Monday, May 20, 2019

The Southern Breeze Gallery Show!

Memorial Day weekend starts with a colorful splash as the Decatur Arts Festival opens Friday evening, May 24th. For many artists and illustrators in Southern Breeze, it's an opening for them, too, as the Southern Breeze Annual Gallery Show kicks off!

Featured artists include Laura Freeman, Bill Mayer, Tom Gonzalez, Shanda McCloskey, Ebony Glenn, Art Roche, Amy-Schimler-Safford, and Jill Dubin. Come out and join us for art talk and children's books at the reception, starting at 7 PM Friday, May 24th!

P.S. The Gallery show lasts all month long, so if you're in Decatur in June, come by the Decatur library and see what illustrators are up to in the Southern Breeze neighborhood!

Contact Southern Breeze Illustrator Coordinator TeMika Grooms for more information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Non-Fiction Rocks! With Jennifer Swanson

What's all the excitement about non-fiction? It's getting published every day! And one of Southern Breeze's rock star authors getting published every day is Jennifer Swanson. She's coming to Savannah, Georgia for a whole-day workshop to help you get your non-fiction ready to send out in the world. On Saturday, July 13th, join Breezers at this jam-packed workshop:

In this hands-on workshop, writers will learn how to come up with intriguing nonfiction topics, dive into research, and get tips on where to find agents and editors. Attendees will come away with a better understanding of how to craft a well-written, fascinating biography, history, or science book for readers from ages 6 to 60. There will be a special session on photo permissions and how to work with experts. Bring works-in-progress, finished manuscripts or proposals– from picture books to YA–or just ideas for this very interactive boot camp.

Morning Session: STEAMing into Nonfiction
Afternoon Sessions: Nuts and Bolts of Writing Proposals
                                 Photo Research
                                 Working with Experts

And here's the 4-1-1 on Jennifer Swanson:

She is the award-winning author of over 35 nonfiction books for children.  Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in all her books but especially, her Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact which received a Florid Book Award, a Eureka California Reading Association Gold Award and an NSTA BEST STEM book award.  She has presented at multiple SCBWI conferences, National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the World Science Festival and the Atlanta Science Festival. 

Want to rock along with Jennifer Swanson? Sign up for Non-Fiction Rocks at the Southern Breeze website. Registration is open now!

Thursday, May 9, 2019


If you've read the Breezers in Your Neighborhood post for May, then you already know the Show-Mo's are coming!

Yep, the Southern Breeze Writing Contest is right aroun--what? You don't know what a Show-Mo is? Goodness! Here's Southern Breeze Critique Coordinator, T.K. Read, with all the details:

So… June 2017 was our first SHOW-MO! You came, you showed, you read; we came, we read and we responded, and… it was such a great success, in 2018, we expanded it to include the month of May! 

This year we’re back and we’re hoping to reach more of our members and other writers. We want you to show us your best work – your first ten pages of your manuscript - and use feedback from other writers to let you submit your polished-up, dazzling, publish-ready work for Southern Breeze’s writing contest (submission deadline June 30th, 2019). Submission to the contest is free for Southern Breeze members and you can read more details at the Southern Breeze Writing Contest on our website.

So, you say, TK, that sounds a little ambitious. My response: Consider this my personal challenge to you to pick one Show-Mo from our line-up and go, just go. Find out for yourself why 55 of us attended in 2017 and even more in 2018. 

You have no excuses. Show-Mo's are a free, no-strings-attached way to get fresh eyes to give you honest feedback on your pages. We, the serious, professional writers of Southern Breeze, know that such feedback is crucial to insuring we submit our best work. So, I challenge you to take three to four hours of your time during May or June and improve your writing while helping others improve theirs.

Here are some participants’ feedback from past SHOW-MOs: 

 "Was great!" "Very helpful." “WONDERFUL SCBWI SHOW-MO today at Starbucks! Productive critique group! Loved the diversity!” And, my favorite: "Can we do this again?" 

See your pages real soon! Best, TK.

Thanks, TK! And later this month, we'll be announcing the judges for our Southern Breeze Writing Contest, so come back to the Southern Breeze blog to get more info. And more Show-Mo's are added all the time so be sure to check if one's coming to your neighborhood!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Breezers In Your Neighborhood: MAY!

Start polishing those manuscripts, Breezers, the SCBWI Southern Breeze Writing Contest is coming! And that means we'll see those Show-Mo events popping up all over the region. So come back often and check if Breezers have added a Show-Mo in your neighborhood.

Meanwhile, we have Breezers who have all-polished-up books and awesome art:

Sunday, May 5

Come out and lasso Sheri Dillard's debut picture book, Cowhide and Seek! Join in the fun and games with the farmer and Bessie the cow!

Where: Little Shop of Stories
             133A East Court Square
             Decatur, GA

When:   2 PM

Sheri will be launching her book as well as reading Cowhide and Seek for the Sunday Storytime program. As always, this event is free and fun for kids big and little!

Friday, May 17

It's Show-Mo Time so let the writing (and revisions!) begin!

Claire Datnow will be hosting the first Show-Mo event, from 7:30 - 9:30 PM.  If you're in the Birmingham area and interested in participating, please RSVP to

Saturday, May 18

Candice Conner is hosting a Show-Mo at the Haunted Book Shop, 109 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. It's from 10-12 and that's probably AM not PM. But wouldn't it be cool if you were writing at midnight in The Haunted Book Shop? Contact:

Wednesday, May 22

Tresha Render will host a Show-Mo in the Montgomery area (Prattville) from 6- 8 PM at the EL Lowder Branch Library at 2590 Bell Road, Montgomery, AL. Contact:

Thursday, May 23

Join Breezer Sonja R. Scott, author of Ikio Learns to Fish, for Books and Blankets!

Friday, May 24

Join us in Decatur, GA for this annual event co-sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book. The illustrations on display will be accompanied by a copy of the book or publication in which the art appears. It's free and fun, come join us!

