Sunday, November 6, 2016

Various Thoughts from the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair draws people from around the world together to celebrate and sell books. This year, SCBWI Germany and Austria organized an AirBnB apartment for members to use as a home base and a workshop with literary agent Hannah Sheppard. Since the fair is too large for one person to dissect and analyze, I asked SCBWI members to write up their own experience of the fair. Enjoy!

Patti Buff

Having only been to the Bologna Book Fair last spring, a fair that focuses solely on children’s books, I was looking forward to seeing how “The Big Kids” played. And I wasn’t disappointed. First off, Frankfurt is the largest book fair in the world. There were four buildings to explore, one completely dedicated to books published in German. Sprinkled around the other buildings though, were publishers from every corner of the world, serving diverse markets from dictionaries to virtual reality apps. But foremost, Frankfurt is a rights fair. Millions of Euros worth of deals were made for books from all around the world. Which lends an exciting vibe to the fair, the thought that at one of the many tables around the fair, numerous authors and illustrators dreams of being published around the world were coming true.

What was also different and perhaps more “adult” about Frankfurt from the Bologna Fair is the number of talks given at every minute of the day. Not only by authors or publishing experts, but also on political topics such as Thinking Alternatives: Visions on the consequences of the refugee crisis on Europe. Or Populism in Europe – the Role of Art and Culture. Both of which I found extremely interesting. Another talk I enjoyed was the presentation of The White Ravens list of the best international children's and youth literature. A list compiled by the International Children's Library in Munich.

But without a doubt, the highlight of my visit was the chance to hear Nujeen Mustafa, a young Syrian girl with cerebral palsy who has lived her entire life in a wheelchair talk about how she and her sister fled the violence in Syria and came to Germany. On foot! And I realized that I still have so much to learn, not just about publishing and writing, but about life in general. And isn’t that what good art is supposed to do? Make us question everything we know? I think so.

Katja Jammer 
SCBWI members Katja, Laurel, Patti & Chazda

It was my first time ever to visit a book fair and a rather spontaneous idea. I wasn't disappointed at all. If anything, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and number of displays at the fair. Having only one day to spend, I could not possible see it all. Best thing though, was meeting up with fellow writers, bloggers and book-lovers in RL. Many I knew only via Facebook or SCBWI Pages, but now we met in person. 

I will definitely consider going again next year. 

Laurel Decher

In my German village—as charming as it is—there aren’t many people writing children’s books in English. Recently, I’ve collected so much information, but opportunities to process with other writers are rare. So I really enjoyed connecting with other SCBWI writers in real life. I hadn’t met most of them in person and they were delightful! 

Photo by Marcy Pusey
Some of us met twice in two weeks because we were at Dan Wells’ free workshop in Stuttgart and met up again at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Speaking of opportunities, I admired the way our Regional Advisor Patti Buff stepped up and engaged with people to find speakers for SCBWI events. Go Patti! One person she engaged with was Jude Evans from Little Tiger Press who gave us a sneak peek of picture books coming out in 2017. These beautiful works of art reminded me again of the value of physical books.

A bookmaking workshop reminded me how important play is when you make things. Hall 4.0 is full of companies that provide the raw materials for physical books. At the bookmaking workshop, you got to choose a piece of leather from an amazing selection. Second-year students from the Gutenbergschule in Frankfurt taught the double figure eight binding stitch. I never knew you held the awl at a 45-degree angle to punch the holes through the paper and the leather. It’s much easier than hammering a push pin through a bunch of pages. Not that I ever tried that.

The Fair is overwhelmingly big and there’s so much information coming at you that it helps to have a fun and concrete goal. Mine was to get a Langenscheidt’s bag from the heart of the busy German-language Hall 3.0. When I studied in Germany, my Langenscheidt dictionary was my trusty companion. I scored one of these screaming yellow bags with the giant aqua L after three years of trying. The triumphs of life. 

At a panel about translators, an English-German translator who does children’s books said you get to know the author by translating and that you become friends because you have to understand before you can translate.

I realized again how practical fiction is. Children’s books have a number of purposes aside from telling a good story. For example, middle grade books are for new readers. Kids read and enjoy and hopefully they go on to read more books. Fun is critical. Years ago, I heard YA author Joan Bauer say: “It’s okay to go deep but then lighten up and have a little fun.”

