Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 17, 2017

Book Giveaway – Ruby and Me

Author Shannon Hitchcock has agreed to Giveaway a copy of her new book RUBY AND ME. She sent me a copy and I can’t wait to read it. I’ll tell you about it when I announce the winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.



Everything’s changing for Sarah Beth Willis. After Robin’s tragic accident, everyone seems different somehow. Days on the farm aren’t the same, and the simple fun of riding a bike or playing outside can be scary. And there’s talk in town about the new sixth-grade teacher at Shady Creek. Word is spreading quickly–Mrs. Smyre is like no other teacher anyone has ever seen around these parts. She’s the first African American teacher. It’s 1969, and while black folks and white folks are cordial, having a black teacher at an all-white school is a strange new happening. For Sarah Beth, there are so many unanswered questions. What is all this talk about Freedom Riders and school integration? Why can’t she and Ruby become best friends? And who says school isn’t for anybody who wants to learn–or teach? In a world filled with uncertainty, one very special teacher shows her young students and the adults in their lives that change invites unexpected possibilities.

30 May 1961, Times Square, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA --- Freedom Group Hangs Signs on Bus. New York: Members of a group called "The Washington Freedom Riders Committee" hang signs on the side of bus parked near the crossroads cafe at Times Square here May 30th, before leaving for Washington, D.C. The group plan to picket the white House in Washington. A spokesman for the group said it is demanding resolute federal action to protect the lives and civil rights of the Negroes in the south. The unidentified spokesman said they would request to see a representative of President Kennedy to present its demands. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

30 May 1961, Times Square, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA — Freedom Group Hangs Signs on Bus. New York: Members of a group called “The Washington Freedom Riders Committee” hang signs on the side of bus parked near the crossroads cafe at Times Square here May 30th, before leaving for Washington, D.C. to picket the white House in Washington. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS Research picture used by Shannon to help write the book.


I first connected with my editor, Andrea Pinkney in 2012 at the Orlando SCBWI conference. I had written a picture book about school integration and specifically attended the conference hoping to meet Andrea. I signed up to have CORN SILK critiqued, but was not assigned to work with Andrea. Not to be deterred, I attended every workshop Andrea taught that weekend. At one point she asked if anyone would like to read their first page out loud to her. I did so, and afterward Andrea gave me her business card and asked to see the manuscript as a formal submission. My agent, Deborah Warren, subbed it to her.

About six months later, Andrea rejected the PB, but said she would like to see a MG novel from me that had the same themes as the PB. The thing was I had a MG novel that featured a friendship between an African-American girl and a white girl. I started wondering if I could combine the two ideas. I drew up a new outline and basically started from scratch. I took a completed draft to a namelos Whole Novel Workshop and worked with the amazing Carolyn Coman. When I felt the draft was strong enough, Deborah subbed it to Andrea. That same day, Andrea asked if I would consider rewriting the manuscript from third person to first person. I agreed to do so. Then Andrea and I spoke on the phone and she shared her vision for the manuscript. I took copious notes and continued to revise. Finally it was ready to send back to Andrea.

Deborah Warren shared that Andrea liked the revision, but then nothing happened for a while. Several months later, Deborah called to say it was too close to the holidays and a bad time for Andrea to take the manuscript to acquisitions. We agreed to wait. Deborah, Andrea, and I had a private meeting at the Miami SCBWI Conference in 2014. Andrea shared that she would be taking the manuscript to acquisitions and we would have an answer by the end of February. On February 27th, 2014, nearly two years after the Orlando Conference, I got the call. My novel, Ruby Lee & Me was published by Scholastic on January 5, 2016.

Nothing happens easily for me in this business. It’s like that Mary Chapin Carpenter song, “Everything I got, I got it the hard way.”



My love of stories began with my mother’s voice.  In her slow Southern drawl, she read the fairytales, “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  I shivered when the mean ol’ giant chased Jack.  I clapped with delight when Jack chopped down the beanstalk.

Though I loved stories, I had trouble learning to read.  Our first grade teacher divided the class into three reading circles.  The Blue Birds were the best readers; the Red Birds were the second best readers, and the Yellow Birds were last.  I was a Yellow Bird and ashamed of myself.