Saturday, May 25

Melissa Miles will sponsor a Show-Mo in the Savannah area from 11 - 2 PM at the Southwest Children's Library, Savannah, GA. Contact:

Wednesday, May 29

Suzanne Purvis is hosting a Show-Mo in NW Florida from 9 AM to 5 PM at 803 Turnberry Way, Niceville, Florida. That's a lot of writing (but there will be lunch)!

Monday, April 22, 2019

When SCBWI Members Wander: Meet Paul Fleischman!

One of the wonderful benefits of being a member of SCBWI is that wherever you go, you’re likely to find another member of SCBWI! That’s because we’ve grown into an international organization, supporting children’s writers and illustrators from California to Calcutta and just about everywhere in between.

So when you’re wandering here, there, and everywhere in between, it’s always fun to reach out to the local SCBWI region. Not only will you make new friends in SCBWI but you might also find out about children’s book, literacy, and art events you’d like to participate in while you’re visiting. Or perhaps you can get tips about arranging a workshop or a book-signing at a local library or bookstore. That’s what SCBWI member Paul Fleischman did, and now Breezers in the Birmingham area have a chance to meet this Newbery-winning author and pick up his latest release, Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child.

But we can’t all be in Birmingham on April 25th for Paul’s event so Southern Breeze caught up with him to get the latest news about his book (and a few words of wisdom from a long-time SCBWI member):

SB: Big congratulations on your latest picture book, Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child, A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story. Was it hard weaving the variants into a single, coherent tale?

PF: I'd done it twice before, turning Cinderella variants into Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal and creation myths into First Light, First Life, so you'd think it would have been easy. But these tales were tougher because they varied more. The hero was often the youngest of many siblings, but might be an only child like Jack. Some were standard-sized, some just an inch high. Some were male, some female. To keep from confusing readers I ended up having to cut the female versions and lost much great material. But solving problems is central to the writing life.

SB: I had no idea that there were tales similar to Jack and the beanstalk in Russia and the Philippines and Ethiopia and beyond. 

PF: I didn't either. But stories come from families, just like people, and Jack's Thanksgiving table would be a big one. Tom Thumb, Baba Yaga, Seven League Boots--they all share many motifs with Jack. A spurned child, a hungry family, food found at a man-eater's table, a series of daring thefts and escapes...

SB: How did you track down the variants? 

PF: This is the private-eye side of writing. Instead of bus stations, I skulked around public libraries for the easy stuff and university libraries for the obscure tales. The internet also has some great folklore sites. I had a huge advantage: a folklorist had already gathered many Tom Thumb variations and collected them in a single volume.

SB: Fearsome Giant is a picture book, of which you've written many. But you've produced lots of novels and nonfiction and plays and won the Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise, a book of poetry. How have you made such a varied career work? 

PF: My publishers no doubt would have been happier with a more coherent brand--but I wouldn't. I studied everything in college, from English and history to botany and folkdancing. I devoted years to sailing, shadow theater, colonial history, playing with copy machines as art tools, and more. My varied books come out of those varied interests. I've been happy to trade sales for the freedom to follow my own path.

SB: Anything else coming out in the near future?

PF: In September I have a brief memoir coming out that describes the charmed, free-range childhood that led to those interests and books. It's called No Map, Great Trip: A Young Writer's Road to Page One. The following spring will see Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word, a nonfiction book presented as a circus sideshow, starring a cast of obsessives who've explored the most distant shores of language. Never heard of mondegreens, Strine, or zaum? Step right up...

SB: Can't wait! Finally, what’s the best advice you can give to our members, especially those who write across categories or are still plugging away at getting published in any genre? 

PF: If putting words together into well-made, splinter-free, light-catching sentences still gives you satisfaction, don't give up.

Thanks, Paul! Come meet Paul Fleischman at Homewood Public Library at 3:30 on April 25. Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child will be published on April 23.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Southern Breeze Success Story: Illustrator Laura Freeman

It’s not every day that one region has three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Awardees, but that’s exactly what happened this year in Southern Breeze! And one of those honor awardees was able to join us in Decatur, Georgia at the Portfolio Show and Book Signing Reception on the eve of our SpringMingle conference. Laura Freeman, illustrator of Hidden Figures, was there to chat a little and sign a lot of books, and I had an opportunity to catch up with this very busy illustrator!

SB: Laura, as the winner of such a prestigious award, you joked that you were an “overnight success” because now people are noticing you and your work. But you’ve been a professional illustrator for a very long time! When did you begin your career and how did you start? 

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me. I was treated like a celebrity, Southern Hospitality at its finest! As to how I began: I spent years carrying my portfolio of editorial illustrations around door to door back in the days when you dropped off your portfolio at the offices of a magazine or newspaper and picked it up the next day. This was pre-internet. Occasionally I’d get an interview with an art director and once in a while I’d even get a job! I ended up working for 10 years as a staff artist at Polo/ Ralph Lauren while doing freelance illustration jobs at night but I didn’t get enough work to quit my day job. Things really began to improve when I changed my focus to children’s books, which was 20 years ago! It didn’t take me that long to get “discovered”, it took me that long for my work to be good enough to be “discovered”! I am very stubborn, persistence is my secret weapon!

SB: So glad you persisted! And how did you get involved with Hidden Figures, the picture book? Hasn’t this book won other awards as well?

 It has! In addition to the Coretta Scott King Honor, The Georgia Center for The Book selected Hidden Figures as one of ten “Children’s Books All Young Georgians Should Read”. Erin Fitzsimmons, the art director at Harper Collins, approached my agent Janet at Storybook Arts Inc. and asked that I do a sample for Hidden Figures. (That’s publishing’s version of an audition.) I was so excited! It was the only movie I had actually gone to the theater to see all year and here they were calling me, of course I did it!

(And this just in! Hidden Figures just received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children. Congratulations, Laura!)

