READ LOCALLY — April 2022

Happy Spring! This is the third edition of this feature on our SCBWI-WI blog. Our chapter has so many talented members writing and illustrating books for kids. We want to make sure that our members know about everyone’s new books. The books listed below were published in February or March 2022 by independent and traditional publishers. The books are organized in categories, alphabetically by the member’s last name.

Thanks to all who took the time to read and respond to February’s post. Please check out the books on this list and support your fellow members however you can. And keep up all the great creative work!

PICTURE BOOKS

Title: TURTLE ON THE TRACK

Author: Karen Condit (member)

Illustrator: Mollie Ginther

Publication date:  February 2, 2022

Description: The restless, impatient passengers on the Scurryville Express are forced to slow down when a turtle crosses the tracks. Oscar uses his creativity and patience to help the travelers slow down and enjoy the ride!

Link to purchase:  www.karencondit.com

Title: SAVE IT, SHARE IT, AND SPEND IT: Money Management for Kids

Author: Denise Marie Hardnett (member)

Illustrator: Abida Eman

Publication date: March 21, 2022

Description: Save It, Share It, and Spend It: Money Management for Kids is an important tool for teaching children about the world of finance! They will learn about earning, budgeting, and spending money in this exciting new story.

Link to purchase: https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Save-it-Share-it-and-Spend-it

Title: TYLER THE SUPERHERO: Empowering kids to stand up for yourself and others

Author: Denise Marie Hardnett (member)

Illustrator: Abida Eman

Publication date: March 21, 2022

Description: Tyler the Superhero is a story about family, friends, and how to deal with mean kids in the neighborhood or classmates. It’s a story about standing up for yourself and being brave.

Link to purchase: https://store.bookbaby.com/bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=Tyler-the-Superhero 

Title:  IN OUR GARDEN     

Author:  Pat Zietlow Miller (member)

Illustrator:  Melissa Crowton

Publication date:  March 15, 2022

Description: This is the story of a garden – and a girl – in bloom, and what it takes for a new place to finally feel like home.

Link to purchasehttps://www.amazon.com/Our-Garden-Pat-Zietlow-Miller/dp/1984812106/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1T55JY5S525L6&keywords=in+our+garden+zietlow&qid=1645561753&sprefix=in+our+garden+zietlow%2Caps%2C95&sr=8-

Title:  WHEN I’M WITH YOU  

Author: Pat Zietlow Miller (member)

Illustrator:  Eliza Wheeler  

Publication date:  March 1, 2022

Description:  This jubilant celebration of lifelong friendship and the adventures of childhood – told in memorable rhyme – will make your heart sing.            

Link to purchasehttps://www.amazon.com/When-You-Pat-Zietlow-Miller/dp/0316429155/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2CFCE48ZET00U&keywords=when+i%27m+with+you+zietlow&qid=1645561827&sprefix=when+i%27m+with+you+zietlow%2Caps%2C105&sr=8-1

Title: HOWIE’S BROKEN HEE-HAW

Author: Josie Siler (member)

Illustrator: Sebastien Braun

Publication date: February 22, 2022

Description: Howie has a broken Hee-Haw and it makes him MAD! This new take on the story of Palm Sunday will delight children as they laugh through silly hee-haws, feel sad with Howie when he sees himself as a failure, and cheer him on as he faces his fears and carries Jesus into Jerusalem. 

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1637970110/

Title: 101 WAYS TO HELP THE EARTH WITH DR. SEUSS’S LORAX

Author: Miranda Paul (member)

Illustrator: Patrick Spaziante

Publication date: Feb 1, 2022

Description: Simple suggestions for helping the planet that kids can do themselves—ideal for nurturing a love of nature and for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax!

Link to purchase: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/656298/101-ways-to-help-the-earth-with-dr-seusss-lorax-by-miranda-paul/ 

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS

TitleCROSSING THE PRESSURE LINE

Author: Laura Anne Bird (member)

Illustrator: Jayden Ellsworth

Publication date: March 1, 2022

Description: Crossing the Pressure Line introduces a plucky, deeply reflective heroine who grieves the untimely loss of her grandfather, puts her self-confidence to the test, and learns how to listen to the courageous voice inside.

Link to purchase: Buy the Book | Laura Bird Books 

Congratulations to all these members!

The next edition of READ LOCALLY will appear in June of 2022. It will showcase books published in April and May 2022.

