Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Picture Book Wisdom from the 2014 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

My Picture Book Panelists! From Left, myself, Gianna Marino, Jon J. Muth, Salina Yoon and Joe Cepeda

I had the honor of moderating a great picture book panel, "Children's Books: Drawing the Imagination," at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this past weekend with Joe Cepeda, Gianna Marino, Jon J. Muth and Salina Yoon. Afterwards, I got to listen to part of the panel moderated by Kelly Sonnack, "Children's Books: Inspiring Young Minds," with Mac Barnett, Doreen Cronin, Jennifer Fosberry and John Rocco.

There was so much great wisdom shared (including some very nice shout-outs to SCBWI), but here are a few of the moments that really resonated for me and that, amidst the excitement and moderating, I managed to record in my journal:

"The strength of a story is the truth you find in it."
- Jon J. Muth

The secret to expressing emotion visually?
"The eyes."
- both Salina Yoon and Gianna Marino

I don't want to be anchored to accuracy so much that it neuters the magic of a story.
- Joe Cepeda

"As I draw more I can throw words out."
- John Rocco

You don't talk down to kids.
- Jennifer Fosberry

If you start thinking how you're going to tell it for kids you're dead and you need to start over. You have to tell it for yourself.
- Doreen Cronin

"I'd much rather have a book that a few people love intensely than a book that a lot of people like okay."
-Mac Barnett


What a great reminder that any time you can go hear (or speak with) professional writers and illustrators at the top of their game, DO IT!

It's one of the great things SCBWI offers at local and international events and conferences: opportunities to listen to, learn from and be inspired by the experts.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Speed Reading Apps... Are they the future of reading?

Okay, when I heard about speed reading apps such as Velocity and Spritz, I thought it was crazy, but play along, okay?

Go here and copy the text of this article, "Don't Mock Speed Reading Apps. They are Life-Changing" by Jim Pagels.

Then go here to Spreeder and paste the text in the window.

The Spreeder window.

It will take you just 3 minutes and five seconds to read the whole article as it's fed to you FAST.

Pros to consider:

You do read faster than normal (certainly I did) and evidently can train yourself, as Jim explains in his Slate article, to read faster and faster.

It eliminates multi-tasking while reading something because the program demands your full attention.Your mind and eyes cannot wander or you lose the thread of what you're reading entirely. (I liked the metaphor that it's like a treadmill for your eyes, and you can't just stop while running on a treadmill or you'll fall off.)


Cons to consider:

Formatting is eliminated.

Savoring and digesting what you're reading is secondary to speed.


But that was a nonfiction article.  How about fiction?

Here's the text from the first page of E.B. White's masterwork, "Charlotte's Web." What's it like to read it via Spreeder?

Copy this:

***

1. Before Breakfast
WHERE'S Papa going with that ax" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
"Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night."
"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight.
"Well," said her mother, "one of the pigs is a runt. It's very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it."
"Do away with it? shrieked Fern. "You mean kill it? Just because it's smaller than the others?"
Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. "Don't yell, Fern!" she said. "Your father is right. The pig would probably die anyway."
Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern's sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father.

***

And paste it in the Spreeder Window.

Hit play, and see what you think.

Useful?
Disturbing?
Maybe a tool for writers to make sure every word really counts?

Share what you think in comments.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

ps - My thanks to the "Need for Speed" Cassandra post for the links mentioned above.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Calling All SCBWI Members: It's Time To Vote For The Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards!



The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.

First round voting is open now until April 14, and you may only vote for a book that is in your division. Every member gets to vote for just one book!


 The fifteen divisions:

 US Divisions
· California, Hawaii
· West (Washington, northern Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota)
· Southwest (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico)
· Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)
· New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)
· New York
· Texas, Oklahoma
· Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)
· Mid-South (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri)
· Southeast (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana)

International Divisions
· UK, Ireland
· Middle East, India, Asia
· Canada
· Australia, New Zealand
· Other International

 Second round voting will open April 18 - April 30.