SB: You mentioned that you were busier than ever now! Can you share some of the projects you’re working on? Where will we see your “Illustrated by Laura Freeman” next? 

Yes, I am extremely fortunate to have been offered so many exciting projects! Since Hidden Figures came out Pies From Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (by Dee Romito, Little Bee Books) came out in November 2018 and Biddy Mason Speaks Up! (by Arisa White and Laura Atkins, Heyday books) came out in February 2019. Follow Chester! A College Football Team Fights Racism and Makes History (by Gloria Respress-Churchwell, Charlesbridge Books) is coming out in September and a biography of the tennis star Althea Gibson called Fleet of Foot Girl (by Megan Reid, HarperCollins) is coming out soon. And … I just finished the art for a biography of Aretha Franklin! It’s called A Voice Named Aretha! (by Katheryn Russel Brown, Bloomsbury Books). It was a blast listening to Aretha’s music the whole time I worked on the book! It’s due out in 2020.

Currently I’m working on a book about the architect who designed the museum of African American History at the Smithsonian. It’s called Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon and is written by Kelly Starling-Lyons and published by Lee & Low books. I still do editorial work too. It’s been a real whirlwind and a dream come true!

SB: Wow, Laura, that's a whole lot of persistence! And you’ve persisted as a member of SCBWI since 1999! So even though you’re very successful, you must believe in SCBWI. How has our community helped you and your career? And what advice do you have for any of our illustrators on their just-getting-started-on-their-overnight-success stories? 

I joined the SCBWI as soon as I became interested in illustrating Children’s Books. It’s been an enormous help as it was my primary resource for researching the field. The SCBWI is also a great way to meet other illustrators and writers in your community. When I moved to Georgia it was how I met other illustrators and writers here.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights and advice, Laura! Look for Hidden Figures wherever books are sold. And you can find out more about Laura Freeman and her art at her website.

We love sharing Southern Breeze success stories, so if your persistence has paid off, let us know!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Breezers in Your Neighborhood: APRIL!

It's April showers of books around the Southern Breeze region!

Sunday, April 7

Join author Tanya Valentine for a very special storytime and book launch of Little Taco Truck, her debut picture book. And treats, too! (P.S. Are you thinking tacos? Yum!)

When: Sunday, 2:00 PM                                           

Where: Little Shop of Stories
             133 East Court Square
             Decatur, GA

Saturday, April 13

The Alabama Book Festival is back and 'Bama Breezers will be there, signing books. Join authors Irene Latham, Kerry Madden-Lunsford, and Randi Pink to name just a few. Check out the schedule to see where they'll be appearing, and see the website for all the fun and activities.

When:  Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Where: Old Alabama Town
            Montgomery, AL

Thursday, April 25

We'll have an Honorary Breezer in the Neighborhood when Newbery Medal-winning author Paul Fleischman is in town! He'll be signing his latest picture book, Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child, a braiding of Jack tale motifs from around the world.

When:  Thursday, 3:30 PM

Where: Homewood Library
             1721 Oxmoor Road
             Homewood, AL

Come out for Breezer book-signings in April (and maybe bring an umbrella)! If you have an event coming up in your neighborhood, send the details to by the first of the month!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Inspiration, the Winning Intangible of SCBWI

There are lots of reasons to join SCBWI, but we often look at the tangibles when it's the intangibles that can ultimately help us into the winner's circle. Take inspiration, for example.

When I attend a conference, I may not always get great feedback on my latest manuscript. I don't always walk away with an agent's interest, and it's been forever since my First Page has been chosen. But I know I will come away inspired.

And one of the most inspiring aspects of our conferences is the Book Launches. At this year's SpringMingle, long-time Southern Breezer, Lisa L. Stauffer, shared her story; so many people loved it--and were inspired by it--that I asked if she'd share it here. Lisa graciously sent the following:

If you tell a writer…
By Lisa Lowe Stauffer

(With apologies to Laura Joffe Numeroff)

If you tell a writer about SCBWI, she’ll want to go to a conference.
When that conference is over, she’ll want to go to another—
and another…
and another.

When there are no more conferences, she’ll want to go to all the workshops—
even if they’re about writing poetry.

(At least she could hang out with her friends. She was no poet!)

But when she goes to the workshop, she’ll find playing with words is lots of fun.
So she’ll keep playing when she goes home.
She’ll draft and edit…
draft and edit…
draft and edit,
until she’s got a weird little poem about monkeys taking over Noah’s Ark.

Then she’ll send it to the Southern Breeze SCBWI contest,
where, to her surprise, it’ll win second place!

(She’s entered lots of novels into these contests, and they never won.)

So she’ll take the judge’s feedback,
draft and edit…
draft and edit…
draft and edit,
until the weird little poem flows.

When she thinks it’s finally perfect, she’ll ask critique partners to take a look.
Draft and edit…
draft and edit…
draft and edit.

Finally, she’ll send it to her agent—who she met at an SCBWI conference.
And she’ll wait as the poem goes out on submission.

(waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting…)*

So when the book comes out, it’ll remind her of that poetry workshop so long ago.
And when she thinks about the workshop, it will remind her of SCBWI,
and chances are when she thinks of SCBWI,
she’ll want
to go
to another

*(Five years from first draft to sale. Two more years to publication.)

A big thank you to Lisa Lower Stauffer, and here's hoping that she's inspired you! (P.S. See you and your new book at the next Book Launch at wik'20 in Birmingham! Keep up with us here for more details coming soon!)

~ Cathy C. Hall, ARA
SCBWI Southern Breeze

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

TEN Tips for Conference Attendees (And P.S. A WINNER!)

The doors open on Springmingle'19 this Friday, March 15th! And it's a whirlwind of activities and sessions and speakers and friends and fun, so you'll want to be ready. Thanks to our Southern Breeze Co-Regional Advisor, Claudia Pearson, you can be! Take a look at these ten tips she's collected, good for any SCBWI conference you might attend:

1. Volunteer! It's the best way to get to know new people!

2. Comment on the Southern Breeze conference Facebook, Twitter and blog posts. People will remember your name.

3. Attend the conference with your critique group or writing buddies if you can. If you each attend different sessions, you can share notes after the conference.

