The Writers' Loop

For Readers and Writers


Does Oops! Have a Plural?

By Susanne Marie Poulette

The writers’ conference was great, and I’ll have takeaways for you in my next post.  But first I want to share my Genre Dinner experience.  It was a new event this year, on the Friday evening before Saturday’s conference.  What a wonderful idea, dining with other attendees who also write in my genre.  There were two snags, however, and they’re kind of funny, at least nowThey were definitely not funny at the time.

First, my book doesn’t really fit into any one, neat, specific genre. Since I grumbled about this in my last post, I’ll spare you the details this time.  So, there I was, in Rye, NY, thinking my biggest hurdle was to find the appropriate genre table once I arrived at the hotel dining room.  I was wrong.  Finding the hotel was the problem.  road-signs-confusionHey, I’m just a country girl from Saratoga County, foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, and apparently, completely incompetent at driving in Westchester County.  It’s a beautiful place, but I wouldn’t want to drive there…again.  Let me put it this way, Charlie had a better chance of getting off the MTA at the Scully Square Station, than I ever had of getting off the Hutchinson River Parkway.  I thought that  I’d be the one who’d never return. Suburban-looking roads suddenly transformed into parkways that launched me on a continuous loop, orbiting around several towns—I lost count—and a couple of counties, and the state of Connecticut.  I have a lovely Connecticut police officer to thank for excellent directions to get back to New York, and also a fabulous bellman from the hotel where dessert was being served at my genre dinner. After a few panicked calls to the hotel, the concierge sent their bellman to lead me back on the straight and narrow.  I wasn’t too embarrassed, after all, I’m from the foothills of the Adirondacks.  (Please imagine a shoulder shrug.)

Part Two.  Oh yes, there’s more.  When I finally arrived at the hotel, about two weeks late for dinner, I learned that there were two dinners going on: one for writer-attendees like me, and the other, for faculty, including agents, editors, well-published authors, and let’s just say, some big names in publishing. banquet-large

I found the dining room, but the tables weren’t marked by genre.  I figured the writers must have grouped themselves in some other way. I spotted an empty place at a table and thought, what the heck, I could fit in with romance or sci-fi writers, or whatever they turned out to be. After my hour-long expedition of circling the county map with my blood pressure ready to blow its fuse, some gory werewolf talk would be relaxing.  I laid claim to the open seat and found my way to the buffet to scavenge through the leftovers. The conversation at the table was wonderful!  These were some truly erudite people, and a bit over my head some of the time.  Okay, most of the time.  In speaking with the man seated next to me, I asked if he was published yet.  That’s why writers go to these conferences, to relocate their manuscripts to a publisher’s desk.  So I thought it was a fair question, until I coaxed the answer out of this nice, unpretentious man, who had published six novels and teaches writing courses. Oops. th (2) I focused intently on buttering my roll, thinking that something didn’t feel right.  Then someone from across the table asked me which workshop I was going to present on the next day. Oops again. Wrong table?  It gets better.  After dessert and coffee, and an organizer’s speech with instructions to the faculty, I hit me. I wasn’t at the wrong table. I was in the wrong room.



I sat for that dinner with three well-published authors and one very accomplished editor.  I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation, and their company.  They were most casual and gracious and understanding when I explained that the only thing I would present the next day was me!  I think I even got a chuckle out of them.

Westchester County really is a beautiful area, and I’m sure that if required, I could learn to drive there and like it. The local folks I met there were friendly and helpful, and made my visit a pleasant one.  

So after all this kicking and screaming all the way into the techno age, I will finally relent and give up the ghost, er, I mean—that last bastion of navigation independence—my MAPS.  I’ll activate my GPS app.  Yup, I’m giving up my maps for apps.  

sign over

                      I WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!


Please watch for my Unicorn Writers’ Conference takeaways in the next post.

                                                                                            ©  SM Poulette




Brain Picking, Genre Picking


puppy all aloneIt’s a little lonely here at the Writers’ Loop without Peggy!     Readers, please let me know if you’re still out there.

