Barbara Lowell’s BEHIND THE BOOKCASE – Author Interview

Children’s author Barbara Lowell returns to the blog to talk to us about her latest book, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place.

About Barbara

Barbara Lowell is the author of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books. Her books include GEORGE FARRIS WHAT A WHEEL, DARING AMELIA, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AMERICAN HERO, MY MASTODON, and more books for children.

One of her latest books, SPARKY & SPIKE: CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE WILDEST, SMARTEST DOG EVER, is a Junior Guild Library Selection.

 

Before the interview, let’s learn more about Barbara’s new book:

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank, and the Hiding Place by Barbara Lowell, illustrated by Valentina Toro

Release Date: September 01, 2020

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing

Genres: Picture Book, Nonfiction Biography

BUY THE BOOK HERE:
indiebound

Plot Summary:

​Anne Frank’s diary is a gift to the world because of Miep Gies. One of the protectors of the Frank family, Miep recovered the diary after the family was discovered by Nazis, and then returned it to Otto Frank after World War II. Displaced from her own home as a child during World War I, Miep had great empathy for Anne, and she found ways–like talking about Hollywood gossip and fashion trends–to engage her. The story of their relationship–and the impending danger to the family in hiding–unfolds in this unique perspective of Anne Frank’s widely known story.


 

The Interview

Valerie Lawson: I’m so happy you’ve returned to the blog for another interview! The last time you were here, your very first picture book was coming out. Now you have just celebrated the publication of your THIRTEENTH book!

CONGRATULATIONS! How have you changed as a writer from that first book, GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL, to now? What have you learned about the publishing industry that surprised you?

Barbara Lowell: Thank you, Valerie! And thank you for inviting me on your blog!

What surprised me about writing and publishing is that writing a new book never gets easier. You think it would, but it doesn’t. I really didn’t have any expectations about working with an editor, but what I have found is that they are a joy to work with. I have learned so much from every editor’s revision skills and knowledge of the business.

I’m a more confident writer now then I was at the beginning, but I always remember that I have lots more to learn. It’s a joy to learn from many, many fantastic writers that have chosen to write for kids.

VL: Your newest picture book, which came out on September 1st, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place, has been described in a review by Booklist as: “A historically accurate but gentle introduction to the Holocaust for elementary-age readers.”

What else can you tell us about it?

BL: It’s the story of the young woman, Miep Gies, who as an Austrian child after World War I was sent by her parents to live in the Netherlands. She was malnourished as a result of the war and might have died. Families in the Netherlands offered to care for Austria’s children.

Miep loved the Dutch way of life and chose to stay with her Dutch family. In 1933, she became Otto Frank’s employee after he moved from Germany to Amsterdam to escape Nazi persecution. He is of course, Anne Frank’s father. Miep along with four other people, helped to hide the Frank family and their friends during the Holocaust in the annex above their offices. She had a close relationship with Anne Frank and after Anne’s arrest, Miep found and saved Anne’s diary. I think it’s important that children know Miep’s story and that she along with other brave people were willing to hide and care for an estimated 25,000 Jews in Amsterdam.

VL: You write nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books for reluctant readers. What are the unique challenges for each genre that you have to make sure you address as you create each story?

BL: At present, I’m concentrating on nonfiction and historical fiction picture books. Everything I have written has required research. Fortunately, I love researching. I think the challenges are the same for each genre and for every writer.

Writing is hard. Finding the right focus and structure is the first step and often the most difficult. Then comes writing the first draft. I am so happy when I complete one because the next step, revising, is my favorite. I love the revision process especially after I receive feedback.

VL: I love the way you find the most amazing quotes and unique bits of historical detail for your stories. Talk about your intensive research process and how you find all of these great gems – if you don’t mind sharing your secrets!

BL: My ideas primarily come from reading adult nonfiction but some have come from visiting sites. When I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, I knew I needed to learn more about Miep Gies. After reading her autobiography, I decided to write BEHIND THE BOOKCASE.

The idea for GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL came from Erik Larson’s book Devil in the White City. I learned that 2,160 people could ride George Ferris’s Ferris Wheel, a structural engineering marvel, at the same time. I look for ideas that interest me and ones I think kids will find interesting too.

When researching an idea, I try to find as many primary and secondary sources as possible. When researching DARING AMELIA, I found a book by Amelia Earhart’s sister which gave me the line “It’s just like flying,” in reference to Amelia jumping up after crashing her homemade roller coaster. I look for as many sources as possible and dig until I’m sure my research is right.

With SPARKY & SPIKE, I read everything that Charles Schulz wrote about his life, and every interview with him that I could find although the book is about his childhood and his dog Spike, the inspiration for Snoopy. My sister gave me an idea recently. I bought an autobiography by the subject and found multiple other ideas in the first chapter. I guess it’s about paying attention. I love to learn so lots of things interest me.

VL: For you, what makes a great subject for a nonfiction or historical fiction picture book. What or who inspires you?

BL: It’s usually someone who has persevered despite odds and hasn’t given up their dream. What I love most is writing about children who have done something unusual, something that kids will find intriguing.

