Author Webinar on August 18

KLSS 2015 BadgeWe have three amazing authors lined up to join us for the Webinar this coming Tuesday on August 18 at 8pm EST! They offer expertise in writing picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels. So who are these fabulous featured authors? Let us introduce them to you:

John Claude Bemis author photo 2015John Claude Bemis is the author of the middle grade Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince(coming March 2016 from Disney-Hyperion). John was chosen as North Carolina’s Piedmont Laureate for Children’s Literature and is the recipient of UNC Chapel Hill’s Excellence in Teaching Award for his work as an author-educator. He lives in Hillsborough, NC.

Lori DegmanLori Degman is teacher of the deaf and an award winning picture book author. She has two books: 1 Zany Zoo,Simon & Schuster (Cheerios New Author Contest winner);Cock-a-Doodle Oops,Creston Books (2015 ILA Honor Book); and Norbert’s Big Dream, Sleeping Bear Press, coming July, 2016.

Yvonne Ventresca Author Photo Yvonne Ventresca is the author of Pandemic (Sky Pony Press, 2014), winner of the 2015 Crystal Kite Award from SCBWI (Atlantic region).  She has presented at several SCBWI conferences, including a session on “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Novel.” Yvonne’s other writing credits include a short story in the YA dystopian anthology Prep for Doom (2015), two nonfiction books for teens,Avril Lavigne (a biography of the singer) and Publishing (about careers in the field), along with various articles for teens and adults.

If you registered for Kidlit Summer School 2015 an email was sent to you with details on how to register for this webinar. Have a question for one or all of these authors? There is a place for you to ask it on the registration form. REGISTRATION FOR THIS WEBINAR WILL CLOSE ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 16, 2015 at 11pm ET. Any registrations after that time cannot be accommodated. We hope you can join us on Tuesday night!

EEEEE! Why #KidlitSummerSchool? This essay tells you!

CourtenayToday’s featured essay was written by Courtenay Schurman! At the end of Kidlit Summer School 2014 we invited those who participated to write an essay on the topic What I Learned in Summer School as a final exam. In just a few days, we’ll begin Summer School 2015! This inspirational essay will make you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the great info! If you missed Summer School last year, you can still check out all of those posts right here on the blog. And if you were with us last summer, this post will help you remember those good times. Maybe you’ll want to go re-read some of last year’s wisdom!

Not registered yet? There is still time! Click HERE to register for Summer School 2015. Registered participants have access to the webinars and the exercise book!


What I learned from Nerdy Chicks Write in three hundred words? I’ll boil it down to five: Enlightening, Energizing, Evocative, Empowering, and Enabling.

Rebecca Petruck’s #30mdares (particularly “Fight with your best friend” and “Home is destroyed”) made me stretch beyond my comfort zone to outside-the-box directions I could not have conceived of for my particular story, but which resulted in new scenes I want to include in my finished MG WIP. How enlightening!

The Webinars left me feeling more strongly connected to a larger community of women writers, informally with participants (sidebar chats) and formally through the authors, editors and agents who were our teachers.  I do not know of any other no-charge class like this that covers as much material in an at-your-own-pace format. How energizing!

Kat Yeh’s Character Interview blog taught me to go deeper into my MC’s response by sending other story characters to ask the same question. I will add this technique to my tool box whenever I want to add depth, understanding, and layers to a scene. How evocative!

Kelly Light’s lesson on drawing your MC’s emotion and bedroom was an exercise I never would have tried, since I consider my ten-year-old daughter to be the artist in the family. She taught me value in going beyond my limited beliefs; even if I feel I don’t draw well myself, I can still get a clear visual in my head that can deepen my understanding of character. How empowering!

Finally, Zacharia OHora reminded us that fear is a very real part of the writing profession that we can work past. By taking this first step, I am finding the desire to push forward increasing as the confidence to keep writing grows. How enabling!

CSBy Courtenay Schurman, M.S., CSCS

co-author of The Outdoor Athlete, 2009 (Human Kinetics)

Get Ready for #KidlitSummerSchool

KLSS 2015 BadgeWelcome Summer Schoolers! Are you getting yourselves mentally prepared for school to start? We hope so — we’ll be kicking things off on Monday, July 20! Here are some things to look forward to…

The Facebook  Group 
We encourage everyone who is on FB AND who has registered for Kidlit Summer School to ask to join the Kidlit Summer School FB group. You can still participate in Kidlit Summer School if you are not on FB, but this is a place to meet your classmates! We also answer questions there. If you have registfbered for Kidlit Summer School, have asked to be added to the FB group, and did not get added within a day, it may be because your FB name did not match up with your registration name. Please double check this.

