And Contact! Finding the long-lost Rys Family.

L to R: Karolina Orlowska (our third cousin who helped make this all happen), my sister Linda Reid, Uncle George Orlowska and Irena (our first cousin whom we’d never met) Kris Teibler (our first cousin) and Margaret, husband Rick Pease (background), our Aunt Elizabeth (foreground, mother of Kris and dad’s last living sibling at 81), me, and Agnes, a family friend who tirelessly translated for hours.

Continue Reading April 26, 2018 at 2:19 pm 3 comments

A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver-Bullet Query Opening

An entertaining agent’s look into the wacky world of querying.

John M. Cusick

Like this post? Then check out my November 19th webinar HOW TO BE A WRITER WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND: Balancing Work, Life, and Craft. There will be a Q and A as well as query critiques for all attendees. You should check it out!

Hello there.

A few days ago I posted about my move to Folio Literary, and what I’ll be seeking.

As I rev up the ol’ query inbox (which is already rumbling with submissions), I figured I’d take a moment to talk a bit about the query letter.

How— I mean, for serious, how on earth— does anyone write a query letter?

It seems so difficult. Not only are you trying to put your best foot forward and stand out from the dozens— no, HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS— of other queriers, you’ve got to summarize your manuscript (impossible), make it sound exciting (huh?), comp it to other…

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May 30, 2017 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

Bologna Children’s Book Fair:√

My husband and I just returned from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the largest children’s book fair in the world, and a big bucket listing for me.IMG_1254We arrived on Sunday, the day before the fair opened, and attended a related event at the Museo D’Arte Moderna Di Bologna.  Picture book authors Andrea Antinori and Somin Ahn were signing their book THE TIME AND THE WHALES at a wine and cheese, buzzing with pre-fair energy. IMG_0517IMG_0521IMG_0518

I thought this was a clever display for Un Minuto, on the right, and may try the idea myself for events.

Entering into the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on opening day is like stepping through the looking-glass, an overstimulation of sights and sounds, various languages overheard, walls lines with eye-candy illustrations pinned by hopeful artists, and rows and rows and buildings and buildings of booths from around the world.  IMG_0536IMG_0543Since I’m half-Polish I had to take this one!


I met a lovely British art director, which set my day into motion for swallowing my shyness and introducing myself to some key people in the industry.  I have my husband to thank for this.  He’s participated in many trade shows and told me to put myself out there and meet the right people.  We only had one day there and it was the best one–opening day–so I wanted it to be a success.  I shared a lot of my brochures and business cards and gathered just as many from some really friendly and helpful colleagues. As an author, spending many intimate hours tapping away on your computer, you lose a little perspective about what’s going on in the publishing world.  This show fast-forwards you into the exciting global picture.

IMG_0525IMG_0529 The tone overall tended toward selling foreign rights, discovering talented illustrators, and what’s new in digital design. Whether you’re an illustrator or author, if you’d like to meet with an agent or publisher, you must make an appointment months in advance.  IMG_1252.jpgIMG_1253.jpgIMG_0539IMG_0503After the fair we walked along the main street and I had an incredible, though oily rich calamari salad.  Don’t make the ugly American mistake of asking for a little butter with your bread instead of olive oil… This is what I got–a bowl of butter, yum!  My husband wisely ordered the Pasta Bolognese, what Bologna is knows for.IMG_0551IMG_0509Determined to find some Italian shoes to replace my Ohsotouristatennies, I went to the fun flea market and met Grace Vignola, an ebullient italian who loved speaking broken english and helping me with my even more broken italian.  I so wanted to buy a pair from her stall, but the shoes she’d brought over from her store, handed down through the family, didn’t have my surfboard size..otto.   Still, she invited me to her house next time I’m in Bologna and I have her info. on a piece of shoe box.

Like it is after attending any great literary event, I needed to write.  As we trained from Bologna to Monaco, our final stop of the trip, I worked on my YA history mystery.  I was invigorated,  bathing in the afterglow of an experience that revealed the Children’s publishing industry is not only alive and well, but sizzling.IMG_0563

If you’re fortunate enough to visit Bologna, (and I hope you do because the Italians are lovely) I encourage you to add the 2017 Bologna Children’s Book Fair to your bucket list.  Don’t be intimidated by its size and global reach.  It’s a great way to connect with like-minded people from many countries and just might be a happy turning point for you.


April 29, 2016 at 11:46 am 1 comment

When a Horse Goes Home

ImageIt’s been four months since releasing my fifth children’s book, and first narrative non-fiction chapter book, Safe at Last. True Stories of Horse Rescues.  What a wild west ride it’s been–from super fun book launch at Barnes & Noble, where Mini Pearl, Colorado Horse Rescue’s Mini Ambassador, entered the store, much to the audience’s delight, to nice reviews and kid reader appeal, and not necessarily all horse nuts, either.  Mini Pearl, who appears throughout Safe at Last, sharing her pearls of horse wisdom, is very popular when she’s able to appear helping to promote the book.  Of course, this is her job: helping the community learn about her home at Colorado Horse Rescue and all the fine work they do there.