I’m inspired by good people doing brave things without regard for their own well-being. That’s why it was important for me to write about Miep Gies in BEHIND THE BOOKCASE. She is a hero to me.

Barbara at book signing for SPARKY AND SPIKE.

VL: I absolutely adored your book SPARKY & SPIKE: Charles Schultz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever, about Charles Schultz and his own dog that inspired his character of Snoopy. Not only was the story fantastic, but also the comic book style illustrations were amazing. Talk about your experience creating and publishing the book.

BL: First, I think the absolute best illustrator for the book did the art. As if by magic, he had a letter written by Charles Schulz with a drawing of Snoopy. Dan Andreasen had written to Schulz when he was a child asking for advice about drawing. The letter is in the book.

The first manuscript I wrote was about Charles Schulz’s childhood through the first appearance of Peanuts on October 1, 1950. A freelance editor suggested that I write only about Charles as a child and his dog Spike. I took her advice and wrote a second manuscript. SPARKY & SPIKE is actually a combination of both manuscripts. Many of the earlier spreads were taken from my original manuscript.

VL: What drew you to tell the story of Anne Frank from a different perspective?

BL: It’s important for writers to find a new way of telling a familiar story. And I wanted to tell Miep’s story too, not just Anne’s. Miep was a remarkably kind woman who faced adversity and risked her life in attempt to save the lives of others. Anne Frank relied on Miep when she hid in the annex. She shared her struggles with Miep when she couldn’t with her family. Miep brought the truth of what was happening in the outside world to the hiders but she also brought joy to them. That’s why I told the story of the red high heels Miep gave to Anne.

VL: I know you love to travel, what are the most unusual places you’ve ever visited? And have any of your travel adventures ever inspired a story idea?

BL: The most unusual places were: Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia, a more remote part of the islands. Pitcairn Island of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, although we didn’t leave the ship, the islanders sailed to us. And circling Easter Island multiple times because the ship wasn’t able to enter the port safely.

I have one idea from traveling. I visited an amazing museum in Sweden and decided to write a story about what I saw there. But I haven’t figured out the best way to tell the story.

VL: What’s next for you? Can you share with us any projects you are currently working on or anything that might be coming out soon?

BL: I have a new nonfiction picture book that will be released in Fall 2021. I wish I could tell you the title and more about it, but it hasn’t been announced. But – it’s a story about the son of a very famous American. I working on more picture books both nonfiction and historical fiction and have one manuscript ready for submission.

We will keep an eye out for your upcoming book! Thank you so much for joining us, today, Barbara. It’s been a pleasure talking with you!

Learn more about Barbara by visiting her website HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

SCBWI Oklahoma May Twitter Chat Guest – Brad McLelland

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

This month’s chat session was Tuesday, May 26th.

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Brad McLelland is an Oklahoma author who joined us this week for our latest monthly Twitter chat. He has co-written an award-winning Middle Grade series with long-time friend Louis Sylvester.

Here’s an introduction to Brad:

May 26th – Brad McLelland – Children’s Author

Brad McLelland was born and raised in Arkansas. He spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

Brad co-wrote his Middle Grade debut, LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES, with Louis Sylvester. This book won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award and is a Junior Library Guild Selection book. The pair teamed up to write the sequel, THE FANG OF THE BONFIRE CROSSING, which was published in Feb 2019. Book three THE KEY OF SKELETON PEAK was just released in Feb 2020.

Learn more about Brad by visiting his website: http://www.bradmcbooks.com

Brad’s Twitter handle is @bradmcbooks

We had a fascinating conversation with Brad. He talked about his writing journey beginning at the age of 8 when he wrote his first story, the ambitious ideas he and his writing partner had for their series in the beginning, and how they work as a team to write their series.

 

***Interested in the rest of our conversation with Brad?

View the full chat recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma April Twitter Chat Guest – Barbara Lowell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, April 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Barbara Lowell is an Oklahoma author and an active member of SCBWI OK. She has several published picture books. Barbara finds interesting characters from history, researches them until she finds just the right way to tell their stories and, lucky us, we get to read them.

And she also happens to be one of my most beloved critique partners. I’m so excited we get to have a conversation about her books!

Here’s an introduction to Barbara:

April 28th – Barbara Lowell – Children’s Author

Barbara Lowell is the author of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books. Her books include GEORGE FARRIS WHAT A WHEEL, DARING AMELIA, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AMERICAN HERO, and more books for children.

Her book SPARKY & SPIKE: CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE WILDEST, SMARTEST DOG EVER, is a Junior Guild Library Selection.

Her newest book released this February,  MY MASTADON, received a starred review from Kirkus.

Her upcoming title, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: MIEP GIES, ANNE FRANK, AND THE HIDING PLACE is scheduled for release this fall.

Learn more about Barbara by visiting her website: https://www.barbaralowell.com

Her Twitter handle is @barbara_lowell

I hope you’ll join us for a fascinating conversation with Barbara this Tuesday!

