Thursday, July 18, 2019

Send YOUR Books to Donate via SCBWI's "Books For Readers" Program by July 31, 2019

There is still time to donate so please help make the lives better for the kids in the Madison Reading Project (their 2019 goal is "to provide 40,000 high-quality diverse books and 125 public events with literacy programming and outreach to underserved children in South Central Wisconsin.") and REACH, Inc. (an organization that "promotes literacy for children who are at-risk and homeless throughout Coastal Virginia") with new books written and illustrated by SCBWI PAL members.

You may send 2-6 copies per book written and/or illustrated by PAL members you'd like to donate to this address:

6363 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 425
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Attn: SCBWI Books for Readers

For more information about the program and donating, click here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Early Registration for #LA19SCBWI, The 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Ends July 17, 2019

The Keynotes! (including Pura Belpre and Caldecott Honor winner Yuyi Morales, National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson, Newbery Medal winner Meg Medina, and a rare U.S. appearance from picture book legend Mem Fox.)

The Panels! (including "Creating Memorable Main Characters for a Book Series," "Agent Panel: Trends and Evergreens: Selling Your Book in Today's Market," "Publishing Options in 2019," "Birth of a Picture Book," "Creating Books That Matter," and "Editor Panel: What Speaks To Me In The Books I Acquire.")

The 72 Breakout Sessions!

The Agents! The Editors!

The Portfolio Showcase! The Manuscript Critiques!

The Life Drawing Lunch! The Woodstock West: 50 Years Later Party!

There's so much more, and I'm practically running out of exclamation points...

Gift yourself all the Information, Inspiration, Opportunity, and Community of the 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference. Get all the details here. Early Registration ends tomorrow (Wednesday July 17, 2019.)

We hope to see you there!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The 2019 Newbery Medal Speech by Meg Medina

Meg Medina won the 2019 Newbery Medal for her middle grade novel, Merci Suárez Changes Gears.

She received the award and gave her acceptance speech at a gala dinner celebration on Sunday June 23, 2019.

Meg's speech was lovely, and personal, and universal, speaking of her own life (with the stories of her bike history) and sharing what she hoped to accomplish through the creation of this fictional bike, crafting:

“...a novel with a bike as Merci’s first longing, a way to steer herself through the sixth grade and all that awaits her during that wonderful and bewildering year. Merci Suárez and her family are a Cuban clan who live intergenerationally, interconnectedly, in Florida, as my mother dreamed of doing. And they’re a family that sacrifices for each other in large and small ways every day, which is, I think, the most important legacy the elders in my family left me.

And what does Merci find out? Just what I have, I suppose. That life is full of wonderful surprises, like new friends in the sixth grade, and lousy ones; like loneliness and family illnesses. She discovers — as always children will — that happiness and heartbreak coexist in a life well lived. Sometimes all there is to do is to switch to a different gear and push on, always with the hope of a better day.”
It's quite a speech, and you can read the whole thing here, courtesy of the Horn Book.

A moment of emotion captured on the giant screens during the standing ovation after Meg Medina's Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech

Find out more about Meg and her books here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Introverts Unite (Quietly, and in Your Own Way)! – A Guest Post by Author Chris Tebbetts

Chris Tebbetts and his many published books... with a special one on top!

Since 2001, when I took my first kidlit writing class with Barbara Seuling (who a lot of SCBWI folks will remember as fondly as I do), I’ve worked on thirty published novels. Of those thirty, twenty-nine have been ghostwritten, work-for-hire, or co-authored. Which is also to say that twenty-nine of my thirty published books have someone else’s name, and not mine, on the copyright page. But more about that in a minute.

I didn’t set out to become a professional co-author. It just kind of happened that way, through a series of unforeseen opportunities and coincidences. It turns out, though, that I like it. A lot. I like how it’s allowed me to write full time. I like the creative synthesis of working with other storytellers. And I really like having high-profile partners who take care of the marketing and promotion end of things. For a prototypically introverted writer like me, that’s no small thing.

All of this has afforded me some experiences that go way beyond the hopeful imaginings of my eighteen-years-ago self. The Middle School books I’ve written with James Patterson have sold millions of copies and been made into a movie. I also got to write two trilogies with Jeff Probst, the host of my honest-to-god favorite T.V. show of all time.

So yeah, no complaints.

But what I’ve never done—until now—is publish a book in the usual way: written on spec, sold through my agent, and with full ownership of the copyright at the end of the day.

That new book is a YA novel called Me, Myself, and Him, out July 9.

It’s a “Sliding Doors” story with parallel narratives that follow my 18-year-old protagonist through two different outcomes from the same inciting incident (an autobiographically drawn episode in which my character breaks his nose huffing whippets behind the ice cream store where he works). The story is one part memoir, a lot of parts fiction, and also the most personal thing I’ve ever written, by far.

That seems appropriate, too, since this is the first time I’m stepping out as a solo act, and, by extension, as the person in charge of selling my own work to its prospective audience. It’s been a whole new experience with a steep learning curve—not just about the business end of publishing, but also in terms of the emotional rigors of doing such a thing.

There’s a kind of cruel joke in the world of publishing. This is an industry that attracts some large number of people (like me) who thrive on working in quiet isolation, only to then ask them to turn around and shout “LOOK AT ME!” in the most convincing voice possible when it comes time to share that same work with the world. It tends to bring up an insecurity or two. Or three.

I’ve never needed skin so thick before. Never grappled with the kind of loin-girding that this level of self-promotion requires. And what’s more, I find myself feeling envious of other writers in a whole new way. I obsess about the things my publisher is (and isn’t) doing to promote the book. And I’m constantly measuring my own highs and lows against whatever it is my colleagues seem to be experiencing with their own 2019 releases. (Emphasis on the seems to be, given the slanted reality that is other peoples’ lives on social media.)

Should I even be admitting all of this publicly? Maybe not. As I said, I’m learning as I go. But I also know that talking about it has helped as much as anything. Naming these things out loud has been pretty good at taking away some of their power. It’s also come to show me how much I’m not alone in all of this anxiety.

The more I talk with other authors about this subject—the nasty grip of social anxiety in the face of self-promotion; the impossible odds of breaking through the white noise; the “who am I?” sting of impostor syndrome—the more I realize that it’s one of the most common themes in the lives of writers. None of that awareness takes away the stress, per se, but there is certainly something to be gained from recognizing it as a shared experience. (And tangentially, let me recommend this article from the Guardian, Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.)

The good news is, we’re in the business of shining lights into dark places. We have a unique obligation to our audience, to offer some hope where it’s needed, and to show our readers how very much not alone they actually are. And that extends to the way we treat each other as well. My non-writer friends are always commenting to me about how cool it is to see all of my kidlit people on social media, cheering each other on, promoting one another’s work, and generally making this a wonderful industry to be a part of.

So, even as I’ve dipped my toe into these new waters, and even as I’ve found it to be distressingly chilly at times, I’ve also come to realize that if I raise my head and look around once in a while, I’ll find that I’m not swimming alone.

Not even close.

* * *

Thanks, Chris!

Find out more about Chris and his debut solo YA novel, Me, Myself, and Him at this website.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The 2019 Caldecott Medal Speech by Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall won the 2019 Caldecott Medal for Hello, Lighthouse. (Her second time winning this highest honor for illustration of a children's book!) She gave her acceptance speech at a gala dinner on Sunday June 23, 2019.

It was a wonderful speech—interesting, profound, inspiring, and ultimately had the entire room of hundreds of librarians and children's book industry folk (including me) leaping to our feet to give her a standing ovation.

The standing ovation for Sophie Blackall

On one of the two big screens, Sophie just after her speech

Because yes,
Kids are smart. Girls can do anything. We can all be beacons.
Go read the entire speech here at The Horn Book. It's well-worth it!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Author Website Criteria - How Does Your Site Measure Up?

