Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: WASHINGTON'S Kirby Larson

In the USA West (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota) division, the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award winner was THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL by Kirby Larson (Delacorte Dell.)

I connected with Kirby to find out more about the book and the author...

Lee:  Hi Kirby!  Congratulations on your Crystal Kite win.

Kirby:  Thanks... I'm kind of blown away that my little book was selected, and by my colleagues! Wow.

Lee:  Please tell us about your book!

Kirby:  You know how we're told that we MUST be able to summarize our books in one sentence? I have yet to figure out how to do that with THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL! Though I am not a particular doll fan, when I found a photo dated 1929 of a little Montana farm girl standing next to a nearly-life-sized exquisite Japanese doll, I had to know more: how on earth did those two get together? It seemed so unlikely given the time period and generally fractious relationships between Japan and the US. After a bit of research, I learned that the school children of Japan had each contributed half a penny to create these dolls, called Friendship Dolls, and wanted to send them as a token of good will to the children of the United States. My research included an encounter with one of the dolls, which left me completely captivated and convinced I had to tell a story about them. So, this book tells the story of how one saucy Friendship doll, Miss Kanagawa, impacts the lives of four 11-year-old girls, in different parts of the country, between 1929 and 1941. May I also add that I had a secret hope in writing this book, a hope that one of then 13 unaccounted for Friendship Dolls would be found. That dream recently came true when an intrepid librarian (love those librarians!) in Minnesota went looking for the doll sent to their state and found her, in the basement of the old town library. One down, 12 more to go!

Lee:  Okay, that's completely intriguing.  Forget the one-sentence pitch, that rocked.  And now we all want to read your book!  How long have you been involved with SCBWI?

Kirby:  I've been a member since the early 1990s, and have served on our Western Washington Advisory board in several capacities.

Lee:  Can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Kirby:  The honest truth is that I would not still be writing without the organization. I've certainly experienced ups and downs in this career and during two particularly down times, I attended the conference in Los Angeles. The first time I went, presenters were singing the blues about our profession, which did not help my frame of mind. Then I stumbled into a session presented by Elise Howard, at that time working for a book packager. Her first words were: "We need you!" I definitely needed that kind of encouragement! As soon as I got home from the conference, I auditioned for the packager and ended up ghost-writing two books. Can't beat a boost like that! The second time attending a conference pulled me out of a slump was shortly after Karen Cushman won the Newbery Honor for CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY. She is so confident and articulate, you can't  help but believe every word she says! When spoke about finding your passion in writing, her words tattooed themselves on my writer's soul. Later when I began to write HATTIE BIG SKY, I drew confidence from Karen's assurance that following my passion --despite the fact that "everyone" says historical fiction is a tough sell-- would lead to good work. So, it is true: I would no longer be writing were it not for SCBWI.

Lee:  And HATTIE BIG SKY was a 2007 Newbery Honor book!  Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Kirby:  It seems pretty bold of me to give advice but I can share three things that have worked for me. First, I read as much as I can; early in my career, I wanted to write chapter books so I even typed out two of Patricia Reilly Giff's books from her Polk Street School series to get a feel for their rhythm and pacing. Second, I tried to accept the fact that like any craft, writing has an apprenticeship attached to it. My friend, Mary Casanova, says it's about ten years. Regardless of the length, there is time to be put in if you're going to create your best possible work. And the last thing: because there are no guarantees about getting published, and because this career path can be incredibly discouraging, you need to do the things that will nurture your writer's spirit. For me, that has included taking classes in different genres, going on long walks with Winston the Wonder Dog and writing fan letters to book creators whose work I genuinely admire. Trust me, there's nothing like finding a postcard from Kate DiCamillo in your mail box to keep you going through tough times!

Lee:  Great Advice.  Thanks, Kirby!