It was so fun to have dinner with writers and speak English and talk about everything from American elections to immigration and how Americans describe their own national narrative.

Our SCBWI visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair was fun and refreshing. I feel inspired to write engaging books and try them in different channels, but I’ll also be watching to see what my SCBWI writer friends are up to.

If you missed the Fair, stay tuned; another NRW Scrawl Crawl is coming up Saturday December 3th, 2016, 10-12 AM.

For more about the Fair, see my post at The Winged Pen.

Catherine Friess

It was my first visit to Frankfurt Book Fair and as an accredited blogger I was very excited to get a press pass. My main reason for going was to meet the publishers who send me books to review on Story Snug and to browse through their new titles. It was also useful for my own writing and interesting to see where my picture books could fit into the market.
Photo by Marcy Pusey

My first impression of the Book Fair was Usborne Books’ beautiful green stand; at that moment I felt like a kid in a sweetshop and didn’t know where to start looking first. Thanks to the Frankfurt App I had a good idea of where the people I wanted to see were located and I knew which talks and events I wanted to attend. A tour of international children’s publishers at the beginning of my visit helped me to get my bearings and then I just browsed and talked to various publishers, it was also great to spot books by SCBWI members.

It was fun sharing an apartment with SCBWI Germany/Austria members, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Hannah’s submissions workshop gave us a chance to think about our own writing and although I was only away for a night it still feels that I packed a lot into those two days. I hope that we can do it all again next year!

Chazda Albright

Photo by Marcy Pusey
The Frankfurt Fair this year was considerably more relaxed. What struck me immediately is that people were dressed much more casually than in previous years (I didn't see any $2,000 suits or outfits, which used to be the norm). All in all, everyone was more approachable. There were only a couple of people who were clearly too stressed-out to talk with me, and under those specific circumstances it was understandable.

There was only one publisher who has a closed-mouth policy, in that they don't allow anyone - not even their hostesses - to make any kind of statement. The publisher-reps only speak with those who have made a previous appointment. Everyone else I approached was allowed to speak to other people - even others of The Big-Five.

For me personally, this was the most fun book fair. I've never before been greeted so warmly and with such interest by other publishing professionals. It was really great to meet other SCBWI members, people who I had either met in Bologna or whose names I previously had only seen on my computer screen. That makes it even more fun, and honestly, much more laid-back.

The scale of Frankfurt never fails to impress me. What's changing is the number of indie and self published people who are joining in the fair - and ultimately, changing it for everyone. Even The Big Five.

Marcy Pusey
Housemates Laurel, Patti, Catherine & Marcy
Even though I've lived in Germany for five years, I've never attended the Frankfurt Book Fair until this year. I just couldn't wrap my brain around how spending that money and time would benefit me as a writer, since much of the fair is about selling foreign rights (or so I thought). I'm so glad I went! It's not beneficial in the ways I normally look for... meeting agents and editors (though we did meet a sweet agent at a workshop in our Airbnb) or attending workshops that directly impact my writing. It was beneficial in the way of connecting myself with the global industry of writing and publishing. It was MASSIVE. I spent hours on the children's lit floor and could have spent many more. There's also a whole section on self-publishing, which I've done with one book for adults now and I loved connecting with that part of the industry as well. My favorite, of course, was spending the time with other SCBWI writers and illustrators, chatting over dinner, snatching Dan Wells for dinner, and the moments in between where we share life, our work, and meet face to face. I chose to only spend a few hours of one day at the fair... in the future, I would definitely go for a few days and take my time soaking in everything that's available there. 

Linda Hofke

Piper Author panel with Dan Wells
I attended only on Saturday. Since the Frankfurt Book Fair is gigantic, I didn't get to see everything. I spent most of my time perusing the English children's books to see what topics/books are new or popular at the moment. It is so beneficial to know the market. I also had a pleasant conversation with the representative at the Highlights for Children booth, watched an authors panel, met some new SCBWI friends, and even bought a few books for the bus ride home. It was a very long but enjoyable day.

Thank you everyone! As you can see, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a varied as the books being published every year. Below is the official video of the fair I thought you might enjoy. I hope to see more members and members' books there next year!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Polish that Draft! Workshop with Dan Wells

by Linda Hofke

So you've got your first (or second, third, twentieth...) draft of your book completed and now need to polish it to perfection. It's a daunting task, and you might not know where to start or how to do it effectively. After all, completing the starting draft was hard enough!

