Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Churnin Book Giveway Winner

In our last blog post we spoke with award-winning author Nancy Churnin about her recently released non-fiction picture book biography The Queen and the First Christmas. If you missed that post, you'll want to go back and read it. It is interesting how her original story idea morphed along the way from what she intended to tell into the deeper, more meaningful story that she realized needed to be told. All the research, revisions, and that "a-ha moment" made the story so much better.

That interview ended with a giveaway of the book.

Our winner has been selected by random generator. And the winner is...

CONGRATS, Colleen! We hope you enjoy your book.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Interview with author Nancy Churnin about The Queen and the First Christmas Tree PLUS a Giveaway

by Linda Hofke

The holiday season is upon us. I was reminded of that yesterday as I drove through town. In only 15 minutes I passed three Christmas tree lots and a man hauling away a large Nordmann fir.  O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree... 

Did you know that Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we know it. It then made its way to England via Queen Charlotte. How do I know this? Because I'm a nerd who reads a lot of stuff and also because award-winning author Nancy Churnin has written a book entitled The Queen and the First Christmas Tree: Queen Charlotte's Gift to England. It has received some great reviews:
“Simple prose and light watercolors keep this retelling of historical events within the understanding of children who like a good princess story.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This piece of history reads like a story, and the charming pictures add to the fairy-tale feel. But, as the author's note reveals, this is history—a little-known piece of it. There are many holiday picture books, but few are nonfiction, making this a worthy addition to Christmas shelves.” — Booklist

“Charlotte’s enduring legacy spread from England to the United States and continues today. Delicate full-bleed illustrations done in a muted palette give the story an old-fashioned feel. A brief biography of Queen Charlotte is included as well as a list of further reading on the topic. VERDICT This additional purchase can teach young students about the origin of the Christmas tree as well as biographical information about this nature-loving monarch.” — School Library Journal

“Based on the real-life events that brought the Christmas tree to Britain, the approachable text emphasizes Charlotte’s generosity, concern for children’s welfare, and lifelong love of nature. Soft-lined illustrations in a muted palette portray a humble and relatable queen who is happiest amidst children or in her gardens.”—The Horn Book

Want a sneak peek? Here's the book trailer:

Nancy was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to discuss The Queen and the First Christmas Tree.  Here is the Q & A:
How did you get the idea for the story?

Curiosity! I always wondered how the tradition of the Christmas tree began. I started searching and I found this story of Queen Charlotte who introduced the first Christmas tree to England in 1800. That led to more questions. Who was she? What did the tree mean to her? I kept searching and discovered she was a German princess who left her country and everyone she knew when she boarded a boat to marry King George III when she was only 17. And yes, that is the same King George who lost the colonies during the American Revolution. King George has become famous all over again because of the ‘Hamilton' musical, but nobody ever talks about Charlotte. And the more I knew about her, the more I loved her. I love how she cared more about growing things in Kew Gardens and caring for children than she did for dressing up for fancy balls. I love how she was so against slavery that she and King George refused to take sugar in their tea because the tea has been grown on plantations tended by slaves. I love how she and King George were the first British royals to make charitable giving part of royal duties.

How extensive was your research and did you have any problems along the way?

I found it difficult at first to find answers to all the questions I had about her. There are encyclopedias and historical articles where I found basic facts about the big biographical dates in her life as well as about at the Christmas tree. But I wasn’t sure I could trust all the information I was gathering and I had specific questions about what the yew branch that she grew up with in Germany looked like and what plants she might have tended growing up. Then a friend put me in touch with Dr. Carolyn Harris, a royal historian and professor of history at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. She read my manuscript, corrected errors and gave me details that brought Charlotte’s story to life, including the fact that winter thyme grew near her home in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. 

Tell us a bit about your writing journey with this book? Did you have many revisions?