I asked Jaime Temairik to tell us more about SCBWI in Western Washington and to share her personal take on Kirby's winning the Crystal Kite Members Choice Award.  Here's what Jaime wrote:

SCBWI Western Washington hosts monthly meetings September through May, and the bulk of those meetings use our abundant regional treasures, our local authors and illustrators, as speakers. Besides our meetings, we have an annual conference that attracts over 400 local and national members and is full of opportunities for new and professional members alike. We have a professional retreat in the fall for advanced writers, as well as informal Kid Lit Drink Nights and regional schmoozes for our outlying members' areas. We are also thrilled to offer, in conjunction with a number of our local, independent bookstores, a twice-yearly party celebrating the publication of new books by our local members, The Inside Story.

Kirby Larson is a former Inside Story Co-Chair, and that's how I met her, taking over Kirby's SCBWI WWA Advisory Committee position a short while before the publication of her Newbery Honor-winning novel, HATTIE BIG SKY. Kirby has been an active SCBWI member and volunteer for many years, and when I took over her volunteer role, I didn't realize I would also be gaining a mentor and a friend. If you're a reader of Kirby's blog, Kirby's Lane, you'll know she talks a heck of a lot about birds. Well, I'm no ornithologist, but I know when someone's taken me under their wing, and Kirby has had me spitting feathers since 2004. Kirby has only ever provided me with encouragement, kind words, mentoring, and incredibly generous networking opportunities. I would like to pretend that's just for me, but ask anyone across the nation, and you'll hear similar stories of love, gratitude and praise.

I don't like it when Kirby's out of town, but if it's due to her touring or speaking at SCBWI conferences, I'll allow it because it means the entire children's book nation can now imagine how much we love Kirby in Western Washington. If we could hijack Seattle's mayor, we'd ask him to proclaim us a Kirby Larson Day. Unfortunately, our mayor is very mild-mannered and a hijacking might do him in (plus, he commutes on a bicycle, which is hard to jack) and Kirby wouldn't stand for such violence, so in lieu of a federally recognized Kirby Larson Day, we look forward to presenting the Crystal Kite to her at a big, regional SCBWI hoopdeedoo in 2013.

If you haven't had the good fortune to meet Kirby in person, you can get an excellent sense of her heart, humor and talent by reading her wonderful novels and picture books. SCBWI Western Washington loves you and your books, Kirby, and on behalf of the region I'd like to congratulate you on a much deserved Crystal Kite win.

Jaime Temairik
SCBWI WWA Co-Regional Advisor and Kirby Larson Fan Club Member

For more about Kirby Larson, check out both her website and her "Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers" blog

And to learn more about SCBWI Western Washington, you can visit their website here.

My thanks to Jaime for the hysterical and heartfelt celebration of Kirby's win and for sharing about SCBWI Western Washington, and cheers to Kirby for winning the Crystal Kite Members Choice Award for her middle grade novel, THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Neil Gaiman's Inspirational Commencement Speech

It's graduation season, and Neil Gaiman's words to the 2012 graduating class of University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, USA, speak to all of us creative types.

He covers the problems of failure.

The problems of success.

The challenge of realizing that he'd become someone who professionally answered emails and who wrote as a hobby... and how he fixed that.

and the moment when

"I decided that I'd do my best in future not to write books just for the money.  If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything.  And if I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work."

It's brilliant, and inspiring.  Enjoy,

"Make Good Art."  

Now there's a mantra we can all follow.

Illustrate and Write On, 

ps - for more about Neil and his best-selling and multi-award-winning art, check out his website here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: NEW ENGLAND's Jo Knowles

In the New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island) division, the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award winner was PEARL, by Jo Knowles (Henry Holt Books.)

I connected with Jo to find out more...

Lee:  Hi Jo!  Congratulations on winning the Crystal Kite for PEARL!  Can you tell us about your book?

