Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting, and please let me know how this blog served you.
Kim Tomsic

Friday, May 26, 2017

BookBar Puts 2500 Books in the Hands of Needy Children

This week, BookBar Denver, will be donating over 2500 children’s books to local students—and if that’s not fantastic enough, they made sure the books they plan to donate were written or illustrated by local authors and illustrators!

Don’t blink! When BookBar says they want to get something done, they move fast. At the beginning of May, BookBar Denver set a goal to get local author and illustrator books in the hands of needy children so these kids would have something to read over the summer. In order to meet that goal, BookBar reached out to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and allowed authors and illustrators to apply to have their book selected for purchase in BookBar's giveaway plan.

After carefully considering the following: relationship with individual publishers, book publication date, diversity of characters, settings, situations for the diverse community, price, and previous relationships with local authors and illustrators—BookBar chose 15 RMC SCBWI member titles and purchased an average of five cases of each title (all recorded by Bookscan). Here are the titles they selected:
Author or illustrator
Regan, Dian
Space Boy and the Space Pirate
Fenske, Jonathan
Plankton is Pushy
Wing, Natasha
Night Before Summer Vacation
Cowles, Ashlee
Beneath Wandering Stars
Bertman, Jennifer
Book Scavenger
Jones, Traci
Silhouetted by the Blue
Tuell, Todd
Ninja Ninja Never Stop
Vega, Denise
If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed
Phumiruk, Dow
Maya Lin - Artist-Architect
Cooner, Donna
Can't Look Away
Feagan, Alice
School Days Around the World
Mills, Claudia
Cody Harmon, King of Pets
Rose, Judy
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco
Crowder, Melanie
A Nearer Moon
Reidy, Jean
All Through My Town

More about their press release and birthday celebration: BookBar will be celebrating its fourth year as an independent bookstore and wine bar in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood on Saturday May 27th. Festivities will include raffles, literary games and giveaways all day from 10 am - 10 pm. There will be a cake cutting and champagne toast at 8 pm. In appreciation of four years of collaboration with local authors/illustrators and local schools, and in partnership with RMC SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), BookBar will be donating over 2500 children’s books by local authors to local schools!

These donations will be delivered to Northwest Denver schools the week of May 28th to ensure that children can take a book home for summer break. This is part of a program that BookBar and RMC SCBWI hope to expand upon in order to connect Colorado students with Colorado authors. BookBar is also excited to announce the addition of a 1400 square foot events and gallery space for the whole family. As the store continues to grow and thrive, there is an increasing need for a dedicated event space to serve our growing literary community. This space will include a mini bar / cafe and serve as a book art gallery during non-event hours, featuring local artists specializing in art created from and about books as informative literary showcases. In addition, it will be available for community events and meeting reservations

Thank you for all you do, BookBar!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Just A Normal Tuesday

JUST A NORMAL TUESDAY by Kim Turrisi (KCP Loft, May 2, 2017) is packed with raw and honest writing—pain and heartache, but also laughter and hope. Until I read this book, I never knew family members left in the wake of a suicide suffered shame and worry over being judged. Turrisi’s writing sings, laying everything bare on the page and making the emotions and experiences accessible.  This book is the real deal, and thankfully so, because the brilliance, beauty, and honesty of Kai’s story will serve as a gift to the teens who need to know their emotions are legitimate and they are not alone.

"It's just a normal Tuesday for sixteen-year-old Kai, until suddenly it's anything but. She's received a letter from her beloved older sister, Jen, a letter that begins, My very bestest sister, Kai, if you are reading this, I am already gone. From that moment on, Kai's life will never be the same, as she is forced to deal with the shock and horror of losing Jen to suicide.

Consumed with grief, Kai looks for answers, lashes out at people who love her and eventually turns to excessive drinking and drugs, all with disastrous results and no relief from her suffering. Struggling with their own sorrow, Kai's parents realize she needs more help than they can give, and they enroll her in the Tree House, a "grief camp" for children. Though reluctant to go, once she's there, Kai finally finds others who truly understand her loss. No longer alone, she's able to begin dealing with her pain. And to see light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Kim Turrisi's beautiful, wrenching young-adult novel sheds a much-needed light on the subjects of mental illness and suicide. Using the unique idea of a grief camp, Turrisi lays out a process for healing and moving forward for readers who have been touched by loss. But this book's appeal reaches beyond that. With combined elements of tragedy and romance, compellingly told in Kai's authentic voice, this ultimately hopeful story will be an unputdownable read for any teen.