I knew I wanted to tell the story of how Queen Charlotte introduced the Christmas tree to England, but I learned I had to dig more deeply into who Queen Charlotte was and why motivated her to do that. I had to move from telling what happened to telling why it happened. I remember the first helpful critique I received from an editor at the 2016 WOW retreat in Helen, Georgia, pointed out that the story of the tree was fascinating, but I hadn’t yet brought Queen Charlotte to life.   That’s when I burrowed in and revised until instead of having a book about the first Christmas tree in England, I had a story about the fascinating and kind woman who brought that tree to England. 

What was your reaction the first time you saw the illustrations? Do you have a favorite page or spread?

I was enchanted by the illustrations! Luisa Uribe made it look like a fairy tale, which was absolutely perfect, because I had always envisioned this as a fairy tale that happened to be true. I love all the pages. I have a particular fondness for this one, when Princess Charlotte is trying to protect her winter thyme while the other princesses are adjusting their dresses and hair and looking at her, puzzled, through the window. It shows from the start how kind she was, how she braved the cold to protect her plants and how she did what she thought was right, regardless of what anyone else thought. It also sets up the climactic scene later when Queen Charlotte will take a walk outside in her garden, trying to think of a way to make a Christmas party special for 100 children, and come up with the idea of dragging an entire tree into Windsor Castle.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope they will be inspired by this story of a kind princess who became a kind queen and that being a queen is about more than fancy gowns or glittering jewels. It is, at is best, caring for others as Queen Charlotte cared for plants and people, from orphans that she cared for at court to mothers that she helped survive childbirth by funding the hospital that was called The Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital in her honor. She didn’t live to see England’s Parliament abolish slavery  in 1833, but her steadfast opposition helped change hearts and minds. I always have a Teachers Guide and project with my books. I hope families will check out the Teacher Guide, which has a lot of fun extras, and try the project, which is A KIND HOLIDAY. In honor of this kind queen, I am asking kids to share about kind things they do for others at whatever holidays they celebrate. I have A KIND HOLIDAY page set up on my website, www.nancychurnincom. I look forward to sharing and celebrating the kind things kids do. 

Nancy is also offering a free book to one lucky person. All you need to do is leave a comment regarding a tradition you enjoy during the holiday season and/or tell about something kind you have done for others during the holidays.  Also, though it's not required to enter, it would be great if you could also skip on over to Nancy's A KIND HOLIDAY page and take part by sharing a photo and a few words about a kindness you've done for others for whatever holiday you celebrate.  By sharing, maybe you'll inspire others to help kindness grow like Queen Charlotte's garden.  

This giveaway is open to anyone and the deadline to comment is Sunday, December 16th. The winner will be announced by December 18th.

Thanks so much, Nancy, for taking time out of your business schedule to be interviewed and for offering this fabulous prize. 

Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME, on multiple state reading lists; MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN, winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award; CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF, winner of the Silver Eureka Honor Award; IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING, on multiple best of year lists, including7 of the Best Jewish Books for Kids by Children’s Book Review; THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE, featured on the Royal News Blog. On March 5, 2019: MARTIN & ANNE, THE KINDRED SPIRITS OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND ANNE FRANK. In 2020: BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN, HOW LAURA WHEELER WARING PAINTED HER WORLD. A native New Yorker, Nancy is a graduate of Harvard University, with a master's from Columbia University School of Journalism.

On Facebook:
On Twitter: @nchurnin
On Instagram: @nchurnin

Friday, November 23, 2018

SCBWI Germany/Austria - Fall Retreat report

by Katja Rammer

The Germany/Austria chapter's Fall Retreat took place from the 19th to 21st of October at Rhoen Residence hotel near Fulda. We chose this location because it's smack in the middle of Germany. With members all over the country, we wanted to provide a place where everyone could make it there in a reasonable time.

The retreat didn't include any faculty this year. Instead, we focused on a calm and inspiring ambiance for the members to work on personal WIPs. In the end, seven members signed up for the retreat, five writers and two illustrators. This made for a neat little group.

