Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 5, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Shane Crampton

Shane Crampton was born in St.Andrews, Scotland. She spent her childhood years growing up there, as well as in Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands. At the ripe old age of 29 she moved from Scotland to the other end of the country, to sunny (sometimes) Cornwall in South West England, where she still lives today with her husband and four sons and their two ridiculous dogs. Daughter to an extremely talented artistic and musical father, she was encouraged from an early age to embrace her creativity as much as possible by both parents. Shane graduated from Falmouth University in 2014 with a BA (Hons) Degree in Illustration and has been working consistently ever since.

Her work is a mash up of scribbling, painting (usually with gouache) and digital techniques. Her favourite pieces that she has created lately are her “Daisy girls”. Music is really important in the Crampton household and Shane often listens to music whilst working on projects. At the moment Iron Maiden and Rob Zombie are favourite artists to listen to whilst illustrating.

Her motivation is to improve her skills as much as she can, so setting herself self initiated mini projects on a regular basis is something she feels is vital to keep her work moving forward.

Here is Shane explaining her process:

Below is one of my personal projects. I have always loved Mythology since I was a kid and my husband and I had been working our way through a documentary series about Greek Myths, which is why Athena popped into my head that morning. My process for that illustration involved drawing her out in pencil the scanning her into my computer.

I then coloured the characters first in photoshop and then finally I coloured the background. This one in particular was all coloured digitally in photoshop using a few different brushes. Sometimes for splatter marks I used paint splatters that I’ve done with ink or paint and scanned and sometimes I use photoshop to create them. The hair strands are just drawn in photoshop in exactly the same way as if I were drawing or painting them traditionally, there’s no magic tool for it. I create the texture by building it up in layers.

Below is another sketch to finished colour example.

Book Cover: MEET THE QUACKERS written by Tania Guarino – Illustrated by Shane Crampton – Published by Clear Fork Press. More in following interview.

How long have you been illustrating?

I graduated from University in 2014 and have pretty much been working solidly ever since.

To be honest though I have some of my old children’s books in my house from when I was about 3 which I’ve drawn in so clearly I thought I was an illustrator all those years ago already!

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I started printing owl designs onto fabric bags whilst I was still at Uni and they were really popular so that was probably the first time I really took selling my work seriously.

What made you move from St. Andrews, Scotland to Cornwall, England?

Family decision. It was only meant to be for a year, I fully intended to go back to Scotland but I love living in Cornwall and I can’t see me leaving now.

How did you decide to attend Falmouth University for illustration?

Falmouth University Illustration course has an amazing reputation and rightly so. It a fantastic course. I really can’t speak more highly of it. Just getting to the interview stage felt like a massive achievement, so being offered a place was amazing!

What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

Definitely ones where I was experimenting with different media. I think it’s really important to keep experimenting when time allows it. You discover techniques sometimes quite by accident. I always got a lot out of those classes.

Do you feel school helped you develop your style?

Looking back I would say yes, although it’s always evolving and I think I really started to develop it more after I graduated.

Did Falmouth help you find work using your art skills?

Yes, it did because the course is crammed with so much including “professional practice” which was really helpful. The tutors made absolutely every effort to equip students for life as a professional illustrator after graduating.

When did you decide you wanted to do children’s book illustrations?

During my foundation year. I was still unsure if I wanted to do Graphic Design or Illustration. I was already a big fan of Lauren Child’s “Charlie & Lola” books and one of my tutor’s  Natalie introduced me to Sara Fanelli’s work and I fell in love with Illustration right there and then and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Was STAY WILD MY CHILD your first book?

No, It’s somewhere around book 5/6.

How did you get your first book contract?

An author contacted me after seeing my work on instagram.

I couldn’t find this book on Amazon. Is that because it is only on the UK version of Amazon?

It’s not actually been published yet. Once it’s published, which should be very soon, you’ll definitely be able to find it.

How did you get the contract to illustrate, CAVEGIRL with Bloomsbury?

Via my agent at Astound Agency. Bloomsbury were amazing to work with and it’s been a privilege to be involved in their “Young Readers” series. I know a couple of the other illustrator who were also involved, and I get really excited about seeing their books in the series too!

Do you have any desire to wrote and illustrate you own books?

Yes I do, I have a half written book on my computer at the moment, I just haven’t had time to develop it further yet.

How many books have you illustrated?

I am currently working on my 11th book, I work on a few at the same time in various stages.

It looks like Scarlett’s Spectacles has just hit the book stores. How long did it take you to illustrate that book?

I think I probably spent around 3-4 months from start to finish on Scarlett’s Spectacles.

Are all the illustrations done for SURGERY ON SUNDAY that is coming out next year?

Not yet, I’m still working on the roughs for the interior spreads.

Is that coming out around the same time YOGA BABY is coming out?

I believe ‘Surgery on Sunday” will be out around Spring 2020 so a little before “Yoga Baby” which will be out May 2020.

Any story behind how you got that contract?

Again, this was arranged through my agent. All of my children’s book work is arranged via them, it free’s me up to concentrate on the creative stuff.

How long have you been making a living from illustrating?

Just over 5 years now. It’s really picked up over the past 18 months or so.

Is Warren Publishing, a new publisher?

I am not entirely certain how long they have been established exactly.

How did you connect with the Astound agency and how long have they been representing you?