4. Get organized: Prepare a clear view binder prior to attending. Keep the conference schedule in the front cover and a checklist of items to bring in the back. Use clear sleeves inside the binder for "homework," handouts, writing samples, business cards, etc, for easy access.

5. Keep it compact. Big bags can be barriers and small (no larger than 14") illustration portfolios are better suited than large ones for presentation space and critiques.

6. Write out "must know" questions handy for the breakout session speakers or the Roundtable discussions. Refrain from questions that can be easily "Googled," (i.e. what is point of view, what's a dummy?) and instead address specific craft/marketing issues that maximize the speakers' expertise.

7. If you plan to take notes on a laptop, insure laptop battery is fully charged. Plugs near work space may be scarce.

8. Don't "buttonhole" faculty, and don't offer them your manuscript at the conference (you will have a chance to submit after the conference), but have your 30 second pitch ready just in case they ask what you are working on.

9. Get together with your Local Liaison and members from your area. They can be great friends and resources after the conference. (Membership Coordinator Paula Puckett will be at SM'19 with a display of members and LLs. Look for her near the registration table to find more info!)

10. Prepare to be engaged, challenged and inspired! Drinking water from a fire hose is not so easy, so get some rest, arrive early, and be ready to learn and share. Everyone has something valuable to offer.
There you have it, Breezers, ten terrific tips! And as promised, here's our winner of the Spread the Word Contest: Meredith York! Congrats, Meredith, and thanks for helping us spread the word about Springmingle'19! Meredith will win a $50 discount on her registration, just for spreading the word on social media. So maybe we should add another tip for next year: Participate in Southern Breeze contests and win BIG!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Co-RA For Southern Breeze!

We’re happy to announce that Sharon Pegram is joining Claudia Pearson as a Co-Regional Advisor for the Southern Breeze region!

Sharon has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and she’s been helping out in various volunteer duties through the years, most recently as Assistant RA. She comes with a ton of all kinds of experience, and she’s eager to bring her talents to this new position. Chances are, you’ve seen Sharon Pegram at any number of Southern Breeze or SCBWI events, but unlike Claudia in her hats, she’s often in the background, getting her jobs done. So we’re pulling Sharon into the foreground so you can get to know our new Co-RA!

First, we want to know about Sharon, the SCBWI member. Are you a writer, illustrator, or both? What’s your genre, your specialty? What brought you to SCBWI in the first place? And what do you want to achieve, your hopes and dreams?

I write weird stuff for middle schoolers (science fiction and fantasy in the dreaded upper MG/ younger YA zone). I will only be called upon to illustrate if the market develops a sudden passion for stick figures. I started writing for children after I left my job as a school librarian to be a stay at home mom and learned about SCBWI in the Writer’s Digest Market Guide. I’m still pre-published, so my dream is to hold a book with my name on it. 

You’ve filled lots of different volunteer positions through the last 12 years! What drew you to volunteering, and ultimately led you all the way to the Regional Advisor position?

My parents are to blame for my volunteering tendencies. They taught, by word and example, that if you join a group and enjoy its benefits, you give back in some way. What led me to this position? I checked the “Yes, I’ll volunteer” box at my second Southern Breeze conference and did something like hand out Post-It notes at a book signing, and that led to becoming a Co-RA. Now no one’s ever going to check the box again! LOL But seriously, each larger job felt right by the time I came to it because it was building on the smaller ones that came before. 

What do you see as the strengths of our region and how do you hope to build on those strengths?

Southern Breeze’s greatest strength is its members: your talent, your hard work, and the community you build with your fellow writers and illustrators. And our volunteers are amazing! Every region has RAs, ARAs, and ICs, but we have so many dedicated regional volunteers in addition to those, the regional coordinators and local liaisons, etc. Having so much help greatly expands what we can do.

What do you see as the weaknesses in our region and how do you hope to make improvements in those areas?

We cover a lot of ground. First, geographically. Even with our local liaisons, it’s hard to get programming spread around the whole region. Second, we cover a lot of ground artistically. We all create for children, but we do it so differently! Writers and illustrators, fiction and nonfiction, PBs to YA and all ages in between, and all experience levels from beginner to multi-published. Balancing programming to support our many needs is an ongoing challenge. 

And finally, what about your hopes and dreams for Southern Breeze? What do you want to achieve as Co-RA?

I want Southern Breeze to grow, numerically of course, but also in diversity of our membership, welcoming all the storytellers and artists who live in our region. I want us to grow in community, supporting each other in this occupation that can feel so isolating and in this industry where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. And I want us all to grow professionally, becoming ever-better writers and illustrators and better equipped to build successful careers in the writing business.

Thanks, Sharon, for letting us get to know you better! We wish you all the best as the new Co-RA of Southern Breeze! (And P.S. Sharon would love to get to know you better, so please drop her a line or say hello at our upcoming conference. She’ll be the RA not wearing a hat but possibly in the cool shades!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Breezers in Your Neighborhood--MARCH!

There will be plenty of Breezers in the neighborhood of Decatur, Georgia on the weekend of March 16th and 17th when we Spring To Success with Springmingle'19! Illustrator's Day and writers' intensives are scheduled for Friday and on Saturday, join us for the conference--there's still room for a few more at the conference only so hurry and register here!

But if you can't make the conference or Illustrator's Day, you can still pop in for a visit at our reception on Friday evening! Come and see our illustrators' portfolios, purchase member and SM'19 faculty books, and say hello to our Coretta Scott King Honors Book Award illustrator, Laura Freeman, who'll be joining us to sign her honor book, Hidden Figures. The reception is FREE and we'd love to see you!