If this sounds like you then you should have been with us at the DAZ in Stuttgart on October 15th. Author Dan Wells graciously agreed to give a free workshop on finishing your work. Thank you, Dan! And also a big thank you goes out to Lindsey Cole who organize the event for us.

Twelve attendees, both SCBWI members and non-members, learned helpful finishing techniques as Dan shared his own method with us. Having published eleven books to date, Dan has developed an effective step-by-step plan to go from starting draft to finished manuscript.

Dan said a good friend once told him, “Your first draft is what you want to say. Your last draft is how you want to say it.”

Great point. But, of course, getting from the “what” to the “how” takes a lot of time, revision, and editing. To make the process easier, Dan broke everything down into three phases: wide angle, close up, and polishing. Each of those phases has several steps which include tasks such as evaluating your first page, foreshadowing, chapter breaks, emotional pull, ensuring a satisfying ending, line edits, and much more. I won't list everything here but will tell you that his method is very thorough.  As a picture book writer who is just venturing out into the world of middle grade and young adult fiction, I found it very helpful. 

From left: Linda Hofke, Katja Rammer, Catherine Friess,
Sanne Dufft, Laurel Decher

During a question and answer session, further writing topics were discussed. These topics included anything from writing groups to agents. We also asked about the recently released film of his first book in the John Cleaver series, I am Not a Serial Killer, and about his new book Bluescreen.

Dan also signed books.

Thank you Dan for a wonderful workshop and an enjoyable day.

* * * *

Dan Wells is the author of the John Cleaver series and the Partials series. He also has several stand alone books and short stories. He has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Campbell Award. If you are not familiar with Dan or his books, you can learn more at his website:

Dan has also won two Parsec Awards for his weekly podcast Writing Excuses. The podcast offer tips on anything writing related such as character development, pacing, motivation, and the dreaded “killing your darlings.” You can check it out here:

There is also a Writing Excuses Retreat which takes place on a cruise ship, and in 2017 it will be coming to Europe. Tentative dates are July 30th-August 5th. Keep an eye out on the Writing Excuses event page if you are interested in writing and learning while cruising in the Baltic Sea.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Launch from SCBWI Member Barbara Schneider

One of my favorite things about being the regional advisor of SCBWI is announcing new books made by our members. Today we'd like to feature the coloring book REMEMBERING THE LADIES: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates.

What could be more appropriate as the United States elections are a mere five weeks away. Here's a sneak preview:

( Lucretia Mott) by  B a r b a r a  Schneider, part of the illustration/ coloring page


"Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates"
by Carl Simon Levin, illustrated by 35 artists

With Illustrations by 35 Artists (incl. SCBWI MEMBERS) :
Aarti Arora, Aditi Tandon, Aileen Wu, Arlene Holmes, Barbara Schneider, Caroline Mack, Caroline Yorke, Crina Magalio, Diana Patton, Holly Bess Kincaid, Jasmine Florentine, Jen Wistuba, Jill Obrig, Jill Schmidt, Jody Flegal, Judy Hnat, Julie Goetz, Justine Turnbull, Kat Schroeder, Kim Defibaugh, Kim Wood, Laura Leigh Myers, Laura Davidson, Lena Shiffman, Leslie Simon, Lynnor Bontigao, Mariya Kovalyov, Mary Delaney Connelly, Monisha Kulkarni, Natalie Obedos, Rachel Wintemberg, Sheryl Depp, Tiffany Castle, Tish Wells, and Victoria Ford.

About the Author 

Carol Simon Levin is a Youth Services Librarian, author, storyteller and program presenter based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Whether she is impersonating the woman who helped to build the Brooklyn Bridge, telling the amazing stories of early women in aviation, engaging families in a rousing Halloween Hootenanny of songs and stories, expanding on the mathematical and artistic possibilities of a simple square, or sharing the story of a dolphin who learned to swim with an artificial tail (along with activities to help children understand what it is like to live with a disability), she always strives to create exciting programs that engage her audience’s interests and expand their horizons. She is happy to bring her presentations to libraries, senior centers, historical societies, schools, camps and other venues. She has always been particularly fascinated by the history of technology and women’s history. Visit or for more information on her books and presentations. Additional programs and resources for children and teachers can be found at: Carol Simon Levin is a member of the New Jersey Library Association, the New Jersey Storytelling Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Coloring Pages  "Lucretia Mott (1793- 1880)" 
                    and  "Lucy Stone (1818- 1893)" are  illustrated by B a r b a r a.