 Remember that if your book is entered you may promote the award on social media and to personal friends but you may not:
- Send emails to people you do not know to promote your book
 - Use the SCBWI messaging system to promote your book
 - Use any SCBWI discussion board or listserve to promote your book
 Doing any of these will immediately flag your book for deletion in the Crystal Kite Awards.

 Good luck to everyone who has entered - and go vote now!

 Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Announcing The 2014 Spark Award Winners - SCBWI's Award for Independent- and Self-Published Books for Kids and Teens!

The new annual award to recognize excellence in a children's book published through a non-traditional publishing route, SCBWI's inaugural SPARK award goes to two books...

The heart-pounding BMX bike girl YA novel SHREDDED by Karen Avivi (a Canadian author)



and

The picture book about the power of art in two brothers' lives, AL AND TEDDY by Neil Waldman (a US author.)



Congratulations to both Karen and Neil!

And cheers as well to the author/illustrators of the four Spark Honor books:


Saving Mars, a thrilling sci-fi adventure by Cidney Swanson.

A teenager must choose between super powers and saving those she loves in One, by Leigh Kopans

Wendy Kupfer’s Let’s Hear it for Almigal, a picture book illustrated by Tammie Lyon, celebrates Almigal’s determination to hear every sound in the world with her new hot pink cochlear implants.

Wings for a Flower, by Ellen Gaffney, tells the inspiring story of an Indian girl’s rehabilitation after losing the use of her legs.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: California's San Francisco North & East Bay's Katherine Applegate For "The One and Only Ivan"

The winner of the 2013 Crystal Kite Award for the California/Hawaii region is Katherine Applegate for her middle grade novel, "The One and Only Ivan."


You might notice this book already has a shiny award on the cover - Katherine also won the Newbery Award for it!

I caught up with Katherine at my local SCBWI Los Angeles Writer's Days (where we'd invited her to give the opening keynote) to hear more about her book and what SCBWI means to her...



Katherine's SCBWI chapter is San Francisco North & East Bay. Colette Parrinello and Margaret Speaker Yuan are the co-Regional Advisors for that region, and they write:

SF North & East Bay Region serves members in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties. The region is vibrant and active with over 540 members, dedicated volunteers, and published authors and illustrators who serve as speakers, mentors, and friends to those new to the industry.

The region hosts over nineteen programs including two Creative Get-away Retreats in Marin County, North Bay meetings in Sebastopol, Beyond the Bay meetings in Walnut Creek, Marin meetings in Corte Madera and Mill Valley, Illustrator meetings in Oakland, two Intensive Workshops, one for writers and one for illustrators, an Annual Fall Conference in Oakland plus the occasional webinar and critique cafe. We also developed and use Critconnect, a web-based critique group/member matching board. We seek members to help organize local schmoozes, especially in Napa county.

Along with Kathleen, our region is honored to have TWO 2013 Golden Kite Award winners also - Joanne Rocklin, Fiction, The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, and Jeri Chase Ferris, Non-fiction, Noah Webster and His Words. 

To learn more about Katherine and her book, visit The One and Only Ivan website here.

And to find out more about SCBWI San Francisco North & East Bay, visit them online here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Laura Purdie Salas Talks Money, And Gives Details On How She's Making A Living As A Writer

In Laura's recent newsletter, she included an article "How Much Money Does a Writer Make?" in which she lays out (full disclosure!) her income from last year.



It's a remarkably brave thing to do.

We are so quick in our culture to reduce and judge a person's success - and a career's success - in financial terms only. Because of this, and perhaps because of, as Laura says, a sense that talking about money is "impolite," the real nuts-and-bolts of HOW a writer's income can all come together (or not come together) doesn't often get discussed.

So it's very instructive to see how all the different financial career elements come together for her.

With Laura's kind permission, I share her article here:

How Much Money Does a Writer Make?
If you think it's impolite to talk about finances, skip this article!

It's hard for writers to figure out if they can make a living by writing (and related activities), because there's so little info out there. So every year since 2007, I've shared my income on my blog. I'm switching to sharing it here, since I'm trying to reach educators with my blog now. 

Overall, 2013 was a great year. A LEAF CAN BE... got lots of lovely recognition, and I'm starting to work my way in to the world of educators and feel comfortable there, and I think that's where I need to be to promote my picture books and poetry.

Here's the breakdown of what I earned in 2013.

Web Work: I used to update webpages through the Children's Literature Network. In 2013, this accounted for $2,100 of my income. My work with CLN has come to an end, as the Network itself is dissolving in the next year. Although it wasn't a big source of income for me, I will really miss working with the CLN founders and meeting so many wonderful writers through my web work.

Trade Book Sales: My trade sales totaled $8,944. That's almost double my 2012 number. I'm especially excited about this because my goal is to do more trade books and fewer work-for-hire projects. This includes anthology payments/royalties, advances for two forthcoming picture books, and royalties on A LEAF CAN BE... and BOOKSPEAK!, my two trade books that are in print.

Work-for-Hire Books: $600. This number is waaaaay down. I only did one wfh book last year, and it was an ebook about car racing that I wrote through a packager. I'm of mixed feelings about this. I miss the steady work, but, as I try to build my career as a trade book writer, I'm thinking it's a good time to decrease my number of wfh books. So I didn't pursue more wfh books last year and am still trying to cement my approach in this area. (If you're interested in doing writing for the educational market, learn more about my textbook for writers here.)

Assessment: $5,340. I did loads of assessment writing in 2013. I mostly write poetry and nonfiction passages, though in 2013, I also did some fiction and some item-writing, too. Assessment writing is very different from writing for magazines, even though the length might be similar. I'm thinking of writing a how-to ebook for writers interested in this area. Sadly, with standardized assessments multiplying constantly, the demand for good, dependable writers in this area seems to be growing.

Teaching/Speaking: $4,238. I had a great time speaking last year. I spoke at a couple of university children's literature conferences, the Minnesota Library Association annual conference, the Loft Festival of Children's Literature, and a few library events. It's awesome connecting with teachers and librarians, and I'm hoping to do more of this!

School Visits: $11,553. Woohoo! That was 19 or 20 days of school visits or young authors conferences. I don't have tons lined up for 2014, though, and I'm wondering what to do to promote my visits more. Many writers at about my level of publishing history are charging $1,000+ per day, and they're getting it. I charge $680 per day, but when my rate was higher, I didn't book as much. Not sure if it's because Minnesota has SO MANY wonderful children's writers, many of whom do school visits, or whether it's my lack of name recognition. Another area I need to figure out this year!

Mentors for Rent: $2,206. This is the hourly writers' mentoring business I run with Lisa Bullard. It's another income stream that is small but brings a lot of satisfaction. We've had several clients get publishing contracts (both with trade publishers and educational publishers) this past year, which is wonderful. We have a new ebook just out (see below).

Ebooks: $523. This includes both the MFR books for writers and my ebook on Writing for the Educational Market. I'd love to sell more ebooks, since they are already made and can bring in more income with very little additional work. But wanting and doing are two different things:>)

Print version of Writing for the Educational Market: $963. Even though the Kindle version is only $9.95, I still sell some of the print version. I get great feedback on it, and there's really no other comprehensive guide to this market. So, this book keeps chugging along.

Copyediting: $6,312. This is a new category for me. I've done a bit of copyediting on and off, since I have newspaper copyediting experience. Last year, I did a huge copyediting project for a book packager. It was stressful at times, but also really interesting, since it was a literacy curriculum for another country. I learned so much! I don't have steady copyediting clients, though this is an area of income I could probably grow if I put my mind to it.

Miscellaneous sales: $32. I started selling autographed copies of my wfh books online. Last year, I only sold a couple, but I switched to an Amazon Sellers account recently, and I've already sold 5 or 6 this year. I'm not going to make much money on this, but it will help me clear out some shelf space, I hope! (I'm just selling off my author copies.) I don't sell my trade books this way--only my wfh books. (I also donate a lot of these books.)

