Thursday, September 22, 2022

Interview with Kelly Pavelich

Interview with Kelly Pavelich

Aspiring Author & 
SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Conference Planning Committee

Hello Readers, Bloggers, Writers, and Bookish Friends,

Please, enjoy this interview with an SCBWI committee insider whom I met on Instagram. Kelly reached out for an interview, and I'm so glad! She's an aspiring KidLit writer and a published journal writer. Let's cheer her on as she goes for the book deal!


You’ve been a member of SCBWI for over four years now. What has been the best thing so far for you as a member?

Finding my critique group! 

I attended a critique event through SCBWI and immediately clicked with my trio. We met every other week for years after that initial meeting. Not only did they make me a better writer and help improve my work, but they are lovely humans who I enjoy spending time with.

How did you find out about SCBWI? Why did you join?

I learned about SCBWI through word of mouth. I was looking for ways to get further involved in the writing community, and this seemed like a great step. 

You have been published in journals. How would other writers go about doing this? How did you?

I had a lot of miscellaneous pieces (mostly flash fiction) I was proud of but didn’t know what to do with. 

Poets & Writers has a comprehensive list of literary journals, and I used their site to find journals that might be a good fit for my work. I drafted a cover letter that I slightly adapted for each journal.  I then tracked my submissions using an excel document. Like with any querying process, it might take a few tries to find your perfect match!

What is your favorite thing about writing?

Three things: creating something out of nothing, finding story ideas everywhere you go, and constantly asking yourself, “what if?”

Why write for children?

Well, if I’m being honest, I’m really writing for myself. 

I read a lot of young adult fantasy and sci-fi (those genres make up about 80% of my bookshelf!), so that’s what I tend to write. With that said, I’d like to think my writing could be enjoyed by various age groups/audiences.

You are a mental health advocate. What does this mean?

The term is open for interpretation, but for me, it’s someone who counters misinformation surrounding mental health conditions and is open and honest about their own story. Both of these actions help create a safe space for other people to step forward, share their personal experiences, and possibly seek help. 

On a related note, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Check on your loved ones!

If I gave you a megaphone and the whole world would listen: What one sentence would you shout?

I might be cheating with the semicolon, but: 

“People with mental illness aren’t dangerous; they’re more likely to be the 

victim of violence than a perpetrator.” 

Have you always been a writer? A creative person?

Yes! ‘Author’ has always been my dream job. My mom recently sent me a story called “Thumb Face” that I wrote as a kid about a talking thumb. Not my best work. 

What time do you get up, and what do you have for breakfast?

I am not a morning person. I play a dangerous game of ‘how long can I stay in bed without being late’ and am lucky to get out the door with a granola bar in my bag. 

What writing blogs or Instagram # do you follow, and why have they helped you?

I follow too many to list here, but a few are: @so_many_ocs, @writersdigest, and @writinggibsongirl. I enjoy these pages for their inspirational quotes, pep talks, and quick tips. They help keep me motivated and inspired!

What next conference or writer’s retreat will you attend, and why should other writers go?

The SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Fall Conference 

Oct. 21-23 in Dulles, VA! 

I might seem biased because I’m on the planning committee, but it will be an amazing event. Attendees will have the opportunity to network, obtain valuable industry insight, and receive professional feedback on their work. 

There’s also a separate virtual component Oct. 17-19 that’s free for in-person registrants and can be purchased as a stand-alone experience for those unable to join us in person. For more information and to register, visit 


What are you reading right now?

The Final Gambit” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes! 

I finished “The Hawthorne Legacy” last night, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably finish “The Final Gambit” by the time this post goes live. 

What writing book has helped you the most?

Courtney Maum’s “Before And After the Book Deal.” She provides wonderful industry insight and advice, and her writing style makes you feel like you’re talking to a friend.

Do you have someone who is cheering you on in the writing world?

Yes, my family and boyfriend. Querying is often a long and disheartening process. It’s so important to have cheerleaders who can pick you up when you’re feeling down and motivate you to keep going. 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

You are on the writer’s path… where are you right now, and what are your goals?

I am deep in the query trenches for my young adult sci-fi novel and would love to see my work on bookshelves in a few years. Otherwise, all I really want to do is write. I have a pocket notebook full of ideas that I can’t wait to explore further.

