Thursday, January 23, 2020

Layering Powerful Voice to Create Memorable Characters - A Margot Finke "Musing" from Harold Underdown's Online Archives

This article, Layering Powerful Voice to Create Memorable Characters, while written back in 2005, remains evergreen.

" do you give several assorted characters, plus your main POV, powerful voices? Think of an onion. I'm serious! There are layers of skin to peel before you get to the good stuff in the middle of that onion. Building your character's voice uses the same technique; only this time you layer from the inside out. And the layers need to come in snippets – a fact here, a whisper or an overheard phone conversation there. Please, no dumping large chunks of informational text. Focus on blending in, little by little, the many physical and emotional layers that reveal each character's voice. Memorable characters are steeped in complexity and detail. Their layers are many and varied. Begin the layering process on the first page."
And then Margot lists a dozen "how-to" suggestions, including

"Use comments from other characters to describe or praise or criticize your main POV character" 


"Allow your main character some weakness he can either outgrow or overcome as the story progresses. No one is perfect. Kids know this - they sure aren't. Your reader wants to root for a character they can identify with."

It's an excellent piece, and well-worth reading.

I found this at Harold Underdown's Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon website. It's packed with resources and great information.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

SCBWI Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia with Washington D.C. & Virginia's Read Local Challenge - Innovations in Book Marketing

With posters and taglines like:

What if you discovered that your favorite author also liked to hang out at your favorite frozen yogurt shop?

SCBWI Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia with Washington D.C. & Virginia are sponsoring a "Read Local Challenge."

A multi-faceted campaign that includes read local parties, discounts on speaker fees, and "Read Local" Kits with prizes and signed books, it promotes 17 picture books and their creators, 11 middle grade books and their creators, and 10 young adult books and their creators.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Ellen Meeropol's ARC tour: Innovations in Book Marketing

Reported by Robert Gray in Shelf Awareness, the road trip that Ellen Meeropol took with a car full of ARCs, visiting "58 indie bookstores in 15 days" is remarkable.

A screen shot of the Shelf Awareness article, including a photo of Ellen by her car, which featured signage about her upcoming book release.

While not done for a children's book, the idea is replicable. (Ellen credits the idea to her friend and fellow Red Hen Press author Cai Emmons, who made a similar indie pilgrimage for her novel.)

As Ellen put it,

"So what was I doing in October and November was driving around New England with ARCs and chocolate bars covered in the image of the book jacket, visiting indie bookstores? The plan was to personally introduce my new novel to booksellers, store owners and fiction buyers. I asked them to take look at my novel, to consider stocking it, making an IndieNext nomination, recommending it to book groups and handselling it to customers."

And that personal touch seems impactful — Ellen's a former bookseller herself, so her strategy was thoughtful (and included chocolate.)
"I didn't use a standard pitch. When I handed them the ARC, most booksellers immediately turned to the back and read the short description and the blurbs. I followed their lead, about offering more information or not. Often our conversations were more about bookselling and our favorite current reads than about my book."
The result? When asked, Ellen answered,
"What difference will it make to my novel? I don't know. But in these days of increasing grassroots book promotion, I'm happy to have driven those roads, visited those stores, and met those booksellers."
The article about Ellen's ARC tour of indie bookstores is well worth-reading.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

David Mackintosh's top 10 illustration and design tips for picture books - via The Guardian

David Mackintosh's top 10 illustration and design tips was published a few years ago, but the tips are solid, 'evergreen', and well worth considering.

 Here's just two that really resonated:
Tip 1 – How to keep ideas: If I think of something for a book, I'll write it in a notebook. It could be a title I like, or something I overheard on the tube or just an idea that I can build a story around. Often I just carry a story about in my head for ages, working on it in there until I sit down at the laptop or with a pencil to get it going. I find it quicker to play with the ideas using a pencil on paper, than typing on my laptop (see Tip 3).
Tip 5 – Turn up the contrast: A busy page with a lot of words on it followed by a page with a tiny ant on it and no words can be very dramatic. Contrast makes things interesting and avoids it being repetitive. Also, a page without text can really create atmosphere. It places all the emphasis upon the picture and the reader is on their own with the information they're getting from that picture. It's very effective and can be used to alter rhythm and pace in the story in different ways. A bit like music in a film.
Read the full piece here. 

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 9, 2020

#AuthorsforFireys Auctions to Support Australian Firefighters

The Australian wildfires are all over the news. As The Guardian reported earlier today, "Bushfires have swept large parts of Australia since October, leaving more than 23 people dead, destroying thousands of homes and devastating wildlife – 1 billion animals have been killed."

In the midst of this terrible news there's something good happening, powered by the writing and illustrating community... and it's on Twitter.

As the Authors for Fireys website explains, it's a decentralized
"Twitter auction channelling funds directly to our brave Australian firefighters."
How it works:
"Creators run their own individual auction / tweet under the hashtag. Twitter users scroll through the auction items under the hashtag and reply to the items to make their bids. Make your bids on the original item thread only. (ie. If you see an item quote-tweeted, do not bid there.) TOP TIP: open up the thread under the item to see what others are bidding"
You can find the full guide to the auction here.

The auction started on Monday 6th Jan 2020 and ends at 11pm Sydney/Melbourne time on Saturday 11th Jan 2020.

Jump over to Twitter and search the hashtag:




I'm grateful for this moment of unity and goodness, across genre and category lines, and around the world, for our friends in Australia.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Do You Know About SCBWI Webinars?

