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,

Thursday, June 7, 2018

"The Santa Thief" Wins The 2017 SCBWI Spark Award! An exclusive interview with the book's author, Alane Adams, and illustrator, Lauren Gallegos

The picture book that won the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award, The Santa Thief

Award-winning author Alane Adams

Award-winning illustrator Lauren Gallegos

Here's the interview...

Lee: Please tell us about The Santa Thief!

Alane: The Santa Thief is the third book in my “Thief” series inspired by stories my 96-year-old father told me about growing up in rural Pennsylvania. After hearing some of his tales, I decided to write this series so that kids today could catch a glimpse of what life was like in the 1920s. In The Santa Thief, young Georgie is hoping to receive a new pair of ice skates for Christmas, but times are tough, even for Santa, Papa explains. Georgie is so disappointed, he doesn’t see the point of celebrating Christmas any longer, until Mama gently reminds him it’s about family and being together. Georgie decides to take matters in his own hands and “steals” Santa’s identity to give his parents a Christmas to remember. The Santa Thief helps kids understand that Christmas is about more than just the gifts they receive, and hopefully helps them appreciate the spirit of the season in a more meaningful way, especially how hard their parents work!

Lee: In traditional publishing, illustrators sometimes don't even speak to the author. Were you able to collaborate?

Alane: Working with Lauren has been a dream. I originally found her through the SCBWI illustrator gallery and immediately connected to her work. Plus, she was (at the time) living local to me and I liked being able to meet face-to-face to discuss ideas and concepts. Once we got through the first book, the next books flowed quite easily. Lauren is so skilled at interpreting the words and transforming my simple little stories into beautiful moving picture books. I always describe the relationship between author and illustrator as a kind of dance. I write the manuscript, then she brings it to life in pictures, then I mend the words to better match the pictures, going back and forth until the final product is perfect.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Alane: When I drafted the first book in the series, The Coal Thief, I didn’t know as much about the industry as I do today, and I wanted to expedite the process so that my father who was almost 94 at the time, would be alive to see the finished book. If I had known he would keep on ticking, I might have pushed harder for a traditional route! I chose to work with SparkPress because they have full Ingram distribution and are very skilled at getting books through the publishing stages.

Interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Alane: Independent publishing can be challenging for children’s authors because so much of what young kids read is on printed books, not electronic, so reaching schools, libraries, and bookstores is always more of a challenge. It is still very hard for independently published authors to be on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or other big retail stores, so they have to be creative at marketing their books. I was fortunate to have The Coal Thief showcased on and read by actor Christian Slater which has garnered over 1 million views, generally by teachers in classrooms. Its very rewarding to think that millions of kids have been exposed to my father’s childhood stories!

Lauren: The greatest challenge of publishing non-traditionally as an Illustrator would being your own art director. Alane has always given me a lot of freedom to take the illustrations where I want, as long as it fits her story and the time period. But with that freedom comes a lot of self-critique and questioning if something is good or not. It can be hard to be in your own head that much. And there are times when it's easy to just let something slide instead of pushing yourself to go back and make it better - something an Art Director would surely do. Thankfully I also have art buddies that I can bounce ideas off of or just get a second pair of eyes when I am unsure of myself.

More interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the greatest benefit?

Alane: The greatest benefit is having control over the process and being able to publish on your own schedule.

Lauren: For our situation, I feel like being able to collaborate on this series has been a big benefit for both of us. In reality, without a traditional publisher to mediate, it is necessary for us to communicate. Going the non-traditional route has also allowed me to explore my own ideas and techniques with the artwork, which I have been able to do for each of the books in the series. That has allowed me a great opportunity to grow as an artist.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Alane: I really look forward to bringing out the next book in the series, The Circus Thief coming this Fall. The Circus Thief tells the story of Georgie’s adventures at the circus where he ends up rescuing a circus horse named Roxie. I think the book showcases some of Lauren’s best work with colors and details. For the future, I’d love to come up with a new series about life during the Great Depression, and maybe try traditional publishing this time around!

Congratulations to both Alane and Lauren!

You can learn more about The Santa Thief and author Alane Adams here, and illustrator Lauren Gallegos here.

And if you'd like to find out more about SCBWI's Spark Award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route, here's the link to all the information.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Great Article By Tom McAllister About Being A Writer, Expectations, Reality, And Why We Live This "Writing Life"

Empty seats at a reading...

The piece is "Who Will Buy Your Book?" by Tom McAllister, posted at The Millions.

Some choice moments:
"The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that."
This part cracked me up:
"I admit to having felt betrayed by my friends’ indifference, especially after the first book, but I remind myself that I do the same thing all the time. I have friends in bands that I haven’t seen live in years. I’ve never been to any friends’ improv shows. I skip a lot of readings, even when I know the readers. I have friends with books I haven’t bought or read. I have explicitly lied to colleagues about having read and enjoyed their books. The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit."
and this really resonated:
"I don’t think there is any way to convince all the people in your life to buy your book, let alone care about it half as much as you do. Though their validation feels great, it’s important to remember that it’s also not the point. As a writer, you need to approach every project with the understanding that you’re doing this work for yourself, and everything that happens once it’s in the world is out of your control. Whatever project you’re working on now doesn’t derive value from your friends’ approval, but rather from the love and energy you pour into it. You can do the work, and you can keep showing up, and that’s all you’ve got. Most of the time, it’s all you need."
The article is well-worth reading. 

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine’s first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine’s other books include Ever, a New York Times best seller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and many others. In this conversation with Theo Baker, Gail shares about her career, her process, and some of the lessons—and techniques—she’s learned along the way.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Remembering Richard Peck

From Richard Peck's SCBWI Master Class:

 "Responsibility... to the story and the reader."

Thank you, Richard, for the stories, and the wisdom you shared.

