Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wisdom from Multi-Award Winning Illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky

Paul wrote about receiving the Eric Carle Honor on his website here.


On September 27, 2018, Paul was honored by the Eric Carle Museum for playing "an instrumental role in making picture books a vibrant and influential art and literary form."

In announcing his winning the 2018 "Artist" Honor, the Eric Carle Museum said,

"Paul O. Zelinsky is master of many styles, bringing exceptional artistry and poignant storytelling to the field. He received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel. Three additional books received Caldecott Honors: Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995). Zelinsky is regarded as one of the most critically acclaimed artists in the field of children's literature." 

And now more good news: The Society of Illustrators will present Paul with their Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening of the annual Original Art exhibition in November, 2018!

Back in an interview Paul did in 2014 for KidLit411, he was asked,
Q: You have won so many honors, awards and accolades. Does it ever get old?
Here's Paul's very sage response:
A: Does being honored get old? No! It's been exciting and gratifying to be paid all this terrific attention... I'm also aware of the difference between receiving accolades and the real purpose of the whole enterprise, which is children (or anybody) seriously bonding with books-- getting out of my books what I've tried to put in. That is more important by far, and when it happens, this is what makes me happiest.
Congratulations, Paul, from our whole SCBWI community! And thanks for keeping it real.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

5 Writing Tips from the Amazing Barbara Kingsolver


In this wonderful piece in Publishers Weekly, Barbara Kingsolver shares so much wisdom, including these gems:

"Writer’s block is another name for writer’s dread"
To write yourself into a book, you have to think of "pages negative-100 to zero—and you can’t skip them"
and
"Readers come to books for many reasons, but ultimately they’re looking for wisdom. That’s something writers can offer only after we’ve accrued it, like scar tissue, usually by surviving things we didn’t want to deal with—a process otherwise known as aging. This is fantastically good news! Twenty, thirty, or forty years after all the athletes, dancers, models and actors of our cohort have been put out to pasture, we can look forward to doing our greatest work."
It's well-worth reading in its entirety.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Research on the Power of Reading, curated by Donalyn Miller



Donalyn Miller has done a lot of the heavy lifting for us, and for teachers looking to support reading as a good use of time for their students.

A few stand-out quotes:
“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone became a reader.” —Nancie Atwell
and
"Do we really need research proving that kids who read the most outperform kids who don’t read that much? Do we really need research proving that when readers are engaged with what they read they invest more effort in reading? Do we really need research proving that when kids have books in classrooms, libraries, and homes they read more?" —Donalyn Miller
Those last questions may be rhetorical, as Donalyn proceeds to list research and resources that do back up those statements with evidence.

 The part that's really inspiring, for those of us who create books for children and teens?

"when readers are engaged with what they read they invest more effort in reading"

So it's up to us, too. To create books that engage our young readers. Page-turners, fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, poetry, words and images and stories they'll want to read.

Let's do just that.

Here's a link to Donalyn's full post, I’ve Got Research. Yes, I Do. I’ve Got Research. How About You?

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Creativity Advice: Make Time To Play

This is very well said.


"No matter how busy I am, I always try to carve out a few minutes every day to do some art and writing purely for the fun of it. No pressure to show anyone or have anything be perfect....just to PLAY." —Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Make time to be creative every day. Even if it's just a few moments. Play with words. Or images. Or story.

It's excellent advice.

Thanks, Debbie!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Children's Book Council Announces the 2019 CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards



In it's inaugural year, the CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards were given “to professionals or organizations in the children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on the publishing and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse voices.”

 “The winners were announced at the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City on September 27, and an official ceremony and conversation with the winners will take place on October 24 at a CBC Forum event. The winners will each select an organization to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s books in their name.”

This year's winners were:
Saraciea J. Fennell, Publicist, Tor
Jennifer Loja, President & Publisher, Penguin Books for Young Readers
Jason Low, Publisher, Lee and Low Books
Beth Phelan, Literary Agent, Gallt & Zacker Literary
Phoebe Yeh, VP & Co-Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books
and
We Need Diverse Books

Read the full announcement here!

 Congratulations to all the winners!

 Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

On Men in Translation: A Guest Post by Avery Udagawa

#WorldKidLit Month image (c) Elina Braslina 


A #WorldKidLit Month and International Translation Day post. 

