Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The 2017 SCBWI Spark Award Winners are...

The SCBWI Spark Award recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.

 The 2017 illustrated book winner is Soldier by Kara Van Kirk Levin.

Soldier tells the story of a lonely young porcupine who feels isolated from his community, and the friends that band together to help him feel valued. The rich illustrations were created by Vlada Soshkina and Polina Doroshenko. Drawing on themes of compassion and inclusivity, Soldier is Levin’s debut book. Find out more about Kara’s independent publishing company Little Wooden Flute at www.littlewoodenflute.com.

The 2017 book for older readers winner is Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan.

Deegan’s romantic young adult novel brings to life turn-of-the-century Dublin, as two teenagers, Maggie and Daniel, confront issues of class and privilege during the 1913 workers strike. Deegan has also published contemporary YA with Hachette and adult family drama novels under the pen name Aimee Alexander. You can find more of her writing at www.denisedeegan.wordpress.com.

Congratulations to both Kara and Denise! Both winners will be invited to take part in a book signing at an SCBWI conference this year. They will also receive free conference attendance, a Spark seal for their books, a press release and publicity through the SCBWI media networks.

You can find out more about the Spark Award here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Early Registration for #NY17SCBWI Closes Sunday January 15

Nearly all the extra-day intensives are sold out (there are only a few spaces remaining in the Writing The Verse Novel intensive), and the main conference itself is on-track to sell out as well.

Don't miss your chance to hear keynotes from Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, and Sara Pennypacker.

Your chance to be in the room for Panels on the Four Types of Picture Books, Children's Books in the Social Media World, and The Current Landscape For Children's Books.

Your chance to attend three workshop sessions (your choice) where experts (celebrated authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and art directors) take you deeper into topics like Picture Book Pacing, Creating Books for Diverse Audiences, Making Your Work Memorable, First Chapters, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young People, Unlocking the Power of Your Unconscious Mind, Self-publishing Done the Right Way, How to Handle Difficult Subjects, Social Media: An Author's Best "Frenemy", and many more!

Your chance to display your portfolio in the Art Browse, to attend the Gala Dinner, the Socials (including the LGBTQ + Allies, Illustrators, New Members and First Time Attendees, and the International/Spanish/Translator Socials), and the Autograph Party!

It's your chance to dive into all the inspiration, craft, business, opportunity, and community that SCBWI offers - all in one amazing weekend in New York City, February 10-12, 2017.

We hope you join us!

You can find out all the conference details and registration information here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What's Your New Creative Habit?

Those are boxes to check off - feel free to print out the image to keep on track!

Research shows that it takes only twenty-one days-in-a-row of doing something to make it a "habit."

January seems like a perfect time to bring this to life: What's a creative habit YOU want to have?

Is it to draw for an hour a day?

Or maybe draw one scene a day?

Or is it to write for an hour a day?

Or maybe write one new scene a day?

Or is it a character study a day?

Or a character diary entry a day?

Or to brainstorm a new picture book idea a day?

Or to write a new poem a day?

My friend April Halprin Waylan writes a new poem a day, every day. It's inspiring.

And even though I've tried to get into this habit before, I'm going to try to write for one hour a day. Every day. Starting today. It's January 10, 2017. I should have that new creative habit by January 31, 2017.

What's your new creative habit going to be?

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Check Out The SCBWI 2016 Winter Reading List!

The SCBWI 2016 Winter Reading List includes books of all genres from our PAL authors and illustrators (one book per member), both frontlist and backlist titles.

Organized geographically, you can find books created by SCBWI members in your home state and around the world! The free list is available as a downloadable pdf here.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Inspiration and advice on illustrating Middle Grade novels from Kelly Light

Over at Debbie Ridpath Ohi's wonderful Inkygirl site, this interview with Kelly Light had some great stuff, including this piece of Kelly's advice to illustrators:

"Stop wondering what they want. Stop looking at other people's work. Make the art that is YOU. The art that you were born to make.


Debbie: What advice do you have for those interested in illustrating middle grade novels?

Kelly: I think what I can say to those who wish to illustrate MG chapter books is - It's all about character. You are drawing for 7-11 year olds. These kids want to know the characters. This is the age when the characters are your friends. The characters help you get through some crazy changes in your life. They want to connect- SO be specific with the "WHO". WHO is the main character?... draw them so they feel real...like they could sit next to them at school. Who are the friends and the side kicks and the adults? They should all have something recognizable to the reader, just like in real life, no matter how unrealistic you may draw them. They should FEEL real. Also... bring THE FUNNY. This age loves to laugh. The illustrations in MG can really add humor and another layer to the text. I am a true believer in Laughter is the best medicine- and this age group wants to laugh their way into and through their tweens... Having some strong black and whites of the right age kids in your portfolio in REAL moments that happen in 4th grade- 5th grade. Braces. Awkwardness. Cliques start to form. Girls travel in packs. Bullying or standing up to it. School stress. Being bad at sports. Someone is an underdog. Science Fair explosions... There- I gave you some ideas!!

