Archives: Kidlit

Why are Author-Illustrator School Visits So Important

Children are inspired to read and write when they meet the author and illustrators of the books that they read!

Scholl visit

Why are author-illustrator school and library visit so important?

Children feel empowered in a world where they usually have no influence. By meeting an author/illustrator or relating to a character in a book, they see possibilities in themselves. When kids meet an author or illustrator, they are inspired that they too might be able to write or illustrate their own story. They feel empowered to make a difference and they are more inclined to WRITE and READ!

Statistics from

Alexas O’Neal is an author who created This statistic comes from a nationwide survey of over 600 teachers, librarians, administrators and parents.

Top Benefits of an author visit:

1 – Motivates students to read more (91%)

2 – Inspires creativity and expression (75%)

3 – Motivates students to write more (70%)

How to have an author/illustrator visit

Question to ask your team:

•Who do I invite?

•How do I raise funds?

•How do I set up the visit and make it successful so that the children are influence to read and write even after the visit? Things to think about before looking for an author.

• Who is your Audience – are they children who read picture books, middle grade or are they adult readers?

•What is your Budget – How much can you do to achieve your goal for the visit? Kids can get involved here too! This may determine if it will be an in-person visit or virtual. Local or out of state.

• Who is your Support Team –  will you be doing set up yourself or do you have a team of people who can help? PTO? Other librarians and or teachers?

Links to find speakers

Author listings by state –

SCBWI Hawaii – “find a speaker” tab –

The Booking Biz Author list –

YA Authors list

Authors who do 15-20 minute free Skype visits

Penguin Authors who do skype visits

Skype an author network

How do I raise funds?

On Campus Field Trip – Instead of a field trip you could have an author visit. For the low cost of a couple dollars from each student you could have a half day to full day of live entertainment and expose them to literature and art!

Parent or Community Organization – You can request the PTO or FOL to raise funds for an author visit.

Pledge Drive – Students could have a read-a-thon or write-a-thon pledge drive.

• Sponsorship from Local businesses – Banks and other businesses often have funds set aside for supporting the community.

Share the cost – Share the expense of the author visit with with other libraries or schools in the area.

Book sales – Work with a bookstore that would give you a discount and sell books at regular price. You can use the money you make to off set the cost of the author visit.

Penny Drive – Children could run a penny drive. Children take pride in being able raise money for a visit!

Creative Ideas – Other Ideas might include the kids making and selling Recipe books and or Calendars. You could use the author/illustrators book as your theme.

Pizza night or Movie night – A paid fun night at the library or school.

Title 1 Funds and Grants

If your school qualifies you may be eligible to apply and put your funding toward an author/illustrator visit.

U.S. Department of Education:

Grant Opportunities https: //

•SCBWI Amber Brown Grant Any school may apply.
Submit Nov 1-April 15th, 2020

•Follett Challenge Deadline December 12th, 2019

•Target Grants- https: //
•Dollar General Literacy Foundation – – youth-literacy-grants

How do I make a successful author/Illustrator visit?

•Check with the author to find out what kind of program they will be presenting.

•Have the kids read the authors books ahead of time, kids are more enthused when they know the books ahead of time.

•Some authors have curriculum guides for their books. These usually have exercises and games that help the children get into their book’s world.

•Advanced book sales are a great way for kids to be able to see the author up close and get a book signed.

•If books can’t be signed ask for the author to bring bookplates for kids that order the book after the visit.

•Reserve a parking spot for the author.

•Have water available for the author.

•Ask about dietary restrictions if you are providing snacks or lunch.

•Make sure teachers are also modeling good listening skills during the presentation.

You can find out more about my school visits on my presentation page on my site. Email me if you have a specific event that you would like me to present at. I’ve done hands on workshops as well as Skype presentations.

Most of all, enjoy the process of having an author and or illustrator visit your school or library. Don’t sweat it, Authors and Illustrators are people too. You will be thrilled with the visit and how the children will be encouraged to read and write! You can hear more about me on a blog that was posted through 

Hawaii Book and Music Festival

Celebrating books at the

Hawaiian Book and Music Festival


This free event brings together booksellers, publishers, musicians, actors, authors and illustrators. Not to mention the food of Hawaii! Scbwi Hawaii were represented by a few of our members at the HBMF this past weekend

We first met at the former Olympic gold medalist, Kristi Yamaguchi’s reading tent. Kristi has a foundation that helps support early childhood literacy. The books in her program are all-digital and can be accessed through student’s classrooms. She also has her own children’s books “Dream Big, Little Pig”, “It’s a Big World, Little Pig” and “Cara’s Kindness”.

