Thursday, December 1, 2016

Voice - a fun exercise that almost looks like procrastination (but isn't)

First, choose a song that's pretty popular. Our example will be singer-songwriter Barrett Strong's "I heard it through the grapevine." Treat yourself to the version you're familiar with

I like this live performance by Marvin Gaye, who made the song famous

Now, go to youtube and do a search for that song - but don't go right to that same version. Try to find different versions, other artists who made the song their own, who let you hear the song anew. Which ones feel "karaoke," and which ones feel original?

It's the same song, but different approaches, different arrangements, different voices make each unique (or not...)

Here's a sampling of some of the videos I found of "Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Gladys Knight and the Pips:

 Creedence Clearwater Revival:

John Legend:

Fantasia Barrino:

 Leo Moracchioli:

 Donna Summer:

 The Slits:

Ella Fitzgerald:


Birds of Tokyo:

 Now, think about the story you're working on. What are you bringing to the story that's uniquely YOU? How is what you're creating more than 'karakoe?" The answer... that's your voice.

Illustrate and Write On!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


“If you poured water on a great poem, you would get a novel.” 

-Gloria Steinem, from the New York Times Book Review, “By the Book” interview from Sunday November 1, 2015.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Poem About Gratitude (and a cool poetry resource)

Amid the tumult. Amid the noise.

Take a minute, and write a poem about what makes you grateful.

A haiku. A sonnet. Something that rhymes. Or something that doesn't. An acrostic. A fib. A pantoum...

Consider making it a Thanksgiving day activity for those you're sharing the holiday with. (And if you live in a country where Thanksgiving isn't a thing, maybe do it just because!)

Play with words. Have fun. And let your art, and the feeling of gratitude, inspire you...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Butt-In-Chair Inspiration

Thanks to Bruce for including this gem of a quote in his new newsletter (which also contained a great piece by Martha Brockenbrough, "Object Lessons: How To Deepen Your Story With Metaphor")

More on David here and Bruce here and Martha here. (And I made the above meme on, a really fun and easy-to-use tool that lets even us writers create professional-looking visuals.)

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#KidLitSafetyPins - our community stands against bullying and marginalization

The climate in the US, in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election as our 45th President, is loud and confusing. There are many people who feel unsafe. And there are many people who want to stand up as Allies to help keep others safe.

In response to this, a Safety Pin movement has sprung up. It started in Britain in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and has come to be a way to communicate that the person who wears the safety pin is an ally to those who are in some way under-represented and marginalized.

Members of our Children's Literature community have joined in, creating images of their beloved characters wearing safety pins, and sharing messages of support. Here are a few, by Peter Reynolds, Dan Santat, Stephanie Olivieri, Salina Yoon, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Tom Angleberger, and Raina Telgemeier...

An important note about #KidLitSafetyPins was shared by author Kate Messner in a recent Facebook post,

Teacher & librarian friends... If this is something you plan to share with students, please also take time to talk about what it means to have someone's back when it comes to fighting bullying and bigotry. Wearing a safety pin (or putting up a poster) doesn't really help unless it's accompanied by a promise of action. Speaking up and standing beside people who are being targeted requires courage, commitment, and planning. Here's a resource that I think is great for talking with middle grade kids and older.
And, of course, children's literature is a great resource to have these conversations with younger people as well!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Kathleen Burkinshaw wins the Honor Book Award for the SCBWI Marketing Grant

I caught up with Kathleen to find out more...

Lee: Congratulations on The Last Cherry Blossom being the Honor Book Award-Winner for the SCBWI Marketing Grant! Please tell us about your book.

Kathleen: The Last Cherry Blossom is about a 12-year-old girl's life with her family in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII. She discovers a shocking family secret right before her world becomes a shadow of what it had been. It is through her eyes the reader witnesses the horror and destruction from the atomic bomb. 

Lee: Tell us how you plan to use the grant to spread the word about your book.

Kathleen: My hope is to present my mother’s story to various Japanese societies, middle schools, and nuclear disarmament organizations. I also would like to add my book to school reading lists and being able to visit additional schools, so I have sent proposals to School Library, Social Studies, and Reading Associations for their conferences (in some instances I also have to pay a membership fee to submit a proposal). I'm also working on a teacher's guide that could be downloaded from my website. I recently had to hire someone to help me with website development. And of course, I will also be utilizing SCBWI's Book Blast page opportunity. I am very excited to say that I have also been involved with the Green Legacy Hiroshima program through the United Nations office in Hiroshima. I have partnered Green Legacy and UNC Charlotte, so that a sapling from the seed of a tree that survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima may be planted in front of their Education building. This ginkgo sapling will be dedicated to my mother's family and to all the atomic bomb victims of August 6th and 9th. My husband and I had to travel down to Atlanta to pick up the sapling and bring it to UNCC. 

Lee: Is there something the grant enables you to do that you couldn’t do otherwise?

Kathleen: Because of this grant I will be able to travel and present to Peace Action Staten Island, New York, and do a presentation at the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC in Spring 2017! The actual dates are still being worked out. The grant will help me with travel expenses, since I live in Charlotte, NC. 

Thank you, Kathleen. And congratulations again! 

You can learn more about Kathleen and her novel The Last Cherry Blossom here. 

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Caleb Krisp's "Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Authors"

This is snarky and funny good wisdom – Caleb Krisp on MyBookCorner, the "Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Authors."

Here's the first habit:
1) Limit your writing time to those moments when you are seized by a great burst of inspiration that bathes you in a golden light of free flowing creativity. These moments, when the words seem to flow from your very finger tips, may only strike a few days out of every month. Or a few minutes in every day. Or perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. But if you are patient and wait for lightning to strike, you'll finish your novel in no time. Assuming you are immortal.
Check out the full article here. 

Illustrate and Write On, 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Book Blast 10 Plus Club! (And members' chance to win $100 gift card, which could buy some great books!)

This is cool!

In the words of SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver,

The SCBWI Book Blast has been running since October 10 and, to date, we have had over 25,000 visitors browsing and buying the great children's books created by our membership.

Book Blast will be open until Friday, November 18. We want to encourage every SCBWI member to go on to browse and shop for books.

To add a little incentive for you to do this, we're establishing the 10 Plus Club Giveaway.

To enter all you have to do is browse the pages, pick 10 books and leave a comment in the Guestbook. Once you've left 10 comments, email us at BBfan (at) scbwi (dot) org by Sunday 11/13 with your list of the 10 books (just the title will do) you've commented on.

You will then be eligible for the drawing. The drawing will be on Tuesday 11/15. Five lucky winners will receive a $100 VISA gift card.

Join with our community in supporting Book Blast, and have a chance to spread book love and win some money, too!

So go on over and browse SCBWI Member's books and leave some comments in the Book Blast guestbooks! Have fun, and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Advice for writing "scary" from R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame!)

R.L. Stine photo from here

"I think you have to create a very close point of view. You have to be in the eyes of the narrator. Everything that happens, all the smells, all the sounds; then your reader starts to identify with that character and that’s what makes something really scary.

 ...The other big elements are shock and surprises! You don’t want a linear plot. You want to have twists in there that the reader will stop and say, 'Oh, I didn’t realize that.'"                    –R.L. Stine, from an interview at GalleyCat"

Want more R.L. Stine? check out this MTV interview Rachel Handler did where she visited Stine in his home, "What Scares R.L. Stine?"

Illustrate and Write On–and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nancy Bo Flood Guest Post On Winning the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant

Nancy Bo Flood won the 2016 SCBWI Marketing Grant. Nancy wanted to use the grant to share her book, "Soldier Sister, Fly Home" with Native American students through book talks and writing workshops. As Nancy wrote, "I want to encourage and support students' own writing. Less than 1% of books published for children are about contemporary American Indians. Every child should see themselves - their stories, their landscape, their people - in a book." 

 Here's Nancy's Guest Post about what she's done with the grant... 