***Missed our chat with Barbara? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

2020 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chat Season Begins! January Guest – Traci Sorell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it an agent, editor, author, or illustrator. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our 2020 Twitter chat season starts on Tuesday, January 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


I’ve had the pleasure of meeting our first guest, Oklahoma Children’s author, Traci Sorell, and she is having an amazing debut year!

Her first picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, is such a delight and has won critical acclaim. She followed that up with a double book launch for two more amazing books and then traveled all over the country promoting her wonderful work. We are truly privileged to have her as our first guest.

Here’s an introduction to Traci:

JANUARY 28th – Traci Sorell – Children’s Author

Traci Sorell grew up immersed in stories. The ones her mother told at bedtime and the accounts of her ancestors’ lives mirrored her Cherokee heritage. Books she brought home from the library and selected during her school’s annual Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Day showed a world beyond her life in rural northeastern Oklahoma.

As an adult, Traci has lived in four U.S. time zones and abroad in Madrid, Spain. Her early writing reflected the Native American history, law, and policy focus of her educational and professional background.

Now she lives back inside the Cherokee Nation with her family. She started writing for young people when she wanted more contemporary fiction and nonfiction children’s books featuring Native Americans to share with her son. Traci’s first nonfiction picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA (Charlesbridge, 2018), features the universal spirit of gratitude as experienced through modern Cherokee culture across the four seasons. Her other works include: AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE (Kokila, 2019), INDIAN NO MORE with Charlene Willing McManis (Tu Books, 2019), and POWWOW DAY (Charlesbridge, 2020).

Traci’s debut picture book WE ARE GRATEFUL: Otsaliheliga, was awarded the 2019 Sibert Medal Honor Award, the 2019 Orbis Pictus Honor Award, the 2019 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award, and was an Oklahoma Book Award Finalist.

Learn more about Traci by visiting her website: https://www.tracisorell.com

Her Twitter handle is @tracisorell 

This first #okscbwichat of 2020 should be an exciting one! I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Traci!

***Missed our chat with Traci? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

Whitty Books – Say Hello to a New Indie

 

As an author, I love supporting independent bookstores. Just a few short years ago, there was quite a drought of indies here in the Tulsa area, and now I am happy to say quite the opposite is true!

I want to introduce you to one of the newest indies in our area, Whitty Books. This little jewel opened its doors in July, 2018, in the Kendall Whittier District – just around the corner from the nonprofit Circle Cinema theatre.

The collection found in Whitty Books focuses on small publishing houses, diverse titles, #ownvoices authors, and under-the-radar releases.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Victoria, when I attended the double book launch for fellow SCBWI OK author Traci Sorell. She said after a year of being open, she really has a feel for her customers and what they want. THAT’S one thing I love about an independent book store!

Oklahoma author Traci Sorell at Whitty Books during her book launch in September.
Traci reading from her gorgeous picture book AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE, published by Kokila.

 

I loved all of the artwork on the walls in the store and the friendly atmosphere. Books titles were easy to browse on the shelves – nothing felt overcrowded or uncomfortable. Victoria was approachable and friendly.

They have several book clubs at Whitty Books, and Victoria actually invited us to attend one the very next day, for a book by Joy Harjo – our current Poet Laureate, who just so happens is from Oklahoma. ( I do love her writing! If you haven’t checked her out, she’s amazing.)

The book clubs are held at the store – about one a week – all with categories like Sci Fi/Fantasy, True Crime, Native American Lit, Truth and Reconciliation, and Women in Horror. Visit their Facebook page to see what’s on the calendar this month.

Victoria ringing up my purchases.

The next time you’re thinking about buying a book, BUY LOCAL! And why not stop in and check out Whitty Books? Tell Victoria I sent you!

 

Fall is for Festivals! Book Festivals are Everywhere

Nothing makes a bibliophile happier than going to an event that celebrates books, where they have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language of books, hang out with other like-minded booklovers, and BUY MORE BOOKS! Or maybe that’s just me.

Original Photo credit Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

I, for one, am thrilled at how much our literary world has grown in Oklahoma in the past few years – from the increase in independent book store openings (which has led to an increase in author events!) to new book festivals and book cons, I’ll take it all!

Here are a couple of great events that are fairly new to our state coming up this fall that you won’t want to miss!

OK Book Fest – September 21, 2019 – Oklahoma City Boathouse District

The Mission of this festival is to bring “authors and readers together to create an exciting venue where literacy, artistic expression, and cultural experiences are celebrated”.

This is a completely FREE event. Featuring over 100 authors from around the country, including some of our own SCBWI OK favorites!

 

Tammi Sauer                                        Jerry Bennett      

 

 

 

 

Gwendolyn Hooks                               Brenda Maier  

 

 

 

 

Traci Sorell                                             Kim Ventrella 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Lowell                                       Brad McClelland     

 

 

 

 

Mariana Llanos                                      Mike Wimmer     

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes                          Una Belle Townsend

 

 

 

 

Susan Myers                                          Alexandra Ott

 

 

 

 

There will be panel discussions, presentations, crafts, poetry readings, book signings, food trucks, and more. Check out the website for a full listing of authors and for a schedule of events.