Jo:  PEARL, aka Bean, is about a fifteen year old girl who lives with her mom and grandfather. At the beginning of the book, her grandfather dies unexpectedly, unleashing some BIG family secrets. With her best friend Henry at her side, Bean struggles to find her way through grief, forgiveness, and a way to accept and embrace her new life.

Lee:  Okay, now we all want to know about those BIG family secrets.  But we'll have to read it to find out... ooh, you're good!  How long have you been involved with SCBWI?

Jo:  I joined SCBWI about 16 years ago, when I graduated from college and began my writing journey. I had gotten a part-time job at a tiny library in Hatfield, MA and while cleaning up a bulletin board there I came across a flyer for a writing group for children. I hadn't heard of SCBWI before, but I was thrilled to find a writing group at the very library I was working at! It turned out this group was started by Jane Yolen herself, who lived right down the street!

Lee:  Wow, to have Jane Yolen as your SCBWI-muse is pretty amazing!  Can you share with us what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Jo:  I don't know where to begin in listing all the ways that SCBWI has helped me on this journey, there have been so many. I have life-long, dear friends because of SCBWI--and countless happy memories of traveling with them to various conferences. My favorite, driving with Peggy Davol for my first ever visit to New York City to attend the National Conference. Years ago, I won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant which helped me connect with my agent, Barry Goldblatt. Barry contacted me after reading the announcement in the SCBWI newsletter! I'll be forever grateful to SCBWI for that connection. Every year I reconnect with friends at my regional SCBWI conference which feels like a big ol' family reunion as much as it does a helpful and informative conference. I would be completely lost without this supportive community.

Lee:  Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Jo:  Rather than focusing on when "it"'s going to happen to you, focus on the journey itself. Have fun meeting other writers who share your dream. Push yourself to write the best work you can, and to explore your hidden potential. Celebrate every milestone, rather than focusing on the one you haven't reached yet. Be kind to new writers, and to yourself. And most important, remember to have FUN!

Lee:  Great advice, all!  Thanks so much, Jo! 

I asked Northern New England Regional Advisor Anna Boll to tell us more about SCBWI in New England and more about Jo, too!  Cheering Jo's win, here's what Anna wrote:

NESCBWI is unlike most other SCBWI regions as it is really three regions of over 1500 members whose RAs and volunteers work together to create events and programs for professional development. We are most known for our annual spring conference that draws 500 participants and many well-known industry participants from all over the country. In the fall we put on an Illustrator Day and Encore!, a repeat of the best evaluated workshops from the spring conference. We have been developing a series of PAL events and have critique groups all around New England.

Jo taught writing at Simmons. Along with another NESCBWI member, Cindy Faughnan, she teaches a writing camp for children. And for many years Jo led a writing workshop for female inmates at a prison for women.

Jo's blog has a wide following. During the month of November, Jo leads "Jo-NO-Wri-Mo" a community of online children's writers who announce their goals and support each other as they strive to meet those goals. Her Monday morning writing prompts on her blog get us all going and her posts about craft issues are often inspiring and emotional. PEARL is Jo's third novel, her fourth, SEE YOU AT HARRY'S (an amazingly honest portrayal of grief, family, love and self-discovery) launched this past week to wonderful reviews.

Jo is an integral part of the Northern New England writing community- her generosity knows no bounds.

To find out more about Jo Knowles and her books, check out her website here.

And for more about SCBWI in New England, you can visit their site here.

My thanks to Anna for the SCBWI Northern New England update, and cheers to Jo for winning the Crystal Kite award for her YA novel, PEARL!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Reviews Work... The landscape is changing

Hay House's New Blogger Review Program, BookNook

While not specifically a development in children's publishing, there are fascinating changes afoot in how some publishers are looking at blogs and how reviews work.  As reported in Publisher's Lunch last week and in this press release, Hay House, a self-help/motivational publisher, has

... started a blogger review program, BookNook, that is similar to Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze initiative. They aim to create "one central place for bloggers to share their thoughts and experiences about Hay House products," providing free review copies in exchange for "an honest review." 

