Book Spine Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. According to the Academy of American Poets:

“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.”

There are many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, but one of my favorites is to create Book Spine Poetry. These are poems you don’t write so much as “find” in the title ideas of other authors. In honor of National Poetry Month, my children and I came up with a bunch of Book Spine Poems — we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed “writing” them!

1397611200346

 

Love and longing in Bombay

Cloaked

Time and chance

In darkness

 

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Heavens to Betsy!

Beautiful chaos

Ruined

My life

Without fail

 

 

1397611381552Baby Bear, Baby Bear, what do you see?

The night fairy

Perfect piggies

The witch of Blackbird Pond

The last unicorn

But not the hippopotamus

 

1397611326858The bad beginning

An offer you can’t refuse

The nasty bits

The enemy

The end of the affair

Game Over

 

 

1397611158416The Elephant’s journey

The hard way

Accidentally fooled

A hog on ice

 

 

 

1397611076867Pirate Princess

You’re finally here!

To catch a mermaid

Demon of the waters

Into the deep

With nothing to lose

 

 

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month?

 

 

 

 

 

The Long Road to BEAUTY

The night before her book release,

The skies were cold and dreary.

And in her house

The author groused,

“The wait has made me weary!”

 That opening is an homage to my newest book, SNORING BEAUTY, which will be celebrating its book birthday tomorrow. It’s strange for me to call it my “newest” book in that it was one of the first picture books I ever wrote way back near the beginning of my career, in 2005.

Snoring Beauty, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

“Fun for reading aloud, and children will be happy to help with the multiple snoring sounds.” – Booklist

Let me remind you guys about 2005:

  • Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch over his love for Katie Holmes (they are now divorced).
  • George W. Bush declared, “I’m the decider.”
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was the top grossing movie, despite it grossing out Star Wars fans everywhere.

That’s how long I’ve had to wait to see this book come to life. And this is how I’ve felt about it:

“This journey has been very slow!

For nine long years I’ve waited!

My kids have grown,

I’ve had six phones!

My patience has abated.”

As an author, I suffer under the delusion that the book is mine – that I am in control of its destiny. (Even after over a decade in the industry, that delusion persists.) But the truth is that there comes a point when the fate of most books is more outside the author’s hands than not. I’ve been very lucky – in the intervening years, I’ve written and published many other books. I didn’t have to wait day after day for the SNORING BEAUTY box – there were other boxes to fill the time until this book’s time had come. But that doesn’t mean the wait was easy. Think about when you miss someone terribly. The presence of other people you love may distract you from missing him, but it never truly takes it away completely. You still find yourself staring longingly out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him coming to your door. That’s what it was like to wait for this book to go through the production process.

But this is how I felt at the end of that loooooooooong process:

But then she takes a single book

And rifles through the pages.

“It does look grand!

I understand

Why this has taken ages!”

I know I’m biased, but SNORING BEAUTY is a beautiful book. Jane Manning’s art is perfect and it looks almost exactly as I’d imagined it. I’m very proud of it and it seems to be getting a warm reception. While it is never fun to be patient, in this case the old adage is true – good things come to those who wait. Now there’s only one more thing to wait for: tomorrow’s official release date.

I can’t wait.

Some fun SNORING BEAUTY facts:

  • SB dediThis is not my first animal-kissing-human book. I’m not sure what that says about me.
  • Most of the time, my kids fight over who the book is dedicated to. This time, my girls (either of whom could be B.) are fighting to establish that the book is dedicated to the OTHER. The funny thing is that neither of the girls is really B! (The real B., by the way, does snore – I have it recorded! – and is beautiful.)
  • The whole wedding day concept was not part of the original story. All that came out of the revision process as a way to but the focus on Mouse and increase the urgency of waking Beauty that night.
  • I have a checkered history when it comes to mice. Check out my secret things to learn more.