#30mdare is back!

Petruck WabiSabi Color (3)This year, Rebecca Petruck will post prompts on Twitter and Facebook twice a week so students have the freedom to arrange group dares that suit their schedules and time zones, or do them on their own. The only “rule” is to set a timer and go without stopping for 30 minutes. Prompts will be posted Tuesday at 9p ET and Saturday at 10a ET, which means there will be a total of seven prompts. GIVEAWAY: Students who complete at least five will be entered to win a 20-page critique and follow-up phone call from Rebecca.

 To get prompts, check the Twitter hashtag #30mdare or visit the KidLit Summer School group on Facebook. For more information about #30mdare, click HERE.


Pre-registration is over, but regular registration is still going on! If you aren’t registered yet, click HERE to fill out the form. If you registered last year, you can still participate in some activities, but only those registered for Kidlit Summer School 2015 will be able to register for this year’s webinars and be eligible for prizes. Please register to make sure you get the appropriate notifications.

Follow the Blog!

Following this blog will bring you the great author posts and announcements as they are posted. You can follow the blog in the right sidebar.


Talking about Kidlit Summer School on Social Media? Feel free to use our hastag #KidlitSummerSchool!

Grab the Badge and Banner! This year’s badge and banner was designed by the amazing Joyce Wan. Click HERE for more about it and to grab it for your own website, Twitter account of FB page.

Get those pencils sharpened! You’ll soon be taking notes from some Kidlit greats!

Badge and Banner for #KidlitSummerSchool 2015!

We are thrilled to reveal this year’s badge and banner for Kidlit Summer School 2015. Designed by the super talented Joyce Wan, this little chickie is all about diving into plot! Details about a great giveaway follow so keep reading, but first, take a look at this banner: 

KLSS 2015 Banner


Now check out this awesome badge:

KLSS 2015 Badge



In case you’re wondering who could create something so amazing, it’s author and artist Joyce Wan. Here’s a little more about Joyce along with a link to her website.

joycewan-headshot-2015 (1)Joyce Wan is an award-winning author-illustrator of many popular books for children, including You Are My Cupcake, We Belong Together, and The Whale In My Swimming Pool, which was a Junior Library Guild Spring 2015 selection. When she’s not working on books, she teaches courses at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Visit her online at

Thank you for designing something so fabulous for Kidlit Summer School Joyce!


To celebrate, we’re giving away a tote bag with the new logo! All you have to do to enter is share this post on FB, Twitter, or other social media and leave a comment below letting us know where you shared it. One name will be randomly drawn from those who shared. Be sure to use #KidlitSummerSchool when you do!


Hang out with the Cool Kids: #KidlitSummerSchool 2015


TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO PRE-REGISTER for KIDLIT SUMMMER SCHOOL 2015! Links to registration page and to a page listing Summer School perks are at the bottom of this post. Check out this essay for more reasons to enroll in Kidlit Summer School!

Today’s featured essay was written by Nadine Hyter Gamble! At the end of Kidlit Summer School 2014 we invited those who participated to write an essay on the topic What I Learned in Summer School as a final exam. As we move toward Summer School 2015, it is time to share some of those inspirational essays! If you missed Summer School last year, you can be a cool kid this year! If you were with us last summer, this post will help you remember those good times you spent in class. 😉

Not registered yet? There is still time! Pre-Registration ends July 6. Just click on the link at the end of this post to pre-register.

Here’s Nadine’s Essay!     

Nadine Hyter Gamble

My favorite part about Kidlit Summer School was that I got to hang out with the “cool kids” for awhile.  Instead of sleeping in like I normally would, I was up bright and early. I sharpened my pencils, packed my backpack, and filled my thermos with coffee, then waited for the lesson to post.   After checking my email a dozen times, there is it, the day’s lesson!

Over the course of four weeks (it was a crash course, just like in college, but without the huge textbook!) I sipped coffee with some of the best in the business:  Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.  I seriously have a “girl crush” on these two.  Add in a  host of others like Leeza Hernandez, Kelly Light and Zach O’Hora and we’ve got quite a clique going here.  As students, we were able to pick the brains of these cool kids with an awesome Q&A!  Then, they introduced us to the coolest of the cool:  an editor and an agent!  Now if that isn’t reason enough to attend summer school, I don’t know what is.

Everyday I participated in class, completed my homework and then took field trips with my  main character.  The afternoons were spent at the pool, the zoo and the natural history museum.  We had many girl talks and a few sleepovers.  We really got to know one another much better than before we started class.  I learned her favorite ice cream, favorite shoes, what kind of “crazies” she had on her family tree, that she likes to be a little naughty, but really just wants to fit in.

