Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A cool brainstorming tool

For those times when the right word or visual concept eludes you, or you need stretch your curiosity muscles, check out the App Blippar.

You point it at something (I aimed my smartphone at an arrangement of sweet pea flowers) and it generates a cloud of words that are, according to it, related.

Words like floral and blooming pop up on the screen, and then the app loads the circles at the bottom with options to explore. Garden snapdragons, poinsettia, Flower bouquet, Streptocarpus, Flower.

I chose flower, which then gave me these choices

And then I went down the path of the word I didn't know: Gametophyte:

Which lead me to Pollen:

Which lead me to Pollen tube:

Which led me to Giovanni Battista Amici:

Who? Well, I clicked on it and discovered Giovani was one of the inventors of the microscope.


It's a pretty interesting visual brainstorming tool. I wonder how you'll use it?

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stuart Horwitz's Advice on Finishing Your Book In Three Drafts

Courtesy of Jane Friedman's indispensable blog for writers, this post adapted from Stuart's book of the same title, How To "Finish Your Book In Three Drafts" has some really good advice in it.

Even the idea of calling each draft a different name offers the value of having the right mindset for wherever you are in the process. He calls:

Draft 1 - Messy Draft
Draft 2 - Method Draft
Draft 3 - Polished Draft

I also thought Stuart's list of questions for your beta readers included some stunningly obvious ones that have never occurred to me to ask… but I will now!

Things like: "What scenes do you remember the best?"


"Which parts did you want to skip?"


"Where did you feel there was an emotional payoff?"

Well worth reading, whichever draft you're currently on…

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Barnes & Noble's Future, and the ecosystem of Publishing

This New Republic article by Alex Shephard, "Pulp Friction: If Barnes & Noble goes out of business, it will be a disaster for book lovers," is a fascinating perspective.

In particular, the idea that

"The irony of the age of cultural abundance is that it still relies on old filters and distribution channels to highlight significant works."

is worth considering.

And, as the article explains, if B&N is the old financial support for risk-taking in publishing, what might be the newer supports?

Will it be the old model of chain bookstores placing huge initial orders, or will it be something else? 

Will it be crowd funding, along the lines of the recent success of "Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls?"

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In the face of tragedy: Create

These words by self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" Audre Lorde (from her journal entry, as collected in A Burst of Light, and found here) may offer some solace and purpose in the wake of this week's anti-LGBTQ hate crime attack in Orlando, Florida. Every moment we get is precious.

Note, it includes the f-word, so if that offends, please skip this post.

Audre Lorde's biography at the Poetry Foundation website

I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes—everywhere. Until it's every breath I breathe. I'm going to go out like a fucking meteor!
-Audre Lorde

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Author Photo Advice

Okay, first, the comedic answer, courtesy of Powell's tumblr:

There are lots of articles offering authors advice on their author photo, which seem unanimous mainly about hiring an actual photographer. The best of the bunch was Porter Anderson's "Facing Up to the Importance of Your Author Photo." Some of Porter's advice:

The best background is no background. Friends won’t let you drive drunk, and professional photographers won’t let the Eiffel Tower emerge from your left ear.

Don’t hold your book(s) in your shot. Nothing says carnival barker like an author clutching his or her book(s) in a photo. Remember: dignity is a virtue.

It’s a headshot. Not an upper torso shot. Not an arm-on-the-back-of-the-sofa shot. Not a you-and-your-kids shot. Your photo has to convey accessible, intelligent personality in the tiny space of a Twitter thumbnail. “Headshot” means your head. We want your face up-close, not your furniture.

Arguably, his best tip was:
But the true secret to a great photo is always having something on your mind at the time the picture is taken. It’s so easy to go mentally blank as soon as the photographer says, “Ready?” So be ready with an idea, an image, a voice, a person, even your grocery list. Just put your mind to work on something and your personality will surface nicely.

