Thursday, July 19, 2018

Children's Book Council Announces Their CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards Program

As explained at the CBC website,

These awards will be given annually, beginning in fall 2018, to professionals in the children’s publishing industry who are making or have made a significant impact on diversity in book creation and/or employment practices. Qualifications for the award include but are not limited to: the publishing and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse voices.
The nominations will be crowdsourced,
From July 30 to August 17, employees of all CBC member publishers can nominate individuals in the industry, along with a description of the reasons for their nomination. An online form will be distributed by email and be available on the CBC website. All the nominations will be read by the members of the CBC Diversity Committee, who will choose three-to-five winners to be announced at the CBC Annual Meeting on September 27. The award winners will each get to select an organization of their choice to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s books in their name.
Cheering the CBC on in this new initiative—here's hoping it will shine a spotlight on those already doing great diversity-enhancing things in the world of Children's Literature, and motivate everyone to do more!

And it's a nice touch that the prize (beyond the acclaim) is to have hopefully diverse books donated to an organization in the winner's name. That's a prize that walks the walk! Read all the details here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Industry Info to Know: How Local Indie Stores Can Compete With Amazon

This analysis by Scott Thorne of the research by Ryan L. Raffaelli, assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School, was fascinating.

The take-away, that local indie bookstores can succeed by leveraging three advantages they have over online retailers:
His research found that resurgent booksellers engaged in three bottom up practices throughout the industry:
1) Community. Emphasizing their position as a local member of the community, able to interact with other community members in a way that Amazon and other online retailers could not.
2) Curation. While online retailers focus on very wide inventory and discounted prices, the brick and mortar stores emphasized the selection they offered and the ability of their staff to guide customers to books and other items they would enjoy.
3) Convening. Bookstores leveraged their physical locations, scheduling even more events than they had in the past. Those were either free or paid, with some offering in excess of 500 per year, making them an important part of the local entertainment scene.
The opportunity this presents for we authors and illustrators is clear: We should be tapping into the communities we are already part of, positioning our titles to local stores as part of their curation process, and thinking events.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Porter Square Books Writers In Residence Program - What an Amazing Trend To Start!

As reported in Shelf Awareness, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts has launched a "Writers in Residence Program."

As the store explains on their website:

"In order to make the resources needed to write books more available to the writers and aspiring writers in our community, Porter Square Books will select two writers, one writing for adults and one writing for young readers, to be our 2019 Writers in Residence."
Not only are there perks for the two writers selected (including a staff discount on everything and access to the store office—a quiet space to work—after 5pm and on the weekends) but there are also responsibilities (including three event introductions, three pieces for the store's blog, dibs on the authors' book launch event for the book they worked on during the residency.)

You can find out more and apply here.

It's a great initiative on behalf of this one bookstore, and hopefully an inspiration for other bookstores to follow suit... Imagine the impact if all the 1,100 indiebound bookstores created their own "Writers in Residence" Programs. And then, if every bookstore in the country—no, the world!—participated, too.

And if the selection of these writers is made with an eye to #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices, it could really make an impact—starting one store, one writer, one book, and one reader at a time!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Raising Our Voices - Illustrators Making An Impact

As reported in Publishers Weekly,
Prominent illustrators have donated images to display whenever we raise our voices to demand an end to the cruel [U.S.] administration policies of separating children from their parents and imprisoning refugees in detention facilities indefinitely. There are also postcards to send to the children who have not seen their parents in months.
That's from the Raising Our Voices website.

The printable protest signs have been used "around the world, from Tokyo to Seattle, Burlington to New York City, and many other cities and towns."

Here are some of the powerful images of protest:

Kira Lynn Caine’s Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime
Peter H. Reynolds’ Families Belong Together
Alison Farrel’s Caution: Ice

And postcards of support for the separated children:
Marc Rosenthal's Manténgase Fuerte: No Estas Solo / Stay Strong: You're Not Alone

Peter H. Reynolds' Your Dreams Are Your Wings
Jennifer K. Mann's We Are Thinking Of You / ¡Estamos Pensado En Ti!

Read more and get involved here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Reason To Build A Box - Big Picture Craft Help From Donald Maass

It's on a website called "writer UNboxed," (love the contrarian element of that) and Donald's piece, The Reason to Build a Box, suggests the best way to deal with the paralyzing universe of story options is to narrow it down, and build a box within which to craft your story.

