Read Local Spotlight: My Monsterpiece

This month we are highlight writer / illustrator Amalia Hoffman’s newest book, My Monsterpiece.

1.) Tell us about how My Monsterpiece came about.

I wanted to create a picture book about inclusion and tolerance that will be easy and the message will not come out preachy. I had an idea of writing about two different groups of kids that didn’t understand each other but eventually became friends. But I soon realized that this has already been done in so many ways. Then, I came up with the idea about kids and monsters.

I remembered that when I was about seven years old, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, mine wasn’t scary enough because I didn’t win..

That gave me the idea for the book: A kid who wants to make a scary monster, only to be frustrated when his mom, dad, sister and best friend aren’t  scared .
For many years,  I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scarps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies. In some illustrations, I glued on yarn, glitter, buttons and even fruit loops. Kids love to get their hands messy. So I dipped my fingers in gooey blobs of paint. It was very therapeutic. A lot of the art in the book was painted with my fingers, rather then with brushes. I also spritzed paint with a toothbrush, letting the bits of color drop where they may. At the end of the day, my studio was a mess but I felt liberated!

Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: My Monsterpiece”

Read Local Spotlight: The Veil of Corruption

Next up in our read local series – YA author CB Lyall! Learn more about her journey to publishing her Virus of Beauty fantasy series.


1.) When did you begin writing YA?

CB Lyall: About five years ago I started with the idea of a wizard who rejects magic, a gift store and Hong
Kong. (I was living in Hong Kong at the time.) I was also contemplating the idea of reverse beauty. Witches being idealized for their ugliness, and this being an outward representation of their power and status in society. We live in a world obsessed with our appearance. I wanted to challenge this viewpoint within an action based, magical series. That is how I ended up writing The Virus of Beauty Series.

Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: The Veil of Corruption”

Crystal Kite Preview is now open!

The preview is open for this year’s Crystal Kite Awards, for PAL books until March 31.
  • Click MY HOME at the top right of your SCBWI member page.
  • On the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom and click on Preview Crystal Kite Books in Your Division.
  • This will load the page displaying all the nominated books that were published last year in your division.
  • Find out more about each title by clicking on the MORE INFO button.
  • Guidelines and further information will be found HERE.
  • Remember, Round 1 voting begins on April 1!

Read Local Spotlight: Baby Bear’s Spaghetti Misadventures

baby bears spaghetti misadventure front cover in colorThis month’s read local book pick is from author Linda Karimo. Learn more about her book, Baby Bear’s Spaghetti Misadventure, below!

What inspired you to write this story?

LK: I’m a Baby Boomer now, the stories my grandmother read to me as a young child still make me smile so many years later. There was one particular one that caught my eye and became the inspiration for my current children’s picture book series. It was Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Children are the real victims of this covid-19 pandemic. I wanted to create a series of books for both our children and the adults that would read them to their little ones. A time to escape the crazy world for just a little while.

Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: Baby Bear’s Spaghetti Misadventures”

Read Local Spotlight: MY NAME IS LAYLA

My Name is Layla_5x8 paperback cover_FINAL COVER_Dec 2020_FRONTCongrats to local member Reyna Marder Gentin on the publication of her first YA novel: My Name Is LaylaLearn more about Reyna and her transition from adult to kidlit below:

1. What sparked the idea for this book?
I had just finished my debut novel, a romantic legal thriller entitled Unreasonable Doubts, and the pub date was still a year off. I decided to take a workshop in Writing For Youth at the The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I had no story in mind, other than my desire to reach back to the emotions of a 13 or 14 year-old — that sense of wanting to fit in and needing to be heard. One of the women in my class had dyslexia and that was the spark for My Name Is Layla. I decided to write a protagonist who was struggling with reading, and who also had a host of family and friendship issues on her plate.

Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: MY NAME IS LAYLA”

SCBWI’s “Celebrating Queer Voices” Panel Discussion

If you didn’t get a chance to watch HQ’s first #ownvoices panel on Jan 21, check out the replay on the archive page (available through 2/14).

On the panel: Phil Bildner, Mike Curato, Alex Gino, Abdi Nazemian, J Yang, & Kaylynn Bayron.

The next SCBWI Celebrates #OwnVoices workshops will be: Continue reading “SCBWI’s “Celebrating Queer Voices” Panel Discussion”


wetzler-witchymagic-525x8-CV-FT-hiresHappy 2021! We’re kicking off the new year with another local book spotlight. Meet Cynthia Magriel Wetzler and learn about her road to self-publication below!

1.) What sparked the idea for your story?

SMW: One summer day on Nantucket I discovered a little cove, an isolated secret place. I sat on a big driftwood log facing the ocean waves and claimed this log as my own. I watched the sandpipers fluttering on the sand, listened to the crash of the waves and let the salty sea air tickle my nose. I took out my little sketchpad that I carry at all times and a little girl, around 9, sketching a horseshoe crab, popped into my imagination. There she was, Maggie. I could see her sitting next to me doing what I did at that age, draw and write, draw and write all the time. She became real and I put her in a story. My dream for this book is to help empower and encourage young middle-graders to find out who they are inside and to feel strong about it. Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: WITCHY MAGIC AND ME, MAGGIE”

Read Local Spotlight: SOULSTRUCK

Soulstruck pb coverNext up in our Read Local series: Soulstruck by Westchester YA author Natasha Sinel.

Read more about her inspiration for this novel, how she’s been promoting her book during the pandemic, and more.

1.) What sparked the idea for your book?

Back in 1991 there was a lightning strike at a high school lacrosse game in Washington, DC (where I’m from)—more than ten people were struck, one was killed. A young EMT who happened to be there saved several people’s lives that day. The story always stuck with me. I kept thinking about the young man who saved those lives and what his life must have been like afterwards. An idea started to form in my head and, as I researched lightning and lightning strike survivors, I kept asking myself what if this happens, what if that happens. My characters came into focus and from there, my idea turned into something completely different. That’s how it usually goes for me. I start with a premise—an event or a situation. I start asking myself questions and then a story starts to take shape. Sometimes my original premise doesn’t even end up in the book.

Continue reading “Read Local Spotlight: SOULSTRUCK”

SCBWI Westchester is on Discord!

We’ve set up Writer and Illustrator groups on a website called “Discord”. This is a great tool to share ideas and keep in touch more frequently. Discord can be easily accessed on your browser and is very user friendly. We hope you’ll all give it a try!

Go to and then get started by watching this video:

To make it as easy as possible we’ve recorded our screen to show you how to access the groups. Note that you’ll first be asked to create a username and enter your birthday before proceeding, but once you do that you can proceed just as shown in the video.

Here are links you’ll need (video shows where to enter links):

Use this link to get on the Westchester Illustrators server

Use this link to get on the Westchester Writers server.

We’ve also put together the image below which shows more about navigating Discord once you’re in.

For additional help once you’re signed in. Please take a look and if anyone needs more help beyond this, just get in touch and we’d be happy to set up a call to walk you through it. It’s entirely optional to use but we’re hoping it’s something everyone can feel comfortable with!