They're hoping to enroll 6,000 bloggers by the end of 2012.

There's a lot that's interesting about this.

1.  That a "free copy" is given to a blogger "in exchange for an honest review on their blog and a consumer site."  That's very different than how reviews have worked in the past, where reviewers (for newspapers or even blogs) were identified, sent a ton of books, and then they chose the ones they would actually review.)  The idea that this is set up as trade of items of value - we'll give you a book but you have to review it on your site and ours - is significant.

2.  There's a shift that's occurring:  reviewers used to work for newspapers or magazines, and they were paid for their reviews.  Today many bloggers who are reviewing books do it because it's their passion (very few bloggers are paid by others to blog and review books.)  Some bloggers have advertising or affiliate relationships as ways of monetizing their blogs, but they are still in many ways blogging for themselves.  Signing up for this program would seem to make a blogger in some ways be blogging for Hay House. 

3.  And since this relationship is so close, and reviews are being done for a "free" supply of product, does that call into question whether or not a negative review might cost a blogger their relationship with the publisher?  I suppose this "don't bite the hand that feeds you" concern applies in any relationship where you're getting product in exchange for reviews.

4.  The scale of this new venture is remarkable.  6,000 bloggers in seven months?  Will they all be vetted? And how? 

As the way readers get their information and book reviews changes, and blogs have more impact, it's important to keep an eye on the changing landscape.  For writers and illustrators who blog about and review others' books, the changing relationships with publishers (and the distinction between reviewing books versus recommending books on your blog) need to be considered so your blogging is synergistic with and helpful to your writing/illustrating career.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: AUSTRALIA's Norman Jorgensen

In the Australia/New Zealand continental division, the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award winner was THE LAST VIKING, by Norman Jorgensen (Fremantle Press.)

I connected with Norman to find out more...

Lee:  Hi Norman!  Congratulations on winning the Crystal Kite!  Please tell us about your book.

Norman:  The Last Viking is a picture book illustrated by James Foley about Josh, a small, timid boy who is frightened of just about everything, including monsters under the bed. When his grandfather gives him a book about Vikings, where he learns they are brave and fierce, Josh decides to change his name to Knut and become a Viking. He imagines if he makes himself a Viking ship, a sword and horned helmet he will automatically become a Viking and become brave and fierce, just like them.  Later, when the local bullies come for him, he goes bravely out to face up to them, however, the Norse Gods, who have been watching out for their newest warrior from their hall up in Asgard, intervene and burst from the clouds in a heavenly Longship to save him.

Lee:  That sounds great!  How long have you been involved with SCBWI?

Norman:  I joined SCBWI soon after the hugely talented illustrator, Frané Lessac, started our Western Australia chapter seven or eight years ago.

Lee:  Can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Norman:  Not only have I loved being with the members and sharing their enthusiasm and their successes, (they really are a lovely bunch) but our new book resulted directly because of James Foley and myself both being members of SCBWI.   Every year we have a SCBWI retreat on Rottnest Island, a magical spot about ten miles off our coast, and at the retreat three years ago I saw a wonderful picture in James’ sketchbook of a young boy dressed up as a medieval knight. I immediately thought, if a boy can dress up as a knight then why not as a Viking? With my Danish surname I’ve always wanted to do a Viking story, so I tapped James on the shoulder and asked, ‘Are you busy for the next year?’  I then had to quickly think of a plot involving a boy Viking, and, most importantly, go and convince my publisher, Cate Sutherland at Fremantle Press that I had found the greatest new illustrator since Shaun Tan stubbed his big toe on his Oscar.

Lee:  Wow! What a story!  I love knowing that.  Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Norman:  Just two pieces.
1. Persistence. Never, ever, ever give in.  I’m so reminded of JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien both having had had their books rejected over fifteen times, but they still kept at it.
2. And, most importantly, have fun. Write for yourself and not what you think the market or other people may want to read.

