#NerdyChicksDraw Contest Winners

We are excited to announce the winner and runner up of the #NerdyChicksDraw contest. Thanks so much to everyone for playing along … let’s do it again next year—just for fun!

First place goes to Cori Doerrfeld. Congratulations, Cori! She will receive some Nerdy Chicks swag from the Nerdy Chicks Rule Cafe Press store.


And congrats, too to the Runner Up who is Mike Cicotello!


image1You might remember Mike’s original design gave us the idea for this contest! For inspiring the contest, Mike will also receive some Nerdy Chicks swag from the Nerdy Chicks Rule Cafe Press store.

PLUS we received an honorable mention spot which goes to Diana Ting Delosh for her charming little chicky. Congrats, Diana!

Chick wearing Magenta glasses and rose, with a feather quill in one wing and notebook in the other is thinking up great thoughts.


We know it was a hard decision for our judge because so many great chicks were created for the contest!!!!

You can see these other fabulous chicks HERE.

NOTE: All entries were submitted anonymously to our guest judge, who is an art director working in children’s publishing.


You can also get your hands on some awesome nerdychicks SWAG over at the Nerdy Chicks Cafe Press store. ALL proceeds are donated to charity so it’s the gift that keeps on giving! (The holidays are right around the corner, kidlit lovers … hint, hint!)

MORE #KidlitSummerSchool PRIZES!

KLSS 2015 BadgeHooray! Three Cheers! Today we are announcing the winners of over forty more Kidlit Summer School prizes! The first of  two of these were randomly drawn from Kidlit Summer School participants who pre-registered or were registered by the end of regular registration. 

Please read all the way to the end of the post so you don’t miss any prize winning news, or the announcements about the webinars and exercise book.

Donna Martin won the 30 minute brainstorming session with Sudipta and Kami together! The Nerdy Chicks will talk her through her idea – at whatever level of finished it is – and help push it to the next level. Hooray for Donna!

organic_nerdy_chicks_tshirtPhyllis Hemann won the Bling Pack, which includes our adorable Kidlit Summer School Sleuth designed by Joyce Wan on a notebook, totebag, and t-shirt from Cafe Press. Congrats Phyllis!

Juliana Lee won the #30mdare prize awarded by Rebecca Petruck. This prize was drawn at random from folks who completed at least five of the #30mdare prompts. Yippee Juliana!

Now we want to thank you all for supporting our excellent guest bloggers with your comments and encouragement. These authors donated their time and shared their knowledge and we appreciate the numerous shout outs you gave them! We’re happy to announce the winners of the prizes awarded for commenting on individual guest blog posts now! Winners will also be contacted via email within the next few days. Note: you can click on the image to enlarge it.

Prize Winners for Weeks 1 and 2:

weeks 1 and 2

Prize Winners for Weeks 3 and 4:

weeks 3 and 4

We’ll be announcing the winner of the #NerdyChicksDraw competition in a separate post soon.

A word about the exercise book and the webinars:

The Exercise Book will be removed from the blog on September 15. Please download any of the exercises you still need before then.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School 2015, you may still purchase the two webinars through September 15. Please check your emails for details on how to do this. The fee supports Kidlit Summer School so that we can continue to run most of the program for free.

All of the webinars will be removed on October 15.

Congratulations to EVERYONE and thank you for participating in Kidlit Summer School 2015! We’ve enjoyed THICKENING THE PLOT with you!

The Kidlit Summer School Board of Education

Stepping Toward Those Awesome Prizes for #KidlitSummerSchool 2015!

KLSS 2015 BadgeYou’ve read the posts! You’ve done the worksheets! You’ve attended the webinars and #30mdares! Good for you! And even if you didn’t get to ALL of those great events, you’ve already received some of the best that Kidlit Summer School has to offer! Know what would be the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, the cat’s pajamas?


So let’s take those first steps toward prize distribution..

 The 30mdare prize: Here’s how you enter!