The schedule included a get-together dinner on Friday night since most of us had not yet met one another. Some members met up early and acquainted themselves prior to dinner, arriving early to take full advantage of the weekend.
For Saturday we had a conference room set up with work desks for all attendees. We went there after a joint Breakfast and set to work. The arrangement including lunch on Saturday and another Breakfast on Sunday. And even afterward we went for some more work. Courtesy of the hotel, we were allowed to use the same conference room we had the day before on Sunday until noon.

The retreat's goal was to provide time for the attendees to work with a focus on their projects. This is why we deliberately avoided pre-scheduled talks, discussions, or activities. This promoted the feeling of an uninterrupted, quiet writing time and enabled members to dive deep into their WIPs. We used the coffee and lunch breaks to get to know each other. During breakfast and dinner they was plenty of time for chatter and discussion - often about craft issues as well as tips and tricks from PAL members. 
We all left the location having made significant progress on our WIPs. On top of that, we got to meet some splendid people and had a brilliant time. 
Here are a few members and their personal recollection of the event:

For me, the retreat came at the perfect time. I had just received revision notes from my agent on my WIP and wow - did I have a lot of work to do! At first, I was wary of working in a room with others because I’m usually quite sensitive to noise and distraction, but turns out I loved it and was extremely productive. It was so heartening to look up from my book and see six other people all busy working. Really put fire underneath me to not slack off. This weekend was one of the most productive I’ve ever had. I managed to edit 84 pages over three days and get a good grasp of how to handle the rest.

But of course, that was only one part of the weekend. Going to a SCBWI event is like coming home. Being with other creatives and talking about life, publishing and everything in between was both relaxing and inspiring. And I’d be remiss to not mention the awe I feel for every single person there and their work. It was a fantastic weekend and a repeat cannot happen soon enough.

Many, many thanks to our new RA Katja, who took an idea and made the weekend much better than I ever could have!


I looked forward to the retreat as a great opportunity to spend time with other writers, but what surprised me was the amount of work I actually managed to do. There’s something magical in being in a room with several creative heads doing creative work together. Something clicks in the brain, and the juices start flowing. It was a very productive, inspiring, and fun weekend. We have to do it again!


I fully enjoyed the company of a small group of competent fellow writers and illustrators in a relaxed and at the same time very professional atmosphere in a nice hotel near Fulda. The group spent productive hours working quietly in the "conference room" or in the hotel room. In the breaks, we had interesting conversations where we exchanged tips and tricks of the trade and learned from each other.

We met for dinner, lunch, and breakfast for more personal talks and had a really nice evening walk on our second day.

I would surely register again for another retreat with this SCBWI group – or another – next year, as this form of get-together proved itself to me to be worth both the money (hotel) and the time spent together in this focused environment.

Outlook for the future:
Since the reception of the event was positive throughout all attendees, plans for a similar event are already underway. Details will come to you via the monthly SCBWI newsletter. I hope to see you there!


Monday, November 19, 2018

Winner of The Field giveaway

In our last post we shared an interview with author Baptiste Paul.  If you missed it, you'll want to check it out HERE.

At the end of the post we offered a copy of his book The Field to one lucky person among those who commented. 

My daughter (who is home after getting her wisdom teeth out) wanted to mix the slips and pick a winner. I had to promised not to show her swollen hamster cheeks face 
but you can see that the winner is...


Thanks again to Baptiste for taking time to answer our questions and to all who read the post and commented.

And CONGRATULATIONS, Vivian Kirkfield. Please let us know if you prefer to receive the book in English or German.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Out on the field: An interview with author Baptiste Paul


By now all regions of Germany and Austria have started school. Our regional groups that took summer break are in full swing again, and our blog is back in action. We'll be posting about all things writing related. We'll continue to showcase our regional members but will also visit with other writers and illustrators from other SCBWI chapters who we can learn from. 