Earlier this year, I published a post called On Women in Translation, which showed that

• Prominent translations for US children feature women authors, from western cultures; and
• Translations for US children are vanishingly few.

To find out about prominent translations for US children, I had looked at winners of the ALSC Batchelder Award, which for fifty years has garlanded translations for children published in the US.

In today’s post, I would like to share findings about a group I could not introduce fully in that post: male authors of prominent translations for US children. Here is what I found.

Prominent Translations for US Children by Male Authors Also Tend to Come from Western Cultures

Using exactly fifty years’ worth of Batchelder data, I found (click to enlarge):

Authors of Batchelder Award Winners by Gender


Languages of Male Authors of Batchelder Award Winners, by Region



Over fifty years, 1968-2018, 46% of Batchelder Award titles were authored by men. Of these, 83% were written in European languages.

Note: Language can belie culture of origin. Ramic Schami, author in German of A Hand Full of Stars, 1991 Batchelder winner, grew up in Syria and set his story in Damascus.

Looking at Batchelder Honor Books:

Authors of Batchelder Honor Winners by Gender


Languages of Male Authors of Batchelder Honor Winners, by Region


Over twenty-eight years (1991-2018), 38% of Batchelder Honor titles were authored by men. Of these, 67% were written in European languages.

What I learned: as with women, men writing in languages of cultures that contrast highly with the US were under-represented.

As I noted in my last post, most of the world’s languages have been absent entirely from the Batchelder lists, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (China), Croatian, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, Malay, Nepali, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Swahili, Thai, Ukrainian, and Urdu. These are all languages of countries with national sections of IBBY, suggesting that children’s literary scenes exist.

Translations likely to be accessed by US children that have male authors, were also predominantly authored in European languages.

Will New Batchelder Award Criteria Change this Picture?

When I combined all genders of authors of Batchelder Award and Honor books over time, I found:

Languages of All Authors of Batchelder Award and Honor Winners, by Region


In the next fifty years, will the balance among the bars in this graph change?

One factor that may affect the answer is a change in Batchelder Award critera. Recently, an award evolution committee determined that books originally published in a language other than English, published in English translation overseas, and then subsequently published in English in the US, will be eligible for the award. (Previously, books published in English translation abroad and subsequently published in the US were ineligible.)

This could conceivably bring greater prominence in the US for books written by authors in non-western cultures. Books written in non-European languages are often a risk to publish Stateside due to the work needed to translate, edit and market them for US readers. If a book from, say, Asia, gets published with success in the UK, a US publisher could find it easier to risk publishing it, since it now has a sales record in an English-reading country and is translated. The fact that such a book could now win a Batchelder might mean that more such books attain prominence in the US—because Batchelder books are likely to be stocked in school libraries.

In the last Batchelder Award cycle, the novel Bronze and Sunflower by Chinese male author Cao Wenxuan, translated by SCBWI member translator Helen Wang, was ineligible due to having been published first in the UK. Now a work like this could win the award.

Read more about Bronze and Sunflower and the author here.


Will the new criteria bring about a change in where our children’s books are written? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it’s up to US consumers and publishers to notice how translations—all translations—remain a tiny sliver of our children’s publishing output.



Data source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Translated Book Logs and overall book counts

What Three Percent Looks Like


To promote world literature, SCBWI welcomes not only international writers and illustrators, but also translators, who in 2014 became the third professional category of members. Translators are now part of 60 SCBWI regions, including 38 US regions. Reach out to translators to learn more about the world of world literature. Info: itc@scbwi.org


Avery Fischer Udagawa is the translator of Temple Alley Summer (Kimyoji yokocho no natsu) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a middle grade novel forthcoming from Chin Music Press in Spring 2019. She serves as SCBWI International Translator Coordinator.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Daniel José Older



Daniel José Older is the award-winning and best-selling author of middle grade, young adult, and adult books, including Shadowshaper, Half-Resurrection Blues, and Dactyl Hill Squad.

Daniel speaks with Theo Baker about craft, process, diversity, "the secret heart of your story,"  and much more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stirring Advice from Tayari Jones to Writers in Difficult Times

The National Book Award–nominated author Tayari Jones spoke to winners of the Rona Jaffe Foundation’s award for emerging writers, and her speech included these powerful words:
...we are a nation and a planet in crisis and we must each use our resources to create the world that we want to call our own. There was a time in my life when I sat at my writing desk to spend a few hours each day, looking inward, telling my story. This was art, of course. As the descendants of Africans held in slavery in this country and denied literacy, sometimes at the penalty of death — I believed that whatever I might write was an act of defiance. And it was. And it is.