You can read the whole interview here. Thanks, Kelly and Debbie!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 29, 2016


New Year's eve is almost here...

Now is the perfect time to take a deep breath, grab a journal, and think, and brainstorm, and muse about your author/illustrator journey.

What are your goals moving forward into 2017?

Consider making a list of goals to accomplish that you control -

Selling a book isn't in your control. Submitting a manuscript to your dream agent is.
Making the best-seller lists isn't in your control. Making a book trailer is.
Having a theme park based on your book isn't in your control. Setting your butt-in-chair writing and illustrating goals (i.e., I'm going to devote two hours a day, five days a week to this endeavor) is in your control.

Set your own goals (make a list to help keep yourself accountable and on-track) and set your path to make those goals happen (do you need to schedule creative time into your calendar? Do it!)

Here's to taking control, and taking charge of our creative journeys in the year ahead!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Anne Lamott's advice on Writer's Block

"I no longer thing of it as block.

... The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you're empty.

...If you accept the reality that you have been given--that you are not in a productive creative period--you free yourself to begin filling up again.

I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing--just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a committment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.

...Everything you need is in your head and memories, in all that your senses provide, in all that you've seen and thought and absorbed. There in your unconscious, where the real creation goes on, is the little kid or the Dr. Seuss creature in the cellar, arranging and stitching things together. When this being is ready to hand things up to you, to give you the paragraph or a sudden move one character makes that will change the whole course of your novel, you will be entrusted with it. So, in the meantime, while the tailor is working, you might as well go get some fresh air. Do your three hundred words, and then go for a walk. Otherwise you'll want to sit there and try to contribute, and this will only get in the way. Your unconscious can't work when you are breathing down its neck. You'll sit there going, "Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?" But it is trying to tell you nicely, "Shut up and go away."

-Anne Lamott, from her chapter "Writer's Block", pg. 176-182 in the brilliant Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Shopping, this time for you...

Consider giving yourself the career boost of a winter weekend in New York City at the 2017 SCBWI Winter Conference (#NY17SCBWI), where you'll be inspired by Keynotes from Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, and Sara Pennypacker. Where you'll learn from panels on the current landscape of children's publishing (with agents Adriana Dominguez and Carrie Howland and Edward Necarsulmer, publishers Ken Geist and Eileen Bishop Kreit, and senior editor Andrew Harwell) and on the Four Types of Picture Books (with Andrea Beaty, Andrea Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, and Daniel Salmieri) and Children's Books in the Social Media World (with influencers Travis Jonkers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Matthew Winner.) Where you'll get insights directly from your choice of three breakout sessions from a menu of 31 choices with editors, agents and art directors. Where there's a gala dinner and the portfolio showcase and socials (LGBTQ & Allies, Illustrators, New Members & First Time Attendees), the Friday intensives and so much craft, business, opportunity, inspiration, and community that we'll be generating our own supernova of creativity which should keep us all toasty in the midst of the New York winter.

The conference is February 10-12, 2017, and you can find all the faculty, schedule, and conference information here. It's on-track to sell out again this year, and we hope you'll be able to join us.

Illustrate and Write On, and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award Winners Are...

Congratulations to Jan Peck, author of The Green Mother Goose 

and Giant Peach Yodel,

for being the 2016 Winner of the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award! Jan is an active member of SCBWI and helped build the vibrant North Texas chapter.

Jan's website

Cheers as well to the two Honor winners, Deborah Trotter and Joan Donaldson.

Jane Yolen, who both funds and chooses the winners, said,
"All of the submissions this year were top rate, and the stories of how these authors—many of them award-winners—who have all had some recent setbacks serves as a warning to all writers. We are at the whim of trends, changes in publishers, consolidation of publishing lists, cutbacks in educational spending and the development of newer ways of storytelling. These three winners are all really good at what they do. My one wish is that this small award will be a way of re-starting their book lives again. Selfish of me, really, I want to read more from each of them. They each have many more books, stories, poems inside that need to be seen by the reading public."

You can find out more about the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award and all the SCBWI awards and grants here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jambalaya, Diversity, and what one region is doing to make a difference - a Guest Post by Cheryl Mathis, Regional Advisor for Louisiana/Mississippi

It’s an honor and a pleasure to drop into the SCBWI blog today. I’m here in my writing cave in New Orleans and wanted to talk about the diversity movement in the children’s publishing industry and how a small membership region might make a difference.

Cheryl's writing cave

I know Lee and team leaders around the SCBWI world are as passionate as we in our region about addressing this challenge. You might ask, how can a small region like Louisiana/Mississippi be a part of the solution for such a large problem? We believe the real question is, how can we not? 