Inside VIEW: Lucy Stone (1818- 1893)
Left page: Bio, Fascinating Factoid, Read more, Visit tips and quotations by author Carol Simon Levin 
Right page: Coloring page/ illustration by B a r b a r a

Congratulations to Barbara and to all the other contributors to this wonderful project.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Pain and Joy of My New Picture Book

by Ashley Lucus

This past spring I had an amazing opportunity to get one of my picture books potentially published by one of ‘the big five’. I was over the moon with excitement! FINALLY - after almost fifteen years of hard work and sacrifice, I was getting my work into the hands of amazing editors and decision makers. I was planning on a deal by Christmas and dreaming about seeing my book in stores.

I have had several books published in the past by some lovely indie and trade publishers, but they have been exclusively available online and in small retail shops. I felt like this time, I was surely going to see my work in New York City’s Union Square Barnes & Noble; or better yet - Books of Wonder on 18th Street!

Long story short, the opportunity fell through. I was left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and despair. How many MORE times will things not work out? How many more rejections will enter my life? How can I keep doing this to myself, not to mention all my family members that have had to suffer through my emotions too! Authors and illustrators reading this - I’m just being honest and I know you can relate.

After a few weeks of muddling through true depression, I realized all the hard work I had done for months developing ideas and artwork should not disappear in vain. I reworked the story and characters and posted a simple question to my social media audience asking if they’d be interested in my idea, and I got a resounding answer - YES!

I decided, as I have done a few times in the past, to self publish my story. I started to post questions on Facebook and Instagram, gaining key insights from my audience on what art styles and characters they liked most. I felt a great momentum building, and it was enough to push me into a 40 hour a week work cycle to complete the story. I created a dummy book, character sketches, photographed hundreds of miniature props and worked in Photoshop until my fingers were numb. When I received the first proof from CreateSpace, I was disappointed to see half the book just didn’t look right, so I dedicated two more weeks to finishing and redoing all the handwritten text again.

I believe a picture book isn’t just the book you see. It’s the hundreds of hours behind it. The joy, the tears and the reality that sometimes your passion might never truly pay off. It is pure dedication.

In August, I officially released Iggie’s Gingerbread on Amazon and am thrilled with the final product. I love how it looks, and am glad I pushed as hard as I did to make it. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies via a marketing plan that includes tons of social engagement and some short and sweet stop motion videos.

The lesson I learned from all of this, is that following your passion is imperative to being happy as a creative individual. The right people will come along and support and guide you, if you are true to yourself. Don’t hold back! If there is a will, there certainly is a way.

I would love to discuss any aspect of my journey with you, so please feel free to comment or reach me directly at I truly love connecting with other SCBWI writers and illustrators! You can also find me on social media @LadyLucasArt and my new book can be found on Amazon via this link

Love & Lemonade, 

Ashley Lucas

Ashley Lucas (also known as her artist name Lady Lucas) was born and raised in rural Lancaster, PA. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has been self employed with her own arts business since 2011. Ashley has authored and illustrated a number of whimsical hand drawn story and coloring books including Boo, Bat & Pumpkin Throw a Party and The Magical Garden Coloring Book. Her most recent picture book, Iggie's Gingerbread, is based on her adventures living abroad in Salzburg with her Austrian husband. Ashley is an avid lover of animals and nature and a proud vegetarian. She can be found online anytime via her website

Monday, September 5, 2016

Social Media in 140 Characters (Twitter, Tweetdeck & Co.)

By Laura Rueckert

On the Friends of SCBWI Germany & Austria Facebook Page, we were talking about different forms of social media. Several of us extolled the charms of Twitter, and I suggested we give anyone who isn't familiar with it an overview. Twitter is a wonderful way to engage with peers, follow people you admire, and find loads of information. I've met at least one critique partner on Twitter, too.

What is Twitter?
It's a type of social media that allows you to read and post short messages, no more than 140 characters. These messages are called tweets.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is public, meaning everyone can see what you post. You can
follow anyone you like. They do not have to follow you back in order to see their tweets.