Check out the full article here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kwame Alexander Has A Strategy: Do You?

Kwame and Lee hamming it up

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on one of Kwame Alexander's amazing school visits with an assembly of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. As always when I get to see a master do their thing, I learned so much. How it's as much performance art as anything else. How music (guitar played by Kwame's friend Randy Preston) can elevate and set the tone. How giving the kids some measure of control (like asking the students which of his two picture books they wanted to hear him read to them) is empowerment, and that's the key to having the audience engaged and hanging on your every word.

An incredibly well-behaved and excited group of 5-8 years olds are still a bunch of excited 5-8 year olds, and there was a moment about twenty minutes in when there was a lot of excited chatter that wasn't really focused. Kwame didn't miss a beat, shifting into a call and response cadence that he'd already engaged the students with earlier, but changing the words:

Kwame: I say, Surf's, you say Up. Surf's...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: Surfs...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: I say Listen, you say Up. Listen...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: Listen...

Kids: Up!

And then he just stood there, smiling. And they were listening again.

Kwame's picture book "Surf's Up"

It kind of blew my mind how elegant and tied into the title of his picture book "Surf's Up!" it was, and it worked! Do you have a strategy to re-gain control of your presentation? It's certainly worth considering.

Illustrate and Write On,

Gratitude to my librarian friend Yapha for inviting me to Kwame's presentation and for the photo above!

You can find out more about Newbery-Winning author Kwame Alexander here.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

"What To Do When No One Shows Up To Your Reading" - A Funny and Poignant Piece by Matthew Norman

Posted over at literary hub, this article cracked me up, and made me so sympathetic for Matthew and everyone else who has been in this situation...

I like how Matthew focused on cherishing the reader he had, rather than bewailing the ones he hadn't reached yet. There are a lot of additional lessons in here, not the least of which are these three:

• Don't expect a crowd to materialize for your events. You have to participate - and even take the lead - in getting the word out!

• Do be professional and do your best job, even if there's an audience of one... or none. Consider that every bookseller at the store can become your proxy, talking up your book and hand-selling it to potential readers for months and months to come... if you wow them, your visit will reap rewards long after you've gone home.

And maybe my favorite lesson is from author Sara Zarr, who while she was speaking of something else in her podcast with Gayle Forman, gave some great advice:

• "If your validation comes from an exterior source you are f***ed. You're in real trouble because that is so fickle."

Applying Sara's advice to this situation, the size (or lack of size) of the crowd shouldn't be your yardstick for your self-worth.

Any further advice to share with the community? Add yours in comments, or tag @SCBWI and/or @leewind on social media.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scene Advice from Blake Snyder

"I always like to think of a scene like this: As the lights come up two people walk into a room from opposite doors, meet in the middle, and begin to struggle past each other to reach the door on the other side.They each enter the scene with a goal and standing in their way is an obstacle. That's conflict. And whether it's physical or verbal or simply a guy who needs to pee and must get to the bathroom soon or else!, that conflict must be foremost on your mind when you conceive each scene."

-Blake Snyder, pg. 111 of Save The Cat


Thursday, May 26, 2016

And the 2016 Crystal Kite Winners Are...

In the Atlantic division (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland), the winners are Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu - Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books)

In the Australia/New Zealand division there was a tie! The winners are Frané Lessac for A is for Australia (Walker Books Australia) and Peter Carnavas for Blue Whale Blues (New Frontier Publishing/Scholastic Australia)

In the California/Hawaii division, the winner is Stacey Lee for Under a Painted Sky (Penguin BFYR)

In the Canada division, the winner is Margriet Ruurs for A Brush Full of Colour (Pajama Press)

And in the International Other division, the winner is Angela Cerrito for The Safest Lie (Holiday House)

In the Mid-South division (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri/Mississippi), the winner is Stephanie Bearce for Top secret Files of History – WWII (Prufrock Press)

and in the Middle East/India/Asia division, the winners are author Melanie Lee and illustrator David Liew for their The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #3: Who is the Red Commander? (MPH Group Publishing)

