Thursday, September 18, 2014

Never Underestimate The Power of...


I do believe this photo of my brother from when he was a toddler is quite the writing prompt, as well... It feels rather Hitchcock, doesn't it?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The 2014 National Book Award For Young People's Literature Longlist

The National Book Foundation announced yesterday it's "longlist" - the ten books it's considering for this year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

From the New York Times ArtsBeat Blog post by Alexandra Alter, here's the must-read list:

Laurie Halse Anderson, “The Impossible Knife of Memory,” Viking

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

Gail Giles, “Girls Like Us,” Candlewick Press

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in the first “real world” apartments it initially seems like an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces something that on one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought--and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward, together.

Carl Hiaasen, “Skink – No Surrender,” Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Classic Malley — to avoid being shipped off to boarding school, she takes off with some guy she met online. Poor Richard — he knows his cousin’s in trouble before she does. Wild Skink — he’s a ragged, one-eyed ex-governor of Florida, and enough of a renegade to think he can track Malley down. With Richard riding shotgun, the unlikely pair scour the state, undaunted by blinding storms, crazed pigs, flying bullets, and giant gators.

Steve Sheinkin, “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights,” Roaring Books Press 
A group of young African American sailors – many of them teenagers – are assigned to load ammunition at Port Chicago, a segregated naval base in California. But they are never trained to handle ammunition safely, and are constantly being rushed by their officers. When a terrifying disaster rocks the base, the men face the toughest decision of their lives: do they return to duty as ordered, or do they risk everything to take a stand against segregation in the military?

Andrew Smith, “100 Sideways Miles,” Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved. Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

John Corey Whaley, “Noggin,” Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t. Now he's alive again. Simple as that. The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he's still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she's not his girlfriend anymore? That's a bit fuzzy too. Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars. Oh well, you only live twice.

Deborah Wiles, “Revolution,” Scholastic Press
It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded. Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They’re calling it Freedom Summer. Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

Jacqueline Woodson, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Nancy Paulsen Books
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Eliot Schrefer, “Threatened,” Scholastic Press
Into the jungle. Into the wild. Into harm's way. When he was a boy, Luc's mother would warn him about the "mock men" living in the trees by their home -- chimpanzees whose cries would fill the night. Luc is older now, his mother gone. He lives in a house of mistreated orphans, barely getting by. Then a man calling himself Prof comes to town with a mysterious mission. When Luc tries to rob him, the man isn't mad. Instead, he offers Luc a job. Together, Luc and Prof head into the rough, dangerous jungle in order to study the elusive chimpanzees. There, Luc finally finds a new family -- and must act when that family comes under attack.

Kate Milford, “Greenglass House,” Clarion Books
A rambling old smuggler's inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books.

Illustrate, Write, and Read On,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Love and Babies… Inspiration

The LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, photo from here.

"The main hormone in birth is oxytocin, the love hormone. What makes a baby brings a baby."

-Jordan, a birth Doula, on the birth of her and her husband Jonathon's first child, Maxwell Love.

pretty profound.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The True Artist… Inspiration From Bruce Nauman

We write and illustrate works for children, books for children, creative content for children. We tell stories, with words and images. We are storytellers. We are artists.

And this piece by Bruce Nauman, as displayed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is inspiring:

The True Artist Helps The World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)

The description plate next to this piece reads:

The True Artist Helps The World by Revealing Mystic Truths, one of Bruce Nauman's first neons, is a founding work in his career. Hijacking a medium generally associated with the tawdry (cheap motels, shop windows and bars), Nauman's sign advertises a metaphysical and deeply personal message as if it were for sale. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Nauman has examined the role and responsibilities of the artist. The title statement of this poetic spiral is neither entirely facetious nor completely serious, and the contradictions embodied in the piece yield an ambiguity that is both playful and profound.
Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

KidLitCon 2014 Focuses On Diversity

This year, the 8th Annual Conference of, by and for people who blog about children’s and young adult books (including librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers) will be gathering October 10th and 11th at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, CA.

Organized by Sarah Stevenson and Tanita Davis from Finding Wonderland and Jen Robinson from Jen Robinson’s Book Page, the conference theme is "Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?" The program, coordinated by Charlotte Taylor of Charlotte's Library, is of high interest (and enormous synergy) for those of us who write and illustrate works for children.

As they say on the KidLitCon splash page at the Kidlitosphere,

"What we would like to do with this year’s KidLitCon (along with our usual goals) is discuss what book bloggers can do to make a meaningful difference in increasing diversity in children’s and young adult literature. This year’s keynote speaker will be Mitali Perkins, an author whose focus has long been on “books between cultures for young readers”. Among other things, Mitali will talk about how bloggers can be agents of change in the conversation about diversity in children’s and young adult literature. Shannon Hale, who has written eloquently on the need for writing non-neutral characters, and who helped launch the Great Green Heist Challenge, is also expected to participate in the conference via Skype.
  We will talk about other issues of interest to children’s and YA book bloggers, too. But it is also our hope to make a bit of noise on behalf of diversity in children’s literature. It is past time for that."