But that changed with the help of two wonderful teachers. Mrs. Pauline Porter patiently taught me to read. With her help, I moved from a Yellow Bird, to a Red Bird, and finally to the coveted Blue Bird reading circle.My second grade teacher was Mrs. Barbara Hutchens. She sponsored a contest to see which student could read the most books during the school year. I won the contest, and Mrs. Hutchens changed my life. She introduced me to the biographies of Annie Oakley, Betsy Ross, and Nancy Todd Lincoln. I became a lifelong reader.

My teachers turned me into a reader, but it was my sister who turned me into a storyteller. Snuggled under the covers, Robin said, “Tell me a bedtime story.”

So I began, “Once upon a time, there was a boy named Billy who rode a beautiful horse named Blaze.” Robin loved the Billy and Blaze books by C. W. Anderson.

But, one night she said, “Not those stories. Make up stories about us.”

The “us” was Robin and her pony Surelick, our cousin Penny and her pony, Tennessee, and of course there was me – Shannon and my pony, Spot.

That’s how I became a storyteller. Whispering stories about “The Carolina Cowgirls” to my sister late at night.

It would be many years before I captured these stories on paper. I grew up and worked as an accountant, a human resources manager, and an office manager. Later, I became a mother. I read a library full of books to my son and dreamed of publishing stories of my own.

In 1999, my sister Robin died in a car crash. She was 34 years old. I decided that life was too short for unfulfilled dreams and started to write. THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL is my debut novel.

The ALAN Review hailed Shannon Hitchcock as, “A New Voice in Historical Fiction.” She’s the author of the Crystal Kite award-winning novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, and a second novel, Ruby Lee & Me, a nominee for the 2017-2018 Nebraska Chapter Book Golden Sower Award. Shannon’s writing has also been published in numerous magazines, including, Highlights for Children, Cricket, and Children’s Writer. She currently divides her time between Tampa, Florida and Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Look for Shannon’s next book, One True Way, forthcoming from Scholastic in 2018. 

Thank you Shannon for sharing your book’s journey and offering a copy of RUBY AND ME to one lucky winner.  Here’s the link to Amazon.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 16, 2017

Agent Looking for Clients

esakiraKira Watson graduated from Hunter College where she earned a BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing) and a BA in Russian Language & Culture.

Kira is particularly interested in young adult and middle grade books with a strong narrative voice, well-crafted storylines, and memorable characters. Within YA and MG, Kira is actively seeking realistic fiction, speculative fiction, magic realism, thriller/mystery, horror, fantasy, and historical fiction. Stories with folklore elements, complex villains, morally enigmatic (and very flawed) protagonists, medieval literature influences, and taboo subjects are bound to catch Kira’s attention.

They accept only electronic queries, and ask that all queries be sent to rather than to any agent directly. Please begin your query with a succinct (and hopefully catchy) description of your plot or proposal. Always include a brief cover letter telling us how you heard about ESA, your previous writing credits, and a few lines about yourself. We cannot open any attachments unless specifically requested, and ask that you paste the first ten (10) pages of your proposal or novel into the text of your e-mail.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 15, 2017

New Winners – Kudos and Industry Changes

I never got a response from two winners, so I have picked runners-ups for the following books:

Linda Mitchell (original winner) Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson – runner-up: Carol Federline Baldwin.
Maria Marshal (original winner) Where Do Fairies Go When it Snows by Louise Gardner Walsh – runner-up KSBeth.

The winners have until Tuesday to send me their address. In the meantime, runners-ups please email me your addresses. Thanks!

winterfunValeria Wicker is an aspiring children’s book illustrator who graduated from Italian Art and Design Institute in Rome, Italy. Her favorite technique is watercolor and pencils, but is proficient in the use of Illustrator and Photoshop.


Shannon Hitchcock for being nominated by the Nebraska Library Association for the 2017-2018 Nebraska Golden Sower Award for her chapter book RUBY LEE AND ME.

Ame Dyckman nominated by the Nebraska Library Association for the 2017-2018 Nebraska Golden Sower Award for her picture book WOLFIE THE BUNNY.

Tara Lazar just told me she is having two books come out in the first half of 2017. Both are on Pre-order WAY PAST BEDTIME (April) and 7 ATE 9 (May)

YAY! Shannon and Ame and Tara!

