Archives: SCBWI

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.


Winning The Tomie dePaola Award Experience

I’m had a great time at the SCBWI Winter conference in NYC. It’s been so nice to meet up with old friends and make new friends too! But I must say the highlight of my whole weekend was to have lunch with the very talented and generous Illustrator Tomie dePaola.

Every year Tomie puts out a prompt for illustrators to create a piece of artwork for a competition through the SCBWI. This year’s prompt was to illustrate a lovely poem that was written by Lin Oliver. She is one of the founders of the SCBWI. I was honored to win this award. SCBWI paid for my travel and conference and also the lunch with Tomie (which is a new addition this year).

We had a lovely lunch. I will really cherish this day! It was so nice to just be in the presence of someone that has been in this industry for over 50 years. He has over 250 books and is well respected in the children’s book world.

Here Tomie was showing a little girl that was sitting next to us during lunch,
his Brava Strega Nona heartwarming pop-up book

Below I’ve added a few photos of us and a cake that I brought to the conference all the way from Texas. It is a Margarita cake, buttercream icing, fondant with polymer clay characters on top. I created the characters in clay because I knew the fondant would not travel well. This one happily made it to Tomie’s studio in New Hampshire.

Steve Mooser, President, SCBWI and Lin Oliver, Executive Director, SCBWI
Announcing the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award

Lin, Tomie and I

Below Tomie is showing my daughter his pop-up book and signing many other books

I would encourage other illustrators to enter the SCBWI Tomie dePaola’s competition.
Thank you 🙂 and Good Luck Illustrators!


2014 SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC

This is my experience of the 2014 Winter Conference in New York City

It all started with this one image, this cakelustration was the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola competition. As my award, the SCBWI gave me an all expense paid trip to the 2014 SCBWI Winter conference in NYC! And the best part, lunch date with Tomie himself!  I am still in awe of my experience!!! I want to share with you my full experience with the talented and generous Tomie dePaola, but that will have to be in another post. So for now I will talk to you about the amazing weekend experience with my new and old friends.

When I arrived, I immediately had to attend the Regional Team meeting where we spoke about what would transpire over the weekend. It was interesting to find out that there were over 1,080 members in attendance this year. I met other Illustrator Coordinators and Regional Advisers, from all over the nation, even from the UK and Australia.

They went to dinner and a show, but I spent time with my cousin and children in the city. We had some delicious New York Pizza!

–––––––––––––––––––Friday Illustrator Intensive–––––––––––––––––

The intensive started off with a bang with Mr. Tomie dePaola himself! Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President, G.P. Putnum’s Sons and Nancy Paulson Books prepared a Q & A about Tomie’s journey as an children’s book illustrator and how he uses the picture book as theater.

Tomie dePaola is an award winning author and illustrator who has won several awards for his works.

“Every book is like a child, you never know what will happen along the way. Once the baby is out, you don’t feel the pain, only JOY!” -Tomie dePaola

Brett Helquist illustrator/author spoke on casting and character development. He said, “you should always Practice, Practice, Practice….”

Paul O. Zelinsky spoke of illustrators on set design -staging.  “Don’t line up things, be aware of the elements, characters, and backgrounds and how they relate to each other.”

Did I mention I had a stow away? A little rabbit named Magic, found his way into my suitcase and traveled with me to NYC.

Remember the Rabbit cupcake topper that I made for Richard Jesse Watson? It met an untimely death with a wild studio cat, so I made a non-edible replacement out of Sculpey. Magic will make a new home in Richard’s studio soon.

He went with me to drop off my portfolio for the Portfolio Showcase. This is a showcase of over 200 illustrator portfolios of conference attendees. They are viewed by several industry professionals during the showcase that happened the evening after the intensives.

At the Illustrator Intensive,

Magic was making friends every where we went.

Sarah Baker and Pricilla Burris

Cecila Yung and Pat Cummings

David Diaz and Lin Oliver

Paul Zelinsky was showing us his process, then of course Magic had to get in on the action.

There were these really delicious candies strategically placed all over the hotel during the conference! As you can see Magic enjoyed them too!

–––––––––––––––––Saturday Conference Day–––––––––––––––

Lin Oliver started the conference with a few statistics and  a short powerful speech from Kristen Fulton. She was a veterinarian who became a writer soon after a life changing event happened to her.

Our first keynote was author Jack Gantos. He stated, “characters can carry a weak plot, but a weak plot cannot carry a character.”

I went to Laurent Linn’s break out session and he talked about how illustrators need to be socially connected through, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and websites. Also illustrators should be using Postcards as a marketing tool. Maybe send out 3 or 4 a year to a selective mailing list.

“Then it was off to lunch with Tomie dePaola!”