You can do that by allowing me to pick your brain. Then, I’ll ask you to post a comment.  Here it goes:

I’m gearing up for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference next weekend (You can check it out by following the UpComing Events link on the sidebar.). On Friday, I’ll attend a Genre Dinner, my very first.  Apparently, it’s a working dinner and a great time to network with writers in my genre.  I’m looking forward to the experience and meeting new contacts. But here’s the catch: my novel crosses and blends so many genre boundaries that it doesn’t fit neatly or even sloppily, into just one category.  This prompts me to wonder which genres are most appealing to the readers of this blog.

book shelves

So, you can help me, if you will, by letting me know which, if any, of these fiction categories appeal to you: Women’s Commercial, Coming-of-Age (Adult), Nostalgic, Magical Realism, Pop Culture, or Humor. Would you mosey toward any of these shelves in your library or favorite bookstore?  Where would you linger?  Which genre might you pluck from the rack, snoop through, and/or peruse its dust jacket or back cover?  Any chance that you’d want to read the whole book, or…purchase it?

My next research survey is pretty straightforward, but it comes with a disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for food cravings or excessive salivation in the analogy that follows.

Now, my question. When one calls up Pizza Lean-to and orders an extra large (pizza 2guessing that one has the munchies for pizza) it’s usually custom made just for you.  You can get almost any topping that your little heart, or tummy desires, even anchovies.

And what about fiction?  If you could call up, oh, let’s say, Harper Collins Publishers, and order a novel written just for you, what toppings, what ingredients would you want?  Which elements of fiction would your novel have: mystery, humor, history, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, western, _________?  (That last one’s a special-order-fill-in-the-blank, just for you.)  Would you order another werewolf, more shades of erotica, or maybe a novel that warms your heart, lifts your spirits and makes you smile?  Just wondering.  Please let me know.

And sorry, no; I’m not taking any pizza orders at this time.  You might want to try Pizza Lean-to.

I hope you’ll post a comment and let me know your opinion.  I’ll be so grateful. Thanks in advance!









Dear Readers,

I wanted to let you know that this will be my last post for a little while. My writing pursuits are taking me in a different direction and I’m finding that I don’t have time to blog. I’m also excited to tell you that I have had a proposal accepted by the American Speech and Hearing Association about a language/literacy kindergarten program I developed, along with Kim Lamparelli from Syracuse University, for high poverty schools. I will be presenting this at their national convention this November in Denver. The preparation for this promises to keep me busy along with my full time job as a speech-language pathologist.  I also want to make sure to carve out space for other adventures and lots of fun!

Susanne will be continuing with the Writers’ Loop so be sure to stop by. I wish you many happy moments with your reading and writing.

Peggy Morehouse


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Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy…


Here at the Writers’ Loop, the summertime is easy, but it’s also flying by.  It’s time for picnics, swimming, gardening, outdoor fun, and hopefully, plenty of time with feet up and a favorite book.  In summer, when my children were young, we spent our late mornings and early afternoons at a nearby pond with lots of splash time, only interrupted by crayfish catching.  Our late afternoons were spent resting with books borrowed on our weekly trips to the local library.  Rainy days away from the pond gave us more time to browse and make new choices among the library’s treasures.

In addition to all that your local library has to offer, here are some ideas for making children’s reading selections:

First, here are some summer reading suggestions from BookPage.  Most libraries provide complimentary copies of this monthly book review, and it’s also available at   For young children, ages 2 to 5, BookPage columnist Julie Hale provides three titles in the July issue, each featuring seaside stories.

sea to the duck

You can visit the full article and details about these stories at:


At Reading Rockets,, you can check out annual summer booklists and reading guides.  You can browse through  children’s book lists online or download and print the PDFs before going to your library or favorite independent bookstore.  Reading guides are available for children up to age 12.    Their website has resources for teaching reading, helping struggling readers, interviews with authors, and much more.

Goodreads, a staple resource for so many readers, offers a wealth of recommendations and reading lists for all ages.  Here is a link to popular children’s book lists:  If it’s your first time visiting the Goodreads site, you can easily set up a free account and explore a world of literature at your fingertips.