Although I generally sit at the front of the class, I’m a little shy about sharing.  The cool kids assured me that I could join in whenever I was ready.  I might be sitting quietly one day and then BAM!–it hits me and all the lessons just come together!  I’m still waiting and hanging out with my characters, but I’m impressed with how far we’ve grown together over the summer.

Unlike college, I was never tempted to cut class.  There was no busy work or boring drills, just tons of encouragement to help me to face my fears, join a critique group and write, write, write.  The cool kids helped me believe that with a lot of hard work and my willingness to continue to learn the craft of writing, that I would one day have an idea that an editor would want to take a chance on.  So, thanks cool kids, for believing in all of us, for a terrific summer school, and for giving us the confidence to move on to the next grade.

Nadine Hyter Gamble

Thanks Nadine! We’re so glad you liked Summer School (and that you think we’re cool).

Click HERE to

Register for Kidlit Summer School 2015: The Plot Thickens

And to read about the Perks of Preregistration, click HERE!

Why Kidlit Summer School 2015?

badge50At the end of Kidlit Summer School 2014 we invited those who participated to write an essay on the topic What I Learned in Summer School as a final exam. As we move toward Summer School 2015, it is time to share some of those inspirational essays! Thank you to Jan Godown Annino for turning in this super-fun essay. If you missed Summer School last year, you can still check out all of the posts she mentions right here on the blog! If you were with us last summer, this post is sure to bring back fond memories. Thank you Jan!

Not registered yet? There is still time! Pre-Registration ends July 6. Just click on the link at the end of this post to pre-register.

Jan Godown Annino

Jan Godown Annino

Hanging out with all the spiffy Nerdy Chicks this summer in
school felt more like being in a mighty cool camp.
EVERY dang day the NC camp flashlite (mini, on a key chain)
illuminated my way in the dark. EVERY day. EVERY nite.
For brevity, just some of the flashes/catalysts:
Kathy Erskine, National Book Award-Winning Kick-off Pro –

Barefoot! my MC is barefoot & I didn’t know it until KE asked
me to understand the walk, shoes & more of the MC.
Rebecca Petruck, Karmic-Guide to the Minnesota SF-
Her sharp summary of BLAKE SNYDER’S “Save the Cat” scene
system of writing puts my stalled MG novel back on track. Will
read his books. Another plus from camp, many new title
Audrey Vernick, Best Buffalo Gal –
Research is not dilly-dallying, time-wasting, diversion.
Milking my meandering moments in researching abolition
for another MG, I find a fun poodle picture book story.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Acting Super-Heroine –
Acting out the scenes, characters I didn’t know appear.
Glad she sends writers off to acting class. Wanna do that.
Kat Yeh, Best Twinkie Pie Professor –
Her twist on “interview your character,” provides conflict points
as other characters handle the interview.
Cutting off the letter from camp (thank you, W.H. Beck for the
letters idea) now, but you get the Nerdy Chicks Summer
School camp snapshot. It is an ultra-cool place to tent, take
nerdy notes & thrill to seeing your story(s) skip forward. Plus,
the ice cream flavors (thank you, Ame + Dyckman) are
Too. Much. Fun.

J​an Godown Annino twitter @BkSeedStudio
Jan’s site/blog  Bookseedstudio

Click HERE to

Register for Kidlit Summer School 2015: The Plot Thickens

And to read about the Perks of Preregistration, click HERE!

Plotter vs. Pantser: Confessions of Two Novelists

Probably all writers have heard the terms plotter and pantser. But who are these people, really? 😉 And what is the real difference between them? You’ll find out as Rebecca Petruck and Kami Kinard explain their writing styles!

The Plotter: Rebecca Petruck

STNDespite the title, Steering Toward Normal was written with no direction. It started with two boys, sprawled into four boys and two girls, included the return of a long-absent mom, and stealing a pickup off a tow truck. I only found my way after eleven drafts and five on-and-off years. The novel I wrote while STN was on sub had a map and was “done” in three drafts and six months. So I’m a big fan of “the plot” now. Planning a plot in advance doesn’t have to be constraining. Instead, think of it like a bouncy house—it’s because of the walls that you can go wild and jump around like crazy. For me, a loose framework of the big picture creates room for me to let loose and see how the characters will react and what decisions they’ll make next. Sometimes, my plot points shift as I get to know the characters better and learn they wouldn’t do the thing that leads to the other thing. The beauty of discovering that early is I can rethink my plot before I write all the way to the end. A plot chart is much faster to envision, especially with friends, and it hurts a lot less to turn a page and draw new squares than it does to move 70,000 words to the trash and go back to a blank screen. For me, plotting not only saves time, it keeps my heart healthy, too!

  The Pantser: Kami Kinard

boy projectI admit it, I’m a pantser. This means that I don’t plot out my novels before I start writing. At least I haven’t yet! But I do have a general, meandering idea about where I want them to go. My novels always start with character, and I let that character lead me down the path into her story. You might say we take the novel journey hand in hand. Each novel starts with me at the keyboard typing fast and furiously as I get into my character’s voice. I think voice is the one of the most crucial aspects of writing to master, and I know that the voice of Kara McAllister, the main character in The Boy Project, contributed hugely to the sale of that first novel! When I’m typing, I find it important to try to think like my character would think and express myself the way my character would, always asking, “What else can happen?” This is how my words grow into novels. At some point, I stop to rest. I look back over my shoulder to see where I’ve been. I look ahead to see where the path might lead me. And if I think I need a map, I tip my hat to plotting by jotting down a few ideas of places I should visit before the journey’s end. Is plot important? Absolutely! But manipulating the plot, and getting it just the way I want it with enough conflict and character growth is part of the revision process for me.

Team Plotter or Team Pantser?

Decisions about whether to start with a plot, or develop character and voice first, are important parts of your novel journey! There is no “one way” to get it right. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you on Team Plotter, or Team Pantser?

Kami Kinard: Hug the Mean and Nasty. Finding the Humanity in Villains.

Head Shots from Carpe Diem 005

You know those kinds of people who are so mean and nasty they make everyone else’s lives miserable? I’m talking about the back-stabbers, gossip mongers, cat kickers, boyfriend-stealers, and world-domination plotters. Those types? What do you DO with people like that?

You, the authors, should embrace them – bear hug style! They may make undesirable companions in reality, but these characters can be an author’s very best friends.

Why? The reason is simple. They add CONFLICT and create TENSION. And tension drives your story. It keeps your readers turning the pages. It forces them to root for the main character. You want this!

But creating believable villains is tricky. See, even the most rotten of villains shouldn’t be all bad. Your readers don’t need to like these characters, but they need to be able to relate to or understand them on some level.

 Villains need to have something about them that reveals their humanity, no matter how despicable they are.

Here are five ways to achieve humanity in your villains.

  1. Make us feel sorry for them. You can evoke sympathy for your villain in all kinds of ways. Give them a back story. Did they have miserable childhoods? Have they been heartbroken? Do people make fun of them for the way they look?
  2. Bestow endearing qualities upon them. Do they take care of an elderly aunt? Secretly donate to charity? Are they kind to caterpillars?
  3. Help us understand what motivates them. Are they trying to overcome unhappiness? Do they have something to prove? Do they want to impress someone?
  4. Give them admirable qualities. Are they attractive? Smart? Musically gifted?
  5. Show their humanity through the eyes of other characters, or even a pet. In Cassandra Clare’s popular City of Bones, the nemesis, Valentine Morgenstern has a group of followers called the Circle. Disney frequently employs the technique of giving pets to villains. For example, The Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid has pet eels, and Jafar from Aladdin has Iago the parrot. If this formula didn’t work, Disney wouldn’t use it.

Let’s take a look at a great villain from Harry Potter that you’re all familiar with. Lord Voldemort’s humanity is revealed in several of these ways.


  • harry potter 2He was an orphan, which evokes sympathy.
  • He is motivated by hatred toward the muggle father who abandoned him. He is also motivated by the desire to improve his skill until he is the most powerful wizard ever.
  • He was a very handsome young wizard who was particularly smart and skillful. These qualities evoke admiration.
  • Other characters hold him in high regard. These include his followers, the Death Eaters, his former professors, and his pet snake Nagini.


Notice that Rowling uses four of the five techniques listed above to show Voldermort’s humanity. But does she give him any endearing qualities? I haven’t been able to find any! Which brings me to this point: You don’t have to incorporate ALL of these traits into your villainous characters! Consider your genre. If there is a villain in your picture book, you may only have room to give us a peek into his humanity. Or you may use the Grinch method of creating a character that seems villainous on the outside, but has humanity waiting to burst forth from within.


the boy problemBoth of my books, The Boy Problem and The Boy Project, are humorous middle grade novels so I did not delve deep into the psyche of the antagonist, Maybelline, in them. I gave her a pack of admiring friends, so we could see her value through their eyes. Kara CoverShe is also considered cute and stylish, characteristics admired by many of her classmates. Yet she is vulnerable. We are able to feel sorry for her when she is dumped by her boyfriend in The Boy Project, and we see her insecurity in The Boy Problem. Whether or not you spell out all of these character traits for your readers, you should develop a good understanding of your villains. I know that Maybelline is as insecure as the next girl, and that her actions are motivated by a desire to stay at the top of the tenuous middle school social pyramid.