SCBWI member and Hawaii State Librarian, Author Christin Lozanoshared her book “Island Toes”

Christin began her career as a 4th grade teacher and quickly discovered that her young students’ favorite part of the day was when she would read aloud to the class. The experience became so rewarding that she decided to become a Children’s Librarian. Today she is the Reference Librarian at Kaimuki Public Library. After having read hundred’s of keiki stories with mainland themes, she became motivated to write her own story for local keiki. This is her first book.

SCBWI Member Sue Cowingshared some of her poems that were published in the Bamboo Ridge, Journal of Literature and Arts.

Sue was born to a family of amateur naturalists and poetry lovers and grew up in Carl Sandburg’s birthplace, a small town in western Illinois called Galesburg. She’s been writing poems and stories and letters since She was about seven. Her favorite days then and now have always been rainy days, because they fill her with energy and ideas for inventing stories and poems and songs.

Though She studied and eventually taught history, Sue has always loved myths and fairy tales too. She believes they tell their own kind of truth. An illustrated book of Chinese tales she read in elementary school stirred what would become a lifelong curiosity about Chinese culture and art. As soon as Sue could manage it, she moved to Hawai‘i to study Chinese history, which she’d had a taste of in college. Sue soon made Honolulu her home because She loved, and still loves, the multicultural world of Hawaii. She has continued to enjoy exploring Chinese and Japanese culture through t’ai chi, tea ceremony, and taiko drumming.

Sue’s greatest pleasure in writing poetry is finding just the right language to convey an observation or experience that might otherwise be lost. In fiction she tries to write stories of serious hope, with a dash of humor. In almost every story of hers there is a hint of Asian culture and a special object, and often a major character is some kind of artist.

Focusing on writing means that there is not enough time for many things that she would like to do, but she can always write about them. Sue hopes to be lucky enough to do this for the rest of her life.

SCBWI member Mirka HokkanenRead her debut book “Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book”Which came out this March.

 Mirka is a Hawaii artist, illustrator and author. Mirka’s favorite things to illustrate are animals and kids. She loves a good chuckle and adds a spark of humor where ever she can fit it. When not brandishing a pencil, Mirka is probably wielding a cheese stick and a book to appease the three wild kids that claim her as their mother at home. Her debut book, Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book, came out in March 2019.

Thrilled that I got to meet the Hawaii State Librarian Stacey Aldrich

Martina Wing a diver and a SCBWI member from the Big Island also join us at the HBMF. She is an ambitious author with a true story about a dolphin that came to a group of divers asking for help, she filmed the dive master helping the dolphin. It’s a truly inspirational story. You can find her book and story on

It was a wonderful weekend to celebrate books! I visited many of the local publisher’s tents, and they are always looking for a good story, especially one for the children and adults of Hawaii.  You can look at their websites for their submission process.

Here are a the publisher’s represented at the HBMF :

Mutual PublishingBeach house Publishing

Bishop Museum Press

Kamehameha Publishing

Watermark Publishing

University of Hawaii Press

Bess Press and Da Shop

Bamboo Ridge Press- Journal of Hawaii Literature and Arts

Here are a few pictures from the event.


Sweet Fairy Tales

This is the watercolor cover that I created for the Sweet Fairy Tales Book. I took something from everyone’s cake and added it into the illustration. I was going for a vintage feel and I think I achieved it.

I created this pen and ink illustration and 45 watercolor illustration portraits for a project where 45 international cake artist came together to make awareness for literature and homeless children. Each artist took a lullaby and created a sugar piece to go with it. All proceeds for this book will go to a organization called Project Night Night.

Here is the one of my cakelustrations that I did for the rhyme “Come Out and Play”

Girls and boys, come out to play,

The moon doth shine as bright as day;

Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And come with your playfellows into the street.
Come with a whoop, come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A half-penny roll will serve us all.
You find milk, and I’ll find flour,
And we’ll have a pudding in half an hour.

This is the caklustration for  “What are Little Boys Made Of?”

What are little boys made of, made of?

What are little boys made of?

“Snaps and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails;
And that’s what little boys are made of.”

What are little girls made of, made of?
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice, and all that’s nice;
And that’s what little girls are made of.”

Sweet Fairy Tales​ Book is available online on a Cake Collaboration by Lizzo Marek​ of Artisan Cake Company​ Illustrated by Akiko White Cakelustrator​, and edited by Shani Christenson. The printed book is available online now! All proceeds benefit Project Night Night​ an amazing non-profit that provides a blanket, stuffed animal and book to children who are in homeless shelters. You can see all the pages, read about the artists plus detail shots on


Who’s a Texas Sweetheart and Texas Scoundrel?

I was honored to create a cake for the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels. It was raffled off at the Texas Library Associations annual conference. It was created using all 60 published books of the 13 authors who are a part of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

It was placed on a table in the Overlook Books Booth. Many librarians enjoyed seeing all the edible creations on the cake and most were commenting that they were a scoundrel librarian!

