Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sara Shepard shares "12 Ways To Hook Readers" at the BookBub Blog

Sara's the bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, and this article about How to Start Your Novel With a Bang! was a useful and inspiring dive into craft...

With strategies like,

1. Startle readers with the first line. Shocking readers immediately with a jarring moment, visual, or confession will get them excited to read on. One of my favorite novels, the Pulitzer-winning Middlesex, starts with a doozy of a first line:

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

It’s surprising and mysterious, and it gets the reader right into the main character’s head — it’s a confession of sorts, which unravels throughout the novel. For me, there was absolutely no way I could put the book down.
2. Begin at a life-changing moment. A life-changing event for a protagonist can be their “inciting incident” — a moment that thrusts him or her into the conflict they must resolve or overcome by the end of the story. The first chapter of Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care talks about a baby’s birth — always exciting! But things get even more interesting when the baby emerges with a whole host of health problems — forcing her parents to make a heart-wrenching decision.

This “inciting incident” all happens within the first ten pages of the novel. By the end of chapter one, the reader knows the whole situation at hand, and can’t turn the pages fast enough to see what happens next.
You'll be hooked! (And so, we hope, will your readers!)

I also loved this tidbit in the article:
"A professor in my MFA program gave me great advice once: Pretend your characters are at a party, and they’re talking to you, the reader, for the first time. Would they really tell you their whole history right away, or would they do so only getting to know you? A few telling character traits here and there can go a long way toward getting us to sympathize with a character. Once the reader is hooked, then it might be time delve into that backstory. It’s a delicate balance, but in the beginning of a novel, less is often more!"

Read the whole piece here.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards from Pop Culture Classroom and Denver ComicCon

Check out this brand-new award from Pop Culture Classroom and Denver ComicCon, who just announced their 2018 winners (for books published in 2017):

The first winners are...

Book of the Year: Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield and Alex Puvilland (First Second)

Best in Adult Books: The Hunting Accident by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair (First Second)

Best in Young-Adult Books: Home Time: Book One by Campbell Whyte (Top Shelf)

Best in Middle-Grade Books: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (Iron Circus Comics)

Best in Children's Books: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (First Second)

Mosaic Award: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Abrams Comic Arts)

Congratulations to the winners - you can find out more about the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Inspiration from Louis L’Amour

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
—Louis L’Amour
image of Louis L'Amour from this online biography 

That's some pretty great advice, for all us creative types. Start writing, start drawing, start creating. Turn on the faucet!

Find out more about the American novelist Louis L’Amour here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

We Need Diverse Books' Walter Grant Deadline: June 15

Our friends at We Need Diverse Books™ are giving five grants of $2,000 each to unpublished writers and/or illustrators from marginalized backgrounds who are working on children's or young adult literature projects.

The submission window is open until 11:59PM EST on June 15th, 2018, and application information can be found here. As they explain at the WNDB blog,
The Walter Grant program was initiated in 2015 to provide financial support to promising writers and illustrators from diverse communities. The program’s co-chair Marietta Zacker adds, “Our aim is to give voice to the voiceless, to amplify and elevate people who for too long haven’t had fair or equal representation in the world of books for children and young adults.”
Go here to learn more, and good luck!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, June 7, 2018

"The Santa Thief" Wins The 2017 SCBWI Spark Award! An exclusive interview with the book's author, Alane Adams, and illustrator, Lauren Gallegos

The picture book that won the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award, The Santa Thief

Award-winning author Alane Adams

Award-winning illustrator Lauren Gallegos

Here's the interview...

Lee: Please tell us about The Santa Thief!

Alane: The Santa Thief is the third book in my “Thief” series inspired by stories my 96-year-old father told me about growing up in rural Pennsylvania. After hearing some of his tales, I decided to write this series so that kids today could catch a glimpse of what life was like in the 1920s. In The Santa Thief, young Georgie is hoping to receive a new pair of ice skates for Christmas, but times are tough, even for Santa, Papa explains. Georgie is so disappointed, he doesn’t see the point of celebrating Christmas any longer, until Mama gently reminds him it’s about family and being together. Georgie decides to take matters in his own hands and “steals” Santa’s identity to give his parents a Christmas to remember. The Santa Thief helps kids understand that Christmas is about more than just the gifts they receive, and hopefully helps them appreciate the spirit of the season in a more meaningful way, especially how hard their parents work!