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Baptiste Paul. His picture book debut, The Field, released in March of this year (as well as the German edition, Das Spiel). His second book, a non-fiction picture book co-written with his wife Miranda, Adventures to School: Journeys from Around the World, published in May. A third book, I am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon will be out next year. And that's just the beginning for this wonderful writer.

Welcome, Baptiste. Thanks for taking time to share a bit about yourself and your book. My first question is: What inspired you to write this story?
The inspiration for THE FIELD came from my life experiences as a child. The idea to write it as a children’s book, however, came on a day that I was playing outside in the rain with my kids. Moments I spent playing in the rain (and mud) brought back happy memories. Imaginative play and sports were my escape from reality—the poverty and hardships I endured every day. It’s tough to talk about the struggles, though, because people start feeling sorry for you. To be honest, most of my childhood memories were quite fun.

Wow, that is the perfect example of “Write what you know.” We are often told to dig into our memories and experiences to find story ideas. THE FIELD is the perfect example of how to do so.  
Though the story follows a girl and her brother, to me the main character is the girl. She shows up on every page. Yet, her name is never mentioned. Was that intentional?
I can’t take credit for that, however, when I played as a child both girls and boys were out in the rain and the mud splashing.  The main character can be any kid, really. Everyone deserves equal representation, and especially in books and media. Girls play outside in the rain and mud just like boys. By making the main character a girl it sets the tone that we are all equal and that girls can do anything. Boys need to know and respect that just as much as girls.
Excellent point. When I compare the literature of my childhood to those being published today one thing that has improved is diversity in books. More youngsters are seeing themselves represented. That's great.
Now, let’s talk word count. Your text is really tight. With only 151 words you wrote a meaningful tale with simple yet poetic prose, and there’s this perfect play between the text and pictures. How hard was it to pare it down to such a minimal text while still retaining the story and its meaning? Were you able to make more cuts after the illustrations were complete?
The story was written over four years. I made quite a few edits over that period. I even shelved the story for a few months.  I liked the story but I couldn’t feel it or was not in love with it at that moment. I could not see the world clearly on the pages. After a few months, I realized the missing piece was the use of Creole words. Introducing the Creole words allowed me to eliminate a lot of the English words.
The illustrator Jackie Alcantara captured the world I envisioned perfectly. There were no cuts made after the illustrations were complete. I just cried after I saw my world through her eyes.
Yes!!! I absolutely love Jackie Alcantara’s illustrations. They are so colorful and lively. Not only do they show the movement of the game well but they somehow capture the mood and emotion of the tale as well. A perfect combination of pictures and text working together. 

Just look at cover. It drew me in right away.

Let’s take a closer look at your words. As a mother raising a bilingual daughter, I noticed something else wonderful while reading The Field. Within the short text you also managed to scatter Creole words though the story. You include a glossary and pronunciation guide in the back matter. Children can learn words like futbol (soccer), bol (ball) and goal (goal). My favorite part is when the girl offers her hand to an opposing player after he falls down in the mud. She asks, “Ou byen? (You okay?) That captures the spirit of a sportsmanship while introducing new language. Had you interspersed Creole through the story from the first draft or did that slowly evolve into the text.
The first draft was written entirely in English. The story went through many revisions. Although the story made sense in English something was missing — and that something was the use of my language — Creole. Creole (Patois) is a beautiful language, and it’s mostly spoken rather than written. When I read and when I write I process everything in Creole first. When we played, we yelled out in Creole, or a mix of both. Being authentic to the story meant I had to use Creole words.

Most picture books cover more than the story. There is usually an underlying theme. I think The Field has more than one. It’s not just about a friendly pick-up game of soccer. There is so much more. What do you hope readers can take away from this story?

My hope for this book is to ignite an enthusiasm for reading or writing, and a curiosity for connecting with kids from other cultures. I want every child to take my story and make it their own. Make time for play. Start conversations! Create memories!

I think they definitely will, Baptiste. 