What:  SCBWI Southern Breeze Portfolio Show, Reception, and  Book-Signing
Where: Decatur Public Library, First Floor Conference Room
              215 Sycamore Street
              Decatur, GA  30030
When:   4:00 to 6:30 PM


Breezer Kerry Madden-Lunsford and her newly released picture book, Ernestine's Milky Way, will be at the following dates, locations, and times:

Monday, March 4th Alabama Booksmith Birmingham, AL at 5:00 pm
Tuesday, March 5th UAB Professor Book Celebration at AEIVA at 3:30 pm
Saturday, March 23rd Homewood Public Library, Homewood, AL 10:30 am

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Spring to Success with SpringMingle'19 and INFORMAL CRITIQUES!

Last year, T. K. Read, the Southern Breeze Critique Coordinator, came up with a great post all about the Informal Critique process. In fact, it was so nice, we thought we'd run it twice! Here's TK:



____    Want 4-6 fresh eyes to give you feedback about your illustration or story’s opening pages?
____    Want to hear or see the latest and greatest works in progress from your peers? 
____    Want to be able to give your work one last polish before you send it off after the conference?!

If you answered “Yes” to even one of these questions, you need to participate in the Informal Critiques at SpringMingle'19. 

SO, for these “Yes” people, and those already sold on actively participating in Southern Breeze’s Informal Critiques, skip ahead and read way below for the nitty-gritty about the Informal Critiques.


REASON ONE: THE COST.  Sorry, not valid. You can get feedback from 5-6 fellow writers or illustrators for FREE! All you need to do to participate is read and listen to their work, then give them feedback, too.

REASON TWO: I’M WORRIED SOMEONE WILL STEAL MY STORY/ILLUSTRATION IDEA. Again, not valid. It’s commonly said that there’s only one genuine story, and the rest is in the telling. For example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is written about a fairly-common literary trope – a wizarding school for kids set in a castle with fantastical elements - however, J.K. Rawlings’ excellent telling of this story brought her characters to life and stole our hearts. If you are really worried about idea theft, you can register your work with the US Copyright Office for a nominal charge. Here’s the link to the FAQ page: It’s been my experience that suggestions given to me by other writers have helped me impro­­ve my work so much, the benefits outweigh any real risk of idea theft.

This same logic applies to illustrators, where if you ask three illustrators to provide mock-ups of the same picture book page, they will come up with three very different samples emphasizing either different elements of the story or the same story elements differently.

REASON THREE: I’M WORRIED ABOUT RECEIVING CRITICISM: OK, we here at Southern Breeze strongly encourage the sandwich method for critiquing. It works like this: you say something you like about someone else’s work, then you make a constructive suggestion for improving it, then you end with another comment about what you liked. Our work are our babies after all, and so we need to treat them and each other gently. Another gauge with regards to criticism is that two people can disagree based on personal likes and dislikes, but if three people offer the same suggestion for improvement, you may want to give that suggestion some serious thought. What I frequently do with suggestions like these is rewrite my work using the suggestion, then take a week off from the writing. At the end of the week, I reread both versions and see which one is more appealing.  

I hope I’ve addressed your concerns, and that you will join me in making the most we can of every opportunity offered. See you soon!

Yours in Writing, T. K. Read, Critique Group Leader, Southern Breeze


Nitty Gritty:


WHEN:    SATURDAY, 5:30-6:30 


FORMAT: Group leaders will pick up a paddle with their group number and a copy of the updated sign-up sheet from the Critique Group display and find a spot where they can sit with 4-6 participants. They will hold up their paddle until their group members join them. They will also be responsible for moving the critiques along so that everyone has an opportunity to share. Each participant reads their work out loud as others follow along. When finished, the leader moves the discussion around the table, and stops it when time is up (15-20 minutes for reading and discussion depending on number present). 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Spring to Success with SpringMingle'19 and VOLUNTEERING (AND A WHALE!)

Valerie Nelan is the Southern Breeze Volunteer Coordinator and she wrote up something special and um...whale-y for you. So here's Valerie:

Okay, there’s no whale. But like any good writer, I went with the first thing that came to mind and decided to see where it went.

Wait! I got it! If you volunteer at the SCBWI Spring Mingle, you’ll have a WHALE OF A TIME!!

No? It was a terrible joke? Okay, you’re right. It was pitiful. And painful. So let’s move on.

One of the best ways to get involved in SCBWI is to volunteer. Writing can be such a solitary pursuit, and by volunteering, you’re basically forced into meeting people. And here’s the thing: the writers and artists you’ll meet at Spring Mingle are bound to be among the best you’ve ever laid eyes on.

I knew absolutely no one my first Spring Mingle, and even though I can chat up just about anyone (hello, outgoing personality!), it was hard at first. Thankfully, by the end of that Spring Mingle, I’d met a whole bunch of people and was invited to be in a local critique group. By the time the next conference came around, I was ready to volunteer, and it was an incredible experience. I met all the conference organizers, and even though that first year my contributions were small, I felt like I’d really made a difference. Even better: I made friends and critique partners who have made me a better writer.

So, are you ready to make a difference? We need volunteers! Roles for our volunteers include working the registration desk, helping with book sales, helping with food (who doesn’t love food?), timing the one-on-one meetings, and more.

Email me, Valerie Nelan, at with your interest. You’ll get my undying love and affection, plus a snazzy little bio in the conference hand-outs! Ready? Go!

(I guarantee you and all the volunteers are going to get along swimmingly--and yeah, Valerie Nelan's going to get me back for that one--but first you have to register for SpringMingle'19. So CLICK HERE AND REGISTER TODAY!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Spring To Success With SpringMingle'19 and MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUES!

Who doesn’t love a critique?

Palms sweating and stomach fluttering with butterflies as you sit down in front of the esteemed editor or agent about to pass judgment on you. Er, I mean your manuscript.