This excellent article by Diana Urban over at the BookBub Partners blog, 45+ Author Websites with Stellar Designs, includes the list of ten criteria that were used in choosing the author websites they would feature:

  • Include a list of published books

  • Prominently display new or impending releases

  • Provide an obvious way to subscribe for updates

  • Provide a way to contact the author

  • Include links to the author’s social media profiles

  • Display a list of upcoming events

  • Include a blog to showcase the author’s personality and/or writing process

  • Be easy to navigate

  • Have a clean, unique design

  • Be mobile friendly

It's great to see what the more than forty authors featured did, and, just as important, we get to take an inventory of our own author websites.

What changes might make our own website even better?

Read the full article and see all the examples of excellent author websites here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Conversation with Elizabeth Partridge - Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast Now!

Multi-award winning nonfiction author Elizabeth Partridge speaks to Theo Baker about how her upbringing impacted her storytelling, her way into oral histories, and the responsibility she feels towards the people she interviews. She considers how her work is “bearing witness” and shares what she’s learned about writing compelling nonfiction.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Michelle Markel on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children’s Author - from the Cynsations Blog

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations blog is consistently amazing, and I'm obsessed with this series on "Survivors"—folks who have been long-time, actively publishing children's /YA authors. The interviews are informative and inspiring—this is the second one I'm highlighting, but you should go read them all!)

Highlights from the Michelle Markel interview:
“Writing about Henri was a healing experience. I channeled his rebellious attitude and broke a few rules myself, regarding picture book biographies (a breezy tone, fragmented sentences…). What did I have to lose?

In freeing myself up, I found my voice and a publisher. I was honored to receive a PEN award for picture book writing for The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, illustrated by Amanda Hall (Eerdmans, 2012). Everything changed. I was validated, I got confident, I got attention. My ship was back on course.”


“I want to emphasize here a couple of things: taking risks, and loving the subject matter. I took a chance on writing about Rousseau, a self-taught artist who’s not as widely respected as the “masters.” I later went out on a limb with other picture biographies.”

Read the full interview with Michelle here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Debut YA Author Karol Ruth Silverstein On How Volunteering for SCBWI Led To Her #OwnVoices Breakthrough

SCBWI Volunteer Karol Ruth Silverstein's debut YA novel is called "Cursed" (June 25, Charlesbridge Teen).

Karol sporting her Disability Pride in a t-shirt she designed!

I interviewed Karol to find out more...

Lee: Hi Karol! So please tell us, how did volunteering for SCBWI lead to your getting a book deal?

Karol: Actually Lee, I have you to thank! My journey really started when you invited me to become a coordinator for the Westside Writers Schmooze (now called the Westside Writers Mingle) here in Los Angeles. For any readers who aren't familiar with the Mingles (or LitMingles), they are monthly meetings held by many local SCBWI regions where writers and/or illustrators get together to discuss topics related to children’s books. I ended up coordinating with fellow SCBWI-L.A. member Charlie Cohen for four years. Toward the end of our "reign," I was prepping for a Schmooze on social media for writers. Though I'd had a Twitter handle for a while, I barely used it. Twitter seemed so confusing! I went onto Twitter determined to familiarize myself with the various things one can do on the platform. I spent some time tweeting, retweeting and commenting, and then I decided to follow a few hashtags. I happened to stumble onto the last 15 minutes of a Twitter pitch event (#PitMad)--just enough time to get out a few pitches. Literary agent Jen Linnan “liked” one of my tweets, which meant she wanted to read my manuscript. Long story short, she signed me! (I think it would be responsible of me to add a disclaimer here: results not typical!)

Though my debut YA novel Cursed wasn't the book I'd pitched in the Twitter event, Jen read an excerpt and loved it. She helped me fine tune the manuscript before we went out on submission and we eventually found it a home with Charlesbridge Teen. Cursed was not necessarily an easy sale and I was extremely lucky to find an agent who fell in love with it. I was in the right (virtual) place at the right time. And I was there specifically due to my SCBWI volunteer gig.

Karol's debut YA comes out on June 25, 2019

Lee: Wow, what a story! Why do you say Cursed wasn’t an “easy” sale?

