SCBWI Southen Breeze

A message for my Georgia/Alabama/Florida teachers, librarians, and friends…

Filed under: For Teachers,Growing Up Reading,SCBWI Southen Breeze | August 28, 2023

Just a quick note to get the word out about a program that I’m excited to be a part of here in the southern region where I live. It’s called the “Read Local Challenge” for elementary age kids and classrooms!

My book, DOLL-E 1.0, is on the list, and I’m offering up 2 free virtual visits as well as 2 sets of my STEM books, Doll-E 1.0 & T-Bone the Drone, as prizes!

Take a look at the info below, and I hope to see you in the challenge!

What is it?

The Read Local Challenge is a new program that promotes literacy by encouraging children to read books created by local authors and illustrators in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

In this pilot year, elementary school students who participate in this reading challenge will have the chance to win prizes like books and virtual visits from authors and illustrators. The more you read, the more entries you’ll get into our prize drawings.

There is no cost to schools or students to participate. Each participating group must have an adult facilitator, who may be a school employee or a parent.

How it works…

  1. Request a participation pack. Schools, classrooms, groups, or families may request a class pack, which contains a full-color poster, reading trackers, and stickers. Packs will be mailed out while supplies last. If you prefer, you can print your own pack. Or you can participate without printing anything at all.
  2. Get everyone excited! Hang your Read Local Challenge poster in a visible spot and talk to your students about the challenge. Tell them that the creators of these books live close by.
  3. Get books from the challenge list. You can find books at your library or bookstore. All the books in the challenge are currently available to schools and libraries. We’ve put together a list of the books, complete with their ISBN numbers, to make it easy.
  4. Set a goal. You can create a group goal (for example, “Our class will read five books together,”) or set individual goals for the students. You can post your goal on social media and tag us at @SCBWI_SoBreeze (Twitter/X and Instagram) if you like. (You don’t have to declare a goal to join the challenge, but it sure is fun to see if you can reach it!)
  5. Read. You can read as few as one book from the list, or all 21 if you’re ambitious. Remember, students can read individually, or you can read the books together as a class. Keep track of your reading on your poster or on the individual trackers. The more books you read, the more entries you’ll have in our prize drawing.
  6. Submit your counts. To be eligible for prizes, log your results here by 12/31/23. Don’t worry – we’ve made the submission form really simple. You should be able to complete the whole process in under 5 minutes.
  7. Celebrate! Congratulate your readers (with stickers, certificates, anything you like!) and wait to see if you’ve won one of our grand prizes. We’ll announce the winners and deliver the prizes by 2/15/2024.

Join the challenge now!

Lesson #9: If You Don’t Feel Like Going To the Conference, Go Anyway. (Good Stuff From Spring Mingle 2014)

Looming by Shanda McCloskey

Looming by Shanda McCloskey, final from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press

So there I was on the Thursday before the looming conference that started on Friday… I’m super-tired, super-pregnant, out-of-breath, feeling huge, and not myself. Everything was set and paid for. My critique group had a hotel room to share for a fun filled weekend. But I almost backed out of going for being tired and overwhelmed. I had some freelance work going on, and honestly I was a little “conferenced out” as well since I had just attended the NYC SCBWI National conference just a month ago. I was also a participant in the illustrator mentorship with Loraine Joyner of Peachtree Press. I was not thrilled with my finished piece (above), so my motivation for going and showing it off was very low. But for some reason, my gut told me to push through and go. I had done so much preparation to go, so I just had to. My friends were counting on me to be there. (Critique groups are good for accountability too :)

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

Characters by Shanda McCloskey, from mentorship with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Press.

I’m so thankful I went. This was my best and favorite conference yet! Great learning along with some exciting happenings gave me some serious fuel to get me through my next several months of hard life… (third trimester, birth, having a newborn again, and putting my life and body back together again.) I left this conference feeling like God was letting me know I’m on the right track, and to keep trusting Him on the good days and the tough days.


Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

Kim, Colleen, Shanda, and Christi representing Trail Mix, the greatest critique group north of the ATL!