However, this is not enough.

My message to you today is not just advice for writers and artists. This is a call to action for all of us, each according to her ability. This is a plea for truth telling in all of its complexity. I am asking you to be brave enough to forsake likes and shares in favor of revealing potentially unsettling realities.
and
I push you to responsibility, but I don’t want to deprive you of the delight of creation and the pleasure of your imagination. Rather, I urge you to find and claim your voice, mission, and joy all at once. Rejoice in resistance. Seek out the satisfaction of hard work. Learn to revel in forward motion.
Read the full speech at Electric Literature here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Finding Book Clubs for Your Book - Some Ideas, and a Community Sharing



It's a dream, isn't it? Having a book club choose your book to read, and then discuss?

Yet what are all the ways you can find book clubs that might be interested?

Some ideas, and then, in comments, please add your own suggestions:

1. Ask librarians, both public and school, if they have a student book club. Or an adult book club that reads children's or teen books.

2. Ask Bookstores if they host a book club that might read your category of book.

3. If you're already connected to a group that has regular meetings, can you convince them to become a book club for one meeting for your book?

4. Try searching meetup.com and/or reader's circle.

5. Explore Goodreads for book clubs.

6. Find a "mentor text" - a recent book in your category with the same target audience, and do some internet searches for that book title and the words "book club" -- the book clubs that chose that book might be interested in yours, too!

7. Imagine you are searching for a book club. Who would you ask? Where would you look? Try those people, online, and real-world locations, and see what you can discover.

And of course, ask your fellow illustrators and writers in the SCBWI community! Chime in here, in comments, with your own suggestions for how to find book clubs that might be interested in your book!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee




Monday, September 17, 2018

Illustrators! Enter the SCBWI Narrative Art Award Contest for a Chance to Win an All-Expense Paid Trip To #NY19SCBWI



About the SCBWI Narrative Art Award
Each year, a rotating panel of judges will provide an assignment and will judge the submissions. The theme and specific assignment will change year-to-year, but the general goal will be to show sequence and narrative. The prize is an all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI New York Winter Conference. The winning illustrations will be displayed during the New York Portfolio Showcase (in conjunction with the conference). We will also have an online gallery displaying the submissions to the award for any member who submitted to the award and wants to participate.
2018 SCBWI Narrative Art Award
Assignment
Create three illustrations from the same story that display Dilemma/Conflict/Resolution.
– There must be three different characters in the story 
– Your art style must be appropriate for one of these two specific audiences/book genres (Choose one):
                Full color, intended for a picture book for 4 to 7-year-olds
                – OR –
                Black and white, intended for a MiddleGrade book for 8 to 11-year-olds
– Do not include text in your images
Theme
In honor of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, depict a narrative of a misunderstood monster from literature, fairytales, or folktales appropriate for your audience. 
Criteria
The judges will look for images that tell a visual story with clarity and nuance. The images should reflect a range and escalation of mood and emotion.
Prize
The prize is an all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI New York Winter Conference. The winning illustrations will be displayed during the New York Portfolio Showcase (in conjunction with the conference). 
How to submit 
– You must be a current SCBWI member to submit to this award.
– Deadline: Submissions are due by midnight, PST, September 20, 2018. (The winner will be announced November 17)

Get all the details here, and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

(Posted Monday September 17, 2018 to give everyone entering the extra day.)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Advice on Writing Series from Stephanie Greene (via Cynsations)



In this excellent interview at Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, Survivors: Stephanie Greene on Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing Children's Author, Cynthia asks Stephanie (the author of four series) to share some insights into writing series.

Stephanie breaks series down into character-driven, concept-driven, and hook-driven, explaining that,
There are different kinds of series, of course. If you have a character in mind who you believe will appeal to enough kids that they can successfully carry a series, develop that character to the best of your ability in the first book. Three of my series have been character-driven. I first created a character who I liked. In every case, it was my editor who asked for more. (There are countless character-driven series; read as many of them as you can, especially in the genre in which you want to write. Study them. Figure out what makes the character appealing to children.)
She cites The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne as a "prime example" of concept-driven series, suggesting,
If you have a concept, develop it in one book and see what happens.
The third approach, as Stephanie tells us,
...is to develop a “hook.” That’s a feature about the character that can be repeated in subsequent books. Many series employ this device. The trick is to make it an intricate part of the story and not a superficial tag-on. I inadvertently created my Princess Posey (G. Putnam's Sons, 2010-2018) series of early chapter books because I gave the character in the first story - what was meant to be a stand-alone book – a hook: Posey’s pink tutu makes her feel brave. It was my editor’s decision the tutu [hook] could carry a series.
In all instances, the focus is to create the best possible book one, knowing it might be a stand-alone, and aiming to make it as good as it can be.