At Penguin, Shannon Kelly has been promoted to assistant editor.

At Henry Holt, Serena Jones has been promoted to executive editor. In addition, Caroline Zancan moves up to senior editor, and Eleanor Embry has been promoted to assistant editor.

Kristina Forest has joined Random House Children’s as subsidiary rights coordinator. Previously she was subsidiary rights assistant at Simon & Schuster Children’s.

Melanie Fried has joined Harlequin’s Graydon House imprint as editor.

Chris McEwen has been promoted to creative executive at New Leaf Literary & Media. Previously, he was story editor.

At Scholastic Jody Corbett has been promoted to senior editor, while Erin Black and Paige Hazzan have both moved up to editor, and Weslie Turner is now assistant editor, Arthur A. Levine Books.

Chris Francis has joined Sourcebooks as assistant editor.

Danielle Smith has left Red Fox Literary after three years to launch her own literary agency, Lupine Grove Creative, with most of her clients set to follow her to the new agency. See last Thursday’s post.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 14, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Natali Sejuro Aliaga


I always liked to draw but I thought that was not lived. The closest thing to an art career was graphic design, I thought, so that I studied. I dedicated to the graphic advertising area for several years but my vocation for drawing was stronger. I left everything I did and now I am dedicated to illustrate children’s books, educational material, pedagogical, among other things. I am also a product brand design: Natalúdica ®.

Represented by Good Illustration Agency Represented by Good Illustration Agency

Here is Natali discussing her process:

Homage to Beatrix Potter


Documentation and quick sketch to develop the idea


Draw everything separately



Final composition in Photoshop with all the scanned drawings


Collage that will work as a background


Drawing on a layer above the collage


Finally, in Photoshop I add colour and textures


Final Illustration


How long have you been illustrating?

Since 2008.  I was commissioned to illustrate a children book collection for the Peruvian Department of Education. It was my first paid work as a professional Illustrator. I was also in charge of graphic design and layout for the whole collection.


Where do you live?

I live in humid, kind of chaotic, yet beautiful Lima, capital of Perú.


What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

As a student, I was paid to paint some watercolors. They were used as greeting cards.


Did you go to school for art?

Yes, I studied at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.


What did you study there?

I studied Arts and Design. I have an Art Degree with a specialization in graphic design.


Did college help develop your style?

I think you develop a style over years and it is very much a process, although college did help me to understand that I needed to develop a personal language as an artist.


What type of work did you do after you got out of school?

My first work after college was designing layouts for webpages.


Did they help you get work after you graduated?

No, I actually got my first job by responding to a newspaper advertisement.


Have you seen your work change since you graduated?

Absolutely, over the years I’ve improved my art skills and developed a personal style I am comfortable with. It’s a process as I said before and it is changing permanently.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?

I would love to.  Actually, I have an ongoing picture book project. I need to finish it properly.


Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

No, but it is something I would like to try.


How did you connect with Good for representation? How long have you been with them?

They contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being part of the agency and I have been happily with them since mid-2015.


Do you do art exhibits?

I have participated in a couple of exhibitions, yes.


Do you illustrate full time?

Yes, it is my main occupation but I also teach at a University and at an Institute.


Do you belong to an illustrating or writing critique group?

Yes, we share our work and goals, it helps me to keep on track.


Do you have a favorite medium you use?

Love graphite and colour pencils but collage and mix media are my preferred mediums.



Tell me about the mugs and plates that you paint. Do you make the mugs and paint on the glaze and fire it on in a kiln?

I buy the mugs, paint them with a porcelain ink and fire it in my home oven. The firing process only takes 30 minutes. They are dishwasher proof.



What other type of artwork do you do?

Book and box binding and little bit of screen printing.


Have you had the opportunity to illustrate a picture book? Any book covers?

Yes, that’s my favourite kind of work. I love it when illustrations play a major role in a book.


Are you open to working with a picture book writer who wants to self-publish?