I’ll write about this in my next post 🙂

The rest of my day was spent with Tomie and then some time in my room absorbing all that had transgressed throughout the day. Soon it was time to get ready for the evening party! I was the only Texan Regional team advisor for our Texas/Oklahoma table. Pretty surprising, but I guess we do have to travel pretty far to get to NYC.

David Diaz’s daughter, Tina WissnerDavid Diaz, Kary LeeChristine Brallier, and Me

Afterwards we had an after party with Illustrators. Tomie dePaola brought the cake I gave him to share with everyone. It looks a bit deflated. Oh well, it still tasted good.

David Diaz, Priscilla Burris, E.B. Lewis, & Cecilia Yung

David Diaz, Tomie dePaola, Pat Cummings, Paul O. Zellinsky, & Sarah Baker

Tomie and I cutting the cake

Tasting the cake. 🙂

Paul and I cowboying it up!

––––––––––––––––Sunday Conference Day––––––––––––––

Lin, Tomie and I getting ready for the morning announcements.

And drum roll please….

And the winner is Akiko White with her illustration made with cake.

So nice to have my cheerleaders in the crowd.

My daughter and I  – me and my writer friend Tina Wissner

We had a few more speakers before the day was over.

Kate Messner was our next keynote speaker. She was amazing! She spoke on the power of failure. Kate had an opportunity to speak at TED Talks in 2012. She left most of us laughing and crying at the same time. “Failure teaches us to celebrate the dance” –Laura Hamor

Keynote panel on the art of the picture book with Peter BrownRaul ColonMarla FrazeeOliver JeffersShadra Strickland moderated by Arthur Levine.

Autograph Party

Paul O. Zelinsky                                  Oliver Jeffers

Jane Yolen and daughter Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Tomie dePaola

Peter Brown

Tomie dePaola, me, and Lin Oliver

And here are some of the books that I acquired while I was at the conference.

2014 Austin SCBWI Conference

As the Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI SWTX I was fortunate to get to join the faculty and other members of the Austin team for an evening hosted by The Writing Barn. It was a lovely evening and I got to share one of my cakelustrations with everyone.

Lulu was a rainbow swirl vanilla cake, buttercream frosting, gum-paste and fondant. I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed this colorful cake.

As I rushed out the door to the Austin SCBWI Conference, I forgot the most important piece to my auction donation, the character. I was so glad that my husband delivered the mouse for my typewriter cake because it was a big hit.

The first keynote was Matt de la Pena. He is the author of five acclaimed Young Adult novels.

Matt said, “you should put your head down and get into it, do what you do and you’ll be successful!”

He poised the question, “why is it that success is considered so much more important than the beautiful possibilities that exist before it?”

I took the illustrators track and listened to Laurent Linn and Kelly Murphy spoke about the collaboration between art directors and illustrators. It was nice to see the full process of the book take place from both points a view.

Kelly Murphy did the next keynote. Her illustrations are beautiful and give a real sense of the mood that she is trying to convey.

Laurent Linn did the afternoon break out on materials that illustrators use and how to market in what seems to be a sea of illustrators.

I had a portfolio review with Kelly Murphy and she gave me some really great tips for my own illustrations. She even said it would be interesting to see more of the element of cake in my illustrations.  She is also looking forward to a story that would go along with my cakelustrations.

The next morning was the illustrator’s intensive. Kelly Murphy did the first session. We worked on character and the difference in how a character would be illustrated for different audiences. The more simpler the character the younger the audience.

Laurent Linn worked with us in the afternoon session. Some of the illustrators brought artwork for him to critique. Laurent had given a story for us to illustrate a spread from.

I wasn’t able to create anything because I was perfecting my portfolio. But here are a couple photos from the critique.

Laurent is talking about Amy Farrier’s piece.

And here is the book that the story came from.

A few more pictures from the conference:

Houston RA Vicki Sansum, and McCourt Thomas

Shelley Ann Jackson (ARA), Kelly Murphy, me, and Samantha Clark (RA)

Matt De La PenaLaurent Linn, me, Larry Goode, and Jeff Crosby

Amy Farrier (IC), me, Lalena Fisher

Marsha Rita, Luz Marie, me and Patrice Barton

Amy Farrier, Melinda BeaversDiandra Mae, Laurent Linn, Shelly Ann Jackson, me, Marsha Rita

I enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones. 

SCBWI-Southwest Texas Website Banner

This is the Cakelustration banner that I did for the SCBWI – Southwest Texas. This was a challenge since it is such a long horizontal image. Did I mention that it is a margarita cake with a margarita lime flavored buttercream icing. “Are you drooling yet?” I made a few cupcakes with the left over batter. I brushed a touch of tequila over them, added tequila in the icing and my husband said they were the best cupcakes he had ever had!