"Narrow down the story parameters. Simplify. Set a story framework. Let a small snapshot imply a vast landscape. Fire a bullet instead of building a bomb. The Great American Novel cannot possibly be about everyone and everything. It can only be a slice of the whole cake. (And, really, who needs to eat a whole cake? Ingest one slice and you’ve got the idea.)"

It's a great piece, and includes a list of 21 prompts that can help you build that box for your story. A few gems:
What genre rule must you absolutely obey? What genre trope will you reverse?
What’s this story world’s most glaring irony? How is your protagonist thrust in the middle of that?
It's well worth reading, and trying out.

Thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith who mentioned it on her amazing blog here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Movement To NOT Italicize Foreign Words

First, watch this brilliant video by Daniel José Older

Second, check out this Quartzy article, Bilingual Authors Are Challenging the Practice of Italicizing Non-English Words by Thu-Huong Ha.

Third, think about how you handle non-English words in your manuscript. Are you unnecessarily "othering" the people who speak that language? It's a practice worth taking another, more critical, look at.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Sara Varon

Sara Varon is a graphic novelist and children's book author/illustrator living in Brooklyn. Her books include Odd Duck, which was selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Children's Books of 2013, Bake Sale, which was named a YALSA Great Graphic Novel for 2012, and Robot Dreams, which was on Oprah's Kids' Reading List in 2008 and selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the 150 best books of 2008. She was a recipient of the 2013 Maurice Sendak Fellowship and an Eisner nominee in 2014, and currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

In this interview with Theo Baker, Sara shares about the evolution of her art, her career, and insights she's gained on the journey.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The 2018 Caldecott, Newbery, and Legacy Award Speeches

One of the highlights of attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference was attending their Caldecott, Newbery, and Legacy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, and getting to hear the acceptance speeches from the winners.

Here, some notes and impressions:

The Caldecott Medal went to...

“Wolf in the Snow,” illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell, and published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. As the ALA Caldecott page describes it,

"In this spare, nearly wordless picture book, a girl and a wolf cub each get lost in the snow and rescue each other. Cordell uses pen and ink and watercolor wash to capture the frenzied snowfall and the brave girl’s frantic, frightful journey. Fairy tale elements and a strong sense of color and geometry offer an engrossing, emotionally charged story.

“HOOOOOWWLLLL!!” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Tish Wilson. “Committee members were astonished that a deceptively simple book could be such a dramatic story of survival.”

Matthew shared how the mistrust humans have of wolves is based on stereotypes, and how his book helps us reflect not just on how people mistreat wolves because of what we wrongly believe, but on how people mistreat other people because of what we wrongly believe.

His speech was laugh-out-loud funny, and then there were bittersweet moments that made the audience (and Matthew himself) tear up. One of the most poignant was when he told an hysterical story of years ago wishing another book of his might win this very same award, how he set his intention, and then how it didn't happen... and now, it had.

Peppered with lots of standing ovations and applause, it was a great moment to witness.

The Newbery Medal was awarded to...

"Hello, Universe", written by Erin Entrada Kelly, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. As the ALA Newbery page describes it:
Filipino folklore and real life converge at the bottom of a well. Even while following signs and portents, the characters are the definition of creative agency. Masterfully told through shifting points of view, this modern quest tale shimmers with humor and authentic emotion.

“This reading community celebrates the panoply of American literature for children published in 2017. We are delighted to share our selections with the world,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Cecilia P. McGowan.
Erin's speech was funny, and so heartfelt. She shared growing up the only Filipino student in her class, her grade, her school. On how she felt so alone. And on how books helped her escape. How she has always been a writer.

And then, she said this, and it resonated so strongly for me:

"My greatest wish as a writer... is that the person reading my book feels less alone." 

I found myself nodding so hard. Yes! It was a beautiful, powerful moment of connection for everyone there, and we all leapt to our feet to give Erin Entrada Kelly a standing ovation.

And then, the newly named Children's Literature Legacy Award.

(From the ALA website: "At its meeting on Saturday, June 23, 2018, the Association for Library Service to Children Board voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children's Literature Legacy Award. This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness." You can read more about this here.)

This year's winner of the Legacy Award is Jacqueline Woodson.