Lee: In traditional publishing, illustrators sometimes don't even speak to the author. Were you able to collaborate?

Alane: Working with Lauren has been a dream. I originally found her through the SCBWI illustrator gallery and immediately connected to her work. Plus, she was (at the time) living local to me and I liked being able to meet face-to-face to discuss ideas and concepts. Once we got through the first book, the next books flowed quite easily. Lauren is so skilled at interpreting the words and transforming my simple little stories into beautiful moving picture books. I always describe the relationship between author and illustrator as a kind of dance. I write the manuscript, then she brings it to life in pictures, then I mend the words to better match the pictures, going back and forth until the final product is perfect.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Alane: When I drafted the first book in the series, The Coal Thief, I didn’t know as much about the industry as I do today, and I wanted to expedite the process so that my father who was almost 94 at the time, would be alive to see the finished book. If I had known he would keep on ticking, I might have pushed harder for a traditional route! I chose to work with SparkPress because they have full Ingram distribution and are very skilled at getting books through the publishing stages.

Interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Alane: Independent publishing can be challenging for children’s authors because so much of what young kids read is on printed books, not electronic, so reaching schools, libraries, and bookstores is always more of a challenge. It is still very hard for independently published authors to be on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or other big retail stores, so they have to be creative at marketing their books. I was fortunate to have The Coal Thief showcased on and read by actor Christian Slater which has garnered over 1 million views, generally by teachers in classrooms. Its very rewarding to think that millions of kids have been exposed to my father’s childhood stories!

Lauren: The greatest challenge of publishing non-traditionally as an Illustrator would being your own art director. Alane has always given me a lot of freedom to take the illustrations where I want, as long as it fits her story and the time period. But with that freedom comes a lot of self-critique and questioning if something is good or not. It can be hard to be in your own head that much. And there are times when it's easy to just let something slide instead of pushing yourself to go back and make it better - something an Art Director would surely do. Thankfully I also have art buddies that I can bounce ideas off of or just get a second pair of eyes when I am unsure of myself.

More interior art from "The Santa Thief"

Lee: What was (or is) the greatest benefit?

Alane: The greatest benefit is having control over the process and being able to publish on your own schedule.

Lauren: For our situation, I feel like being able to collaborate on this series has been a big benefit for both of us. In reality, without a traditional publisher to mediate, it is necessary for us to communicate. Going the non-traditional route has also allowed me to explore my own ideas and techniques with the artwork, which I have been able to do for each of the books in the series. That has allowed me a great opportunity to grow as an artist.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Alane: I really look forward to bringing out the next book in the series, The Circus Thief coming this Fall. The Circus Thief tells the story of Georgie’s adventures at the circus where he ends up rescuing a circus horse named Roxie. I think the book showcases some of Lauren’s best work with colors and details. For the future, I’d love to come up with a new series about life during the Great Depression, and maybe try traditional publishing this time around!

Congratulations to both Alane and Lauren!

You can learn more about The Santa Thief and author Alane Adams here, and illustrator Lauren Gallegos here.

And if you'd like to find out more about SCBWI's Spark Award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route, here's the link to all the information.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Great Article By Tom McAllister About Being A Writer, Expectations, Reality, And Why We Live This "Writing Life"

Empty seats at a reading...

The piece is "Who Will Buy Your Book?" by Tom McAllister, posted at The Millions.

Some choice moments:
"The point of this piece is not to shame those people or to complain about not getting enough support. It’s just to say: whatever you think it’s like after you publish a book, it’s actually harder than that."
This part cracked me up:
"I admit to having felt betrayed by my friends’ indifference, especially after the first book, but I remind myself that I do the same thing all the time. I have friends in bands that I haven’t seen live in years. I’ve never been to any friends’ improv shows. I skip a lot of readings, even when I know the readers. I have friends with books I haven’t bought or read. I have explicitly lied to colleagues about having read and enjoyed their books. The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit."
and this really resonated:
"I don’t think there is any way to convince all the people in your life to buy your book, let alone care about it half as much as you do. Though their validation feels great, it’s important to remember that it’s also not the point. As a writer, you need to approach every project with the understanding that you’re doing this work for yourself, and everything that happens once it’s in the world is out of your control. Whatever project you’re working on now doesn’t derive value from your friends’ approval, but rather from the love and energy you pour into it. You can do the work, and you can keep showing up, and that’s all you’ve got. Most of the time, it’s all you need."
The article is well-worth reading. 