IMG_1107While working on the computer at Colorado Horse Rescue, I tried to think of another way I could volunteer  my skills to help them out.   Shawna English, Director of Development at CHR, who also has a childhood development background, helped me choose six of the most heart-warming rescue and adoption stories that would appeal to readers age seven on up. Roxanne Capaul, CHR Photographer, offered her existing and new photography to enhance the text into a visual treat, so young readers could experience the exciting and hopeful world of horse rescue.  Horse blog2

My editor at Filter Press, Doris Baker, helped shape the age-appropriate text for indie readers, with bold-faced words for the glossary in back and language that meets Common Core.  Carol Bryce, Director of CHR, along with several other staff members,  past volunteers, my super savvy critique group–Kim Tomsic, Sally Spear, Will Limon and Penny Berman, those involved in horse therapy and educators, read drafts and kindly offered their expertise.  Then Doris, Roxanne and I hunkered down to meet the release deadline and finished the last edit on the day it went to print.  Truly a collaborative labor of love and belief in this hybrid type of book about the amazing resilience, intelligence and hope that horses offer us.IMG_1108

I ran into a wonderful representative with those qualities, Mandy, along with her brand new adopter, Terri.  With CHR’s patient training and love, Mandy’s overcome her people fear and also gained 125 needed pounds.  Terri will adopt this beauty and move Mandy “…to a pen with a few geldings for her to flirt with, nap in the sun and go for walks with me.” Terri, who lost her last companion horse, wanted another companion horse and learned about Mandy at CHR’s Open House. (In June)  We at CHR are so happy when another horse goes home.


February 15, 2016 at 1:25 pm 1 comment

Free Fall Friday – Results with Bethany Strout

That was really insightful and interesting to see how my own observations meshed with Bethany’s. Wondering if she’s now open to submissions? Thanks.

Writing and Illustrating

bethanystrout Bethany Strout

Bethany Strout is an Associate Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. You can follow her on Twitter at @BethanyStrout

Bethany will be attending the NJSCBWI Conference in June.

She is always looking for novels where the setting is its own character, romances that feel messy and real, fully realized fantasy worlds, and a middle grade puzzle novel in the vein of The Westing Game! She is drawn to picture books that tell true or imagined stories with emotional resonance. Prior to joining LBYR in 2010, Bethany worked her way through the book business with stops at her local library, The University of Chicago Press, and the literary agency Writers House.

What she likes: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Picture Books, and Young Adult Books, also Rhyme/Edgy/Mystery/Books in verse/Science Fiction and High-Fantasy.

Follow her on Twitter at @BethanyStrout


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May 29, 2015 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

My First Message in a Bottle

IMG_0352Amid the bulbous kelp and sand, I spied a bottle half buried, as I jogged along the early morning beach last week. The San Diego sun hadn’t peeped through the marine layer yet, so objects came into focus in the pearl gray light. IMG_0347The clear bottle contained a yellow note rolled up–like it should be, a stick-on-moustache and a rubber band. Since this was spring break, I narrowed my eyes and looked around at the beach houses that lined the boardwalk, certain I’d see some college boys doubled over with laughter from their party perch.  It was 8 a.m. though, so that answered those suspects.  I inched out the note and, to my delight, it was written in a child’s handwriting. IMG_0356 I recognize a true kid’s writing after the sweet letters I’ve received over the years from my readers. Seven-year-old Garrett was on spring break at Mission Beach March 13-21. The finder was supposed to call and he gave his number, which showed on my phone was from Oklahoma.  Of course I called!  I left a message to the effect: “Hi Garrett.  I’m the lucky person who discovered your bottle–my first message in a bottle!  I write children’s books (and was on my way to a book signing as I left the message) and just wanted to let you know you may have inspired my next idea for a picture book. Call me back if you’d like.” And then I left my number. Which, I’m sure, his mother must have said, “I’d prefer you don’t call that strange woman back.”  Or maybe Garrett ran down to the beach that morning before breakfast and tossed it about fifteen feet into the waves. Then ran back to his rental, thinking all the while it would make it to China, instead of some weird lady who found it an hour later. And maybe Mom got my message and didn’t give it to him so he wouldn’t be disappointed.  I’m a writer: we think like this all the time!

The good news is I’m still mulling over this bottle and how to turn it into one of my whodunits. What was the significance of the stick-on-mustache and rubber band? Should I write it as a picture book or chapter book?  Should I have the main character Garrett?  Only time in a bottle will tell.  Sorry, I’m a writer…

April 1, 2015 at 3:21 pm 1 comment

You Can Judge a Book by Its Title, and Other Wisdom from the Submission Pile


RGPkey_with_highlightsGUEST POST by Rob Broder, President & Founder of Ripple Grove Press

We have received over 2000 submissions at Ripple Grove Press (RGP) since we opened our doors in 2013, and we have read them all. Only a few make it into our “revisit” folder for another look. Many do not make it there for a simple reason: they do not follow our submission guidelines.

Rob Broder signing off on printer's proofs Publisher Rob Broder signing off on printer’s proofs.

Follow the Submission Guidelines

Our website clearly states that we do not accept stories with a holiday or religious theme, yet my inbox receives submissions with a holiday theme or a religious mention, or submissions about God or the stars in the heavens. Not only do those stories get passed over, they make it difficult to want to move forward on any project with that writer. By not following our guidelines, that person wasted their own time…

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February 4, 2015 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

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