And one lucky SCBWI member can also do so. We are giving away a copy of THE FIELD. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by October 20th*.  Tell us something related to this interview and let us know if you'd prefer the book in German or English. *Contest is international. Personal data won't be shared and all data will be deleted once the winner has claimed the prize.)
 Also, check out this book trailer of The Field from NorthSouth Books.

Baptiste Paul is a Caribbean-born author of two books for children. His debut picture book, The Field, received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Horn Book, and Booklist. According to Kirkus, his co-authored book Adventures To School, will “will pique readers’ curiosity.” His forthcoming picture book biography, I Am Farmer, chronicles the work of Cameroonian environmentalist Tantoh Nforba (2019, Lerner/Millbrook). Born and raised on the island of Saint Lucia, Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker who enjoys reading his books and sharing about his experiences with anyone who will listen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Post Mentorship Program Interview with Linda Hofke

By Patti Buff

The inaugural Europolitan Mentorship Program ended this spring and now it's time to check in with our three mentees, Tara O'Dowd, Linda Hofke, and Kerry Dwyer to see how they fared.

Our interview today is with Linda Hopke who was mentored by Jill Esbaum.

Your mentorship with Jill  is over. For 6 months the two of you worked on your projects. What stands out the most about this time?

It was a wonderful, stressful experience. Right before the mentorship started I experienced my first computer crash ever. I lost everything. Luckily, my critique group had some old drafts of mine. In the meantime, I had to use my daughter’s laptop which also crashed two months in. Then there was the Christmas holiday, a 4-month visit from my mother-in-law, the sudden death of a friend, and eight days lost to the flu. Life certainly wasn’t making things easy for me.


But I had this mentorship and, no matter what, I had to keep writing. And I did.

What stands out most about this time that no matter what life threw my way, Jill cheered me on the whole time. This may sound like a silly thing to say since Jill was my mentor but…I couldn’t have done it without her. (Thanks, Jill, for being my cheerleader and never giving up on me.)

Wow, Linda. The fact that you had all these obstacles and yet still were able to focus on your mentorship is mindboggling! I feel like most of us would have run to the nearest corner. But then again, most of us never have the chance to work with an expert so closely. So, what was it like to work so intimately with a publishing professional on your picture books? Was it challenging to rework a piece and send it to the same person for even more feedback?

Reworking a piece is always challenging. I think what’s important is that you and the publishing professional are “on the same page”. That worked out well with Jill and me.

Also, I am not one that gets easily upset over feedback. I am very open to critiques and don’t take comments personally. Plus, I felt that Jill’s advice was spot on, and she explained everything clearly. That made the task of revision a bit easier.

Two things I think Jill excels at are characterization and adding heart to a story. She showed me a few ways to improve my stories in those areas, and that has made a big difference. Now I can use those elements and techniques often.

Can you tell us in details what you worked on with your mentor? How many picture books did the two of you work on?

We worked on four picture books. First, we worked on the story I submitted to the mentorship program. Jill offered suggestion as to how I could make the story better. One important aspect was that the stakes for my main character needed to be higher. That meant making a few plot changes. I revised and Jill gave more comments. Then we put it aside and looked at a second story. For this one, the plot points were already strong, but I needed to work on characterization and get the word count down. Jill gave me links to a few articles regarding writing in the close third person. I hate to admit this but I hadn’t heard of it before. I read up on it and wrote two or three more revisions. Wow! What a difference writing in close third made. Now the reader will know my character well and root for him as he goes about tackling his problem. AND I was able to cut almost 200 words in the process. That’s a lot for a picture book.