It would be a nice collaboration.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I do a lot of research. Most of the time I look for them on the internet and but sometimes I take the pictures too. It’s the first I do before I draw anything.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Yes, most of the time. As I said, love graphite pencils and love line art. It’s very important to me that it looks fresh. So, usually my drawings are handmade and I do the colouring in Photoshop or I also make handmade strokes and textures and define them in Photoshop as brushes, so the final result is expressive. It allows me to mix medias and techniques with a loose and warm result.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I use a kind of old Wacom Intuos 4 but it works fine for me.


Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

This year I created an illustration for Babybug Magazine and illustrated a story for Highlights Magazine.


Do you have a studio in your house?

I do work at home, I have a small studio there.


Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

Pencil, colour pencil and my sketchbook.


Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I try not to neglect personal projects besides commissioned ones. I have a design brand and would like to develop illustrated products and illustrate my own picture books.  Part of the routine is to dedicate an exclusive time to make that possible.


What do you think is your biggest success?

I don’t know if this is my biggest success but I’m proud of the children books collection I designed and Illustrated for the Peruvian Department of Education. They were going to be distributed to five regions but the result was so good they were finally distributed all over Peru. This was the beginning of my career as an illustrator.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

I just finished the illustrations for a children’s short novel and now I’m eager to resume my picture book project. I also have to prepare the second part of an online course I teach. It’s due in March 2017 and is a course about mixed media in Photohop.


Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Absolutely,  most of the main commisions I’ve worked on, best career opportunities and important contacts in the illustration area came from being exposed on the internet. I’ve also learned a lot and met great and talented colleagues and friends.

bottlesWhat are your career goals?

I’d love to illustrate my own picture books and would like to keep working on interesting projects in which there is a good balance between literature and illustration.


What are you working on now?

I just finished a book and am about to begin the sketches for a new magazine commission.


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Colour pencils work best if you cut the tip as if it were a needle. This allows you to “fill in” the grain of the paper if you do not want it to be too textured and also helps to reach the smaller areas of the drawing. In terms of paper I use Hahnemühle Bamboo paper for mix media. I like its warmth and texture.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Be organised and dedicate time to personal work, it helps you to be fresh. Good ideas come when you explore freely different media and techniques and get out there, take advantage of social media to expose your work.


Thank you Natali for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Natali’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Natali. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



I am happy to announce that CHRISTA HESCHKE at McINTOSH & OTIS is our Featured Agent for January:

Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children’s Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively acquiring for all age groups in children’s.

For YA, she is especially interested in contemporary, thriller/mystery, and horror. She looks for a compelling voice and a strong hook that will set a YA novel apart in the flooded market. She is open to all types of middle grade and especially enjoys adventure, mystery, and magical realism. For both YA and MG, she is interested in unique settings and cultural influences, interesting structure, complicated romances, diverse characters, sister or friendship-centric stories, and stories that feature artists of any kind. In picture books she is drawn to cute, funny stories (as opposed to sweet and quiet) that will grab kids as well as the occasional nonfiction biography on a subject whose story has yet to be told.

Christa is not looking for any Adult fiction or non-fiction, paranormal or dystopian at this time.


Are there any genres that are less interesting to you?

I’m actually a pretty eclectic reader building a pretty eclectic list. Sure, there are certain genres I might not gravitate towards as much as others but if it’s the right writer and voice I’m pretty open. I’m not too into straight romance. I like romance as a subplot but generally I don’t like it as much when it’s the main storyline. But, if it’s a really moving love story with depth it could catch my interest. Middle grade books with gross out humor don’t interest me as much along with books where fashion/makeup are the main storyline, unless there’s a twist or it’s a darker take on the fashion world. Also, dystopian and paranormal are almost always a no at this point for me.

Do you have any story or theme that you wished someone would submit?

After the movie The Bling Ring came out, I’ve really been wanting something for YA that takes a look at our culture’s obsession with fame/celebrity/social media. It could be someone’s social media getting hacked and there being a big fallout, it could be a dark humor take on celebrity a la Kill the Boy Band. That and I also am always looking for funny YA and rarely see it—something like MTV’s Awkward. I also enjoy books that make fun of genre (or totally turn it on its ear), especially horror. Think Final Girls, where teens get stuck inside a campy 80’s horror movie and it pokes fun at classic horror tropes. I love dark humor! Bring me all the dark humor. I also always will love fantasy—non-western folklore, twists on mythology etc. Oh, and graphic novels for YA or MG!

What do you like to see in a submission?

Voice is one of the most important things. Even if the premise is amazing, if I’m not connecting to the voice I won’t read on. Voice is a combination of the author’s writing voice and the main character’s voice and what works can be subjective to a point. I’d also like to see a premise or writing structure that breaks out of the box—it’s unique and all its own. Don’t be afraid to take some risks as a writer. We’re all looking for something standout, that surprises us and is different. I also except submissions I see to be fairly polished. Don’t submit a first draft. Do some revisions. Join a critique group.

How important is the query letter?

It’s fairly important though I almost always read the pages anyways unless it’s a genre I don’t represent. Remember, it’s a business letter so it should be professional. Give me the basics (word count, genre, intended audience, comparative titles etc.) but also tell me what makes it special and why you submitted to me specifically. Agents like to see personalized queries. If it’s sloppy, not correctly formatted and doesn’t give me all the basics I won’t be interested in reading the pages. There are a lot of resources out there on writing a good query letter. Make sure to check them out before submitting. I have one on my blog.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

The query letter might help a bit here. If the premise is amazing and I have a good sense of what to expect I will read on quickly. Don’t forget the importance of those first pages. They need to hook your reader. Don’t start with your character waking up and starting their day. Start right before the action. You’ll have a little set-up of course (if you don’t your reader will be confused), but make sure you’re starting at the right place. Where does the action and the main events of the story pick up? You don’t want to start too much before that and have chapters of exposition. Look at some of your favorite books and think about their starting points. How did they reel you in? If you have an engaging beginning I will want to read on. Make sure to get across a good sense of your character too in the early pages. What makes them unique? What type of person are they? Are they relatable? Connecting to a main character early on also will keep me reading. Do not, however, think the beginning is a place to get across pages of backstory. You’ll lose a lot of your readers that way. It’s all about the gradual reveal.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

It really depends. There have been times I have stopped reading after only a couple pages. If the writing is sloppy, the character is unlikeable or it’s too confusing I will stop reading. If something is working, it could be premise, voice, character etc. I likely will keep reading until I stop feeling interested. Maybe the pacing is dragging or not enough is happening, or the character isn’t developing enough. This could be after 50 pages, 100 pages or ¾ of the way through. It really depends.

Would you lose interest in a submission if the writer missed correcting a few misspelled words?

If it’s only a few, no. If there are a lot of errors, yes, I will stop reading. Proofreading is important.

Do you let people know if you are not interested in what they sent?

Yes, if I’m interested in what they sent I’ll request more. If you mean just initial interest in the query, no. I’d reach out once I read the sample pages and wanted to read on. 

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material? 

It depends on the season. Fall is our busy season so I might be slower than usual then and there are times of the year when I get more backlogged than others i.e. if at the time I’m participating in a lot of online contests, conferences, working on several client manuscripts etc. I try to get back within a couple months, if not sooner.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

Sending before they’re ready or writing for trends are some of the biggest mistakes I see. Many writers have written a few books before they submit anything to agents, but it depends on the person. Do your research too. You should know what else is out there in your genre and how your novel stands out. If it’s too similar to something else you’ll have a hard time getting interest.

Any pet peeves?

Mass email queries. If you’re sending a query letter that says “Dear Agent” and ccing every agent in the industry I likely won’t even look at it. It goes back to doing your research and sending personalized queries. Also, being overly cocky in a query can be a turnoff. It’s great to be confident, but a query letter isn’t a place to say you’ll be the next NY Times Bestseller or compare your work to Harry Potter. Those are big shoes to fill. Let your writing speak for itself.

Check back next Friday for Part two of Christa’s Interview.


In the subject line, please write “January 2017 critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: January 20th

RESULTS: January 27th

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 12, 2017

New Agency – Wolf Lupine Grove Creative


Danielle Smith has left Red Fox Literary after three years to launch her own literary agency, Lupine Grove Creative, with most of her clients set to follow her to the new agency.

daniellsmithBeginning January 15th, 2017 Danielle will be open to submissions at Lupine Grove Creative,LLC. Only submissions of the picture book, early reader, chapter book, middle grade and young adult book variety as well as illustrators will be considered. If you are interested in submitting after the 15th please send a query via email and paste your manuscript within the body of the email to

Please, no attachments. Illustrators, please provide links to your online portfolios where art can be viewed without downloading. All submissions will receive a confirmation of receipt. Unfortunately, due to anticipated high volumes of submissions the agency may not be able to respond to every query. If you don’t hear from Lupine Grove Creative within four weeks of your submission, please understand that we have read and considered your query and have concluded that we are not the right agency to represent your work at this time.

All other client related questions or to inquire about rights regarding current projects please contact Lupine Grove Creative, LLC directly at the Contact page.

All of the clients at Lupine Grove Creative can expect an advocate along every step of the process. Clients are at every stage of their careers; regardless they are always offered career guidance, editorial assistance as well as a sounding board for future projects, portfolio and illustration critiques, submission strategizing and much more. Partnerships with clients are just that, partnerships, and each one is different and based on what they each need. Additionally, with Danielle’s review and social media background she is particularly capable of guiding clients through the pre-publication process all the way through to publication and marketing process as well.

Danielle can be contacted at

Danielle – Wishing you the best!

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 11, 2017

Book Giveaway – Rainbow Weaver

Author Linda E Marshall has agreed to Giveaway a copy of book RAINBOW WEAVER. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.



Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around her village, Ixchel finds it littered with colorful plastic bags. There is nowhere to put all the bags, so they just keep accumulating.

Suddenly, Ixchel has an idea! She collects and washes the plastic bags. Then she cuts each bag into thin strips. Sitting at her loom, Ixchel weaves the plastic strips into a colorful fabric that looks like a beautiful rainbow just like the weavings of Mayan women before her.



A dear friend of mine, originally from Guatemala, now lives in Albany, NY. She and her family moved there to escape the terror, violence, and kidnappings that have haunted Guatemala. I was a graduate student in Cultural Anthropology when kindly professors invited my husband and me to dinner. They wanted to introduce us to Brenda and her (late) husband Fredy.

The introduction was a success! Brenda and I became friends. My husband and Fredy became squash partners. Almost immediately, we learned of their love for their native country and their deep concern for the Mayan people. The Maya faced political strife, genocidal civil war and government policies. Brenda and Fredy wanted to help. But, how?

Brenda, the anthropologist, and Fredy, the businessman, brainstormed. Recognizing that the Maya in Guatemala are among the most skilled, artistic weavers in the world, Brenda and Fredy determined to help the weavers bring their products to U.S. markets – and to do so in a way that would bring good, fair prices to the weavers. That meant quality control, innovative ideas, and an emphasis on choosing (or developing) design appropriate for U.S. markets.

Brenda and Fredy created an organization. They called it Mayan Hands. I helped as best as I could. Since having met Brenda and Fredy, I’d experienced some health problems. I’d left graduate school (without my Ph.D.), opened a bookstore, and began writing. I shared my writing with Brenda and Fredy. They encouraged me and sent my work to another friend, an esteemed journalist. He, in turn, encouraged me further.

Meanwhile, in addition to setting up Mayan Hands, Brenda was teaching anthropology. To further her research, she was returning to Chiapas, Mexico, where she had done fieldwork. She invited me to join her. In Chiapas, I climbed mountainous dirt paths to get to the Mayan village of Chamula. I slept on the ground in our hostess’s dirt-floor hut. I used the milpa as a latrine. Chamula was poor. Dirt poor. I recalled the thousands of dollars that had been spent on my health care…and thought the few pennies it would take to cure many of the health problems I saw in Chiapas. The contrast between the care I received and that of the Chamulan Maya was unspeakable. Unnerving.

Not long after Brenda and returned from Chiapas, Fredy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After several years and valiant struggle, Fredy left us. Brenda, continuing her work on the dream they’d both shared, re-doubled her efforts to help the Mayan people.

Mayan Hands grew. Wanting to help, I offered to write something. I wanted to bring more attention to the beauty, and to the problems, of the Mayan people, especially in Guatemala. I wanted to help Brenda. I wanted to do something in memory of Fredy.


One day, Brenda, Anne Kelly (a mutual friend and tireless worker for Mayan Hands) and I met in Brenda’s living room. The weavers had been re-purposing old plastic bags, weaving them into things like change purses. We brainstormed a story…The main character would be a child who wanted to weave. But the threads were (and are) expensive. Using the “if at first you can’t succeed, try, try again,” approach, I had our fictional character try different materials. My trip with Brenda to Chiapas (and my personal experience of having raised sheep on my own farm) helped me visualize the story.

I went home…and wrote. I wrote poetically because, to me, the land of the Mayan people called for poetry. I gave the character a name: Ixchel. I gave her an older brother – one initially skeptical of his sister’s efforts, but who later pitched in to help. On the advise of a friend, I strengthened the relationship between Ixchel and her mother. I wanted the universal quality of the story to be about mothers and daughters and how they can work together.

I went to Guatemala and met with weavers from Mayan Hands and Maya Works co-operatives. I read them my story, at that time called Ixchel Weaves a Rainbow. I asked their advice. I took careful notes.

I returned to the U.S., discussed the story with my critique group, made revisions, and shared them with Brenda and Anne. With their approval, I sent the manuscript out to a publishing house. It was rejected. I analyzed the rejection, and trying to learn from editorial expertise, revised the story.

About the same time, I applied to the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature (RUCCL) mentorship day. I was accepted and, at RUCCL, met with and received representation from Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis.

Christa sent Rainbow to Jessica Echeverria at Lee & Low. Jessica asked if I was willing to revise


– without any guarantee of their acquisition of the manuscript. Of course, I was! I was – and still am – hungry for editorial feedback. I reworked the piece once or twice and…Jessica Echeverria of Lee & Low acquired it!

Still, the manuscript needed work. The skeptical brother was erased from the story. More attention was given to the environment. A word was tweaked here, a phrase removed there. As Elisa Chavarri’s amazing artwork gave life to the story, minor changes were needed in the text.  We worked together, a team.

And now, years later, there’s a beautiful book. A rainbow. Proceeds from it have and will continue to provide money for eyeglasses, health, and dental care for the weavers and their families. What a miracle. What a rainbow!

I feel very grateful…and thankful to all who have helped me on this journey.



Prior to writing for children, Linda (Elovitz) Marshall taught early childhood education and development as well as parenting education. A cultural anthropologist (just shy of her Ph.D.), Linda has also owned and operated a bookstore, produced “as-told-to” autobiographies, raised four children and a small flock of sheep. Rainbow Weaver is Linda’s eighth picture book. In addition, she writes chapter books, Middle Grade novels, and occasional essays for newspapers and magazines.



Twitter: @L_E_Marshall

Linda is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis

Thank you Linda for sharing your book’s journey and offering a copy of Rainbow Weaver to one lucky winner. Don’t miss this book. Here’s the link to Amazon.

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 10, 2017

Agent Looking for clients


Serene Hakim

Prior to joining Ayesha Pande Literary, Serene Hakim worked at Laura Gross Literary Agency in Boston. She has also interned at David Godine Publisher and Chase Literary Agency. Serene holds an M.A. in French to English translation from NYU and a B.A. in French and Women’s Studies from the University of Kansas.

She loves to read anything she can get her hands on, but is particularly drawn to fiction with strong female voices, YA and adult fiction and non-fiction with international themes.

Looking for great YA sci-fi and fantasy, realistic YA, and anything that gives voice to those whose voices are underrepresented and/or marginalized. As a child of Lebanese immigrants, she is especially interested in stories dealing with the Middle East and the variety of immigrant experiences out there.

How to Submit: Use the form using this link:

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 9, 2017

Guest Post: End the Chatter to Eliminate Doubt!

lindaswindlephoto20122croppedEnd the Chatter to Eliminate Doubt!

By Linda Swingle

For a few creative individuals working to establish a career as an Author-Illustrator, the new path presents a few hurdles that test the depths of commitment, degree of tenacity and belief in talent and abilities. We hit the path running in pursuit of that dream fueled by hope and faith supported with belief. We envision the day a publisher places our name on their list of favored Author-Illustrators or as one of their ‘go-to-artists’ to illustrate a new book series.