You can read SCBWI's full statement on the passing of Richard Peck last week, SCBWI remembers Richard Peck, here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Michelle Morgan wins the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award (Older Readers) for "Flying Through Clouds"

The Award-Winning Book:

The Author:

The Interview:

Lee: Please tell us about Flying Through Clouds.

Michelle: Flying Through Clouds is about a teenage boy's dream of becoming an aviator amid the pressures and hardships of growing up in Australia during the Depression. Themes such as adolescence, survival, loss, family, friendship, truth and gambling resonate with readers. With a compelling mix of drama, adventure and humour, Flying Through Clouds appeals to teens and the young at heart.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Michelle: I am the author and publisher of Flying Through Clouds, and managed the entire publishing process myself. After attending a weekend workshop on self-publishing at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2016, I was so impressed by the speakers and their clear practical advice that I came away determined to publish Flying through Clouds. The day after the workshop I developed a publishing plan and bought ISBNs.

Because my first novel, Racing the Moon, was traditionally published I wanted Flying Through Clouds to be of comparable quality. I engaged a structural editor, copyeditor, and proofreader at different stages of the publishing process and commissioned a cover designer to design the cover and layout of the book. I obtained quotes for printing and negotiated with a distributor to distribute Flying Through Clouds in Australia. I did all the publicity and marketing myself, which involved a book tour, blog tour, social media engagement, seeking reviews, writing articles, doing interviews, sending numerous emails, running writing workshops and participating in other literary events. I published the eBook of Flying Through Clouds simultaneously on Amazon Kindle and three months later made it available in other eBook formats. I also published Flying Through Clouds in paperback on Amazon to facilitate distribution to international readers.

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Michelle: The biggest challenges were the time-consuming tasks of editing and marketing /publicity. Editing a manuscript is challenging whatever route you take to publishing. So I guess my biggest challenge of publishing independently was the enormous task of marketing and publicity. Prior to proofreading and the final printing of Flying Through Clouds, I had one hundred plain cover review copies printed to send to potential reviewers, distributors, and selected bookshops. I also sent copies to other authors who write in a similar genre and whose work and opinions I value. I was fortunate in obtaining two endorsements that I included on the cover and front page of Flying Through Clouds. To launch Flying Through Clouds, I arranged a book tour with events in bookshops, libraries, an art gallery, and a museum. I also prepared the content for a blog tour, which involved articles and interviews posted on a series of kids’ lit and author blogs. More articles, media interviews, and literary events followed, and I also entered Flying Through Clouds in award contests such as the SCBWI Spark Award.

Lee: What’s the greatest benefit?

Michelle: The greatest benefit of independent publishing has been the immense satisfaction and level of control over the publishing process. It was very satisfying to have direct contact with all editors and be able to choose the cover design myself from the four concepts presented by the cover and layout artist. I have learnt a lot about publishing and marketing, much more than I did with my first book, which was traditionally published. To date, I have earned enough from sales of Flying Through Clouds to cover publishing costs. It is gratifying to find so many people and organisations willing to help you publish your book – Writers’ Centres, professional organisations such as SCBWI, self-publishing websites such as the Creative Penn, Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords as well as bloggers and other authors. I’m really glad I had the courage to publish my book as well as write it.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Michelle: I’d recommend independent publishing of print books for authors who have the time to devote themselves full-time to the publishing process and who can afford the up-front costs of professional editing, cover art, layout and printing to produce a quality book.

Lee: Thank you, Michelle, and again—Congratulations!

Michelle: Thank you so much for the opportunity.

You can learn more about Michelle and Flying Through Clouds at her website here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Inspiration from James Baldwin

Photo of James Baldwin by Carl Van Vechten from Wikimedia
"Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and who you think you are. You can not describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears, your hopes. Everything." —James Baldwin

Thanks to Jon Winokur @AdviceToWriters for posting this gem on twitter, where I saw it.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Inspiration on writing Intersectional Diversity from Kelly Loy Gilbert in this School Library Journal Interview

One of the great exchanges in this Shelley Diaz interview of YA author Kelly Loy Gilbert:
Shelley Diaz: Picture Us in the Light addresses multiple facets of identity: class, immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, languages spoken, mental health, religion. Why did you think it was so important to approach this story with an intersectional lens?

Kelly Loy Gilbert: When I was younger there was a long period when reading books about Asian American characters meant the whole story was about being Asian American, and what I really wanted, I think, was to read more stories where the characters’ race shaped and informed but didn’t define them. I wanted stories that explored the diversity within diversity, stories with characters who were as complicated and contradictory and interesting as the communities they were reflecting. And that’s always been important to me and always something I wanted to strive for whenever I got to write my book about the world I grew up in, but at the same time I don’t think I consciously set out to write this as an intersectional book as some kind of statement or issue. I think as I developed the characters their identities were intersectional as an honest reflection of who we are and the way we live. Because I don’t have “My Asian American Year,” where all I have to deal with is what race means, and then I solve that and move on to “My Mental Health Year,” and so on—we are so many things, all the time, and each of those things informs the others, and I think telling the truth in fiction reflects that reality.
Read the full interview here.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Swag: One Bookstore's Perspective

Bookmarks. Buttons. Posters. Book-Branded Lip Balm. Storytime Kits. Kid-Friendly give-aways. Samplers.

Besides an ARC, what do bookstores actually use/want? What swag helps your book succeed—and what might not be worth the expense?

To help us figure it out, Meghan Dietsche Goel, the Children's Book Buyer and Programming Director for BookPeople in Austin, Texas, shared her take in this PW article, "Book Treats Brought by the Postal Service."

It's great to hear from the bookstore's perspective about what has value, and how issues like simplicity of packaging and display space considerations fit in the mix. The article is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,