Karol: The easy/most direct answer is that the manuscript had a lot of profanity in it. Like - A LOT. Plus, my main character was originally 13 (though she's now been aged up to 14 to put the book more squarely into the YA category). The cursing is an integral part of the story, so it wasn't like I could cut it all out. The protagonist, Ricky, is newly diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and cursing is one of her main coping mechanisms. As she adjusts to her new reality, she does learn better ways of handling her anger and curses less. But it was important that she be able to fully and realistically vent her frustrations, anger, and fear at the beginning of the book. That meant real cursing—f-bombs and all. Using "darn" and "heck" was not going to cut it in terms of authenticity, which was tremendously important to me.

Cursed is also what some refer to as "younger YA" - for readers aged 12-15 or so. This can be a somewhat tough market in general. Publishers Weekly had an article a while back explaining that, while readers in this age range are underserved and definitely in need of great reading options, agents aren't always sure how to pitch these books, publishers struggle to market them, and booksellers aren't clear where to shelve them. So that added to the challenge.

Lastly, Cursed is about a teen with a chronic illness who experiences chronic pain. Despite the incredibly valuable push for all kinds of diversity in kids books over the last decade, books featuring physical disability and/or chronic medical issues are still not exactly abundant on bookshelves. My editor Monica Perez said that she noticed a lack of these kinds of books in YA in particular, and that was one of the things that drew her to Cursed. The fact that the book is #ownvoices was icing on the cake.

Lee: #Ownvoices of course leads to the question: How much of Ricky’s story is your story?

Karol: I'm glad you asked! While Cursed is very much drawn from my personal experience, it's definitely fiction. People who know me sometimes get confused on that front, I think because Ricky's voice is so similar to mine. The set-up of the story mirrors my life the most: Ricky is sent to live with her dentist dad at his ill-equipped one bedroom apartment (which she dubs the Batch Pad), as a way to make things easier on her physically. Getting to school is still really painful though. Since her dad leaves for work before she needs to leave for school, she realizes she can just pretend she's getting ready for school—and then go back to bed once her dad's gone. She ends up cutting six weeks of school before her truancy is discovered. Basically ALL of that is taken from my life—other than the snarky name for her dad's apartment. Most of what follows in the story is made up, but there are moments, emotions, lessons learned, etc. that are drawn from my experiences throughout my lifetime of living with a chronic illness and figuring out how to partner with medical professionals and advocate for myself.

I remember fabulous YA author Sonya Sones (who blurbed Cursed!) once saying that one of the great things about writing YA is that you can have your characters make the same mistakes you made but figure out better solutions and/or end up making better choices than you did. You can clean up your past and hopefully provide more agency for your teen readers. I condensed a lot of what I've learned about living a life like mine with some modicum of grace into the six month timeframe of the book. Hopefully the book can speed up the process for readers who are dealing with similar circumstances (which I feel can be broadened to include any situation that hinders self-acceptance).

Lee: As a writer with a disability, what do you think the industry can/should do to be more inclusive, equitable, and accessible?

Karol: One of the toughest parts of disability advocacy is how incredibly varied the folks huddled under the disability umbrella are. There simply is no singular way to address the needs, preferences, experiences and sensibilities of all people living with disabilities. Likewise, stories featuring disabled characters are going to be—or should be—of every stripe and color. I think for too long, the narrative for disabled characters has been sorely limited. That's thankfully beginning to change, with #ownvoices disability books—where the author has the same disability or medical condition as the book's protagonist—really moving the needle in terms of authenticity and variety.

The kid lit industry has been a frontrunner in the charge for more inclusion and representation of underrepresented groups, both on the page and "behind the pen." Amazing progress has been made. Still, disability isn't nearly as present in the diversity discussion as some other groups, with physical disability garnering less attention than neurodiversity (a blanket term referring to variations in the human brain). But—as I've seen in a snarky meme—inclusion isn't pie! There aren't a limited number of slices. The We Need Diverse Books website gives an incredibly far-reaching definition of disability and I encourage all people involved in the children's literature industry to check it out and keep it in mind whenever discussions of diversity come up.

Lee: For readers, here's that We Need Diverse Book's definition of diversity:
We Need Diverse Books: Our definition of diversity: We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.
Okay, Karol, that totally makes me want to ask: can you shout out to some great disability books out there?