It's a wide-ranging interview, well-worth reading in its entirety.

Thanks to Stephanie and Cynthia!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How Many Copies of Your Book Have To Sell For It To Be Considered A Success?



The easy answer is "enough to earn out your advance" if you're traditionally published, and maybe "enough to earn back your investment" if you're financing publication yourself through either hybrid or author-publishing.

The more complex answer, according to author and publisher Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, in this article Reframing Publishing Success in Publishers Weekly's BookLife, is an honest look at numbers.

While many authors state that selling 10,000 copies is their goal, Brooke cautions that “it’s an unrealistic benchmark for 95% of authors, and it’s especially unrealistic for debut authors.” She goes on to explain:
“In 2015, Lynn Neary reported a story on NPR called “When It Comes to Book Sales, What Counts as Success Might Surprise You” that noted that one of the books shortlisted for that year’s Man Booker Prize had sold fewer than 3,600 copies and another fewer than 3,000.”
Her advice includes this gem:
“Debut authors would do well to think of their first books as an investment in themselves and their futures. It’s common book publishing wisdom that the needle doesn’t truly begin to move on book sales until authors publish their third book. As such, this industry requires patience, and selling 1,000 or 2,000 copies of a freshman effort is something worth celebrating.”
And Brooke adds a reminder to:
“Celebrate the small victories, such as moments of connection with readers, a glowing review from a stranger, and the potential that these kinds of victories have to propel the next book.”
It's an article well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,\Lee

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Who are the booktubers YOU follow?

YouTube videos on books. The people that make them are called "Booktubers." They're reaching teens. They're reaching hundreds of thousands of readers.


In this New York Times article, Meet the YouTube Stars Turning Viewers Into Readers, Concepción de León introduces those not in the know with some of the biggest Booktubers reaching "millennial and teenage audience."

There's Christine Riccio, whose channel is PolandBananasBooks

Jesse George, whose channel is Jesse The Reader

Kat O’Keeffe, whose channel is Kaytastic

and Ariel Bissett, whose channel is the eponymous Ariel Bissett

As Brittany Kaback, of Big Honcho Media, said of Booktubers' influence,

“I think for a lot of the people who are into watching BookTube videos, it feels like taking a recommendation from a friend.”

It was noticeable that the Booktubers featured in the New York Times article were predominantly White, so I did a little looking around, and found another great roundup of Booktubers by Tiffany Hall over at BookRiot that included a few people of color, notably:

Monica K. Watson, whose channel is She Might Be Monica

Literary Prints and

BrandonTheBookAddict.

Who are your favorite Booktubers? Are they on your radar to reach out to about your next title?

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Writing Advice from Laini Taylor (via Publishers Weekly's BookLife)



New York Times and USA Today-bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist, Laini Taylor shares some excellent writing advice over at BookLife, including:

Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing 10 things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite—fast, non-precious forward momentum; you don’t even have to read it afterward, but it might give you ideas. Try anything and everything. Never fall still, and don’t be lazy.

Go read the full article here - it's well worth it.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Peter Brown



Peter Brown has written and illustrated many best-selling and award-winning picture books, including Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Children Make Terrible Pets, and The Curious Garden. His illustrations for Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds, earned him a 2013 Caldecott Honor. His first novel for young people is The Wild Robot.

Peter speaks with Theo Baker about the evolution of his style, his creative process, how he uses technology, and so much more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

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

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How Success Can Differ From Book to Book: Wisdom from Carol Hinz (via Twitter)

Carol Hinz is the Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing Group.  This essay (in tweets) is shared here with Carol's kind permission.


