Monday, May 23, 2016

The Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Experience- Part II

So You Want to Become a Mentee

for the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program


You Want a Mentor

First, you need to know what you want in a mentor.

Here are my personal top 3 qualities I look for in a mentor:

1) Tall

2) Dark

3) Handsome

Well, looky-looky here. As luck would have it, my mentor Jim happened to fit the bill!

Okay, these qualities are more like bonuses. Below are the qualities to really look for in a mentor. Really. 

Here are my TOP 10.

A good writing mentor is someone who is:

  • Experienced in your genre and willing to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise
  • Interested in your development as a writer and your success
  • Respected in the industry or has great references
  • Easy to reach
  • Devoted and willing to spend time and energy mentoring and guiding you
  • Up-to-date with the market
  • Interested in knowing your strengths and weaknesses and building from it
  • Honest with their feedback and gives constructive criticism
  • Organized
  • Supportive
The Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program has some of the best mentors in the industry. Check the website for updates on mentor panels.

From their website [via Lia Keyes]:
“Past mentors have included National Book Award Finalists, New York Times bestselling authors, Caldecott Medal–winning illustrators, Coretta Scott King Award winners, Charlotte Zolotow Award winners, million-selling series authors, art directors, editors, publishers, and agents. We hand-pick mentors who are gifted both at creating children’s books and at teaching. Many Nevada Mentor Program alumnae have gone on to win awards, land agents, and sign book deals.”

How to Apply for the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program

Visit the SCBWI Nevada Chapter for more information

Here is the gist of it:
  • Fill out the required application
  • Send in three of your most promising manuscripts.
  • Choose two mentors you'd like to possibly work with in order of preference.
  • Your manuscripts will be given to your choices.
  • The mentors then read the [blind] manuscripts given to them.
  • Mentors choose two (sometimes three) they feel have promise.
  • Hopefully, one of the two mentors you've selected has chosen you to work with.

The Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program is a one-of-a-kind experience. Curious about what goes on? You can read my story here

  • Choose your best work for submission. (You'd be amazed at how much more can be improved. If you are sending a picture book, many times the mentor will allow up to three to work on. If you are chosen as a mentee, you can ask if your mentor will be willing to look at a different manuscript you'd prefer to work on.)
  • Choose a mentor experienced in your genre
  • Avoid choosing a mentor in hopes of that editor/agent representing you. Choose them for their mentorship!
  • Take advantage of their expertise. Don't be afraid to ask questions during the six-month course. You may want to create a list of questions ahead of time so you don't end the program with any regrets.

CAVEAT [not to be confused with Caviar]

The price of the Nevada Mentorship Program is steep. 

If you have to travel far to get to Reno, you need to factor that into the price of tuition since transportation is not included.

You can probably find a mentor for fraction of the cost of the Nevada Mentorship Program. But remember, tuition includes mentorship, craft intensive workshops, lodging, and most meals. 

Please note that the six-month program doesn't mean you are away for six months. It means, you get to work with your mentor for six months. There are two (separate) 3-day weekend retreats. One at the start of the program, the other at the end. 

The Nevada Mentorship Experience, the support, friendships, the networking with agents, editors, authors, and the relationships built are priceless. 

At the retreats you sleep, eat, mingle with agents, editors, and authors. It's the "dorm room" experience which gives the program a more intimate appeal.

Communication varies with each mentor, ranging from emails, Skype, and phone calls. Usually your one-on-one is limited to an hour at a time, three times during the six-month program. You will not know the arrangement until your first meeting with your mentor.

Everyone's mentorship experience is unique to their mentor-mentee relationship, which is why it is so important to choose your mentor wisely!

~ Happy Writing!

For more on the experience visit:

To Apply Visit:

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Experience- Part I




That about sums up my Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Experience.

The Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program runs from October through April. I was fortunate to have been selected for the six-month program. As a mentee, my mentor takes me under his wings and shares his expertise to help me become a better writer.

I was over-the-moon when I found out Jim Averbeck would be my mentor. Jim Averbeck is the author of ONE WORD SOPHIA, IN THE BLUE ROOM, and more.

Picture Books by Jim Averbeck:
One Word from Sophia (2015)
The Market Bowl (2013)
Oh No, Little Dragon (2012)
Except If (2011)
In a Blue Room (2008)

Many of you have asked me about the details of my experience so I am sharing it with you today. Here is my story.



The Beginning

The kick-off of our mentor program took place in Reno, Nevada. I was nervous about my meeting with Jim. I've seen him on occasion at local and international SCBWI conferences, but that's about it. One time I actually grabbed him without even introducing myself and asked someone to take a photo of us. I'm sure he doesn't remember this. Bold, but worth it.