Karol: Interestingly, three that come to mind immediately all feature deaf characters - Cece Bell 's terrific #ownvoices graphic novel memoir, El Deafo; the amazing Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and 2018 Schneider Family Book Award winner, You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner.

The Schneider Family Book Award is among the awards given annually by the ALA and honors books that embody the artistic expression of disability experiences for child and adolescent audiences. Their list of previous winners is a great place to start for anyone looking to learn and read more about disability, as is the website Disability in Kidlit.

I can also report that there are a number of 2019 debut novelists who've written books featuring characters with disabilities. This is definitely heartening! In particular, YA fantasy We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett completely blew me away. The book features a protagonist who's an amputee--and also training to be a fighter pilot. Bartlett handles the character beautifully and the whole book is an incredible thrill ride!

Lee: Any plans to write more books featuring characters with disabilities?

Karol: Yes actually! I'm in the early stages of a young middle grade novel that has a feline main character. But the human main character is young girl who uses a wheelchair. There's also another cat character who's been declawed--which many people don't realize is akin to amputation. This book is not #ownvoices because I'm not a regular wheelchair-user myself (or an amputee), but I liked the idea of including these characters because they exist in the world and should exist in books too! While the disabilities aren't a main focus in the story, they do resonate within the book's themes.

Lee: Thank you so much Karol! And congratulations on your debut!

You can find out more about Karol Ruth Silverstein and "Cursed" at her website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children’s Author - On the Cynsations Blog

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations blog is consistently amazing, and I'm obsessed with this series on "Survivors"—folks who have been long-time, actively publishing children's /YA authors. There's a lot of wisdom and encouragement shared, and I couldn't choose just one to highlight, so I'll share two. (One today, and the other next week.)

Highlights of the Vaunda Micheaux Nelson interview:

“I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d had the courage to take the leap sooner, to play it less safe.”

“My second book, Mayfield Crossing (Harper, 1994), wasn’t published until five years later.

Rejections filled the interim, and I lost confidence. I started to believe that Always Gramma was a fluke, that I would probably be a one-book author.

I learned I had to do what my heart kept telling me—live my life the best I could and write. Everything I submit isn’t successful. I still get rejections. But I try to be true to who I am and learn from the failures.”
Check out the full interview over at Cynsations here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Linda Sue Park Shares Lois Lowry's Advice on Novel Structure

Linda Sue Park, photograph by Sonya Sones

Newbery-Winning Author Linda Sue Park is a brilliant writer, and, to quote her, it's pretty clever to learn "from the best!" On her website, she shares advice on writing, including a section on Structure:
My outline for novel structure comes from author Lois Lowry (I’m a strong believer in learning from the best!). I read about how she builds her stories:

•Complications and choices

Once again, I've adapted another writer’s advice to suit the way I work. I divide “Quest” into two sections: Internal and External. In every scene I write, the character must either make progress toward or face impediments to the quest(s).
She continues by sharing how she applied this to her novel Seesaw Girl.

Go read Linda Sue's advice now. (There's great stuff there about reading 1,000 books before you write your own, and about discipline, too.)

Thanks, Linda Sue!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The 2019 Crystal Kite Winners!

Fifteen divisions.

Peer-selected winners.

Sixteen newly award-winning books published in 2018 to add to your must-read list!

Presenting this year's SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards:

From the Atlantic division (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Hawk Rising by Maria Gianferrari; illustrated by Brian Floca

From the Australia, New Zealand division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

At The End of Holyrood Lane by Dimity Powell; illustrated by Nicky Johnston

From the California, Hawaii division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton

From the Canada division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Outlaw by Nancy Vo

From Europe, Latin America, Africa division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Night Lion by Sanne Dufft

From the Mid South Division (Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer

From the Middle East, India, Asia division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is a tie...

The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat


All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine

From the Mid West Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

From the New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

From the New York division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito; illustrated by Laura Freeman

From the South East Division (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

From the South West Division (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic

From the Texas, Oklahoma division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark

From the UK, Ireland division, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

And finally, from the Western Division (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota), the SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner is...

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse by Marcy Campbell illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone who entered! You can find details about entering your 2019-published book for consideration in the 2020 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,