Posted by: Katie B | March 13, 2018

YA National Book Award

In November of each year, the National Book Foundation presents its National Book Award for a variety of literary categories including Young Adult Literature. Simply making the longlist, which is only ten books “long,” is an incredible honor. Imagine being one of ten out of the thousands of books that are published each year? The short list is an even greater honor, as only five – five – make it to the finalist round. And then, the winner is announced . . . the one book out of many that the NBF considers to be the best of American literature. A shiny gold or silver sticker goes on the front of the chosen books and the authors walk away with the knowledge that their stories are ones which may change lives.

My goal every year is to read a sample from the longlist to get a sense of which stories are receiving accolades from the National Book Foundation. These books are often the ones exploring new territory, pushing boundaries, and exposing readers to new and unfamiliar worlds. This year’s selection in Young Adult Literature is no exception. I selected three books to start, and after hundreds of pages, not one word was amiss. The stories were drastically different, introducing characters not seen before on the page and tackling issues that were both familiar and eye-opening. I laughed, I wept, and I reflected, hard, on the world I live in and my place in it. All three were page turners.

So my recommendation to you is to read all three. Don’t judge the book by its cover (or do – since it has a shiny sticker!). Pick them up and marvel at how Young Adult Literature challenges how we view family, home, addiction, survival, love and sacrifice. These stories are not just for children. They are for anyone with an open mind and a desire to understand more about the world around them.

My three:


Robin Benway, Far from the Tree (HarperTeen / HarperCollins Publishers)  – The WINNER of the National Book Award


Ibi Zoboi, American Street (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers) – FINALIST

Rita Williams-Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (Amistad / HarperCollins Publishers) – FINALIST


Posted by: Katie B | March 9, 2018

Books on Writing – Batch #1

Text book has an un-fun connotation, so I’d never want to call this selection of reads “text books.” But they are books to read and study on the art of writing. However, different from textbooks, these were all a pleasure to read.  If you are looking for some guidance in the art of writing, or you are hoping to deepen your knowledge of craft, take a peek. All have their strengths and weakness, but all have something valuable to offer.


The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  This book is fun!  How often do you get a glimpse into the creative process of one of the most talented creative minds of our century?  I didn’t find myself maniacally taking notes and highlighting key phrases.  For me, this was a purely enjoyable read, with phrases that resonated (I do that, too!), phrases that enlightened (ooh- I should try that!), and sections that I reread several times to make sure I had them set.


The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner. Well, this book is the bible on writing. It is dense, so don’t be dissuaded. I read this more like a reference book – hopping from place to place depending on what area of craft I’m researching – rather than reading it straight through. It’s a tough read it you plow through it in the traditional sense. But if you search out the sections that are meaningful to you at a specific moment, you will find some incredible insights.


Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway et. al. If Gardner’s book is the bible then this book is reference library, encyclopedia, dictionary and thesaurus all in one. I read this book in graduate school, but it became even more precious to me later. I use it to teach, to find insights into my own writing, and to generate new ideas, techniques and inspiration. There is a lot here, so take your time. You may find it easier to hop from section to section as needed (just like the Gardner book). But once you become comfortable with the format and content, you will find that you reach for this book often.


What’s Your Story by Marion Dane Bauer.  It was only after I read about 75% of this book did I realize it was a book on craft written for young adults – not a book for adults on the craft of young adult writing.  This goes to show how helpful even the simplest of resources can be.  I appreciated the broad brush strokes with which the author addressed all the major elements of story building.  You’re never too experienced (read – old!) for a solid overview, and I walked away with some great suggestions.


The Art of Fiction by David Lodge.  Pulling from literary examples over the last three centuries, this book is an interesting overview of all the different fictional styles with examples and discussion on what works / doesn’t work.  In format, the book is a compilation of weekly articles written by David Lodge on different storytelling mediums and the history behind them over the course of a year.  While I’m sure I would have enjoyed reading the articles as they were originally published, what really struck me was seeing the body of work as a whole.  I hadn’t considered the stylistic breadth of the collection until it was presented as such.  And I appreciated the ability to flip back and forth, reread, and see how the elements dovetail with one another.

There are so, so many more books on craft but that’s enough reading for now! I’ll follow up with another batch in the future. My shelves are full of craft books…full…and I’ve actually read most of them. Honestly, they aren’t for show!

Posted by: Katie B | March 6, 2018

Books to Lose Sleep Over

Want to stay up late?  Looking forward to ruining a perfectly good night’s sleep?  Then try out these titles.  Guaranteed to put the bags under your eyes. They aren’t the most recently published books, but sometimes you need to go old if you’re looking for something new.