READ LOCALLY — February 2022

Today we are sharing the second edition of this new feature on our SCBWI-WI blog. Our chapter has so many talented members writing and illustrating books for kids. We want to make sure that our members know about everyone’s new books. The books listed below were published in December 2021 or January 2022 by independent and traditional publishers. The books are organized in categories, alphabetically by the member’s last name.

Thanks to all who took the time to read and respond to December’s post. Please take a look at the books on this list and support your fellow members however you can. And keep up the great creative work!

PICTURE BOOKS

Title: Caterpillar’s Surprise

Author: Janet Halfmann (member)

Illustrator: Emily Krueger

Publication date: December 2, 2021

Description: A masquerade ball with a blue ribbon! Can Caterpillar, with the help of her friend Tadpole, win the prize? Or will she find something else is more important than winning? Caterpillar’s Surprise is a story of friendship, growing up, and big changes—with lots of fun science.

Link to purchase: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caterpillars-surprise-janet-halfmann/1140054117?ean=9781684338450

Title: Discover The Unique Individual You

Author: Naomi Harm (member)

Illustrator: Joni Nemeth

Publication date: December 2021

Description: Discover The Unique Individual You uses a rhyming picture book story line to motivate children to discover their unique, personal learning interests via STEM experiments and collaborative DIY activities with empathy in mind. This book has been a genuine passion project for author Naomi Harm because it represents the significance of modeling, guiding, and investing in our future generations of leaders of girls and today’s diverse learners.

Link to purchase: One link to purchasing information for your book 

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

TitleThe Unique Individual You: Your compass, visionary roadmap, and toolkit to become a transformational leader

Author: Naomi Harm (member)

Publication date: December 2021

Description: In The Unique Individual You, women-in-leadership strategist Naomi Harm presents compelling neuroscience research that documents how and why women’s brains are wired for empathy, intuition, and collaboration–the very qualities business managers and educational administrators are looking for in their leaders of today. Mentorship stories of hope, optimism, mindfulness, and resilience drive the story line; and they outline a creative visionary roadmap of effective women in leadership “lean-in” strategies and solutions to define and guide your women in leadership career trajectory.

Link to purchase: Amazon leadership book link

Congratulations to all these members!

The next edition of READ LOCALLY will appear in April of 2022. It will showcase books published in February and March 2022.

READ LOCALLY — December 2021

Today we begin a new feature on our SCBWI-WI blog. Our chapter has so many talented members writing and illustrating books for kids. We want to make sure that our members know about everyone’s new books. The books listed below were published in October or November 2021 by independent and traditional publishers. The books are organized in categories, alphabetically by the member’s last name.

Please take a look at the list and support your fellow members however you can. I’m so impressed by the variety of work we’re doing.

PICTURE BOOKS

Title: Let’s Talk, Baby

Author and illustrator: Stephanie Ciatti (member)

Publication date: October 21, 2021

Description: Written by a speech language pathologist, Let’s Talk, Baby is an adorable, simple board book for babies and toddlers. It includes tips in the front for parents and caregivers to help their babies’ babbles become words!

Link to purchaseninewise.com/shop

Title: Oh, Dear! Height is my Fear!

Illustrator: Terri Einer (member)

Author: Effie May

Publication date: October 29, 2021

Description: In this tale of conquering fear, a young acorn navigates the unknown of growing up, and learns to embrace branching out!

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Oh-Dear-Height-Fear-Branching/dp/1957016000/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1636657717&refinements=p_27%3AMAYS&s=books&sr=1-2

Title: Jack and the Snackasaurus

Author: K. Nieber (member)

Illustrator: Steven Andriantsiratahina

Publication date: October 27, 2021

Description: What happens when a young boy and his imaginary friends track a tail-whumping, cookie-stealing Snackasaurus? They chase it away only to find they have lost a friend.

Link to purchaseknieber.com 

Title: Little Bee on the Farm

Author and Illustrator: Jeanne Styczinski (member)

Publication date: October 1, 2021

Description: It’s Little Bee’s turn to collect nectar. During her flight between, under, over, and around different farm animals, the reader learns about prepositions and the product each farm animal produces. After Little Bee finds the garden where the nectar is waiting and travels back home, she and her sisters get busy making their own farm product– honey.