I will be doing a Google Chat with illustrator and teacher Mark Mitchell from Make you Mark, Make your Splashes next week on the process of this illustration. Please join us Thursday, February 13 at 12:00 p.m. central time. Mark Mitchell has an on-line course on How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator, I would highly recommend his course to anyone who is interested in getting into the children’s book industry. Not only do you learn watercolor techniques,  you will also have opportunities to critique, be critiqued and meet up online with professionals in the children’s book industry.

I have also invited a few of my kid-lit friends to join me in the chat. Richard Jesse WatsonCarolyn Dee FloresJoy Fisher HeinTina Wissner, and Shannon Morgan, maybe joining us in the chat. I also invited a long time friend and talented cake artist Scott Bradshaw.

Below are a few logos and images that came from the same cake:

I do have to say that the water was a lot of fun to create.

I Won the Tomie dePaola Award!

I am so ecstatic that my Cakelustration won the 2014 SCBWI Tomie dePaola Children’s book Illustration competition! Tomie dePaola is an award winning Illustrator.

From the SCBWI Website:

Tomie has been a long time member of the Board of Advisors (he is now emeritus), was instrumental in changing the name of the original organization to include illustrators, founded the Illustrator’s Committee of the SCBWI board which produces events especially for illustrators, taught the first master class at an SCBWI conference, and is featured on the DVD Master Class produced and distributed by the SCBWI. He has made a singularly important contribution to the growth and mission of the SCBWI.

Tomie generously financed the Tomie dePaola award until 2011 when the SCBWI chose to fund it as a permanent award in recognition of Tomie’s outstanding contribution to the SCBWI, and especially to our illustrator members.

I can’t believe it! This is an amazing accomplishment for me and I want to thank everyone that gave me inspiration. Especially SCBWI-SWTX Regional Advisor Shannon Morgan and Pal’s Coordinator Carolyn Flores, who by the way, gave me the suggestion to illustrate with cake. I also want to thank all my SCBWI friends who have been my cheerleaders along the way. Last but not least I want to thank Tomie for thinking my illustration was worthy of such an honor. I took a chance at trying an illustration in cake medium and it has really paid off. It is a fun medium to work with, and I get to lick my fingers as I work, “wouldn’t you?”

I have been busy making cakes for friends and family, but never thought of illustrating with the medium. There are many talented cake artist who put characters on cakes, but there are very few who make the character or character’s out of cake. Who doesn’t like cake? And especially children! I’m not sure why there has not been a children’s book illustrated by cake and sugar art, but I am hoping that I can change that. It maybe challenging, but I am always up for a challenge!

I’m looking forward to having lunch with Tomie dePaola in New York City!

I’ll post my cakelustration process soon!

Tomie dePaola Competition Entry

Here is my entry to this years SCBWI  Tomie dePaola competition. We were assigned a poem to illustrate for a potential book to be pitched to parents of toddlers and young preschoolers.

The ball of the illustration is a yellow cake. The elephant, mouse, and background are made with fondant and gum-paste. My favorite part of this cake is the mouse’s whiskers, they are made of isomalt.(sugar)

I have been so busy making cakes that I really haven’t had time to draw. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating. I wanted to blog about how creating designer cakes is an art. I have been making cakes since I was in high school, but had not really used fondant or other sugar cake products until recently. It has been so much fun to see what I can come up with.

I love to bake!!! My children are a bit spoiled because there is always something homemade to munch on at our house. It’s amazing we don’t all weigh 300 pounds.

I started making cakes for friends and families as gifts when I went to their parties. My kid’s friends started requesting cakes from me. I’ve had so many request I had to start charging. My illustrator friend Carolyn Flores suggested I make my illustrations out of cake. What a great idea! I really enjoy the process and the final outcome. Many people can’t believe that cakes can me made into so many shapes.

Recently Texas passed a law that bakers could sell from their homes. I took the online class and now have the certificates, so I guess I’m now an official home baker. Send me your orders! 🙂

Here are some of the most recent cakes that I have made:


SCBWI SWTX Workshop with Richard Jesse Watson

Our assignment for the SCBWI-SWTX workshop with Richard Jesse Watson
This is an illustration that I did for our 2013 workshop with illustrator and writer Richard Jesse Watson. Our assignment was to put  a Paradigm shift in the hundred acre woods. 

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
Illustrate a character(s) from A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh books (illustrated by Ernest Shepherd). Shift paradigm by changing time period and context. Express the character’s essence or change by showing an emotional response to environment or situation. How might the characters change?

This is my initial sketch of my project.