Our friends at SCBWI Nevada host a listing of SCBWI regional chapter webinars that offer you a chance to take an online class with an expert and move your craft and business of children's publishing knowledge forward!

As they explain,
"SCBWI offers webinars across the regions in the US and abroad. This is a list of the webinars being provided by the various regions. All webinars are recorded, so that if you registered but didn’t see it live, you can watch it in the recorded form. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re not able to make it to the live event; however, how long the recording is available differs by event. Webinars are priced affordably so that you can all attend."
With upcoming webinars on world building, Amazon SEO, Scholastic Bookfairs, creating compelling characters, writing middle grade mysteries, putting together your illustrator portfolio, cutting your picture book text, and so many more, you can craft your own educational path!

Check out the full list here, and consider bookmarking the page so you can check back as new webinars are added.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Children's Authors Share Their Happy Surprises in Publishers Weekly

Here's the perfect start to 2020: Diane Roback at Publishers Weekly compiled this collection of brief stories, Children's Authors on Their Happy Surprises.

Read about Maggie Stiefvater's surprise with a compassionate, lying nun. Christian Robinson's school visit at the Atlanta School for the Deaf that inspired him to include a deaf child in his newest book. Ruta Sepetys receiving a case filled with her own family's hidden history.

There are more happy surprise stories, from Kate DiCamillo, Jerry Craft, Jon Scieszka, Patricia MacLachlan, Raina Telgemeier, Gary Schmidt, Laurie Halse Anderson, Roshani Chokshi, Cynthia Kadohata, Jason Reynolds, Barbara McClintock, Thanhhà Lai, Julie Murphy, Mark Teague, Chris Raschka, Ali Benjamin, and Raúl the Third.

It's such a fun – and inspiring – read!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Take Some Creative Advice from Meg Medina - Your Artistic Mission Statement

There's maybe no better way to prepare for the new year ahead than to consider, as writers and/or illustrators,

"what do we want our lives to look like?" 

What's our mission?

And to write that out as our "Artistic Mission Statement."

For inspiration, listen to this under-9 minute podcast, Podcast #30: Meg Medina Talks About Nurturing Your Artistic Voice, from our friends at the Highlights Foundation, where George Brown speaks with Meg Medina about Meg's finding the mission statement she wrote 19 years earlier, before her books and awards, when she was a new mother and trying to figure out how to have time to write. Trying to see the artistic path ahead.

And now she looks back, seeing how far she's come, and thinking about where she wants her artistic career to go next!

So write down (or draw) your artistic mission statement, and have that with you as you head into 2020!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Travling this Holiday Season? Take some Social Media Inspiration from Karina Hale

This was very cool: Karina Hale posted pictures of her upcoming book on Instagram in a variety of locations.

 It was featured in this BookBub piece on Book Promotion.

And it made me think - Karina's not writing children's or YA, but this idea could work for ANY book. (My book! Your book!) And it doesn't have to be exotic travel to some fabulous beach or European hot spot. It could be photos of your book in locations you visit every week. The snowy field across the street. The farmer's market. The train station.

Maybe you match the locations and tone of your book. Or maybe you just go for it, and create a travelogue with your book in hand.

It seems like a fun way to connect with your community and promote your book at the same time! And hey, aren't you carrying around a copy of your book anyway?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Love Letter To (And Defense of) Picture Book Biographies

Over at Electric Lit, J.M. Farkas writes "You Should Be Getting Your Biographies in Children’s Picture Book Form"

“Reading PBBs is an amazing hack for readers who want to know the general beats of notable lives.... But beyond acquiring facts and increasing your Jeopardy! score*, what I relish most about PBBs is how they infuse history with much-needed empathy and emotion.”

“There’s also one more hidden benefit: reading them will make you a better writer. A biography in a picture book format is a master class in distillation. All writing involves making choices, sometimes excruciating choices, of what to leave in and what to leave out—but the art of a biographer takes this excision to the next level. And the scissory task of a picture book biographer is even more arduous: how to fit an entire life into a 32-page container. It’s no coincidence that some of the best PBBs have the fewest words.”
And then the author lists some of their favorite picture book biographies. Some I knew, others I've added to my to-be-read list.

The whole piece is well-worth reading!

Illustrate and Write On,

*For a fun sidebar, see the shout out that 'Jeopardy!' Star James Holzhauer gave to children's books as his strategy to become a game show millionaire.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast Now: A Conversation with Mem Fox

International Best-Selling Children’s Picture Book Author Mem Fox speaks with Theo Baker about her drama school background, her writing and revising, and what it means to be an Australian writer.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Launch a New Book - a BookBub "Book Promotion 101" Article

Packed with good ideas to add to your plans, check out BookBub's Book Promotion 101: How to Launch a New Book.

Organized into five phases:

Planning, Early Promos, Preorders, Launch Day, and Post-Launch, 

the article aims to "walk you through the stages of a book launch, with examples of how successful authors have promoted theirs."

From learning "how your audience searches for books" to securing "blurbs from comparable authors" to sending a "digital gift pack to readers who preorder" to streaming "a live Q&A on Facebook or YouTube" to signing up "as a HARO source" there's great advice for every step of your book making its way into the world. Some of the many ideas shared may be ones you're already doing, but others may inspire you to try something new!

The full article is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,