They saw my work on line and approached me to see if I would like to be represented.

I have been with them for around 18 months now.

 Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

Yes, I worked with Benchmark Education last year and illustrated two Spanish reading books for them.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Not yet, that would be fun though.

Have you illustrate a book for a self-published author. Is that something you would do now?

I have actually.  I would, but only if I genuinely was excited about the story. I have one planned with a brilliant writer Jess Bleakly starting next year and I am beyond excited about it. I knew as soon as I read it that I wanted to be involved. It’s absolutely brilliant and Jess is a very talented writer.

I noticed you have won a number of awards for your books. Which ones are you most proud of winning?

I haven’t won any awards that I’m aware of, hopefully one day.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.

What do you think is your biggest success?

The cover for “Stay Wild”. I LOVE everything about it and I am incredibly proud of it.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I like mixed media, so a little bit of everything all mashed up together and collaged together digitally.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I work digitally a lot now.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Absolutely, it’s integral to my work…I use it every day. I draw everything out with pencil and paper first though.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Paper and pencils for sketching, selection of paints for some backgrounds, my scanner and photoshop.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I spend every available minute I have working. If I’m not working on a project, I will be working on personal pieces to keep my portfolio fresh and up to date. If I have deadlines looming I will work all day while the children are at school and nursery then work most of the evening once they go to bed. I try to take weekends off though to spend with my family.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I always research a project, I need visual references so sometimes I have taken photo’s. I like to also see if there’s any specific details that really need to be in there. For instance, I recently completed an illustration of Athena, and there were lots of little details I wanted to include in it so  a bit of research was involved.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Only to get better and better at my job. I learn a little from every project I do.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the final colour artwork for “Yoga Baby”, a cover for another book publishing next year and internal sketches for “Surgery on Sunday”.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I recently bought a light box for the sole purpose of making sure my characters features are consistent, and I really don’t know why I haven’t done it sooner. I like to make sure that their eyes, nose, brows etc are correct each time I draw them so I use the light box to check that.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Draw for fun, lots of warm up drawings. If you draw every day you will really start to see an improvement. Also, work hard, as with most things in life, you get back what you put in!

And finally, do not compare yourself to other illustrators too much. It’s good to be inspired and love someone elses work…we all do that, but don’t start feeling crappy about your own work because you think it should be like someone else’s. We are all on different paths at different stages of our careers and comparison is the thief of joy!

Thank you Shane for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. To see more of shane’s work, you can visit her at: 





If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Shane. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 4, 2019

Agent of the Month – Charlotte Wenger

Born and raised in Pennsylvania and Virginia, Charlotte grew up with a bookish, editorial mind but was first drawn to publishing work in college. She then worked for a publishing services company in Philadelphia until shipping up to Boston to earn her MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons. Prior to joining Prospect Agency, she was an associate editor for just over two years with Page Street Kids, where she acquired and edited more than twenty picture books and grew relationships with authors, illustrators, agents, and other editors.

As an agent, she loves working with debut talent and building relationships with the authors and illustrators she represents and the industry professionals she works with. She has mentored Simmons MFA students and also serves on the national advisory board of the Mazza Museum, the world’s largest collection of original children’s book art, in Findlay, Ohio.

She is interested in working with authors and illustrators of children’s books—board books through YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs. She brings the same mindset to agenting that she did as an editor, valuing the developmental and relational work that goes into creating successful stories and fostering long-lasting collaborations.

Charlotte’s open to representing writers and illustrators of children’s books—board books through graphic novels and YA, but especially picture books—as well as adult nonfiction, particularly biographies and memoirs.

Picture books:

Sports narratives
Global stories
Performing arts
Social awareness and justice
Informational fiction

She is looking for authors and author-illustrators with strong writing skills and distinct art styles. In narrative picture books (fiction and nonfiction), she looks for well-developed characters with distinct voices; a strong plot with an earned resolution; and a clever, unexpected, yet satisfying ending. She is always open to stories that break formula and just work – that have that special something that you can’t quite put your finger on – either in the art or the words. She likes both prose and poetry, but she is typically not a fan of rhyme unless it feels authentic to the tone of the story.


Sibling and family stories, especially those with nontraditional or underrepresented family structures
Magical realism and contemporary fantasy
Historical fiction

Young Adult:

Contemporary with strong female characters, complex relationships
Novels in verse

She is always on the lookout for what hasn’t been done yet – stories that haven’t been told and voices that haven’t been heard.

She’s NOT the best fit for:

Military/war nonfiction

Submission Guidelines:

Please use the submission form on the Prospect Agency website: All fields required unless indicated otherwise.

What to Submit:

For picture books, we request a query letter and the full manuscript or dummy. Illustrators should provide a link to their URL. For middle-grade, young adult, and adult nonfiction memoir and biography texts, we request a query letter, three chapters and a brief synopsis.

Your query letter should include your name, the date, contact information and a brief description of the work. Include only relevant personal information: previous publications, writing education, etc. For previously published authors, please also give a brief overview of your career thus far and your goals for the future.

Because we request more than just a query letter, we spend a lot of time with every submission. We consider character development, plot, voice, and most importantly, the writing. Please make sure the work you submit is edited, proofread, and at a mature stage of development. We do not accept re-submissions, edited or otherwise.

