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February 2018
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"If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good!" -- Dr. Suess
“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.” ― Shel Silverstein
"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder." --E.B. White
"Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That's a gift you have received from God. Don't waste it." --Laura Ingalls Wilder
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."--Annie Dillard

Author Spotlight: Kym Brunner


YA author Kym Brunner’s new book, Flip the Bird, comes out this week. I spoke with Kym earlier in the week. Check out what she has to say about her path to publication.

Looking back, what do you wish you would have done differently on your path to publication?

Here’s the thing: you don’t know exactly what was the tipping point for an editor’s decision.

Was it my social media presence in addition to a well-written story? Was the editor Polish herself and loved how I wove Slavic folktale lore and a grandmother (Busia) into the plot? Did I catch him or her on a good day and they were in the mood for humor?

There are so many other factors that matter, in addition to telling a great story of course, that it’s difficult to separate why my first book was chosen and the ones prior weren’t. So the simple answer is NO. Everything I did was part of the journey.

Do I wish it had happened sooner than nine years? Sure. But then maybe I would have missed some family parties when my kids were younger, or not have gone for my Master’s degree in education.

So I’ve made peace with the idea that “Everything happens for a reason” and believe that the year, publishing house, and novel were published right when it was supposed to. 🙂

What was something that you are glad that you did, that really helped you?

 Take chances: submit things to top agents/ write in a different genre/ be open to suggestions.

Seeing a falconry show at Medieval Times made me want to know more about the ancient sport, which led to a delightful discovery into this special world. I went for one seven-hour falconry apprentice lesson but ended up coming back for eight more.

But I’ve always been that person who, if someone says, “You want to come with me to see this show/hobby/weird thing?” I always say yes.

While writing my current WIP about Mars, I took a chance on filling out an application on NASA and got to fly to Virginia see a test splashdown of a prototype of the spacecraft Orion.

I went to a ballroom dancing competition with a friend and thought the whole scene was odd but delightful and may use that as one of my character’s hobbies one day.

I recently sat in the pilot’s chair in the cockpit of an American Airlines craft (pre-takeoff, of course) when we were early and the pilot offered the opportunity. Which, by the way, no one else took advantage of. That too will influence one of my stories in some way.

So say YES more often and take chances––it can open your mind to a ton of cool story ideas and character descriptions.



Editorial Reviews


“Brunner writes an impassioned story with real-life moral dilemmas. Abundant details of falconry, the result of the author’s own falconry apprentice lessons… root the story solidly in a fascinating world new to most readers. An engaging story of a young teen finding what’s most important in his life.” —Kirkus “Lovers of Sterling North’s Rascal, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, and Calame’s Dan Versus Nature will flock to this tale about a teen and his hawk. . . Get multiple copies for nature-loving reluctant readers.” —SLJ “An exciting adventure into the art of falconry and the heart of a young man.” —David Lubar, author of Hidden Talents and Character, Driven

About the Author

Kym Brunner is the author of the YA novels Flip the Bird, Wanted: Dead or In Love, and One Smart Cookie. She teaches 7th grade and lives in Illinois. Visit her website at



Beat Sheets

Stuck writing in circles? Use the following  Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from his book, Save The Cat to help you set the stage for your story. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler is also helpful for many writers I work with.

  1. Opening Image
  2. Theme Stated
  3. Set-up
  4. Catalyst
  5. Debate
  6. Break Into Two
  7. B Story
  8. Fun and Games
  9. Midpoint
  10. Bad Guys Close In
  11. All Is Lost
  12. Dark Night Of The Soul
  13. Break Into Tree
  14. Finale
  15. Final Image


susan kaye quinn

Indie and best-selling author Susan Kaye Quinn, writer of more than 50 books, presented a workshop on self-publishing at Barnes and Noble in Schaumburg. She offered some great advice on structure and writing serials using the power of three:  Act I-Thesis, Act II- Anti-thesis and Act III the fusion of the two.

Third Daughter

One of the many things I learned from Sue’s talk, was to make sure to have your pivot point/ stumble/ change/ mirror-moment right smack in the middle of your book. If you don’t, you risk knocking your whole manuscript off balance and upsetting your readers-which we absolutely don’t want to do!


Other things to keep in mind when writing your masterpiece: check out what’s selling on Amazon to see what people are reading and to see where on the spectrum your work-in-progress falls. Self-published and traditionally-published books are grouped together.


But if you are self-published you don’t have to pay an agent or a publisher any royalties. I like that idea.


And I like the freedom you have over your writing when you self-publish. You don’t have to worry about finding the right agent or publisher. You can just think about your readers.


Here’s some more food for thought- did you know that those books on the front shelves at Barnes and Noble are paid placement? Just because the book is right up front doesn’t mean it’s any good. It just means someone paid to have it put there. Say what? Hey, I didn’t know that!

Open Minds

Check out Sue’s information below and learn more about the self-publishing revolution.