What are you working on right now? What is your WIP?

I’m working on a new adult novel that uses fantasy to explain a real-world unsolved mystery. It’s a lot different from my last project, which is exciting and fun, and I’ve convinced myself I now have a legitimate reason to travel to the United Kingdom…

What one word best describes you?


I’m a true Hufflepuff. 

What scares you? The night? Monsters? Snakes? Spiders? Clowns?

Okay, the ocean. There’s still so much we don’t know and haven’t explored. And I’m sorry, giant squids? A family member, who shares my fear, aptly stated: 

“Giant anything is horrifying. The sea got too much space for those bitches to grow.”

Wow, Kelly, you are on your way toward publication! We wish you luck and lots of fun on your journey. Thank you for sharing your writing life with us. The more we learn, the better our chances!

If you would like to connect with Kelly, please follow her here:


You can read her journal publications and interview here:

New York City Magic

Pasta Box

Water Privatization: A Threat to Human Rights?

Kelly's Mental Health Interview for Dr. Ken Duckworth's Book, You Are Not Alone - release date September 2022

Until the next blog...




Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Interview with Jen Steiner

 KidLit Alert!

Introducing Jen Steiner

Agented Author

Debut Coming Soon!

Oh, it's exciting to meet Jen - a recently agented author putting finishing touches on her debut middle-grade novel - September Lyles: Activated Coming out...SOON!!!!

Let's cheer her on to success. 

Jen, you have a great photo on your website (see above). Did you have them done professionally? Do you recommend this to other writers? If so, Why?


The story behind all my photos is one of marital bliss meets ‘I-told-you-so.’ My husband does freelance photography on the side. He always pushes me to take pictures and...

 I always resist like his camera’s a dental drill. 

        However, in this case, he was right. A good photo offers a glance into its subject’s personality and invites readers in. It works for me, but I recommend writers present their most authentic selves, and that might be a cartoon sketch.


We connected via Instagram. Do you meet many writers and readers this way? How has social media helped you sell books or gained your readership?


I’m a fish flopping around on the shore when it comes to social media, but I’m trying to find my footing. I’ve met a few writers on Instagram and Twitter. My most important takeaway as a pre-published author is the insight social media provides into our industry.


According to your website, you are working on a Middle-Grade novel….what, so far, has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to climb in writing this book?


The biggest hurdle to my writing is sidelining the practical side of my personality and letting the imaginative side run free. I have to be OK with the wildest things happening to my middle-grade hero. She’s 11, messy, not all her decisions are well thought-out, she steps into pitfalls the size of the Grand Canyon, and I’m okay with that.


So, primarily, I have to get out of my own way in my creative process. Secondly, I have to carve out time to write, which means convincing my kids that imaginary friends talking in my head is more important than the fact that one of them is bludgeoning the other.


Why do you write? Why choose writing over any other creative art?


      I love to write. 

         Always have. When I was young, writing gave me confidence.  In 2nd grade, I won $20 in our class’s writing competition for a story about MacGyver and thought, wow, my friends actually liked it. A couple years later, my mom helped me get a story copyrighted to stick it to my 4th-grade teacher, who’d accused me of plagiarism because she didn’t think I was capable of writing it. Can you imagine what that COULD have done to me? 


        Thankfully, her arrogance fueled instead of deterred me.


Also, I can’t draw, and I’m tone deaf. I do, however, crochet a mean scarf.


What do you eat for breakfast? Do you exercise? How do you stay healthy so you can be creative?


I start most days with exercise and a smoothie my kid's claim tastes like a mash-up of grass and dirt (it’s very beet forward). Athletics have always been a huge part of my identity. I was an All-American athlete in high school and college and still love running. Some of my best ideas hit me during ping pong or hiking.


What is a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have a critique group? Do you write alone or with someone?


A typical day of writing doesn’t start for me until 11:00am, after I’ve got the kids out the door, worked out, and run errands. Then I stare at my computer screen, willing words to appear! When that doesn’t work, I start writing scenes, not necessarily in chronological or story order. Some days are super productive. Others, meh.


I do have a critique group (shout out to Totally Teal), who are a wonderful set of eyes. Day-to-day writing’s very lonely, but Mom, my kids, and my husband are sounding boards every step of the way.


What writing tool has helped you the most? A book? An application? A group?


