Thursday, May 23, 2019

Illustrators – Do You Know About the Portfolio Showcase at #LA19SCBWI?

It's a showcase.

It's a contest.

It's an amazing opportunity to get your work seen by SCBWI judges, mentors, and the art directors, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals attending the SCBWI Summer Conference.

Nifty illustration by Priscilla Burris, SCBWI U.S. Illustrator Coordinator & Advisor

It's a chance to meet a professional deadline.

It's a chance to get feedback on your work.

It's a chance to put your work out there!

Read all the details here.

We hope you'll join us at the 48th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 9-12, 2019. Find out all about the conference at this link:

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Funny, Harsh, and Even a Bit True: Harlan Coben's Writing Tips

Harlan Coben has written "dozens of novels," and over at Publishers Weekly's BookLife, he shares five writing tips.

#3 surprised me, though given Harlan's genre, maybe it shouldn't have:

3. Write like there is a knife against your throat.

The knife is right there and if you bore us, flick, you’re dead. Write with that kind of energy. Make every word count. The great Elmore Leonard said it best: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

#4 felt very true.

4. The distance is nothing. It is only the first step that is difficult.

I don’t know who originally said this, but the first word you write each day is the hardest, the second word is the second hardest, and so on. Once you start, it does get easier.

Take a look, and see if these tips are helpful for you.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Matt de la Peña and Christopher Paul Curtis Create SCBWI Scholarships for IPOC Women

Two new scholarships are available for this summer's SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles (and there will be two new scholarship opportunities for #NY20SCBWI as well!)

SCBWI is proud to announce the creation of two new scholarship awards for SCBWI members to attend the international Winter and Summer Conferences. Four scholarships will be given in total: the two scholarships for the Los Angeles Summer Conference are sponsored by author, SCBWI Board member, and Newbery Award recipient Matt de la Peña; the two scholarships for the New York Winter Conference are sponsored by Newbery Award-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis. Both of these awards are for Indigenous and People of Color who identify as women.

All four winners of the two awards will receive an all-expense paid trip to one of the two SCBWI conferences, as well as two follow-up mentorship conversations with an industry professional. All expenses, such as travel and hotel, will be included, as well as a $250 stipend for additional costs, such as home or child care.

Eligible SCBWI members for the Summer Conference Matt de la Peña Award can apply from May 1 through June 15. The application form for the Summer Conference can be found here. Applications for the Christopher Paul Curtis Award will be available after October 1.

In sponsoring the scholarship, Matt de la Peña said,
“It is an honor to provide a small boost to hard-working and talented writers and artists in a time when it is such a challenge to make a career in the arts. I’m so thankful that SCBWI has provided me this opportunity to give back.”
Christopher Paul Curtis added this about his scholarship fund:
“My hope is that this scholarship serves as a nudge. A small encouragement to help a writer who is a woman of color get to the point where she listens to the voice that has asked day after day, ‘What are you waiting for? You are a writer. Do something about it.'”
SCBWI conferences provide a gateway for people to advance their careers. With the establishment of these awards, SCBWI hopes to increase the diversity of children’s books by providing four deserving IPOC women authors or illustrators a chance to seek creative and professional fulfillment and find a path to publication.

SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver noted,
“The generosity exemplified by Matt de la Peña and Christopher Paul Curtis in funding these scholarships will change the lives of four new children’s book creators, and help feed the pipeline for getting more diverse books into the hands of all children.”
Illustrate and Write On—and, if you are indigenous and/or a person of color who identifies as a woman, and you're ready to take your career as a writer and/or illustrator of work for children to the next level, apply!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How Do You Know If You've Written a Picture Book?

This question comes up so often, I'm grateful to Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski who, over at the Highlights Foundation blog, wrote a great piece that helps us writers figure it out, How Do You Know If You've Written a Picture Book?

They offer us nine questions off the bat, including:
Does the MC change or evolve over the course of the story? Is there tension and a narrative arc? and Does the story have a universal connection and kid-relatable problem?
And then, a breakdown of what each of the fourteen sections of a picture book must accomplish, from the foundational make the reader want to turn the page to the more meta If this section is left out does the story change or suffer?

Overall, it's well-worth reading—especially when you're trying to figure out if a new idea is a picture book, a magazine article, or something else entirely.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Janice Hardy on "Why Conflict Is so Hard to Create in Romance"

Recommended by the wonderful Cynsations blog, this article by Janice Hardy on "Why Conflict Is so Hard to Create in Romance" is well-worth reading.

