The jumbie’s out of the bag!

I was planning to do a big reveal about the sequel to THE JUMBIES to coincide with the release of the paperback in two weeks, but the deal was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace last week!

Sequel announcement

The good news is, I don’t have to keep that a secret any more. I’m good at keeping secrets, but I really don’t like to. And now you know what I’ve been working on! But my big reveal plans aren’t totally foiled. I made a little teaser trailer that I will still post at the same time as the paperback release.

In the past few weeks, I’ve visited a few schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and I went to the Kweli Journal Children’s Book conference this weekend. That was an AMAZING day. I got to hang out with people I admire personally and professionally AND I got to meet two writing heroes of mine, Edwidge Danticat, and Joseph Bruchac.

Joseph Cruchac, Edwidge Danticat, me, Ibi Zoboi, and Leah Henderson.

Joseph Bruchac, Edwidge Danticat, me, Ibi Zoboi, and Leah Henderson.

In February, I had the opportunity to sit in a room of extraordinary women including Rita Williams Garcia, Jacqueline Woodson, and the lovely and articulate Marley Dias, who started the hashtag #1000blackgirlbooks. We talked about what we were all reading, particularly what Marley and the two other young ladies in attendance were reading, and what kind of books they are hoping for. It was an illuminating afternoon.


Ellen Oh, A.P., Renee Watson, me, Marley Dias, Jacqueline Woodson, Dhonielle Clayton, Rita Williams-Garcia, A.B., and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (not pictured: Marley’s mom Janice, Jennifer Baker, Nancy Paulsen, and Phoebe Yeh).

I’m hoping to be better about blogging and keeping everyone up to date on what’s going on, but I’m making NO promises. You know how it is. In the meantime, I still have some time in the schedule for a few more end of year school visits!

This week in writing: classes and conferences edition

Most writers work to become better. They attend conferences, they take notes, they read, and they try to find usefulness in the criticisms (I say try because even for the best of us, that’s hard). Now, that’s MOST writers. Some have no interest in listening to good advice, they get defensive at critiques, and they are certain they have it all figured out, or they’re angry that no one “gets” them. I have met several of these writers over the years and unfortunately this week I had to deal with two more. Their behavior is baffling. So, this week’s post is for those of us who do want to improve ourselves.

Next week is the New York SCBWI conference. It’s a great conference for kid lit folks. Once again, I’m not going, but Harold Underdown will be there for the first time in years. Harold was very helpful to me on a very early version of my middle grade novel THE JUMBIES (out soon from Algonquin).

Coming soon, Jennifer De Chiara, the head of my agency is offering a 90-minute seminar on picture book writing. Even I want to take this!

In April, School of the Free Mind takes a heart-centered approach to writing children’s books. The 6 week course is offered entirely online.

Later in April, the NJSCBWI is offering a picture book brunch with editor Meredith Mundy. I may go to this as I continue to struggle with a picture book concept.

I will be speaking at the NJSCBWI conference in June. I will do two talks, on Rosen and non-fiction, and best practices in an author/agent relationship with my agent, Marie Lamba. The NJSCBWI site will have for conference info soon.

In July, Emma Dryden of Drydenbks is doing a children’s book writing residency. Those 5 days of workshops sound freaking fantastic. Also, it’s on Martha’s Vineyard! Nice.

Finally, I think I’m going to change the format of my Fairy Godauthor editing service. Between work and my own writing, I have had to turn down working on other people’s manuscripts. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. Stay tuned.

Now for some free stuff…

This free app highlights your passive sentences, adverbs, and over-complicated vocabulary. Which is not to say you should replace them all. It’s just an app.

If you wonder if you’re holding yourself and your career back, check to see if you do these 10 limiting things.

Hung up over conflict and story problem? You don’t have to be. There is plot without conflict. And it’s pretty amazing, actually.

If you have other helpful things coming up this spring that folks should know about, feel free to add them in the comments below.

Have a great week everyone!

Grants and scholarships for writers

A lot of people think that writers make a lot of money. 99% of us don’t. So to fund your writing habit, you’re going to need a little financial assistance. There are grants for writers in need as well as scholarships for writers to attend writers conferences so they can work on their craft. I have listed a few below because an exhaustive list would take too long, and doing a search for “scholarships for writers” or “grants for writers” will provide you with a list of options that you can filter through to find the ones that suit your needs.

Scholarships to writer’s conferences include:

The Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua in upstate New York.

The SCBWI winter and summer conferences in New York and Los Angeles, respectively.

The Taos Summer Writers Conference in New Mexico.

The South Coast Writer’s Conference in Oregon.

The Backspace Writer’s Conference in New York City.


Grants for writers in need are available from:

The Haven Foundation, set up by Stephen King for freelance writers who have been injured through no fault of their own.

National Endowment for the Arts has a variety of grants such as the Creative Writing Fellowship for $25,000

The PEN American Center has a fund for writers facing a financial emergency.

Many other grants are available some from your home state. Do a search for “writers grants [your home state]”.


Another good resource for grants is C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers.

Good luck, guys!


Why I’m skipping the SCBWI conference. Again. Maybe.

I’ve attended three SCBWI conferences in my years as a member. My first one was in New York when I had just joined. I had an agent, no book deal, and no clue about anything. The conference gave me confidence, and invaluable information. The second one I attended was also in New York after my first book was published. The same year, I attended the super-awesome L.A. conference. That was in 2005. Since then, I have not attended any others.


1) SCBWI doesn’t have any mentor programs where a more established author strokes your hair and says soothing things like: “It’ll be OK, some books never earn out their advances.” Or “You’ll get another contract soon. Your writing is lovely!”

2) With two young kids, my time is not my own. I was pregnant with my 2nd when I went to the L.A. conference (although I didn’t know it at the time, so the drinking was probably not the best idea).

3) After the birth of my 2nd, I quit my job to stay home with the kids and write freelance (when I can find work), so parting with any amount of money is painful.

4) My agent has been in the business for a long time, so I have her to rely on regarding where to send my manuscripts.

5) As a newbie midlist author who still hasn’t produced a second book, I feel that my time is better spent getting that second book out.

But there are a lot of reasons to go to the conference.

1) The faculty. Jules Feiffer, Lois Lowry, Jane Yolen and many esteemed others.

2) Getting information. You can learn a lot if you just sit back and absorb, but if you ask questions, it’s even better. Getting clarity on anything immediately pushes you miles ahead in your work.

3) Writing is lonely. The camaraderie of peers is invaluable. At the L.A. conference I made a lot of connections. Two of whom became New York Times bestselling authors. It’s nice to be part of community where success is real.

4) Find your muse. If you’re like me and find yourself inspired by everything around you, then it’s like a super-charged visit from the inspiration fairy.

5) Much of the writing business now is building relationships. You do it on Facebook and Twitter, and at a conference you can do it in person. Those relationships will enhance your career, even if it’s just to have a buddy to email when you’re stuck.