Electronic Submission Guidelines:

We accept Word (.docx, .doc), PDF (.pdf), HTML (.html, .htm), and Text (.rtf, .txt) formats.

Important: submit all material in a single document. Be sure to include a synopsis and query letter with your email and contact information at the beginning of the manuscript body (3 chapters or first 30 pages). If you are submitting a picture book, please include the entire picture book.

Please submit no more than one (1) manuscript at any given time. Submitting multiple manuscripts to this agency will invalidate your submission. This includes submitting to more than one agent.

They welcome new manuscripts; however, unless requested, we do not accept revisions. Do not resubmit declined manuscripts (to any agent), revised or otherwise.



In the subject line, please write “OCTOBER FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: 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).

PLEASE name the word document file by putting 2019 October – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you. 

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! 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: October 24th.

RESULTS: November 1st.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 3, 2019

Book Giveaway: The Night Baafore Christmas by Dawn Young

Author Dawn Young has a new picture book titled, THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS, illustrated by Pablo Pino and published by WorthyKids, owned by Hachette Book Group. Dawn has agreed to share a copy with one lucky 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Dawn and Pablo!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Bo just wants to fall asleep before Santa comes, but when the sheep he’s counting rebel and wreak havoc around the house, Christmas Eve starts to go baa-dly wrong.

It’s Christmas Eve and Bo can’t sleep, so he starts counting sheep. But when the sheep get bored, they scatter, wreaking holiday mayhem all over the house. “Sheep 4 gnaws the stockings–leaves holes in the toes; 5 swallows some garland, and tinsel, and bows!” Children can count along with Bo as he finds the 10 mischievous sheep misbehaving throughout the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get to sleep before Santa comes? Find out in this hilarious story of a night before Christmas gone wrong. With exuberant verse and comical illustrations, this book will have children begging for repeat readings.


The idea for The Night Baafore Christmas began years ago, when one of my daughters saw the movie Barnyard and got so scared by the coyotes that she had trouble falling asleep. I’d tell her to think good thoughts and imagine herself at fun places like the circus or the zoo. 

With that in mind, I wrote Good Night Thoughts, in which a child, struggling to fall asleep due to bad thoughts, imagined doing those same fun, happy things. But going from the fair to the circus to the zoo and more, felt flat and it wasn’t helping the child get to sleep, so…I called in the sheep. Soon, the child, now counting sheep, but still struggling to fall sleep, took those mischievous sheep along on the adventures. 

At that point, the story had some spark but things went from flat to frenzied. The story was more scattered than the sheep after they spot the goodies. I had seven adventures in one manuscript, and I had to pare it down. I chose to keep the sheep, and rather than have bad thoughts be the reason the child couldn’t sleep, I had excitement over an upcoming event, like the eve of a birthday or a holiday, be the reason instead. I played around with both ideas but leaned more toward the birthday path. Then, after seeing a holiday mishap contest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, I shifted to Christmas, and wrote a draft of what is now The Night Baafore Christmas. 

From there, the story went through many, many, many revisions. Although it was a Christmas story, it didn’t feel festive enough, so I revised to make it more Christmassy. There were big changes as well. The story, originally told in first person, changed to third person with the addition of Bo. Also, the sheep originally appeared, by number, randomly to mirror the craziness of the story. Then, I received feedback suggesting I number the sheep in ascending order when the action escalates and in descending order when the momentum slows down. I revised accordingly, and it worked great and gave the story a smoother flow. 

I had so much fun revising this story.  The sheep came to life in my mind. They were like children on Christmas morning, filled with excitement and wonder, minus the mess (or maybe not).  My kids, now teens, were very young then. Looking back, I see that the sheep symbolized the life I was living at the time – crazy and full of good spirited chaos!

Finally, after rounds of revision, just when I felt the story was ready to go out on submission, my agent and I parted ways. I was devastated. I threw myself a pity party but luckily, my incredible critique partners RSVP’d no and instead, (kindly) kicked me in the butt.  I regrouped and emerged more determined than ever to pursue my dream.

Soon after, I read a blog post by the wonderful Kathy Temean informing us that WorthyKids Publishing was seeking holiday stories. I tucked The Night Baafore Christmas in an envelope, slapped a stamp on it, wished it luck and sent it on its way. Yep, that’s right – this was a snail mail submission. 

A few months later I signed with my agent, then shortly after that WorthyKids emailed to let me know that they were considering the story. Months later, the offer came. My agent handled the contract, and now The Night Baafore Christmas is out in the world and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  And I feel so fortunate that Pablo Pino is the illustrator. The Night Baafore Christmas couldn’t have been in better hands!


Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA.  For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.

Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona. Some of her best memories include reading to her kids while they were plopped in her lap, all giggling at silly, clever picture books. Dawn is an active member of SCBWI and many other children’s writing groups.


Pablo Pino was born in August 1981 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up watching cartoons, playing football and drawing a lot. These days, he doesn´t watch as much TV and only plays football once a week, but still has the joy of painting every day. Why? Because, for the last 10 years, he‘s been working as a professional illustrator for different print media. What he enjoys the most is illustrating books for children and teenagers. Besides the 40 published books Pablo’s illustrated, among novels and tales he also do characters designs, board games and collaborate on designs for schoolbooks and magazines with various worldwide publishing companies. Pablo is self-taught and his illustrations are mostly computer drawn, but he always adds textures that he makes with pencils, crayons, acrylics and pretty much any material that lets him get messy like when he was a child.

Dawn, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is a very cute book and perfect for the holidays. I am sure kids will find it funny and want to hear the story read to them many times.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 2, 2019

FREE: Picture Palooza

Picture Palooza – A Fantastic FREE Illustration Course from the Children’s Book Academy!

I am so pleased to announce that the Children’s Book Academy is doing a FREE FOUR DAY ILLUSTRATION COURSE for writers and beginning to award-winning illustrators. Featuring now published former students and two Art Directors the course is brand new and highly interactive, running from October 11 through the 14th.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Senior Designer and Art Director Andrea Miller will teach you easy peazy people and animal drawing techniques, while Clearfork/Spork Editor and Art Director will provide lessons on the differences in illustrating board books, picture books, chapter books, illustrated middle grade novels, and graphic novels, and also do some helpful for all live critiques. Other treats over the four days include these lessons and more!

• Sandy Bartholomew demonstrates how to skillfully break up a manuscript to make thumbnails
• TBA Point of View and the element of surprise or something equally juicy
• Larissa Marantz brings fresh ways of creating memorable characters
• Miri Leshem Pelly shares insights on why anthropomorphizing rocks and how you do it
• TBA instills the delights of being quirky
• Sanne Dufft offers drawing tips for making your human and animal characters move
• Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom shares the lowdown on how setting changes everything
• Daria Peoples tells the FASCINATING tale of how she landed her agent
• Saki Tanaka discusses how to deepen a story with added layers (specifically for non-fiction) – Intrigued? We hope so!
• Sarah Momoharo Romero shares how an illustrator personalizes the text through their illustrator’s voice
• Mike Malbrough shares fun ideas with Watercolors, Photoshop or Procreate

You will learn more than you can imagine and it’s all free! Let the magic begin and register here. You are guaranteed a great time and lots of learning, or your money back. 🙂 Just click the slightly demented bunny below.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 1, 2019

Book Giveaway: ALL COLORS by Amalia Hoffman

Amalia Hoffman has written and illustrated a new board book titled, ALL COLORS. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2010. ALL COLORS is hitting book shelves on October 28th. Amalia has agreed to share a copy with one lucky 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Amalia!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


This board book introduces children to colors, textures, and parts of the body while conveying a message about friendship, celebrating diversity, and inclusion. As the reader turns the pages, colors are added one by one, creating the image of a boy. Different strokes and textures make up each body part, and at the end the boy joins his friends, all made of different combinations. All Colors shows that all people are made up of the same pieces, yet are all unique and full of color!


In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.

I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors.

After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black.

I ordered a fine black art sand paper and started playing with colors on top.

I discovered that there were so many interesting textures that I could achieve by rubbing the pastel pencils and chalk on the paper. Also, I liked how spattering with a toothbrush, sponging with bubble wrap and combing paints appeared on the black background.

After two months, I had a whole collection of pieces of papers with different colors and textures. I gathered them all in a shoe box and every once in a while, I just played with them, making different arrangements by assembling pieces together on my art table.

Then, the idea came to me. What if the different colors, textures and shapes could actually make the main character in the book?

So began my book journey for All Colors. My agent, Anna Olswanger, liked the idea of creating a board book where kids would be introduced to colors as they turned the pages. It ended up being a concept book with a message about friendship and diversity.

Anna sold the book to Schiffer Publishing and it will be making its way into the world October 28, 2019.

Below is a book trailer where Amalia performed All Colors with a very colorful puppet:


Amalia Hoffman is an author, illustrator and storyteller.

Her board book, Dreidel Day (Lerner/Kar Ben Publishing, 2018) is a PJ Library book and received the PJ Library Author Incentive Award.

She is the author/illustrator of two other board books, Astro Pea and All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.)

Amalia is the author of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (Capstone Publishing, 2019, illustrated by Chiara Fedele.)

Her article, Queen Esther and I was published in Highlights Magazine for Children, March, 2016.

Amalia designed and illustrated an oversized book with pop-up elements for the production of Rose Bud at Israel’s children’s theater, The Train. Other books include, The Klezmer Bunch  and, Purim Goodies (Gefen Publishing House, 2007 and 2009.) The Klezmer Bunch was featured in a play, Jewish Books Cooking by the celebrated choreographer and producer, Elizabeth Swados.

Amalia illustrated Friday Night with the Pope, written by Jacques J.M. Shore (Gefen Publishing House, 2006.)

She received the SCBWI 2005 award for illustration in the category of Fantasy. Her portfolio was selected as the winning portfolio in the 2014 21st Century Non Fiction Conference.

Amalia performs her stories in schools, libraries and bookstores dressed up in costumes with puppets and props.

She created innovative window displays for New York City’s prestigious stores including Tiffany, Fortunoff, Bloomingdales and Macy’s.

Amalia is a participating artist at ArtsWestchester, a cultural organization that pairs artists and writers with schools and community centers.

She holds a Masters degree in art and art education from New York University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with honor from Pratt Institute.