With a helpful mini-synopsis of three different romance novels, Janice illustrates how:
"Unlike most novels, there is no mustache-twirling antagonist standing between the lovebirds and happiness. And since the protagonists need to come together in the end, you can’t have one defeat the other. Without these common antagonistic elements, finding a conflict strong enough to drive a plot can be quite the challenge.

Until you realize that most romance novels have a person vs. self conflict.

There is no bad guy in a romance. The issues keeping the two people apart are their own personal issues. A fear of commitment. An impulsive nature. A lack of communication skills. Some flaw that’s been getting in the way of their happiness that they need to overcome and/or learn to accept to find love and be happy."
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Netflix on a Book Acquisition Spree

The appetite for IP—sourced from books—is growing, according to this article in Publishers Weekly, The Netflix Literary Connection.

Standout quotes:
“There’s just no other substitute for the amount of work and creativity that goes into a book,” said Matt Thunell, v-p of original series at Netflix.

“The reason I love books—especially a book-to-series translation—is that they often provide this incredible landscape, mythology, and opportunity for worldbuilding that’s really hard to come by in the everyday pitches I’m hearing,” Thunell said.
Read the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Registration is now OPEN for #LA19SCBWI - 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles!

What a lineup!

The keynotes: M.T. Anderson, Meg Media, Yuyi Morales, Christian Robinson, Darcey Rosenblatt, Anna Shinoda, Raúl The Third, and Renée Watson!

A special lunch with Mem Fox!

A main stage editor panel, "What speaks to me in the books I aquire," moderated by Lin Oliver with Simon Boughton (Publishing Director, Norton Young Readers), Carol Hinz (Editorial Director, Millbrook Press & Carolrhoda Books), Tiff Liao (Editor, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers), Melissa Manlove (Senior Editor, Chronicle Books), Denene Miller (Editor, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster), and Sara Sargent (Senior Executive Editor, Random House Books for Young Reader)!

A main stage "Creating Books That Matter" panel moderated by Linda Sue Park with Adib Khorram, Lesléa Newman, Elizabeth Partridge, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Lilliam Rivera!

And more panels, on picture books, publishing options, agents, book series,

and 72 breakout sessions,

a day of optional intensives,

a portfolio show,

booksales and author signings,

socials for illustrators, nonfiction, diveristy, new members, and the LGBTQ and Allies social,

a life drawing lunch,

yoga and meditation,

and the Saturday night gala, "Woodstock West: 50 Years Later Party"!

There's so much fun, and community, and inspiration, and craft, and business, and opportunity available to us all... Check out all the conference offerings and register here.

Illustrate and Write and Conference On,

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Conversation with Francesco Sedita - Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast!

Francesco Sedita is the president and publisher of Penguin Workshop at Penguin Young Readers, as well the author of the Miss Popularity series. In this two-part conversation with Theo Baker, Francesco speaks of his vision for Penguin Workshop, his approach as a publisher, the influence of books like “Wimpy Kid,” and how co-writing a graphic novel has helped his own writing.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full episode here (log in first).

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Elizabeth Partridge - The Golden Kite Award Interview—Non-Fiction for Older Readers Winner for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam"

Elizabeth Partridge was awarded the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Non-Fiction for Older Readers for "Boots on the Ground: America's War In Vietnam" at the SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference in New York City on February 8, 2019. 

Award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge

 Here, we catch up with Elizabeth about her book and winning this honor... 

Lee: Congratulations, Elizabeth! Please tell us about finding out you’d won this Golden Kite Award.

Elizabeth: Lin Oliver called and left a message on my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t even check my message for a couple of days. Then I heard her message in which said she had “important news.” It didn’t even occur to me she was calling about the Golden Kite! I was working on a deadline, and my mind was far, far away. I was totally blown away when I called her back and she told me the important news was that I’d won the Golden Kite!

Lee: Pitch us to move Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam to the top of our To-Be-Read pile — What's it about?

Elizabeth: Nearly three million Americans served in Vietnam during the war, almost ten percent of their generation. They came home to a divided, disillusioned country. I interviewed men who fought, a nurse, a refugee, and a protestor to hear their stories of what the war was like for them. What did courage look like to them? Honor? How had their morals changed? Their answers were not what I expected.

The Vietnam War changed America forever. It cost the lives of nearly 60,000 young Americans, took down a president, and forced us to deal with a wave of refugees we were ill-prepared for.