Lee:  Excellent advice!  Thanks so much Norman, and congratulations again!

I also connected with the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Australia, Susanne Gervay, and asked her to weigh in on Norman's win and let us know more about their region.  Here's what she shared:

Norman Jorgensen is a great supporter of  SCBWI and a hugely respected award winning author in Western Australia and throughout Australia.  He has been a mentor to others. The illustrator James Foley is a young new illustrator who met Norman at the Rottnest retreat on the coast of Western Australia. Norman gave him the opportunity to work with him on The Last Viking.

The Rottnest Retreat is one of those quirky and wonderful events held in the West. Rottnest is a small island which is protected as a National park. It is an island with great colonial heritage and has the little marsupials called quokkas there. They run freely around the island which is car free. Everyone uses bicycles, although there is an island bus. People can stay in cabins on the beach or camp or there are some low key hotels. You catch a ferry from Perth or Fremantle to reach the island.

The major biennial Australia and New Zealand conference which runs from 29th June to 2nd July held at The Hughenden Hotel in Sydney attracts delegates from all over Australia and New Zealand, Norman and James will be attending to receive their Crystal Kite Award.  The conference is a wonderful one where most of the Australian publishers attend. We also bring one USA publisher or agent to our shores. This year it will be Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency.

Australia and New Zealand is a huge region and traditionally we hold events every three months in Brisbane (Queensland), Sydney (NSW), Melbourne (Victoria), Perth (Western Australia) and Aukland (New Zealand). There are additional events/meetings in country/regional areas including Cairns (Queensland), Launceston (Tasmania), Alice Springs (Northern Territory).

As of 4th May, Australia and New Zealand has been divided into two regions which is wonderful for our membership. Australia West includes Western Australia and Northern Territory.  Australia East and New Zealand includes the State of Queensland, NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia and of course the country of New Zealand.

The RA for Australia West is Dianne Wolfer; ARA Meg McInlay; IC Frane Lessac.

The RA for Australia East and NZ is Susanne Gervay: ARA Deborah Abela (NSW); ARA Sheryl Gwyther( Queensland); ARA Corinne Fenton (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania); ARA Frances Plumpton (New Zealand); IC Sarah Davis.

Chris Cheng is Crystal Kite Coordinator; co chair of the SCBWI board; and taking on international roles.

Everyone is thrilled about Norman Jorgensen and James Foley

Susanne Gervay
RA Australia East & New Zealand

To learn more about Norman Jorgensen, you can find his website here.

His illustrator, James Foley, is online here (where you can see the image of the boy in armor!)

And for more about SCBWI Australia, visit the region's website here.  

My thanks to Susanne for the Australian update, and cheers for both Norman and James on the Crystal Kite award for their picture book, THE LAST VIKING!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chip Kidd's TED Talk on Designing Books

A book designer, graphic designer, editor and author himself, Chip Kidd shares insights and inspirations from his decades of designing books (like Jurrasic Park!) at Alfred A. Knopf.

There are so many genius, quotable moments, like

"A book cover is a distillation, a haiku, if you will, of the story."

“Much is to be gained by eBooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost: tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness — a little bit of humanity.”

but to do it justice, you should watch all 17 minutes of it.  This TED talk is brilliant.

(Be aware it does have one or two adult-only moments)


Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Conference Writer Intensives Selling Out

An important update!

Because these three sessions sold out so fast, each faculty member has agreed to do an additional session:

Jen Rofe - The 'So What?' Factor

Andrea Welch - Ten Essential Picture Book Elements - How Does Your Manuscript Measure Up?

