Sunday, December 29, 2013


I want to wish everyone a happy new year. 

This time of year, I get reflective, as many of us do. For my special education certification, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I should be student teaching spring 2015. And I look forward to going to work each day. On the writing front, I'm about to complete my second rough draft this year. While I still don't have an agent, I feel closer with each draft. On the family front, my husband and I will be together 25 years and married for 20 this coming year. At our newish home, both children are finally feeling more part of the community. And they're growing too quickly. My son is now in high school and my daughter is in middle school. I'm going to appreciate the last few years of my family of 4. With that thought, I wrote this poem: 


Every day he plays those repetitive notes
to that tune I don’t know the name of.
Some days they croon from the clarinet—
Other days they sing from the saxophones.

When he first attempted it the piece, it
hiccuped and coughed and squeaked.
But each day he practiced, the music
ascended, sparkled, and sashayed to the rhythm.

The concert has long passed, so its droning
presence has become a path to newer pieces.
A warming breath, an inhale, exhale—
An intention for his practice makes perfect.

Some days the music is background thrum,
but today the notes soar to renaissance.
This tune is a measure of my son’s progress—
Of composition coming to life with concerted effort.

This everyday, why again, sometimes
ignored tune has measured time in notes,
seconds, minutes, days, years, and so on it goes.
It’s a measure of the man he will become.

And when he does,
I’ll miss the repetitive rhythm
of the way it was.

- Theresa Milstein

Even though winter has just begun, many areas have already been slammed with a few snowfalls. Earlier this year, I wrote a poem about a storm from a  Magpie Picture Prompt. 

Since then, I've revised and submitted it. It now appears in the Winter 2013 edition Halcyon Magazine. You may either read it for free or purchase a hard copy. 


Love, Theresa xo

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I'm sorry I've been AWOL. School made life extra hectic, but I'm off for a month, so YaY! 

This summer, writer Robyn Campbell told me about the Charms Project that Sally Odgers  put together. The anthology wasn't about profit, but for the love of creating stories. 

When I mentioned that Lenny Lee would be part of the project to my daughter, Mia, she asked if she could write a story. Though Mia would be the youngest contributor, Sally agreed. Mia chose a wolf charm as her inspiration and wrote her story. After a little cajoling, she accepted some of my feedback and revised a few times. Then  Sharon Mayhew  offered her more feedback. Soon her story was done.

Mia is proud that even though she’s the youngest author, her story was gory enough to have to be included in the 3rd volume, suitable for older readers.

Mia’s piece is called “The Pursuit.” Here’s her bio:

I chose the wolf charm because I love animals. Wolves speak to me, maybe because dogs are one of my favorite animals. A Husky, which resembles a wolf, is my favorite dog. My wolf story for the Charms anthology has fantasy in it. Those are the types of stories I tend to read the most.

I’ve always liked to write. When I’m an adult, I want to be an engineer or do something related to science, but I hope to write at least part time.
I’m a sixth-grader who takes ballet and Taekwondo lessons. Since I have learned how to be strong and defend myself, I like to create characters that are tough. I don’t like damsels in distress!

My piece is called “First Star.” Here’s what I say about it in my bio:

I chose the star charm because as a child, I believed in the power of wishing upon the first star. As I got older, I realized that wishes came true with hard work and determination. But I still love gazing at the night’s sky. My favorite constellation is Orion’s Belt. 

If I could fulfill one wish for myself, it would be to make a living writing for children and teens full time. With continued hard work and perseverance, I hope I achieve it.

This story is dedicated to my sister, Kathleen, who helped me capture the big sister-little sister dynamic in this story. (Tess/Kate and Theresa/Kathleen, get it?)

The books are available in 3 volumes. Here’s the premise:

Hannah, Josh, Immy and Ashton met when their parents formed the syndicate to restore an old house and reinvent it as a boutique hotel. While the adults worked downstairs, the children found a mysterious treasure in the attic; a crock of charms. Every charm had a story.

Volume One tells the story of the first week in the attic, and offers stories for younger readers. (Susan Leonard Hill is in Volume 2.) Volume Two contains stories, poems and pictures most suitable for mid-grade readers. (Sharon and Robyn are in volume 2.)

In this third volume of Charms, the crock and the children are back. A problem threatens the syndicate and there are new adventures as Josh and Hannah go beyond the curtain to enter the world of the stories. Charms is a collection of stories, poems and illustrations by a wide variety of contributors. It is also a fantasy novel
in three volumes, though each can stand alone. Volume Three contains stories, poems and pictures most suitable for older readers. (Mia, Lenny, and I are in Volume 3.)

It was fun to write and critique these stories with a bunch of my favorite writing friends and my daughter. I hope you enjoy our pieces!

You can only get a copy by contacting 
one of the writers who is in the book. 
(So if you want a copy you'll have to let me 
know and I'll sell it at cost plus shipping.)

If you’re interested, email me at tmilstein at gmail dot com. Cost is $13.18 + shipping.

Sharon is having a giveaway to win Volume 2 on her blog.  Please visit! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Advice from Jane Kohuth

Jane Kohuth has written a book about Anne Frank for the Step Into Reading series, which wouldn't be an easy task for any writer. Jane impressed me with her ability to arouse empathy without going too far for young readers. 

Thanks for being on my blog, Jane!

When did you decide to be a writer?

I decided for the first time that I wanted to write children’s books when I was in elementary school. I loved creative writing -- it was my favorite part of school -- and I wrote a lot at home as well. By the time I was in fifth grade my best friends were already saying that I should write children’s books when I grew up.

I decided for the second time that I would be a children’s writer when I left a Ph.D. program for health reasons in 2007. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and found a writing group (which is still going six years later). I started working seriously, drawing on my undergrad degree in creative writing (poetry), and learning as much about the publishing world as I could.

How did your first book publication come about?

It was a case of right place, right time. In 2008, I went to the New England SCBWI conference and submitted a manuscript for critique by an editor. The editor I was matched with, Christy Webster, worked on the Step Into Reading line of early readers at Random House. She thought that the manuscript I’d submitted, Ducks Go Vroom, which I had envisioned as a picture book for toddlers, would work well as a Step One reader, because of the simplicity and pattern of the language. She asked me to revise the manuscript to meet Step Into Reading Guidelines. I went home and set to work right away. I probably sent her my revision within a week! That was my first experience with the glacial pace of the publishing industry. Nine months later, I received the phone call that changed my life.

Your previous books vary widely, from early reader to early picture book to picture book. Now Anne Frank’s Chestnut book is a paperback. What age range is the easiest to write for? What age range is the hardest?

Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree is a Step Three early reader. It’s suited for elementary students who are starting to read independently and can also be used as an introduction for classes studying the Holocaust or Anne Frank. For students who choose the book on their own, for interest or for a biography project, I strongly recommend that a parent or teacher read the book as well and be available for discussion. The books is available in a trade hardcover as a well as a paperback edition. It was quite a different experience from my other work to write a Step Three reader and a biography. The challenge of doing justice to a person’s life and work within the strict early reader guidelines was like doing a very complicated puzzle.

For me, the easiest age to write for is the preschool/early elementary school set. Coming from a poetry background, I tend to focus on catchy, interesting, and lyrical language which is attractive to very young listeners. I also tend to think in shorter, simpler stories. I’ve made attempts at a novel for young adults, but I find that very hard! Perhaps I can find a compromise and try a chapter book.

I see on your page that you tailor your author visits to a particular book. You also do in-person and Skype visits. What advice can you give authors about author visits?

I create special workshops for each book, and I can also change my general “How Do You Grow up to Be a Writer?” presentation depending on which book I’m featuring. Having a bit of teaching a experience was very helpful coming into author visits for the first time. I write up very detailed plans for the visit in the way I do for lesson plans. I try to be very familiar with what I want to say, so I can be loose and improvise a little based on students questions and reactions. I try to ask as many questions as possible, to keep students participating throughout my presentations, and to have a lot of visuals. I worked as an author visit coordinator for a bookstore, so I was lucky to see many other author presentations. I would recommend going to public events and watching what other authors do. Being a coordinator also helped me understand the kinds of questions I needed to ask the schools and other venues. Make sure you talk to them about the space you’ll be in, the set-up, the equipment you’ll need, how many students you’ll be seeing and their ages etc. Ask schools how they will make your books available for sale. You can help them out by sending them to your local bookstore or sending them your publisher’s guidelines for ordering books for school visits.