Visit Amalia at

Amalia, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is a very cute board book – one that not only will help young children with their colors, but also help them relate to all different people in the world.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 30, 2019

The 250-word Microfiction Challenge

The 250-word Microfiction Challenge is a competition that challenges writers around the world to create very short stories (250 words max.) based on genre, action, and word assignments in 24 hoursIn the 1st Round (October 4-5, 2019), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, action, and word assignment.  Writers have 24 hours to craft an original 250-word story (maximum) in their assigned genre, with the assigned action taking place, and incorporating the assigned word.  The judges choose a top 10 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (November 22-23, 2019) where writers receive new assignments and again have 24 hours to craft original stories.  Judges select the top 5 writers in each heat from the 2nd Round to advance to the Final Round of the competition taking place January 10-11, 2020 where writers will receive their final assignment of the competition.  Feedback from the judges is provided for every submission and there are thousands in cash and prizes for the winners.  Sound like fun?  Join the competition below and get ready for October 4th!

It’s easy to register.  First, download and read the Official Rules & Participation Agreement.  Once you’ve read through everything, you are ready to register by clicking the button below.  The entry fee is USD$25* until the final entry deadline of October 3, 2019 and space is limited.

*Get $5 off the entry fee just for tweeting!  Click here to make a post to Facebook or Twitter and receive a $5 promotional code.


While we send e-mails at the beginning of each round to all registered writers, many times e-mails go to junk mail folders, spam, or are blocked by servers for unknown reasons.  We recommend that everyone marks their calendars with the start dates of each round, especially the first challenge at 11:59PM EDT (New York time) on October 4th, 2019, so that you know when to expect an e-mail!

1st Round: October 4-5, 2019
2nd Round: November 22-23, 2019
3rd Round: January 10-11, 2020

Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story that is submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  Click here to visit the forums.

Talk tomorrow,



Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 29, 2019

Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest



WOW! hosts a (quarterly) writing contest every three months, and has done so since 2006. The mission of this contest is to inspire creativity, great writing, and provide well-rewarded recognition to contestants. The contest is open globally; age is of no matter; and entries must be in English. We are open to all styles and genres of flash fiction, although we do encourage you to take a close look at our guest judge for the season (upper right hand corner) if you are serious about winning. Please make sure you download our Contest Terms & Conditions PDF below for complete guidelines. Get creative, and let’s have some fun! Remember, we only allow for 300 entries, so enter early to ensure your spot. We look forward to reading your work!


Maximum: 750

Minimum: 250

The title is not to be counted in your word count. We use MS Word’s word count to determine the submitted entry’s word count.



That’s right, this is your chance to shine, and get creative. You can write about anything, as long as it’s within the word count and fiction. If you’re feeling inspired, write something new, or dig out those stories you started way back when and tailor them to the word count.

We’re open to any style and genre. So, get creative, and most of all, have fun.

Click to Download the FALL 2019 FLASH FICTION Contest Terms & Conditions PDF


FALL: September – November 30th 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) – NOW OPEN!

ENTRY FEE: $10.00

This is not a reading fee. Entry fees are used to award our 20 winners as well as administrative costs.

We are limiting the number of entries to a maximum of 300 stories. Please enter early to ensure inclusionIf we reach 300 entries, we will disable the PayPal buttons.

Buy Entry Only: $10.00

Have you entered WOW’s contest before?
No, this is my first time.
Can’t remember…
What’s your story title?



ADDITIONAL OPTION: Due to popular demand, we now have two options for your entry. For an additional $10.00 you can purchase a critique of your contest entry.

Have you entered our contest before?
No, this is my first time.
Can’t remember…
What’s your story title?

Upon the close of our contest, and after the winners are announced, you will receive a critique from one of our round table judges on three categories:

  • Subject
  • Content
  • Technical

You will be provided with your scores (1-5) in each category, and personal editorial feedback as well. There’s also an additional category that does not get scored: Overview. That is the general impression your story had on the reader. Please be patient upon the close of our contest and allow time for our editors to thoroughly critique your piece. We send out critiques after the contest winners are announced.







Click to Download the CREATIVE NONFICTION ESSAY CONTEST Terms & Conditions PDF

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the PDF. Download the latest version at

Please read the contest terms & conditions in full before submitting your entry. Please make sure you read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) before sending us an email.

Best of luck!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 28, 2019

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards Early Bird Special

Sorry, there is no illustrator Saturday this week. Thought you might be interested in this:

The Next Generation Indie Book Awardsthe largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Why should you enter the Next Generation Indie Book Awards?

  • Open to independent authors and publishers worldwide
  • Enter books with a 2018, 2019 or 2020 copyright date
  • Over 70 categories to choose from
  • Cash prizes and fabulous awards
  • Exposure of top 70 books to leading New York literary agent
  • An invitation to attend the Gala awards reception held at a world famous landmark location
  • Earn recognition and receive other benefits from having an award-winning book

Call For Entries

ENTER NOW – Early Bird Special – Enter online by September 30, 2019 and receive a $60 discount on the entry of a second category.

The Early Bird Special Entry Fee is only $75 and includes the entry of one title in two categories. On October 1, 2019 the price to enter two categories increases by $60.

Entries are now being accepted for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the most exciting and rewarding book awards program open to independent publishers and authors worldwide who have a book written in English and released in 2018, 2019 or 2020 or with a 2018, 2019 or 2020 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (

With over 70 categories to choose from, enter by February 14, 2020 (all books must be received in our offices by February 14, 2020) to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your book considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, possible representation by a leading literary agent, and recognition as one of the top independently published books of the year!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 27, 2019

September Agent of the Month First Page Results




At Writers House Hannah’s had the privilege of working closely with a variety of extraordinarily talented bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators of works ranging from very young picture books to middle grade and young adult. She is a junior agent seeking clients who work in primarily those genres, but looking to make exceptions in lifestyle/cooking/health.