You can find the schedule of keynotes and panels here, along with registration info at this page.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Author/Illustrator Videos to Check Out: Antoinette Portis On Imagination

I thought this was very well done

It's inspiring for all the possible audiences: gatekeepers like parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and booksellers, and even kid readers in the laps of those adults!

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her books, check out her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Julie Hedlund Gets Innovative With Publishing Picture Books!

Julie Hedlund's first picture book, A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys, was an story app first, and then became a trade picture book.

Her second picture book in print, My Love For You Is The Sun, is coming out in Fall 2014.

It's with the same publisher, Little Bahalia, yet it took an even more innovative route...

I caught up with Julie to get the details:

Fascinating and inspiring!

You can find out more about Julie, her books and the 12x12 picture book-creator community here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Save The Date For #NY15SCBWI - February 6-8, 2015

Empire State Pigeon photo by "ZeroOne"

We hope you'll be able to join in all the craft, business, opportunity, inspiration and community of SCBWI's 16th Annual Winter Conference in New York City, February 6-8, 2015!

#NY15SCBWI  will feature:

 Full-day Intensives for both Writers and Illustrators

 The New York Art Showcase

 Networking with top Editors, Agents and Publishers

 Workshops, Keynotes and much more (all in the center of the children's publishing industry!)

 Online conference registration will be posted in October of 2014 at 

Illustrate and Write On, 

 p.s. - Please note that Feb 6-8, 2015 are the new dates for the Winter Conference, and the save-the-date flyer included in the #LA14SCBWI conference packets is no longer accurate.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Patricia Newman has a Cause, and once kids read her NF book, they will, too!

Patricia Newman and a four-legged friend
Patricia Newman is the SCBWI Regional Advisor for California North/Central, and she has a new book out, Plastic Ahoy!

A real world problem inspired her to write the book, and the book aims to encourage kids (and the rest of us) to be part of solving that problem.

I asked Patricia to tell us about her nonfiction that changes lives...

* * *

Books change lives. We’ve seen it over and over again in our readers’ faces, their fan mail and letters from parents. But I never expected a book that I wrote to change my life.

In 2009, I saw an article in The Sacramento Bee about graduate students who organized a research trip called Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX). They wanted to study the growing plastic problem in the North Pacific Central Gyre—a massive area of open ocean surrounded by circling currents. SEAPLEX was one of the first groups to gather data from the gyre. The article inspired me to dig deeper. I found a raft of great information. Mystery. Adventure. Tragedy. All the makings of a great read.

During my research, I discovered that the scientists gathered samples of debris using various kinds of nets with names like mantas, bongos and oozeki trawls. When they arrived in the gyre—nicknamed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the media--they found that it was not a floating island of trash at all, but millions of micro-plastics no larger than your pinky fingernail and the occasional large piece of plastic. SEAPLEX sailed over 1,700 miles and found plastic in 98.5% of their net tows. The scientists found plastic in the stomachs of one in ten fish and extrapolated that fish inhabiting the middle depths of the North Pacific eat approximately 12,000-24,000 tons of plastic per year.

“To see plastic debris in the middle of this large stretch of ocean, far from land, offers a wakeup call for the way we leave our footprint even on remote places of the Earth,” said Chelsea Rochman, one of the SEAPLEX scientists.

I knew then that my book, Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Millbrook Press), wasn’t simply a nonfiction book for middle grade readers. It was a call to action.

I’ve carried reusable grocery bags to the store for years, but I found that increased awareness prompted behavior changes that were surprisingly simple and effortless. I switched to net or canvas bags for produce. I carry reusable bags to the mall. When I travel, I drink water from a stainless steel water bottle instead of a plastic one. If restaurants hand me a Sytrofoam “to go” container, I ask for aluminum foil and say I’m cutting down on my single-use plastic. I recycle the plastic that I use (see below for list), and I will vote in favor of the plastic bag ban in California despite the grocery and plastic industries’ anti-ban messages.

Even SCBWI can take part in raising awareness. Conference attendees can supply reusable water bottles to be filled at a large urn or pitcher. We can also hire eco-friendly caterers who package conference lunches in paper boxes rather than plastic or Styrofoam. Students with whom I’ve talked are excellent ocean ambassadors. I task the young ones with reminding their parents to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Some participate in school recycling clubs. They make commercials urging their classmates to recycle. They have eliminated Styrofoam lunch trays from their cafeterias in favor of reusable trays.

Patricia writes: "A cool water bottle I found while at the LA conference"

Want to find out even more? The Ocean Plastics thread on my blog explores issues related to plastic pollution, such as cleaning up the gyre; a single-celled creature that rafts on plastic and kills coral; how upcycling re-values and re-purposes trash; and expeditions similar to SEAPLEX.

Ocean plastic pollution may have been the inspiration for Plastic, Ahoy!, but now the book inspires readers to take care of a natural resource that produces the oxygen for two of every three breaths we take. Let Plastic, Ahoy! change your lives, too.