Link to purchase: https://mrsjeanne.com/

TitleWhoo, Whoo, Who’s Out There?

Author: K.M. Waldvogel (member)

Illustrator: Jayden Ellsworth

Publication date:  October 12, 2021

Description: Baby Owl’s fears increase with each new sight and sound, causing him to wonder how he can survive such a scary world. Mama Owl reassures him she will watch over him until he can soar on his own.

Link to purchasehttps://www.amazon.com/Whoo-Whos-Out-There/dp/164538313X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=whoo+whoo+who%27s+out+there&qid=1636570373&qsid=135-2560385-3301331&s=books&sr=1-1&sres=1645383199%2C1416918256%2C1536205664%2C158925872X%2C1680523201%2C0375846212%2CB07MY6D7BG%2C988834157X%2C0756690099%2C146546526X

Title: Roxy the Fox

Author: Deb Glenn

Illustrator: Terri Wilhelm (member)

Publication date: October 8, 2021

DescriptionRoxy the Fox is a pretty fox who gets herself into one misadventure after another, usually getting worse, until there’s a happy or rueful resolution. The hand drawn, watercolor illustrations include a map of Roxy’s forest where her adventures take place.

Link to purchasethedaisybooks.com/shop

MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS

Title: Chemical Reactions!: With 25 Science Projects for Kids

AuthorDr. Susan Berk Koch

IllustratorTom Casteel

Publication date:  October 15, 2021

Description: Chemical Reactions is a non-fiction book that brings chemistry to life with hands-on, science-minded activities and plenty of text-to-world connections. It invites kids ages 7 to 12 to discover the wonderful world of chemical reactions!

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3zQeHdX

Title: Meena Lost and Found

AuthorKarla Manternach (member)

Illustrator: Mina Price

Publication dateOctober 12, 2021 (the third book in the Meena Zee series)

DescriptionMeena Zee’s trash collection gets out of hand as she tries to expand her new club, find a missing cat, and keep her best friend from moving away. But what if being a good friend means losing what she loves?

Link to purchasehttps://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Meena-Lost-and-Found/Karla-Manternach/The-Meena-Zee-Books/9781534486140 

Title: The Listening Tree

Author: Kathryn Randall (member)

Publication date: October 2, 2021

Description: Three young people from three different time periods all connect to the same special tree and its mission to help the Trees save the planet. The clock is ticking.

Link to purchasehttps://www.amazon.com/Listening-Tree-Kathryn-Randall/dp/1737767120/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+listening+tree&qid=1634825193&s=books&sr=1-1

Young Adult Novels

Title: The Illiterate Daughter

Author: Chia Gounza Vang (member)

Publication date: November 8, 2021

Description: The Vietnam War forces Nou’s family to flee, but they are caught in the woods. As a survivor, 16-year-old Nou must find the strength and courage to search for food, water, and ways to bring her wounded and starving family to safety, which is far out of reach.

Link to purchasehttps://www.amazon.com/Illiterate-Daughter-Young-Guardian-Book-ebook/dp/B08NFNFFCK

Congratulations to all these members!

The next edition of READ LOCALLY will be out in February of 2022. We’ll be showcasing books published in December 2021 and January 2022.

An Interview with Art Director Maria Middleton

The SCBWI-WI Virtual Illustrator Intensive “Covering Covers” will be on Saturday, November 6th from 10:00 am to 12:15 pm. Maria Middleton, Candlewick Art Director, will present on what makes an eye-catching book cover in today’s market. Registration for the event has closed, but Maria kindly agreed to stop by the blog to share some of her insights

Photo © Sung Park Photography

Maria is an art director, designer, and visual storyteller. As the Art Director of Imprints for Candlewick Press, she makes books for kids of all ages.

“Book design is storytelling and I like stories that inspire imagination, curiosity, and creativity. I believe that the practice of looking is just as important as the practice of doing, so my favorite question to ask myself and those I work with is, What if? I’m drawn to out-of-the-box thinking, hand-lettered typography, and quirky but lovable characters. When I’m not designing books, I’m digging in the garden or taking long walks with my husband and our rescue pup, Wyla.”

I asked Maria how her favorite question: ‘What if?’ encourages people to create eye-catching work.