That's a total of about $42,811. That's a 26% increase over my 2012 income, which is awesome! My goal for 2014 is to hit $40,000 again. I know I'm not going to make millions as a children's writer. But if I work hard enough, I like to think I can earn more than minimum wage. I work my buns off and do a million different things. But if that also allows me a little bit of actual writing time and the opportunity to connect with kids, educators, and other writers, either in person or through my books, then I am the luckiest worker I know:>)

NOTE: This is gross income. This doesn't include any of my own expenses-travel, promotion, office supplies, etc. nor the self-employment or sales taxes I paid.

P.S. Please Share this issue of the newsletter with other writers you know if you think this info might be useful to them. They will not be automagically subscribed or anything like that. 

Thanks, Laura!

You can find out more about Laura Purdie Salas at her online home, and you can sign up for her newsletter here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amtrack Starts A "Writers Residency" Program in the USA



Gotta admit, this is a pretty cool idea!

From the Amtrack blog:
Amtrak is excited to announce the official launch of the #AmtrakResidency program.

#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.

Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.

And it all started with an idea put out there on twitter... (That's inspiring in its own right.)

Check it out - and if you apply, let us know in comments!

Illustrate and Write On, and good luck,
Lee

ps - Thanks to Lesley for the heads-up on this one!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Submit YOUR Book For the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards! Deadline Is March 26!



Each year, the SCBWI awards the Crystal Kite to outstanding PAL books published in the previous year from 15 SCBWI Divisions around the world. The books are chosen by the SCBWI membership who vote for the best title in their division.

If you had a PAL book published in 2013, the deadline to submit your book is Wednesday March 26th. Click here to find out how to enter your book.


Entrance Eligibility:

 1. You must be a current member to nominate your book.
 2. Nominated books must be a PAL book published in 2013. Click here for more information on PAL publishers.
 3. Self-Published books are not eligible and therefore cannot be nominated. (Note that there is a new SCBWI award for self-published works, the SPARK Award.)

 Guidelines:

 1. Enter your book by adding it to your publications on your member profile.
 2. Indicate that you would like the book entered by clicking the box.
 3. We have strict anti-spamming rules. Once your book is entered, you may promote the award on social media and to personal friends but you may not:
 - Send emails to people you do not know to promote your book
- Use the SCBWI messaging system to promote your book
- Use any SCBWI discussion board or listserve to promote your book
 Doing any of these will immediately flag your book for potential disqualification for the Crystal Kite Awards.
 4. Winners are announced in May in a press release and across all SCBWI social media and our website. Winners receive an engraved crystal kite award, an opportunity to present at a regional conference, a special sticker for their winning book, and the opportunity to submit a proposal for presentation at either our summer or winter conference.

Enter your books today and then vote for your favorites!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Where Are The People Of Color In Children's Books?" and "The Apartheid of Children's Literature": Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers Raise Their Voices

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Here are two important responses for us each to consider: Walter Dean Myers' opinion piece in the New York Times is "Where Are The People Of Color In Children's Books?"


He speaks, so eloquently, of how

"TODAY I am a writer, but I also see myself as something of a landscape artist. I paint pictures of scenes for inner-city youth that are familiar, and I people the scenes with brothers and aunts and friends they all have met. Thousands of young people have come to me saying that they love my books for some reason or the other, but I strongly suspect that what they have found in my pages is the same thing I found in “Sonny’s Blues.” They have been struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are. It is the shock of recognition at its highest level." 

And then, Christopher Myers (Walter Dean Myers' son) responds to the same jarring statistical evidence of the lack of characters of color in children's books in his own New York Times piece, "The Apartheid of Children's Literature



Christopher writes about books as maps for a child's sense of possibility, and how, in a world where children of color aren't well represented in all types of children's literature, "The cartography we create with this literature is flawed."

 He also speaks about the villain in this,
"The closest I can get to the orchestrator of the plot — my villain with his ferret — is The Market. Which I think is what they all point to because The Market is so comfortably intangible that no one is worried I will go knocking down any doors. The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book, doesn’t want book covers to look this or that way, and so the representative from (insert major bookselling company here) has asked that we have only text on the book cover because white kids won’t buy a book with a black kid on the cover — or so The Market says, despite millions of music albums that are sold in just that way."
This is an important conversation to have - both externally in our industry and internally, as creators of works for children. How are WE representing the worlds of our stories? What scenes - what maps are we drawing?