However: over a period of time, life happens as we view the mountain of tasks and responsibilities mounting in that path. The accumulation of important details associated with writing and illustrating may overtax creative abilities. The inner chatter begins, which in turn, strikes at the heart of self-confidence, which then, affects inner drive. Before one knows it, that dream turns into a nightmare and in the end; one may ask self if the pursuit is realistic…if the dream and vision is realistic. Then it begins: distractions occupy avenues of focus and waking hours are ill spent versus well spent. Time ill spent each day in a given week may possibly equate to an eight hour work day lost by the end of the week!

Realistically, allowing distractions to occupy one’s time is merely a coping mechanism that prevents one from tackling challenges head-on. The cycle is vicious. It is easy to reason that a quick trip to the grocery store is necessary before tackling a day filled with writing and illustrating. The trip to the grocery store will take but a few minutes and while out, justify the need to purchase a few items in another grocery store because the first grocery store did not have a particular item…etcetera, etcetera. Later that evening, self-inflicted inner chatter riddled with chastisement reminds one how an entire day slipped away without dedicating a bit of time to writing or illustrating!

Hours of neglect equate to days: those days equate to weeks and suddenly, the dream is placed on the back burner. Eventually, the inner chatter may convenience one that the pursuit was nothing more than a pipe-dream from the start. The negative inner chatter does not end there: it continues justifying that the ‘nearly-finished’ manuscript and nearly finished illustrations are not that great after all. Procrastination combined with negative inner chatter devalues talent, abilities, work and effort put forth to that point. In the end, chatter wins out and the artist loses out of possibly enjoying a career filled with rewards. Do not allow distractions to usher in opportunities riddled with negative chatter which in turn leads to more distractions and eventually abandonment of a wonderful and purposeful dream!

R.I.P NEGATIVE CHATTER….R.I.P SELF-DOUBT! Good-bye and good riddance and by all means, do allow the door to properly hit thy insidious booty on the way out!

BEGIN or START AGAIN by committing to the following:

  • Saying “No!” and eliminating distractions
  • Create a plan and commit to the plan
  • Create a dream board that ignites inspiration and motivation
  • Appreciate and value inspiration received
  • Follow through with inspiration received
  • Set a deadline and commit to a set deadline
  • Create the first draft
  • Carefully proof read and edit the first draft
  • Create rough illustrations
  • Create a book dummy
  • Dedicate time for research: knowledge squashes self-doubt EVERYTIME
  • Generate a query letter: review the query from a logical approach: eliminate emotions
  • Submit to agents
  • Repeat

Lastly, Be KIND, RESPECTFUL and APPRECIATIVE of SELF followed by a good dose of GRATITUDE!

Linda Swingle has enjoyed a lucrative career working as a Professional Artist. Her murals, handmade wall-coverings and custom artwork span the globe. She now turns her creativity to writing and illustrating humorous Children’s picture books. Living in Southern California with darling husband Scott and their devoted rescued canine, Tieshka, Linda dedicates her time pursuing her newly chosen career. Connect with Linda on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 8, 2017

More Book Winners & Celebrate Winter

Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner – Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan
Donna Cangelosi – Normal Norman by Tara Lazar
Linda Mitchell – Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson
Teresa Robeson – The Legend of Glass by Trinka Hakes Noble
Leila Nabih – Land Sharks by Beth Ferry


Watching the snow come down inspired adding this snowy illustration by Martha Aviles. She  studied graphic design at the University of Mexico, and has worked as a full-time illustrator since 1991, when she published her first Children’s Book. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday.


by Eileen Spinelli

  1. Make snow angels. No Snow? Make paper angels.
  2. Bring a basket of socks, gloves and scarves to a shelter.
  3. Invite a friend in for hot chocolate and cookies.
  4. Treat yourself to a pair of new pajamas.
  5. Cozy up with a book of poetry. Read one aloud.
  6. Play a board game with a favorite child.
  7. Cook soup from scratch. Share.
  8. Wear something fuzzy. Or sparkly.
  9. List five things you love about winter. Be thankful for those.
  10. Eat dinner by candlelight.
  11. Look up at the night sky. Wave hello to the moon.
  12. Bless a stranger.

christmas-rosiemagee-snowangel-erickson-2See what fun snow can be? Just bundle up, wear you hat, glove, and boots like the cute girl in the illustrations Sue Ann Erickson send in for us to enjoy.

Talk tomorrow,


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