To learn more about the indie publishing world, you can visit Sue’s video on facing you fears in indie publishing (video) at:

To read about other helpful stuff for authors visit


The Wild Wild Midwest Conference

Well friends, it was a weekend full of creativity, collaboration, character sketches, and behind -the-scenes advice from publishers, editors, writers and agents.  Put simply, the weekend rocked. Here is a picture of some fabulous writers from our Geneva writer’s group: Sarah Quinn, Jennifer Kaap, Phil Lumia and myself. What a good looking group!


One of my favorite breakout sessions was with author Sarah Aronson who spoke about putting main characters in the worst possible situations to see what they are made of. How many ways can we raise the stakes? Keep the tension in every scene, otherwise those kiddos are going to put our books down and head over to their  -OH NO- iPads!


Above is Jenny Wagh, Dorothy Wiese and myself at the Roaring 20’s party on Friday night. Don’t they look beautiful?


Troy Cummings, author of The Notebook of Doom books, taught us how to make a smart dummy to send off to agents. He suggested checking out storyboards for movies like Star Wars for good examples of pacing and beats. 

The Notebook of DOOM! — Troy Cummings <!– [if lt IE 9]>// <![endif]–> <!–

Here’s a picture of Troy and myself. I came home with two of his books and my boys inhaled them.

Alice B. McGinty signed her book, Gandhi: A March To Sea, for me. Alice actually went to India and retraced Gandhi’s march to write her book. How cool is that? The pictures in this book are so rich and vibrant, I’m so glad I bought it and I look forward to reading it with my boys.

For me, the best part of this conference was being with others who share an insane love for kidlit. You can see upcoming events by visiting SCBWI’s website. Go to a conference!


Share an act of random kindness

Just wanted to share this with you. My mom gave me this card yesterday. They were giving it out to mark the beginning of Lent at her church.

Writing can be isolating. For me, I know that I need to get out into the world and do something kind for another human-especially in February when the gray sludge can become overwhelming.

If I am holed up in front of my computer too long, racking my brain to find the perfect words for my character to say, I sometimes feel like I am turning into a monster! I have to keep this little card next to my laptop to keep the monsters in check. Thanks Mom.

Share an act of random kindness with someone.


Attention Children’s book writers: The Wild Wild Midwest Conference registration opens today.

Registration opens today for the SCBWI conference in Naperville. I’ve attached the details below.

If you love children’s books and have always wanted to write for kids there are great authors and editors teaching at the conference. You can get your manuscript critiqued too. Plus there’s a costume party!


In Illinois:2016 Wild, Wild Midwest Conference

Date(s) – 04/30/2016 – 05/01/2016
12:00 am

Chicago Marriott Naperville
1801 N. Naper Blvd. – Naperville, IL 60563
Plans are underway. It’s going to be the bees knees!

Theme: Roaring 20s
Registration: Online registration OPENS February 1st for SCBWI members (Not-yet-members February 8th)

Program & Faculty:
• 40 faculty members!
• 7 different intensives – (three hour in-depth sessions on Friday afternoon)
• Newcomers to the Industry Session for Beginners
• 35-40 different sessions on topics related to Picture Books, Novels, Nonfiction, All-Genres, Business, Illustration, and Publishing Independently
• First Pages Panels, First Looks Panels, and onsite Art Show included in registration
• Written critiques; Onsite portfolio reviews; a manuscript contest (with four categories):prize–full manuscript submission!
• Autograph party and Costume Party and Prize for best costume!

 Bookstore:  Sponsored by Anderson’s Books. Registered attendees who are either traditionally or independently published will be able to sell one title. Faculty’s books will be available, too.

Save the date for the Wild Wild Midwest Regional Conference in 2016: April 29-May1. Plans are underway. It's going to be the bees knees!    

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Children’s Literature Event

There is a children’s literature breakfast coming up at Anderson’s Bookstore in Woodridge. See the information below. It looks like fun!

Children’s Literature Breakfast



Saturday, February 20, 2016 – 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Autograph Session to follow)
Bobak’s Signature Events
6440 Double Eagle Drive, Woodridge, IL 60517

This morning will feature a full breakfast, over 50 Illinois authors and illustrators, new award-winning and notable books, a book talk, continuing education hours, raffles, door prizes, giveaways, book sales and keynote speakers.

Featured Speakers:
Chris Grabenstein, Barney Saltzberg, Sara Pennypacker, Lauren Tarshis and Loren Long!!! 

For more information please call (630) 820-2802 or email For the most recent updates and to purchase tickets visit Don’t miss the Annual Illustrated Chair Raffle.  This year’s Chair Raffle will have two illustrated chairs; one by Loren Long and one by Barney Saltzberg!


TICKETS $59 (tickets are non-refundable) Doors open at 7:30 AM for book browsing and registration. Purchase tickets online HERE – available now!  To register with a school p.o. or check, please call (630) 820-2802.

Please reserve your spot by February 17th.


Event date:
Saturday, February 20, 2016 – 8:00am to 12:00pm
Event address:
Bobak’s Signature Events
6440 Double Eagle Drive
Woodridge, IL 60517

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