Young Adult:

She especially loves realistic and witty YA (that includes drama, romance, comedy, thrillers, mystery—or hybrids of these!), but she’s open to elements of magic. Hanna is almost 100% voice-oriented and love (flawed!) characters and relationship driven plots: true-to-life fiction with larger-than-life personalities. A big, sexy concept never hurts, though!

Setting is secondary to characters and relationships for her, but she loves when it’s almost a character in itself. Seamlessly incorporated cultural bytes (music, food, art, language, books, and specific family traditions) are always good. She also loves innovative modernizations and re-tellings of Shakespearean and other stories, or even movies.

Middle Grade:

Hanna looks for funny and dramatic (or both!) MG novels about friendships (including those with animals), outcasts, and the complexity of individual families. Brave or whimsical adventure stories starring unlikely characters and underdogs are great. She still looks for honest, funny, and unique voices here, and that MG trifecta of heart, smarts, and humor.

Picture Books:
While she is presently focusing on acquiring older formats, in general, she looks for artful, human, and/or hilarious picture books and artwork driven by expressive characters. She seeks illustration with something fresh going on (or that pays homage to a classic with its own modern layering). Hanna additionally is a fan of tender/gentle picture books. Voice remains a top priority across the board; that includes in artwork. Be yourself!

Years experience: 6

GENRES & SPECIALTIES: Fantasy/science fiction, Juvenile fiction, Mind/body/spirit, Health, Travel, Lifestyle, Cookbooks, Children’s books.



Hotdog’s Last Hurrah by Dale-Marie Bryan – Middle Grade

Leave it to Hotdog to be his bad self in of all places, Goodland, Kansas. Eyes locked with the dachshund under Mary Todd, Bert’s pink Lincoln, Xander brooded on his belly, bare legs frying in the blazing sun. (Whoa, that’s a lot of names in a first couple sentences. Take your time to orient your readers in the scene before introducing them to so many things.) 

Hotdog was supposed to be “painting” sunflowers on a canvas in the grass eighty feet below the World’s Largest Van Gogh. Instead he’d streaked away, yanking his Invisi-Leash from Gramps’ hand.

Xander marveled that a thirteen-year-old dog could even sprint that fast. Especially in a painter’s smock with a paint brush Velcroed to it. Heck, he was nearly the same age, but compared to Hotdog, he was a total tortoise! (Not usually a fan of exclamation points, but this kind of works.) Still, Hotdog had always been more human than hound.

“Hey buddy,” Xander wheedled now, swiping his damp hair from his sweaty face. He’d learned a calm, friendly approach worked best with the old boy. But the more Dracudog (Is this Hotdog?) bared his fangs, the more Xander’s “calm and friendly” became “cranky and fed-up.”

Usually Hotdog strutted his stuff at his blog events, scarfing up his fans’ attention like prime rib. This time he was panting hard, licking his grizzled chops. He’d already smeared most of the mustache Bert had carefully drawn on his curled lip. VERY carefully, since he kept snapping at her pet-safe eyebrow pencil. (Again you are throwing too much at us. Now we learn that he’s a celebrity dog, but finding that out in the midst of this action is overwhelming. Who is Bert?)

Now Bert charged up in her orthopedic sandals, her chartreuse toenails glaring at Xander from between the straps. Snatching off her cat’s eye sunglasses, she crouched low to bellow under Mary Todd. (The fact that the car also has a name is way too much in conjunction with the other names, but a very fun detail for later. We need origins to these details in order to recall them.)

Hotdog Franklin Bratweiler, (Hahaha) Mommy is NOT HAPPY. Stop being a pain and come out. Your fans are waiting!”

So much for calm and friendly.



The writing here is strong, and there seems to be a fun and universal dog story to be told. That never gets old in middle grade! Unfortunately the first page is so overwhelming that I probably wouldn’t get very far if this were a requested submission, just because of confused frustration. We are introduced to five characters in the first two sentences—one of them isn’t actually a person, but a car with a human name that belongs to another character we know nothing about. The idea of a celebrity blog dog/Insta star stirring up trouble is great for MG—the dog element is timeless and the blogger element is fresh and timely, but the action and intros need to be paced out so readers can digest what’s happening.



SHORTCAKE! by Janet Frenck Sheets – (Picture Book, first page)

This is Polly.

She does not want a cracker.

She wants some strawberry-studded, whipped-cream-covered, almond-crusted, sugar-dusted, fresh-baked shortcake from the Sweet Treats Cafe. (Yum! Again, fun and sensory language that adds to the prior line. When we find out she doesn’t want a cracker, we want to know what’s up. This clearly tells us what she wants.) Funny, fun intro that subverts a truism, and I know many agents and editors discourage art notes, but I encourage them sparingly. Here, all it would take is [a parrot] or [Polly is a parrot)

But nobody understands. (And sets up an obstacle/conflict!)

“Polly want a cracker?” asks a boy, wiping whipped cream from his chin.

