, this gave me the impetus visit our local elementary schools, contact audience targets, and more.

The more new steps, the better.

Book Signing of “First Girl Scout” for Girl Scouts, Leaders & Former Girl Scouts

cover-first GS hi res IMG_3309_JPGI am bringing Ginger Wadsworth, author of First Girl Scout, and Yosemite’s Songster, to our SCBWI Marin County April 18th Marin Meeting at the Depot Bookstore & Cafe in Mill Valley. It seemed that if we’re having her for an evening meeting, perhaps she could do a book signing earlier. The Depot thought that was a good idea, so now she will do a booksigning at 4pm. I contacted our region’s Girl Scout coordinator and she was so kind. She will let all the troops know. I am promoting through locals papers and blogs. But perhaps reaching local schools would be good too. If anyone has other ideas, let me know. This will be a fun event. Here is the Poster.

Programs are on A Roll

SCBWI is a wonderful organization of talented volunteers. I am biased. I think our region has among the best. We have some terrific programs starting off the year for writers and illustrators to learn, hone their craft, and get inspired to keep on plugging (as we all know that there is not a lot of money in children’s lit unless you wrote Harry Potter.)

Right around the corner:

Sat. March 23rd, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, award winning author/illustrator Ashley Wolff will speak at Sun Gallery, Hayward. Learn More

Fri, March 29th, 7 – 9pm, author Natasha Carter Yim will speak at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol. Learn More

Thurs, April 18th, 7 – 9pm, award winning author Ginger Wadsworth will speak at the Depot Bookstore & Cafe, Mill Valley.

See you there!