Ari Lewin - First Pages: In-Depth Analysis of the Very Best Ways To Start A Novel

There are just a few spots left in:

Bonnie Bader - Developing Your Hook

Deborah Halverson - Writing for Teens? Then Think Like One

Josh Adams - Building A Brand: Marketing Yourself and Your Work

Krista Marino - Show It, Don’t Tell It!  Making Your Voice Stronger

Linda Sue Park - Spitshine: Putting The Final Polish On Your Novel

Ann Whitford Paul - The C.P.R.: Character, Plot, Rhythm - of Picture Books

And these workshops are filling fast:

Emma Dryden - Independent and Self-Publishing: Best Practices

Ellen Hopkins - Building a Career Through Self-Promotion

Melissa Stewart - Four Steps To A Stronger Nonfiction Manuscript

Sonya Sones - Should Your Tomes Be Written In Poems: Crafting the Novel in Verse

Dan Yaccarino - From Inspiration to Publication: The Essentials of a Picture Book

A Morning With 9 Agents - Josh Adams (Adams Literary); Jaime Weiss Chilton (Andrea Brown Literary Agency); Stefanie Von Borstel (Full Circle Literary); Jill Corcoran (Herman Agency); Natalie M. Lakosil (Bradford Literary Agency); Karen Grencik (Red Fox Literary Agency); Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt Agency); Deborah Warren (East West Literary Agency); Ken Wright (Writer's House.)

Jill Corcoran - How to Write a Query Letter

Eddie Gamarra - Adapting Your Work for Film or Television

Ellen Hopkins - Creating the Really Truly Real Teen Characters

Ann Whitford Paul - Rhyme Time in Poetry and Picture Books

Dan Yaccarino - How To Do Successful School Presentations

Bonnie Bader - Leveled Readers

An Afternoon with 8 Agents - Stefanie Von Borstel (Full Circle Literary); Jaime Weiss Chilton (Andrea Brown Literary); Natalie M. Lakosil (Bradford Literary Agency); Karen Grencik (Red Fox Literary Agency); Julie Kane-Ritsch (Gotham Group); Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt Agency); Deborah Warren (East West Literary Agency); Ken Wright (Writer's House.)

Last year the conference sold out.  To make sure you get into the intensive that you want, now's the time to register!

You can find out more about the conference and these remarkable intensive opportunities - and the homework some of them require - here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Jennifer Bosworth

Debut author Jennifer Bosworth is a SCBWI success story.

She will be on faculty at the SCBWI Summer Conference (Aug 3-6, 2012) in Los Angeles.

Her apocalyptic Young Adult novel, STRUCK, comes out today (May 8, 2012!)

Before the interview, you have to watch her remarkable book trailer:

Lee: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for taking the time to chat. I just watched your trailer again, and I am *struck* (Heh, heh) at how amazing it is. I'm feeling like there's a new idea about book trailers, from Sara Wilson Etienne's trailer for Harbinger to yours for Struck, that envisions a book trailer almost like a movie trailer, and not just a video that pans the cover and puts up promotional quotes.

Jennifer: You know, it's really all about the reader or potential reader's experience, and I think Sara and I both understood going into it that a trailer's first job is to entertain. It's a commercial, after all, and people don't watch commercials anymore unless they have a very good reason to, or unless they actually want to. And if people are entertained by the trailer, they're going to want more. It's as simple as that.

Lee: It certainly kept me entertained! Is there a worry that having a face - a look - for the characters changes a reader's interior view of what things look like? I'm thinking about how I generally like to read a book before watching the movie, since I get to make all those decisions.

Jennifer: I definitely think there's a danger, and it's a risk the author has to decide whether or not he/she is willing to take. We were extremely careful when it came to casting the lead, and ended up doing two casting sessions to find the right girl. As soon as she walked in the door, we knew it was her. When you have that feeling, I think you're okay. If you feel like you settled for someone who doesn't embody the part, you might be heading down a track that will alienate readers. Luckily, there are enough great, undiscovered actors and actresses in Los Angeles that it wasn't an issue for us. I feel great about our "Mia Price."