CONTACT by Laurisa White Reyes

There are stages in the life of a book, and we authors celebrate each one.  Today marks one such celebrated stage for Laurisa White Reyes’s upcoming novel, CONTACT.  Her cover is being revealed! We will be interviewing Laurisa, who is also the editor of Middle Shelf Magazine, here in May.  But today, you can get a taste of what her novel is about here, and scroll down to see its fabulous cover.
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“It takes only half a second, like those commercials where a crash test dummy rockets forward at high speed and slams into a wall. In that instant every thought in Emma Lynn Walsh’s head collides with mine—every thought, memory, hope, disappointment and dream.
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I open my eyes to see Dr. Walsh peering at me, a puzzled expression on her face.
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“Let—go—of—me,” I order though clenched teeth.”
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 Mira wants to die. She’s attempted suicide twice already and failed. Every time she comes in contact with another person, skin to skin, that person’s psyche uploads into hers. While her psychologist considers this a gift, for Mira it’s a curse from which she cannot escape. 
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To make matters worse, Mira’s father is being investigated for the deaths of several volunteer test subjects of the miracle drug Gaudium. Shortly after Mira’s mother starts asking questions, she ends up in a coma. Although her father claims it was an accident, thanks to her “condition” Mira knows the truth, but proving it just might get her killed.
COMING JUNE 23rd 2014…
Contact book
Congrats Laurisa on a great cover!
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Psssst – The book trailer for my next book, The Boy Problem, will be revealed on Laurisa’s blog on Monday, March 3. Make sure to pop over there to check it out!
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Author Corrine Jackson on Strong Female Characters plus a Giveaway!

Corrine Jackson

Today we welcome Young Adult author Corrine Jackson to the blog to talk about strong female characters. Corrine’s second book in her Sense Thieves trilogy, PUSHED, features Remy, a girl with uncanny healing powers  (a synopsis follows Corrine’s post). You can enter to win a copy by leaving the name of your favorite strong female character in a comment below! You can also enter the official blog tour giveaway. Keep reading for details. 🙂

 Corrine’s thoughts on creating strong female characters:

In philosophical terms, human agency is “the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in a world.” The key word there is ACT. In my undergrad literature classes, we spent a lot of time discussing how agency is what separates our heroes from secondary characters. Heroes take action. They are a force to be reckoned with. How much agency did Oedipus Rex have over his fate vs. the oracle predicting the outcome? How much power did Othello exert in the circumstances that led to the murder of his wife Desdemona, or was he merely an instrument for Iago? What we’re really talking about when we talk about human agency is the power to act. And writers know that action is what propels a story forward.

Too often female characters are powerless to make choices that impact their future. Male characters make decisions for them. This female character is waiting around for a male to save her. She is defined by the man in her life, rather than by the choices she is making. She lacks agency. Sometimes this is used as a plot device, until the last moment when she finally saves the world via some magical power.  

Strong female characters, like their male counterparts, will ACT. She will play a role in her fate, and make choices and decisions that push PUSHED bookthe story along. In my Sense Thieves series, Remy has the power to heal people with her touch, but she’s been raised in an abusive household, taught that people inevitably cause pain. That description of her background isn’t what makes her strong. She could be waiting for a hero to save her. But despite her circumstances (maybe because of them), Remy chooses to help people, to save people because nobody saved her. She heals people even though it frequently puts her life at risk and always causes her pain. That choice to act, even when it’s ill-advised (and puts her in a great deal of danger in PUSHED) makes her strong in my book. The decisions don’t have to be good ones, but the character does have to be making choices to drive the story forward. A female character in this role is a strong one, in my opinion.

*Source: Wikipedia

To find out more about the strong female character Corrine created in Remy, check out this synopsis of PUSHED! (Giveaway details follow. )

She didn’t know how far she’d go—until she was pushed.

Remy O’Malley was just learning to harness her uncanny healing power when she discovered the other, darker half of her bloodline. Now she lives trapped between two worlds, uneasy among her fellow Healers—and relentlessly hunted by the Protectors.  Forced to conceal her dual identity, and the presence of her Protector boyfriend Asher Blackwell, Remy encounters a shadow community of Healers who will put her loyalties to the test.

Pushed to the limit, with the lives of those she loves most on the line, Remy must decide whether to choose sides in a centuries-old war—or make the ultimate sacrifice and go to a place from which she may never return…

 Publisher: Kensington/KTeen   ISBN-10: 0758273347

Buy PUSHED:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million| German Amazon

Add to Your Shelf:

Goodreads

 

The Giveaway below is officially over. Entries were numbered and the total number was entered into the Random Number Generator at random.org, which selected Michele. Congratulations Michele!

Giveaway(s)! There are TWO ways to win a copy of PUSHED!

1. Comment on this post with the name of your favorite strong female character. I hope we get a long list because I’d love to make a strong-female pie chart ! Contest ends on midnight February 15 to enter this blog’s giveaway! A winner will be chosen using random.org.

2. Enter the official blog tour giveaway here: a Rafflecopter giveaway !

You can enter both giveaways. Yay for strong female characters!

More about PUSHED author Corrine Jackson: Young adult author Corrine Jackson lives in San Francisco and has over ten years experience in marketing. She has bachelor and master degrees in English, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Her novels include If I Lie (Simon Pulse) and the Sense Thieves trilogy (KTeen), comprised of Touched,Pushed, and Ignited (5/27/14). Visit her at CorrineJackson.com or on Twitter at @Cory_Jackson.