Rebecca Petruck is giving away a 20-page critique and follow-up phone call to one student who completed at least five of the #30mdares. Because we didn’t want issues with time zones or work schedules you could have done the dares whenever it suited you. We’ll use an honor system for the contest! Fill out the form by Saturday, August 22 if you were able to do at least 5 of the prompts. We’ll use the Random Number Generator to select a winner from those who filled out the form. The lucky winner will be announced next week. Thanks to Rebecca for organizing the outstanding dares!

The Perfect Attendance Award

The blue-star-thumbperfect attendance award grand prize is given to one person who commented on each FACULTY POST here on the blog within the first 24 hours of it going up. We asked those who think they are eligible to leave a comment on Sunday’s post. We got a lot of comments! Thanks to ALL of YOU who achieved perfect attendance. Using the Random Number Generator at Random.ORG, Heather Pierce Stigall was selected as the winner of the Perfect Attendance Award! Congratulations Heather.

The adorable crocheted chick by Summer Schooler Juli Cavney: 

crocheted chickThe winner of this cute prize was drawn from one of you who commented on the posts featuring her chick! That winner is:

Jen Garrett. Congratulations Jen!

The TOTE BAG with logo designed by Joyce Wan: 

We drew a name from those who commented that they shared the badge and banner when it came out. The winner will receive a tote bag with the #KidlitSummerSchool 2015 logo on it. The winner of that drawing is Jan Annino! Congratulations Jan!


We will use the random number generator to select a winner for these. It will take a few weeks to sort it all out, but we’ll be announcing those soon!

Giveaways associated with guest blogger posts. These are contributed by the guest bloggers themselves and will be given away to someone who commented on that particular post. Thanks to our awesome faculty. Their guests posts were prize enough, but if you commented on one of these posts, you could be eligible for one of these prizes:

summer school 15 giveaways


Grand-prize giveaways for registrants and pre-registrants: These, like the brainstorming session with Kami and Sudipta, and the Summer School Cafe-Press bling pack will be drawn from all who put their names in the registration or pre-registration pool! Look for those winners to be announced right here on the blog. 

#NerdyChicksDraw: Our Nerdy Chicks Drawing Contest has ended, yet stay tuned for a Gallery of all of your amazing creations soon on the website! The winners will be picked by an industry professional and be added to our cafe press store! Also, they will receive a prize pack with their own design on it.Thank you for all of your entries! You are certainly some amazingly talented Chicks!

Soooo…. Lots of good stuff here and more to come. Thanks to all who participated in Kidlit Summer School 2015 – faculty and students alike!




Alright, are you ready to show off all that you have learned in our FINAL Pop Quiz? We know you’re all going to nail it and will surely show off your plotting prowess! Take this quiz to see what you learned during week three of Kidlit Summer School.

On Monday, Megan Miranda taught us to thrill our readers by…

  1. Asking ourselves “What’s the worst that can happen?”
  2. Adding even more tension.
  3. Finding moments to surprise.
  4. All of the above.

On Tuesday, Lori Degman asked questions regarding plot in rhyming stories…

  1. Does the story have a strong beginning that introduces the setting, characters or problem in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading?
  2. Does every line add to the story and move it forward?  
  3. Does the pacing (the length and rhythm of each line) match the mood of the story?
  4. All of the above.

On Wednesday, Julie Sternberg suggested using conversation-based techniques such as:

  1. Eavesdrop on your main character as (s)he tells his/her best friend what’s happened.
  2. Brainstorm your plot ideas with your writer friends, and keep brainstorming as you continue to write.
  3. Whenever a particular moment, or the plot as a whole, isn’t working, open a new document and have a conversation with yourself about why that might be.
  4. All of the above.

On Thursday, Christine Fletcher gave us tips for writing effective conflict

  1. Bring your protagonist face-to-face with the need to grow and change.
  2. Conflict has to directly impact the protagonist’s goals, fears, and/or flaws.
  3. The reader needs to know why the conflict and its outcome matter so much to the protagonist—because then, and only then, will the reader care too.
  4. All of the above.

On Friday, John Cusick showed us how to escape the murky middle of our stories by…

  1. Dropping your hero and a few pals into a new setting.
  2. Exploring what your characters are doing a week, a month, or a year from now.
  3. Writing a scene in which all of your characters attend the same party.
  4. All of the above.

On Saturday, Joyce Wan helped us learn to twist our endings through…

  1. An ending that echoes something that happened in the beginning of the story
  2. Role reversal in which a character is revealed to be someone else in the end.
  3. Challenging the perception of the reader.
  4. All of the above

How did you do? A++ right? 6 out of 6? If you’re not sure or think you missed something, that’s easy, simply go back and check out the posts from Week Four. This is an open blog test. You don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!

Final #KidlitSummerSchool Updates, Webinars, and THANK YOUS!

KLSS 2015 BadgeHello, Summer Schoolers! Week 4 has sadly ended, but we still have a few treats left for you.  Think of it as Afterschool for all of you overachievers.

We want to bring your attention to what is to come in the week ahead, including TWO great Summer School webinars! Here we go!

Pop Quiz: Don’t forget we will post a Pop Quiz on the blog at the end of the day. (Just for fun!)

#KidlitSummerSchool Afterschool Webinars:

This coming Tuesday, August 18th, at 8pm EST we will be hosting our very special Author Roundtable webinar with with Authors John Claude Bemis (MG), Lori Degman (PB) and Yvonne Ventresca (YA) who will share their expertise on children’s books and their own personal writing journeys. Keep an eye on your email for details on registering for this webinar and how to submit your questions for the panel.

And then on Thursday, August 20th, at 8pm EST join us for our Ask the Pros webinar with Scholastic Editor Orli Zuravicky and Art Director Patti Ann Harris. This webinar has a registration fee.

Both webinars are going to be a clucking good time, filled with lots of Nerdy Chick knowledge. You will not want to miss out.

Registration closes for the Author Roundtable at 11pm EST TONIGHT!

Registration for Ask the Pros closes on Wednesday, August 19th at 11pm EST. 

Check your inbox for registration information.

For more information about the Webinars, please refer to the FAQ page in the navigation bar above.

organic_nerdy_chicks_tshirtShop til You Drop – Nerdy Chick-style
The Nerdy Chicks Rule Café Press store is now open. Be a chic chick or one cool dude. Check out the awesome Nerdy Chicks gear here…

Nerdy Chicks Rule Cafe Press

Our Nerdy Chick Drawing Contest “Drawn” to a Close

Nerdy Chick

Art by Mike Ciccotello

Our Nerdy Chicks Drawing Contest has ended, yet stay tuned for a Gallery of all of your amazing creations soon on the website!

Thanks once more to Mike Ciccotello who drew a Nerdy Chick on a coffee cup and tweeted to Kami and Sudipta, for inspiring our contest. The winners will be picked by an industry professional and be added to our cafe press store! Also, they will receive a prize pack with their own design on it.

Thank you for all of your entries! You are certainly some amazingly talented Chicks!

Perfeblue-star-thumbct Attendance Award: Did you leave a comment on every author post within the first twenty four hours that it was posted? If you did, you are eligible for the perfect attendance award! If you qualify, just leave a comment right here on THIS blog post. Start your comment with the words “Perfect Attendance” (So we can easily pick you out from others commenting about Summer School.) One name will be drawn from all of the contenders to win the Perfect Attendance Prize. 

What about the other prizes? The #30mdare prize? The individual post prizes? The pre-registration prize? The grand prizes? All of the other great stuff? We will have details about all of the other prizes and how they will be awarded in a separate post on the blog this week. That’s something to look forward to! 

smiling-gold-star-thumbLastly, a sincere thank you to each of you for joining us these past four weeks.  #KidLitSummerSchool is for YOU and we hope that you have enjoyed yourself, met a few friends, and learned a craft-tip or two. We’re proud of you! You get a gold star!
Thanks also to our awesome faculty of bloggers and all of our webinar participants.  It really was a fantastic summer, right?!
Now go forth, you plotting geniuses.
The Kidlit Summer School Board of Education

Joyce Wan: Give Your Tale a Twist and GIVEAWAY

Are you finding the ending of your picture book story to be a little ho-hum? Or, is everything wrapped up a little too neat and tidy? One of the strongest ways to end a picture book is to surprise a reader. Kids love a surprise ending (and adults do, too). When a book takes you where you didn’t expect to go, that makes the trip all the more exciting and fun. When done well, an unpredictable twist can turn a good book into a classic and is often what makes repeated re-readings a pleasure. In subsequent readings, the reader enjoys being in the know and re-reading a book when you know what’s coming can be enjoyable in its own right too. I’ve always been a big fan of plot twists in books and movies of any genre for as long as I can remember. When I wrote my latest picture book The Whale In My Swimming Pool, I knew I wanted to include a twist at the end to delight and surprise readers. With a solid hook in mind, I came up with the ending before I even wrote my first draft, crafting the story backwards from the twist.

Creating a twist ending involves knowing what your audience expects or takes for granted. What’s the predictable ending? Then, figure out how to turn it inside out or extend the story just a little beyond the last sentence with an unpredictable turn of events even if it’s only shown in the final illustration. In funny stories, a twist ending can feel like a punch line to a joke.

There are many ways to create a twist ending (some twist endings are as unique as the stories themselves) but here are some specific approaches to try:

Circle Storyimogene
Just when readers think the problem has been resolved, the ending echoes something that happened in the beginning of the story. An example of this is used in Imogene’s Antlers by David Small, which is about a girl who wakes up one morning with huge antlers growing out of her head. By the end of the book, she wakes up to find her antlers have disappeared, only to be replaced by a full set of peacock tail feathers. I used this technique at the end of The Whale in My Swimming Pool when the little boy in my story goes home to take a nap, after resolving his whale of a predicament, only to find a bear in his bed.

Role Reversal
A character is revealed to be someone else in the end. An example of this is Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard (illustrated by James Marshall), when it’s revealed at the end the book (through the illustration) that the ugly, mean substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp, was in fact Miss Nelson in disguise and the ruse was a tricky way to get her class to behave.

Challenging Perceptionsmonster
A reader’s assumption of what is true is reversed. An example of this is The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone (illustrated by Michael Smollin) when lovable Grover begs the reader throughout the story not to turn the page as there is a monster at the end of the book. It’s revealed at the end that the monster is none other than Grover himself. The book plays on the fact that readers assume that all monsters are scary and bad with Grover himself building up on that assumption throughout the entire book.

A few things to keep in mind when developing a story with a twist ending:

It’s a good idea to have a twist ending in mind from the start so that you can set up the sequence of events that leads you right to the surprise at the end.  Also, it’s the only effective way of diverting attention away from it all the way through the story. If you’re a pantser, you may have to go back to fix any inconsistencies and to make sure everything lines up the way they should so that the ending makes sense.

A twist ending should be somewhat open-ended and will introduce WhaleInMySwimmingPool-covernew questions or themes. It leaves readers thinking and talking about it long after they have finished reading. At the end of The Whale In My Swimming Pool, readers are left wondering a) where did this bear come from b) how will the little boy get the bear out of his bed and c) what’s going on that’s causing all these wild animals to descend on this boy’s home. As an author, it has inspired lively discussions at book readings and school visits and is a great way to foster a child’s imagination.

Do make sure that your story is not so dependent on its twist that it doesn’t have anything else to say as it will feel terribly contrived in plot for the sake of The Surprise.

You also don’t want the reader to feel cheated or tricked. Rather, you want the twist to make the reader feel as if that’s the best way for the story to have ended.

Picture books with a good twist ending will increase a manuscript’s value dramatically and grab an editor’s attention. It will extend the story beyond the story, begging readers to imagine what happens next. Who knows, it might even set you up for a sequel! What are some of your favorite picture books with a twist ending?

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 www.wanart.com.


Joyce is giving away a signed hardcover copy of her 

image1 (1)picture book The Whale In My Swimming Pool AND an adorable signed print (shown to the right). If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Christine’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

John Cusick: Escaping the Awful Middle and GIVEAWAY

Three Ways to Jumpstart Your Draft When the Plot Starts to Sag

I don’t know about you, but I find it’s much easier to start something than finish it. When I begin a new draft it’s all sunshine and rainbows. The ideas just come unbidden, new characters leap onto the page like circus tumblers, and conflicts pop up unbidden.

Cusick_GirlParts_CoverThen I get about halfway through the story and bam: suddenly the fun’s over. I’m not sure where I’m going or what happens next. Maybe the story has begun to feel stale, or the tensions I’ve created aren’t enough to sustain my interest. The middle is where our author-brains begin to fatigue, and as a result, this is where many of us get stuck.

There are a few remedies, I think, for that middle-of-the-novel slog, tricks for jumpstarting your story when your characters are as lost as you are.

In life, if you’re in a funk, you might need a change of scenery. Chances are your characters feel the same way. Try switching up the setting. Have your detective chase a lead to Beliz, or your hero seek the counsel of a distant oracle. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, halfway through the novel Elizabeth Bennet leaves home to tour the Derbyshire countryside, a journey which ultimately brings her closer (emotionally and literally) to Mr. Darcy. A new location can keep the story fresh and open up new avenues you’d never have discovered if you’d stayed at home.

Writing Exercise: Drop your hero and a few pals into a new setting. What new conflicts await them there? Does the change of place change the way the hero behaves or thinks?

A change in time can be as effective as a change of location. In John Irving’s The World According to Garp, an early scene features a horrific car crash involving most of the major characters. The reader turns the page and…whoa. We’ve jumped ahead in time and the exact outcome of the crash is unknown (until much later). The leap forward creates a terrific cliffhanger, and pulls the reader deeper into the story. The effect is more compelling and exciting than if we were shown the aftermath of the crash immediately.

Writing Exercise: Explore what your characters are doing a week, a month, or a year from now.

Ever run into an ex at a party? Things can get…interesting. If you’re not sure what happens next in your story, try bringing your whole cast together for a big group scene. Nothing stirs up tensions and conflict like getting a bunch of characters with differing agendas into the same room. Dostoevsky is famous for his large, chaotic dinner scenes. In Crime & Punishment Raskolnikov attends a funeral dinner thrown by Katrina, only to have Sonia, Luzhin, and most of the main characters show up. The result is a disastrous series of arguments that propel the story into its next phase.

Writing Exercise: Write a scene in which all of your characters attend the same party. What goes wrong? Who argues with whom? What secrets are revealed?

Keeping your story feeling fresh and vibrant is as much for your readers’ benefit as it is your own. It’s easy to get bogged down halfway through a draft, with all that writing still left to do and possibly no clear end in sight. Fatigue often means boredom, and if you’re not excited by your story, chances are your readers will be bored too. So shake things up, surprise yourself, and you’ll get through it. I promise.

JCusick_HeadshotJohn MCusick is an agent with Folio Jr. / Folio Literary Management, representing picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels. He is also the author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY (Candlewick Press), as well as a regular speaker at writers conferences. His clients include New York Times Bestselling Author Tommy Wallach (WE ALL LOOKED UP, Simon & Schuster), Courtney Alameda (SHUTTER, Feiwel & Friends) and Hannah Moskowitz (A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD, Chronicle Books) You can find him online at and on Twitter @johnmcusick.

John is giving away signed copies of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY. If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of John’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.