“I like to think of What if? as a prompt rather than a directive. Anyone can tell an illustrator to move something to the left or to make it bigger. But those are static requests that don’t always inspire exploration. My desire when communicating with illustrators is to empower their creativity and open doors to the possibilities that exist for any problem. I have tons of ideas, but I don’t always have the solution to every challenging page turn or tricky cover. I’m also not an illustrator, so I offer ideas as an art director and designer. Then I trust my illustrators to do what they do best: Be curious and think critically. I believe eye-catching work happens when creatives are given the space to be inspired and not simply told what to do.” 

Here’s another quote from Maria that I really love.

“If I had to ask one thing of the universe, my request would be that the books I create ignite the imaginations of as many kids as possible – that children can find in the pages I’ve designed a better way of seeing the world and perhaps a more loving and accepting way of seeing themselves. Books are designed to be a mirror for the reader. They have the power to transport us, inform us, challenge us, and ultimately, help us see ourselves more clearly. That’s how books shaped me. I learned about the world through stories. And when I grew up and experienced the world for myself, I knew how to ask questions, exercise compassion, and open my imagination to endless possibilities.”

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your insights with our members.

An Interview with Rebecca Hirsch Illustrator Coordinator

The SCBWI-WI blog continues to profile our volunteers. Today we welcome Rebecca Hirsch.

Rebecca is the Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI-WI. She has been an active member of SCBWI and attended conferences since 2011. Among her awards are “Honorable Mention” in SCBWI-WI illustrator competition in Fall of 2016, “Second Runner Up” in the 2017 Tomie de Paola SCBWI contest, “Winner” in the SCBWI-WI illustrator competition at 2017 Fall conference, and the “People’s Choice Award” at Marvelous Midwest conference in May 2019. Her first book, Panda’s Pause, written by Dr. Amanda DeSua, was released in November 2018. Her latest book, Is It Over?, written by Sandy Brehl, was released in July 2021. She has a BFA from University of Wisconsin Madison. She lives in Waukesha with her husband and two daughters

Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to answer a few questions for the SCBWI-WI blog. Can you tell us what the Illustrator Coordinator does?

An Illustrator Coordinator hopes to foster connection among the artists in their chapter, and also to provide programming and opportunities for member development.

How can members get more involved in our chapter?

Admittedly, it’s been difficult to stay connected this past year, even with platforms such as Zoom. But there are still programs being offered through SCBWI, including our first Illustrator Intensive since 2019. “Covering Covers,” with Candlewick Art Director Maria Middleton, will take place on Saturday, November 6th. Details are on our chapter’s Regional page.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your own work––and share an illustration if you wouldn’t mind?

I’ve been a SCBWI member since 2011 and attended many conferences. My book with Wisconsin author Sandy Brehl, Is It Over?, released on July 6th. I am currently focusing on my own projects and adding pieces to my portfolio, and of course looking forward to my next collaboration.

Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your insights and for that wonderful illustration. I love how it demonstrates that all of us creators need support to make our work sing.

An Interview with SCBWI-WI Newsletter Coordinator Sandra Nichols

Many hardworking, talented SCBWI-WI volunteers help keep our chapter great. Today’s blog focuses on Sandra Nichols, the coordinator for our newsletter, Creative Tap. The newsletter is a wonderful source of helpful information from members. If you haven’t read it, you can check out past issues here or find them on our SCBWI-WI website.

Sandra is a writer, educator, and editor who has a keen interest in helping others find joy in creative expression. She has a passion for history and learning. She teaches developmental writing and civics. She has been an active member in Wisconsin State Reading Association for the past ten years and is a regular contributor to their state journal. She has a BA in History from UW Milwaukee and an MA in English from UW Oshkosh. Currently, she teaches at Mid-State Technical College.

  • The newsletter, Creative Tap, is a great asset to our chapter. I really love the “fun facts” section and the tips for writers and illustrators. What inspired you to start it?

I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and also get to know the SCBWI-WI members better, so I began attending events such as the conference. A call went out for volunteers, and one of the positions was newsletter coordinator. What a great opportunity, I thought. A newsletter has a creative aspect about it and connects with so many people: contributors, readers. Leah Danz had volunteered to do the newsletter layout and artwork back in 2018. Together, we came up the name Creative Tap.

  • You’ve been a writer, a teacher, an editor, and a committee member at WSRA for many years. Why do you think it’s important to help people find joy in creative expression?