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast: A Conversation with Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine’s first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine’s other books include Ever, a New York Times best seller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and many others. In this conversation with Theo Baker, Gail shares about her career, her process, and some of the lessons—and techniques—she’s learned along the way.

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Remembering Richard Peck

From Richard Peck's SCBWI Master Class:

 "Responsibility... to the story and the reader."

Thank you, Richard, for the stories, and the wisdom you shared.

You can read SCBWI's full statement on the passing of Richard Peck last week, SCBWI remembers Richard Peck, here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Michelle Morgan wins the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award (Older Readers) for "Flying Through Clouds"

The Award-Winning Book:

The Author:

The Interview:

Lee: Please tell us about Flying Through Clouds.

Michelle: Flying Through Clouds is about a teenage boy's dream of becoming an aviator amid the pressures and hardships of growing up in Australia during the Depression. Themes such as adolescence, survival, loss, family, friendship, truth and gambling resonate with readers. With a compelling mix of drama, adventure and humour, Flying Through Clouds appeals to teens and the young at heart.

Lee: How is this book non-traditionally published, and can you share the decision process behind taking this path?

Michelle: I am the author and publisher of Flying Through Clouds, and managed the entire publishing process myself. After attending a weekend workshop on self-publishing at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2016, I was so impressed by the speakers and their clear practical advice that I came away determined to publish Flying through Clouds. The day after the workshop I developed a publishing plan and bought ISBNs.

Because my first novel, Racing the Moon, was traditionally published I wanted Flying Through Clouds to be of comparable quality. I engaged a structural editor, copyeditor, and proofreader at different stages of the publishing process and commissioned a cover designer to design the cover and layout of the book. I obtained quotes for printing and negotiated with a distributor to distribute Flying Through Clouds in Australia. I did all the publicity and marketing myself, which involved a book tour, blog tour, social media engagement, seeking reviews, writing articles, doing interviews, sending numerous emails, running writing workshops and participating in other literary events. I published the eBook of Flying Through Clouds simultaneously on Amazon Kindle and three months later made it available in other eBook formats. I also published Flying Through Clouds in paperback on Amazon to facilitate distribution to international readers.

Lee: What was (or is) the biggest challenge of publishing in this non-traditional way?

Michelle: The biggest challenges were the time-consuming tasks of editing and marketing /publicity. Editing a manuscript is challenging whatever route you take to publishing. So I guess my biggest challenge of publishing independently was the enormous task of marketing and publicity. Prior to proofreading and the final printing of Flying Through Clouds, I had one hundred plain cover review copies printed to send to potential reviewers, distributors, and selected bookshops. I also sent copies to other authors who write in a similar genre and whose work and opinions I value. I was fortunate in obtaining two endorsements that I included on the cover and front page of Flying Through Clouds. To launch Flying Through Clouds, I arranged a book tour with events in bookshops, libraries, an art gallery, and a museum. I also prepared the content for a blog tour, which involved articles and interviews posted on a series of kids’ lit and author blogs. More articles, media interviews, and literary events followed, and I also entered Flying Through Clouds in award contests such as the SCBWI Spark Award.

Lee: What’s the greatest benefit?

Michelle: The greatest benefit of independent publishing has been the immense satisfaction and level of control over the publishing process. It was very satisfying to have direct contact with all editors and be able to choose the cover design myself from the four concepts presented by the cover and layout artist. I have learnt a lot about publishing and marketing, much more than I did with my first book, which was traditionally published. To date, I have earned enough from sales of Flying Through Clouds to cover publishing costs. It is gratifying to find so many people and organisations willing to help you publish your book – Writers’ Centres, professional organisations such as SCBWI, self-publishing websites such as the Creative Penn, Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords as well as bloggers and other authors. I’m really glad I had the courage to publish my book as well as write it.

Lee: Anything else you'd like to share about the adventure so far?

Michelle: I’d recommend independent publishing of print books for authors who have the time to devote themselves full-time to the publishing process and who can afford the up-front costs of professional editing, cover art, layout and printing to produce a quality book.

Lee: Thank you, Michelle, and again—Congratulations!

Michelle: Thank you so much for the opportunity.

You can learn more about Michelle and Flying Through Clouds at her website here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Inspiration from James Baldwin

Photo of James Baldwin by Carl Van Vechten from Wikimedia
"Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and who you think you are. You can not describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears, your hopes. Everything." —James Baldwin

Thanks to Jon Winokur @AdviceToWriters for posting this gem on twitter, where I saw it.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Inspiration on writing Intersectional Diversity from Kelly Loy Gilbert in this School Library Journal Interview

One of the great exchanges in this Shelley Diaz interview of YA author Kelly Loy Gilbert:
Shelley Diaz: Picture Us in the Light addresses multiple facets of identity: class, immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, languages spoken, mental health, religion. Why did you think it was so important to approach this story with an intersectional lens?

Kelly Loy Gilbert: When I was younger there was a long period when reading books about Asian American characters meant the whole story was about being Asian American, and what I really wanted, I think, was to read more stories where the characters’ race shaped and informed but didn’t define them. I wanted stories that explored the diversity within diversity, stories with characters who were as complicated and contradictory and interesting as the communities they were reflecting. And that’s always been important to me and always something I wanted to strive for whenever I got to write my book about the world I grew up in, but at the same time I don’t think I consciously set out to write this as an intersectional book as some kind of statement or issue. I think as I developed the characters their identities were intersectional as an honest reflection of who we are and the way we live. Because I don’t have “My Asian American Year,” where all I have to deal with is what race means, and then I solve that and move on to “My Mental Health Year,” and so on—we are so many things, all the time, and each of those things informs the others, and I think telling the truth in fiction reflects that reality.
Read the full interview here.

Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Swag: One Bookstore's Perspective

Bookmarks. Buttons. Posters. Book-Branded Lip Balm. Storytime Kits. Kid-Friendly give-aways. Samplers.

Besides an ARC, what do bookstores actually use/want? What swag helps your book succeed—and what might not be worth the expense?

To help us figure it out, Meghan Dietsche Goel, the Children's Book Buyer and Programming Director for BookPeople in Austin, Texas, shared her take in this PW article, "Book Treats Brought by the Postal Service."

It's great to hear from the bookstore's perspective about what has value, and how issues like simplicity of packaging and display space considerations fit in the mix. The article is well-worth reading.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Larry James's tips on making your next book signing "an event!"

This article by Larry James includes some great ideas, including:

DON'T - Don't just sit at the table they have for you. Most authors do that. Be different! I always tell the person booking the signing not to worry about putting a chair behind the table. This will always get their attention. Let them know you will be the store's official greeter while you are there. Walk around the store with several copies of your book and introduce yourself to everyone. If those you introduce yourself to show the least bit of interest, hand them a book. They will almost always take it. Tell them to look at it and bring it back to the table when they are finished. On average, I more than tripled my book sales at signings by implementing this tip!
DO - Have your book covers enlarged in color to an 11 x 17 poster, laminate them and have them put them on a poster type board with a stand up thing on the back. Always bring them with you to the signings! Anything else you can think of to call attention to your table is also GREAT!
DON'T - Don't complain if you don't sell lots of books. Signings make those who bought your book feel good, but they really don't sell lots of books while you are there, UNLESS you create a presence WHILE YOU ARE THERE! I've sold as few as none to as many as 56 in a two hour period. According to book store managers, on average, book sales for a non-celebrity author will range from about 4 to 7. If you sell more, you're doing great!
DO - Get there no less than 15 to 20 minutes early and if you can, stay late. At a signing in Tucson, I sold more books in the extra 30 minutes after the signing than in the previous two hours.

Check out the full article here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"There's No Serendipity Online" - Inspiration and Wisdom about Discovering Books from Tom Cheesewright on Shelf Awareness

When thinking about the many roles bookstores can play (including community building, thought-leadership, and offering a safe space for diversity to be celebrated), this insight into serendipitous discovery felt profound and, worth sharing:
"Machines remain really bad at giving us a good discovery experience. The most sophisticated engines of personalization in the world are bad at finding us products that we don't know we want. They're good at helping us find things we absolutely know we want, and we know how to describe, but they're terrible at finding us those serendipitous discoveries, and human beings remain much better at that. It's why browsing a bookshop is so much a nicer experience if you don't know what you want, than browsing an online store. There's no serendipity online."

—Tom Cheesewright, an applied futurist, replying to the Bookseller's question: "If we're all reading e-books, is there still a place for bookshops?"
From the Thursday April 19, 2018 edition of Shelf Awareness.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's Newest Podcast, a Conversation with Mike Curato

Mike Curato is the award-winning author-illustrator of the Little Elliot series of picture books. There are now four books in the series, with the first, Little Elliot, Big City winning several awards and being translated into over ten languages. Mike has also illustrated picture books by other authors, including Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, and most recently, What If... by Samantha Berger.

In this two-part conversation with Theo Baker, Mike speaks about his inspirations, his career journey, and the SCBWI breakthrough that changed everything. He also discusses the role of research, the evolution of his own style, and more!

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's the last day to vote in the Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards!

SCBWI Members, don't miss your chance to vote in the final round of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards! Voting closes at 5pm April 30, 2018—and that's today!

To cast your vote, log on to Once you are on your Member Home page, go to the left navigation bar, scroll to the bottom, and click on

Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.

That takes you right to the voting page where all of the books in your division appear.

Then click the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK button below your chosen book and you are done!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Exercise Part Two: Advice on Writing a Synopsis of Your Novel

If you played along earlier this week, you have a plot outline. Now, you can take that and create a synopsis!

Synopses can be tricky, but this article by Glen C. Strathy on "How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel*," based in part on Dramatica theory created by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, has some smart insights.

A highlight:

What makes a hockey game or a novel mesmerizing is not a step-by-step description of what happens, but the emotions that accompany the actions, the anticipation, fear, hope, excitement, and disappointment at each turn of events. The elation of victory at the end, or the agony of defeat. It is the emotional twists and turns that make a novel or a hockey game appealing. Just as a good sports writer can describe a game in terms that capture the emotions, the secret of how to write a synopsis is to incorporate the emotional twists and turns of your characters – especially your main character – at the same time as you describe your sequence of plot events.
and then Glen walks us through a seven-step process (24 index cards) that sounds like not just a great way to write a synopsis, but also a pretty powerful way to diagnose what might be amiss with a work-in-progress.

It's well-worth reading, fun to try, and might help you write a synopsis of your novel.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Exercise Part One: An Eight-Part Way To Outline Your Plot

This week, we have two exercises to challenge us and enjoy, posted by Glen C. Strathy on "How to Write a Book Now."

Today, we dive into "How To Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps*," based on the Dramatica theory of story created by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley.

With the challenge (and assurance) that the whole plot outline can be completed in less than an hour, Glen lays out eight basic plot elements.

The first one is choosing a Story Goal, and then Glen takes it somewhere interesting:
After we have chosen a Story Goal, we will build a world around our protagonist that includes many perspectives on the problem and makes the goal important to everyone in that world.
The second plot element is Consequence.
Once you have decided on a Story Goal, your next step is to ask yourself, “What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn't achieve the goal or solve the problem?”

The answer to these questions is the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the Goal is not achieved. Avoiding the Consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the Story Goal, both to the characters in your novel and the reader, and that makes it an important part of your plot outline.

The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot. It's a carrot and stick approach that makes the plot meaningful.
Check out the next six plot elements and the full article/exercise here.

No matter where you are in your work-in-progress, this may be worth trying out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Check out this virtual YA panel on The Brown Bookshelf with Justina Ireland, Brandy Colbert, and Dhonielle Clayton, moderated by Paula Chase Hyman

This two-part panel at The Brown Bookshelf is well-worth reading!

screen shot of the panel discussion, as posted at The Brown Bookshelf

The authors talk about expanding the range of published books featuring characters of color (and, importantly, by authors of color), sensitivity reading, authors speaking up (or not) on social media, reader expectations, and much more. A few stand-out quotes:

Brandy: "I remember the first time I saw the African American section in a bookstore. It was a very strange feeling. Like, yay! But also—why do we have to be shelved in a different section entirely?"

Paula: "Own voices shouldn’t be a fad. My concern is this type of thing becomes a campaign. We have far too much catching up to do for it to be that."

Justina: "There’s a section of the population that wants the media they consume to be from people who uphold their values. Authors are going to have to learn to cocoon themselves or accept being more involved in reader response."

Dhonielle: "Now, it’s times for marginalized and black content creators to get the same roll outs that white women have gotten for decades for their books. Tours, big marketing campaigns. Our books deserve a shot at big audiences."

Read the full panel discussion here:

Part One

Part Two

Find out more about Justina Ireland here.

Learn more about Brandy Colbert here.

Dhonielle Clayton's online site with more on her is here.

And Paula Chase Hyman's website is here.

Thanks to Justina, Brandy, Dhonielle, and Paula for sharing!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Registration for the SCBWI 2018 Summer Conference (#LA18SCBWI) Opens Today!

Join us!

There's new programming this year, including the "A Closer Look" sessions on Monday August 6 that let you explore specific areas of your craft in a small group setting. Those craft areas include Openings, Endings, Dialog, Voice, and many more.

There are panels, and breakout sessions, socials and consultations, the portfolio showcase and the Artists and Writers Ball... 

It's going to be remarkable. Full of craft, business, inspiration, opportunity, and community... We hope you'll be there, too!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thinking Fonts: Creative Expression and Inspiration

Fonts are sometimes default (like here on this blog), but in the best book design, they are highly considered... sometimes, they're art in-and-of-themselves.

Check out the blog, I Love Typography, for lots of visual and design inspiration for your current project.

I thought this movable/adjustable version of the font WIND was really cool (and not just because that's my last name!)

From the "I Love Typography" blog

And if that gif isn't working, here's the letter W at various angles:

variations of W in the WIND font

And sometimes, the fonts you think are coolest turn out to be hand-lettered by the designer or illustrator! It's fascinating to really look at something that is so easy to overlook.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sneak Peak of Faculty at #LA18SCBWI

More information will be announced soon at the SCBWI Website, and registration opens on April 17, 2018...

For now, here are some of the amazing luminaries in our world of children's literature who will be featured at The SCBWI 2018 Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 3-6, 2018:

Lois Lowry, Author and two-time winner of the Newbery Award
Lois Lowry, photo creative commons

Libba Bray, New York Times Bestselling Author and winner of The Michael L. Printz Award.
Libba Bray, photo by David Shankbone, creative commons

Marc Brown, Author/Illustrator of the 65 million book-selling Arthur series.

Self-Portrait from Marc's Twitter profile

Ekua Holmes, Caldecott Honor, Robert F. Sibert Honor, and John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner.

Ekua Holmes with some of her art behind her as on Facebook.

Mike Curato, Author/Illustrator and winner of The Society of Illustrators Original Art Show Founder's Award.

Mike Curato, from his website

Brian Pinkney & Andrea Davis Pinkney: Brian is an Author/Illustrator who has won two Caldecott Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors and a Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and Andrea is a children's book editor and author of numerous books illustrated by Brian, with multiple Coretta Scott King Book Awards, Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor citations, four NAACP Image Award nominations, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor medal to her credit.

screen shot of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney from the African American Literature Book Club

Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the International Latino Book Award.
Daniel José Older, from his website here.

Eliza Wheeler, New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and past winner of the SCBWI portfolio showcase grand prize award.

Eliza Wheeler's profile pic from Twitter

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the ALA's Schneider Family Book Award.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, signing, in a photo from Facebook

Plus acquiring agents and editors actively seeking new work from writers and illustrators!

Registration for the Summer Conference opens online on April 17.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

New and Exciting Opportunities At #LA18SCBWI

The SCBWI 2018 Summer Conference in Los Angeles
SAVE THE DATES: August 3-6, 2018

In addition to keynote presentations, panels of industry experts, and craft and business-related breakout sessions, this year’s SCBWI Summer Conference gives participants more opportunities than ever to meet with editors and agents about their work. There will be paid manuscript, portfolio, and social media consultations with agents, editors and art directors, plus several all-new events on Monday, August 6:

For Writers: A full-day session titled A Closer Look, where writers can get feedback on the first 500 words of their manuscripts from acquiring agents, editors, and their peers.

For Illustrators: A full-day Illustrator’s Intensive with art directors, editors, and renowned illustrators of children’s books.

For Published Writers and Illustrators: A full-day Pro-Intensive designed to help you take your career to the next level.

Registration for the Summer Conference opens online on April 17. Please check the SCBWI website around April 13 for more information.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Listen to SCBWI's newest podcast: A Conversation with Cheryl Klein

Cheryl Klein is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books, which publishes a wide array of children’s and YA books by and about marginalized people, particularly people of color. She is also the author of The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults (W. W. Norton); its previous self-published incarnation, Second Sight; and two forthcoming picture books. Prior to her work at Lee & Low, she spent sixteen years at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where she edited a number of best-selling and award-winning titles. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be found online at and as @chavelaque.

In this two-part conversation with Theo Baker, Cheryl speaks of the insights she’s gained as an editor, the importance of diverse voices, the publishing and writing sides to the question “who can write what?”, telling the story of your heart, and her own books, the writing craft “The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults” and the picture books “Things with Wings” and “Thunder Trucks.”

Listen to the episode trailer here.

Current SCBWI members can listen to the full podcast here (log in first!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, March 29, 2018

On Women in Translation: A Guest Post By Avery Udagawa

A #kidlitwomen, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day post.

While following conversations this month about equality and representation in US children’s literature, I wondered about international women.

Women of other nations. Do US children connect with them?

Do they read them?

Can children access books by women who write in languages other than English, whose cultures contrast highly with the US?

To find out, I looked at past winners of the Batchelder Award, conferred annually alongside the Newbery and Caldecott to recognize translated children’s books published in the US. I also examined translated book logs from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. I found data worthy of celebration, and worthy of contemplation.

Prominent Translations for US Children Feature Women Authors, from Western Cultures

To see if US children can access women’s writing in translation, particularly from contrasting cultures, I assumed that winners of the Batchelder Award—conferred by the Association of Library Services to Children—would be among the most available books in translation for US kids. I looked at whether Batchelder Award winners have been written by women, and if so in what languages. I found:

Over fifty years, 1968-2018, 54% of Batchelder Award titles were authored by women. Of these, 81% were written in European languages.

Looking at Batchelder Honor books:

Over twenty-eight years (1991-2018), 62% of Batchelder Honor titles were authored by women. Of these, 90% were written in European languages.

The translators of the combined Batchelder Award and Honor winners have been 60% women, 31% men, 6% male-female duos, and 1% (one) female duo.

I was surprised by the high percentage of Batchelder titles written and translated by women. This is remarkable, and worth examining for the dynamics that have made it possible.

Unfortunately, women writing in languages of contrasting cultures are under-represented. Only about 14% of combined Batchelder books by women were written in languages of Asia or the Middle East, and none were written in African or South American languages. Most of the world’s languages were 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 feature women authors, who are predominantly writing in European languages.

Translations for Children Are Vanishingly Few

To put these findings in context, I also checked the overall percentage of children’s books published in the US that are translations. Batchelder Award and Honor books may be the most available books in translation, but how plentiful are translations generally?

I counted the titles listed in the CCBC Translated Book Logs from 1994 (the year logs were first kept) through 2017, and compared this count with either (a) the total number of books received by the CCBC that year, or (b) the total number of children’s books published in the US that year, according to which figure the CCBC published. I found:

For nearly a quarter-century (1994-2017), books in translation have represented less than 2% of total US children’s books published (1994-2001), or an average of 2.74% of children’s books received by the CCBC (2002-2017).