Buying Links:
Book Bar
Tattered Cover
Boulder Bookstore
Barnes and Noble 

ISBN: 9781771387934
ISBN-10: 1771387939
Publisher: KCP Loft
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 256
Language: English
Recommended Reading Age: 14-18

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Next John Green?

Clipped from the pages of Simon & Schuster (release date September 20, 2016):

In the tradition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes the incredibly moving true story of a teenager diagnosed with cancer and how music was the one thing that helped him get through his darkest days.

Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only punks in town?

When the brothers start their own band, their lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box little town.

But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four. Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.

While Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery, Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself and through his music. Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery.

Pre-order Die Young With Me
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 20, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501142615
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501142611

Rob Rufus is represented by Shannon Hassan, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Interview with Literary Agent Shannon Hassan

Hello, Readers!

Today on the blog we have agent Shannon Hassan from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Prior to this interview, Shannon and I sat down for coffee, so I can tell you from my face-to-face encounter, Shannon is personable, smart, and funny. The whole package!

Shannon has been an agent for three years, which is good news for writers seeking an agent, because she is currently growing her client list. Please know, her short time as an agent does not mean she is a “newbie” to the field of literature or contracts—she has years of experience as an acquisitions editor at Fulcrum Publishing and also years as a corporate attorney.

KT: Hi, Shannon! Thank you for meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five” questions. 
SH: Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, and for your kind words! So Marnice to meet you and have you as my neighbor. J

KT: ICE BREAKER: You’re clearly one smart cookie! You earned a BA in Journalism and Economics at George Washington University, a JD at Harvard Law (Harvard!), and then you worked as a corporate attorney at a Park Avenue law firm—so please settle my burning questions. Which is better—cats or dogs? Dogs Pasta or sushi? Pasta Subway or bike? Bike!

1.  KT: Imagine we could strap into a time machine (ours can be a Tesla instead of a DeLorean) and travel back to your middle school and high school days—what books would we see on your night stand (and what else might be there)? 

SH: Well that would send me back to Texas in the 80’s, when I had big bangs, ha! The first book I fell in love with was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Another favorite was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I also read a lot of Stephen King—I’ve always been an eclectic reader.

KT: Also I know you have twelve-year-old twins—what are some of their current favorite titles?

SH: All Four Stars, Pax, When You Reach Me, The Land of Stories, The Crossover, and Book Scavenger. I enjoyed those too!

2.      KT: Some writers spend hours crafting their query letter (and they should!); others simply whip something together (yikes). I’m sure you can tell the difference. What are three tips you can give writers on query do’s and three tips
on query don’t’s?


·        Ask your critique group to give you feedback—it is impossible to have perspective on your own query letter after you’ve immersed yourself in writing the novel for so long.
·        Mention one or two “comp” titles—books that have been published recently (in the past couple of years) that show the type of audience you are hoping to reach.
·        Show your voice. I don’t mean write the letter in one of your character’s voices (that never works!). But do give a taste of what the voice of the story will be. For example: if your story is humorous, then get that humor across in the query.

·        Don’t write a long lead-in about yourself or why you wrote the book, etc.—just get right to the hook.
·        Don’t tell us every minor plot point—your query should be a concise, engaging blurb like you would see on a book jacket, not a synopsis.
·        Don’t forget to proofread. First impressions matter!

3.      KT: Taste is subjective, but great writing trumps all. For example, I would have said I’m not a fan of dystopian, but then I read (and loved) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (and of course I love the obvious dystopian leaders, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, etc.).  What are your favorite genres?

I love a range of genres, and my list for MG and YA includes everything from contemporary realistic, to humorous, to historical, to suspense, to romantic, to adventure and fantasy. See part two below on what these stories have in common….

KT: And part two—the important question (drumroll please)—what hooks you when reading a manuscript?

SH:  A fresh voice and compelling, authentic characters!  If you give me amazing characters that leap off the page and into my heart, then I will pretty much read about them doing anything.

A couple of my recent wish-list items include a page-turning historical in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson or Ruta Sepetys, something that plays with narrative structure in the vein of Challenger Deep, and quirky stories with humor and heart.

4.      KT: Your bio shows that you represent authors who write middle grade and
young adult, but not authors who write picture books. If you sign an author based on a middle grade project, and they also write picture books, would you represent their picture books, too, or would they need to find a second agent?  Also, do you represent chapter books (i.e. similar to Junie B. Jones, Clementine, etc.)?  Lastly, please tell us about the nonfiction you are interested in.