If you’re interested here is a link to one of those articles:

At this point in the mentorship, I’d learned lots of different techniques to improve my writing and make my stories more marketable. I got brave. Instead of sending Jill an old story, I decided to write one I’d been thinking about for a while. I took out the story notes I had scribbled in a notebook and turn them into a first draft. Then I went back over it, keeping in mind all Jill had taught me. I made a few changes and ran it past my critique group. After a few more adjustments, I sent it to Jill. BINGO! She loved it. In fact, she said it was my strongest story yet. She made a few suggestions and after just one revision, she said it was spot on and submission ready. I was shocked. And happy. But the cool thing is that Jill was also very excited. We were doing the happy-dance together.

Then, even though the end of the mentorships was rapidly approaching, Jill offered to take a look at one more story. She gave feedback to help me with my revisions. Then the mentorship program ended. How quickly time flies. The months working with Jill were incredible, and I am so glad I had this opportunity to learn from her.

That's amazing. And now after this experience, how ready do you feel to put yourself and your work out into the world? Do you feel this mentorship prepared you for working with an art director/editor at a publishing house? And what’s next for you, creatively? 

In answer to the first part…yes. I do feel more confident in my writing. I’ve recently sent out a few stories, articles, and poems to magazines. No responses yet. I hadn’t sent out my picture books until last week. Why the hesitation? My top dream agent moved to a new publishing house (thankfully, to one I like) and is temporarily closed to submissions. I wanted to submit to her first before sending my work elsewhere. Unfortunately, that agency is still closed to new subs. But as luck would have it, two other opportunities arose. Both of these agents were also on my “agent wishlist”. (Let me add that my list only has 9 agents on it. I spent weeks narrowing it down to those I felt would be the best fit for my work. And along comes these opportunities with two of them that are also closed to unsolicited submissions. What are the odds of that happening?) Of course, I couldn’t let those chances go by. So now my favorite little baby, uh, I mean story, is out in the hands of two publishing professionals who I admire and respect. It’s so exciting…and a bit nerve-wracking. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In answer to your second question: With the close contact, I guess a mentorship is very similar to working with an editor. One needs to be open to suggestions and be able to rework the story in a way that pleases both the publishing professional and yourself. Yes, I feel that working with Jill has helped prepare me for this.

What’s next for me creatively? Well, for the past two years—yes, TWO YEARS--there was a bigger project I’d been meaning to tackle but never had the time (or courage) to start. It’s a MG nonfiction book. It’s been research intensive but fun. I am now writing the book proposal and sample pages. I’ve checked around and haven’t seen a book like it, so that has driven me to get it done soon. I am really excited about this topic (and am probably driving my family crazy with all the cool facts I’ve learned.) As you can tell from this photo of some of my research material the book is science related.

I also have another idea for another nonfiction book. That one is more history related and research is going well. And there’s a new fiction story in the works. I tend to have about three projects in the works at one time, all at different stages. Polish one, do early drafts of another, start research or plotting for a third. Always something to keep me busy.

This all sounds so exciting! Best of luck on the querying and working on the new project. We'll all be cheering you on. And thank you for sharing your mentorship experience with us. It sounds like it was an extremely productive time.

Europolitan Mentorship Program:

The Europolitan Mentorship program pairs qualified, inspirational mentors with aspiring authors and illustrators, who write in English, to help bring them closer to publication, or to publication at a higher level. Each mentor will select one mentee from all applicants.

This six-month online one-on-one program provides mentees the opportunity to work personally with and learn from a successful professional with teaching experience and a proven track record in children’s literature. Look for the announcement for the 2019 Mentorship Program in Spring 2019!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Post Mentorship Program Interview with Tara O'Dowd

by Patti Buff

The inaugural Europolitan Mentorship Program ended this spring and now it's time to check in with our three mentees, Tara O'Dowd, Linda Hopke, and Kerry Dwyer to see how they fared.

Tara O'Dowd
Our first interview is with Tara who was mentored by Janet Fox.

 Your mentorship with Janet is over. For 6 months the two of you worked on your project Middle Grade project. What stands out the most about this time?