In the past, we’ve showcased some children’s book authors here at the Writers’ Loop.  I’d like to suggest these titles and authors as well.

HAPPY SUMMER READING WITH THE CHILDREN, it’s one of the best gifts we can give them!

Peter Yarrow, author

Peter Yarrow, author


Fred Koehler, author


Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler

How to Cheer Up Dad

Fred Koehler, author


J. E. Rogers, author

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 9_46_03 AM

J. E. Rogers, author


Sarah McGuire, author


Nancy Castaldo, author


Nancy Castaldo, author


Nancy Castaldo, author





Nancy Castaldo, author


Nancy Castaldo, author

sniffer dogs

Nancy Castaldo, author




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Looking for a Fresh Summer Read?

By Peggy Morehouse

The Center for Fiction has announced its long list for the First Novel Prize awarded to the best debut novel published between January 1st and December 31st of the award year. Check out the list. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite author!

The Center for Fiction is the only nonprofit literary organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction, and works to connect readers and writers. Time Out calls The Center one of the top three reasons to stay in Manhattan for literary events, citing the innovative panels, lectures and conversations that take place in their beautiful building on East 47th Street. They also feature workspace, grants, and classes to support emerging writers, reading groups on classic and contemporary authors, and programs to help get kids reading. They recognize the best in the world of fiction through annual awards, and  operate one of the few independent fiction book shops in the country. The Center for Fiction was started in 1820 by New York City merchants before the advent of the public library system.


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Pulitzer Prize Winner Jane Smiley Visits Northshire Bookstore

By Peggy Morehouse

Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley visited Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY to discuss her new trilogy about the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America. IMG_0648 Smiley walked in wearing a Saratoga Racing Hall of Fame cap that she purchased earlier that day, rainbow colored high tops, and of course, a smile. She then answered questions about her books and her life.


Jane Smiley is on the left.

She explained that each volume of her new trilogy spans 33-to-34 years of the Langdon family, five wildly different children who got their start on an Iowa farm. Smiley wanted to explore how characters transform throughout their lives and how they stay the same. From the time they were born until they died, she focused on a component of Langdons’ psyche that never changed. As intriguing as that sounds, the story doesn’t start on page one. It begins in the dedication:

This trilogy is dedicated to John Whiston, Bill Silag, Steve Mortensen, and Jack Canning, with many thanks for decades of patience, laughter, insight, information, and assistance.

Ike Pulver, Director of the Saratoga Springs Public Library, who interviewed Ms. Smiley asked, “Are those four men your husbands?” Jane Smiley grinned and nodded with a glint in her eye, then relayed that she has been divorced three times and married four. Proving that she could have a second career as a comedian, Smiley mused about her marriages and how these four men not only influenced her personally, but helped with her writing. She conveyed that her current husband is a great listener. When Smiley finishes her writing for the day, she reads to him hoping for a critique. “If he falls asleep, I know I need to add more sex.” IMG_0661Besides writing and romance, Smiley likes to wear caps that she collects, and she loves horses. She has written books with her favorite animal as the main character including Horse Heaven and True Blue, and stated that there is at least one in all sixteen of her novels. She described her relationship with horses by saying, “They’re like having a friend that you can ride.”

When asked about what books influenced her, she said that The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew were the first characters who kept her eyes glued to a book when she was a young girl. However, reading Giants of the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag  in ninth grade had a profound impact on her life. “What you read when you’re 13, shapes your consciousness.”

After her interview, Smiley welcomed questions from the audience, and signed books while conversing with her Saratoga fans. IMG_0677 To learn more about Jane Smiley visit her website:

Stop by her Facebook Page at:


Author and Illustrator, FRED KOEHLER on “HOW TO CHEER UP DAD”


One of the nicest benefits of attending a writers’ workshop is getting to meet and work with other authors.  The Writers’ Loop enjoys introducing our readers to several of the talented artists we met during the Break Out Novel Intensive workshop that we attended in April.How to Cheer Up Dad

This week, I’m delighted to present author and illustrator, Fred Koehler, a bona fide funny bone tickler.  Fred’s book, How to Cheer Up Dad, as well as his heartwarming website, can promptly turn frowns upside-down and cause onslaughts of chuckles.  In fact, this book would make a great Father’s Day gift, particularly for new dads. And no, we don’t get a percentage, here at the blog.  It’s my sincere recommendation.