Our first regional conference, March 10-11, 2017, in New Orleans, presents a perfect opportunity to take active steps. We are making promotion of diversity a key ingredient in our recipe for the conference. First, we are offering a diversity scholarship. The conference scholarship is open to all Louisiana or Mississippi writers from diverse backgrounds who are not traditionally published. Submission deadline is January 10, 2017. (Details here.Our keynote speaker Cheryl Klein (Arthur Levine/Scholastic) has agreed to select the winner. We view our scholarship as not only supportive to the diverse writer who receives it, but as our public statement to kidlit writers in our region. We are here. We support diverse voices. We want to assist you on your path to publication.

Click here for all the JambaLAya Kitdlit Conference info

Then the universe sent us Angie Thomas. The publishing world is abuzz about her YA debut The Hate U Give (release date 2/2017), inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, less than three hours from our conference venue in New Orleans. Starred reviews are pouring in, and a movie is in the works. Our ARA Sarah Campbell approached Angie, asked her to speak at our conference, and she accepted. We are over the moon excited about that.

author Angie Thomas

Angie’s phenomenal publishing success for her novel that throws a spotlight on one of the most important civil rights issues in many, many years, is hopefully an inspiration to other writers from diverse backgrounds. As a region, we hope that Angie’s presence at our conference will also be a draw to those writers. We, as SCBWI Regional Teams, may not be the gatekeepers to the industry. But we can certainly help writers and illustrators from diverse backgrounds find their way to the door.  
SCBWI is well-known as a nurturing environment for all kidlit writers and illustrators – indie, traditionally published, and pre-published. Our conference will be a jambalaya-potful of all that. That’s why we named it JambaLAya because it is so representative of our region. The word has French and African origins and it’s based on a Spanish dish! The ingredients can include any of a range of different meats and seafood. Any combination works. And then there’s the assortment of seasoning. No two pots are exactly alike. 

Jambalaya wouldn’t be jambalaya without diversity! We know the years of exclusion cannot be remedied by one conference, but it’s our start. We will continue to seek diverse writers and editors and illustrators and agents to be a part of our conference faculty. And we will keep the diversity scholarship until it’s no longer necessary. What a wonderful world that would be.

-Cheryl Mathis, Regional Advisor Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI

Apply for the Diversity Scholarship here, and find out all the information about the 2017 JambaLAya Kid Lit Conference here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seven things "Best of" Lists can teach us

We are awash in "best books" lists this time of year. NPR's Book Concierge Guide to 2016's Great Reads. The New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2016. The Association of Library Service To Children's Notable Children's Books 2016. I could go on and on and on (but I won't... And heck, if you're reading this, and you want more, you have an internet connection. Go for it.)

Amid all the list-reading, I decided to work out what we can learn from and do with these lists. I've come up with seven, but feel free to add your additional ideas in comments.

And without further ado, here's my list of what to do with these lists:

1. Play the game - a "best of" list is a scorecard of sorts, where we get to ask ourselves, how many of these have I read? The more you read, and liked, on a list, the smarter that list's judging committee. Or isn't that obvious?

2. Play the other game - how many of the authors and illustrators of those books have you met and/or seen speak at an SCBWI conference or book signing?

3. A "best of" list can suggest books we haven't read yet that we simply must check out, helping us build our personal "to read" list.

4. A "best of" list can be aspirational. Are there qualities in the selected books that you see in your own work? As you shape and craft your current work-in-progress, what qualities would have you place it on a "best of" list?

5. It's inspiration to look back on our year of reading and create our own "Best Of" list. What books do we still remember? What books still move us, weeks (or months) after reading them?

6. A reminder that the value of what we create is not solely determined by best of (or best-seller, or award) lists. The value of our work is determined in many ways, including our personal satisfaction with what we've created, the impact on a single reader, the conversations our work sparks... success of our endeavors has many, many definitions, and we can't fall into the fame-or-nothing mindset trap. Creative value is more interesting (and nuanced and complex) than that.

7. The differences between the many lists should remind (and re-assure) us that this is all subjective – and maybe everyone shouldn't take these lists so seriously. But having said that, being included on a "best of" list is absolutely something to celebrate.

Cheers to everyone on a "Best Of" list - even if it's a list of our own design!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Are you all FOMO about #NY17SCBWI? You can still join us!

Okay, FOMO stands for "Fear of Missing Out" (if you didn't know that, don't worry about it - we're always learning, and I just learned it this week. Now we both know it!)

The SCBWI Winter Conference is on track to sell out again in 2017. You don't have to miss out, but if you're interested in the intensives or the portfolio showcase, you need to act fast!

There are only 25 spots left in the Writers Roundtable.

There are only 2 spots left in the Professional Authors Forum.

The portfolio showcase is SOLD OUT (and a waiting list has started) but...

and here's the cool work-around,

there are still 28 spots for the illustrator's intensive. And if you sign up for the illustrator's intensive, you automatically get a reserved spot in the portfolio showcase.

#NY17SCBWI is going to be epic. We hope you'll join us. Find all the conference information here.

Illustrate and Write On!