Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mark Fearing's phases of creating a graphic novel

On his website, Author/Illustrator Mark Fearing takes us through the process of creating his graphic novel "Earthling!" that was published by Chronicle Books.



It's a fascinating look at the artistic process, where the manuscript/script is in service to the graphic novel. As Mark puts it, "It’s similar to a film in that the final product is not the final written script. It’s the film that comes from it."



For those interested in the graphic novel format, it's well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Happy Book Birthday! A New Benefit For SCBWI Members



SCBWI is thrilled to launch a new member benefit—the Happy Book Birthday program. Beginning in February, 2018, our Happy Book Birthday program invites all members to announce their new book in the month that it is released.

Every month, authors and illustrators can send an image of their soon-to-be-published book cover and a 25-word summary to bookbirthday@scbwi.org. On the first of each month, we’ll display all of the books on our beautiful Book Birthday page, and advertise them through our social media channels to drive traffic to the Birthday page. We’ll leave the Book Birthday announcements up on our site for two weeks.

 We hope that all of our traditionally and independently published members will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate their achievement and launch their work into the book-buying community.

The first Book Birthday will be for all books published in February 2018. On December 15th, members with February books can start submitting their information. The deadline is January 10th, no exceptions.

Please send the following to bookbirthday@scbwi.org
1.) Title of book,
2.) name of author and/or illustrator,
3.) book cover, and
4.) summary or statement maximum 25 words

Illustrate and Write and Celebrate On,
Lee

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When To Cheat On Your Book - A Guest Post by Lori Snyder

This post originally ran on Lori's Splendid Mola blog. With her kind permission, we get to enjoy it here...