In the Midwest division (Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Ohio), the winners are author Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrator Eliza Wheeler for their Wherever You Go (Little, Brown)

And in the New England division (Maine/Vermont/New Hampshire/Connecticut/Massachusetts/Rhode Island), the winner is Lynda Mullaly Hunt for Fish in a Tree (Nancy Paulsen Books)

In the New York division, the winner is Kat Yeh for The Truth About Twinkie Pie (Little, Brown)

and in the Southeast division (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama), the winners are author Rob Sanders and illustrator Brian Won for their Outer Space Bedtime Race (Random House)

and in the Southwest division (Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico), the winner is Melanie Crowder for Audacity (Philomel Books)

In the Texas/Oklahoma division, the winner is Don Tate for Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree Publishers)

In the UK/Ireland division, the winner is Teri Terry for Mind Games (Orchard Books)

and in the West division (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota), the winner is Elise Parsley for If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON’T! (Little, Brown)

Congratulations to all!

You can find out more about the Crystal Kite Awards here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Asian Festival Of Children's Content 2016 starts tomorrow!

This year, Japan is the country of focus at the Asian Festival of Children's Content. Among the many tracks will be one on translation, and SCBWI International Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa has a great roundup of the Japanese children's literature "dream team" that will be presenting at the conference here. That "dream team" includes Akiko Beppu, editor; Cathy Hirano, translator; Kazuo Iwamura, author-illustrator; Kyoko Sakai, editor; Naomi Kojima, illustrator; and Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, and Trevor Kew, authors who write from and about Japan in English.

There's also a pre-conference interview you can check out at Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, (Cynthia will also be presenting at the conference.) In the interview with award-winning translator Cathy Hirano, Cathy explains how she focuses on the author's voice in her process,
"With literary translation ... I find the translation process more personal and subjective. The author has written the book for me and I’m translating it so that others can enjoy the same experience. In the initial stages in particular, I don’t worry about the readership and instead focus far more on the author, on his or her style, choice of words, rhythm—on the voice. I’m quite faithful to the original. It is only when I go back and reread it, that I regain some objectivity and become rather ruthless. But I am still trying to convey an experience rather than just content or meaning." - Cathy Hirano
Sounds like an amazing event - I'll be following along on social media with the hashtag #AFCC2016. Join me there, and in cheering on all our SCBWI members in Singapore!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Did you know Beethoven loved maracroni and cheese? Kathleen Krull on writing biographies

One of Kathleen's titles

While this list was intended for students, there's some great stuff here for those of us writing biographies for young readers. Here are three of Kathleen's ten tips:

Look for juicy details to make your information come alive. What did they wear? what did they do in the middle of the night? How weird was their family life? (Many geniuses come from troubled backgrounds, proving through history that it's possible to make something great out of your life anyway.) What did they crave? While researching Beethoven, I found out one day that his favorite meal was macaroni and cheese, and this tidbit helped me focus on other concrete details.

After you've soaked up all your information, don't use it all. Being selective is the magic key. Use only the most savory, cream-of-the-crop stuff, plus the facts that move your narrative along. Look for the arc, or shape of the person's life. Athlete Wilma Rudolph's life had the most dramatic arc possible, from her childhood with every disadvantage, her golden moments of Olympic triumph. But every life story has a beginning, middle, and end. Aim for the most dramatic part and tell what led up to it. what traits enabled them to over-come what obstacles?

Try tweaking your story by taking a point of view other than the standard third-person omniscient. You can use bystanders, or the neighbors as in "Lives of . . .". You could take the "warts and all" approach of a critic, divulging faults as well as redeeming qualities. Or, how would they tell their own story? How would one of their children? How would one of their teachers? How would a space alien?

Thanks, Kathleen!

Illustrate and Write On,