SCBWI LA, Black and White Ball 2013

I digress…

My first introduction to Jim was a face-to-face critique of my manuscripts. We got down to business quick. The set-up was exactly like the LA SCBWI conference critique where you introduce yourself to your critiquer, shake hands, and wait for them to offer you to take a seat in preparation for the 



                         lip-biting feedback.  

Needless to say, it wasn't that bad. After my meeting with Jim, I stood up and my heart rallied. 

"Let's do this!"

Later, I met the other mentees who have been assigned to Jim. We dubbed ourselves Team Averbeck. Though I secretly wanted to be called the Robins since Jim was our Batman. He's cool like that.
With co-mentees Louise Henriksen and Lisa Crawford

The rest of the kick-off weekend was spent listening to speakers about the craft of writing. 

Being in a room with a select group of aspiring authors made me feel like part of a special forces unit in which only the elite come to train. As a writer whose been through many ups and downs, this experience was validating for me.

The Middle

I felt fortunate in that my mentor happens to live in close proximity to me so we were able to meet in person. It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other, clarify a comment, and get a reaction from my mentor.

Jim and I met at a local café overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We sat on comfy sofa-chairs sipping hot lattes- Chai tea latte for me, steamed milk for him. I was in writer's heaven. We engaged in a little small talk and dove right into my manuscript for a productive one hour.

Throughout the course of the mentorship, Jim assigned me a few writing exercises such as writing a letter from my protagonist to my antagonist. The exercises he gave me were so valuable in the construction of my manuscript. I appreciated that Jim took his mentorship seriously to help me become a better writer.

We went on to meet at the same café once more. The 6 month period was spent on writing and revising in-between critique sessions. Our last meeting was in Virginia City where he got to go over my manuscripts one last time for a total of four meetings.

I came into this program with what I thought were three polished pieces. It's amazing how much improvement can still be made on it. Jim helped me tighten my story more than I thought possible. My stories now have a clearer focus and streamlined story arc. My mentor Jim is intuitive, smart, and helpful. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor than him!

The End

The final retreat, held in Virginia City, was a nice way to cap my six-month long mentorship program. The weekend was spent listening to speakers (mentors), getting final critiques, socializing, and having fun.

Some of the fun things we did was tour historic downtown Virginia City, drink wine, and eat chocolate! We also shared ghost stories. After all, a weekend at the haunted St. Mary's Art and Retreat Center would not be complete without a ghost story.

At the final retreat, we all felt like one big happy family. The fact that our retreat took place in a haunted house made it feel more intimate. When things go bump in the night, you can't help but grow close very quickly.

The Attic of St. Mary's...BOO!

Because of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, I've gained new insights to my writing, created memories, and made lasting friendships. It was an amazing experience!

2015-2016 SCBWI Nevada Mentees

Want to take part in the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program?

Stay tuned for part II of my Nevada Mentorship Experience on how to apply, what to look for in a mentor, and general tips.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mentor Texts: Breaking the Fourth Wall in Picture Books

The idea of breaking the fourth wall is eliminating the barrier between reader and story and allowing them in. This allows the readers to immerse themselves into the wonderful world of imagination.

Many picture books use this technique to get readers engaged through a unique interactive experience. Humor and intrigue is a big part of it, which is what makes it so appealing to readers.

My writing mentor Jim challenged me to write my children's story eliminating the fourth wall. I stumbled on its approach so I took the time to study picture books that successfully broke the fourth wall. 

Breaking the fourth wall is nothing new in picture books. Author Crockett Johnson did a marvelous job with his book, HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON. It has become a classic favorite.

In his book, the story unfolds as the main character, Harold, draws in the book with his purple crayon. Harold doesn't know exactly where the story will take him, but he is in for an adventure and takes the readers along with him. This story is told in third person, but the pictures draw (no pun intended) the readers in through imagination.

Author Mo Willems is a pro at breaking the fourth wall with his Elephant & Piggie and Pigeon book series. In WE ARE IN A BOOK! the characters talk to each other then break out and refer to the reader. Later, they end up talking to the reader using speech bubbles. There is an interaction between characters, and between characters and the reader.

Yes Gerald?I think someone is looking at us.
A reader! A reader is reading us.
 End: Hello, will you please read us again?

Diagram for We Are in a Book!

Sometimes breaking the fourth wall can get complex as in BIG BAD BUBBLE by Adam Rubin. 

The story is told in second person and starts off like this:
You may not know this, but when a bubble pops, it doesn't just disappear.
Then a character butts in:
Bubbles are sneaky. You never hear them coming…

And now the character and the narrator, who is not revealed, are having a dialogue with each other. But at the same time, because the narrator is outside, we feel as if the character is talking to us, the reader.

Narrator: Don't listen to Mogo…he has no idea what he's talking about.
Character: Bubbles kill thousands of monsters every year.
 Narrator: No, they don't.

 Character: Oh, yeah? Prove it. 

