Thursday, March 21, 2019

Susan Hood: The Golden Kite Award Interview—Middle Grade Fiction Winner for "Lifeboat 12"

Susan Hood was awarded the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction for her debut middle grade novel in verse, Lifeboat 12, at the SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference in New York City on February 8, 2019.

Award-winning Author Susan Hood

Here, we catch up with Susan about her book and winning this honor...

Lee: Congratulations, Susan! Please tell us about finding out you’d won this Golden Kite Award.

Susan: It was funny and a little embarrassing. I was away visiting my newborn granddaughter when Lin called my home phone. It was a Friday afternoon and Lin left a cryptic, congratulatory message and asked me to call her over the weekend. She called again on Monday morning when she hadn’t heard from me. We arrived back home Monday afternoon and my husband went to listen to the messages. He came back and told me someone named Lynn wanted to talk to me about a kite. Whaaattt? Then I found out that this so-called Lynn was Lin Oliver!

Lee: (Chuckling.) Pitch us to move Lifeboat 12 to the top of our To-Be-Read pile — What's it about?

Susan: Lifeboat 12 is a novel in verse, based on the true, but little-known WWII story of the SS City of Benares, a British ship evacuating working class children to Canada during the Blitz. Six hundred miles from shore, the ship was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat and sank in thirty minutes. Six boys (ages nine through thirteen) escaped aboard Lifeboat 12 and attempted to sail back to shore. After eight days at sea, on the day their water would run out, thirteen-year-old Ken Sparks spotted the plane that saved all forty-five people aboard. It’s not often you find a story where a kid is truly the hero.

As an author, what spoke to me about this true tale was the role stories and books played in this astounding rescue. During their eight days at sea, the boys told Bulldog Drummond stories to stay sane. When Ken spotted the plane, the captain ordered everyone down, suspecting it was a German aircraft that would strafe them. Ken disobeyed. He jumped up, waved his arms, and yelled, “I know that’s a Sunderland!” For the passengers of Lifeboat 12, plane spotter guides (bestsellers of the time) and stories about heroes quite literally saved their lives. It’s a good reminder that for many kids and for many reasons, books are lifesavers.

Lee: What a story! Is there an Ah-ha! Moment from the book’s creation you can share?

Susan: There were two Ah-ha Moments. The first was when I discovered the SS City of Benares and Lifeboat 12 in the childhood letters of my British mother-in-law. She, herself, was a child evacuee sent to Canada and she wrote home about this subsequent disaster.

The second Ah-ha moment was when I FOUND Ken Sparks, the hero of the story, the boy who spotted the plane. He was 88-years-old, living north of London. I asked if I could interview him and he said, “Come on over any time, Lovie!” My husband and I traveled to England and spent two weeks interviewing Ken and doing research in the National Archives, the British Library, and the Imperial War Museum.

Lee: How long have you been a member of SCBWI, and how has SCBWI helped on your journey?

Susan: I’ve been a member for nearly twenty years, including the time I was a children’s book and magazine editor. When I became a full-time author, I joined an SCBWI writers’ group and I’ve been with them for ten years. They’ve helped me in so many ways—finetuning my craft, sharing a laugh, celebrating the good stuff, smoothing the rough stuff. The conferences are a godsend where you can learn from the best in the business. I took an all-day intensive about novels in verse at the NYSCBWI conference and it was a huge help in writing Lifeboat 12.

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other children’s book creators?

Susan: Read. Read hundreds, if not thousands, of books in your genre, both classic and contemporary titles. You’ll see what’s been done in the past and how new authors are shaking things up.

Focus on your craft before you worry about getting published. You’ve got to learn the rules before you break them. If you want to write in rhyme, master poetic techniques, especially meter. To see how picture books work, here’s a tip. Type up the text from a favorite book. Seeing the text separate from the art will illustrate how the two work together to tell a story.

Take the time to do your homework and find the right agent. It may be the most important research you ever do; he or she will make all the difference in your life! A good place to start the hunt is at on the Dealmaker’s page.

Develop a thick skin and patience. There’s a lot of rejection along the way and it may have nothing to do with your book. Publishers have many criteria for each season’s list and your book may not be a good fit, considering what else is on the editor’s plate. Once you make a deal, a picture book takes two to three years to produce (if not more!) so patience is key. In the meantime, keep writing!

Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on the extraordinarily generous community of SCBWI.

Lee: Excellent advice, thank you Susan. And again, congratulations on winning the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Lifeboat 12!

Find out more about Susan at her website here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Would it Change How You Wrote (Or What You Wrote) If You Knew It Would End Up On The Moon?

This news story, A 30-million page library is heading to the moon to help preserve human civilization, really captured my imagination.

Especially wondering about the whole selection process of which stories would represent humanity.

As creators of creative content for children and teens, we often think of our stories being collected in the personal libraries of our readers, in school classrooms and libraries, in public libraries and even the  home libraries of other adults who love literature for kids and teens, but the idea of a digitized library that represents who we are and who we have been as human beings, designed for future humans (or for other species) to study feels different...

“We want the archive to last longer than the moon itself,” Nova Spivack, co-founder of Arch Mission Foundation said. “If we place enough copies in enough places, some will make it into the distant future, no matter what happens on Earth, the moon, Mars or any other location.”

Which brings us to the headline question: Would it change how you wrote if you knew it would end up being studied in some distant future? Would it change what you're working on?

Every book, TV show, movie, song, story, instagram post, is a time-capsule, of both the era its written about and the era its written in. The Star Trek TV episodes presented a very late 60s vision of the distant future, but the hair styles always reminded us it was a vision envisioned in 1968.

And it's not a unique thought that our books, our stories, are a legacy we leave behind when we're gone.

Maybe the knowledge that your story would end up part of this archive wouldn't change anything. Maybe it shouldn't.

But it is fascinating to consider...

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jane Yolen: The Golden Kite Award Interview—YA winner for "Mapping the Bones"

Jane Yolen was awarded the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for her YA novel, Mapping the Bones at the SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference in New York on February 8, 2019.
Jane Yolen

Here, we catch up with Jane about her book and winning this honor...

Lee: Congratulations, Jane! Please tell us about finding out you’d won this Golden Kite Award.

Jane: My snarky answer is by hard work and not writing to get an award. The true answer is the phone rang and it was Lin. I thought she wanted to talk about either a project we were considering doing together or my decision to leave the board or ask for advice about something else going on. We've been friends since SCBW (without the I) began. And she said that MAPPING THE BONES had won and I (and you know me so this was BIG!) was speechless. Then she said "Who would you want to introduce you and say a few words about you and the book?" And I said, "Can I have two people?" She said, Sure." And I said, "(My daughter) Heidi who gave up the two weeks on a small island in Maine to sit out while the others were kayaking to be my beta reader. She had also been moral support in the 4 1/2 years I worked on the book, and you, Lin, because we have been friends for so long."

Lee: It was a lovely moment. Can you pitch us to move Mapping The Bones to the top of our To-Be-Read pile?

Jane: A Holocaust novel hung on the armature of Hansel & Gretel, set first in Lodz ghetto, then in the forest with the partisans, and lastly in a labor camp. And yes, there's a witch character (A Nazi of course) and an oven.

Lee: Wow. Is there an Ah-ha! Moment from the book’s creation you can share?

Jane: I didn't know until about five chapters from the end who the witch character was going to be though given this was a Nazi camp, I had the oven ready. But since the main characters are twins, Chaim and Gittel. and I'd seeded the Mengele twin experiments earlier, it was just a matter of time till I figured it out.

Lee: How long have you been a member of SCBWI, and how has SCBWI helped on your journey?

Jane: I was actually the second member, right after Sue Alexander who told me about the nascent group started by Lin and Steve. Right after me, or at least the next pro to join after me was Sid Fleischman, so we were the first speakers at the first (not conference) dinner I think there may have been 50 people there, including Lin's parents, my dad, Steve's parents. Sue is, alas, dead as is Sid. But Lin and Steve and I keep plugging along. As for what SCBWI has done for me--given me a huge subset of book friends, some I have introduced to the organization. Others took over the region after I invented New England Region of SCBWI, the very first region and I was the very first regional advisor. I ran it for ten years. and the conference for ten years. And I ran the monthly the critique critique group for 25 years. Trust me, the RAs and their crew do a MUCH better job that I ever did! And now things are no longer just centered in the Pioneer Valley where I lived then and live still.