But seriously, a critique from a publishing professional can do so much more for you than feed an adrenaline habit. My first critique taught me to let my character tell her own story. My worst critique left me frustrated and angry…and ready to write the story that was in my heart instead of something I thought people would want to read. At my next critique, the editor wanted to read more of that story. And, yes, I met my agent at a critique.

SpringMingle'19 registration is open, with critique opportunities still available, but manuscripts have to be submitted by February 8. Don’t miss your chance for personalized attention from a publishing professional. Your work will grow, and chances are, you’ll discover that those august sages are nice, knowledgeable people, eager to help you in your artistic journey.

A special thanks to Sharon Pegram, Co-Assistant Regional Advisor for Southern Breeze, who shared this experience with us last year--and we thought it deserved a re-run! Sharon writes sci-fi and fantasy and yep, you'll see her at SM'19 with her latest manuscript critique!


                   Click HERE to register for SpringMingle'19!

Monday, February 4, 2019


We don't have any Breezers in the neighborhood for February, but we do have an SCBWI Southern Breeze sponsored event AND an amazing SCBWI member who'll be visiting in Alabama for a super event:

February 9th:

Who: Soniah Kamal on "Getting Published"

When: 10:30 AM

Where: NE/Spruill Oaks Library
             9560 Spruill Road
             Johns Creek, GA

What: With starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly for her most recently published book (Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan, Penguin Random House USA) and an Amazon Rising Star Award for her first book (An Isolated Incident), Soniah Kamal is definitely making an impressive mark as an award-winning essayist and fiction writer. Come hear her story of the past six years when she was writing and working toward completion of a Masters in Fine Art from Georgia State University — all toward her goal of “Getting Published.” Plenty of time for questions and answers, too! Reservations required: Call 770-360-8820 or

Or contact Stephanie Moody, Local Liaison/SCBWI Southern Breeze at

Free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Northeast/Spruill Oaks Library and SCBWI Southern Breeze.

February 27th:

Who: Linda Sue Park

When: 3:00 PM/ 4:30 PM (CST)

Where: Alys Stephens Center
             Reynolds Kirschbaum Recital Hall
             1200 10th Avenue S
            UAB Campus
            Birmingham, AL

What: The UAB Writers' Series is an annual offering of the English Department. Nationally recognized authors are invited to give readings and participate in Q and A sessions. Readings are free and open to the public. 

Linda Sue Park was the keynote speaker at wik'18 so if you missed her then, here's your chance to see this amazing SCBWI author!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Spring To Success With SpringMingle'19 and ELLEN HOPKINS (Part II)

In anticipation of our SpringMingle novel intensive (which looks AWESOME), Conference Coordinator Randall Bonser interviewed multiple-award-winning author Ellen Hopkins about her most famous YA book series, and about her practice of writing in verse. She also included the homework she wants attendees to do before the workshop. If you haven't signed up for the novel intensive yet, there are still a few more spots (but they are going quickly, so... ):

Do you find that teens are still reading books? Or has anything changed in teen reading habits in the years you’ve been writing for teens?

Teens are absolutely still reading books, and they prefer print to screen. I think the difference between then and now is the sheer number of choices they have. There are books for every teen. 

What kind of habits would you advise for writers who want to succeed in YA fiction?

To spend as much time around teens as you can, in a number of different settings, if possible. And to read, read, read, YA, in its many forms. 

What are some of the things you’re going to focus on when you teach at Springmingle Atlanta 2019?

On the writing side, the value of imagery, sensory detail, and white space on the page. These things are critical to writing prose as well as verse, and all levels of kidlit. Also, balancing personal and professional time, marketing tips (including a discussion about online platforms), and the importance of inclusion, social justice and activism as writers. 

What are some homework assignments you want to assign to writers coming to your workshop at Springmingle?

I’d like everyone to bring a couple of pages of a WIP (Work In Progress) to my intensive sessions so we can see how playing with those sensory details and white space can create mood, and draw readers closer to the characters. And it would be good for those who already have websites or online platforms to bring laptops so we can look at what they’ve already got and how to spice it up.

Thanks, Ellen, for a sneak peek into what we can expect from your intensives at Springmingle'19. Plus, Ellen Hopkins will be delivering our Keynote at Saturday's conference. So you heard Randall Bonser--spots are going quickly! Register today!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Spring To Success With SpringMingle'19 and BOOK LAUNCHES AND SALES!

PAL Coordinator Heather Montgomery has this special message for all our published members:

Every year we look forward to celebrating the successes of Southern Breeze members. At Springmingle we do that through book launches and sales. Come hear Breezers share their stories. Get your hands on books nurtured by Southern Breeze. And, take home autographed books!


Friday Signings 

4:00 – 5:00 PM Books by Southern Breezers

5:00 – 5:30 PM Books by Faculty

Saturday Signings 

11:30 – 12:30 PM

5:00 – 6:30 PM

Saturday Book Launches 

12:30 – 1:00 PM

3:00 – 3:30 PM

During book launches, Southern Breezers will each have 3 minutes to share their story. Attendees will hear of the grit it takes to get a book published, glean tips from these published members, and gain inspiration.

Published members, submit your recently released books! Slots for sales and launches are limited and available on a first-come/first-served basis. Please select “Book Sales” and/or “Book Launch” on your registration form and don’t forget:

 • For launches, submit your cover images to by February 15th.
 • For book sales, submit one book via this form:
 • Note: these activities are open to all members who have published books.

But you can't sell your books OR launch your books if you're not at SpringMingle'19! Spots are filling fast so register today--we can't wait to see you AND your books!


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Spring To Success With SpringMingle'19 and ELLEN HOPKINS!

This year's Conference Coordinator, Randall Bonser, caught up with multiple-award-winning author Ellen Hopkins to ask her a few questions about her most famous Young Adult book series and her practice of writing in verse:

What is the draw for writing books in verse? Is this form becoming more or less popular?