You can get a good feel for Fred’s humor by watching his video. Click his photo to view:


Fred Koehler’s video

When we discussed the interview for this post, Fred suggested using a recent communication from Mrs. Lycett’s 4th Grade Class at Waterbridge Elementary in Orlando, Florida. Fred so appreciated the students’ questions, that he thought our readers might enjoy them as well.  Here are the questions and answers between Mrs. Lycett’s 4th graders and Fred Koehler on How to Cheer Up Dad:

Is there going to be a sequel or series about Jumbo?



Yes! Little Jumbo’s next adventure comes out in March 2016. It’s called “Super Jumbo!” I’m sending you a super-secret sneak peek at one of the illustrations.  I’d love it if you would tell me what you think it’s going to be about. 🙂

Did your son do all the things Jumbo did in “How to Cheer Up Dad?”

My son did not do everything in How to Cheer Up Dad. I actually did a lot of those things to my dad. But my son Jack and I have very similar personalities, so I expect that he’ll get into a lot of the same kind of mischief that I got into when I was a kid.

Will all your books be inspired by your life?

So far, the answer is yes! I love stories that remind us of how great it is when we get along with our friends and families. I love stories that remind us to be cheerful and thankful and to play nicely with others. However, I am illustrating a book right now about dragons. And although I’ve never actually met a dragon, I would very much like to.

How does it feel to have your book published?

It’s an incredible feeling! It does take a very long time and you do have to work quite hard to learn all about the publishing industry.  But, just like gymnastics or playing a musical instrument or math, the more you practice the better you get. And I just practiced until I got pretty good at it.

Will you ever write a chapter book?

I’m so happy you asked that question! I am working on a chapter book right now! It’s about a mouse and a shrew (do you know what a shrew is?) who get lost at sea on a boat made out of an old milk jug. But they’re very clever animals and are going to have an incredible adventure together. I hope that one day this book will get published.

Why did you decide to write a book?

I think that being a writer or an artist or a musician or even a scientist or an athlete is something that you can’t help. I tried NOT to be a writer. But no matter how hard I tried, I still found myself writing. I hope you all find something that you love to do so much that you do it without even thinking about it.


Why did you choose an elephant for the main character?

Little Jumbo started off as a doodle in my sketchbook. My son and I were having a hard time getting along one morning at the coffee shop. I was trying to draw pictures and all he wanted to do was get my attention. To get my attention, he knocked over salt and pepper shakers, spilled his drink, and tried to climb up me as if I was ladder. When I got home, I had the doodle in my sketchbook that became the cover of the book!

oatmeal_rasins3bThe Writers’ Loop would like to thank and congratulate the 4th graders of Mrs. Lycett’s class for their most engaging and relevant questions!

I followed up with Fred, asking him to tell us more about his current projects.  He responded:

“Holy cow! I have lots and lots of projects in the works. I got to illustrate a wonderful picture book titled ONE DAY, THE END by Rebecca Kai Dotlich that comes out in October this year. It’s a super-fun title that teaches kids about telling and writing stories. It’s already getting great reviews and lots of buzz.

one day

And then, in Spring 2016, Little Jumbo gets his sequel in SUPER JUMBO. It’s another romp of a tale, filled with Little Jumbo’s oversized antics and citywide mayhem as our elephant’s alter ego does his best to be a hero.

workingBeyond that, I have two more picture books to illustrate and several more at various stages of completion. It seems as though the publishers aren’t going to let me stop making books anytime soon. And that’s good news indeed!”

What a wonderfully happy predicament for any writer or illustrator to have—publishers who won’t let you call it quits!  Congratulations, Fred Koehler!   Thank you for being our guest this week, and for permission to post some of your fantastic work here.

To visit Fred’s amusing website for more information, go to:  Enjoy!