Lee: What advice do you have to share with other children’s book creators?

Jane: BIC: Butt in Chair. HOP: Heart on Page. Don't clutch your pearls or sob over a rejection. Get up and move on. Be a colleague with your editors, agents, art directors, not an adversary. Learn about the field, go to conferences, workshops, meet-and-greets. Read about the field in books, online, subscribe to Publisher's Weekly, The Horn Book, etc. Read widely in the field. Take chances, learn new skills. I learned to write graphic novels in my 60's and verse novels in my 70's. And volunteer for your local region. You will be surprised at how much you will leaern, how many friends you will make (and how many editors and art directors you will become on a first names basis with!)

Lee: Thank you so much, Jane. And again, Congratulations on your win!

Find out more about Jane Yolen at her website here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A "Hot Tip" from Frances Gilbert (Editor-in-Chief, Doubleday Books for Young Readers) On Keeping Up On The Industry

How do you know who publishes what? Where can you get a comprehensive glance at what each publisher—what each imprint—is publishing? How do you know where your book might fit?

Frances Gilbert highlights an upcoming title

Frances Gilbert, at this past week's SCBWI Los Angeles Writers Day Conference, suggested, a free resource that lets you look at (and study) publishers' catalogs.

Check it out here.

Thanks, Frances!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Advice from Natalie Goldberg in "Writing Down The Bones" (part 2)

There's so much that's worthwhile in Natalie Goldberg's landmark melding of Zen and Writing, Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.

Today, I'm sharing another resonant moment, from the chapter, Make Statements and Answer Questions (pg. 93 of the 2005 print version):

In the early seventies there was a study done on women and language that affected me very deeply and also affected my writing. One of the things the study said was that women add on qualifiers to their statements. For instance, “The Vietnam war is awful, isn't it?” “I like this, don't you?” In their sentence structure women were always looking for reinforcement for their feelings and opinions. They didn't just make statements and stand behind them: “This is beautiful.” “This is terrible.” They needed encouragement from outside themselves. (By the way, what they found to be true for women they also mentioned was true for minorities.)

Another thing women did in their speech was to use a lot of words like perhaps, maybe, somehow. Indefinite modifiers. For instance, “Somehow it happened.” As though the force were beyond understanding and left the woman powerless. “Maybe I'll go.” Again, not a clear assertive statement like “Yes, I'll go.”

The world isn't always black and white. A person may not be sure if she can go some place, but it is important, especially for a beginning writer, to make clear, assertive statements. “This is good.” “It was a blue horse.” Not “Well, I know it sounds funny, but I think perhaps it was a blue horse.” Making statements is practice in trusting your own mind, in learning to stand up for your thoughts.

After I read the article, I went home and looked at a poem I had just written. I made myself take out all vague, indefinite words and phrases. It felt as though I were pulling towels off my body, and I was left standing naked after a shower, exposing who I really was and how I felt. It was scary the first time, but it felt good. It made the poem much better.

So important to hear, to consider, to look at our own words and consider if we're avoiding the truth of what we want to say. And then being brave enough to take the towels off, one indefinite modifier and qualifier at a time.

Thank you, Natalie!

Check out the whole book, in print or audio, and Natalie's website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Advice from Natalie Goldberg in "Writing Down The Bones" (part 1)

I'm listening to the audiobook version of Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, the 1986 book that is widely credited with synthesizing Zen and Writing. It's a version that Natalie recorded fourteen years after the book was first published, and in-between each chapter she shares what's changed, how her thoughts have matured, and additional elements of what she observed then and understands now.

There's so much that's useful and insightful in here, so this week I'll share two stand-outs.

Today, from the Chapter Original Detail (pg. 45 of the 2005 print edition)

Use original detail in your writing. Life is so rich, if you can write down the real details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else. Even if you transport the beveled windows, slow-rotating Rheingold sign, Wise potato chip rack, and tall red stools from the Aero Tavern that you drank in in New York in a bar in a story in another state and time, the story will have authenticity and groundedness.”

This is so true, and such a good reminder! Natalie continues,

“‘Oh, no, that bar was on Long Island, I can't put it in New Jersey’—yes, you can. You don't have to be rigid about original detail. The imagination is capable of detail transplants, but using the details you actually know and have seen will give your writing believability and truthfulness. It creates a good solid foundation from which you can build.”

Excellent advice. The whole book is well-worth reading (or listening to.)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep - A New Blog Series Hosted by Melissa Stewart on "Celebrate Science"!

Inspired by this quote from Laura Purdie Salas,
“There’s a common, crushing misconception that fiction is creative writing drawn from the depths of a writer’s soul, while nonfiction is simply a recitation of facts that any basic robot could spit out.

The reality is very different. I think my personality, my beliefs, and my experiences are deeply embedded in the books I end up writing ” —Laura Purdie Salas

Melissa turns the spotlight on 33 other authors of nonfiction for kids in this ongoing series "Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep." It's packed insights into their process, tips, and inspiration, and is well-worth checking out!

As Melissa explains in this launch post,
“Again and again, what you’ll hear is that crafting nonfiction involves much more than just cobbling together a bunch of facts. The books we choose to write and the perspectives we choose to explore are often closely linked to who we are as people and our experiences in the world. Nonfiction writers—all writers—have to dig deep. If we don’t, our writing will fall flat, and no one will want to read it.

Our passion for a project, our author purpose, is what drives us to dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript. It spurs us on despite the obstacles and setbacks, and of course, through the inevitable criticism and rejections.” —Melissa Stewart

Some highlights from the series so far:

Laurie Wallmark

“Writers are often told to write what they know. As far as I’m concerned, we should write what we’re passionate about. We can always research (and who doesn’t like research?) a topic, but if we’re not interested in it—boring!

Which brings me to why I write about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Doing so lets me combine two of my passions—STEM and equal opportunity for all.” —Laurie Wallmark

And Laurie Ann Thompson, who shared about the long process behind writing Emmanuel’s Dream,
“At one point, my well-meaning and incredibly supportive husband said something along the lines of, “Why are you [an able-bodied white woman from Wisconsin] writing this story anyway? Maybe it’s time to move on to something you know more about.” I had to wonder if maybe he was right. What did I have in common with Emmanuel? Why was I writing this story in the first place?

It turns out these were just the questions I needed to ask to come up with an approach that finally worked. You see, I’d had all the facts lined up in a satisfying order, but what was missing was… me. I’d been so focused on writing the facts that I’d carefully removed all of my own feelings about it. But isn’t authentic human emotion just another kind of truth? And isn’t it, perhaps, the most important kind of truth we can share with one another?

When I finally sat down and got clear about my “why” for telling that story, the “how” to best tell it revealed itself almost immediately. For me, it isn’t really a story about having a disability or even Emmanuel himself. It’s about being left out and overlooked, feeling frustrated by injustice and inequality, and wanting to make the world a better place.

Those are all things I felt deeply as a child, and things I can still relate to as an adult. The book reveals as much about me, I think, as it does about Emmanuel.” —Laurie Ann Thompson

And Steve Swinburne, who shares,

“I wrote Safe in a Storm (Scholastic, 2017) shortly after the 9/11 attack on the United States. I felt like we’d been struck by a storm that day. As I thought about what I could write after the initial shock and grief subsided, I began, as I often do, to view writing ideas through the lens of nature.

How do animals survive storms? For instance, how do a whale and her calf ride out an ocean squall?

And, yes, it took 15 years to find a publishing home for Safe in a Storm, but I never gave up. I kept on believing in this story about how animals find cozy places to keep them safe and warm, no matter how loud the storm rumbles or how dark the night gets. Bear cubs huddled together in a den, mom and baby owl nestled in a sturdy tree, and a bobcat family sheltering on a ledge, all while the winds and rain bluster and blow. I kept on believing in the protective, healing power of home and family.” —Steve Swinburn
It's a wonderful series. Check it out here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Conversation with Jenny Bent - Listen to the latest SCBWI Podcast!

Jenny Bent founded The Bent Agency in 2009. The agency now has nine agents, offices in New York City and London, and a focus on international rights. Jenny speaks to Theo Baker about the difference between Y.A. and Adult, what she's looking for, the decision to launch her own agency, what happened that changed her approach to agenting, 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,

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lindsey Lane Writes About "Reframing the Reality" of Books Going Out Print

Hosted on Cynthia Leitich Smith's indispensable Cynsations website, Lindsey Lane dives into the reality of books going out of print in this four-part series.

Part One dives into some publishing numbers and the culling of books from library collections. The bottom line, when going out of print happens to your book, is that it shouldn't be a surprise.

As Lindsey writes, a book going out of print “is part [of] its life cycle.”

Check out the whole series as it publishes on Cynsations. Well-worth reading.

Links to help:

Part One - An overview

Part Two - Six authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators weigh in with their perspective 

Part Three - Three agents weigh in

Part Four - Three editors share their take

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Craft Wisdom from Stephen King

"Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's." —Stephen King, pg. 137 of "On Writing"

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is well-worth reading, or listen to the audiobook. (I don't know that I'll ever look at adverbs the same way again.)

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Daniel Stolle's "50 tips that will make you a better illustrator"

Find what resonates for you among these pearls of wisdom from Daniel Stolle's article on Creative Bloq.

Paper is one of the oldest technologies we have. Cultural creation has been based on it for millennia. Let's not abandon it just yet, especially in the early stages of a project.

While you're studying illustration – either formally, or by yourself – you are exposed to great work by others. You feel jealous of your peers and in awe of the masters. You're inspired, you're confused, you try to create, and then you're frustrated by what you produce and how badly it compares. And in spite of it all, you're still driven to make something, so you try again. Although you are dealing a lot with your emotions in that whole turbulent process, you might not have learned to observe yourself and what you are doing yet. To be successful, you need to find out a lot of things about yourself first: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? This is easier said than done, but start with simple things first. For example, what are your most productive working hours? Whether you work best at 6am or midnight, don't miss out on these hours, and try to plan the rest of your day around them. Once your needs are taken care of, you will become less anxious. You are the person you have to work with for the rest of your life, so get to know yourself. Be disciplined, of course, but also be accepting and tolerant.
it's a list of advice that's well-worth checking out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ten Inspirational #NY19SCBWI Highlights from the SCBWI Winter 2019 Conference!

So many amazing moments, so much wisdom shared, and so much inspiration...


“What a privilege I have to be welcomed into the imagination of kids. What a responsibility I have to give them my best work.” - Jarret Krosoczka


‘Don’t just plot the story. Plot the characters.’ — Varian Johnson


"don't just change the skin color and think you've drawn diverse characters" talking truth around in and to draw difference with accuracy and empathy


Write for your audience. "Other people will learn to read it." — Elizabeth Acevedo


“...remember that you, that I, are worthy of every poem.” Elizabeth Acevedo


I love this distinction by Marla Frazee on picture books: It’s not the author and the illustrator who collaborate. It’s the *words* and the *pictures* that must collaborate.


"The goal is to construct the kind of art that can change outcomes." We children's book creators create opportunities. When kids see it in our books, they can imagine creating opportunities for themselves. — Cornelius Minor

"You can't be what you can't see." — Julia Torres

"You need multiple conflicts." — Alvina Ling

"There needs to be a purpose for every character in the story." And for each character in each scene. — Emma Dryden

"Voice = Word Choice + Rhythm.
 Rhythm  is two things: Punctuation and Sentence Length."
It may be hard to do, but it's not hard to define. — Linda Sue Park

What are your highlights? Share them in comments...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

#NY19SCBWI Starts Tomorrow!

With the Golden Kite Awards ceremony kicking things off Friday night, Saturday and Sunday should be a whirlwind mix of keynotes (Elizabeth Acevedo! Jarrett Krosoczka! Christopher Paul Curtis!), an agent and editor panel (Maria Barbo! Sarah Davies! Kate Egan! Tanusri Prasanna! Alexander Slater! Mekisha Telfer!), intensive breakout sessions, networking, peer critiques, socials, and book signings!

Follow along (and chime in) online with #NY19SCBWI

And check out the SCBWI Conference Blog for live blogging the keynotes and panel!