Recently, early one morning I drove across the northern part of the Navajo Nation from Canyon de Chelly to Chilchinbeto Elementary School. The sky glowed scarlet and then gold as the sun rose. I scooted horses off the sandy road, slowed when two coyotes crossed, stopped and pulled off to the side to watch a grandma on horseback deftly guide her sheep from one pasture to a further one.

Canyon Des Chelly

I drove until I came to the school surrounded by piƱon and salmon-colored cliffs. There I began my day, sharing books and stories with students. We performed cowboy poetry together, imagining ourselves at a Navajo rodeo, riding bucking broncos and roping wild calves. We read about and then talked about the wonders of water – all the uses, forms, sounds and smells of water. Together we wrote a group poem, “Seven Ways of Looking at Water.”

 I read the beginning of Soldier Sister, Fly Home, and then we shared how it feels to have a sister or brother deployed. As I began my drive back home I took a photo of the Chilchinbeto sign to remind me about that sky, that horizon, that school full of students with stories to share, waiting to be written.

How could I return and guide students to do just that, to write their own stories?

This what I learned: Grant support was needed. As I wrestled with creating a successful SCBWI marketing application, I learned this - I needed to answer three critical questions. These questions are important to all authors as we prioritize how to spend time, energy, and money to market our books. And market we must if we want our books to thrive.

Why did I write this book?

Who do I hope will read it?

How do I reach those readers?

Why did I write this book? –So children who are Navajo or Native American can see themselves in a book. Fewer than 1% of children’s books are written about Native Americans. We need Native stories that are accurate, positive, and contemporary. Educators, librarians, and READERS need to know about these books.

Who do I hope will read it? –Native children as well as children who have never hiked to the top of a mesa or down into the depths of a canyon – or heard silence broken by the whoosh of raven’s wings - can open this book and step into this landscape.

Another reason I wrote Soldier Sister, Fly Home, is because the worries and cares of the heart are universal. When a sister, brother, father or mother is deployed, we all feel the same anger, frustration, worry and fear - how do we keep a loved one safe? How do we figure out who we are and who we want to be?

How do I reach those readers? –What’s my marketing plan and how do I implement it?

For the SCBWI grant application, I described the traditional tools – book launches, blog tours, and conference presentations. These are all important.

But I also wanted to reach readers where there are trading posts and tourist information centers, but few libraries and no bookstores. Marketing for these readers was less about selling but more about sharing. I wanted to excite these students about reading and then encourage them to write their own stories, their own books.

My marketing journey has begun. At Many Farms Elementary School, Navajo Nation, there are 500 students and no librarian. The school’s dynamo principal, Cheryl Tsosie, invited me for a return visit to share the excitement of books, the importance of reading.

I read the prologue of Soldier Sister, Fly Home to a room full of antsy seventh and eighth grade students. As I began to read, the room became quiet. Silent. I finished reading the first chapter. No one said a word, no one moved. Then one student raised her hand, “Could you read more?” Other students chimed in, “Please keep reading.”

I asked them, “What do you think this story is about?” Students began voicing ideas, “The story is about sisters, about rifles, shooting rifles, maybe about death … about deployment.”

My next question was, “How many of you have someone in your family deployed?” Over a third of the students raised their hands. A third.

Then I asked, “How does that feel?” Students began talking at once. They had many feelings they wanted to share, and stories they wanted to tell, their stories.

This is where this marketing grant has taken me.

Thank you, SCBWI.

Author and SCBWI Marketing Grant winner Nancy Bo Flood

Congratulations, Nancy! 

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today (Tuesday October 25) at 10am Pacific Registration OPENS for #NY17SCBWI

The 18th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference (#NY17SCBWI) from February 10-12, 2017 in New York City is going to be amazing. There's

Friday intensives!




Inspiration from a stellar faculty

Opportunity! (The Writers Roundtables and Portfolio Showcase)




Get all the information here, and register now so you don't miss out. The conference sells out year after year, and we'd love for you to join us!

Illustrate and Write–and Conference–On,