     SH: I am not actively acquiring picture books or chapter books, but when I have existing clients who want to work on those things, I will represent them. But if you are looking to make your debut with a picture book, then I am probably not the right agent for you. For nonfiction, I am interested in narrative nonfiction and memoir from authors with strong platforms. 

5.      KT: Writers love to feel like they have the inside scoop—like they know you. Please tell us a little known fact about you (other than the fact that you ride an adorable purple cruiser with basket and all). 

      Well let’s see…I love to travel. Since our twins were barely out of diapers our family has been to some far-flung places like Easter Island, the Galapagos, and Iceland. 

      Thank you, Shannon! It is a pleasure getting to know you! Please provide your query instructions below:

      I look forward to receiving your queries at shannon@marsallyonliteraryagency.com. Please email a query letter + 10 pages.

Thank you again Kim. It was my pleasure!

Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, has worked in publishing and law for more than a decade.  She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select nonfiction.  On the kid-lit side, she is looking for fresh MG and YA, and is open to a range of stories as long as they have authentic, memorable characters: contemporary stories with humor and heart, adventures, thrillers, and mysteries, original fantasies (with one foot grounded in reality), page-turning historicals, as well as nonfiction from authors with a strong platform.

A few of Shannon’s recent or soon to be published YA and MG books include THE WORLD’S GREATEST ADVENTURE MACHINE, a middle-grade adventure by Frank L. Cole (Delacorte/Penguin Random House), DIE YOUNG WITH ME, an adult/YA crossover memoir by Rob Rufus of the Blacklist Royals (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), DIAL EM FOR MURDER, a YA suspense novel by Marni Bates (Merit Press/F+W), IN 27 DAYS, a speculative YA novel by Alison Gervais (Blink/Harper Collins), and a quirky, realistic middle-grade novel (working on the title!) by Dusti Bowling (Sterling Kids).

Before becoming an agent, Shannon was the Acquisitions Editor at Fulcrum Publishing, and prior to that, a corporate attorney at Arnold & Porter in New York. She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from George Washington University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Twitter: @ShannonHassan

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SCBWI Unofficial Scavenger Hunt

Unofficial SCBWI Scavenger Hunt!

How would you like to show up to LA16SCBWI and and win cocktails, conversation, and a critique with Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove? In 2011, I attend the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles and noticed an underground scavenger hunt in the works—it was to take place during the Saturday night gala. I quickly formed a team made up of strangers (which ended up being a fast and fun way to make friends). We had a blast working the scavenger hunt, but the best part was winning—we earned a private cocktail party and pitch session with Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove. In that hour and a half of sipping lemon drop martinis, Melissa generously shared her knowledge and offered constructive feedback. I learned more about my story and writing than I'd ever understood before. Now I can proudly announce I have two picture book deals with Melissa and Chronicle Books and also...oh, I can't tell you the "also" right now, but here's what you need to know—I am certain that the scavenger hunt was the spark that ignited my writing career. 

It is with great enthusiasm that I say YOU can have the exact same opportunity if you are attending this year’s SCBWI sold-out conference taking place this month in Los Angeles, July 2016.

Unofficial SCBWI Scavenger Hunt! #SCBWIscavenger  (tweet with hashtag #SCBWIscavenger) and/or #LA16SCBWI 

On Saturday by 4:30pm, the following will be hidden around the hotel:
a.      small plastic eggs containing scrabble titles
b.      a selection of unusual objects
c.      the indubitable Martha Flynn, who will be the keeper of four blank scrabble tiles (first four teams to find Martha secure a coveted blank tile!)

Please see Melissa Manlove’s Instagram account for photos of the unusual objects and Martha Flynn—the photos will all be posted at 4:30 pm on Saturday. Between that time and 12:00 noon on Sunday, teams will find all they can, and then spell the best word or phrase possible with the scrabble tiles they’ve collected. Post a photo of your team’s word plus any of the unusual objects you find to Instagram and tag Melissa Manlove—you must post your photo to Instagram by 12:00 noon on Sunday and remember to tag to Melissa Manlove!

Important Note: The eggs and objects will be hidden in plain sight, in public areas of the hotel. It will not be necessary to move hotel furniture or decorations to find them, or to step into areas not meant for foot traffic. Please stay respectful of the hotel’s property and tidiness while searching for them.