 

Oklahoma Teen Book Con (OKTBC) – November 16, 2019 – OU Memorial Union Norman, OK

 

The OK Teen Book Con is a FREE event that strives to connect teens to YA authors and their books. There will be author panels, book signings, author meet ups, a teen artist gallery and more!

It has a new home in Norman, OK, this year which will probably make it much better attended than when it was in Guthrie. Last year they had the awesome Maggie Stiefvater of the RAVEN CYCLE books – I’m a HUGE fan!

This year, the phenomenal Neal Shusterman will be the Keynote Speaker! I had the pleasure of seeing him speak at the LA SCBWI conference a few years ago and he was wonderful. He talked about his fabulous book CHALLENGER DEEP. So moving.

 

The fine folks at OKTBC keep announcing other authors that will be attending a little at a time, just to keep us hungry for more. You can follow along on their Twitter or their Instagram account to see who else will be announced and to keep up with information on this event.

If you are a YA author and would like to attend this event, you can find an author submission form and the submission criteria on the event website.

How about you? Are you planning on attending any book-related events this fall?

2019 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chats

 

 

One of my favorite “jobs” is that of Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, and one of my favorite things about that position is hosting a monthly Twitter Chat for our members where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it an agent, editor, author, or illustrator. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

 

We meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, join us! We love meeting new people.

Here are details on the chats we’ve already had so far in 2019, plus those still remaining. You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.


 

JANUARY 22nd– Jonathan Koelsch

Jonathan Koelsch has been illustrating professionally since graduating with honors from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, and attended Kansas City Art Institute’s illustration program for 3 years.

Jonathan frequently incorporates graphic design in his illustration work, and as an illustrator skilled in design is often hired by designers to create icons and logos. He has illustrated and designed comics, covers, posters and graphic novels for several independent publishers, in many art styles, from “American” style, to cartoon, to manga.

Most recently, Jonathan fully illustrated the two-thirds (42 pages) and cover of the Luther graphic novel, for Faith Inkubators, a Lutheran curriculum publisher (lutherstudy.com).

You can learn more about Jonathan on his website.

His Twitter handle is @jkArts 

You can read the chat recap with Jonathan HERE.

 

FEBRUARY 12th– Jennifer March Soloway – SPECIAL CHAT

Jennifer March Soloway is a literary agent who represents authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and young adult stories. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult.

A suspense junkie, she adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. Regardless of genre, she is actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature.

Jennifer is actively building her client list and welcomes queries to soloway@andreabrownlit.com.

Find out more about Jennifer and about her full wish list by visiting her agency’s website.

Her Twitter handle is: @marchsoloway

You can read the chat recap with Jennifer HERE.

 

FEBRUARY 26th– Mekisha Telfer

Mekisha Telfer is an associate editor at Roaring Brook Press (Macmillian), where she is building a list of picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels. She got her start in publishing in 2014 as an editorial assistant with Simon and Schuster BFYR/Salaam reads, and has also worked briefly at Glasstown Entertainment.

Some titles she’s had the privilege of working on include the New York Times bestselling series TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han, EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H. K. Choi, THE GAUNTLET by Karuna Riazi, and Stuart Gibb’s Moon Base Alpha series. Mekisha is committed to supporting unrepresented voices and is always on the hunt for character-driven stories with a mix of humor and heart.

You can learn more about what Mekisha is looking for from her manuscript wish list here.

Her Twitter handle is: @MekishaTelfer

You can read the chat recap with Mekisha HERE.

 

MARCH 26th– Alex Slater

Literary Agent Alex Slater has been with Trident Media Group since 2010. For many years he oversaw the foreign rights sales of all of Trident’s young adult and children’s projects, which includes the work of R.J. Palacio and Louis Sachar.

Now with his own list, he’s kept his focus on YA and middle grade with an eye towards contemporary fiction, light fantasy, narrative nonfiction, and any work in general that expands the ideas of representation in children’s literature. Particularly, his manuscript wish list includes graphic novels, stories that blend genres, and historically underrepresented voices. Some of his clients today include Keah Brown, Jodi Kendall, Adam Perry, and SCBWI’s 2017 Emerging Voices Award Winner Anuradha D. Rajurkar.

You can learn more about what Alex is looking for from his manuscript wishlist here. Or by visiting his agency website here.

His Twitter handle is: @abuckslater

You can read the chat recap with Alex HERE.

 

APRIL 23rd – Jess Rinker

Children’s author Jess Rinker received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has won many awards for her work including short story, creative nonfiction, and most recently an honorable mention for the Katherine Paterson Prize from Hunger Mountain for her middle grade novel THE YOUNG TRAVELERS CLUB.

In addition to writing, Jess also teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and works as a freelance developmental editor.

Jessica Rinker’s debut picture book biography, GLORIA TAKES A STAND, comes out March 12, 2019 from Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Her second biography, SEND A GIRL: The Brenda Berkman Story, comes out March 2020.

​Jess also writes middle grade and her debut novel THE DARE SISTERS comes out Fall 2020 and Fall 2021 from Imprint/Macmillan.

​Currently she lives in New Jersey in a tiny town along the Delaware River with her husband, Joe McGee, who is also a children’s author.