I sure did have some extra good days at this conference though, because I got my very first AND second requests for my manuscript and book dummy! (Which means somebody asked me to send them my work so they could look at it more closely and possibly consider representing it or publishing it.)  Two requests! It was a pretty surreal experience, and it felt so good. Only my critique group (and my husband and mom) knows how much I’ve labored over my story. It has gone through many stages, and finally me and my critique group felt it was ready for the next step… to show it to some professionals for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised with the reactions and feedback, so we’ll see where it goes from here. Even if nothing comes of these requests, it’s really nice to hear a little “you’re not crazy and you may have something here” validation.

Here’s a quick line up of the amazing people/staff who came from all over to share their knowledge with us:

photo 2

Cheryl from Just Us Books – She reminded us of the importance of making authentic characters of all races. There are so many white kid books. Kids of other colors deserve to “see” themselves in stories too.

Ruth Sanderson – an incredible illustrator who let us see intimately into her life and journey as an artist.

photo 3

Lucy Ruth Cummins – art director, designer extraordinaire for Simon & Shuster. Lucy Ruth was hilarious, cool, knowledgable, a good teacher, and emotional about how much she loves books and her job of creating books. She’s one of those people I’ll never be as cool as, let’s face it. And if she ever wanted to work with me as an illustrator, I’d feel pretty awesome :)

photo 1

Cheryl Klein – executive editor with Arthur Levine Books which is an imprint of Scholastic. Cheryl was full of knowledge! There was so much information, I had to let it sink in to fully realize just how much I learned! She’s a great teacher, and you can tell she’s a seasoned professional (although she’s young) and  knows what she’s talking about.

Ammi-Joan Paquette – is an author and an agent. She shared with us a peek into her daily life and how many “hats” she has to wear from a mom, wife, author, to business agent. It was nice to hear how she manages it all. I ALWAYS need to hear motivational talks on things like this, because it is my biggest struggle. I want to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter (who helps with her business), AND a wildly successful author/illustrator! How to fit it all in is different for everybody.

So, there it is! A few weeks later, but a conference definitely worth blogging about!


Notes To Self from Springmingle 2013

Space Chicken Illustration by Shanda McCloskey

Time flies! It has almost been a month since Illustrator’s Day and Springmingle and I’m just now getting around to writing up this post. I took notes for myself and wanted to document the highlights… and the gist of the weekend.

First of all, it was extra fun because I attended with 4 other members of my super critique group! There was definitely something special about our being there together. As each one of us went into the hall for our formal critiques, the others waited in the lobby as if the one being critiqued was in surgery or something. We all came out with good feedback, yet much to work on. I had 2 critiques in a row, because I did a portfolio critique as well as my first manuscript critique! My manuscript was reviewed by Jill Corcoran, an agent with the Herman Agency. She is very straightforward, but kind. She saw a few of my illustrations too so she saw me as a whole package as someone trying to write and illustrate, and do you know what she told me…?

She said (twice by the way), “You have a future in this. Keep working at it.”

Holy cow! That was nice to hear :) It was like she said: You’re not crazy for spending countless hours following this dream. You are getting closer. She didn’t say those words, but I think that’s what she meant :) Of course that MADE my weekend! And yes, I cried when I got back to my critique group. That’s just who I am :)


It was also cool to spend some time with my illustrator buddies too! These girls (Shannon and Christina) are really down to earth and talented. We represent 3 states! We don’t see each other often, but it sure is nice to talk art when we do.

artists_group copy

These are just two of the many amazing illustrators I have come to be friends with. I could never list them all, but each one has taught me something different! Lori Nichols, for example, has given me incredible, forehead slapping Photoshop tips and an beautiful example of a mother-of-three living this dream! The openness and honesty of Kristen ApplebeePrescott HillAlison Hertz, and Elizabeth Dulemba‘s journeys are dear to my heart as well. Thanks for all you do and for sharing what you know with me.

Since I was one of the first 12 to sign up for Illustrator’s Day, I was able to participate in the assignment art directed by Mark Braught! Here are some sketches and the final, although I feel it got too busy. And I prefer the cropped vignette image at the top of this post best :)

Shanda McCloskey Sketches

Chicken Graffiti by Shanda McCloskey

The weekend started with Illustrator’s Day (just for artists) with the silly Chad Beckerman (Abrams Creative Director), the hilariously honest Will Terry (Professional Illustrator), and the genuine, Dianne Hess (Scholastic Press Executive Editor).

Chad said that postcards are a pretty good, efficient way to send art samples to him. He also has been finding illustrators on Instagram! His big message was to get away from the idea that your work is “precious.” Because that way of thinking stifles you from changing and exploring as deeply as we need to as illustrators. Stay loose, free, full of life! Not, museum precious.