Visit other stops on the PUSHED blog tour by clicking HERE.

PUSHED book

How NO helps you GROW

Keith Urban Quote

 

When I heard Keith Urban say the above words during last weeks’ airing of American Idol, I had a YES moment. These are words that I often want to say to beginning writers whose work I critique. These are words that every creative person needs to hear. These are words that I need to tell myself as I parent my children.

Urban was referring, of course, to the many contestants auditioning for American Idol who have failed to be truly competitive. What holds them back is often not a lack of talent. It is the failure to hone that talent. They have not improved because they’ve never opened their minds to the possibility that they need improvement. They have not looked for their flaws, seeking to eradicate them, because they’ve been told they are flawless.

It is a lesson for all who seek to stand out for a skill, craft, or talent. If we live by the old adage, “You can’t improve perfection,” we’d do well to remember another old saying, “Nobody’s perfect.”

I think this is an important thing to keep in mind for every professional. It is crucial for people like writers who work in a highly competitive field. Years ago, I was in a critique group that met monthly.  Two members of my group, every single month, wrote GREAT across the top of my manuscript. That five letter word didn’t help me at all. It made me want to scream, “If it’s so great, why hasn’t it sold? Tell me what’s WRONG with it!” But of course, I never did that. Instead, I eventually quit the group.

Now, I occasionally critique the work of other writers professionally. One writer whose work I’ve had the pleasure of reading is now blogging here at Nerdy Chicks Rule. Before I met Mary, her manuscript came to me with a note that said something like, “I want to know what I can do better. Give it to me straight. I can take it.” While that entire quote is not verbatim, I am positive the last three words are. They stood out. I could tell Mary was a writer who wanted to learn and improve. I immediately knew I’d like her. And I did!

Whether you are an author seeking publication or a singer seeking idolization, it is important to get feedback from someone who will point out your weaknesses. Your work is your own and you have to make final decisions about it for yourself. But I advise writers to look for feedback from the kind of person who will tell you if you have broccoli in your teeth, onion breath, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. These are the people who want to save you from embarrassment. These are the people who will say, “That’s not so good.” By telling you NO, these people will ultimately help you hear YES!

 

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.

 

 

 

 

 

PiBoIdMo Wrap Up: Let it Be

Duck Duck Moose by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

My upcoming picture book!

Now that Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month is over, I thought it would be nice to reflect a little bit on what we’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. If you participated in PiBoIdMo, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made great progress on your writing journey. Publishing is an art where creativity and magic come together to make great books. But publishing is also a numbers game – the more manuscripts you create, the more likely it is that some of them will get published. And how do you create manuscripts? Well, it starts with ideas. And now you have lots of ideas – at least 30 if you got through the month! (More if you followed my PiBoIdMo advice.) So you’re all set!

Except…

I’ve got some bad news. Well, potentially bad news. More like bad reality, actually. Except that reality is never bad.

Here’s the reality of the situation: not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas.

I know you want them to be. I know that’s what you intended and planned for. I know you have great dreams for these ideas, dreams that are so good that you want to will them into existence.

But for some of your ideas, those dreams will never come true.

I’m not saying these things to upset you, or to de-motivate you. You shouldn’t lose your momentum. I just want you to focus your energy on the best paths to maximize your ability to succeed and get published.

Here’s the thing: your story ideas are like your children. You give birth to them, you nurture them, you guide them toward the goals you have carefully set for them. You know what’s best and you will make that happen.

For those of you who have children, you’re probably already guessing where this is going to go.

With our children, no matter what we have dreamed for them when they were helpless babes in our arms, those kids who once needed us for their very survival somehow end up being the people they choose to be. Not necessarily the people we intended them to be.

This is the kid who was supposed to grow up to be a doctor…

My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They even bought me a $100K science education from Caltech. And in the end, I write books about talking pigs.

With our characters, our story ideas, they will also be who they are, regardless of what we want them to be.

Early on, I said that not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas. That is reality. Some of those ideas will turn out to be chapter books, or middle grades, no matter how hard we push them to be something else. (Just like some of our children will become kidlit authors, no matter how hard we push them to be doctors.) That’s ok.

Some of those ideas will turn out to flounder and struggle, will find it difficult to ever realize their full potential. That’s ok, too.

Because the reality is that some of the ideas you have are picture book ideas. They need you to cultivate and develop them, but with your help, they will grow to be wonderful picture books.

The key here is to let your characters be who they are. Let your stories be what they are. If they grow into something different than you thought, follow them on their path instead of forcing them onto your own. The end result will be truer, will have more heart, and will be better written.