You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is: @jm_rinker 

You can read the chat recap with Jess HERE.

 

MAY 28th– Lisa Papademetriou

Lisa Papademetriou is the author of A TALE OF HIGHLY UNUSUAL MAGIC (a South Asia Book Award Highly Commended Title), the New York Times-bestselling novel MIDDLE SCHOOL: MY BROTHER IS A BIG, FAT LIAR and HOMEROOM DIARIES (both with James Patterson), the CONFECTIONATELY YOURS series (over 750,000 books in print), and many other novels for middle grade and young adult readers.

Her books have appeared on many prestigious lists, including Bank Street Best Books of the Year, the NYPL Books for the Teen Age, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, andtranslated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, & Japanese. Her latest book, APARTMENT 1986, was a School Library Journal Popular Pick.

She has written for the Washington Post, authors the StART Up Studio column for Innovate413, and serves on the faculty of the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. A former editor, she is the founder of the humorous grammar website, IvanaCorrectya.com.

Lisa evinces her passion for community and education by serving on the board of the Northampton Education FoundationClick Workspace, and Athena Girls, and by giving workshops locally and across the United States on the subjects of writing, grammar, and creative courage.

You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is: @axyfabulous 

You can read the chat recap with Lisa HERE.

 

JUNE 25th– Joe McGee

Children’s author Joe McGee writes funny, quirky, offbeat stories for kids (and adults who still hold a piece of the magic). He has two picture books published, PEANUT BUTTER & BRAINS (Abrams) his debut PB which came out in 2015, and the sequel, ALIENS & JELLY (2017). A third book in the series, PEANUT BUTTER & SANTA CLAUS is scheduled for release in 2019.

Joe also has two series of Chapter Books coming out with Simon & Shuster (Aladdin) with the first book in the CREATURE CAMPERS series coming out this January 2019, and the first book in the JUNIOR MONSTER SCOUTS series scheduled for release in Fall 2019.

Joe is also on the faculty of Sierra Nevada College, Writing for Children & Young Adults low-residency MFA program, and is on the faculty of Rowan University, Writing Arts department.

You can learn more about him by visiting his website.

His Twitter handle is: @mcgeejp

You can read the chat recap with Joe HERE.

 

JULY 23rd– Sharon Martin

Sharon Edge Martin has been a writer since she wrote her first poems at the age of eight.  She has worked as a waitress, an artist’s model, a musician, a bookkeeper, a jewelry designer, a newspaper editor, and a teacher, but no matter what other job she is doing, Martin is always a writer.

 Martin’s fiction stories have appeared in adult and juvenile magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Her poetry for children and adults has been published in Amelia, BylineEllery Queen Mystery Magazine, and dozens of small press and literary magazines and anthologies, including Elegant Rage, Dragon Poet Review, Malpais Review, Poets’ Market from Writers’ Digest Books, and in Michael Bugeja’s The Art and Craft of Poetry.  Her poetry chapbook, No Sanctuary, was published by Amelia Press in 1997.  In 2017,  Froggy Bottom Blues, a picture book illustrated by Timothy Lange, was published by Doodle and Peck. She won the OWFI Best Book of Poetry for her book, Not a Prodigal, and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for the same book in 2019.

Martin is an active member of SCBWI Oklahoma and is past president of Oklahoma Writers’ Federation.  In addition to her writing for children and young adults, she pens a weekly column on education and politics.  The essays appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer.  She is active in the spoken poetry scene in Oklahoma and hosts a monthly reading in the historic Tidal School.  The building, now owned by Tidewater Winery, was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller to serve the children of his oil company employees.

Sharon and her husband, artist Dale Martin, live on a farm in Oklahoma. When she isn’t writing, you can find her tending chickens or working in her garden.

You can learn more about Sharon by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is @sharonedge.

You can read the chat recap with Sharon HERE.

 

SEPTEMBER 24th– Rachel Murray

Associate editor Rachel Murray started at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in 2014. She has experience with picture books, chapter books, middle grade fiction, and young adult novels in a variety of genres. She has had the pleasure of working on projects such as Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth; First & Then and subsequent books by Emma Mills; and the NYT-bestselling Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson.

Rachel has begun building her own list with picture books and is looking to expand into the middle grade and young adult space. She has particular interest in horror/ghost stories/anything that gives her chills, contemporary romance, and magical realism. She welcomes characters with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

You can learn more about Rachel by visiting her publishing house website.

Her Twitter handle is @rachelrmurray

You can read the chat recap with Rachel HERE.

 

OCTOBER 22nd– Gwendolyn Hooks

 Gwendolyn Hooks is the author of the NAACP IMAGE AWARD winning picture book biography, Tiny Stitches-The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas and Block Party, a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her newest books are The Garden and If You Were A Kid During the Civil Rights Movement. Gwen’s next book, Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom,is scheduled to release on October 1stof this year.

Other books include the popular Pet Club and Confetti Kids series. She writes both fiction and nonfiction, early readers, and chapter books from her home Oklahoma. An advocate of diverse books, Gwendolyn shares their beauty by encouraging young readers to explore the world through them.