Will hit us with tons of graphs and charts about the market, reality, and moving forward. His big message was to be an illustrator entrepreneur. Do all the things we need to do to get traditionally published, there’s nothing like it, but ALSO do your own thing. That may mean apps, quality self-publishing, editorial art, other art forms, etc. To make it as an illustrator for a career, we must DO BOTH (traditional and our own thing). That was nice to hear, because I would love to try a few apps with my husband :) What if I could bring in some income from an app… what if? My dad would love this guy! He’s always telling me… “why don’t you just make your own books?”

Will’s recipe to be successful on your own:

1. Perfect your craft. Know who you are. (Working on that.)
2. Build a microphone. Blog! (Doing that right now!)
3. Develop a good idea.
4. Make a product that is amazingly _________. If you have a computer, you have a factory.
5. Tell the world. Blog, submit to review sites, etc.
6. Never quit, commit for life.

Then Springmingle heated up…
Carmen Deedy started off the weekend with a speech that made the entire audience cry! Not just me- everybody! Her words made me realize that the reason I am so passionate to do this is because I am absolutely IN LOVE with the idea of being a part of the children’s book world. Having a hand in  kids reading and imagining stories (in my time, from my head) is pretty cool. I AM in love with that idea. It’s actually very romantic :)

Then Nikki Grimes told about enjoying the process. God loves puzzles and He gives you the different pieces you’re going need at the right time. Trust.Be patient.

I loved Dianne Hess’s genuine passion for books. And Katherine Jacobs’ sweet, yet stern way about her. She knows what she wants. Katherine was very easy to talk to as well. She read “My Friend Rabbit” to us…. beautiful!

Shanda McCloskey Explorer Illustration

Chad ended the weekend with a presentation on Finding Your Voice… which seems to be the same as finding your joy! Whatever is immediate, easy for you, and joyful is what you should be doing. For some reason, artists think that they should struggle with their work or it isn’t good, but that isn’t true! But we must expect failure some of the time. FIND JOY IN MAKING :)

So, that is what I’m off to do!


Local Authors & Illustrators Excited to Visit Students!

Filed under: Illustration,SCBWI Southen Breeze | January 9, 2013


SCBWI Southern Breeze PAL Postcard front 2013 designed by Shanda McCloskey


SCBWI Southern Breeze PAL Postcard back 2013


Hello! It’s a new year, and I was glad to have a project to do right away to get me warmed up to illustrating and writing in 2013! I’m excited for this new year, wondering what surprises (and hopefully lovely surprises) this year may have in store for me and my family. As I reflected on the past year, I am so very proud to be a part of the SCBWI community, my local SCBWI chapter: Southern Breeze, and my amazing, wonderful, how did I ever live without, local critique group of 7 incredibly creative folks!

So when I was asked by Southern Breeze to create a postcard for the published (PAL) members of our chapter I of course said yes! A chance to give back to one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of!

This postcard is for sending and handing out to schools and libraries in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Basically, it’s a quick list of the published authors and illustrators living locally that are available to come speak to kids about reading, writing, and illustrating books. This list includes picture book authors/illustrators, middle grade authors/illustrators, and young adult novelists. And not ALL of them out there are on this postcard. More can be found at then click on Find A SpeakerIf you are a teacher, media specialist, or parent, please consider organizing a visit from a local published author or illustrator. I would have really benefited from a visit like this when I was in school. For most of my life, I assumed successful illustrators only lived in New York City or something – but that is NOT the case!

Until asked to design this postcard I didn’t realize Southern Breeze produced a promotion like this to reach out to schools and libraries. I think it’s amazing, and it just impressed me that much more!

Happy New Year, y’all! May it be filled with creativity and joy!


P.S.) After I created this postcard and sent it in, I realized that the young illustration may not be the best type of image to encompass all the different children’s genres. It’s okay for picture book folks and decent for some young middle grade/early chapter bookers, but I might have missed the boat on representing books for older children. And for that, I apologize. No one said anything to me to make me think this. It’s an observation of my own. Hey, I’m still learning :) If asked to do this project another year, I will definitely approach it with a more all-encompassing image. I DO hope I get to asked to do more stuff like this. I really enjoyed it!

Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author