Good luck to everyone and see you next PiBoIdMo!

(In case you missed it, here is some more PiBoIdMo advice from Kami and from me from earlier this month.)

Facing the Blank Canvas of NaNoWriMo

nano_hoodieNovember ended and I hung up my NaNoWriMo hoodie. For the first time, I had participated in National Novel Writing Month—the month when writers around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel.

Outline in hand, I burst out of the gate on November 1st and, at the end of three days, I had cranked out 9,120 words. Since I work full time and my only writing time would be weekends, I did the math and found there was no way I could hit 50,000 words. But I committed myself to completing a first draft of a middle grade novel, no matter what the word count.

To write that novel in a month, I couldn’t sit and agonize over finding perfect words while the clock was ticking. I just raced ahead and wrote, banning my Inner Editor (as the NaNo staff suggested). Instead of slowing down to make time-consuming decisions, I wrote notes to myself such as [DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?] or [MORE FARM STUFF GOES ON] or [SHOULD HENRY AND MARIGOLD NOT EVEN BE IN THIS NOVEL?] and kept moving.

During the NaNo month, I realized I was writing the way I paint. When I paint, I don’t start in the upper left hand corner and fill that corner of the canvas with every minute detail, and then move to the next part of the canvas, finishing every section until I finally reach the bottom right hand corner. Instead, I work all over the canvas. Using broad strokes, I block in areas, and then build up layers, pulling some elements forward and pushing some back. Finally, I fine tune the details that bring everything into focus. (See the two stages of my painting of our dog that I gave to my daughter)

prin_painting_duo

The lovely Princess Zisk, in broad strokes and then with final detail.
You may see more of my work here.

With writing, I do the same thing. I write in broad strokes to the end, then jump around in time and rearrange things, enhancing or playing down elements, leaving holes and filling in gaps, adding details and texture. Working around my canvas of words, I revise and revise until it is done.

When NaNoWriMo was over, I ended up losing the official challenge, as predicted. But I won my personal challenge and wrote a 28,412-word first draft.  I’ve got the broad strokes. Now it’s time to move things around, add layers and details, and finish my masterpiece (or at least maybe a queryable manuscript).

NaNoWriMo was a quick and focused way for me to put aside a project that I’ve worked on for four years and to try something completely different. I know I’ll have the courage to face a blank canvas again next November. How about you?

What Does THE END Look Like?

THE END. It’s usually a good place to be. It means you have completed a journey. The last day of November marked THE END for writers who participated in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo. They’ve slogged through the hurdles of drafting a novel, or worked through creative bursts of ideas for picture books until they accumulated at least 30. But writer or not, when you’ve completed a task, it is always good to find yourself at THE END of it.

When I get to THE END of a project, I’m usually surrounded by chaos. I think I’m that classic creative type who works best in a mess. Up to a point… This November, I not only participated in PiBoIdMo, but did the final proofing of my forthcoming novel, The Boy Problem AND finished a novel I’ve been working on for years. I met all of my goals! But when I was finished, my desk looked like this:

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As much as this desk helped me get to THE END of two novels, I found I couldn’t begin to start a new project on it. So I did something I don’t like doing very much. I gave up a day of writing to organize. I stacked all of the drafts of The Boy Problem together.  The result was a ten inch, twenty seven pound stack. When you look at that you can kind of see how I work through a novel. With lots of little flags noting pages that still need work. This probably only represents half of them, many were pulled out along the way.

IMG_20131130_205945_656

 

 

There were a few more stacks not-quite-so-impressive stacks as well… but eventually, my desk looked like this.

IMG_20131203_090228_042

Yeah, I know there are still two pretty messy piles, but you don’t expect me to create in a completely clean environment, do you? The point is, I’ve reached THE END of some important projects! And now, with space on my desk, I can start a new project… a new beginning!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When  an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real! It marks THE END of a great journey!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real.It marks THE END of a great journey!

Onward we go! What does THE END look like to you?

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen Has Nothing to Write About

This post was originally published on November 29, 2010 at Tara Lazar’s blog in honor of PiBoIdMo. We thought those of you participating in this year’s picture book idea month might find it useful.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen Has Nothing to Write About

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

pirate princessIf you’re like me, writing is work. By this I mean it is my job, my primary source of income (therefore, work) but also that it is just plain HARD. There is nothing so depressing as trying to come up with something new and fresh to write about—and coming up with nothing.

That happens to me a lot.

So what do you do?

Well, I really don’t know the answer. But here are some tricks I use to muddle through those times when I have nothing to write about.