Lee: Yeah, she's great in the role. Okay, so you had casting sessions, but I'd like to know more about how you made this trailer. I can imagine things like getting an actor to stand in a hallway and look cute/mysterious, or another wearing spooky contact lenses, but some of the special effects – the cars falling into the hole in the street, the skyscrapers blowing up from lightning hits... How did you do all that?

Jennifer: I can't take a lick of credit for any of that. My husband, Ryan Bosworth, and his sister, Erin Bosworth (of Team Bosworth) did all the special effects. It took months. Not only months, but long, long hours of every day for months. I'm surprised Team Bosworth made it through the visual effects portion alive. They basically did the work of a entire VFX facility. After the book is released, I'll be posting the making of video which will explain in more detail the technical side of destroying Los Angeles. It's an incredible, intimidating process.

Lee: The results are remarkable, and I'm relieved to hear that you had a team! I was reflecting on how trailer music sets a tone, kind of like the opening lines of a book. Your opening to STRUCK set the same exciting tone: 

April 14
Three days until the storm...


I don’t sleep much. An hour here. Two hours there. Chronic insomnia, it’s one of my more tolerable lightning strike aftereffects. Not as bad as the veiny red scars that cover me from neck to toes, or the burning in my chest that flares hotter when I get a little emotional. Insomnia? Eh. It could be worse (and usually is.) Most people wish they had more hours in the day. I keep almost the full twenty-four. 

Can you tell us more about writing the beginning of Struck? Did the story always start in this way?

Jennifer: I started this story so many times in so many different ways, I can barely remember them all. But the very first beginning is now the middle of STRUCK. I started in the Waste (destroyed downtown Los Angeles) and then just kept working backward until I found the point that clicked. I tend to feel my way through each draft. I know when something works and when it doesn't, but I don't always know why. It's an intuitive process for me. It's like falling in love. You know when you're in, and I think you also know when you're out.

Lee: That's so interesting about finding the starting point. You’re going to be on one of two SCBWI Success Stories panels at the SCBWI Summer Conference – without giving your whole success story away, can you tell us how long you’ve been a member?

Jennifer: I joined SCBWI four years ago, right about the time I realized that I was writing YA. I'd written several books previous to STRUCK, all of them quasi-adult, but it took me years to understand that I had a YA voice. Once I did, I had another of those moments when things click into place. But I think back on the first SCBWI conference I attended, and remember how overwhelmed I felt. I didn't know anyone, and I had no idea what I was doing there. It's amazing how much can change in a few years. While you're living them, struggling through them, the climb seems slow, but when I say "four years" that really doesn't seem like very long.

Lee: What do you think is the best thing you’ve gotten from being part of SCBWI?

Jennifer: A community. And from that community, inspiration. I get to be surrounded by writers all the time, and I'm in awe of their talent. Not just the published authors. ALL of them. There is so much collective greatness among the members of SCBWI, it's staggering to look upon. Sometimes I have to shut my eyes so their light doesn't melt my face like in Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Lee: Ha! But I totally hear you. Community. As Lin Oliver likes to say, we're a tribe! You’ll also be teaching a pro track workshop on the Sunday of the summer conference, “The Conspicuous Writer: Helping Readers Discover Your Work.” Can you tell us more about that?

Jennifer: It's a subject I've had to think a lot about now that it's actually applicable. Now that children's books are so popular, there are more choices for buyers. But when there are so many book choices, how does an author position their book to stand out in the market?

What I want to talk about in the workshop is how to set yourself apart as an author, and how to make your work attract attention. I'll be doing author case studies, and I'm hoping to use some live visual aides.

Lee: I wonder if you'll be talking as well about things like the other video you had on your website – the one where you’re opening the package from your editor with the first hard-cover copy of STRUCK, and you see it for the first time. And then you share the dedication page with the viewers. It’s so different from the flash and drama of the trailer, so simple, and yet it was very endearing and emotional. You made us like YOU as an author (well, I know you outside of social media, and already like you) but I imagine it will win readers over to your side.