The creative spirit is the soul of individuals, part of what makes us human. Why the Paleolithic Lascaux cave images or the more recent Hmong story cloths? Storytelling is at the heart of this, weaving the past to the present, the tangible with the intangible, in a desire to make sense of the world around us and within us, to shout out “I exist.” What greater mission than to help others voice this?

  • That is so true! What are your goals for the newsletter?

I want the chapter members to find a nugget of inspiration in every edition. I want the newsletter to be a collaborative effort, a way to share collective knowledge and showcase members’ writing and illustrations. We all can use a little help now and then––even if it’s just a nudge to keep going.

  • Supporting and encouraging each other is important. How can members get involved? 

Members can get involved several ways:

  • Write a tips article. The newsletter is always looking for short articles highlighting writer or illustrator tips. Send ideas to me at nichols.five@hotmail.com.
  • Submit to the new author and illustrator challenges: Ready! Set! Write!, a writing prompt activity, and Illustrator Gallery where illustrators submit a visual interpretation on the upcoming newsletter’s theme. All submissions find a place in the newsletter. Calls go out for these submission via the ListServ. Keep an eye out for the fall newsletter challenge sometime in July.
  • Share any upcoming author or illustrator events such as a library or bookstore read-aloud and workshops. With the coronavirus shut downs, the upcoming events has been the hardest to gather.
  • Submit ideas for an interest article related to writing, illustrating, or publishing. Contact me via my email.

Thank you so much, Sandra, for sharing your insights and for all your work on Creative Tap. I look forward to the next issue––and seeing more members’ contributions.

Spring Studio Recap

On Saturday May 1, SCBWI-WI hosted a day long event called PrePAIRing for Success. Because it was virtual, KidLit creators from all across the country were able to learn from faculty members Stef Wade, Christa Heschke, Tiffany Shelton, and Zabé Ellor. There was a lively exchange of comments in the chat room as well as the opportunity to ask questions. SCBWI continues to host many virtual events. They are a great way to learn and stay connected.

A screen shot of Deb interviewing Stef and Christa

Agent Christa Heschke presented first. Her focus was on picture books. She talked about trends in the industry and how to make your book stand out. One important piece of wisdom was to “make every word count.”

Wisconsin author, Stef Wad, presented next. She explained how her experience in marketing enabled her to write award winning picture books, such as A Place For Pluto. Finding a hook isn’t just important for sales, it’s important for our stories too.

Editor Tiffany Shelton and agent/author Zabé Ellor presented together. Their focus was on character relationships in MG and YA novels. They talked a lot about the importance of working relationships as well, whether that relationship is among the author, their agent, and eventually their editor–or sometimes the community of writers and illustrators who are supporting each other in the publishing journey.

After a break for lunch, Wisconsin Co-RA Deb Buschman interviewed Christa and Stef. Deb shared questions from the participants as well as her own. They also stressed the importance of relationships with people in the business, and with educators and librarians. Stef recommended seeking out kids to find out what is working and what needs improvement in your work.

A screen shot of Silvia interviewing Tiffany and Zabé.

Wisconsin Co-RA Silvia Acevedo interviewed Tiffany and Zabé. They each said that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions of your agent or editor. And reminded us to read, read, read.

I learned so much from these presentations. Thank you to all the faculty for sharing your insights. Thank you, Silvia and Deb, for all the great questions and for putting together this great day. And a special thanks to Joyce Uglow, Webinar Coordinator, for a seamless event.

An Interview with Author/Agent Zabé Ellor

The weather is warmer. The flowers are blooming. And the SCBWI-WI virtual Spring Studio – PrePAIRing for Success is just a few weeks away. On May 1, 2021, you will have the unique online opportunity to find out how publishing pairs collaborate. Each faculty pair will lead a joint presentation, sharing their dual experiences and/or collaboration, in their specialized track. Our MG/YA faculty include author (and associate agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency) Zabé Ellor and Amazon Publishing editor Tiffany Shelton. They will discuss how to create great character relationships for young readers just growing into their own.

Go to this link to find more information and sign up for the Spring Studio. Please don’t delay. Registration closes at 10 p.m. Central Time on April 16, 2021.

Zabé “Z. R.” Ellor grew up in Washington, DC and narrowly escaped a career in the sciences to write and agent novels. He holds a BA in English Lit and biology from Cornell University. When not writing, he can be found running, playing video games, and hunting the best brunch deals in Dupont Circle.