How intense it was!!! Patti Buff sent out an email to the three of us in the mentorship program, warning us that this was likely to be emotionally intense and to require a lot of work. I remember wondering how it could be any more intense than preparing for a contest or for submitting your work for critique. I was completely wrong. 

The first time I sent my entire novel off to Janet, I was terrified that she would reply that it was a disaster. She did not, and she kindly warned me each time she sent feedback that I might feel bad about her comments despite the fact that she felt I was making great strides… Even with her thoughtfulness, revising an entire novel with major goals in mind and a deadline three times in eight months, while under a lot of pressure for my paid work, was something else. 

What got me through it? The fun novels Janet recommended, lots of Russian ice cream (for research purposes only…), and my dog Troika—the best typing disruptor in the world. And the quirky bits in my novel—Janet made me put more of the fun stuff in.

Strangest place I wrote: on the bleachers at the ice rink. Despite/because of the cold, I revised/rewrote about 10,000 words there. Good ones, too!

Fun fact: my day job is as a union organizer, and I was leading meal delivery riders on strike for a couple months during this process… Ironically, as zombies crept back into my revision they also crept into one of the actions I was involved in. Not through my doing—I swear it!

Long ice skating practices offer productive work time

Learning to write everywhere, at anytime, is so important. Most of us never have the chance to work with an expert so closely. What was it like to work so intimately with a publishing professional on your project? Was it challenging to rework a piece and send it to the same person for even more feedback?

Before this mentorship, I had received critiques from a few other publishing professionals, as well as feedback from a number of peers. Working with Janet for six months, gave me a feeling of purpose and trust (although I still had jitters each time I waited for her comments!) that I missed with the piecemeal approach, as well as, I believe, reducing the amount of time necessary to clean up the internal and external plot lines. It is like choosing the train itinerary that goes straight through instead of the one that leaves earlier but involves five changes.

Can you tell us in details what you worked on with your mentor? Did you work on one or several aspects of your novel? 

We worked on my MG novel ROYAL ROSALIE AND THE ZOMBIE MISSION. It had been through several drafts at the beginning of the mentorship, but the emotional line of the plot was missing. We went through three revisions of the entire novel (!) with substantial plot changes in each revision, as well as developing my understanding of how characters’ emotional arcs inform plot. With each draft, Janet was able to pinpoint precisely which books on craft—sometimes to the chapter—would be most helpful to address the issues with my WIP.

Janet is not only kind, but she has great insight into what is going on with a WIP. She also has amazing craft knowledge—imagine being able to refer a writer to chapter X of Y book, the second edition. I would highly recommend working with her if you get the chance. And buy her books! The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is the best creepy MG I’ve read in a long time. Maybe ever. 

Research? If I must....

That's amazing. Her webinar on revision Janet held in June was also jam packed with details, so I can only imagine what it was like working with her for 6 months. Now after this experience, how ready to you feel to put yourself and your work out into the world? Do you feel this mentorship prepared you for working with an art director/editor at a publishing house? And what’s next for you, creatively? 

Yes! Per Janet, I am one draft away from querying… Queue the jitters. 

I had two projects in the works before the mentorship. One was a superhero novel, and the other a simple, mean comedy. I have to take a look back at both and see which one appeals. I would also like to write a girl’s illustrated diary with a confident, take-charge MC, and a twist on a boy’s dancing book. After I get this next draft done, though.

Trioka - the cheerleader/disrupter 

How exciting! Best of luck on querying, Tara. We'll all be cheering you on. And thank you for sharing your mentorship experience with us. It sounds like it was an amazing time.

Europolitan Mentorship Program:

The Europolitan Mentorship program pairs qualified, inspirational mentors with aspiring authors and illustrators, who write in English, to help bring them closer to publication, or to publication at a higher level. Each mentor will select one mentee from all applicants.

This six-month online one-on-one program provides mentees the opportunity to work personally with and learn from a successful professional with teaching experience and a proven track record in children’s literature. Look for the announcement for the 2019 Mentorship Program in Spring 2019!