For the author, writing in verse is a challenge. Every word must count, and poetic devices such as imagery, alliteration, metaphor, etc. are vital, and must be done well. Verse novels appeal to a variety of readers, however, especially reluctant or hard-to-reach readers, and have become a necessary kidlit format. They are absolutely more popular now than when I began writing them. 

Do you think poetry distances the reader from the difficult action bits, or draws them closer?

Poetry draws the reader inside the characters, so it’s more like living the story than being told the story. This is exactly what appeals to readers who love verse novels. 

Do concrete poems affect readers differently than “free verse” poems? Is there an added emotional layer?

Concrete poems add visual interest to the page, and for younger generations who grow up on a smorgasbord of visual elements (think screens), this adds appeal. 

Why is the plot element of a teen taking drugs important for you to write about?

I think most people know that my first YA novel, Crank, plus its sequels, Glass and Fallout, were inspired by my beautiful daughter’s fall into meth addiction. Watch the downward spiral from straight-A kid to prisoner made me want to change teen lives for the better by showing how easily addiction can happen to even the best and brightest kids. 

What feedback have you gotten from teen readers on the Crank trilogy?

Everything from “I was headed that way, but your books made me change my mind” to “thank you for the insight into my parents’ (or sibling’s or friend’s) addiction.” The books have done much good over the years and continue to do so today. Crank not only remains in print after fourteen years but is regularly replaced in classrooms and school libraries. 

Have you been stigmatized at all by parents or teachers or librarians for your raw coverage of some of these difficult topics?

Of course. However, the pushback was much stronger in the past. I think today people understand the power of novels like those I write to do good.

Come back Thursday for more of Ellen Hopkins' interview, particularly for those who've signed up for her novel intensive. (You'll want to get a head start because pssst! There's homework, y'all!)

And if you haven't registered for Friday's writing intensives, sign up today! There's still room but space is going fast!

                                 CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR SPRINGMINGLE'19 TODAY!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Spring To Success with SpringMingle'19 and WRITING INTENSIVES!

Our intensive menu at SpringMingle ’19 includes full-day programs focused on the needs of picture book writers and novelists. Spend all day immersed in one category or mix it up with one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Here’s a taste of what will be happening in each:

Picture Books: Three indie-pubbed authors will share their knowledge and experience. Agent Kevin Lewis will reveal “The Truth about Trucks, Trains, and Toddlers: Creating Enduring Works for the Very Young.” After lunch Agent Alexandra Penfold will teach on “The Joy of Revision: Precision Makes your Manuscript Shine.”

Novels: Editor Aubrey Poole starts the day with a look at character development using the Hero’s Journey. Then Editor Jessica Anderson will go in-depth on revision. After lunch best-selling novelist Ellen Hopkins will address two advanced topics: the power of white space and a different look at sensory detail.

Both intensives conclude with roundtable discussions with your fellow attendees. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to take your work to the next level!

There's still room in the intensives but they're filling up fast! Take a look at the SpringMingle'19 brochure and check out all the information so you get the most bang for your conference bucks.

And you can save some bucks if you win the Spread the Word Contest! Just tell your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media hangouts about SpringMingle'19 and then drop us a line to let us know you spread the word: It's time to Spring to Success with us at SpringMingle'19!

                                            CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Spring To Success With SpringMingle'19 and EDITORS!

We’re delighted to have a dynamic duo of editors presenting at SpringMingle ’19. Here’s a little bit of what we can expect from each of them:

Jessica Anderson is an Assistant Editor at Christy Ottaviano Books (an imprint of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). She is looking for lyrical picture book biographies, quirky middle grade, and gritty contemporary realistic YA. She will be teaching part of the novel intensive on Friday and two breakout sessions on Saturday.

Aubrey Poole is an Editor at Hachette’s JIMMY Patterson Books imprint. She wants commercial picture book, middle grade, and YA projects with authentic, diverse voices, strong commercial hooks, and taut pacing. She will be teaching in both the pro and novel intensives on Friday as well as two breakouts on Saturday.

Both of these talented editors are offering formal critiques, an excellent opportunity to get professional advice on your work. Book yours before slots fill!

And don't forget to Spread the Word! You can win $50 off your Springmingle (which means you can save enough to get one of those formal critiques)! Find more details about the Spread the Word Contest here. But you can't win if you don't register for Springmingle'19!

                                               CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Spring to Success with SpringMingle'19 and the PRO Track!

PAL Coordinator Heather Montgomery sent this very important message:

Calling all published and professional creators! We’ve got something special to look forward to in March.

At this year’s Springmingle, Southern Breeze is offering their first-ever PRO Track Intensive. What exactly is PRO Track? A Friday filled with sessions on advanced topics. Want straight talk on advances, marketing, and longevity in your career? Author/agent/all-around rock star Alexandra Penfold’s got a session on that. How about marketing tips from an author who has had 14 books on the NY Times bestselling list? Ellen Hopkins has got that covered. See, these are topics for folks with experience, from folks with experience.

PRO Track will be Friday, March 15, 2019 and will be held at the Decatur Presbyterian Church, next door to the public library in Decatur, GA. It is open to any attendee who has published work for children.

What if you love the idea of learning at an advanced level, but there’s a topic in the picture book or novel intensive that’s calling to you? Really want to hear Kevin Lewis speak about creating works for the very young? Absolutely can’t stand to miss Jessica Anderson’s intensive on revision tricks? You are in luck. This year when you register for the full day of intensives, you can choose different tracks in the morning and the afternoon. Brilliant! Southern Breeze nonfiction author Jennifer Swanson will be coordinating the PRO Track and she'll be happy to answer any questions you might have about this new feature. You can contact her at

And there’s more. The esteemed Joe Davich, Executive Director of the Georgia Center for the Book, will be leading a session on building connections with librarians – we can all use some of that. Plus he’ll share how books are considered for ALA and state awards. Can any of us afford to miss that!?!