What I thought was quite amazing is that I picked the one person who put their name in the hat that was celebrating a birthday! How cool is that!!!

Robbi Lenox of Cimarron Elementary

Here is the link to the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels Blog post about my cake and the TLA.

Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels: A Yummy THANK YOU from the Texas Sweethearts & Sco…: Thank you for sharing TLA 2016 with us! Thank you so much to all those who stopped by to see us at TLA! We adored sharing our TLA rec…

Here are some process shots of the cake I made. The book covers were printed on wafer paper with edible ink. Then glued to gum paste with piping gel. I used wires to hold the books in place and to make the branches of the tree. The topper was made to be easily taken off and enjoyed on a bookshelf as a art piece. I enjoyed making this creation…even if I didn’t get much sleep. 😉

2015 Highlights Foundation Picture Book Boot Camp

Highlights from Highlights

Picture book boot camp faculty Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli


Arrival and Tour

The Barn
Touring the Highlights Magazine Offices

Carolyn Flores loves her dinos!

After an evening of touring, everyone had an opportunity to share their projects with all the attendees.  There was so much talent to be seen!

This is the story that I presented  about a koi fish. Junichi’s story is based off of a Chinese folktale about how a koi fish endures swimming upstream to the top of a waterfall and becomes a dragon. This story represents why the koi kites became one of the symbols of Japan’s children’s day.

Tale of the Dragon Fish
Junichi was always last and wished he could swim

as fast as his brothers and sisters.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to fly,” thought Junichi.


The faculty presented their work and we got busy on our manuscripts.

Greg Pizzoli
Peter Brown
Pat Cummings
Denise Fleming
Little Cabins in the woods

Pat Cummings and Martha Rago
Sheli Petersen and Carolyn Flores are ready for the photo!

Denise thought we all needed a new pair of teeth

for our group photo.

Denise looks just lovely with her new set of teeth!

Time to get to work!

We separated into 4 different groups, each one lead by a faculty member. My group was lead by Greg and we were called the “Baby Pigeons”. We worked all morning with our groups then in the afternoon presented our manuscripts to the other 3 faculty. We had only 15 minutes to share with each one and boy did those 15 minutes go by fast! It was a really intense day. I think I became more confused as the day went on and later found that I had to do a lot of purging of my work to make it a more finished peice.

That evening the Guest Faculty arrived. Nancy Paulson of Nancy Paulson Books, Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffor Content agency, and Martha Rago the art director of Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group. We presented our work to them the next day.

The Lodge

The lodge is where I spent most of my Friday evening into the wee early morning of Saturday finalizing my manuscript and book dummies. Thanks to Carolyn for kept me company and let me use her drafting tools. I still think I was the last man standing that night.



My little cabin

Patricia Keeler and Robin Rosenthal

It was fun to hear what everyone thought of my story.

I feel inspired to return home and work

on it until it is ready for submission.

Sketching by Lori Ann Levy-Holm


Final Workshop Day

I thought it would be fun to share a few little adornments for the cupcakes at our last meal together. So, I took out my trusty cake decorating tools and got to work. I did have to improvise on a few things.

Rolling out the modeling chocolate.
Using the top of a salt shaker to shape the flowers.
Just a few little flowers
with pearl candy centers.
Yum! Yum! Yum!

So they weren’t as elaborate as I usually make things, but I think they were appreciated. The chef at Highlights kept telling me how slow I was…This is why I would probably fail at being on a cake show!

Greg and me!
Martha, Peter and I.
Me and Denise with our pearl whites, not the dingy ones.
Me and Pat
Robin, Shelli, Carolyn, Leni and Renee
Sheli, Tom, Renee, Peach!, Carolyn and Leni
Me, Allison, and Carolyn

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Highlights Foundation‘s Picture Book Boot Camp. It was an incredible opportunity and I learned so much more about the industry. Thanks to the wonderful faculty; Denise FlemingPat Cummings, Peter Brown and Greg Pizzoli for an unforgettable weekend! Thank you to Highlights for the wonderful facilities and to all the attendees who made my weekend so special!

Sheli at her little cabin in the woods
Nice little swing on the property.
Boyd’s Mill Press
Down by the Creek

Nice trail we took alongside the creek.

Love all the vegitation.

Stone steps to the creek.


Good Night!

Kidlit411 Spotlight

I wanted to share with you my process of the Pied piper cake that I did recently. I will post some photos here, but would appreciate you checking out the Kidlit 411 blog site to see the full interview.

Character Sketches

Starting the background and

I created a goat out of clay for reference.