You can learn more about Gwen by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is @GwentheGweat


We take a break in November and December due to the holidays. We’ll return again in January 2020 with a brand new Twitter chat schedule! It’s filling up fast, but if you have a suggestion for a guest, feel free to let me know. I’m happy to hear your ideas.

BLOG PARADE: 2018 SCBWI OK Spring Conference – Striking at the Reader’s Heart

 

I’m happy to be a part of the Blog Parade promoting our 2018 SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference this year.

We’re really changing things up!

The event begins this week on Friday evening,  April 6th, and continues through Saturday, April 7th.

As always manuscript critiques, and portfolio critiques will be available in limited numbers. This year there are some fun new additions, too! They include: Friday night sessions, Mingle with the Speakers events, paid face time with industry professionals, off-site critiques, and an autograph party.

Sounds fun!

New to our conference? There’s an orientation first thing Saturday morning, just for you! You also might enjoy reading my post, Tips for Attending a Writing Conference.

For a full conference schedule, and to register for our event, visit the website.

Still, at its core, are the stellar guest speakers we have lined up, so let me give you an introduction to each of them:


Chad W. Beckerman
 – Creative Director for Amulet Books, Abrams Books for Young Readers, and ComicArts.

Chad is an award-winning designer and
creative director at Abrams, where he oversees the design of picture books, novels and graphic novels under the Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books, and Abrams ComicArts imprints.

He is the designer behind such successful children series as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Origami Yoda, NERDS Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales,
Frank Einstein and The Terrible Two.

Chad joined us for a Twitter Chat before the conference. View the conversation here: http://bit.ly/2KZzhAb 

Follow Chad on Twitter here. Follow Chad on Facebook here. Follow Chad on Instagram here.

Andrea Hall – Associate Editor with Albert Whitman & Company

Andrea Hall is an Associate Editor at Albert Whitman & Company where she works on picture books through young adult. She is particularly drawn to stories that have layers of meaning and diversity. Andrea started her publishing career at Pearson Education and is a former ARA of the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of SCBWI.

Andrea answered questions for us in an interview before the conference. View the post here.

Follow Andrea on Twitter here.

Hannah Mann – Junior Agent with Writers House Literary Agency

Hannah started as an intern in the New York office before becoming Steven Malk’s assistant. She’s had the privilege of working closely with a variety of talented bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators of works ranging from very young picture books to middle grade to young adult.

Now as a Junior Agent, she’s seeking clients from those genres. To learn more about Hannah’s preferences, visit her agency website here.

Hannah joined us for a Twitter Chat before the conference. View the conversation here: http://bit.ly/2wIFQUG

Follow Hannah on Twitter here.

Daniel Nayeri – Publisher at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Daniel worked as Director of Children’s Publishing at the independent publishing house Workman Publishing before being promoted to Publisher there prior to his move to Macmillan in October of 2017. He is now in the process of developing his own imprint at Macmillian.

He is also an author of a few children’s books himself, including his latest book, STRAW HOUSE, WOOD HOUSE, BRICK HOUSE, BLOW. Daniel and his family immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old and arrived in Oklahoma.

Daniel joined us for a Twitter Chat before the conference. View the conversation here: http://bit.ly/2KVsjMK

Follow Daniel on Twitter here. Learn about Daniel’s writing here.

Allison Remcheck – Associate Agent with Stimola Literary Studio

To Allison, being an agent is a bit like a treasure hunt to find the books that speak to her most easily. Allison is drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child – especially the ones told least often.

Allison joined us for a Twitter Chat before the conference. View the conversation here: http://bit.ly/2wz6Shr

Follow Allison on Twitter here.

Jerry Bennett – SCBWI Oklahoma Illustrator Coordinator and Professional Illustrator

Jerry is a full time illustrator who illustrates comics, storyboards and children’s books whose clients include Stan Lee, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Mattel and Dreamworks. He art directed and led cinematography for the animated short film, Even in Death, which won several film festival awards, and since gone to create trailers for Scholastic Books.

Jerry is currently creating original licensed sketchcards for Upper Deck’s Marvel line, and Topps’ Star Wars and The Walking Dead sets.

Learn more about Jerry’s work here. Follow Jerry on Twitter here. Follow Jerry on Facebook here. Follow Jerry Instagram here.

Emily Heddleson – Senior Manager, Library and Educational Marketing with Scholastic

Emily has over ten years of experience working on campaigns to promote books for ages 0-18, with a focus on retail, library, and educational markets. She will host a Skype breakout session with us entitled, “Marketing Your Published Books”.

Follow Emily on Twitter here.

 

This year, Oklahoma City is the host city for the conference. Mark your calendars for April 6-7th. You won’t want to miss it!

For more information about our conference and to register for this event, CLICK HERE.

I’m the final stop on this blog parade, so if you’ve missed any of the other wonderful bloggers participating, here are their sites. Make sure to check them out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you at the conference!

Brenda Maier – Author Interview

I met Brenda Maier through our local SCBWI Oklahoma chapter, and I’ve been thrilled to watch her grow as an author. It’s such a pleasure to help her celebrate the debut of her very first picture book.