What are you working on next?

I’ve been doing more Skype visits, which lets me visit places all over the country.

I’ll be at the SCBWI sponsored “Inside Story” event at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA on Sunday, November 3rd at 1pm, along with a fabulous slate of writers and illustrators who have books out this fall. And for every book purchased, the organization First Book will donate a book to a child in need:

And I’m very excited for the Family Trees exhibit at the Concord Museum, which runs from November 27th-January 1st. I will have a tree, created by my sister and mother, who are artists, decorated in the theme of my picture book Duck Sock Hop. I will be at the museum for Author Day on December 8th:

I’m at different stages, from second draft to submission ready for a few picture book manuscripts, and I’ll also be working on a new non-fiction picture book soon!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Michelle, Mary, and Me

Today’s post is brought to you by the Letter M.

M is for Michelle

Spiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans

Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal ... Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression. 
When charismatic high school senior, Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows. 
Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path.
Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most?

This novel contains adult themes.
Recommended reading audiences 15+

Available from Amazon or the Michelle Dennis Evans WEBPAGE.

M is for Mary

I met the endearing Mary O’Regan during Niamh Boyce’s The Herbalist 

tour. I enjoy the clips and poems Mary posts on her Blog. 

Mary writes fiction and nonfiction. She’s a writer for The Catholic Herald. 

On her blog, she’s started a “How I Met my Husband” series and has invited me to participate.

M is for Me

Please visit Mary's BLOG  and find out how I met my husband. There’s friendship, romance, and delinquency. And The Breakfast Club (sort of).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn's Crest

Remember all that good news I shared on that other Post? 

No agents have gotten back to me yet. My inbox is eerily silent. Perhaps it’s haunted?

But I must continue to juggling and accidentally dropping beanbags while I hope for some inbox exorcism that leads to page requests. I’m up to 21k+ in the new YA. Upwards and onwards.

This month, I did get a little happy news. My poem, “Autumn’s Crest,” was accepted in Halcyon Magazine. 

The magazine is free online. Details to purchase the gorgeous magazine are included in the link above.

If that link doesn’t work, click this link. 

And if you’re interested in submitting for the Winter issue, details are HERE. 

While I continue to write, query, and wait, these small successes keep me going. I always hope I’m about to crest towards success. 

My critique group’s writing retreat 2 weeks ago filled me with inspiration in many ways. The view certainly helped.

I wish you could smell the crisp air.
Thanks, Judy Mintz. 

Writers, what keeps you going?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moonless Cover Reveal

Crystal Collier is publishing her first book, Moonless.

Title: Moonless 
Author: Crystal Collier 
Series: Maiden of Time #1 
Publication: November 13th, 2013 
Category: Young Adult (YA) 
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance 
Log Line: Alexia must choose safety and an arranged marriage, or true love and being hunted by the Soulless every moonless night. 

Short Description: Alexia’s nightmares become reality: a dead baron, red-eyed wraiths, and forbidden love with a man hunted by these creatures. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with her beloved and risk becoming one of the Soulless. MOONLESS is Jane Eyre meets Supernatural. 

Congratulations, Crystal!

Crystal Collier 
❀ Unleashing the dream world, one book at a time ❀ 
Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Tumblr

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rockin' Book

Today I'm playing band manager to celebrate the release of Kelly Polark's ABC's of rock 'n' roll picture book, ROCKABET: CLASSIC EDITION. If I could choose any band members from any bands to form the best band ever, these would be my rockin' picks:

Band Name: Interpol 2 (Because I love Interpol and needed to squeeze them in too)

First Gig: Bank of America Pavilion, Boston (It's on the water) 

Lead vocals:  Bono (U2) and Michael Stipe (REM)

Lead guitarist: Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)

Bass guitarist: Sting (instrument is close enough)

Drums: Phil Selway (Radiohead)

Keyboards (optional): Will Butler (Arcade Fire) and Chris Martin (Coldplay)

Who would you choose for your supergroup and why?
Here's a band name generator to create your killer band name!

ROCKABET: CLASSIC EDITION can currently be purchased online at Amazon or at select bookstores. Hardcover books will be available at various online retailers and stores in October.