 Are you recycling all of the plastic you can? Recyclable plastics in Sacramento County, CA:
• All CRV containers accepted
• Containers with numbers 1 – 7 in the triangle symbol
• Soda bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.
• Tubs and containers (ie. yogurt, margarine)
• Plastic bags (stuff several bags inside each other)
• Buckets, pails and crates
• Toys (ie. plastic tricycles)
• Clamshell trays and deli containers
• Plant pots (no ceramic)
• Laundry baskets
• Polystyrene (Styrofoam®) in a clear plastic bag

* * *

Even her book trailer is a call to action:

Thanks, Patricia!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jim Averbeck Uses "Augmented Reality" To Make Holding His Book Really, Really Cool: Innovations In Book Marketing

Writer & Illustrator Jim Averbeck has his debut middle grade novel out, A Hitch At The Fairmont.

There's a reason this book cover is so big... read on!

Jim has an incredibly cool book trailer that riffs on Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" - and Hitchcock himself is a character in Jim's middle grade mystery!

What's super-innovative (besides the flying books) is that Jim teamed up with Bright Penny Zapp to not only make his trailer, but so that, when you hold a physical copy of Jim's book and scan it with an iphone or android or similar high-tech device, this happens:

 Check out the full trailer at Jim's website here.

You can find out more about SCBWI member and author Craig Lew (and his business partner, Mark Woolley), the founders of Bright Penny Zapp, here.

And, if you download the free BzAR app, you can scan the image of Jim's book cover above and see the 'Augmented Reality' yourself!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When It Comes To Marketing Your Book, The Experts Say, "Be Authentic" - Edith Cohn Is.

Edith Cohn's debut Middle Grade novel is Spirit's Key.

She's someone I know, and because of that, I was one of a number of people invited to an "event" -

"Watch my lifelong publishing dream come true! A video where I hold my debut novel in my hands for the first time."

It was a link to a video Edith put up on YouTube.

I watched it, and I think you should, too.

Her emotion and excitement are infectious. And we're not only cheering her on, we finding out a lot about the book, too.

It's not "hard-sell" marketing. It's not flashy. It wasn't expensive to produce.

The video - this glimpse into an exciting moment in Edith's publishing journey -  allows us to learn more about her, and gets us interested in her middle grade mystery about a girl who works with the ghost of her pet dog to solve a crime on a remote island filled with wild dogs and superstitious characters.

Being authentic shouldn't be difficult. And it's pretty darn effective marketing, as well.

Certainly something for us all to consider.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stacey Heather Lee on winning the 2014 SCBWI Book Launch Award

The SCBWI Book Launch Award "Provides authors or illustrators with $2,000 in funds to help the promotion of their newly published work and take the marketing strategy into their own creative hands."

Stacey Heather Lee, winner of the 2014 SCBWI Book Launch Award

I contacted author Stacey Heather Lee, winner of this year's award for her novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY, to find out more...

Lee: Congratulations on winning the 2014 SCBWI Book Launch Award!

Stacey: Thank you. I am quite honored to be chosen!

Lee: You won the award to help promote and market your young adult novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY. Tell us about the book.

Stacey: A Chinese girl and a house slave disguise themselves as cowboys to run from the law, seek revenge for a murder, and find freedom in the California Gold Rush frontier. It was pitched as a Young Adult Thelma and Louise.

Lee: Sounds great! With $2,000.00 in funds from winning the award, and the book launching on March 17, 2015, what are your marketing and promotion plans?

Stacey: I hope to partner with museums which focus on 19th century history, in particular the Oregon Trail, and western expansion, the California Gold Rush, as well as the history of the Chinese and African Americans in the U.S. I'll also be creating supplemental materials for schools and libraries to use in conjunction with my book. Finally, I hope to attend a few conferences like BEA and ALA, not only for my book, but on behalf of We Need Diverse Books, a cause I'm passionate about.

Lee: How long have you been a member of SCBWI, and how has it helped you on your journey?

Stacey: I've been a member since 2007. In 2012, I decided at the last minute to attend my regional conference at Asilomar, my first SCBWI conference. I'm so glad I did - my manuscript ended up winning the Golden Gate Writer's Award, and after incorporating some of the feedback given to me from publisher Arthur Levine, and editor Sara Sargent, I queried it and got my agent, Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. Equally important, I met some wonderful people at this conference, including a critique partner. Every year, I look forward to meeting new friends and learning more about the craft at the annual conference in LA.

Lee: What are your thoughts on finding the balance between promoting the book(s) that are out or about to be out and writing new work?

Stacey: This one's a hard one, and I must admit, I'm still trying to find that balance. If I'm on a deadline, I'll shut off the Internet. Remember Lucy in her psychiatrist booth with her 'The Doctor is IN" sign? I need a sign that says "The Storyteller is IN" just to remind myself that storytelling is what I do, above all.

Lee: Thanks for answering my questions, and good luck with the launch of UNDER A PAINTED SKY!

Stacey: Thank you so much for having me!

* * *

You can find out more about Stacey Lee at her website here.

Would you like to apply for the SCBWI Book Launch Award yourself? Check out the guidelines here,  and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,