About Brenda

As a young child, Brenda had a grand total of six books; consequently, she spent her summers walking to the local library to get more. Now she spends her summers driving her own children to the local library, where you may find her in a corner with a stack of picture books. If she’s not there, she’s probably at a bookstore, adding to her much-larger-than-six-books collection.

Brenda lives in Oklahoma with her husband and their five children, who provide endless inspiration for more stories. She also works with gifted children at a large, local school district.

 

Before the interview, let’s learn more about Brenda’s debut picture book:

THE LITTLE RED FORT by Brenda Maier, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Genres: Picture Book

BUY THE BOOK HERE:
indieboundbn-24h-80amazon

Plot Summary:

​In this retelling of THE LITTLE RED HEN, Ruby wants to build a fort, but her big brothers refuse to help her. When the boys see the finished product, they really want to play in it, but it’s too late to do anything about it. Or is it?


Maier’s publisher describes this book as “one of those multi-layered gems” in this YouTube video.

 

The Interview

Valerie Lawson: Congratulations on your debut picture book, Brenda! I’m so excited to see this book published.

What inspired the idea for this story?

Brenda Maier: Thanks for inviting me to chat, Valerie.

My children inspired this idea. A few years ago, my youngest son was four, and he was in a The Little Red Hen phase; consequently, that story was on repeat in my mind.

One day I put him down for nap and went to check on the other kids in the back yard. They’d found some boards and lattice. Guess what they’d made? So the classic tale and my own kids’ ingenuity kind of converged that day, and I began thinking about a girl building a fort instead of a hen baking bread.

VL: Isn’t it exciting how our experiences can mesh together like that?

I just love the illustrations by Sonia Sánchez. What was it like seeing your words come to life for the first time? Is that how you had imagined them?

BM: I can’t say enough about Sonia’s beautiful art. Her unique style complements the text beautifully. The details keep me looking for new things. She has such a grasp of the characters, and she brought them to life in such a way that I can’t imagine them ever being anything other than what they are now. It’s like they’re real to me, and her illustrations are a big reason for that.

Illustrations from The Little Red Fort written by Brenda Maier. Art (c) 2018 by Sonia Sánchez. Used with permission from Scholastic Press.

 

VL: You work full time as a teacher and have five children at home. Talk about your writing routine. As in, where do you find the time to enjoy a moment’s peace, let alone find time to sit down and write?

BM: Kids will find you no matter where you are, and kids always come first. Therefore, I avoid this situation entirely by escaping for Panera at least a couple of times a month to write.

I write more regularly during the summer, when I can get up early and work for a few hours, but during the school year I have to be content to do the best I can. I might write before everyone wakes up, before I fall asleep at night, or even during my lunch break.

If it’s important to you, you will find a way to do it.

VL: Very true. You have to find that time to write anywhere you can.

As a debut author, what’s the best piece of advice you can pass on to fellow authors working in the pre-published phase?

BM: You should read. Reading helps you internalize so many things about stories—pacing, rhythm, page turns.

VL: What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?

BM: I don’t know if I can only pick one. At this moment, I would have to say it’s a tie between two YA novels: Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give and John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. As different as they are, I appreciated the perspectives they both made me feel privy to.

You don’t want me to get started on favorite picture books.

VL: I love that you read widely – not just picture books! That’s so important. 

What’s next for you? What are you currently working on?

BM: The Little Red Fort comes out in Spanish this June. A second book, Peeping Beauty, will be released next February from Aladdin, a Simon & Schuster imprint.

Peeping Beauty is a tale of chicks who resort to creative problem solving when their sibling won’t come out of the egg. It’s not a retelling, but it does give a subtle nod to the classic Sleeping Beauty.

VL: That sounds like another great story!

Thank you so much for joining us, today, Brenda. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you!

 

Learn more about Brenda Maier here.

Follow Brenda on Facebook here.

Follow Brenda on Twitter here.

 

 

 

2018 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chat Schedule

 

For those who don’t already know, I’m the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, and I host a Twitter Chat once a month for our members, although anyone is welcome to join in the conversation. We meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month (and sometimes on additional special dates, too) from 7-8pm CST and we use the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, come check ours out! They are always interesting. And we love meeting new people.

I’m so excited to announce the schedule for our FOURTH season of #okscbwichat! I can hardly believe we already have three years under our belt. Wow!

(If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can go back and view any of our previous chats here.)

We had a lovely topic chat in January all about mentor texts and how they can help you be a better writer. You can view that conversation here.

In February, we start our guest chats. We have a nice line up of guests this year. Let me introduce them to you:

 

February 6th – Allison RemcheckSPECIAL CHAT DATE

Literary Agent Allison Remcheck is an Associate Agent with the Stimola Literary Studio. She is drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child – especially the ones told least often. Allison will also be speaking at our spring conference in April.

Her Twitter handle is @allisonremcheck

 

February 27th – Daniel Nayeri

Daniel Nayeri is a Publisher at Macmillian. He is also an author of a few children’s books himself, including his latest book, STRAW HOUSE, WOOD HOUSE, BRICK HOUSE, BLOW. Daniel and his family immigrated to the United States when he was eight years old and arrived in Oklahoma. Daniel will also be speaking at our spring conference in April.