PAL members of Southern Breeze often request the space and time to learn from one another. By sheer virtue of attending together, this intensive can offer that; however, Southern Breeze wanted to offer additional opportunities to engage. The last session of the day will be roundtable discussions, each on a topic of attendees’ choice. Bring your burning questions, pick your colleagues’ brains, leave with fresh ideas and deeper connections.

So this Pro Track has a lot to offer the experienced creator, but don’t forget about the rest of the conference. There will be book launches, book sales on Friday and Saturday, and (thanks to more break-out options this year) Springmingle has several advanced sessions on Saturday.

But, what if you are pre-published? Will you be left out? No worries – there will be plenty at the conference for you. For one, there will be lots of published folks to rub elbows with (and buy books from!). Plus, just look at the master-level sessions you have to look forward to once you get that first “Yes!” Southern Breeze has something for everyone.

It’s called Springmingle, but I think it should be called Springforward. Sure there’s opportunities to mix and mingle, and no fooling we love and need that, but the pace of learning can be lightning fast. We hope to see you at Southern Breeze’s annual conference!

Thanks, Heather! And though the early bird savings have flown away, you can still get a discount on Springmingle if you win the Spread the Word Contest! All you need to do is blog, tweet, update, Instagram...any way you want to spread the word about Springmingle'19 is great! But it won't count for the contest if you don't let us know! So start spreading the word, and then send how you spread the word to Spring to Success at Springmingle'19!

                                    CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Inside Scoop on Illustrators' Day 2019

Illustrator Coordinator TeMika Grooms is here with all the info on Illustrators' Day:

Join the Children's Book Illustration Community for our day dedicated to The Art of Storytelling.

We will dive into developing craft and the business to building a career as an illustrator in a competitive market. There are many paths to publication. We want you to be a strong visual storyteller no matter what path you choose.

 Keeping your work fresh as you grow your voice is important for illustrators.We'll kick off the day with Mark Braught, Award-Winning Illustrator and Educator. He will break down creating Self-Promotional Pieces Outside Your Client Projects. This insightful presentation will explore the difficult process of creating an illustration for yourself, why it’s important to keep this in your practice and how to approach this daunting challenge.

Maria Middleton, Art Director for Candlewick Press, will challenge us in Quick on the Draw! Hands on Workshop & Critique, a hands-on craft workshop, because illustrators need to work fast in this ever-changing industry. Bring your pens, pencils and sketch pads to gain valuable feedback from Art Director Maria Middleton as she takes you through a hands-on activity and brief review of your work.

She will follow the craft session with a mentorship review that challenged mentees to act as author-illustrators and discover new characters for their work. The Drawing on Discovery Mentorship Review will take a close look at the process of discovering the magical, terrible, wonderful, and shocking world of characters for your next story. The art director will provide a live review of Picture Book spreads and Middle Grade covers created in the Illustration Mentorship. This is a great session for any author-illustrator seeking to learn more about the art of storytelling.

Kevin Lewis, Agent for the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, will delve into the Things Art School Will Never Teach You: Publishing Insights for Illustrators (Especially Those Who Endeavor to Write). This session will give valuable hints from experience as an editor to Loren Long, Tony DiTerlizzi, LeUyen Pham, Kadir Nelson, Cynthia Rylant, Matt Cordell, Brian Pinkney, Antionette Portis, and Dav Pilkey, as an author, and as a picture book fanatic.

We will also announce the 2019 Liz Conrad Award Winner in honor of Illustrator Liz Conrad. Make sure you bring your portfolios to showcase you work during the Portfolio Show and experience the fast-paced Quick Fire Portfolio Review! We’ll round out the day with a faculty panel, with the addition of Monica Odom, Agent for Liza Dawson Associates, as they give us final thoughts on how to position ourselves for success in the kids lit market.

Thanks, TeMika! There's still room for YOU at Illustrators' Day, March 15th in Decatur, GA--click here to register today!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Spring to Success with SpringMingle'19 and a PITCH PARTY!

This year, we’re starting the conference with a pitch party! I'm so excited, I can't stand it! We're all excited! But seriously, I may be a little too excited. And that won't be a good thing because there are rules for the Pitch Party and I need to remember 'em. So do you, if you want to participate. I think we should all take a deep breath and look at how the Pitch Party works:

1.       If you’re interested in presenting a pitch (IT’s FREE!), sign up when you register. Look for the button labeled “Start With a Pitch!”

2.       Perfect your pitch! (For more information about a pitch and what makes a good one, see this excellent post from Paula Yoo atTara Lazar’s blog. Or take a look around and research "giving a pitch" for writers. There's lots of good information available.

3.       Bring your pitch with you when you come for Springmingle’19.

4.       The morning of the conference, we’ll select 15 names from those who have signed up. We’ll announce the names at the beginning of the Pitch Party. YOU MUST BE IN ATTENDANCE AND READY TO PARTICIPATE. If you choose at that time NOT to participate, do not line up.

5.       Each person participating will have up to one minute to make the pitch. You may wish to read your pitch rather than memorize it. Either way, at one minute, you must stop.

6.       Each member of the Pitch Panel may or may not give feedback. Faculty will be given two minutes for the entire panel to respond so please listen carefully.

This is a new feature for Southern Breeze, so we'll be learning as you learn, too. Here’s the plan: we expect each pitch and the feedback to take three minutes. We hope to get through at least 12 pitches in the time allotted for this session. And we hope you’ll love this experience!

Don’t forget about our Spread the Word Contest, Breezers! Every time you spread the word—in a tweet, blog post, update or any social media—you’ll get an entry in the contest. The Breezer with the most entries will win $50 off registration, refunded to you when the contests ends (March 5th). For more details, check out this earlier post from our Southern Breeze blog.

So register today and get Early Bird savings and Spring to Success with SpringMingle'19 at the PITCH PARTY!

(And I sincerely hope no one--and by no one, I mean me--passes out from the excitement of it all!)