Jennifer: I do want to talk about that video, and what it accomplished. It was honest and the emotion was genuine and unscripted. I actually choke up every time I think about that moment. I'm getting misty right now just writing about it. I think we authors have to remember that, even though we're trying to be professional, readers want to see us as human. They want to see heart and vulnerability. When we become public figures, we're almost like characters in a book. If we don't show our true selves, it doesn't give readers a chance to connect with us.

Lee: Here’s something I’ve been wondering about: Is there a difference between getting out there in social media so people can find your book and celebritizing yourself?

Jennifer: Haha. That's a good question, and I'm not sure it has a definite answer. For me, it's all about making a connection with individuals. I hate feeling like a phony, so when people follow me on Twitter I read each and every one of their bios, and I try to comment on them if we have something in common. Someone followed me recently who said she was a belly dancer, and I took belly dancing lessons ten years ago, so I told her that and we connected. I'll remember her, and I think she'll remember me. But I don't think you can try to become a celebrity. It happens or it doesn't. If authors start leaking sex tapes, I'll be worried.

Lee: Yikes! Me, too.

Last lines are also really important – and the last lines of your trailer are still echoing in my head: “My name is Mia Price. I’m a lightning addict. And the fate of the world is in my hands.” But don’t tell us the last lines of STRUCK – we’ll need to earn them by reading it!

Congratulations on your book being released Today!

And I’ll give you the last line of our interview...

Jennifer: Fantastic! This was so much fun, Lee! 

To find out more about Jennifer and STRUCK, check out her website.

You can meet Jennifer and attend her conference sessions by registering for the SCBWI Summer Conference. Click here for details and registration.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The 2012 Crystal Kite Members Choice Award Winners!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (15 exclamation points - one for each regional division winner!)

The SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards recognize great books from the 70 SCBWI regions around the world. Each regional chapter was assigned to one of 15 divisions and the membership in each division voted for their favorite book published by an SCBWI member that year. The Crystal Kite Awards are a regional complement of the annual SCBWI Golden Kite Award which are given in 4 categories for excellence in children’s literature. Both awards are unique as they are chosen by other writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.

Here are the winners of the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for SCBWI's 15 regional divisions (virtual drumroll...)

Africa: FINDING AUNT JOAN By Jenny Hatton and Joan Rankin (Jacana Media Ltd.)

Australia: THE LAST VIKING By Norman Jorgensen (Fremantle Press)

California/Hawaii: WON TON - A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU By Lee Wardlaw illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt)

Florida/GA: CLEOPATRA'S MOON By Vicky Alvear Shecter (Arthur A. Levine Books)

Kansas/LA: BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY By Ruta Sepetys (Philomel Books)

Middle East/Asia: ORCHARDS By Holly Thompson (Delacorte Dell-Random House)

Minnesota/Iowa: BLUEFISH By Pat Schmatz (Candlewick Press)


New England: PEARL By Jo Knowles (Henry Holt Books)

New York: THELONIOUS MOUSE By Orel Protopopescu (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.)

PA/DE/NJ: THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE By Kathryn Erskine (Philomel Books)

Texas/OK: MINE! By Patrice Barton (Random House Children’s Books)

Americas: WITCHLANDERS By Lena Coakley (Atheneum)

UK/Europe: DARK PARTIES By Sara Grant (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Washington: THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL By Kirby Larson (Delacorte Dell)

Congratulations to all the winners!  We all have lots more books to add to our reading lists now!

For more information on the Crystal Kite Members Choice Awards, and to find out about entering your own book next year, go here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Paula Yoo Gives Us The Scoop on National Picture Book Writing Week

SCBWI member Paula Yoo writes Young Adult novels and picture books.  She created NaPiBoWriWee four years ago, and here she tells us all about it:

Check out NaPiBoWriWee here, and as Paula says,

Good Luck, Everyone!

Illustrate and Write On,