Anyone attending SCBWI LA16. You may form teams with a group size of 6 or fewer people.

The Biltmore Hotel—particularly (but not limited to) the Red Carpet Ball

4:30 pm Saturday July 30th – 12:00 noon Sunday July 31st

Is it worth it...oh yes!!!!!!!!!!! 
Melissa will post the results on instagram.
"The winner will be determined by an utterly subjective and seat-of-my-pants assessment of the team submissions. Having collected objects will likely tip the scales if I am torn between two words/phrases, but the words/phrases themselves, as exhibiting the team’s creativity, will be the primary point of judgement."

**Each team should share this post to their social media to be considered good sportsman**.

Winners will meet in the bar on Sunday at 4:30 pm for cocktails with Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove (!!!!!!). The winning team has the option to make the cocktail hour into an impromptu critique group with feedback from Melissa—if your team chooses this, each team member should bring up to 5 pages of a work, and enough copies for everyone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top Five Reasons Reading Prepares you for a Rich Conference Experience

Top Five Reasons Reading Prepares you for a Rich Conference Experience
by Kim Tomsic

If you’re planning to attend a local event, regional gathering, or even the yearly international conference, I strongly urge you to READ! If you read the faculty members’ books prior to the event, I PROMISE—you’ll get more bang for your buck!

Reading books in advance is a great way to connect with keynote speeches, breakout sessions and fellow attendees. Read as much as possible—this means the books you read shouldn’t be limited to those written by the authors on the faculty—you should read agent-client books, too. These are books written by authors who are represented by agents at the conference. This is a great vetting practice, especially if you think you would like that agent to represent you. Furthermore, read books the editors on the faculty have worked on; then when you land in an elevator or at the cocktail party with said editor, you have an authentic conversation opener.

I’ve been to three regional conferences, two Big Sur events, and five international conferences. Every year, I’m thankful I did my self-imposed homework—it's worth the effort. 

Here are the top five reasons reading books written/edited/or agented by conference faculty will give you a RICHER, MORE TEXTURED conference experience:

Mem Fox reading to the audience! 
1.      You enjoy keynotes on a deeper level, because you’ve already crawled inside the author’s
head. Instead of looking at a stranger at the podium, you’ll feel like you’re listening to a friend. When a speaker refers to their book in a keynote or break-out session, you’ll be connected and understand the “inside” jokes and references. Do you have to read books before coming—No. Do the speeches feel more engaging and meaningful if you do—Absolutely, Yes!

2.      You have conversation starters and a better opportunity to connect with the faculty, not to mention connecting with fellow attendees. I can't tell you how many times I've turned a stranger into a friend, sharing the mutual excitement of discussing who’s speaking next and his/her amazing book or illustrations.
Reading your way to lasting friendships!
3.      You look like a professional. Reading the work of relevant speakers shows that you care about what’s happening in the publishing industry. Furthermore, it’s a great way to vet which publishing professionals are a good fit for you.

4.      You get exposed to books and genres you may not have considered—this helps rev-up the creative juices, and perhaps your own work will benefit.

5.      And finally, great writers are readers first!

Kim with her agent Jen Rofe
Kim Tomsic is a reader and writer of children’s literature. She practices what she preaches—prior to querying Jen Rofé of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Kim first read books by Jen’s clients: Crystal Allen, Kathryn Fitzmaurice and Meg Medina to name a few. Kim’s debut book THE ELEPHANTS CAME comes out with Chronicle Books (editor Melissa Manlove) in 2018. Her next book GUITAR HERO (Chronicle Books) releases in spring 2019.
landing her fabulous agent,

***Bonus update: Would you like to sit down for cocktails, conversation and a critique with Chronicle Books editor, Melissa Manlove at this year's LA16SCBWI?  Following this link to learn how: Click Here

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Confessions of a Conference Junkie

Confessions of a Conference Junkie
Jerilyn Patterson
A guest post by Jerilyn Patterson

I became hooked on writer’s conferences after attending my first one in 2010. Now, I attend an average of three per year, and I always look forward to the wealth of knowledge they provide, the encouraging community, and the opportunity to meet interesting authors and industry professionals. Over the years I’ve honed some strategies for making the most out of my conference experience. Read on for my tips!

Focus on Craft

First and foremost, I go to conferences to learn. When I consider the accumulative experience of everyone in attendance, including fellow writers as well as faculty members, conference tuition is a steal. I try to absorb every single drop of information and take nothing for granted.