We’re divided again as a nation, and the seeds of our divisiveness were planted during the Vietnam War. What lessons can we learn from the turmoil and anguish of the war, so that we can make better decisions for our country today?

Lee: I love how relevant to today you made it! Is there an Ah-ha! Moment from the book’s creation you can share?

Elizabeth: There were so many amazing, intense, overwhelming moments in putting together Boots on the Ground. One that struck me early in interviewing veterans is how the war was still totally vivid for every one of them. As they spoke with me, it was as if they were back in Vietnam.

As I got closer to finishing the book I realized that each individual story is both highly personal, and also woven deeply into the fabric of what makes history. I love the place where personal and political meet up. It’s an intense, powerful cross-current.

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

Elizabeth: I’ve been a member of SCBWI since before I was published, 25 years ago. At first, SCBWI helped me sort out my beginner questions: who can I submit to? What is the proper format for a manuscript? How do I write a picture book manuscript? After getting published, I started presenting at SCBWI chapters and really enjoyed meeting other authors and lending a hand/giving advice to the people coming up.

When my friend, illustrator Martha Weston, died unexpectedly, her family wanted to create a tribute to her, and asked me what would be the best organization to sponsor a grant in her name. Without hesitation I said SCBWI, and they set up a terrific grant that is going strong. Check it out.

I’ve always kept my membership current and have loved watching SCBWI stretch its wings to be helpful to more long-time published authors as well as aspiring authors. It really ticks me off when people label SCBWI as being just for beginners. It is so much more! The huge network of local groups all over the United States and a few overseas are invaluable for making our community a real community.

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other children’s book creators?

Elizabeth: Very few people are excellent at writing when they start out. It’s a craft, like cider-making, or weaving. Take classes, read, write. Try out different genres. And in our crazy-busy world, you have to make sure you actually DO it, not just think about doing it. Get your butt in the chair, and keep at it.

Lee: Super advice, yes, we must DO it! Thanks so much, Elizabeth, and again, congratulations!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

SCBWI Member Lee Wardlaw Leads Our Children's Literature Community To Restock Libraries in a Recovering California Town

This article in Publishers Weekly, Donations Help Rebuild Libraries in Paradise, Calif., made me so proud of Lee Wardlaw and our children's literature community!

The article covers Lee's personal stake in recovering from wildfires (her own life experience and her debut book for children in 1990) to her leading the effort in the last months to gather and sort 5,300 donated books, and then, this April 2019, driving more than 1,000 miles roundtrip to deliver them to Paradise, California where they are so needed!

 “The kids really needed books... Books bring a sense of familiarity, family, and normalcy—something that’s not chaotic in their lives." —Lee Wardlaw

Well done, Lee Wardlaw! We're cheering you on!

You can find out more about Lee Wardlaw here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Crystal Kite Round Two Voting Opens Today! #SCBWI19CK #scbwicrystalkites

Get your "I voted in the Crystal Kites" badge by... voting!

Vote between today, April 18, 2019 and April 30, 2019 (by 5pm Pacific) to cast your round two vote to help choose the winner from your geographic division!

To cast your vote, log on to

Once you are on your Member Home page, go to the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom, and click on Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.

That takes you right to the voting page where you'll see the finalists in your division. Then click the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK button below your chosen book and you are done!

Winners will be announced in late May or early June, 2019. Good luck to all!

Find out more about the SCBWI Crystal Kite Members Choice Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Brendan Reichs and a new metaphor for plotting vs. pantsing

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books panel (left to right): Brendan Reichs, Ally Condie, Carlos Hernandez, Lee Wind (moderator), and Quinn Sosna-Spear

A great moment in the middle grade panel I moderated on the YA Stage this Saturday, Middle Grade Fiction: Magic and Mysteries with Quinn Sosna-Spear, Carlos Hernandez, Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs was a question from the audience about process that had everyone on the panel share whether they plotted things out in advance or they wrote by the seat of their pants, making it all up as they went along...

Turned out, Carlos, Quinn, and Ally all mix the approaches, and then Brendan shared that instead of "plotting" and "pantsing," he liked a different metaphor—architects and gardeners. He expanded on the idea, saying that gardeners work with what happens, while architects plan everything out.

And then, it occurred to me that for those of us who combine the two approaches, maybe we're landscape architects?

The idea got a spontaneous wave of applause from the 100+ folks in the audience.

So there you go, another way to describe process... I hope it's helpful.

Illustrate and Write On (no matter your method!),