Good questions to ask - and then act upon.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

ps - My thanks to Lesley for the heads-up on these opinion pieces!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kristin Fulton's Remarkable SCBWI Success Story

Kristin Fulton has a powerful and inspiring story of her journey so far in Children's Literature.

She shared it on the main conference stage at the recent SCBWI Winter Conference in New York to a riveted audience of over 1000 attendees! I sat down with Kristin in the conference hotel lobby and we spoke about her story:

 

Thanks, Kristin!

You can find out more about Kristin at her website here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Does Your Ending Say?

One of the nuggets of wisdom that's really stayed with me over the years is

"If you don't know how your story ends, you don't really know what it's about."

And while there's a lot of discussion about avoiding being preachy and didactic in our books for young readers, there's the opposite pitfall - giving readers an ending that teaches them, but not necessarily something we're intending.


I thought this review by Yapha Mason, an elementary school librarian, offered a lot for us all to learn:

I was so disappointed in this book. It starts out well. Sara's younger brother Bernard is picked on at day camp by Big Dan, who calls him Bernadette and teases him mercilessly. Bernard takes a while to figure out what he wants to do, but ends up very happy in the sewing activity. He takes old clothing and jazzes them up with embroidery and other bits from different pieces. The other kids are impressed with his work and he makes a lot of friends, none of whom call him Bernadette anymore. At the end of the book, he gets his revenge on Big Dan by sewing flowers on the back of his costume for the play and writing "Daisy Dan" on it.

This book was great until the end. I loved that Bernard could be his authentic self. He followed his heart, did what he loved, and was appreciated by the other campers in the process. To have him humiliate Dan by calling him something feminine at the end ruined the book for me. It sends the completely wrong message. Bernard saved the day with his costume design. That should have been enough. He of all people should know better than to disparage another's gender identity. A disappointing read that I cannot recommend.
I really appreciate Yapha's honesty, and her letting me share her review here. After reading the book she's discussing myself, I was also pretty taken aback at the everyone-laughs-at-the-humiliated-bully ending.

What does the ending of your book say? Is it the message you're going for? And does that ending reflect what your book is really about?

Questions worth considering.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee



Thursday, March 6, 2014

The 2014 Golden Kite & Sid Fleischman Humor Award Winners!

SCBWI's Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards are given annually to children's books published in the preceding year.

The Golden Kite Awards are to recognize excellence in children's literature. Instituted in 1973, the Golden Kite Awards are the only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers. More than 1,000 books are entered each year. Eligible books must be written or illustrated by SCBWI members, and submitted either by publishers or individuals.

 The Sid Fleischman Award goes to an author whose work "exemplifies excellence in the genre of humor, a category so often overlooked by other award committees in children's literature."

Congratulations to... *drumroll*...

For Picture Book Text, Pat Zietlow Miller for "Sophie's Squash" (Random House)



For Picture Book Illustration, Peter Brown for "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild"(Little Brown)


For Fiction, Tim Federle for "Better Nate Than Ever" (Simon and Schuster)


For Nonfiction, David Meissner for "Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure" (Boyd Mills Press)


And the Sid Fleischman Humor Award goes to...

Bill Konigsberg for "Openly Straight" (Arthur A. Levine Books)



Congratulations to the winners!

The awards will be presented at the Golden Kite Luncheon during SCBWI's 42nd Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA, August 2-5, 2014.

Shout-outs as well to the four Golden Kite Honorees:

Picture Book Text Honor: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for "Forest Has a Song" (Clarion Books)

Picture Book Illustration Honor: Yuyi Morales for "NiƱo Wrestles the World" (Roaring Book Press)

Fiction Honor: Elizabeth Wein for "Rose Under Fire" (Hyperion)

Nonfiction Honor: Pamela Turner for "The Dolphins of Shark Bay" (Houghton Mifflin)

*Applause*