As the ALA Legacy Award page put it,

 If children’s literature today addresses themes of racism, sexuality, and class; if previously invisible characters have come to the fore; if different voices are now heard; if more children see themselves and others in books, look to Jacqueline Woodson as a prime-mover. For over 25 years, in elegant poetry and prose, she has courageously explored issues once ignored and nurtured her readers’ self-esteem and empathy.

Jacqueline's speech opened with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and then proceeded like the best kind of poem - words full of meaning, and power, taking us through a landscape of injustice all around us, and yet, through some navigational magic, letting us off at a place of hope.

How what we write is "the deepest essence of ourselves, translated into characters and plot..." and all the elements that make a story.

And that, for we creators of stories for children and teens,
"It is the work for people to feel safe and seen in this world."
Another standing ovation, just as wonderful, and yet distinct from the previous ones of the evening.

One of the evening's many standing ovations!

I feel so fortunate to have been there for all that magic.

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s.: The full acceptance speeches are in the current issue of The Horn Book Magazine. (Though the speech Jacqueline Woodson gave was revised the afternoon she gave it, so there will be some differences.)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sara Shepard shares "12 Ways To Hook Readers" at the BookBub Blog

Sara's the bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, and this article about How to Start Your Novel With a Bang! was a useful and inspiring dive into craft...

With strategies like,

1. Startle readers with the first line. Shocking readers immediately with a jarring moment, visual, or confession will get them excited to read on. One of my favorite novels, the Pulitzer-winning Middlesex, starts with a doozy of a first line:

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

It’s surprising and mysterious, and it gets the reader right into the main character’s head — it’s a confession of sorts, which unravels throughout the novel. For me, there was absolutely no way I could put the book down.
2. Begin at a life-changing moment. A life-changing event for a protagonist can be their “inciting incident” — a moment that thrusts him or her into the conflict they must resolve or overcome by the end of the story. The first chapter of Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care talks about a baby’s birth — always exciting! But things get even more interesting when the baby emerges with a whole host of health problems — forcing her parents to make a heart-wrenching decision.

This “inciting incident” all happens within the first ten pages of the novel. By the end of chapter one, the reader knows the whole situation at hand, and can’t turn the pages fast enough to see what happens next.
You'll be hooked! (And so, we hope, will your readers!)

I also loved this tidbit in the article:
"A professor in my MFA program gave me great advice once: Pretend your characters are at a party, and they’re talking to you, the reader, for the first time. Would they really tell you their whole history right away, or would they do so only getting to know you? A few telling character traits here and there can go a long way toward getting us to sympathize with a character. Once the reader is hooked, then it might be time delve into that backstory. It’s a delicate balance, but in the beginning of a novel, less is often more!"

Read the whole piece here.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards from Pop Culture Classroom and Denver ComicCon

Check out this brand-new award from Pop Culture Classroom and Denver ComicCon, who just announced their 2018 winners (for books published in 2017):

The first winners are...

Book of the Year: Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield and Alex Puvilland (First Second)

Best in Adult Books: The Hunting Accident by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair (First Second)

Best in Young-Adult Books: Home Time: Book One by Campbell Whyte (Top Shelf)

Best in Middle-Grade Books: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (Iron Circus Comics)

Best in Children's Books: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (First Second)

Mosaic Award: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Abrams Comic Arts)

Congratulations to the winners - you can find out more about the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Inspiration from Louis L’Amour

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
—Louis L’Amour
image of Louis L'Amour from this online biography 

That's some pretty great advice, for all us creative types. Start writing, start drawing, start creating. Turn on the faucet!

Find out more about the American novelist Louis L’Amour here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

We Need Diverse Books' Walter Grant Deadline: June 15

Our friends at We Need Diverse Books™ are giving five grants of $2,000 each to unpublished writers and/or illustrators from marginalized backgrounds who are working on children's or young adult literature projects.

The submission window is open until 11:59PM EST on June 15th, 2018, and application information can be found here. As they explain at the WNDB blog,
The Walter Grant program was initiated in 2015 to provide financial support to promising writers and illustrators from diverse communities. The program’s co-chair Marietta Zacker adds, “Our aim is to give voice to the voiceless, to amplify and elevate people who for too long haven’t had fair or equal representation in the world of books for children and young adults.”
Go here to learn more, and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,