Rising percentages in recent years are noteworthy. Also, the CCBC data may be incomplete: I noted while counting that several translated books published in the US were not logged, due to not being submitted to the CCBC. These were books from small presses, which the CCBC notes generate a “significant body of authentic multicultural literature for children in the United States and Canada.”

The percentages I calculated are, however, supported by percentages for adult books in translation, which are estimated at 3% of books published in the US. In fact, a prominent world literature blog is named Three Percent.

The context the CCBC data provides for the Batchelder data, is that even award-winning translations for children represent a tiny part of a tiny field.

Returning to my question: can US children access books written by women in languages other than English, particularly from highly contrasting cultures?

No, because women writing in non-Western languages on the Batchelder list represent a sliver (of Batchelder books), of a sliver (of all translated books), of a sliver (of US children’s literature).

Women writing in languages other than English, from highly contrasting cultures, are invisible on US children’s bookshelves.

Avery writes on Facebook about how Eiko Kadono of Japan just won the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award, and that while Eiko has written nearly 250 original works for children, almost none of them are available in translation in the US. Even the Annick Press edition of her novel KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, translated by Lynne E. Riggs, [adapted into an animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki] is out of print (though going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, Avery notes). 

In Closing

Speaking personally, I translate children’s books from Japan, a relatively familiar East Asian culture with a developed economy and publishing industry. (Incidentally, 15% of Japanese children’s titles published in 2017 were translations.) Yet I find that few fellow Americans can name a female Japanese children’s author.

And while I live in Thailand, I know of just one children’s novel by a Thai woman available in English (now out of print in the US), and none from neighboring southeast Asian countries.

I treasure books written in American English and European languages, and hope their numbers and diversity will grow. And I hope they can be joined by books from many more languages.

If we think of it, don’t we believe that women around the world have something to say to our children? Let’s help them connect.

Starting Points

Here are 3 posts to read about translation of children’s literature:

School Library Journal
Book Riot
The Horn Book

Here are 3 hashtags to shout out kidlit and women in translation:


Here are 3 lists of published kidlit in translation to buy or borrow:


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:

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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Inspiration from Beatrix Potter

Love this one...
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.” -Beatrix Potter
Benjamin Bunny illustration by Beatrix Potter, [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Golden Kite Winner for Nonfiction for Older Readers: "Vincent and Theo" author Deborah Heiligman: A Brief Interview

In the Nonfiction for Older Reader category, Deborah Heiligman's "Vincent and Theo" won the 2018 Golden Kite Award!

I connected with Deborah via email to learn more... 

Lee: Congratulations on “Vincent and Theo” winning the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction for Older Readers! Please tell us what your book is about.​ ​ ​

Deborah: Thank you, Lee. I'm thrilled that it won! Vincent and Theo is about the relationship between the Van Gogh brothers. It is a long-form narrative nonfiction, which I worked on for five years. They style is meant to reflect Vincent's different styles of painting, and the whole book is structured as a walk through a museum show. ​ 

Lee: Why write a book about Vincent Van Gogh now?​

Deborah: Well, I got the idea in Amsterdam in 2011, and I started working on it that fall. It took me a long time to do all the research, and then to write it. I revised it many times. So, while I wish it had come out sooner, it seemed like 2017 was a fine time for it to come out. I think that people are always eager for the inside story on famous people, and I think art matters even in the worst of times. Maybe especially in the worst of times! ​ 

Lee: The Golden Kite is just one of the many awards this book has received. Besides it being awesome, do you have a sense of why this book is resonating with award judges and getting such critical acclaim? (I mean this in the kindest way, I just think it’s fascinating that some author’s books hit different targets, yet many of their books are passion-driven and amazing.)

Deborah: Oh my goodness, I have no idea! I know there are a lot of worthy books published every year. I am just truly grateful that Vincent and Theo resonated with reviewers and judges, and now I hope it has a long life and resonates with many readers. But that's what we all want, isn't it? Our books to reach readers. I hope everyone who is reading this gets that wish fulfilled. 

Thanks, Deborah! 

To find out more about Vincent and Theo and Deborah Heligman, check out Deborah's website here.

Illustrate and Write On,