The diagram for this story looks like this:
Diagram for Big Bad Bubble


A simple breaking the fourth wall device is to simply have the character(s) talk to the reader. This is very effective in creating an interaction between character and reader. 

Basic diagram for breaking the fourth wall

In IS THERE A DOG IN THIS BOOK? by Viviane Schwarz, several cats are talking directly to the reader and they are referring to the book that they are a part of. They ask the reader to do something. In this case, cats are inviting readers to lift tabs. This makes them feel a part of the story.

Oh, hi!You opened our book!Come and look at all the pages!

Wait- is there somebody else in this book? 

PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet is a clever and fun interactive picture book that encourages participation. The reader is instructed to do something like "press here," turn the book upside down, and shake it.

My all time favorite classic picture book is THERE IS A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, by Jon Stone. Readers are instructed to NOT to turn the page. Of course, that builds curiosity and leaves readers eventually turning the page. Grover is so adorable in his plea to readers and his fear of what's at the end of the book.

Reader as Narrator

Deborah Underwood, author of HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT uses the simple technique of character and reader interaction. The difference is that the reader becomes the narrator. As the reader reads the book as narrator, the cat is looking outside of the book. There is a private interaction between the reader and the main character, the cat. This technique allows the reader to become part of the story and makes for an exciting and personal experience.

What's wrong, cat? You look grumpy.
Diagram for Here Comes the Easter Cat

Referring to Book as Part of Story

The interaction between characters, narrator, and reader are elements to breaking the fourth wall. Referring to the book itself is another element as in THE JACKET by Kristen Hall. This story is told in third person and is about a favorite book- the (nameless) main character's book. Near the end, the readers are led to believe the book referred to in the story is the very book they are holding because it has the same cover as the book in the story. This is a great technique to get the readers emotionally involved.

Another story that refers to the book in the story is ERNEST THE MOOSE WHO DOESN'T FIT by Catherine Rayner. This is also written in third person. In this story the book comes to life as we see a transformation of the book unfold before our eyes. We see only parts of a moose because he is too large for the pages. Having the character step out of the book transports the reader into another dimension. 

Breaking Out of Character

Characters who go in and out of character as in THIS IS A MOOSE by Richard T. Morris also breaks the fourth wall. 

The story begins like any other story:

This is the Mighty Moose. His father is a moose. His mother is a moose…
This moose wants to be an astronaut.
Then all of a sudden, they break character with:
Excuse me, but moose cannot be astronauts…

The characters begin talking with each other and the story switches between the narrator telling the story in third person and natural dialogue between characters.

Diagram for This is a Moose

In CHLOE AND THE LION by Mac Barnett, Barnett himself is talking directly to the reader. His presence is known because we can see him in claymation form as a character in the book. This technique really makes you feel like you are part of the creation process.

 Here is how he starts the book:

This is me, Mac. I'm the author of this book. 
This is my friend, Adam. He's the illustrator of this book. 
And this is Chloe. She's the main character of this book.

Here, readers get a backstage pass into the book process with a formal introduction. This is effective at getting readers invested in the story.

After the introduction, the story begins as third person narrative:

Wherever Chloe went, she looked for loose change.

Not so long after the story begins, we are interrupted by Barnett who takes us out of the imaginary world:
 I'm sorry. Hold on. Adam could you come out here?

This is what it looks like in diagram form:

So you see, there are several techniques you could use to break the fourth wall of your story. Experiment with these and find which suits your story best.

After studying these mentor text, I decided that I didn't want a narrator interacting with my characters. Since I had more than one character, I used the character interaction and one sided communication of characters talking to readers as in the diagram of This is Not a Book by Mo Willems. This process of studying mentor text helped me to see the different ways to approach breaking the fourth wall. May it help you.

Mentor text for breaking the fourth wall:

THIS IS A MOOSE by Richard T. Morris


THE JACKET by Kristen Hall

HERE COMES THE EASTER by Deborah Underwood


IS THERE A DOG IN THIS BOOK? by Viviane Schwarz


BIG BAD BUBBLE by Adam Rubin




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Debut Author Interview with Catherine Bailey

Catherine Bailey is a children's author from sunny Florida. She just celebrated the release of her debut picture book MIND YOUR MONSTERS on August 8, 2015 in her hometown's Barnes &  Noble, which proved to be a MONSTER of a party!

Catherine started promoting her book way in advance. I won my MYM swag during her cover-reveal giveaway on her blog back in March. She's created a lot of buzz since so I wanted to get the inside scoops of her marketing skills. 

In this interview, you will learn every detail on what goes into planning a book launch party and more. Lots of monsterly love here so let's get started! 

Monster Marketing 

An interview with debut author Catherine Bailey

Catherine, how did you come up with the idea for Mind Your Monsters?