Illustrate and Write On!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

K.M. Weiland shares "The 10 Rules of Writing Large Casts of Characters"

Check out this useful article by K.M. Weiland on managing the writing of large (and maybe even small) casts of characters. Here's a taste:
Rule #1: Characters Should Exist to Represent Theme and Move Plot (Preferably Both)

The first and single most important principle to consider when evaluating the size of your cast is this: does each character matter to this story?

Characters, like any element in a well-thought-out story, should never be throwaway additions. Each must contribute to the story. Sometimes this contribution may necessarily be as small as a few catalytic or informational lines in a one-off scene. But the more screentime characters have, the greater your responsibility to make sure they contribute to the story on a larger scale.

It’s not enough for prominent characters to exist in the story merely to move the plot; they must also influence and comment upon the thematic argument, either symbolically or by directly impacting the protagonist’s personal arc of growth.
Read the full article here.

My thanks to K.M. for sharing, and to Cynthia Leitich Smith's indispensable Cynsations blog for the heads-up on this gem.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Listen to the Latest SCBWI Podcast: A Conversation With Libba Bray

#1 New York Times bestselling and Michael L. Printz Award-winning YA author Libba Bray speaks to Theo Baker about music, journaling, how playwriting led her to a career writing books for teens, shares her advice on writing, 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,

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kristin Daly Rens, Executive Editor at Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins shares her advice with authors

From this interview with Jonathan Rosen at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors
“Don’t worry about what is trendy—write what interests YOU. So often at conferences, etc, editors and agents get asked what the current trends are in children’s and teen books, but the truth of the matter is that the best way to make someone—whether that someone is an agent, editor, or reader—care about your book is if the author is writing something they believe in and care about themselves. When an author is passionate about what he or she is writing about, readers can see that passion on the page—and it makes them fall in love with that story as well.” —Kristin Daly Rens
Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 24, 2019

SCBWI Announces the 2019 Golden Kite Award Winners

And the winners of the 2019 Golden Kite Awards are...

Middle Grade Fiction: Susan Hood – LIFEBOAT 12 (Simon & Schuster) This compelling novel in verse, based on true events, tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

Non-Fiction for Younger Readers: Barb Rosenstock – OTIS AND WILL DISCOVER THE DEEP (Little Brown) The suspenseful, little-known true story of two determined pioneers who made the first dive into the deep ocean.

Non-Fiction for Older Readers: Elizabeth Partridge – BOOTS ON THE GROUND: AMERICA’S WAR IN VIETNAM (Viking) A personal, moving foray into the Vietnam War and its impact that goes beyond the historical facts to show how the war irrefutably changed the people who were there.

Picture Book Illustration: Becca Stadtlander – MADE BY HAND: A CRAFTS SAMPLER (Candlewick) A beautiful, one-of-a-kind volume invites readers to marvel at the time, effort, and care that went into creating handmade toys, tools, and treasures of the past.

Picture Book Text: Jessie Oliveros – THE REMEMBER BALLOONS (Simon & Schuster) A tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Young Adult Fiction: Jane Yolen – MAPPING THE BONES (Philomel) Influenced by Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

The Golden Kite Awards will be presented at a gala during the New York Winter Conference on Friday, February 8 at 7pm at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Guest speaker U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will deliver remarks at the event.

The SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Books are:

Young Reader and Middle Grade Fiction: Dusti Bowling –24 HOURS IN NOWHERE(Sterling Children’s Books) Susan Fletcher – JOURNEY OF THE PALE BEAR (Margaret K. McEldery Books) Jewell Parker Rhodes – GHOST BOYS (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Young Adult Fiction: Elizabeth Acevedo – THE POET X (Harper Teen) Vesper Stamper – WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Non-Fiction for Young Readers: Sandra Neil Wallace – BETWEEN THE LINES: HOW ERNIE BARNES WENT FROM THE FOOTBALL FIELD TO THE ART GALLERY (Paula Wiseman Books) Annette Bay Pimental – GIRL RUNNING: BOBBI GIBB AND THE BOSTON MARATHON (Nancy Paulson Books) Melissa Stewart – PIPSQUEAKS, SLOWPOKES, AND STINKERS (Peachtree)