1) Start with character. I truly believe that the most important aspect of a picture book, what drives its popularity the most, is a charismatic main character. The premise, the setting, the cutesy word play and rhyme—all of these are secondary to character. So if you need to brainstorm only one thing, work on that viable character list.

The trick to creating a truly charismatic main character is to blend flaws with flair. Don’t just come up with fifty cute character traits. Give your main character some faults, some defects—he will be infinitely more interesting.

2) Something old into something new. There are so many examples of authors who take an old idea and make it into something modern and fresh. The entire genre of fractured fairy tales is built on the premise that recognizable is always a benefit for marketing, but recognizable AND fresh is money in the bank. Now I’m not at all recommending that all you do is read a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales and add a hippopotamus to each story (don’t do that, because it was my idea first). But if you can take inspiration from something your audience will recognize and then take it to a brand new place, where is the downside?

quackensteinSome examples of this in my own work:
THE HOG PRINCE – we know it’s a frog prince, not a hog prince, but Eldon does not.
QUACKENSTEIN – isn’t every monster story better with a duck?
THE TWELVE WORST DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – believe it or not, in addition to a Christmas song, this is a sibling story

3) Look at your own life. And I mean this as way to eliminate bad ideas. When you’re having a hard time with inspiration, there is the temptation to use your own children or grandchildren as your muses. Trust me, this is a bad idea. Because as cute as their latest antics are to you, they very rarely make for good picture books. Save yourself. Don’t do it.

4) Exercise. Well, do a writing exercise at least. When you’re really stuck you could reinforce your writing ability by taking a book that is perhaps not one of your favorites and then rewriting it the way it should be. Obviously, you can’t then try to publish your version of Dora the Explorer (because Nora the Explorer or even Eleanora the Explorer is simply not going to be fresh enough to merit a whole new franchise!). But the exercise will show you that you are not only able to create a new story but one that is better than something that was actually published (which means there is hope for you yet) and, again, you never know where that road will lead.

Hampire_jacket5) When all else fails, take a breath. Sorry, guys, sometimes the ideas are not going to come. No matter how much you force it. When you are really and truly stuck, stop trying so hard. Instead, work on revising older manuscripts—maybe you can whip one of those into shape. Or perhaps the something old that you will turn into something new will come from your own pile of older ideas.

Tips from YALLFest!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know I spent last weekend in Florida, which meant I missed the literary event of the year here in SC, an event I participated in last year. When I realized I’d double booked the weekend, I asked Nerdy Chick Jocelyn Rish to share some of the tips she picked up at YALLFest. Thanks Jocelyn! Here’s Jocelyn’s post:

yallfest-logo

JocelynWithHighlightsStoryThis past weekend was the third annual YALLFest, and it gets bigger and bigger every year – we’re talking lines down alleyways and wrapped around buildings for the Keynote and Smackdown sessions. Soon they are going to have to bite the bullet and split it into two days because it is just too much awesomeness to be contained in one day.

This year there were 50 YA authors, many of them New York Times bestsellers, speaking at various panels. They shared a mind-melting amount of advice and wisdom about writing and storytelling, and Kami asked me to share five tips from YALLFest. Fair warning, these are horribly paraphrased because I was scribbling notes on a piece of paper resting on my thigh (which, let’s be honest, is not exactly rock hard with muscles) while also trying to absorb what the next panelist was saying.

 1. During the Keynote, Rae Carson and Veronica Roth talked about being frustrated with people always asking them why they write strong female characters because it’s such a limiting term, and several times they referenced this article (http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/i-hate-strong-female-characters) by Sophia McDougall. Two snippets from them that resonated:

Rae Carson: A strong person is not the same as a strongly written character.

Veronica Roth: Strength on the page means a character has agency -> they drive their own narrative. And vulnerability does not equal weakness.

2. Rainbow Rowell: Everything that happens to you is in your head and that becomes your palette, so that you can reach for different details while writing. Writing about real things lets you work through your knots through your characters.

 3. In talking about world building, especially in Fantasy…

Leigh Bardugo: Give the reader a tether, like sign posts similar to our world, so that understanding the world is not a burden on the reader.

Myra McEntire: She wanted to put something magical in the place she lived everyday.

David Macinnis Gill: As a kid he always asked “What if?” so now all his books are born of that same question.

 4. Rachel Cohn: You write what’s in your heart and let it out there without knowing how people are going to interpret it.

 5. Kami Garcia: Don’t try to write a bestseller – write the best story you can write.

YALLFest is always very inspiring, so if you haven’t had the chance to attend, start making plans for next year!

To find out more about Jocelyn, and to read interviews with YALLFest authors, check out her BLOG(For those of you who don’t know, Jocelyn just won the SCBWI Work in Progress Grant!)

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