“Polly want a cracker?” asks a girl, biting a fat strawberry.

“Polly want a cracker?” asks the carousel man, rushing by with a stack of shortcakes. (These irritations help readers empathize with Polly)

“No!” Polly squawks. “Want that!

Someone hands her a cracker.

Polly glares. (This made me laugh) She makes a plan.

“Breakfast time!” says the shop owner, opening Polly’s cage. “Polly want a cracker?”(We so clearly can see why this would send Polly over the edge. The last straw.)

Whoosh! Out flies Polly. She loops. She dips. She dives. She zips to the cafe. (Nice action)

“Shoo!” screams the waitress, dropping her tray of shortcakes.  

“Duck!” yells the waiter, falling into the berry cart.

“Catch her!” bellows the chef, spraying whipped cream everywhere. (Consistent scene.)

Swoop, scoop, swoosh!  [Illo.: Polly grabs some shortcake.]

“My shortcake!” wails a white-haired lady. “My strawberry-studded, whipped-cream-covered, almond-crusted, sugar-dusted, fresh-baked shortcake! Stop, thief!”

Too late. Polly’s gone. (Nice cliffhanger. Wondering what happens next.)



As you’ll see, I had many good things to say about this. The author has a good understanding of the picture book form—the voice is consistent and the story is funny, interesting, subversive, suspenseful, and creates ample opportunities for illustrations and expressive characters—love that, and I’d think of commercial-leaning editors to send it to. My only real critique as to why an agent or editor may not pursue this is that while the conceit is smart (“what if Polly doesn’t want a cracker?”), it may not be the book for more artful or literary taste.



SERENITY-JOY’S SEARCH FOR SUPERSPECTABULISTIC by Valerie Bolling – 500-word Picture Book

Serenity-Joy loves words.

She loves to read them.

She loves to write them.

Most of all …

She loves to invent them.

If only she could invent time …

More time with Mommy.

[Serenity-Joy looks through her journal: Magni-velous has a drawing of a robin’s egg. Awe-mazing has a drawing of a red mushroom. Specta-bulous has a drawing of a seashell.]

Serenity-Joy can’t invent time, but she can invent a word for Mommy. Usually, she combines two words, but Mommy deserves a special treat for her birthday. So, Serenity-Joy adds a phenom-unique twist to specta-bulous and [writing new word in journal] …  voila! Now she needs to find something superspectabulistic.

“Nana, can we go to the park, so I can find a gift for Mommy to match the new word I just invented? Superspectabulistic!”

“Yes, my word-fairy, as soon as this birthday cake sings.”

“How long?”

“Patience is a wonderful thing, Serenity-Joy. If we rush the cake, as your mother would say, ‘It won’t make melodious music in our mouths.’”



There’s a lot happening here for a 500 word picture book. There’s the protagonist who likes inventing words, then an undertone of an absent parent, and a new character with Nana, and a quest to find something that fits. Honestly, I think young picture books work better to focus on one or two central threads. While this is character-based, our character is only characterized by a hobby and the sympathetic circumstance of not having enough time with her mom. While those details make her unique and sympathetic, they don’t really tell us who she is—I love when a character’s voice and personality come through, even in a short book. The line-by-line writing here is strong; I didn’t have anything to point out technically, but I also didn’t love any detail enough to actively comment, so there’s no manuscript markup for this one.


THE KINGDOM OF eX by Marcia Dalphin Williams – MG –  44,443 words

Chapter 1 – Into the Woods

It’s time. Our house is quiet except for the gentle ticking of our wall clock. Early, early morning. I hear the wood frogs croaking outside so there must not be any owls about. It’s amazing that there are still hopeful frogs in June, but it’s been so cold this spring. I’m tiptoeing in my socks to my black mud boots by the door. (For some reason, at this line, I had the feeling this story should be told in the past.) Trying not to wake anyone, especially my sister or my golden retriever, Chari. Chari is named after Charidotella, the golden tortoise beetle. He was named by my Dad and (We don’t need to know this at this moment.) always wants to come, but that would be a disaster. He is anything but slow. My mom would make me take him. I trip on a bone.(Chari’s?) It skids. I slide. All is quiet.

I picture everything in my backpack –  my scientist checklist:  Magnifying glass – Check. Net – Check. Cell – Check. Small cage – Check. Flies – Check. Water – Check. Snickers bar – Check. Cookies – Check. Socks – Check. Gaiters – already on top of my boots. (How about instead of all this, just “I’d have invited Suki, but” The dialogue feels stream of conscious. While we want to know the narrators inner thoughts, he/she should not be reasoning them out on the page, as you risk boring readers by slowing the pace.)

I might be up in the woods for a while. With any luck I’ll catch a boreal chorus frog today. I know it’s not extinct. It’s been a couple of months since I told my Dad about it. Suki and Jorge will both want to see it. They’re my squad for sure. In fact, I picture Suki chatting a mile a minute, jumping in the pool to help me look. I don’t know why I didn’t invite her. Probably because I know her parents would object to such an early morning adventure. They don’t trust her or me, I think. The last time she joined me in our forest hide-a-way her dad caught her coming back home with mud on her shoes. They grounded her for a week.

I slide my boots on and wrap the gaiters around the top. When I was little, like five, I didn’t even need to worry about ticks in our forest. Then they just started exploding. People can get Lyme disease and it’s nasty. Dad said it was from climate change and the warming that’s all around us. Despite that, so far my pool stays cold enough in the spring to allow frog tadpoles to grow. Even though he was pretty absent, talking around the world about his cure for the emerald ash borer, I miss my dad a lot. (Quite on-the-nose. Let’s learn this through scenes, actions, and conversations instead of being directly told.) It’s been only a few months, but I think about him every day.



This feels like a bit of an early draft to me, for the stream-of-conscious feel of the writing. The first person present tense reads as a bit stiff to me, and I get the sense the writer is feeling out her story by writing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this isn’t a page to be shared with an agent or publisher. I can see there are interesting elements—a nature-interested child (refreshing in the world of tech), an absent parent feeling, a dog, friends, sneaking out on an innocent adventure, and mention of timely concepts like climate change. Yet I don’t feel entirely drawn into the story, because I feel the narrator is still figuring out what it is. It feels bit more like a diary entry or exercise than a true narrative that I must continue reading.


Thank you Hanna for sharing your time and expertise. I enjoyed reading your comments. Good job!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 26, 2019

Book Giveaway: EXPERIMENT #256 by Marty Kelley

Marty Kelley has written and Illustrated a new picture book titled, EXPERIMENT #256, published by Sleeping Bear Press. If you missed last Saturday’s Illustrator Saturday, Marty was featured, here is the link.

Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Marty!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Ian is wild about science experiments and for his latest (number 256) he’s building a jet pack for his dog, Wilbur–the leftover parts shouldn’t be anything to worry about, right? When Wilbur dons his new pack and blasts off, he leave a swath of chaos in his wake and nobody is happy, Wilbur least of all. What’s a budding inventor to do?



Experiment #256 started out as a couple I jotted down in my sketchbook.

I built a jet-pack for my dog,

From parts found in a catalog.

I honestly have no idea where it came from, but I have learned not to question these delightful little thoughts that dance through my brain so often.

I began working on an idea for a rhyming picture book about a young inventor who builds a jet pack for his dog. Like every book, it had its starts and stops and when I finally finished it, it was pretty rough, but I liked the concept.

I created a roughly illustrated dummy of the book, making pencil sketches for each page and assembling it into a book-ish form.

I shared it with my agent who got back to me quickly to report that she didn’t like it at all. She thought the rhymes seemed forced, the couplet format I had chosen seemed better suited to a book for much younger readers, and the story seemed too long and labored.

Naturally, I took the news well and was delighted to start all over again.

I reworked the story, tightening, cutting, and revising. I did keep the couplet format, which I thought moved the story quickly.

And then I sent it back to her.

And she still hated it for many of the same reasons.

Naturally, I took that news well also and was, once again, delighted to do the entire thing over. Again.

I cut, polished, reworked, and revised, all the while muttering about how my agent just didn’t understand my obvious genius.

I brought the new, amazing, brilliant, tight manuscript with my rough illustrations to a meeting with an author friend. We had coffee and looked over each other’s work.

When she finished reading my new, rhyming masterpiece, she turned to me and asked, “So, is this supposed to rhyme or something?”

I was crushed.

Of course it was supposed to rhyme!

But that was the final nail in the coffin of the rhyming version of this book.

Her innocent question changed the entire direction of the text. It obviously wasn’t working. My agent understood perfectly. I had just been too stubborn to listen to what she was saying.

I went back to my studio and pulled all the text out of the book. I pored over the pages of illustrations and was struck by the fact that the story was very, very visual. It really didn’t need words. It was a simple story and the illustrations carried the reader through the pages, explaining what was happening.

I was giving a talk to a group of school librarians and they very kindly indulged me by looking at my pictures without text. I asked them to narrate the story as I shared images only.

They got it.

It was working!

I did want to add some words, so, after many trials and errors, I decided on a format that I really enjoyed. Each page was written by the main character in the form of notes in his science journal. The notes added some humor to the illustrations, which still carried the bulk of the narrative.

I shared the completely new version of the story with my agent and she loved it.

She sent it out to several publishers. One made on offer on the book, but required that the ending get changed. They found the original ending “too mean-spirited”.

It was, essentially, the punch-line of the entire book and I was very reluctant to change it. We worked together to come up with an alternate ending that we both could live with, but I didn’t love it.

Negotiations sort of fell apart and my agent and I decided to find another publisher for the book. When we sent it out, we sent it with the new ending and the new publisher loved the book. After they made an offer on it, I approached the editor with the original ending that I still liked better. She thought it was hilarious and offered the brilliant suggestion to use both endings.

It worked perfectly and everyone was happy.

I started work on the book in 2015 and it finally hit bookstores in 2019. It was a long journey, but I’m glad I took it.


Marty Kelley has been a second grade teacher, a baker, a cartoonist, an animator, and a drummer in a heavy metal band, but by far his favorite job has been writing and illustrating seven children’s books. His picture book, Twelve Terrible Things, received a star in School Library Journal and a glowing review in The New York Times by none other than Lemony Snickett. Author Christopher Moore (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff) called it, “An inspired work of dark humor.” Visit

Marty, I love this book. It is so much fun and the illustrations are gorgeous. It is so clever, parents will never get tired of reading this book to their kids. Thank you for sharing your book’s journey with us. I’m so happy to have it in my collection of books. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,


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