His Twitter handle is @DanielNayeri

 

March 6th – Hannah Mann – SPECIAL CHAT DATE

Hannah Mann is a Junior Agent with Writers House Literary Agency. Hannah started as an intern in the New York office before becoming Steven Malk’s assistant. She’s had the privilege of working closely with a variety of talented bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators of works ranging from very young picture books to middle grade to young adult. Now as a Junior Agent, she’s seeking clients from those genres. Hannah will also be speaking at our spring conference in April.

Her Twitter handle is @hannahmann

 

March 27th – Chad Beckerman

Chad Beckerman is Creative Director for Amulet Books, Abrams Books for Young Readers and ComicArts. Chad oversees the design of picture books, novels, and graphic novels.

He is the designer behind such successful children series as DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, ORIGAMI YODA, Nathan Hale’s HAZARDOUS TALES, FRANK EINSTEIN, THE TERRIBLE TWO, and Bill Nye’s JACK AND THE GENIUSES. He has also designed several bestselling picture books including ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER, TROMBONE SHORTY, VEGETABLES IN UNDERWEAR, and Jillian Tamaki’s upcoming THEY SAY BLUE.

He has had the honor of working with many amazing illustrators including Jeff Kinney, Jillian Tamaki, Dan Santat, Victo Ngai, Sophie Blackall, David Roberts, Art Spiegelman, Jules Feiffer, and John Hendrix most recently on his DRAWING IS MAGIC. Chad will also be a speaker at our spring conference in April.

His Twitter handle is @chadwbecks

 

April 29th 1:00PM – Zoe WaringSPECIAL CHAT DAY AND TIME!!!

UK Illustrator Zoe Waring joins us on a special day and time – Sunday April 29th 1:00-2:00pm CST. Author and illustrator of NO HUGS FOR PORCUPINE, illustrator of TRUCK, TRUCK, GOOSE (with Oklahoma author Tammi Sauer), CAT AND DOG, and the upcoming PEEPING BEAUTY (with Oklahoma author Brenda Maier).

Zoe Waring has always loved the warmth and humour found in children’s picture books, and is a little obsessed with cute animals… just a little bit. She also loves drawing, has a rather silly sense of humour and a vivid imagination. You can begin to understand why she believes she has THE best job in the world!

Her Twitter handle is @zoemop

 

May 22nd – Heather Cashman

Heather is the Managing Director of Pitch Madness, Pitch Wars, and #PitMad – contests that help match writers with agents. Previously an Editor/Ambassador for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy US, Heather now freelance edits full time. She’s been an agent intern for over a year. She’ll be answering all of our questions about pitch contests. You can learn more about these contests at pitchwars.org.

Her Twitter handle is @HeatherCashman

 

June 26th –Pablo Cartaya

Pablo Cartaya is the author of the acclaimed middle-grade novel, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (Viking, 2017); Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish (Viking, 2018); and two forthcoming titles in 2019 and 2020 also to be published by VikingHe is a Publisher’s Weekly “Flying Start” and has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

He is the co-author of the picture book, Tina Cocolina: Queen of the Cupcakes (Random House, 2010), a contributor to the literary magazine, Miami Rail; the Spanish language editorial, Suburbano Ediciones; and a translator for the poetry chapbook, Cinco Poemas/Five Poems based on the work of poet Hyam Plutzik. Pablo visits schools and universities throughout the US and currently serves as faculty at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA in Creative Writing.

His Twitter handle is @phcartaya

 

(We have some surprises planned for the summer chats that we’ll be announcing later in the year. Stay tuned!)

 

September 25th – Ashley Nixon

Ashley Nixon-Amador is the author of the YA fantasy CUTLASS series. She graduated from the university of Oklahoma and has a Masters in Library Sciences and Information Studies. She is a Gates Millennium Scholar Alumni. She loves pugs, libraries, and eyeliner. Ashley lives in Oklahoma with her husband.

Her Twitter handle is @AshleymNixon.

 

October 23rd – Sue Lowell Gallion

Sue Lowell Gallion, former Kansas SCBWI RA and PB author of the PUG MEETS PIG and PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT books, which both received starred reviews, writes for children because she is passionate about children, reading, and any combination of the two. Sue’s debut picture book,

PUG MEETS PIG, illustrated by Joyce Wan (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster) is now in its second printing.

We are definitely saving the best for last, here. Sue spoke at our Tulsa SCBWI Anniversary Dinner last year and she was just a delight. Her picture books are so adorable and she’s incredibly knowledgeable about so many things and she is generous with that knowledge with her fellow SCBWI people. You will love chatting with her!

Sue’s Twitter handle is @SueLGallion 

 

As always, we take November and December off for the holidays. Looks like it’s going to be a great year for chats! (And I’m already starting on next year’s schedule – can you believe it?) Don’t forget, if you have anyone YOU want to see as a guest, let me know and we’ll be sure to invite them if we can.

Our next chat is coming up soon. Hope to see you  there!