Book Author Genre
A Game of Thorns George R.R. Martin Adult
A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray YA
Avalon High Meg Cabot YA
Because of Winn-Dixie Kate Dicamillo MG
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn Alison Goodman YA
Freak Marcella Pixley YA
Graceling Kristin Cashore YA
Heist Society Ally Carter YA
I’d Tell You I Love You, But   Then I’d Have To Kill You Ally Carter YA
Ida B Katherine Hannigan MG
Lament: The Faerie Queen’s   Deception Maggie Steifvater YA
Marcelo in the Read World Francisco Stork YA
Matched Allie Condie YA
Moon Over Manifest Clare Vanderpool MG
Snap Alison McGhee MG
The Gargoyle Andrew Davidson Adult
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins YA
The Keep Jennifer Egan Adult
The Penderwicks Jeanne Birdsall MG
The Percy Jackson series Rick Riordan MG
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet Adult
The Pretties Scott Westerfeld YA
The Year of the Dog and The   Year of the Rat Grace Lin MG
True (… Sort of) Katherine Hannigan MG
Twilight Stephanie Meyers YA
Wake  Lisa McMann YA
Where the Mountain Meets the   Moon  Grace Lin YA
Wicked Lovely Melissa Marr YA


Don’t run away if you think these are too old! They’re worth repeating in case you missed them.  This list is a compilation of all the disjointed reading suggestions I’ve blogged about over the past two years.  I figured I would put together a master list, alphabetized, for better referencing when at the library.  Happy reading!

Posted by: Katie B | March 3, 2018

Come Meet Tami Charles!

One of my critique group partners, Tami Charles, is launching her debut middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, on March 17, 2018 at the Barnes & Noble in Edison, NJ. Details are below. All are welcome! Very exciting!
Posted by: Katie B | March 1, 2018

NJ SCBWI Announces Its Annual Conference

June 2-3, 2018 Summer Conference
Registration opens Mid-March 

We are so excited for the 2018 NJSCBWI Annual Summer Conference on June 2 & 3.  We have a great lineup of faculty plus all your favorite features such as one-on-ones, first page sessions, round tables, agent pitching, panels, illustrator intensive, juried art show, book fair and pre-dinner social.  All to help you on your journey to publication!

Where: Hyatt Regency New Brunswick, 2 Albany St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.
Map & directions: Click Here
June 2 & 3, 2018 



Berger, Annie (Editor, Sourcebooks Fire & Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
Boss, Karen (Associate Editor, Charlesbridge)
Casey, Erin (Junior Agent, Gallt & Zacker Agency)
Charles, Tami (Author, Keynote)
Cusick, John (Agent, Folio Jr.)
Fleissig, Liza (Founder, Liza Royce Agency)
Garcia, Nikki (Editor, Little Brown/Hachette)
Gentry, Samantha (Assistant Editor, Crown Books for Young Readers)
Hsu, Mabel (Assistant Editor, Katherine Tegen Books at HarperCollins Publishers)
Lamba, Cari (Associate Agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency)
Landone, Catherine (Editor, Roaring Brook Press)
Marino, Krista (Senior Executive Editor, Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House)
Necarsulmer, Edward (Agent, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner)
Olsen, Charlie (Agent, Inkwell Management)
Orr, Rachel (Agent, Prospect Agency)
Otto, Nicole (Assistant Editor, Macmillan Children’s)

Roberto, Anna (Associate Editor, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan)
Rudolph, John (Agent, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret)
Slater, Alexander (Agent, Trident Media Group)
Soo Ping Chow, Frances (Design Director, Running Press)
Sweet, Veronique (Senior Designer, Little Brown)
Underdoown, Harold  (Harold’s Purple Crayon)

Zelinsky, Paul O. (Author-Illustrator, Keynote)
And 60+ fabulous workshops!

Can’t wait to see you in June!
Cathy, Rosanne, Barbara and the NJSCBWI Team
Posted by: Katie B | February 27, 2018

Spring Creative Writing Seminars

Spring may be taking its sweet time getting here, but the creative writing classes at Montclair Adult School are not! Regardless if the weather turns, the spring Adult School classes will run on schedule. As before, the classes are held at the Montclair Public Library on Fullerton Ave in Montclair, NJ. I’ll be there on Wednesday, teaching two classes back-to-back.

The semester is short, running just five weeks (who doesn’t have time for that?), and classes only meet once during the week. All the details are below:

Writing Children’s Picture Books

No other writing genre is as influential in a child’s life as picture books. Created for adult writers of picture books, this class will practice different writing and revision techniques to create one or more memorable stories for children. 
Schedule : Weekly – Wed 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM; 5 sessions; starting 3/28/2018, ending 4/25/2018


Memoir Writing

We store our memories like movies and photographs. We revisit them time and again, trying to make sense of our lives. To construct a memoir, we need to draw out these memories and get them on the page. This memoir-writing workshop will provide the supportive environment you need to start a memoir from scratch or to take your work-in-progress to the next level.

Schedule : Weekly – Wed 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM; 5 sessions; starting 3/28/2018, ending 4/25/2018

Visit the Adult School of Montclair’s website  to sign up or to learn about more classes.

Hope to see you there!

Posted by: Katie B | August 26, 2016

New Picture Book Class

Anyone interested in learning to write picture books? I’m teaching a class through the Morristown Adult School this fall on the writing and editing of picture books. I’d love to see you there!

You can click on my catchy title to go directly to the sign up: Picture Books 101: How to Write and Revise Picture Books.

Or, you can visit the Morris School District Community School Website, click on Programs, Adult School, General Interest and scroll down until you see my listing.

The class runs for six Tuesdays starting Sept. 20th, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at the Morristown High School. Beginners through experienced writers are welcome. My class has something for everyone!



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