My then two year old daughter asked me “Mommy, how do you move a monster?” The best answer I could come up with was “Politely.” – LOL! Then I was intrigued by this idea that by using manners – specifically please – small kids could have this great big power. Plus I love Halloween and all things monster.

Sterling Publishing, 2015
PLEASE (notice my politeness?) tell us the path you took that led you to your agent 

Basically I queried Kathleen, was very kindly and thoughtfully rejected, and then approached her again a few months later when Mind Your Monsters was pulled from the slush pile by an editor at Sterling Publishing. Kathleen had never seen Mind Your Monsters before because I queried her with a different manuscript (You don’t query agents with stories that you have out on sub to editors).

You can read the long version of this story on my author blog here.

Who initiated the set-up of your book launch party? 

I initiated the launch party – as well as every single library, school and store visit since. My publisher provided me with a publicist who has been wonderful in terms of submitting the book to print media. But as a debut author it really was on me to get the word out – in person and on social media. I spent three days driving to every place I could think of that might sell or carry my book, equipped with a self-made “media packet.” I called newspapers and schools. I figured out Twitter…. Eventually…. Sort of. I hired a web designer and paid for a website. I made a Facebook page. I kept my blog updated. I bought promo items, made an enormous plywood replica of my book cover for photo ops, and researched what to do at events (crafts games, work sheets, etc.) Bottom line – I hustled, and I’m still hustling! 

"As a debut author it really was on me to get the word out"

I love the idea of the photo op with your giant book cover! So tell me, what goes on in the planning of a launch party at a bookstore?

Well first I had to pick a place. The local Barnes and Noble was the obvious choice (though I had a back up option just in case). I called and got the B&N event coordinator’s name and email. I contacted her with a pitch for the party, my headshot, Press Release, book cover graphic, black and white samples of the artwork, etc. Once Barnes and Noble was on board with hosting the event I mapped out a rough schedule – reading, crafts, signing – and got everything approved by B&N. I didn't plan any food because it was prohibited and frankly that was fine with me.

Then I promoted the event online and in person. I had flyers designed by my web designer and printed them up at Staples. It was summer so I approached local camps and asked them to send the flyers home with the kids. If school had been in session I would have contacted them as well – at least schools where my daughters attend, and where I have teacher and mom friends. I posted them at YMCAs, stores, gyms, libraries, daycares – pretty much if it was in Stuart and didn’t move, I taped my flyer to it.

"I promoted the event online and in person"

How did I figure out what to do? I researched launch parties on the Blueboards, I asked my critique partners who are published, and I read author blogs. I also chatted with librarians for ideas and my agent was SUPER helpful. I did all this BEFORE I contacted B&N so I could approach them with a concrete, professional plan.

Did much of your marketing expense come out-of-pocket?

Yup, LOL! I have paid for everything – from gas for road trips to launch party flyers to little monster toys – except for a huge and beautiful poster that my publicist sent to me. My husband is less than thrilled with this but I think it’s crucial to show readers, educators and your publisher that you are “in it to win it”

How many months in advance did you plan for the book launch?

Two months.

Any other marketing strategies that worked or didn't work for you? 

Facebook has been a wonderful resource, as has Twitter. And I don’t even really understand Twitter. I do know that I can be at a reading or signing and post a picture to these sites from my phone – which is easy, free, fun promotion. They are also great places to get the word out about events, and most importantly to show thanks. A lot of people will work hard to make you successful and support you. Be grateful – and be grateful publicly!

Adorable plush monsters!
Also stick with what you know and don’t spread yourself too thin. Do I use Pinterest and Instagram? Nope. They are probably fabulous but I have enough with my FB page, Twitter account, website, blog and in person work.   

"A lot of people will work hard to make you successful and support you. Be grateful and be grateful publicly!"

What resources did you use to help you plan for the marketing of your book?

The best resources were my critique partners and the Blueboards. Which is to say – you should learn from authors who’ve already done this. And be sure to pay it forward. For example, school visits were a mystery to me. But after weeks of online research and talking to teachers, I drafted and polished my Author Visit Packet. Then another writer asked to see it, copied it, tweaked it, and is using it now. I’m thrilled I could help her like so many other writers helped me.

Oh and does Diet Coke and Nutella count as resources? Because I used those too :)

Oh, I LOVE Nutella! Yes, they count as resources. Nothing like nuts to keep you sane!

Thank you so much, Catherine, for doing this interview with me. I've learned so much as to what goes on behind the scenes of an author! I'm finding that an author wears many hats.  I wish you happiness and abundance! 

PLEASE show Catherine your monsterly love by picking up a copy of MIND YOUR MONSTERS. Available in bookstores today!

Fun Facts:

  • # of rewrites/revisions for Mind Your Monsters: Dozens 
  • # of months from first draft to polished ms: 14 months
  • # of months for Sterling to publish Mind Your Monsters: 32 months!
  • # of months from agent contract to Sterling contract:  7 months


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