When To Cheat On Your Book



I’ve been working on my current WIP for about eight months, a new middle grade (or possibly young adult) work that mashes together a bunch of things I love: Sufi poetry. The nature of hope. Finding your tribe. Quantum physics. You know, just the usual.
I’ve been thinking about this book for years, so when I sent off my final revision of my last book to my agent, I was completely excited to sit down and start working. I had decided to try a new method, based on the Al Watt book The 90-Day Novel. It wasn’t really that different from my last method, which entails me writing what I call an “outline” but which is actually 20-50K of stream-of-consciousness notes about the world, the characters, the story. These notes include things like “YAY! I love this!” and “Nope. Wrong” or, most eloquently, “Ack.”
Anyway, The 90-Day Novel is designed to walk you through completing your first draft in (you guessed it) 90 days. The first 30 days are dedicated to getting to know your main character and antagonist through a series of writing prompts. I don’t write everyday, so this part took me a little while longer. I liked this method a lot. After the first 30 days, I knew my character better than I usually do (main characters are often my writing nemesis), but I also knew I wasn’t ready to start writing the book. There wasn’t a story yet. Or, to be more accurate, stories had presented themselves but they were the wrong ones, not the ones this book needed.
So I abandoned the schedule of 90 days and wrote more notes. After a few months, even though I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, I felt the pull to start the actual draft, so I wrote the first couple of chapters. They didn’t feel right. I took more notes and wrote a new set of first chapters—which were also wrong.
And, again: more notes, new first chapters.
Still wrong.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t find my way into this book.
It was very not fun.
About this time I turned 50 and, for my birthday, gave myself a week off to just be. At this point I wasn’t spinning only on my book; I was also spinning on my businesses and the meaning of my life and money and way too many other things. Stopping was exactly what needed to happen. (Also, my dear friend and writing group partner Frances sent me this Ask Polly article, which had the effect of completely upending my world view in a truly wonderful and unexpected way…but, as Michael Ende says in The Neverending Story, that’s a different story and shall be told a different time. However, I hope you enjoy the article.)
During my week of being I didn’t plan to do anything in particular. I gave myself permission to do whatever seemed right. I ended up going for a lot of walks on the beach while listening to podcasts about creativity, flow, happiness, and writing, four of my favorite topics.
One of the podcasts was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (love her!!!), particularly this episode where she spoke with a woman in her mid-50s, an art teacher who wanted to do the art that was calling to her and didn’t feel allowed, somehow. Elizabeth Gilbert suggested that to this woman that she run off and have an affair with her art: Do it in secret, maybe even sneaking off at 3 am or grabbing a stolen ten minutes in the stairwell. Most of all, don’t tell anybody.
Now, I don’t like affairs/betrayal/cheating, so the use of that language, even though it wasn’t meant that way, did give me pause. But, suddenly, as I listened, I thought…you know what? I think need to have an affair with a different book.
I’m an odd kind of writer, the kind who has one idea at a time and isn’t seduced by the shiny new book waiting to happen. I’m in awe of writers who have lists of ideas and don’t know how to choose which one to do. My next ideas don’t come until I’m almost finished with a book. I’ve learned not to panic about that, because an idea always does come. Still, when I talk to writers who have lists of books they want to write, I marvel.
This time, though, it was different. I had a snippet of a beginning I’d written over a decade ago, something I’ve kept all this time because I love it so. And, strangely, ideas for that story had been popping up as I struggled with my WIP.
So I decided to do what Liz Gilbert had suggested to that other woman. I would try working on the new book and just see what happened. I would do it in secret. I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Those of you who know me know that, when it comes to things about myself, “secret” isn’t how I operate. (This is different if I’m holding someone else’s secret, but for me, I do best with total transparency. I’m a big fan of talking about things.) So, of course, that night when my husband came home, I told him about it immediately. And then when Frances, who had sent me the Ask Polly article above, called, I told her, too. And these conversations were key.
My husband rightly pointed out that a couple of years ago, when I first started talking about my current WIP (which, you may recall, is partly about the nature of hope), I was in a different place. A lot has happened in the last two years, to put it mildly, and he suggested that maybe “hope” meant something very different to me than it does now. (He was right.) And, he added, maybe I hadn’t quite figured out what my relationship with hope was now, which would make writing a rumination on it a little difficult. (Yes. He is wonderful. And brilliant. Not that I’m biased.)
Frances told me that she had been thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the right time for my current book. She reassured me that I didn’t have to worry that I was just running after the new, shiny idea because my current book was a little difficult. “In fact,” she said thoughtfully, which is how she says most things, “if anything, you have the opposite problem.” (She was also right. Also brilliant and wonderful.)
This all happened on the Thursday and Friday of my week off. That next Monday, I started my affair. I put my WIP aside and began writing notes for the new book. My usual way to work is to write notes for six to eight months before I start the first draft.
Not this book, though. This book took a mere three days of notes (!!) for the story to unfold itself in such a gorgeous and luminous way that I kept worrying that maybe I had actually stolen the whole thing from something that already existed, and only thought it was original. (I don’t think I did. But I’m still a little worried.)
And then I started writing. Two weeks in, I’m on the third chapter, and I know exactly where it’s going. It’s flowing in a way my other WIP never did (sorry, dear, sweet cheated-on book!). Best of all, it’s making me happy.
I don’t know if the whole book will fly out of me the way these past few chapters have, but I do know this: it was the absolute right decision to go after this sparkly new book. I’m pretty sure we’re in love.
How do you know when it’s the right time to cheat on your WIP with a new book or idea? For me, it’s like everything else: You know it’s the right time when you know who you are and what makes you happy, and then (this is key, I’ve discovered) take the time to stop every now and then and remember those things. That’s when it becomes clear. That’s when everything becomes clear. The pauses are key. They don’t have to be long: a couple hours of truly clearing your schedule and letting yourself just be might do it. The permission is what makes the difference, though—if you spend the time thinking or feeling bad about all the things you “should” be doing, the magic won’t happen.
So if you’re confused, or spinning, give it a shot. Take as long as you possibly can…maybe even a tad longer. Brené Brown, a researcher and author I love, writes herself a permission note, the same as a parent would write their kid to get out of school. Do that if you have to. Give yourself permission to be and not do during that time. And see what happens. (Note: this is useful no matter what’s going on in your life. I highly recommend trying it on a regular basis.)
I definitely plan to go back to the other book. That relationship isn’t over, not by a long shot. It just needs some time to sit and mature, to grow into what it needs to be.
In the meantime, my new book and I are very, very happy.

***

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Results are in for Hannah Holt's survey of 48 YA authors - "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers"



The results of this survey, "Writing for Young Adults - A Look at the Numbers," are so interesting. Thanks to Hannah and the 48 anonymous YA authors for sharing this information with us all!

Here's are some highlights:

It took about 70% of young adult authors four or more years to publish their first book.

Large houses average debut copies sold: 22,200
Small houses with advance: 7,800 copies
Small houses without advance: 2,000 copies

and

Most young adult authors are rejected by publishers before their manuscript is accepted for publication. In fact, 8.5% receive more than 100 rejections.


It's well-worth reading.

Overall, it's helpful to have realistic expectations of the career-side of being an author.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Stuck on your Work In Progress? Janet Fox wrote a treatment



Janet Fox, a pantser, explains how she tried something new with her latest revision:

"I had to take drastic, desperate action. Which meant…making a plan.

But here’s the catch. I couldn’t bring myself to make a detailed outline, even with this mess. I needed direction and focus, not constraints that would make me hate the work. I needed to understand deeper motivation and theme, I had to expand my character analysis, and I wanted to be certain that the plot was not only clear but also included the twists and turns that I love to incorporate in my stories.