I asked Zabé: does your background in biology give you a fresh angle on romance? Or not?

I wouldn’t say my degree has much impact on how I write romance. I think it’s important to understand the basics of writing romance because it’s a good way to learn writing relationships as a whole. Once you understand what readers find compelling, then you can use that to inform all relationships you write on-page.

Thanks for taking the time to be on our blog and to be part of our Spring Workshop. We look forward to more of your insights on May 1.

An Interview with Agent Christa Heschke

The SCBWI-WI virtual Spring Studio – PrePAIRing for Success is just a few weeks away! On May 1, 2021, you will have the unique online opportunity to find out how publishing pairs collaborate. Each faculty pair will lead a joint presentation, sharing their dual experiences and/or collaboration, in their specialized track. Among the pairs are agent Christa Heschke and author Stef Wade. In their workshop, ComPAIR & Contrast: Making Your Picture Book Stand Out, you’ll learn how to find your style, turn your ideas into stories, and discover what it takes to create a marketable picture book. Go to this link to find more info and sign up for the Spring Studio.

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.

The Spring Studio will have a moderated Q&A panel, in which participants will have the chance to ask questions. I asked Christa, what can creators do to make an agent’s job easier?

I’d say that authors and illustrators should make sure to do their research on each agent and agency before submitting to them. Make sure you are sending to the correct email address and following ALL submission guidelines. Usually an agent’s website or blog or MSWL on Twitter is the best place to look for the most up-to-date info. Agents get a lot of queries so try to do what you can to stand out. It’s really helpful to me when authors use the email subject line to their advantage. Put in the title, age range and genre, i.e. TITLE X, YA contemporary. I get a lot of queries that simply say query or submission. It helps me to know what I will be reading when I open the email. If a genre I’m eagerly looking for is noted in the subject line or the project has an intriguing title, I likely will look at it much sooner than an email with a subject line without any details.

Thank you, Christa, for sharing this information and for being part of our Spring Studio. We look forward to hearing more from you on May 1.

PrePAIRing for Success! — an interview with Stef Wade

Connect with us online May 1, 2021, for our virtual Spring Studio – PrePAIRing for Success! This is a unique opportunity for you to find out how publishing pairs collaborate. Among the pairs are agent Christa Heschke and Author Stef Wade. In their workshop, ComPAIR & Contrast: Making Your Picture Book Stand Out, you’ll learn how to find your style, turn your ideas into stories, and discover what it takes to create a marketable picture book. Go to this link to find more info and sign up for the Spring Studio.

Today, the blog welcomes Stef Wade. She’s best-selling author of A Place for Pluto, illustrated by Melanie Demmer, and The Very Last Leaf, illustrated by Jennifer Davison. A Place for Pluto has received numerous awards and recognition including, Honorable Mention for the Council of Wisconsin Writers Tofte/Wright Children’s Literary Award and the 2019 LITA Golden Duck Notable Picture Book. Stef’s upcoming picture book, Q and U Call It Quits, illustrated by Jorge Martin, releases from HarperCollins on June 15, 2021. Stef holds a BA in advertising from Marquette University and an MBA in Integrated Marketing Communication from DePaul University. While a Chicago-girl at heart, she’s bounced all over the Midwest with her college sweetheart husband and her three historically and literary named boys. She currently resides in Brookfield, WI.

I’m so impressed by how you find creative ways to explore traditional concepts. Can you talk about that?

I’m so excited to be a part of the SCBWI-WI Spring Studio with my super agent, Christa Heschke. Brainstorming and cultivating ideas is my favorite part of the writing process and I can’t wait to help others and share some of my own experiences. 

We have a saying in my house, “Make Every Day Fun.” I use this motto in my writing as well. Many of my books start with a familiar concept and are then anthropomorphized into a silly, punny story! Just like we’ve all had to be extra creative over the last year on how to make our days fun when we are stuck at home, the same goes for story ideas. How can I take something we see or hear every day, something kids learn in school, something basic and bring it to life? I take it apart. I break it down. I make lists. What are all the parts of the solar system? How do leaves grow and how do they fall? How many words start with QU? I write down as many words and phrases that are associated with the concepts and go from there! You never know where the actual story is going to come together! 

I can’t wait to share more on this in April!

Thank you Stef! we’re really excited to hear your presentation. And we look forward to more of your wonderful, fun books.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––