In this order: SCBWI workshops/conferences, Bird by Bird (A. Lamott), and critique groups have been crucial in moving me from I-think-I-can to I’m-actually-doing-it!


Who is your biggest cheerleader? Any mentors in your past who have helped you become a writer?


My mom, husband, and kids are my biggest cheerleaders. Mom encourages the unsure 10-year-old Jennifer, still unsure of herself. My husband cultivates space and opportunity for me to be creative.


Through SCBWI, I’ve met several authors who are so generous with their time and advice. Terry Catasus Jennings (The Little House of Hope) has latched ahold of me and decided, that as long as she has breath in her body, I will not fail in storytelling. She’s been a help at every turn. Michelle Coles’ (Black Was the Ink), a colleague from law school, advice, and transparency about her experience with publication have been invaluable.


What one word best describes you?




If I gave you a megaphone and the whole world would listen: What one sentence would you shout?


The only guaranteed no is not trying!




Who in your family is the easiest to beat at ping pong?


I plead the Fifth, but they know who they are.



You have kids - what do they think about you writing for kids? How have they helped?


My kids think my writing is as cool as their nine- and ten-year-old psyches allow.


My oldest (I call her my Creative Consultant) is my harshest critic, but she’s read so much middle-grade that I respect her opinion. Both kids keep me honest with pop-culture references and not making my characters sound old. Nothing beats the feeling when reading over my shoulder, my kiddos giggle at something I wrote. 

        That’s their biggest help – confidence boosting.


What words of advice would you give to your younger self about writing? Editing? Agents?


Keep writing. Be receptive to critique. Read. 


You wrote an article about boys being disproportionately disciplined in school titled: Parent Talk: How I'm Building an A-Team for My Child. Why did you write this, and has it helped? What can we do to balance it?


I wrote this article to address head-on the anxiety I feel as a black mom sending my children to school in a country that’s traditionally over-punished black and brown babies. The article maps out how I approach partnering with teachers and administration and being of service to the school community, while simultaneously advocating on my children’s behalf.


If you’ve ever met one, you know children aren’t perfect (neither are their adult counterparts). They make mistakes. Imagine being held to a different standard because of race? It’s stifling, teaching harsh lessons about the eggshells society expects black and brown children to tippytoe around in order to be accepted.   


I’m grateful for efforts like those made at my children’s school to be aware of implicit bias, create and enact plans to combat it, and assess results, with a willingness to amend where necessary. Less analytically, they’re intentional about showing and receiving grace. 


That level of institutional introspection benefits all our students.




When will your debut novel come out? What’s the premise? Why should we buy it?


Set in small-town Alabama, 

September Lyles: Activated

          is the story of September, an 11-year-old biracial black girl from the Virginia suburbs, who finds herself caught in the intersection of superpowers, social justice, and super awkwardness when she gains powers she can’t control, is harassed at a camp she doesn’t want to attend and hunted by the town’s tyrannical villain, who’s set on harvesting her powers. All this happens against the backdrop of September witnessing the impact of systemic racism on the town and her family.


There’s a little September in all of us, trying to understand how we fit in the arc of history. Feeling overwhelmed, underqualified, and insignificant when facing obstacles, old and new, is completely relatable. Through found friends (and an obnoxious older brother), purpose, and courage, September’s story reminds readers that courage, conviction, and a dose of magic can change a whole lot of what hurt us in the past. 


As for a publication date, I’m still on the front end of this journey, but I’m hopeful I can share September’s story with the world soon.


You are represented by Storm Literary Agency. Why did you choose them? How have they helped?


My agent, Heather Cashman, is the because she believes in my storytelling, is patient with my greenness, and offers just the right balance of you-can-do-it with publishing industry pragmatism. We chose each other because Heather believes in and wants to represent stories like mine, and I trust her experience and commitment to developing a long-term, thriving partnership.

         Wow, Jen! I am impressed. Thank you for sharing your road to publication and your amazing family and us. And, even though you beat them all at ping-pong, they are your biggest fans.  

        We look forward to your debut novel - September Lyles: Activated coming soon.  

        If you would like to contact Jen and cheer her on to debut...please visit her at:

        Jen on Twitter 

        Jen on Instagram

        Jen Steiner Stories


Until Next Time...