SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Previous Get to Know Our Writers

JUNE 2022 WRITER – CARLENE GRIFFITH

How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

I have been a member of SCBWI since 2018. The most impactful thing that SCBWI has taught me is that ‘community helps you become a better writer.’ By volunteering, attending conferences, and participating in critique groups over these past couple of years, I’ve developed faster than I ever could have on my own. The SCBWI community not only has given me the keys to success, but has encouraged me to be better than I thought possible. I am so grateful for this organization.

What genres do you write?

I write in a variety of areas, from picture books to young adults. Most are based on fantasy fairytale fiction, but I also like to write mild horror short stories. Currently, I’m working on a YA mythologically based novel that was inspired by a short story I wrote a few years ago.

What is your writing process like?

I’ve been blessed to be a stay-home mom for the most part and find that I write when the kids are in school, but I’m not limited to that time frame. I’m most productive then because I’m not interrupted. For the most part, I write when I feel inspired. There are days I sit and do nothing else (to the chagrin of my family) and other days I write in spurts. I feel it’s important to recognize that trying to write when I don’t feel like it isn’t productive for me. I always find background music without lyrics helps relax me and think clearer. It all depends. If there’s a lot going on around me, I use music to channel it out, but other times I sit and I am so focused I forget to turn the music on. It all depends on how loud my thoughts are that day. LOL I know I sound crazy.

How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?

I started writing prose when someone gave me a journal at the age of 14 and I continued my journal writing into my young adult years. But I officially started writing as a career with plays. I have been involved in the theater since I was a child, and it just came naturally to me. With my improv skills, I’ve always been able to come up with stories that make sense. So as story ideas popped into my head, I wrote them down and my writing eventually evolved into writing children’s fairytales. Writing for children has always appealed to me because I enjoy stories with good moral values.

Did you go to school for writing or take classes?

I took a writing course through the Institute of Children’s literature when it was a correspondence course back in 2000. And attempted some children’s literature courses at college, but honestly, I’m more self-taught by reading books on writing and working with critique groups.

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

I have my own office space and desk. And because of my husband’s tech skills, I have the best equipment to work with.  I haven’t always had my own space. I wrote my first book at my kitchen table with my laptop. If I have a laptop and access to the internet, I’m good.

What would be your dream book to write and get published?

Oh, wow that’s a loaded question. My goals are ever-changing, but for now, I would love to see my Mythological-based novel published and sitting on the shelf next to Percy Jackson or Lore.

Are you working on any fun projects now?

I’m working on two long-term projects right now. The Myth novel and book #2 of my Rose Maidelaiden series that I’ll continue to self-publish. On the side, I work on short stories for contests and picture books when I get ideas.

Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?

I don’t illustrate. I can draw a little, but I’m not accomplished in it enough to illustrate. I can see a picture and copy it, but that’s about it. Unless scribble art is a skill, then I’m a pro.

Any tips for writers that are starting out?

I’m not an expert, but what works for me is when I finish one project, I submit it and then start another one while I’m waiting. (This helps with my impatience, and I continue to work on my craft.)

I always try to remember everything is subjective. A rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good at writing or have bad ideas, it only means you’re not good for their needs. (This is something I learned from theater and auditioning.) It helps me deal with discouragement because we all feel it. What do they say: “For every no, it only takes one yes!”

I believe true failure comes when you lean too much on others for self-approval or when you think you know so much you stop learning. Success comes from one accomplishment at a time, no matter what level you’re at. So, keep going. I measure my success as a writer by being better than I was yesterday. Eventually, I’ll get where I want to be.

These are not new ideas or my own, they just work for me.

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

I do not have an agent, yet!

Have you won any writer awards?

I won a scholarship in High School for my senior essay. I wrote it as a journal entry about what it felt like to perform on stage rather than a basic traditional essay. At the time it was a big deal for me.  I won a 100-word Valentine-themed children’s short story contest once and a couple of editor-choice awards for some poems years ago, but nothing significant, recently.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. 

So, you want to know more about me, do you?

1.    I’ve been married for 18yrs and have three kids. (2 boys & 1 girl)

2.    I love the performing arts and have been involved with it for over forty years. When I was younger, I would’ve been considered a triple threat. (Singing, dancing, and acting.)

3.    I got my Screen Actors Guild eligibility by working in movies and tv. When I turned 21years I decided it wasn’t for me and preferred writing, directing, and teaching. Mostly because I love food and don’t like having to worry so much about what others think about my looks.

4.    I’m a survivor of a dysfunctional family and a difficult childhood, but it made me the strong independent women I am today.

5.    I love Star Trek, God, and pizza.

Where can people find you? 

 People can find me online at carlenegriffith.com; on Facebook @AuthorCarleneGriffith, on Twitter @ AuthorCGriffith, and on Instagram @cmgriffith123

MAY 2022 WRITER – TIM BURKE

How long have you been a member of SCBWI?

I’ve been a member for eleven years.

What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

That question is like asking “Who’s your favorite guitarist?” Depends—favorite jazz, rock, fingerstylist …?

I guess if I try to go all Yoda, it’s that children’s writing is a balancing act. Whenever Art tries to hang out and get all chummy with Business, all bets are off. Becoming a successful author is unpredictable, fraught with twists and turns, full of more and more ways to move forward. If you hear someone giving you rules for being creative, run for the hills. We tell one another lots of craft rules and industry dicta, which can be helpful up to a point, especially if you are just starting out. I’ve followed a LOT of advice over the years and it has helped me improve and maybe inch closer to marketable. However, ultimately you have to write what you hear in your head, what you feel in your heart. If it resonates with you, it will resonate with someone out there too. Just have to find them.

Hanging out with Steve Moose at winter conference

What genres do you write?

I write Young Adult, Middle Grade, and I’ve also sold short stories to two Adult Crime Fiction magazines: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. My shopping lists for the grocery store are some of my best work (tension mounts steadily as you go from fresh fruit to frozen aisle).

What is your writing process like?

I try to write every day, generally starting late AM after taking care of errands like walking and feeding our two comedian mutts.

Computer background for my website by my talented sister-in-law.

How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?

In college, I was hired to ghostwrite for a psychologist contributing to a self-help anthology. Then around 2004, as green and as clueless as they come, I tackled my first children’s novel. Actually, it was a great premise, but the writing not so much. It’s outrageous that the publishing industry wants decent writing as well; you’d think a good premise would be all you’d need. But the Man was determined to keep me down.

Did you go to school for writing or take classes?

I studied the Teaching of Writing, mostly applicable to the classroom to get kids over the fear of/excited about writing. That field was just burgeoning and getting its feet under it. Really awesome, exciting techniques and material were being developed, so I fell into it at the right time. I’ve never studied writing formally (it probably shows!).

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

My fabulous and long-suffering wife allowed me to have a home recording studio built in part of our unusually large garage. It’s not top-of-the-line or anything, and I’m not turning away Katie Perry or Sting, but it is a true room within a room (very close to completely soundproof). It’s basically my man cave, and this is where I do all my creating—music and writing.

What would be your dream book to write and get published?

A novel that shows kids reading is a blast, a party inside your skull, a laugh-out-loud adventure that leaves them wanting more. The cherry on the top would be if it could show kids they matter and that they have no reason to feel badly about themselves.

Thank you note from one of my ESL students

Are you working on any fun projects now?

I’ve just finished a Young Adult novel with monsters, humor, and a slow burn romance (‘cause nothing says LOVE like getting your spleen torn out). I’m wrapping up, with one of my fantabulous critique groups, the revision of my MG story of a girl who is raised by trolls and then reunites with her human mom and must now figure out all over again how to fit in.

 

Just diving into an MG which I’m pitching as a young Indiana Jones meets Dr. Doolittle.

This is by our member Steve Bjorkman as a RA retirement gift. It’s an illustration of the main character in my steampunk novel.

Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?

I used to teach a second grader who openly mocked my drawings, so no, I don’t think I’ll strike out into Illustrator Land anytime soon. (Though I have been working through a How to Draw Cartoons book, which is loads of fun.)

Any tips for writers that are starting out?

Most of us probably won’t be waving from limos paid for by a billion dollar writing career (move over Musk and Bezos), so write because it’s in your blood. You simply have to tell stories or you’ll implode. Find readers (kids, friends, neighbors, critique groups) who will enjoy what you write because that will give you the shot in the arm we all need. Don’t compare yourself to other writers; that leads to unhealthy paths. Hang with other writers at least from time to time because they are invaluable resources as well as a support group since they are doing what you are doing and possibly going through what you are going through. Here endeth the sermon. Amen.

The logo and t-shirt for my critique group SCRIBBLICIOUS

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

Alas, not yet. However, I have just come across a more potent wing of bat and eye of newt … er, umm, recipe, so yeah, you never know.

Have you won any writer awards?

Not to speak of. I did just recently win the Tahquitz Writer Retreat Contest along with another super talented writer Laurie Young, so pretty chuffed to be in such exalted company.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. 

  1. Music is a major part of my life. I play guitar semiprofessionally and compose/record in my home studio.

My guitarist side.

  1. The children’s author who got me into reading is completely unknown today when I mention him, despite having written the 26 book Freddy the Pig series as well as short stories that inspired the popular TV show about a talking horse Mr. Ed: Walter R. Brooks. I wouldn’t be who I am without his influence. I’d love to be some kid’s Walter Brooks some day.

 

  1. In college, I chased down and turned over to the police a thief trying to steal my wallet out of my dorm room. A pretty fun story. I’ll share it with you over perfectly shaken martinis some day.

 

  1. Until the dreaded pandemic arrived, I had played ice hockey all my life. Hoping to get into that again. As a Buffalonian, it’s in my DNA.

 

Where can people find you? 

my website:     https://www.timburketales.com

Twitter (though who knows how much longer I’ll be on this now!)

@frankenstrat88

 

APRIL 2022 WRITER – BEVERLY PLASS

How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

I’ve been a member for over 25 years. There are a number of impactful things – I think mostly is plot development, character growth, making your character likable, and that the members in SCBWI are so supportive!

What genres do you write?

I’m currently writing a mid-grade realistic fiction novel about three 12-year-old girls who go to Loyalty Camp, but learn first-hand what it’s like to be treated with unequal privileges. I’ve also written a mid-grade skateboarder story and a YA about teen girls who discover they are twins.

What is your writing process like?

I wish I could say I’m scheduled and consistent. I retired in June and thought I’d be. What I really do is write when my critique group meetings are coming up. Also, since I’m writing about camping, I play river and bird chirping sounds to remind myself of sensory and mood.

How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?

My first book I wrote was when I was seven about a frog and a dog on a log. I wanted to help my little sister learn to read. The drawings are very simple crayon drawings. Then, when I had kids 30+ years ago, I read to them every night and decided I wanted to give it a try.

Did you go to school for writing or take classes?

I took writing classes through UCI’s extension program. I still see my teacher Lou Nelson weekly for paid critique group meetings. She’s helped me the most with character development and growth. I’ve also attended multiple SCBWI events and a Highlights retreat.

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

I write in my office – one wall is filled with book shelves with mostly children’s books. My desk has a stack of writer books and piles of papers for my home teaching job. How embarrassing. I’m not as organized as I wish.

What would be your dream book to write and get published?

My Camp Loyalty book – I’m trying to tackle a social justice issue in a way that kids could identify with.

Are you working on any fun projects now?

Camp Loyalty.

Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?

No, I’m not talented when it comes to drawing. Decades ago, I  self-published a book for speech-pathologists with tons of line drawings. I had to draw each one at least 5 times before it looked like what I wanted it to look like. My students were very honest when they saw my work. So, no.

Any tips for writers that are starting out?

Join SCBWI and participate in critique groups. It’s helpful to learn how to improve what you wrote. Submitting is highly competitive, so you want to submit only your very best work.

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

No, i don’t have an agent yet.

Have you won any writer awards?

I won an MidGrade writer award at one of our October Writer and Illustrator Days.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. 

-I have two grown sons and one 5-year-old grandson, and I love them all to pieces.
-I’ve published 10 books for speech-language pathologists (that self-published one got redone with the help of a talented illustrator), one easy-reader (Matt’s Cap) and a couple poems in Ladybug Magazine.
-I’m an avid cyclist – I’ve ridden on the roads almost weekly since 1985 with the Bicycle Club of Irvine. I’ve ridden several century (100-mile) rides, and even led Boy Scouts (one being my son) on three 100-mile rides. I started my retirement riding 3-4 times per week, but when I fell and broke my wrist, I had to stop for a while and do a lot of OT. I’m finally starting up my riding again.
-I worked as a speech-language pathologist for 33 years in the Irvine Unified School District and specialized in seeing kids with mod-severe disabilities and/or autism. I currently provide home teaching for some kids with significant disabilities and medical issues so they can’t go on campus.

-I’m a big chicken when it comes to submitting my pages to agents, and finishing my novel. I’m going to have to get over that!

Where can people find you? 

I don’t go on social media that often. I’m on Facebook (Beverly Plass), twitter (PlassBev) and instagram (BevPlass), but honestly, I’m a wallflower there. I don’t know that I even shared my names correctly!