Maybelline purposefully ruins one of Tabbi's fundraising cupcakes in THE BOY PROBLEM.

Maybelline purposefully ruins one of Tabbi’s fundraising cupcakes in THE BOY PROBLEM.

She is one of my favorite characters, not because she is nice, but because she isn’t! Maybelline continuously creates conflict for my main characters Tabbi and Kara. Their learning to navigate around her is part of what makes them grow.  She is essential to their stories.


Where would the Harry Potter books be without Voldemort? Where would Peter Pan be without Captain Hook? What struggles would Katniss face without President Snow? And how many cases would Encyclopedia Brown really be able to crack if Bugs Meany moved away? We need the antagonists, the villains, the nemeses! So embrace them. Appreciate their plotting, scheming, mean and nasty ways. Thank them for making your story a story.

Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem (Scholastic, 2014) and The Boy Project (Scholastic, 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in some of the world’s best periodicals for children and adults. Kami also works as a teaching artist, and teaches continuing education writing courses for adults. She lives at the edge of the universe (or at least the United States) with her family and the world’s smartest dog. Visit her at or at where she blogs with Sudipta. You can follow her on Twitter by clicking HERE.

Kami Kinard is giving away a 20 page manuscript critique! To be eligible to win, just comment on this post before the end of #Kidlit Summer School.


Webinar tonight 9:00 EST. Details HERE!


Meet the Faculty: A. C. Gaughen and Ame Dyckman

We feel lucky to have met both of these authors through conferences also. If you’ve ever read A. C. Gaughen’s creative books based on the tales of Robin Hood, you’ll know to get excited about her post on voice. Fun and fabulous Ame Dychman is sure to surprise with a post about anything from robots to tea parties!

 A. C. Gaughen
 is the author of Scarlet. She serves as the Director of Girls’ Leadership for Boston GLOW, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities to encourage and engage teen girls in the greater Boston area. She holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing from St. Andrews University in Scotland and a Masters in Education from Harvard University. You can find out more about her at and follow her on Twitter at

AME FOX SHIRT 7-14Ame Dyckman Ame Dyckman reads and writes picture books when she should be sleeping. She’s the author of:

· BOY + BOT, ill. by Dan Yaccarino (Random House’s Alfred A. Knopf; 2012).
· TEA PARTY RULES, ill. by K. G. Campbell (Penguin’s Viking; 2013).
· WOLFIE THE BUNNY, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; February 17, 2015).
· HORRIBLE BEAR, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2016).

Ame lives in Lawrenceville, NJ, with her family, pets, and characters. Follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she Tweets picture book reviews and pretty much everything that pops into her head.

Find more of our great Summer School guest bloggers on our Faculty page. And you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time! Click here to find the registration form.  Kidlit Summer School kicks off in less than a week! Check back Friday for more details about giveaways, webinars, and more.

Meet the Faculty: Kat Yeh and Anne Marie Pace

We’ve met both of these amazing people at conferences over the years and we’re excited that they’ve agreed to share their wisdom with you all!

KAT YEH 2014Kat Yeh grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing — while writing for herself in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water everyday and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family. She is the author of children’s books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME, Random House Books for Young Readers (2009), THE MAGIC BRUSH: A STORY OF LOVE, FAMILY, AND CHINESE CHARACTERS, Walker Books for Young Readers (2011), and THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (coming January 2015!), and THE FRIEND SHIP, Disney-Hyperion (coming 2016)!

Anne MarieDespite the oft-quoted adage to write what you know, Anne Marie Pace has never been a bear, a vampire, a pig, or a ballerina.  She is the author of the Vampirina Ballerina seriesillustrated by LeUyen Pham, and published by Disney-Hyperion, as well as two original paperbacks for Scholastic Book Clubs, Never Ever Talk to Strangers and A Teacher for Bear, both about bears.  Coming in fall 2016 from Henry Holt is Pigloo, illustrated by Lorna Hussey. She is an active member of SCBWI. She lives in Virginia with her husband, four teenagers, and two ill-behaved dogs.

Find more of our great Summer School guest bloggers on our Faculty page. And you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time! Click here to find the registration form.  Kidlit Summer School kicks off in less than a week! Check back later in the week for more details about giveaways, webinars, and more.