So I wrote a 'treatment.' It’s the kind of thing that filmmakers write as they are about to begin storyboarding."
Go here to read the full post.

Illustrate and Write On (and maybe try writing a treatment!)
Lee

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Creative Life - The example of Fred Gwynne



Andy Wright over at Atlas Obscura wrote this article on Fred Gwynne. Gwynne is the actor who played Herman Munster, and also the author/illustrator of punny children's picture books including "The King Who Rained."



Is it another example of a celebrity publishing a children's book because they can (and there's an audience for more from them) or is it an example of a full creative life, well-lived? As the article's author puts it, "Gwynne’s books are the real deal."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect is the challenge it puts forth to all of us who create -- are we putting up boundaries and barriers to our own creative expression? And yet, if we are too spread out and lack focus, will we be able to achieve anything in any of the realms we work in?

Good issues to contemplate. Where is our focus? What else might we achieve if we allowed ourselves to envision our fullest creative life?

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Craft Exercise

If Santa Claus is in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, what's your character up to? (Photo by By tweber (Santa Claus arrives.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Okay, it's not building a turkey out of construction paper and feathers (not that there's anything wrong with that!) but consider taking a few minutes over this holiday weekend, and imagine what your character in your current work-in-progress would be doing on Thanksgiving. Who are they spending it with? What are they dreading? What are they excited about?

Are they going to a sports game? To a protest? Will they eat turkey? Are they going to get the wishbone? What's their wish?

Whether you're an illustrator or an author (or both) this can be a fun way to better understand your main character, and get those creative juices flowing on a day that doesn't always allow for lots of sit-down-and-be-creative time.

So when you're passing the mashed potatoes, or watching your kids squirm under Aunt so-and-so's kisses, invite your character to join you... and see how your creativity is yet another thing to be grateful for!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Stephanie Garber



Stephanie's debut YA fantasy Caraval was a New York Times Bestselling breakout success. In this interview with Theo Baker, Stephanie opens up about her writing process, her publishing journey, and all things Caraval!



Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Elisha Cooper's meditation on the Life Cycle of a Book



Author/Illustrator Elisha Cooper's essay in Publisher's Weekly, "The Life Cycle of a Book" is thoughtful and poignant, and inspires all of us who create content for children to consider what's the life cycle of our creative projects...

Here are a few quotes from the piece:

"And though no writer, especially one describing the writing process in a Publishers Weekly essay, should be trusted entirely, the idea for my book Big Cat, Little Cat was conceived in minutes, and those minutes remain a mystery to me, and I was there."

"If a book’s conception is a mystery, I find its making to be the opposite. At least, the painting of a book. There’s a straightforward physicality to it. Paint, brush, paper. Using one’s hands. Taking an idea and nurturing it, teaching it to walk and talk. The happiness of raising a child, without the confusion."



"My idea, my meditation on my daughters’ grief, the paintings that had covered the walls around my desk, now belonged to someone else. My book was no longer my book, not quite, and knowing this was both sad and right. Humbling. It had become another person’s story, or room, a space in which they could dream or draw comfort. Their mystery." 

Elisha's essay is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Working on a series idea? Janice Hardy has 6 Questions for You to Consider




Will your protagonist grow and change or stay the same?

 and

 Can the series be read out of order?

 are two of the points to consider.

The whole piece is well-worth reading.


Thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith for spotting Janice's blog post, and to Janice for pulling the questions together! Good stuff.

Illustrate and Write On, 
Lee

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The New York Times Book Review and the New York Public LIbrary's Top 10 "Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017"

For the first time, the New York Times Book Review has teamed up with the New York Public Library to present this list.

The Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017 announcement in Publishers Weekly


The winning titles are:

Feather by Rémi Courgeon (Enchanted Lion)

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illus. by John Parra (NorthSouth)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illus. by Laura Carlin (Candlewick)

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illus. by Evan Turk (S&S/Atheneum)

On a Magical, Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna (Harper)

Plume by Isabelle Simler (Eerdmans)

A River by Marc Martin (Chronicle)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter, illus. by Stacy Innerst (Abrams)

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood)

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi (Kids Can)

Congrats to the winners - It's a wonderful reading list for us all! You can click here to see large images from each of the ten titles.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tips for NaNoWriMo - Are you planning to write an entire novel this November?

NaNoWriMo =

National Novel Writing Month

Check out author Kim Ventrella's post over at Middle Grade Minded, "Three Tips for NaNoWriMo"

The tips are solid, including "Turn off your inner critic." And though Kim brings it up, one more reminder from me: Have fun with it!

click here to read the full piece

Having the privilege to write and/or illustrate, the luxury of the time and space to create (even if it's just a few minutes a day), is awesome. And should be something we do with appreciation and yeah, even a sense of wondrous fun.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee