Bookish subscriptions

Now that I’ve caught up from BookExpo and NJ-SCBWI and the weird summer flu my husband gave me, I’m back in my chair, working hard.

One of the bennies of working for a literary agency is getting to attend events that my bosses can’t. One of those was a Lunch and Learn hosted by PJ Library during BookExpo.

Not familiar with PJ Library? Neither was I. I’d heard of them, but I didn’t know nearly enough about them. PJ Library is a philanthropic organization that sends FREE Jewish children’s books to families in the United States and around the world – every month.

That’s right. Every month, Jewish children – no matter their background, family make-up, knowledge, or observance – can receive free books after signing up with PJ Library. The original program is for children 6 months to 8 years old, and there is a follow-on program, PJ Our Way, which provides books to children 9-11 years old.

Pretty great! Of course, for us as writers, this means there is also a steady demand for books with Jewish themes, values, and stories. This is a very broad spectrum, inclusive of intermarried families too! (Jewish values? Think tikkun olam – making the world a better place OR tzedekah – charity.)

PJ Library sends out over 165,000 books each month. That’s a LOT of books.

You can read about how they choose books here. I was happy to learn that PJ Library is committed to working with agents to fulfill their consistent need for these stories – they have special incentives and a dedicated contact for agencies. (And the incentives go to THE AUTHOR.)

If you’ve a Jewish story you’re working on, keep PJ Library in mind as a possible submission. Remember, authors do not need to be Jewish themselves. (Though as with all diverse voices, #ownvoices are great.)  🙂

Another great service I noted at BookExpo was Owl Crate. Need a great gift for teens? (Or that YA librarian in your life?) Owl Crate is a subscription service (from 1-6 months) that ships a box containing a brand-spanking-new YA novel AND other bookish goodies – even author notes and such – right to your recipient’s door. (Or your door, as the case may be.) Each box is centered around a theme. July’s is WANDERLUST.

(They are also offering a middle grade service, Owl Crate JR. for readers ages 8-12. )

I’m thinking I’m all set for summer birthdays and my niece’s holiday present this year. Friends’ children get the single box, my niece gets a three-month or six-month bundle of reading fun. Less shopping for me, more reading for them. Yay! More time for my MG novel draft. 😉


All fired up!

Last week was a little crazy – I left BookExpo and headed straight to NJSCBWI 2017! My suitcase was literally & literarily stuffed full of books. And I didn’t take nearly as many galleys as usual. For the first time ever, I may actually have TOO MUCH to read. I didn’t think that was possible. Good thing I can read while watching baseball…

What a weekend!

The Middle Grade Editor’s Buzz Panel was wonderful, and I was so excited to get galleys for three of the five books being promoted:


Sadly, I don’t have galleys for GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION! by Jake Burt or UNICORN QUEST: THE WHISPER IN THE STONE  by Kamilla Benko. I’ll be borrowing those from co-workers. It was a nice mix of fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction. Can you guess which title of the five was repped by the amazing Rebecca Stead?

Even more exciting was catching up with writing friends and enjoying the wealth of workshops at NJSCBWI-17, including keynotes by Steven Savage and David Lubar (who also gave a great workshop on revision).

My next few posts will go over what I gained from the workshops, so watch this space! Middle grade mysteries, revision, emotional resonance, online presence, and two – count ’em, two! – wonderful sessions on barriers and marginalized voices. I’m taking a few days to review and digest all the information.

And while it was great to catch up with old friends, I always make new ones. 🙂 Both at BookExpo and the conference, I put my tips on networking to good use.

I’m unpacked, my notes and information are organized, and I just need some time at my desk to start putting what I’ve learned to good use. So if you’ll excuse me…

Wait. You wanted to see how much is TOO MUCH to read? Okay:


And this doesn’t include the manuscripts for work and e-books on my Kindle. (Add another 20 or so to-reads.) Might just have to renew those library books!

Three fun things!

Dreaming of getting away this summer and/or fall? Need some quality time with your writing? Voila!

Highlights Foundation Workshops (and Un-Workshops) are amazing. I attended the last one held in Chautauqua, but my critique partners have been to two this year in Honesdale and can’t stop talking about how wonderful the workshops are. I’m eyeing The Hero’s Journey

I love cruises – especially when it’s a family celebration. Who knew there are writers’ cruises? Writers Helping Writers turned me on to Cruising Writers! Sounds amazing. 🙂

For something closer to home (ok, the NYC/NJ area), Kathy Temean’s Avalon Writer’s Retreat is fantastic. I attended last year and gained so much insight and constructive criticism for my last novel. And this year, my lovely boss, Jennie Dunham, is one of the agents dishing out critiques, advice, and good conversation. All by the sea in Avalon, New Jersey…

Did I say three fun things? I meant four! Stacey Wilk, self-pub diva and now hybrid author, took matters into her own hands when she couldn’t find a retreat that worked for us budget-conscious and time-strapped writers. If you act fast, you might still be able to enjoy her Write Now Writers Retreat.

If you’re going to be at Book Expo or NJ-SCBWI next week, look me up and say hi! (Psst, picture on the right. 🙂  )




I’m on a deadline today preparing a writing sample and submissions package.

Plus, Sean McCarthy has said far better than I can what makes an agent (or their assistant) stop reading your query. Pay attention to his oh-so-good advice!

Especially the parts where he tells you not to use your children or students as a test audience and to address the query correctly. 🙂

Got a few more minutes? Head over to Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating to see the second half of her interview with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary!

It’s HOT here in NYC. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and keep writing!

Help at hand

Yesterday, wonderful picture book author Dianne Ochiltree discussed the need for how-to books for writers and some of her favorite resources on the blog, Writing and Illustrating.

A reader asked if there was any need for such books, given the wealth of information on the web. Dianne responded with a resounding YES! and listed a few of her must-haves to keep on your desk, including a hard copy dictionary, thesaurus, and even Bullfinch’s Mythology.

I’d like to add my must-haves to her list:

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (has to be the Kalman illustrated edition!)
    • Even grammar girls like me need to look up the finer points of ‘who’ and ‘whom’ once in a while…
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi
    • All of the resources at Writers Helping Writers are great. Until your router is down or your network is having the hiccups.
  • Today I will: a year of quotes, notes, & promises to myself by Spinelli & Spinelli
    • Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get going.  I loved yesterday’s: “There once was a man who danced in the street.”
  • A good baby name book
    • See above. And you avoid falling down the Internet rabbit hole.
  • Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Bird, Danielson, & Sieruta
    • Again, inspiring rather than useful.

I have plenty of useful craft books – does anyone NOT have Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? – but I’ve discussed those before. While you could educate yourself about writing children’s books on the web, I find that taking the time to read books about writing in hard copy forces me to slow down and actually absorb the information. I might even make notes.

What I don’t keep at hand? Directories and industry guides. The sad fact is that any hard copy directory is potentially out of date before you buy it, much less use it. E-book versions are only marginally better. Pay for access to online databases such as Publisher’s Marketplace or the online Writer’s Market. (Most offer a trial period or at least a short subscription length. Or see if your local library allows you access via your library card.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to squeeze my stress cupcake and try to crank out some good words before my critique group meeting tonight…

Knitting a network

It’s that time of year again: conferences, workshops, and events galore.

And you really need to work on your network. For those of you who are naturally charming and extroverted, skip this post and get back to writing. Have a cookie with your writing – you deserve it. 🙂

But what if you’re like me? I am definitely not an extrovert. I’ve learned how to fake it till I make it – a friend once said I “play an extrovert on TV.”

It’s still not easy. So I practice.

My rules for networking are few and simple:

  1. Set a goal. Why are you going to this particular event? To make contacts? To make friends? To renew contacts or thank people who’ve given you a hand? It’s all good.
  2. Make a plan. It’s good to have some idea of who you might meet or see at the event. Even better to make a brief (mental) list of people you really want or need to touch base with. Check your file of business cards. And that brings us to…
  3. Make notes. When someone gives you a business card, take a moment later to make a note about when/where you met them. It helps later on. If they don’t offer a card, ask for one! Most people are flattered. And if they don’t or won’t give you one, make a note of their name & circumstances in your notes for the event.
  4. Be prepared. Many folks advise practicing an introduction in front of a mirror or thinking up topics of conversation. If that helps you, go for it. I’ve gotten pretty good at talking to folks -hey, Stacey, stop laughing! – and I prepare another way. I do work on my “what I’m working on” chat, but I also make sure I feel confident. For me, that means making sure I have the right outfit, plenty of sleep, and a good haircut. And don’t forget YOUR business cards. Make sure they’re current and you have plenty on hand.
  5. Follow up. Send a thank you note to anyone who’s helped you out. Invite that new contact/friend to coffee or lunch. If you’ve promised a query or a critique, send it out.

That’s it. Short and simple. The most important thing? Try to remember that everyone there is doing the same thing you’re doing. Sure, the writer next to you may already be agented. But I bet she’s looking to meet editors who might be a good fit. That well-known agent? He’s looking for clients. And if you run into someone you know you’ve met but can’t remember their name? Just ask, giving yours as well.

Everyone likes to enjoy a good conversation. The writing and publishing world tends to be introverted as a rule – we spend a LOT of time by ourselves at our desks. Events are a chance to talk shop with interesting people who love what we love.

Really shy? Terribly anxious? Take a buddy or meet up at the event. Just promise each other you won’t spend the entire time together.

So get out there and have fun!

Oh, you want to know where to find these events? Well, a good place to start is with your local chapter of SCBWI



Down but not out

Now this is the way to handle rejections:

BINGO!  Rejection bingo with Kirsten Larson of the Sub It Club is a great way to have some fun with the inevitable pile of rejection letters. (Why didn’t I think of this when I was dating? “It’s not you, it’s me…” 😉  )

You have to love that the bonus square is “No Response.” I’m proud that the agency I work for responds to everyone, even if just a form letter. (P.S. If you didn’t hear back from us, it’s one of three things: a) no SASE, b) your email address bounces back to us, or c) we’re still considering it!)

Rejection is just a bump in the road. What goes down must come up. Laugh it off, and keep submitting.

Another way to handle the negative energy of rejections is to do some good in the world. This week only, Penguin Random House is having a READ-A-THON! Check out #Project Readathon, and use your reading time for a good cause. For each excerpt you read online from PGR, they will donate books to Save the Children , up to 300,000 books.

Ready? You with me? Let’s READ!