Here's the full stream:
I’ve been thinking lately about the meaning of what success means for a book and the fact that there’s no one path to success. In fact, what success looks like can be very different from one book to the next.
**
Certain books get a lot of buzz ahead of their release. And don’t get me wrong—deal announcements are fun, cover reveals are fun, and starred reviews are fun. But all the buzz in the world doesn’t automatically make a book a success.
**
Some books that are ultimately very successful don’t get a lot of buzz. Let me share a few examples…
**
I edited a book that received three starred reviews. It has sold okay.
**
Two years later, I edited a book from the same author as the book mentioned above. It received two starred reviews. It has sold twice as many copies as the previous book and is still going strong.
**
I edited a book that received one starred review and was named an honor book for an ALA award. It’s selling well.
**
I edited a book that received no starred reviews but was named to six different state award lists. It is still in print eight years after its release and has sold nicely.
**
I edited a book that received one starred review and received no recognition from any ALA committee. Three years after the book’s release, we’ve sold tens of thousands of copies and are reprinting it multiple times a year just to keep it in stock.
**
I brought a project to acquisitions years ago that wasn’t approved (much to my disappointment). It found a wonderful home with another publisher and multiple follow-up volumes have been published. I feel happy every time I see one of those books.
**
I brought a project to acquisitions that was approved, but I was outbid by another, bigger house. Yet the interactions I had with the author have opened up the possibility for us to work on a different book together.
**
Of course we all want each and every book to be a success. The key thing is to make the very best book you can with a team you trust.
**
Publishing has a lot of ups and downs—and the longer you stay in it, the more ups and downs there seem to be. Enjoy the ups when they come, and know that the downs are only temporary.
**
Keep working, keep creating, and when your book is finished, get the word out about your book in the ways that work best for you—whether it’s on social media, in a monthly e-newsletter, at bookstore events, at school visits, or all of the above.
**
And above all, know that the most meaningful success doesn’t come from accolades—it comes from the moment when a reader connects with your book. That sort of success can never be measured, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
**
Good luck to all the book makers today and every day. May you find your own path to success!
Thank you Carol. It's insight and advice that clearly resonated—hundreds of likes, dozens of comments and re-tweets, and lots of online conversation! 

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Writing a Picture Book? Focus on your character's emotional story - Advice from Jim Averbeck

I interviewed Jim Averbeck about his latest picture book, Trevor, (illustrated by Amy Hevron), and there were so many strong craft insights that it warranted sharing here on SCBWI: The Blog as well.



Trevor by Jim Averbeck, Illustrated by Amy Hevron
Trevor is a lonely yellow canary looking for a friend. He stretches his wings the width of his boring cage and notices the tree outside stretching its branch. And on the end of that branch? Another canary! But he’s so shy and quiet. Trevor knows just how to make him feel comfortable.
Reading Trevor I found myself really moved. Goosebumps, people. Goosebumps. I reached out to the author Jim Averbeck (former RA for SCBWI San Francisco) to find out more about this remarkably resonant combination of his words, Amy's pictures, and every reader's emotions.

Here's our interview:

Lee: One thing I found very moving was that Trevor has the power to open his cage all along, and when he decides to leave his cage he just pecks and the gate pops open. Reading that, as a Gay man, it felt like a powerful coming out metaphor. Was it?

 Jim: That’s very insightful, Lee. I teach a class at Storyteller Academy on writing picture books. One of the things I emphasize above all others is making sure your work has an emotional core. I suggest that there are two components to this core. One is a connection to the emotional world of children. The other is a connection to your own adult feelings. You connect to the child’s world because the story is about and for them. You connect to your adult feelings because they are more immediately memorable and accessible to you and can infuse the story with the authenticity and drive you want it to have. It’s like childhood emotion is the engine and adult emotion is the fuel.

That’s what happened in the case of TREVOR. I set out to write a story about a lonely canary who makes overtures of friendship to a lemon he believes is another bird. I connected it to the child’s world by thinking of Trevor as that socially isolated child on the playground who takes a chance at making a friend. When I went to connect to my adult emotions to fuel the story, I realized the most analogous and recent experience I had to this little bird’s was when I was in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and knew it was time I "came out". I was thousands of miles from my home and my support network, among people I hadn’t known for long, in an environment that was foreign to me. I was desperate to find someone to talk to about what I was feeling. Fortunately, I found many new friends with willing ears and open hearts. So as I developed the story of Trevor, I realized that my experience of coming out was metaphorically showing up in the story. 