Picture Book Text: Cori Doerrfeld – THE RABBIT THAT LISTENED (Dial Books for Young Readers) John Himmelman – FLOATY (Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers) Troy Howell – WHALE IN A FISH BOWL (Schwartz & Wade)

Picture Book Illustration: Larry Day – FOUND (Simon & Schuster) Barbara McClintock – NOTHING STOPPED SOPHIE: THE STORY OF UNSHAKABLE MATHEMATICIAN SOPHIE GERMAIN (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

SCBWI Announces The 2019 Sid Fleischman Award Winner

The Sid Fleischman Award was created to give more attention to “authors whose work exemplifies the excellence of writing in the genre of humor. The SCBWI established the award to honor humorous work, so often overlooked in children’s literature by other award committees.”

To honor that vision, we'll announce the winner of the 2019 Sid Fleischman award here on SCBWI: The Blog first (right now!), and then on Thursday we'll announce the Golden Kite Award winners for 2019.

The winner of the 2019 Sid Fleischman Award is...

Angela Dominguez for STELLA DIAZ HAS SOMETHING TO SAY (Roaring Brook Press) A heartwarming story based on the author’s experiences growing up Mexican-American.

Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely. When a new boy arrives in Stella's class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!
The Sid Fleischman Award (Along with the Golden Kite Awards) will be presented at a gala during the New York Winter Conference on Friday, February 8 at 7pm at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Guest speaker U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will deliver remarks at the event.

Executive Director Lin Oliver said,

“We are proud to celebrate these wonderful books and send congratulations to the authors, artists, and publishers who are contributing to today’s thriving body of children’s literature.”
Congratulations, Angela!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Don't Quit Your Day Job - The Authors Guild Publishes The Results of Their Largest Survey Ever of Author Income, and The Numbers are Modest (and Down)

With more than 5,100 authors participating (and multiple organizations—including SCBWI—getting their members to take part), this survey has six major takeaways that you can read here.

One of the big ones is that annual mean author income from books alone is just under $2,600!

A slide from the Authors Guild new survey of author income

The numbers, and report, are sobering information, well-worth reading, and useful—writing for kids and teens is certainly a "dream job," and at the same time it's important to have realistic expectations of what a career as a writer means financially.

Of course, there are those in the highest income ranks who are making $150,000 - $300,000 a year, but for the rest of us, well, look at the numbers:

$6,080 is the mean annual income of all published writers in 2017 (traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid published) from both book and writing-related income. For those of us in that vast majority, we need a day job/additional stream of income to make things work!

There's lots more to read in the report - do so here.

And Still, Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Debbie Ohi's Free Picture Book Thumbnail Templates for Writers and Illustrators

Check out this amazing resource: Debbie Ohi's Free Picture Book Thumbnail Templates for Writers and Illustrators

The 32 thumbnails is very useful (and arguably better than folding a piece of paper into 32 rectangles,

but it's Debbie's Reference Layout that feels innovative—especially for illustrators, with Debbie giving you space to sketch options for each spread!

She even shares the above example of how she uses the template.

It's a great and generous public service to her fellow writers and illustrators—you'll find these picture book thumbnail template resources that you can download yourself here.

Thanks, Debbie!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hashtags for Illiustrators - Some suggestions (add your own in comments!)

#childrensbookillustration (note that with 297,466 posts as of this week, #childrensbookillustration it is different than #childrenbookillustration, which has 54,108 posts)

There's #picturebookart, #picturebookillustration, #childrensillustration, and so many more...

Some have over a million posts already (like #illustratorsoninstagram) and some are much more specific, calling out the medium/materials, (like #fountainpengeeks or even super-specific like #pilotfalcon, or the process (like #foundobjectart).

A good suggestion over at CreativeHowl is to separate the hashtags from the description with a hard return and a few lines of dots, so it seems more tidy (a big block of 10-30 hashtags can be visually intense.)

Perhaps the coolest thing about hashtags is you don't even need to be signed up for instagram to watch the flow of creativity - just go to instagram and search!

Do you have other good illustrator hashtags to share? Please do so in comments! Thanks, and

Illustrate On!

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Free Writers Happiness Challenge (Five Minutes a Day for Fourteen Days) Starts Today!