Lots of little flowers out of gum paste

Making mushrooms

Background out of foam core and fondant

Gum paste trees

Cake base covered in modeling chocolate and fondant

Pied Piper skeleton

Adding the modeling chocolate

Final Pied Piper

Goat skeletons

Sculpting goats out of modeling chocolate

One of the final goats

Three goats done and 4 more to go

Here are a few of the other critters

that were added to the cakelustration

And the final image of the Pied Piper

Very elated that The Pied Piper won Best of Divisional Competition

at the That takes the Cake 2015 show in Austin, Texas

Thanks for viewing, I hope you enjoyed the process shots.

Tomie dePaola Entry


I’ve been busy painting an image for the Tomie dePaola Illustration Competition through the SCBWI. He picks an excerpt from a children’s book story and illustrators from all over the world submit their entry. There will be a blog set up soon to view all the beautiful artwork. I will post it as soon as it is available to view.

Here is the excerpt:

So they went along and went along until they met Turkey Lurkey.
“Good morning, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny,
and Chicken Licken,” said Turkey Lurkey, “Where are you going?”
“Oh, Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling and we are going to tell the King!”
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“Ducky Daddles told me,” said Goosey Loosey.
“Cocky Locky told me,” said Ducky Daddles.
“Henny Penny told me,” said Cocky Locky.
“Chicken Licken told me,” said Henny Penny
“I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears,
and a piece of it fell on my tail!” said Chicken Licken.
“Then I will go with you,” said Turkey Lurkey, “and we will tell the King!”

SCBWI_SWTX Ilustrator’s day at the San Antonio Zoo!

I am the Illustrator Coordinator for the the Southwest Texas society of children’s book writers and illustrators. We held a sketch crawl at the San Antonio Zoo. We spent the morning sketching all the different kinds of animals. Here a few highlights from our day.

(L to R) Illustrators: Akiko White, Leticia Rocha, Catherine Garant and Jeff McDaniel
Taking a break, watching the Hippos
Here are some of my sketches

And a few more
Lety’s Sketches
Cathrine’s Sketches
Jeff’s Sketches

The highlight of the day was having our picture taken with an aspiring artist!

SCBWI-SWTX Conference

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators South West Texas Conference 2011



I wanted to share a bit of information from the SCBWI-SWTX (society of children book writers and illustrators southwest Texas region) conference that I attended recently. It was a great event with many informational speakers. I really want to thank the staff for putting it all together so well!

Me with some of our wonderful board members


I sketched a few of the speakers as they were sharing their secrets.

The first faculty member was Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Press (Simon and Schuster) She had very good advice for writers and illustrators. Andrea loves good rhyming stories and manuscripts that engage the reader. The content of a book should be emotionally giving but not sappy. A flawed characters is an interesting one. And a story should be one that you want to read over and over again. A writer or illustrator should have creative passion and an intense personal connection to a project for it to be successful.

Kristen Daly Rens from Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins) said “Open with a bang!” In your stories you should make every scene keep the story moving, every scene should keep the tension rising and things should have changed with-in the story. What really works in a story is the combination of an action plot (external action) and an emotional plot (internal action). By the closing of the story the main character should have had some personal growth.

Diane Gonzales Bertrand (writer and professor) said “to be a good writing teacher you must be a writer yourself” She always wrote as a child and later realized that she was good at it. Diane writes from her memories and shares her experience with young students. She states that we should all jump the fence and run into the open spaces and see what happens. If you receive rejection it is not the end but just another beginning. 

The SWTX-SCBWI September conference brought new light to the digital marketing possibilities for all Illustrators and writers. 
Richard Dean Johnson of Interact Books shared information on how to publish an interactive ebook for children. His company has developed a user friendly program that can help writers and illustrators turn there own publications into an electronic book. These books can be created to have movement and music within the stories pages. Interact Book’s app  allows children to purchase books at a minimal cost and create their own library to play with. What a great new way for us to market our published and unpublished works.
Kim Murray of Piccolo Media discussed how to market through social media. Such tools as Websites, Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are some of the social media sites that were brought up in her workshop . Being social and engaged can make your brand more marketable. It is necessary in this electronic age to make a presence on the web. Kim has great knowledge about how to get your brand noticed and how to make social media a weekly if not daily exercise in your business routine.
Hope all of you who are interested in children’s book writing and illustrating can join us next year for our conference. 
Here are some local conferences that are happening in the near future:
October 1, 2011 (my b-day yeah!)
Free event
The Palmer Events Center
900 Barton Springs Rd. 
Austin, TX 78704
October 22-23, 2011 Same weekend as my Bovine Festival, but maybe I can sneak away!
(Meet Alton Brown, Paula Dean and many other celebs!)
State Capital
Austin, Texas
February 17-19, 2012
Ragsdale Center
Austin, TX
April 9, 2012
Merrell Center
6301 S. Stadium Lane
Katy, TX 77494