Twitter is distracting, but it's also more than that!

What can you find on Twitter?

People write about everyone and everything, but for the purpose of this article, I'll focus on writing-related topics.

The Main FeedThis is where you find tweets from people you follow.

NotificationsWhen people write to or about you, they'll appear here.

Twitter chats—Topics are announced and moderated. Usually, there are a few scheduled
participants, but anyone can add their own questions and comments. Some topics I've recently seen were Religion and Faith in Kidlit discussions and 2016 debut author interviews.

Pitch Contests—Write a 140 character teaser for your manuscript to entice agents or editors to request it. These events are announced ahead of time to allow you to prepare. Some examples are #pitmad#dvpit#sffpit.

Share a line of your WIP—There are several hashtags like this. One I find fun is #1linewed. A
topic is announced, and you find a line in your WIP that relates to the topic. Examples of past topics have been "work" and "fire."

Direct Messages (DM)A DM is a hidden place to have a private conversation. Only you and the people in that conversation can see the tweets, which are allowed to be longer than 140 characters.

What tools make Twitter easier?

Hashtags—Hashtags are basically just a way to group information. For example, people who tweet
helpful information regarding querying often use the hashtag #querytip. You can
search via the hashtag to find a large pool of suggestions on querying.

Lists—Twitter moves fast. It's easy to become overwhelmed or feel like you are missing a lot.
You can group people you follow based on any criteria you like. I have lists for Writers, Resources, Agents, Publishers, Bloggers/Reviewers, and one I call "Look". If I don't have much time, "Look" is the only one I check, and it includes my closer friends, my CPs and my agent.

What if I want more functionality?

If you need more help in organizing Twitter, you can use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. They use all of the data from Twitter, but have two advantages:
  • You can schedule tweets. Let say you want to promote something and won't be awake
    or around to do it. Or maybe you need to enter a contest that only accepts
    entrants at a certain time. You can schedule a tweet to be sent automatically
    at a time you specify.
  • A column is shown for each list you've created. You can see at a glance what's
    going on in each area you follow.


I've tried both Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Once upon a time, Hootsuite's schedule
function wasn't working and I switched to Tweetdeck, which I love. To be fair,
Hootsuite is probably fine now too. I think it's just a matter of personal

Where do I start?

When you create your account, you'll be asked to select a few people to follow. For example, you could follow your favorite authors (and actors, bands, etc). In terms of writing though, these would be my recommendations. I'd love to see everyone else's recs in the comments!

Writers and/or Editors—writing tips, querying tips, book recommendations

Contests—some contests are actually on Twitter, and some are only announced there but take
place on blogs. Possible prizes could be a critique or that an agent requests pages.

Resources—agent and author interviews, giveaways, writing tips


Agents—If you're planning on querying an agent, following them on twitter can give you insights
into what they're looking for and what kind of personality they have. These agents also tend to share helpful writing and querying tips:

  • #mswl is "Manuscript wishlist." Agents and editors share what they're
    looking for, and you can mention it when you query/submit. Please do not pitch
    your work using this hashtag.
  • #askagent  Some agents announce when they'll have time for you to ask them questions
    about publishing, querying, even what they are personally interested in
  • #querylunch  Many agents tweet about their submissions (anonymously). I like this one
    because Agent Amy Boggs uses 2-3 tweets per query and really explains what she
    found interesting or problematic.
  • #querywin
    is new and sounds promising. Instead of focusing on what didn't work in
    queries, agents will tweet what made them request pages.
  • #writetip  Just like it sounds, tips on writing.

One caveat! Since people can say anything they want, do your research before following suggestions or making decisions. Not everyone who gives advice, not everyone who calls themselves a publisher/agent/editor is necessarily experienced or trustworthy.

I hope this was enough to get you started. Hope to see you on Twitter, and feel free to add any questions you might have in the comments!

About Laura:

Laura grew up in Michigan but dove into a whirlwind romance just after college, which meant moving to southern Germany without a job, but with a lot of love. She and her husband married a blink of an eye later, and they've now lived there happily for more years than seem possible. By day, Laura manages process and system projects, and she's a mother of two. Nights and stolen daytime hours are devoted to living in her head: writing YA science fiction and fantasy novels. Laura is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, and her work is represented by Zoe Sandler of ICM Partners.