Lori Snyder, a writer herself and the leader of yoga and mediation sessions at the SCBWI Summer Conferences for many years, is once again leading her fellow writers on a "Writers Happiness Challenge."

As Lori explains on the signup page, the Writers Happiness Challenge takes five minutes a day, and is a
“series of curated daily exercises designed to help you expand your happiness, access flow states with greater ease, and create more space for and around your writing. It’s for all writers of any kind, and it’s free.

These exercises are not writing prompts in the traditional fashion. Some of them don’t even involve writing, though many of them do. They are happiness prompts written specifically for writers, designed to help create a baseline of happiness to lead to more creativity and innovation and a deeper joy around life and your writing.

You can do the challenge on your own, with your writers group, or with a writing buddy. It’s free and accessible to all.”
What does happiness have to do with writing? Lori shares,
“new studies are showing that the best emotional state for innovation and creativity is a state of high energy and positivity. In other words, it’s looking as though happiness fuels creativity more than any other emotion. Happiness does lots of other happy things, too. It makes us more able to see ourselves, our art, and our lives with more clarity, thus allowing us to see how and when we might fit in pockets of writing time. It reminds us what we care about most and how to make space for that. And, not least of all, it feels good.”

It sounds like a wonderful way to start a creatively fulfilling 2019!

You can find out all the details and sign up here:

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Creative Goals For 2019

Looking to the year ahead, think about what elements of the process you control. And then, based on those parameters, consider setting some creative goals for yourself.

Maybe one goal is input - time put in, i.e, I'm going to write two times a week. Or for two hours a day. Or, two weekends a month—whatever is right for you.

Maybe another goal is creative milestone-based, i.e, I'm going to finish five new pieces for my portfolio, or I'm going to finish this new draft of my manuscript, or I'm going to revise my NaNoWriMo rough draft, or  I'm going to write twelve new picture book manuscripts, one a month, like the 12 x 12 challenge.

Maybe your goal is community-based, i.e., I'm going to find a writers group, or I'm going to attend a conference, or I'm going to make time to go out for coffee with a creative colleague once a month to feel connected.

Maybe your goal is marketing-focused, i.e., I'm going to make a bigger effort to interact with my readers on social media, or I'm going to reach out to ten librarians about my book, or I'm going to build that website I've been talking about, or I'm going to prepare and pitch to speak at a specific event.

Maybe your goal is putting your work out there, i.e., I'm going to submit to five agents, or I'm going to enter the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant competition, or I'm going to submit my art for a portfolio show at a conference.

Maybe your goal is to learn more about your craft, i.e., I'm going to apply for that MFA program, or I'm going to listen to all the SCBWI Podcasts interviews with illustrators, or I'm going to submit my work to a freelance developmental editor to get take-it-to-the-next-level input.

Maybe your goal is finding a mentor. (We all could use one!)

Maybe your goal is being a mentor. (There's so much we gain when we give of ourselves and our expertise!)

Take a few minutes and set some creative goals for yourself for the year ahead. You don't have to share them with anyone, though you're more than welcome to share them here in comments or on social media!

Again, I won't ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself, so here are mine:

Lee's Top Three Creative Goals For 2019

1. Write Three Times a Week
2. Complete my current YA draft
3. Make time to be social with my group of kid lit friends

Now it's your turn. What are your creative goals for 2019?

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Goals for 2019: Gratitude as Preparation

There's been a meme going around on social media, list five things you love about your current work-in-progress.

I think this is a great exercise to remind ourselves about the heart of our story, and to keep us on-track as we go through the process of conceptualizing, drafting, and revising!

To not ask you something I wouldn't do myself, I'll go first — oh, and remember, there's no right or wrong answer. This is for YOU, and you don't even need to share it (but, of course, you're welcome to share it here in comments or on social media if you'd like.)

Lee's List of 5 Things I Love About My Current Work-In-Progress

1. I love the multiple meanings of my working title
2. I love that it's an action-adventure with gay teen main characters
3. I love that there's a romance
4. I love that it references a genre I love
5. I love both of my main characters, and for different reasons.

It's a useful compass for the journey ahead.

So, as we look forward to our creative work in 2019, consider making a list of the five things you love most about your current work-in-progress.

Illustrate and Write On,