Kelly Polark is also the author of BIG SISTER, BABY BROTHER and the upcoming HOLD THE MUSTARD! from Meegenius. Come visit her on Facebook and Twitter! Check out her website and celebrity book recommendation site, Book Recs of the Rock and Famous.


Thanks for visiting, Kelly. This was fun! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


This weekend my fortune read:

A big fortune will descend upon you this year.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

      After a break, I’m taking another course for my Special Education certification. The homework load is crushing. I’ve decided the only way I can continue to write is to use my precious 30-minute lunch like I did last year. But I’m having a hard time meeting the demands of the students at school, so lesson plan prepping is creeping into lunch. I was also lucky enough to get a big website content-editing job, but it will be another responsibility to make time for… if I only had more time.

      Amid all of the dark and dreary prospects for my writing, I received a shimmer of hope. I made it into Pitch Madness 

      Funny because this summer, I emailed Sharon Mayhew  and said I was done with contests because nothing would ever come of them. My previous attempts had either fallen flat or I got through one round just to lose later on.

      Then WriteOnCon  came ‘round. I put a query and pages up on the forums. But his time I didn’t hope for  a Ninja request. Even though this manuscript came together for me in a way that no previous one had before, I hadn’t had as many writers critique it yet, so I wasn’t confident.

But it just felt so… polished.

      The feedback was positive. And I actually received a Ninja request for pages!

      When Pitch Madness started, I submitted with more confidence. Though I was thrilled to get a slot (thanks, S.M. Johnston ) the thrill soon gave way to nerves. Writers can only be happy for about 5 seconds.

      Twitter hashtag #PitchMadness soon came alive with entries that writers loved. Mine received little mention. I told myself to prepare for the worst (I’m part Irish).

      While I waited for the results, I pushed to finish my course assignments. If I didn’t complete them a day early, I wouldn’t be able to meet with a new critique group I’d been invited to join.

      On Monday evening, my son and husband cooked dinner, so I could do homework. My daughter did extra too.  

      Tuesday my body buzzed with nerves. Work was hectic. Then the Pitch Madness news came in at noon—I had 3 bids and all from Awesome Agents. The highest bid requested a query + 100 pages. But I couldn’t bask in the sun of requests. Instead, I studied for and took an online quiz while I cooked dinner. Then I rushed my daughter to ballet.

(Where I couldn’t find a parking spot, so I had to rush into a bakery to buy a tart slice for “dinner” before I got a parking ticket. I sat in the car to send out my query and 100 pages to the winning agents.)

      After that, I attended my son’s high school orientation, rushed to the critique group (where I was pretty incoherent), and arrived home shortly before bedtime.

      This morning, as I was driving (groggily) to work, I thought about the last week and about my cookie fortune. My mind wandered to my husband’s fortune:

You will soon discover how fortunate you really are.

      His fortune applied to me too. It’s easy to lose sight of this when sagging beneath money worries, deadlines we think we can’t meet, errands, obligations, insecurities, and setbacks.

      I can focus on the uncertainties, the things not going right or I can focus on my family who make sure I could make time for school and writing. Even if I don’t get an agent out of this, the Pitch Madness team and three agents saw some promise in my premise and pages.

      If I always look at what I don’t have, what I’m striving for, I’ll forget to remember how fortunate I really am. Right now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Harold Underdown, Editor

Last year, I met Harold Underdown at the NE-SCBWI Conference. We're also Facebook friends (which means we're TIGHT). Since he's been a part of so many facets of publishing, I thought he'd be a great person to interview on my blog. 

Harold, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.

Theresa, thanks for the interview request!

On your website The Purple Crayon it states:

I'm a children's book editor, working as a consulting or independent editor and writing teacher. Previously, I was Vice President and Editorial Director at ipicturebooks. Before that, I was editorial director of the Charlesbridge trade program, and have also worked at Orchard Books and Macmillan.

I am the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, now in its third edition. I give workshops through Kid's Book Revisions. I speak at conferences, provide editorial services to publishers and authors, and maintain this web site.

I see you switched from working in some high-level editorial positions for some traditional publishing companies to becoming an independent editor. How did the change come about?

Like many editors who go into independent work, it wasn’t something I chose to do. Most folks go independent after being laid off or because a spouse has to move out of NYC. In my case, the company I was working for, ipicturebooks, ran out of funding—we were a children’s ebook company in 2000, years before there was a viable market.

Also like many editors who go independent, I found that there many aspects to working independently that I liked, which I’ll comment on later in response to one of your other questions. I’ve been able to make a go of it long-term by having a “day job” as an editor at McGraw-Hill Education.

Do you miss anything about working for a publishing house? If so, what?

I do miss the process of finding and acquiring books, and connected to that I also miss working on books from start to finish, since many of my projects involve one pass of editing or a critique only.

Having said that, I do stay in touch with clients after a project and it’s satisfying to hear about manuscripts I worked on being signed up and published.

What exactly does an independent editor do for a writer?

I do a number of different things, depending on the project and the needs of the author. Some people have a first draft that needs a critique. Some people have a more finished draft but want a developmental edit.  In both cases, I’m helping people get their manuscript closer to publishable, and/or improve their writing skills.

I also work as a consulting editor, helping someone self-publishing with their book, or with publishers, standing in for an in-house editor and helping to complete an acquired manuscript.

You can find some more information about services here:

I also give workshops on writing and revision, both on my own and with my colleague Eileen Robinson. At those I also give writers feedback on individual manuscripts, but in the context of learning writing and revision techniques that they can apply to other manuscripts.

What is the best part of being an independent editor?

Hearing that my comments or edits have helped someone move forward! I work hard to support writers in moving to the next stage and so I strive to do more than say what’s wrong with a manuscript. I try to get inside the manuscript and understand where the author wants to go with it, and then tell them what they need to do to get there. It’s always satisfying to hear that I succeeded.

Your website is a wonderful resource for writers and illustrators. How did you develop the site? Did you see a need that needed to be filled?

My website,, goes back to 1996, when the Web was just getting started. At the time, I used it to post copies of articles and talks so that they could reach a wider audience. I soon realized that there WAS a need for the kind of information I provided, and I added material over the years.

Now, of course, there are many websites with information about children’s publishing, but 15 years ago that wasn’t true.

How did you get involved with The Complete Idiot’s Guide series?

They contacted me, after finding me through The Purple Crayon. They do a lot of their books by deciding there is a market for a particular topic, and then going out and finding an expert to write the book. They have quite a system! The author gets a detailed guide, creates a detailed outline, and then produces the chapters, working entirely electronically. We went from contract to completed manuscript in less than 9 months. I joke that the “complete idiot” of the title is me, for not saying “no” when I learned what was involved in writing the book. Fortunately, the revised editions have not been as stressful as the first.

If anyone wants to learn more about my book and see some sample chapters, they should go here:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

First Impressions

Okay, I guess I should confess. I have my first 400 words up on two blogs for critique. It's for a manuscript I completed last month. Since then, I've gone through it a few times and had a couple of readers critique the first chapters. 

After I received feedback from Dianne and Marcy's blogs, I started making changes! I've already reworked the beginning. Right now, I'm leaving in the mirror because I don't use it as a tool to describe her appearance and it has significance for the end of the chapter and the end of the book. It may go later. I've also deleted a few hyphenated bits and I've toned some vocabulary, so the protagonist sounds more MG than YA. This early guidance has helped steer me in the right direction. Thanks, Dianne and Marcy!

If you want to see what I've been writing, please visit: 

And if you're interested in receiving a critique, Here's how it works:



Dianne Salerni of In High Spirits and with Marcy Hatch of Mainewords  have teamed up to critique the first page of your manuscript on the first M/W/F of every month. If you're interested, please email either one of us. We promise to be nice :)

My first 3 posts of each month are devoted toFIRST IMPRESSIONS-- short crits of first pages submitted by YOU! I'm teaming up with Marcy Hatch of Mainewords for this feature.

or dianne:

Please, write 'first impressions' in the subject line, and paste your submission into the body of the email - no attachments. And thank-you! Critiques help all of us.


1. A page is about 350-400 words
2. Prologue or first chapter? Send what you would query an agent or editor with.
3. Will we rip your work apart? Absolutely not. We do our best to be kind and helpful.

We are now taking submissions for September.