Before going, I reflect on the specific areas of my craft I want to improve, and then peruse the conference schedule in search any sessions and keynotes relating to that. While most conferences don’t require advance registration for specific break-out sessions, I prefer to have a game-plan from the get-go, instead of leaving all the decision-making until I’m standing in the crowded lobby of a potentially unfamiliar place.

While there, I take copious notes like I’m back in college and yes, everything will be on the final exam. I read somewhere that information is best absorbed when taking notes by hand, and I’ve found this to be true. I bring a shiny new notebook, stock up on my favorite pens,
and keep a bottle of ibuprofen ready to alleviate any hand cramps.

When I get home after the conference, I type out all my notes and save them in a file on my computer. This might seem extreme—why don’t I just use my laptop for note-taking at the conference to eliminate the extra step? Because typing them forces me to revisit what I’ve learned, which helps gel all that new information. After my last conference I ended up with seventeen single-spaced pages, and that was just for the first day! (I’m still working on transcribing day two.)

Cultivating Community

Throughout my years attending conferences, I’ve discovered an invaluable community that cheers me on and buoys me up. Yet I’ll admit that’s the last thing I expected when I stepped into my first conference. I was a brand-new, baby writer with nothing more than an intriguing idea and a can-do attitude and I had my game face on. My background is in music, a highly competitive field—even MORE so than writing, believe it or not! I expected everyone in the room to size me up and make snap judgments about my skills based on my outfit and hair-do. That had been my experience in the music industry, and I assumed writing wouldn’t be any different.

Nothing was farther from the truth. Everyone I talked to was warm and welcoming. I met new writers like myself who were eager to make friends, and veteran writers who were incredibly generous about sharing their wealth of knowledge. I left that conference with profound gratitude that I had finally found My People.

If you’re attending a conference for the first time, discovering your own community might seem daunting, especially if you’re an introvert like me. The good news is, every single person in attendance has something in common with you: Writing! Most will welcome the chance to talk about their latest project, their favorite books, or how their pitch session or manuscript consultation went. Don’t be afraid to reach out. And remember that while not everyone you encounter will become your BFF, everyone is a colleague. The children’s writing community is small and you never know who you’ll end up sitting with on a panel someday.

Connecting with Professionals—AKA Agents and Editors are people, too!

While I value craft and community immensely, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I also hope to someday make a connection with my future dream agent or editor. I know I’m not the only one—in my role as registrar for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI, I often receive inquiries about appropriate behavior when approaching industry professionals.

My first strategy is to sign up for a manuscript consultation or pitch session. Not only do these offerings allow for an authentic reason to talk with an agent or editor, they also provide invaluable feedback from individuals who have made a career of selling books.

In casual settings, my rule in approaching industry professionals is to remember they are people too and to put myself in their shoes. Would I prefer a stranger to walk up and start pitching out of the blue while I’m enjoying my lunch? Or would I instead want a writer to introduce themselves respectfully and maybe even chat about the latest Captain America movie? Option B hands down! Sometimes the conversation will naturally progress to what I’m working on. If not, I don’t fret and remember I’ve made a positive connection.

Or not. There was that one time on the last day of a conference when I rode down an elevator with a Very Big Editor from a Very Big Publishing House. Though the editor had sat on many panels throughout the weekend, I didn’t recognize them. Assuming the editor was a writer like me, I asked how long they’d been writing and if this was their first conference. I received a lifted eyebrow in response, noticed their nametag, and flushed bright red. I certainly left an impression! If something similarly embarrassing happens to you, laugh and move on. Agents and editors know that we’re people too.

If you’re thinking about attending a conference, give it a try! With a little preparation and a genuine interest in meeting and making friends with other writers and publishing professionals, you, too, can become a conference junkie.

***Bonus update: Would you like to sit down for cocktails, conversation and a critique with Chronicle Books editor, Melissa Manlove at this year's LA16SCBWI?  Following this link to learn how: Click Here

Jerilyn Patterson has been writing almost since she could talk. No joke--she dictated her first journal entry to her mother when she was four years old. Eventually she learned how to hold her own pen and years later she's still keeping a journal. She also writes young adult fiction and serves as registrar for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI. A native of Colorado, she lives on the front range with her family and two neurotic gerbils. You can find her on twitter, (@jerwrites)  occasionally tweeting about writing, legos, kickboxing or whatever else strikes her fancy.