When I discussed the emotional underpinning of the story with the book's editor, Neal Porter, I think he was genuinely moved by it and saw the connection immediately. I think the resulting editorial direction made a book that is deeper and more poignant for it. We wondered if the underlying experience that fueled the story should be brought more to the forefront. It was an interesting question because, in the end, the gay experience is both unique and universal. We opted to focus on the universal emotions - loneliness, friendship, trust - but I gave a nod to the unique experience in the wording of the dedication.

Lee: That duality, of a child’s and adult’s emotions, brings up another lovely piece of the story: how even the child reader knows that Trevor’s first, very quiet friend isn’t another canary, but actually a lemon. I imagine it’s one of the things children having the story read to them love best, especially as Trevor is so sweet about it. Their duet, where “"the lemon sang the silences.” is such a lovingly told, charming, and poignant note. Tell us about the decision to have children know more than Trevor.

Jim: I do a lot of school visits and in one of them I teach how to write a suspenseful scene. I put an emphasis on dramatic irony, where the reader knows something that the characters in the scene do not. So I guess it is just one of the tools in my writing toolkit. I never really made an active decision to have the reader know that Trevor’s friend is a lemon when Trevor does not. All the comedy in the story stems from that fact though. I guess the tragedy does too, since the relationship is doomed from the start. I think maybe the one-sided nature of the relationship is what some people identify with and find so moving. We’ve all been there.

Lee: You've packed a lot of emotion into a modest word count. Can you tell us about your writing/revision process for this picture book text?

Jim: At Christmas time, my critique group The Revisionaries, sets aside all the work we have been doing during the year and does something we call “The Assignment.” Basically we take a short, vague phrase and use it as a story prompt. We have two weeks to write the story. TREVOR was the result of this tradition. If this sounds familiar it’s because I’ve had a lot of luck selling stories created during The Assignment. I think this is the fourth one. In the case of TREVOR, the prompt was “sour fruit.” Part of my method for The Assignment is a process I call Inquiry and Synthesis, where I ask questions and look for connections in the answers. In this way I connected lemons to canaries and had the idea for a canary mistaking a lemon for another canary. The story came out pretty much the same as the published story. However, the first draft had a girl character, Trevor’s owner. When the lemon fell from the nest, Trevor followed. The text read “but the lemon had found a new friend.” That new friend was the girl. So the first draft had an element of betrayal to it. The last scene was Trevor flying away with new friends and the girl opening a lemonade stand. Punishment for the lemon's betrayal, I guess. Fortunately I found the true heart of the story and the lemon now enjoys a finer fate.

Lee: You’ve also created picture books where you’ve done both the words and the illustrations. Are there insights from the illustration side of the creative process that you bring to the table on a project like this where you’re the writer and not the illustrator?

Jim: Probably the biggest insight I apply when someone else is illustrating is “the illustrator brings enormous skills to the visual side of the storytelling, so trust them and give them plenty of space to tell their own story.” I try to just stay out of the illustrator’s way. That said, if there are visual aspects that are essential to the story, I am sure to discuss them with the editor. Working with Amy Hevron (the illustrator) and Neal Porter (the editor) was a dream, in this case. There was one essential aspect of the story that I did talk to Neal about: that Trevor was a canary! It isn’t obvious from the text and the initial art sample was a beautiful cobalt budgie that Amy had created at Neal’s request. The blue bird and yellow lemon were such a beautiful combination that I offered to change the text, which contained onomatopoeic canary song, to align with the blue parakeet in the sample art. Neal suddenly understood that Trevor was a canary and took that back to Amy. Turns out Amy is sort of a bird fan and had thought, based on the birdsong in the text, that Trevor was a canary. So she was happy to create a new, yellow character.

Lee: What advice do you have for other writers who are working on their picture book manuscripts?

Jim: Spend most of your time developing the character’s emotional story, rather than on language or rhyme or, god forbid, “teaching a lesson.” Emotion is what will make people love your book. 

Lee: Thanks so much for sharing about this beautiful picture book, Jim! And congratulations.

Jim: Thanks Lee. I am very grateful for this opportunity to talk about an aspect of TREVOR that is likely to be overlooked, but that was so important to me as I wrote it.

**

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Looking for a Writing Prompt? Check out Illustrator Portfolios, Part 2

More inspiration from the portfolio show at the 2018 SCBWI Summer Conference, #LA18SCBWI...

Carrie Salazar

Chelsie Su

Jeff Walker

April Zufelt

Amy O'Hanlon

Taia Morley 
Margaux Meganck



Sara Vecchi

H.T. Yao



Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Looking for a writing prompt? Check out illustrator portfolios, part 1

Here's the first dozen of inspirational images that resonated for me from the amazing portfolio show at the recent SCBWI 2018 Summer Conference here in Los Angeles.


Shannon McNeill

Maile McCarthy

Zhen Liu 

Kary Lee

J.R. Krause


Chad Hunter

Amanda Ho

Cassandra Federman

Rebecca Evans

Mags DeRoma

Amy Kenney


Courtney Dawson


Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

¡El SCBWI tiene recursos en español para los socios hispanohablantes! (The SCBWI has resources in Spanish for Spanish-speaking members!

SCBWI's newest "member of the year" is actually members of the year in 2018...Judy Goldman (RA Mexico) and Malena F Alzu (SLC, Spanish language Coordinator.)

SCBWI's newest members of the year: Melana Alzu (left) and Judy Goldman

Melana and Judy very kindly put together this explanation (in both Spanish and English) of some of SCBWI's Spanish-language resources:

* *

El SCBWI tiene recursos en español para los socios hispanohablantes. Uno de ellos es el boletín electrónico cuatrimestral, totalmente en español, La cometa, que tiene alrededor de 800 suscriptores alrededor del mundo.

La cometa es editada por Judy Goldman (Regional Advisor de México) y producida por Malena F Alzu (SLC, Spanish Language Coordinator). Entre los suscriptores hay editores, escritores, ilustradores, traductores y gente interesada en el tema de la literatura para niños y jóvenes en español. En el boletín se ofrecen entrevistas a profesionales del sector, noticias de concursos, cursos, premios y conferencias así como artículos de socios sobre temas relacionados con la técnica, con la profesión y crónicas de eventos a los que asisten.

También existe la página de Facebook --SCBWI en español--, donde, de manera regular, se publica información actualizada sobre el sector.

Adicionalmente, se ha formado, recientemente, un grupo de crítica a distancia (critique group) en español.

Si quieres recibir La cometa, apuntarte al grupo de crítica o tienes alguna duda o comentario sobre los recursos del SCBWI en español, mándanos un correo a slc@scbwi.org con tu nombre completo y país de residencia.

* *

The SCBWI has resources in Spanish for Spanish-speaking members. One is La cometa, an electronic newsletter in Spanish. Published every four months, it’s sent out to about 800 subscribers around the world.

La cometa is edited by Judy Goldman (RA Mexico) and produced by Malena F Alzu (SLC, Spanish language Coordinator). Among its readers are editors, writers, illustrators, translators, and people interested in children’s literature in Spanish. The newsletter includes interviews with sector professionals, news about contests, courses, awards, and conferences as well as articles written by members focused on themes such as technique, the profession, and reports about events they have attended.

Also available is the Facebook page –SCBWI en español—where sector information is published in a timely manner.

Additionally, a critique group writing in Spanish has been formed.

If you would like to receive La cometa, join the critique group or have a question or commentary about Spanish-language resources, send us an email to slc@scbwi.org with your full name and country of residence.

* *

Illustrate and Write On, in English, or español, or your language of choice,
Lee

Friday, August 10, 2018

Your Many Author/Illustrator Bios



You'll need a short bio for social media. Another one for your next book. A third version for your website. A byline for articles you write. A profile on your author page on different retail websites. A version that's young-reader friendly. A version that's media-friendly. A version for events (that you provide in advance.)

And sometimes, depending on the marketing/PR opportunity, you'll need a version tailored specifically for that program.

Sometimes you'll get fifteen words, or less. Sometimes, you'll need a loooong version that's many paragraphs.

And you'll need to update your bios as new things happen (new books and accolades!)

Two things that can help:

1) Keep a master document of all the "official" versions of your bio, so it's all in one place. Make note of where you've used which version, and when.

2) Study examples of bios you like. See how the tone of a bio can match a book.

Check out this post from Diana Urban at BookBub, with 20 examples of strong Author Bios, and the reasons the marketing team liked each one.

3) Don't forget to have your bio (especially the version that will be printed in your upcoming book) copy-edited and proofread by a professional who knows their stuff (a.k.a., not you.)

Good luck, and have fun with it!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Tuesday, August 7, 2018